Monday, September 30

How To Write a Good Blog Post

How To Write a Good Blog Post


I'm trying something new. I've released a YouTube video today. What follows is more or less the script for it.

My Story


My Dad was a wonderful storyteller, and I was in awe of him. I wanted to tell stories the way he did but I couldn’t tell an entertaining story to save my life so, to get better, I read a lot about writing.

I’ve improved. I’m not sure I’ve ever told a story as well as my father, but I’ve gotten better over the years.

When I was in school, one of my teachers told me that to truly learn something I had to teach it. About a decade ago, I began a blog about writing. And, as you would expect, over the years I’ve learned a few things about writing. I’ve certainly written a lot!

I started a video blog because the things I’ve learnt have made my life better, and I would like to share them in another medium.

So, for better or worse, here is one of my more popular blog posts, one I wrote a few years ago about how to write a blog post! Actually, though, this advice applies to any writing that isn’t fiction.

As you read this, please keep in mind that what works for me may not work for you, so take what seems right to you and discard the rest.

Here it is.

The Essential Structure of a Blog Post:


1. Tell the reader what you are going to say.
2. Say it.
3. Tell the reader what you said.

That’s it!

It sounds too simple, doesn’t it? But it helps create prose that readers find easy to read and understand.

Before we get into that, let’s talk about the title:

The Title


Titles are important, especially for a blog post. The title is the first thing your reader sees. If the title doesn’t grab them, they won’t continue reading.

Make sure the title accurately represents your article. After a reader finishes your article, you don’t want them to feel deceived. Chances are they came across your article because they were looking for a particular kind of information. If, at the end, they don’t have the information they wanted they will feel deceived. Tricked. In that case they will not leave a comment and they will not share your article with their friends.

Perhaps this is just me, but I find that if I can’t create a clear, succinct title then I haven’t thought through what the essential idea of the blog post is. There should one one idea that sums up what I’ve written.

(BTW, don’t worry if you don’t have a title before you start writing. Sometimes what the article is about will come to you as you write your rough draft. But be careful. For myself, if I can’t come up with a title, then that tells me my ideas are jumbled. And that’s bad.)

So let’s break this down:

1. Tell the reader what you are going to say.


1a. Include a hook in your first paragraph.


When I write things like this, I hurry to look at my first paragraph to see if there is a hook. Perhaps this is a case of do what I say and not as I do!

Hooks are good. In both fiction and nonfiction.

BTW, if you’re not familiar with the concept of a hook, it is basically the idea that you need an idea, a thought, that will capture a reader's interest quickly. The example I usually give is of any James Bond movie ever made.

Or, here is the opening line of Stephen King’s novel, IT:

“The terror, which would not end for another twenty-eight years—if it ever did end—began, so far as I know or can tell, with a boat made from a sheet of newspaper floating down a gutter swollen with rain.”

Who wouldn’t be curious after reading a line like that? When I read that sentence I wanted to know more about the terror and why it might not end. (BTW, IT is one of my favorite stories.)

2. Say what you have to say.


As a practical matter, I find this the easiest part.

You know what you want to say. Say it.

I find it often helps to break my ideas up into the simplest possible points.

In my original blog article I give the example of writing about why a writer would want to podcast.

For example:

a. You can introduce your work to more people
b. You can introduce your work to people with different kinds of interests, to a different audience.
c. Variety is good. Doing one kind of thing to earn money is fine, but two is better. Why? Because it makes you more financially stable. Financial stability for a freelancer is a very good thing. It lowers anxiety levels.

These points are bare bones. In the article I would expand each one, but this wouldn’t be terribly difficult. I could give examples from my own experience, I could give examples from the experiences of other writers (obviously, cite them), I could talk about advice other podcasters have given. There are MANY options.

By the way, don’t be shy about using another writer’s work as long as you cite and link to it. It helps drive traffic to their blog post. A number of people have done this with my blog posts and I’m thrilled as as long as they cite me and provide a link.

3. Summarize what you’ve said.


When it comes to summarizing what I’ve said, sometimes it seems artificial. I’ve said what I was going to say and then I’ve said it. Why should I summarize what I’ve already said?

My advice is to use your own judgement. Keep in mind, you don’t have to summarize EVERYTHING you’ve just said. Perhaps close with what you think is your strongest point, especially if the post is short.

4. Be Honest.


This is actually the most important thing.

I think for everyone it might be different, but -- especially in the beginning -- I imagined I was sitting at a sunny corner table, having coffee with a writer (my audience) at my favorite coffee shop. Then I just, honestly, told her/him what my research or experience made me think about a particular topic.

And try to be brief. (I’m not sure I’ve ever succeeded in that.)

It’s great to have a blog post that is one or two thousand words long, but you don’t want a blog post one word longer than it absolutely has to be. And that’s a dark art, and we all fail at it, but it is a worthy goal.

That's it for today! Good writing and I'll talk to you again soon.


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