Why Am I Even Doing This? – Tips From Seven Years Of Blogging

I started this blog seven years ago and in that time it’s growth has been small but steady. I’m not a fantastic blogger. I take breaks too often, forget to post, throw up stuff before it’s probably ready, but over the past seven years I do seem to have to have gathered a group of followers who comment and like regularly. Who offer the sort of support that helps in the moments when I’m wondering why I even bother to pick up a pen or sit down at a keyboard. Today I wanted to write a post about how to blog successfully. I wasn’t sure that I’m qualified to write that post so instead I’m going to write a post that lists seven of the most important things I’ve learnt during my time on WordPress. Hopefully they will be of use and for those of you who make it to the end, it might even be an enjoyable read.

1. Tags Are Vital But Don’t Overdo It!

We’re going to start at the basics. I apologise. I know it’s a little boring.

When I started blogging I didn’t know what tagging was, and when I realised how important it was to tag your posts I went overboard with them. WordPress is set up so that a post with anymore than fifteen tags gets cut from the reader, and if you post too many different ones you might also get marked as spam. My top tip? Think about the tags you use to find blogs that you want to read. Pick three or four general tags and maybe two specific ones. All my posts are tagged ‘writing’. ‘Poetry’ and ‘flash fiction’ are two others than I use fairly often because I know that the people who want to read that genre will be searching for that in the reader. These tags work for me and once I found them I stuck to them.

*Top Tip* If you’re stumped for tag ideas you can search for the ‘hot tags’ on wordpress and find a list of what’s being used the most at the moment.

Know your audience and aim your tags.

 

2. Link-Ups and Blog Hops Are Ready Made Communities

Places like the DVerse Poets Pub and Friday Fictioneers are ready made communities that are always will to welcome new people in. Not only that, they are a fantastic place to find inspiration. I get the best feedback on my posts from people in these groups and after a while you start to make connections with those who comment of your blog regularly.

Of course you have to play your part. You can’t simply post and ignore the rest of the entries while still hoping to get everyone coming back to your blog. As with anything it takes a level of commitment, but I’d say it’s worth it. Why not find yourself a blogging event using the Daily Post’s event listing? You might find something you really enjoy.

Take the time to find groups that suit you and get involved with commenting on other’s submissions. This is a great way to boost traffic and make new blogging friends.

 

3. Proof-Read Your Work

This may seem like a painfully obvious point, but I’ve lost count of the times where I’ve read a blog and all I can see are the spelling mistakes and punctuation errors riddled throughout the post. I’m well aware that my own blog has fallen short on this front before, but it does take a person out of your writing so it’s something that should be taken seriously. It takes five minutes to double check that you start sentences with a capital letter and it’s easy enough to read through a piece and check that your whole paragraph isn’t one single sentence. The last thing you want is someone avoiding your blog because it looks like a five year old wrote it.

Take pride in your work. There is no such thing as the perfect first draft.

 

4. Know Your Limits. Pace Yourself.

Once again this is a failing of mine that I see again and again. If you can post four times a day, every day for a year, then well done you. However, for people like myself who can go months without posting a thing because we burnout, a different plan is in order.

If you want to post ever day then you need to plan it out. Create a blogging schedule. Look ahead for the year and maybe find some key calendar events that you want to post about. If you can create posts to schedule in advance then do this instead of throwing all you work up in one day. If I’ve posted three times in a day already but have a forth posts just screaming to be written then I schedule it for the next day and give myself some breathing space. This requires a certain level of patience that I’m not great at but in the long run it helps me.

Reducing your posting frequency can help your traffic in some cases. I’ve unfollowed blogs in the past because they’ll put up ten posts a day and none of them will be of any real content. It’s far better to focus on quality and regularity over quantity in the case of blogging.

Force creativity and you get rubbish. It doesn’t matter if you post once a day or once a week, what matters is that you love what your putting out there.

5. It’s Your Blog So Write What You Want

This is a writing blog if you hadn’t already noticed. I know the poetry and the short stories sort of give the game away a bit but I thought I’d make sure you’d caught those subtle hints.

I don’t only post stories and poems though.

I have posted articles of history, fitness, politics, current events, stuff going on in my life, and from time to time, the odd drawing.

I like to draw, so I’ll post photos of pieces from my sketchbook. I’m passionate about the past so I’ll spend a few hundred words telling you about The Celebrated Mrs Macaulay or Ditherington Flax Mill.

These things and things that make me happy just as much as writing so I include them here on this blog. It doesn’t dilute the theme, it just adds to it.

Don’t be afraid to tackle a new topic. As long as you present it well you’ll find readers who’ll enjoy it.

 

6. Read, Read And Then Read Some More

I’m not just talking about reading other blogs, though that is important as well, I’m talking about reading books, articles, the backs of shampoo bottles. [No joke. Those things can have some pretty clever writing on from time to time.]

Whatever it is you can get your hands on, read it! The best way to improve your own writing is to read someone else’s.

In my case, I consume books so quick I practically swallow them whole, and they are a huge part of my writing as a result. They inspire me and show me better ways of doing the things I’ve been doing for years.

Just remember that when you read something it will probably be the polished, final version. Don’t compare it to the scrawled first draft of something you’ve written and feel like you’re aiming for impossible standards. First efforts might take some rewriting but so did every book on your local bookshop’s shelves.

We all start at the beginning. Someone being better than you doesn’t necessarily mean their more talented. They might just be further along the road.

 

7. Develop Your Voice

Too often I will read a post and there will be nothing of the writer’s voice in it. This is something that does take time to craft, but it’s also incredibly important. People connect to the writer, not the blog.

For example, there are blogs I read over and over because I feel like I know that blogger, I like that blogger, and I want to see what they have to say now. It’s a form a friendship in some ways. If someone seems to churn out generic posts with no essence of personality then I quickly get bored, but if the blog post makes me feel like I’m standing in the room with someone, chatting away, I’ll most likely read it through to the end.

We’re social animals and we like to feel that connection so give it to your readers. You don’t have to tell them all your personal secrets, just slip a little personality into your writing style.

Your voice is important. It gives a reader something to engage with. Make them hear you, not the article.

So that’s it. The seven most useful things I’ve learnt in seven years of blogging. Perhaps you have your own list, in which case I’d love to hear it! This blog is one of my proudest creations and hopefully in another seven years I’ll still be able to look at it with the same pride and fondness. This blog is very much evidence of how my writing has progressed over time and I’ll be the first to say that there’s always room to build on what you have. Other than that I’m going to shut up as we’ve hit 1500 words and I don’t want the post running any longer.

Thanks for reading. Hope to see you in the comments below.

 

Key Takeaway

I often forget how long I’ve been blogging for. Some days it seems like I’ve only just started and on others I’m reminded that it has in fact been almost six years since Writing and Works came into existence. Back then I had very little idea what I was doing and even less idea of where this blog would go. I still don’t know where this blog will go but oh well. Things seem to be going well and people seem to like what I post.

So for those of you who are interested, here are my top five tips for new bloggers.

  1. Make use of the tools at your disposal. The Daily Post provides a new prompt everyday. If you don’t like the current one you can cycle through until you find something that suits you. There are loads of link ups and prompts across the blogging platforms and many of them don’t require you to use the same platform as everyone else. All you have to do is write sometime based on what they give you, submit it, and spend a little time reading the other entries. You’ll quickly find a community of people happy to engage with your work and feedback on what you create. Below are four of my favourite link ups, if you’re new, or perhaps haven’t heard of them before, go and take a look. You might find yourself inspired or you might find yourself in the middle of something you can’t get enough of.
  2. Don’t let a lack of views, comments or likes put you down. I was looking back at my Graphown ratings from right back at the beginning and it went to show, an audience takes time to build. You might not make it big to begin with, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t listening and it certainly doesn’t mean that people don’t care. Stay patience, stay positive and keep blogging. Manage that and you will be halfway there.
  3. Blog about what you love. Don’t put something up just because it seems like the thing to talk about. One of the best bits of writing advice I ever heard was ‘write about what you know’. Not while the saying has it’s limits, it’s a very good starting place. Play to your strengths, your passions. Love what you write and write about what you love.
  4. While I this blog is mostly about my writing, from time to time there will be a smattering of history, of art and of sheer randomness. Variety can be good for a blog and it can open your work up to readers who might not have stumbled across it otherwise. If you’re stuck for something to post why not experiment with a theme or topic you’ve never touched on before?
    • Try Doodle-A-Day for a week. Each day draw something new. It doesn’t have to be good, it doesn’t have to be in depth, it just has to be fun.
    • Follow a tag you don’t normally read. Steampunk, history, science, whatever it is that normally slips under your radar.
    • Find a post from another blogger and do something in response. You could create a whole series of posts challenging yourself to try out new ideas and connecting with other bloggers in the process.
  5. Finally, and this is the most important snippet of advice that a writer can give: read. Read everything and anything that falls into your hands. Reading shapes your writing and the way you think. It teaches you how to shape words, how to create stories and at the same time how not to  write. Reading other blog and interacting with them helps you to build the connections that will grow your audience. Like everything, the more you put in, the more you’ll get out.

So there you go. My top five tips for new bloggers in response to the Daily Post’s ‘Key Takeaway‘ prompt. Feel free to add any of your own below or ask any questions that may be bobbing around in your head. Until the next post.