by Eldred Bird
Four years ago, when I shared the results of a writing experiment with my Wednesday night writer’s support group, one of the members (Jenny Hansen, “High Priestess of WITS”) asked if I would write a blog post about my findings. I had no idea what I was in for when I said yes.
Over these last four years, I have gone from an occasional blogger on the WITS calendar to a regular contributor. Guest posting on Writers in the Storm has provided more than a platform to share my writing journey. It’s also taught me some valuable lessons.
The first lesson WITS taught me is that blogging is a different animal compared to other disciplines, especially when you’re writing to educate rather than entertain. I tend to write in a narrative style. That works out fine for personal essays and fiction, but not so much when you’re trying to educate.
Jenny would never blab about it, but my first effort was rough. It took several rounds of edits to forge my words into something more coherent and easily digested.
She taught me to organize my thoughts into a logical outline and make sure my points are clear by using examples to drive them home. A little exposition is fine for context, but don’t go overboard.
This leads me to my next lesson.
In the beginning, I had a tendency to pick a broad topic and include far too many details. The reality is you can’t cover everything in 800 to 1200 words. A better idea is to break broader subjects up into a series of posts.
People are drawn to WITS because the knowledge is served up in bite-sized pieces that are easily processed and incorporated into their writing life. Actionable advice is the very best kind.
I’ve also learned it’s okay to distill things down to the basics and leave some questions for the reader to research on their own.
Formatting is everything in a blog. How information is presented is just as important as the information itself.
Best of all, doing all these things raises the SEO (search engine optimization) which means many more eyes on your post.
It’s extremely important to know who you’re writing for when you sit down at the keyboard, particularly for blogging.
A travel blog is going to read differently than a cooking blog, which will differ widely from a writing blog. Are you writing to entertain or educate? Knowing what your readers expect to get out of the blog helps you to focus on what’s important.
WITS readers like nice meaty posts with lots of takeaways. It’s a blog for both new and experienced writers where contributors share their knowledge and experiences related to both writing craft and the writer’s life.
My favorite part of being a contributor is that we learn too when readers share their experiences in the comments. I look forward to learning what has and hasn’t worked in your writer’s life. WITS readers give great advice too.
Although there are many writing experts who contribute to WITS, I am not one of them. I have a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things and a never-ending curiosity about everything. Many of my posts here have begun while I’m looking for answers to my own questions. I do the research and then share what I’ve learned with all of you!
Remember, you are the expert on your own experiences. My father used to tell me “Mistake is just another word for experience, and experience is the best teacher.” I like to share those mistakes, so you don’t have to make the same ones I did.
As a kid, I tended to be drawn to teachers who tied a lesson to their own personal experiences. It made it real for me and showed how I could incorporate it into my own life. I learn better when there’s a human element to the lesson rather than just a list of dos and don’ts.
I also think that Including personal experience gives a blogger authority. A good “this is what happened to me” anecdote cements information in a way that nothing else can. Let your life be a shining example or a serious warning!
I’ve learned far more from my experience here on WITS than I can list in a dozen posts, and I continue to learn with each new article. It’s made me a better researcher, writer, and educator. The same lessons learned from blogging also apply when I’m putting together a presentation for a group.
Blogging for WITS has also given me one more thing—credibility. And that’s something money can’t buy.
In short, blogging has made me an all-around better writer.
Do you blog? What have you learned from the process? What have you learned as a WITS reader? Educate us in the comments!
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Eldred Bird writes contemporary fiction, short stories, and personal essays. He has spent a great deal of time exploring the deserts, forests, and deep canyons inside his home state of Arizona. His James McCarthy adventures, Killing Karma, Catching Karma, and Cold Karma, reflect this love of the Grand Canyon State even as his character solves mysteries amidst danger. Eldred explores the boundaries of short fiction in his stories, The Waking Room, Treble in Paradise: A Tale of Sax and Violins, and The Smell of Fear.
When he’s not writing, Eldred spends time cycling, hiking, and juggling (yes, juggling…bowling balls and 21-inch knives).
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