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).
His passion for photography allows him to record his travels. Find him on Twitter or Facebook, or at his website.
Top Image by Werner Moser from Pixabay
Copyright © 2023 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved
My first publisher said "You need a blog" so I started one. That was in 2006. I had no idea what to do, but I had fun. I still do. In fact, when people meet me at conferences, etc., they're more likely to say "I love your blog" rather than what I'd rather hear--"I love your books." I have the YOAST add-on that tells me when I'm missing the SEO mark, although I don't listen all the time. It doesn't know my voice.
A blog really helps with you online presence, so I can see why publishers encourage you to have one. I tried to maintain my own blog in the beginning, but I don't think I was ready for it. WITS has taught me enough that I might try it again. In the meantime, I'll keep posting here as long as Jenny lets me!
All good points. I blog monthly for Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers and agree with all your points. I've also found that writing a blog about a topic that interests me or that I struggled with helps me clarify my own thinking about it, so I learn more about myself as a writer as I communicate my experience to others. There are only so many topics to write about (and there are 9 bloggers monthly at RMFW) but if you put in your own anecdotes and experience, it can make the post unique and perhaps let a reader see an issue in a different way.
Personalization really is the key. Twenty people can experience the same event and come away with twenty different points of view, and tell the story in twenty different voices.
I don't think we'll ever run out of writing related topics. The subject is in constant flux. Language changes and evolves, as do reader expectations. There will always be something new to experience and share!
I've blogged every single week since 2013. It's different than what you do here because I never wanted to become an advice blog. I leave that to people far more knowledgeable than me. Instead, it's more a chronicle of me stumbling and bumbling along and sharing what I've discovered and letting others know in case it works for them too (process, for instance). Quite often, like last week, I'll share how my plans didn't work out. It keeps me humble.
Otherwise, I blog about what interests me and how it links to my writing, often as inspiration. As you mention, yes, I share personal experiences to reinforce those points. As a fantasy writer, topics I love to address on a regular basis (besides writing) are mapmaking and worldbuilding. As a human being, I often address mental health, healthy living, and how writing helps me with both those issues. In the nine years I've been blogging, those posts have probably helped me more than anyone.
Bob, I'm going to tell you a secret - part of why blogging is special to me is that it helped me discover my writing voice.
I was bumbling around my writing life until I started blogging. My daughter was a baby and I had wicked post-partum hormones. I started a lot of stories and hated them all. And then I started blogging.
About 5 posts in, my writing voice clicked. I understood who I was on the page and I started writing more interesting stories. Blogging also gave me that daily writing practice that I'd been lacking before. And because blogging is about having a conversation, I was able to build a writing community at the same time, which was priceless to me as a hormonal-hot-mess new mama.
I truly cannot say enough positive things about blogging for writers. I feel like the process of zeroing in on that single topic and doing it well lifts up so (SO) many other writerly tasks.
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My blog work is for a friend's lifestyle blog for which I'm a contributor by writing reviews of products, food, subscription boxes, clothing, other items, and for movies.
Definitely a different animal than writing romance.
I also write a blog for my friend and his story. It taught me about enhancing your writing skills and blogging.
Writing no difficult, The problem is, it’s nearly impossible to produce anything perfectly. Trying to do so will usually result in one perfect sentence in a piece no one will ever read.