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Advice for New Bloggers

I have a number of friends who are starting up blogs[1], and I’ve been giving the same advice over and over. So instead of repeating myself, I decided to make a post I can just point to. I talked about this when talking about my blogging goals for the year, but here’s something more concrete.

Less is Metal

I’ve said before that “500 words is the new black.” This is not just a cute idea. Start with short posts. It’ll get you used to blogging regularly — learn to climb hills and lesser mountains before you take on the Everest that’s a 3000 word post.

One Topic Per Post

You might have a dozen ideas that are related, but if you put them into one post, you’re giving folks commenting too many things to respond to. That way lies disjointed comment threads and people who feel too overwhelmed to comment. (I call this tl;dc — too long, didn’t comment.) Stick to one core point, and maybe three or four supporting points.

The side effect of this is that when you get to doing that, breaking that rule because a noteable moment.

Headers are your Friends

If you ignore the “three or four supporting points” bit, like I’m doing today, use headers. I still make sure there’s one core point for the supporting bits I’m writing, but then it becomes my job to easily segmented them. A trick I’ve learned by watching Chuck Wendig blog[2] about things like  yelling at writers’ bullshit.

Post Often

Man, I cannot say this loud enough. Blogging often makes you a better article writer. This is something Rob Donoghue once mentioned, and lately I’ve been feeling it as well. I submitted a proposal for the upcoming Cortex Plus Hacker’s Guide, and was able to turn around a couple thousand words pretty damned quickly–something two years ago I would have spent too much time overthinking before sitting down to write.

And every post you do gives people reason to read the post before. Blogging is like playing the supplement treadmill game. New posts gain new readers, some of whom will read your older stuff.

Fuck Up Aggressively

It’s okay to be wrong about stuff. Post anyway. Do not treat yourself like a guru on top of a mountain. You’re among people. You have commentors that’ll call you on your shit. You’ll change your mind as you get new data and perspectives. So don’t let the fear of being wrong get in the way.

As I said on Twitter a couple months back, “Failure is metal. Not failing due to paralysis is not metal.” Same applies here.

Focus on Topics

I suggest everyone starting out focus on two or three overall topics for three months, and see what ends up sticking — both with what your new readers like and (more importantly, to be honest) what you like writing about. I started with “RPG design talk,” “Social Media thoughts,” and “Podcasting.” I don’t talk about podcasting much anymore, and have added talking about editing, critiques of games as products and as text, and being a new creative professional in general (like this post).

I also have to occasional humorous post, another trick I learned from Chuck. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post about brainhacking. :)

Edit After Publishing

So you’re done writing your post. Awesome. And you want to give it a once-over…for the second or third time.

Stop. Click “Publish.” Look at it on your site and not in the editor.

Then go back and revise. This will get you in the habit of two things:

  1. Knowing how your posts will look to others while you’re writing it in the editor
  2. Becoming comfortable with posting something flawed.

These are blog posts, not professional articles. I only ask people to read articles prior to publishing these days if either it needs a subject-matter expert to check my facts or it’s a post that might be cockbitish to publish.

Above All, Experiment

Try new things. See what you like. If my advice doesn’t work for it, tell it to fuck the hell off.

Invite Comments

Be welcoming. Get people to engage with you. That’ll help you be a more awesome writer, blogger, overall human being. It also helps get word of your blog out, as more people talk about it.

Speaking of…

What Am I Missing?

I know a lot of bloggers. Old hats, tell me what advice you have for newbies!

Happy bloging[3], friends.

– Ryan

[1] Which I won’t be linking to until that’ve got a few posts and want more exposure.

[2] Follow the Almighty Penmonkey.

[3] “Bloging”? “Blogging”? “Bloggggggggggggginating”?

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9 Responses to Advice for New Bloggers

  1. Ivan Ewert says:

    Perfect timing and good advice. I especially like “Fuck up Aggressively,” in dealing with the common (twin) fears of looking like an idiot or trying too hard to avoid ruffling *anyone’s* feathers.

    Thanks much!

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Ivan,

      I am the Godking of looking like an idiot and ruffling feathers.

      The past two years have taught me that being fearless in that regard while also trying not to be a cockbite is difficult but ultimately far more rewarding than allowing said fear to keep me from posting.

      Said fear also kept me from posting with my natural voice for a year or so.

      – Ryan

  2. Eddy Webb says:

    Awesome advice. Granted, I ignore most of it, but awesome nonetheless.

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Eddy,

      Yeah. I ignored some of it when I started, too. Luckily, we also know how to do this thing, having done it for quite a while. But if someone had told me in 2009 this shit, man, I would have been more fucking prolific back then. :)

      – Ryan

  3. Connie says:

    Thanks for this post! It’s the kick in the ass I needed to get started on something I keep mulling over in my brain but haven’t felt confident enough to start yet.

  4. jessecoombs says:

    Edit after posting is genius. I’ve lost a few really impassioned posts just because I’ve left the text sitting in the editor when it goes down! Also, having a factual error in something I posted recently led to someone bringing it up to me in person, and that’s great!

    • Ryan Macklin says:

      Jesse,

      Yeah. Years of dealing with Livejournal issues taught me that one. :D

      – Ryan

  5. Christopher says:

    Ryan,

    Thanks for the words of wisdom! I’ve been wanting to blog for a few years now, but was always intimidated by the “professional” bloggers out there. I recently said, in your words, Fuck It, and started. If people like it, they’ll read it. If not, their loss!