How To Write a Blog So That People Will Read, Part 3

Welcome to the third installment in my series on writing a blog, written for writers by an inveterate blog reader. If you missed the first two posts, you can find them here and here. The opinions herein are mine. There are endless guides for bloggers out there. Read a few and decide what works best for you.

Use bullet points. Sometimes. Every how-to will tell you that people LOVE to read blogs with bullet points. And that’s true sometimes. Bold print helps to break up giant walls of text. Be aware, though, that very often, people will ONLY read the bold print. The shorter the explanation of the bullet point is, the more likely people are to read it. Also, not all blog posts lend themselves to a  bullet format. Don’t limit yourself.

Don’t hit “publish immediately.”  This is a tough thing to do, but I recommend it. WordPress allows us to save posts as drafts and revisit them. Do that. Give yourself a little space from the post, anywhere from a few hours to a few days, whatever you need to see your work with fresh eyes. Then re-read. Not only are typos and sentence fragments more likely to jump out at you, having some distance allows you to read for clarity as well. If you aren’t sure you’ve hit the nail you were aiming for, use the feedback feature. WordPress lets us send a feedback link to anyone via email, even if they don’t use WordPress. The post will open for them and will look just like a live post so all formatting, photos, etc, appear in context. Linda A is one of my go-to editors. I trust her red pen. Find yourself a Linda.

Edit.  Put your best foot forward, every single time. The way most blogs are laid out, the most recent post is right there on the homepage for everyone to see. Make sure everything is all cleaned up. Root out any mixed up homophones and sentence fragments where you’ve cut and pasted and rearranged. And please, for the love of muffins, use paragraphs. I know. It’s not school, and we should feel free to format as we wish, but God created paragraphs for a reason.

Find your best time to post. This bit of advice is more from the standpoint of a blogger. You want to schedule your posts at a time where you have the most readers online because individual posts get buried in readers and in email.  Here’s the sad part. Every blogger’s sweet spot will be different. If I posted after 9pm, I heard nothing but crickets, but my friend sj’s rants posted at midnight would immediately receive 100 page views within minutes. Every demographic is different. You will need to experiment. Try a time slot for a week or two, then try a different one, maybe a little earlier or a little later. Check your stats. What time slots do you see those peaks? Here’s what I can tell you as a reader:

I rarely read blogs on weekends, holidays or particularly solemn occasions. I am usually too busy doing other things on weekends and holidays. As a blogger, I found this to be true as well. Hits were low over the weekend. If you’re a seven-day-a-week blogger, your weekend posts may get buried without many people seeing them. When there is an event of great magnitude, I turn off the computer completely. During mourning periods following a school shooting, racial injustice, etc, most of the stuff that is dumped onto the internet becomes senseless noise. I don’t read, and I definitely don’t contribute.

Your readership will have natural peaks and valleys. Write anyway. This tidbit isn’t a tip, just a heads-up. In the summer, for example,  page views may go way down. People are outside, on vacation, away from computers and devices. Write anyway. Write to improve your skills and, more importantly, to stay in the blogging habit. You can always reuse any gems later when people ARE reading.

 

What other tips do you have?

Next week I’ll start talking about social media for bloggers. Anyone out there use Pinterest or Instagram to promote their blog? Want to guest post, or at least give me some insight? Let me know in the comments, or contact me via email.

 

Falling Out of Love

If you’ve ever been in love, you know how it is.  A relationship in the first flush of love is so exciting. Your heart beats faster when you think of your dear one. You make up any excuse to be together, and all your free time revolves around them.Your circle of friends expands to include theirs, and with their encouragement you try some of the adventurous things you never dreamed could. And your friends and family are so happy for you.

Time passes and things change. You begin to discover not only who you are, but who you are in relation to them. Some of it is good, some of it not as much. And then they change a little, too.  You begin to see who they are and learn what you can expect of them. And it’s still good. You can adapt, accept them for their flaws.

And things change still more. Communication breaks down. You’re spending more and more time trying to fix things and make them work as smoothly as before. It’s not easy. Because of the time you’re investing, you begin to feel more isolated from the ones you love. The warm glow you used to feel has disappeared and been replaced by anger and frustration.

And you wonder if it’s worth it. Do you fish or cut bait? The rubber has met the road, and you see that you have come to a fork in the road on the path you have walked together. Will you take different paths, or will you stick it out and see if you can make things good again?

That’s where I am with WordPress this morning.

The functionality that drew me to the site in the first place has either disappeared or has been buried. When I first left Blogger, I chose WordPress because I could actually explore the site before I ever registered. I didn’t want to waste my time signing up for something that wasn’t what I was looking for. At that time, I could read blogs, get an idea of some themes, I had access to the now-defunct topics and Freshly Pressed page. Now in order to explore the site, a user must be registered and logged in. Topics and FP are reduced to a reader, which I can’t load, since every image in each post is loaded into the reader. Some of the food and photography blogs contain 40+ images, and I must wait for each of them to load..

I am having to create workarounds for functions that I used to have. It doesn’t make sense. My dashboard has become buried in a deadly blue that hurts my eyes. What happened to the clean black tool bar? What was wrong with that? I know. Google uses blue. And that is clearly why Google+ is so incredibly popular. I don’t go to my dashboard at all anymore. I visit a friend’s post and get to my toolbar that way.

Communication is but poor. I don’t like to go to the forums at all. The sticky threads are closed to comments and contain very little actual information. I can read a little of the what, but never the why. And I do not like to post my questions in the help threads because those are patrolled by a volunteer who is often rude and condescending. I don’t know if the volunteer is the mouthpiece of WordPress or not. I hope not, but she seems to think that she is. Customer service isn’t her strong suit, and I don’t like to feel less-than for asking a question or airing a grievance.

The WordPress community is shrinking, and bloggers are becoming more isolated from one another. When I had free time, my favorite hobby was to prowl the topics pages and find new blogs to read and follow. I can’t load more than four posts in the reader, so I don’t even bother anymore. And now even Freshly Pressed as we knew it is gone. I am very blessed to have the community that I do. Don’t ever go away, friends. We’ll huddle on this island together and wait for rescue!

So where does this leave me? I don’t want to spend my time figuring out how to build a self-hosted blog, I want to write. So write I will. I’ve got three novels in the works at the moment, and they have asked me to come back to them. I can’t say no to that. I still have my daily joys, and I’ll share some Squish stories, don’t you even worry. Just not daily. Maybe with a little space, WordPress and I can learn to love again for what each of us has become.

My daily joy: My husband took a day off last week so we could celebrate my birthday. The weather was simply gorgeous, and we went for a three mile walk that turned into a five mile walk. We had lunch at a local restaurant I loved as a kid, and I still do.  My boys were in a Christmas program at church. The Padawan has an amazing speaking voice, and Squish kept his clothes on for the most part. And he dance.Oh, how he danced.  A friend offered to send me a copy of the performance since I forgot my camera. And I have three novels in the works that are competing for my attention. Three novels, when a year ago, I didn’t even have one! Life is generous to me.