As some of you may know, I’m a professional blogger. I mention it because it’s a relatively new title, and I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned so far along the way.
I recently helped a friend with their new blog after they asked me to edit a few posts. What I saw, and some of the advice I gave them, planted the idea for my next Behind “The Process” post:
If you’re exclusively writing poetry or fiction on your blog, please tell me, I’d like to see it, but also, never mind this advice. Go. Be creative. Be free.
But if you write on topics that are meant to inform or persuade–and be, to some degree, entertaining–then it helps to have some source materials.
Like when you wrote papers in school, and you had to have credible sources (*read: Is My Source Credible for help with that) to back up your thesis.
A thesis is the point you’re trying to make, or a problem or question you’re trying to introduce. Would you like an example? Mm-k. Here’s two ways to frame the same point, depending on how you want to approach it. Basically makes the same point:
Podcasts [should/shouldn’t] be censored by the FCC.
Should podcasts be censored by the FCC?
Get at least 8-10 sources that have information that appeals and pertains to what you’re writing. Then trim them down to the best 3-5. If you’re split on which to get rid of–whichever is the more credible source and/or whichever is the most recent. A strong source goes a long way. But you have to consider this: if someone tried to convince you to change your way of thinking using information that’s 3 weeks old, and another person is using information from 3 years ago…who’s going to appeal to you more, right off the bat?
Probably the person with their thumb on a living pulse.
Then it’s time to put it together. Not time to write, but to structure.
Now, you’ll hear different people say different things when it comes to SEO (search engine optimization) and the “right” word count for blogs. For professional jobs, I recommend 600-800 words. You can go longer, but think about the contemporary attention span when it comes to internet reading….
If you think about structuring your blog post the way I’m going to present it, it’s almost like a paint by numbers when it comes time to write.
It’ll be, well…not easy, but easier than writing on the fly–stream-of-consciousness style–then trying to find info that fits what your wrote.
I know I’ve specifically spoken against plotting things out when you write, but that’s for fiction. I still believe that. See, fiction (in my opinion) should be mysterious, sometimes misleading; non-fiction, specifically blogs, should be easy to follow. If they aren’t, they run the risk of going unread.
Start with a heading. Then write your thesis. You can fill in the rest of the paragraph later.
(You can do what I did on this post–write a sentence or two before you write an introduction paragraph, or just start with your first paragraph. Whatever feels good when you read it back, but don’t worry about all the stuff in these parenthesis just yet.)
Your introduction paragraph doesn’t need to be super source-reliant. Honestly, you can keep the source materials out of it if you want. The paragraph can look like this: about in 100-200 words, without getting too specific about the who-what-where-when-why-how…that’s what the next couple paragraphs are for.
In the first paragraph, you gave a hint at your proofs, but no details. Here is where you dig in with the source material. As an example, let’s say the intro says:
Podcasts should not be censored by the FCC.
OK, now it’s time to follow up. If you have a source that shows how much the FCC fines radio programs, then another that shows how much money the average podcast makes, that’s a paragraph: the FCC would put podcasts out of business. Link your sources and/or give credit to the material somehow. Go ahead and put in the stats, quotes, graphs, whatever.
Go to the next paragraph. If you have a source that shows a cool quote about freedom of speech from a high profile person, organization, or something to that affect, that could drive the second proof paragraph. You could tie it in with a link to the constitution, or some historical comparison. I don’t know; I’m just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. Which is what research is, basically–look at a bunch of stuff, filter out the crap, and fix the stuff that remains into a coherent string of thoughts.
DO NOT put all your source material in one paragraph. It’s clunky and hard to read if the paragraph doesn’t have a specific point it’s trying to make.
DO NOT overdo it. If you use the same source more than 2 or 3 times, you might be leaning too heavily on it. It should be mostly your words, the sources are just there to back you up.
Write as many proof paragraphs as you need, maybe 2-5 (depending how long you’re going).
Conclusions aren’t as tough as people think. The cheat code is this: Re-say what you said in your intro, but with more of a now-do-you-believe-me? kind of tone. Not a smartass tone, but one of a now-you-see-I’m-not-making-this-up tone.
Nobody likes a smartass. Except maybe a dumbass.
Write them last. Big secret’s out!
Write your proof paragraphs first. Each proof paragraph makes its own point. After you write your points out, you’ll have a better idea how to prepare your reader for it. Your introduction paragraph doesn’t need to be super source-reliant. Honestly, you can keep the source materials out of it if you want. The paragraph can look like this: about in 100-200 words, without getting too specific about the who-what-where-when-why-how…that’s what the next couple paragraphs are for.
Then rewrite the intro as the conclusion, keeping in mind that the intro is for the reader before they saw your proofs; the concluion is a post-read version of your intro.
Oh yeah? Well this is my personal blog and I can do what I want. Nah nah nah-nah nah, I can write what I waaa-aaant.
Sorry. I’ve been around my kids too much.
But here’s a real take on that: You can’t call audibles until you know the playbook. Not a football fan (American football, for my international friends)? OK….
Ummm…oh!: Don’t break the rules until you know the rules. Once you’re familiar writing in-the-box, your style will come out and push you out-of-the-box.
I hope this helps. Please let me know–or let me know if you think I miffed it. Just remember the rule: if you’re going to be mean, at least be funny.
For those who want to know, yes, I am on social media. Holla!
Christopher Tallon writes, podcasts, and…wait a second. Are you actually reading this? HIGH FIVE!