by “J” of Hot, Holy & Humorous
Here are some things I’ve learned in my years of blogging:
Find your voice. When I first started writing fiction, I really wanted to write like Jane Austen. But I couldn’t get too many words on the page before my characters started cracking jokes, and eventually I figured out I was just a snarky girl.
Likewise, I hesitated writing and speaking for a long time because I didn’t sound like a lot of the female Christian authors and speakers I admire. But I am no Stormie O’Martian, Beth Moore, or Sheila Gregoire. My voice is my voice. And once I embraced that I enjoy writing about biblical sex (holy), that I believed it could be exciting (hot), and that certain things about sex crack me up (humorous), I’d found my voice.
Thankfully, what’s demonstrated again and again in Scripture is that God wants all personality types and spiritual gifts engaged in furthering His kingdom. Your own perspective, aligned with God’s Word, can be the fresh take that helps someone else who finds your blog. As Oscar Wilde (reportedly) said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
Keep your posts brief and readable. What constitutes “brief” may vary from reader to reader, blog to blog, but as a rule of thumb, most people don’t want super-long posts. So if your standard writing length is 2000+ words, consider whether you can pare that down or break it into a series of posts.
You may need to edit your posts several times to get to a manageable length. Writing shorter posts can at times be harder than long ones. After all, consider Mark Twain’s marvelous observation: “‘I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” But make the extra effort, and resist the urge to cover everything about a topic in one post.
Get to the point quickly. Sometimes I read blog posts in which the introduction is half the post. My own drafts often start this way, with my explaining how I got an idea for a post and then why I want to cover it and what difference it will make. Or telling a personal story or an apt analogy with deep description and fervor. Blah, blah, blah. Your reader needs to know pretty quickly why she’s reading this post — what’s in it for her.
Imagine a 250-page book that didn’t get to anything meaty until page 100. You’d stop reading, right? Use a few words of introduction, but get to your theme fairly quickly. Honor your reader’s time.
Be consistent. Try not to post 11 times in November and twice in the next six months. Some successful blog authors do post whenever time and inspiration allow. However, the more common pattern for success is consistent posting, whether that’s once a week, twice a week, or every day of the week.
Choose what frequency you can honestly manage, and then try to stick to it. If you miss a day, don’t worry about it. If you want to put up an extra post, go for it. But remain fairly consistent so your readers know what to anticipate and expect.
Watch what you cite. Quotations and statistics are often cited incorrectly. Make an extra effort to check your sources. You needn’t hunt down every single citation like a bloodhound on a scavenger hunt, but try to find two sources or the original study or a reputable source. It’s easy to get this stuff wrong, because bad statistics, in particular, float around like dust specks in the air. For instance, in Shaunti Feldhahn’s recent book, The Good News about Marriage (which I haven’t read but plan to!), she talks about how we’ve all been citing a 50% divorce rate for years – and it’s flat-out wrong.
I’m sure I’ve messed up a citation now and then, but I try to get it right. And it’s one thing to be human and err, and another thing altogether to be careless and irresponsible. Check your citations as best you can. And while you’re at it, give credit to others for their words, stats, and ideas.
Decide what your comment policy will be. Some blogs take any and all comments, others moderate all comments, and some are in between. Simply consider ahead of time what kind of blog you want this to be. Do you want to encourage vigorous debate, like a public forum? Do you want to have deep discussions, like a college class? Do you want more lighthearted give-and-take, like a cocktail party? It really helped me when I finally realized I want my blog to be like my home. Respectful guests and lively conversation are welcome. People who insult or make others extremely uncomfortable are not asked back. Those who encourage me and make me laugh will probably get served dessert first. *smile*
Imagining my blog as a particular setting helped me figure out how to treat the variety of comments I receive. Encouragement, respectful disagreement, helpful tips, and personal testimony are welcome, but disrespectful trolls are shown the door.* My house, my rules.
Keep your own priorities. Sometimes it’s difficult to walk away from answering comments or emails or drafting another blog post, when I really need to go on a date with my husband or spend time with my family. You can get swept up interacting with others on your blog or social media, or feel the strong tug of wanting to help others. But having a marriage ministry should never take precedence over your own marriage.
Maintain your own priorities. Since I write about sex, I’d better step away from this screen when my husband approaches me to engage in sexual intimacy. (Sure, I’ll say, “Let me finish this thought,” but then I step away and head to our bedroom.) First things first, and that includes God and your family.
So those are my tips for new or inspiring bloggers. Do you have any tips of your own to share?
*By the way, spam is constant, but disrespectful trolls are not common.