Hi there, crew. Have you ever wondered why there are about umpteen billion blogs abounding all over the internet? They seem to breed faster than rabbits. All it takes to start a blog is an email account and access to the internet.
Any monkey with a keyboard and a couple of brain cells can write a blog post. That being said, there is an art form to cultivating a great blog post. If you had a writing teacher worth a damn at any point in your education, you already know how to write well. Simply apply those same tactics to a blog post, then either start your own blog, or find a site to host your post. Et voila!
But I didn’t have a good writing teacher in my past. So thanks a bunch for nothing. Hold on, now, let’s not get ahead of ourselves! If you didn’t have a good writing teacher, or, for whatever reason, you weren’t present mentally or physically in that writing class, all hope is not lost!
The very first thing you need to do if you want to write a blog post, is to just sit down and write SOMETHING. I don’t care if two monkeys with a typewriter could have done a better job, you have to get something on a page to have a starting point. Then save your file, or close the notebook and walk away. I know you won’t stop thinking about it, but honestly, you need to stop looking at the words for a bit – even just 15 minutes.
When you come back to it, read through what you’ve written carefully, the whole way through, without making changes. Now that you’ve re-read what you’ve written, feel free to go back and start making some changes. It may work better for you to print out a copy and work with a pen, to see what kinds of changes you want to make before you commit on your digital copy. Or maybe you want to copy all and paste into a new document (this will let you keep the original to see how and what you’ve changed). Feel free to cut pieces out that aren’t working. Feel free to scrap the whole damn thing if you need to. The point is to get something, anything, out so you’ve given yourself something to work with. If it really was garbage, that’s okay. At least you got those rambling thoughts out of the way and cleared the path for more focused thoughts to come through.
Next, and potentially most embarrassing, read through what you’ve written OUT LOUD. I’m not shitting you. Read it out loud and you’ll find yourself stopping and having to change little things. What happens when we read silently is that our brain will auto-correct little errors and we won’t even realize it; but those same little errors may make reading your piece an obstacle for your audience. When you can read through it verbally without stumbling, think about your target audience – does your writing voice appeal to the people you want to reach?
When you’re done tweaking the actual writing, go through and decide if there are any graphics you want to add — make sure that you’re using things that are in the public domain or that you ask AND RECEIVE PERMISSION before using visuals from elsewhere (hello, this is a copyright issue!) and make sure to give credit where credit is due. Play with the layout of text and graphics a bit. If you aren’t very good with punctuation, you might want to find someone who is a bit better with the commas and semi-colons to read through for you (it will also give you another perspective before you hit that “publish” button!) and fix any lingering errors.
Wait a minute, this sounds like that writing crap my high school English teacher wouldn’t shut up about. You’re absolutely right. What I’ve just described is the writing process. It’s called a process for a very valid reason. It’s also what I’m sharing with you because, gasp, it works. (Full disclosure: I taught writing to incoming freshmen at the university level, as well as AP Language and Composition to college-bound high school seniors.)
The truth is, I know plenty of people who write once and send it off and it’s usually pretty good. Pretty good, but maybe not great. The bloggers you enjoy reading, the authors you love, they all employ the writing process. And the biggest piece, for me, when it comes to writing, is just getting something, anything down on the page. A shitty first draft, if you will. Because once you get over the hurdle of writing something, you can move past it and work with what you’ve got, or create anew.
And if you’re a beginning blogger, but don’t want to look like a complete amateur, following the writing process will give you a prescribed path to follow. Once you learn how you produce the best quality work, you may find that you skim completely through some steps, but spend oodles of time on others, and that’s okay. You’ll do what’s right for you and you’ll find that you, too, can be a good writer. If you can speak intelligently in your language, you can write well in that same language.
So, TL;DR version:
- Get some ideas (either just think about them or write them down somewhere)
- Write a shitty first draft, then walk away
- Come back to draft and read through it before making changes
- Make changes
- Add pictures
- Fix punctuation
- Hit “publish!”
Try it out. Also, if you have some great stories to tell, why not try sending some submissions our way? We’ve got lots of space here to show off some great voices and some new stories, so what are you waiting for?
Send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org