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- in General Writing Tips
- by Shennandoah Diaz
Blogs are obviously popular. Companies, organizations, and individuals alike have learned to take advantage of the power of blogs to share information and build up their presence. For companies and organizations its easy to decide what to blog about, but for many individuals who want to start a personal blog its hard to figure out which of their many interests to focus on. I know. My own blog has transformed many times starting out as a haven for sci-fi geeks, transforming into a modern hub for superheroes, next becoming another blog on publishing, and finally what it is now (which knowing me it may change again).
I think a blog is a great way to express yourself as an individual, and from a writer’s perspective a blog is a great way to practice your craft. I think anyone with something to say should have a blog, but I know that many of you have no idea where to start. So after my experimentation I have developed what I think are the essential steps toward building the concept for your blog.
Step One: Define Your Goals
Knowing your motivations for starting a blog is the first step toward building your blog identity. Some reasons for starting a blog include:
- Having an outlet for creative expression. Examples include the Oatmeal, Slice of Bizarro Pie, and Artwall.
- To establishing oneself as an expert. If you hope to write a book or become a known speaker and source you can blog on you area of expertise. Examples include CBA Ramblings, The Four Hour Work Week, MizFit Online, and When I Grow Up Coach.
- Chronicling a life journey, major life change, or new venture. Examples include Ms. Single Mama and Ms. Traveling Pants.
In addition to assessing your own goals I suggest you look at several blogs, find the ones that interest you both as a reader and as a blogger, and see which category they fall into. The category with the most blogs you enjoy is likely the one you want to emulate.
Step Two: Establish Your Umbrella Concept
Once you have a sense of what type of blog you want to write you need to then decide what is the big idea or umbrella concept that your blog will cover. This is where most people get hung up for a couple of reasons:
- Its hard to narrow down our interests, especially when it comes to figuring out which interests can we write about frequently enough to fill a blog and which ones we want to be a part of our online identity.
- Yet we think in narrow, predetermined subject headings. We try to drill down a blog to a limited topic, which makes it even more difficult to come up with fresh content on a regular basis.
To get over this you need to do a little soul searching. If you completed step one then you already know what your motivations are for starting a blog. Now you need to decide what’s the overall vision and mission for the blog. For example, MizFitOnline is all about living a fit and healthy lifestyle. The Four Hour Workweek is all about breaking away from the 9-5 grind to achieve personal freedom. For both blogs, their umbrella concept gives them freedom to explore a variety of topics related to the “big idea” while also providing focus for the overall content and direction of the blog. Each one also represents their passions, which is key to keeping momentum going for a blog. Blogs are hard work. You have to love what you’re talking about in order to keep dragging yourself to the keyboard on a regular basis (this is where I made my first mistake).
With this in mind, start brainstorming on a few umbrella concpets. Don’t rush this process. You want to make sure you give yourself just the right amount of flexibility and freedom to explore enough topics to keep content flowing and just enough guidelines to keep your blog from going all over the place.
Step Three: Define Your Subtopics
Now you have your “big idea” its time to line out the many subtopics you can explore underneath it. Not only does this help you come up with blog posts, it also helps you develop your categories which will organize all of the content on your blog. You can even have subtopics of subtopics, and drill down to very specific items for a specific blog post. For example, some topics for the blog are
- Building an author platform.
- Copywriting, fiction writing, and general writing.
- The publishing industry.
- Geek stuff and random rants.
Beneath those three headings I can explore a range of topics including character development, pitching your book, writing for businesses, and more. So long as I keep the thread consistent in each post, its all well within the boundaries of my umbrella concept. My point is to feel free to explore a range of topics, just make sure you maintain a unifying theme so that you stay on target (and so your readers stay interested).
Step Four: Make it Personal
People connect with other people, which is why its important that your blog reflect your personality. Show who you are, interact with people who comment, and don’t be afraid to share real examples form your own life. Just be sure not to step into the realm of TMI–too much information.
Step Five: Give Others a Reason to Care
If all you do is talk about yourself, no one will listen. Writing about what you like is the first step to developing a blog, but if you ever want others to read it (and hopefully subscribe to it) you have to give them something they want too. Even if you are chronicling a personal journey you still need to give them some nugget, some takeaway that they can use. For example, if you write about a major travel mishap wherein you are left stranded in a third world country with no telephone, in addition to sharing your antics you can also provide readers with resources for “in case this ever happens to you.” We can learn from your experiences, but only if you tell us how.
Step Six: Let it Evolve
As you move along in your blogging journey you may find yourself focusing more on certain topics, or realizing that certain things you though you wanted to include aren’t relevant. You need to give yourself the freedom to make changes, to let your blog evolve as you evolve and grow as a blogger. It’s okay. Readers will understand so long as you let them in on the journey and share what you have learned. It’s all one big happy family here in the blogosphere. No one’s going to tear you down for molding your blog into something that better reflects you.
I hope this helps you start to craft the blog you want. I know its hard to get going–I’ve stopped and started so many times its not funny. Still, I’ve managed to hold onto a few hardcore readers (and no its not my mom). It just goes to show you that so long as your having a conversation and communicating with people, you can experiment and make mistakes without fear that it will all come back to bite you in the ass one day. Or so I hope . . . just kidding! Happy blogging!