Blogging tips: The craft of writing great content

You may be blessed with a methodical brain, the kind where you plan your writing in a linear way, with orderly numbers that line up in the margin. If that works for you great. Stick to it. I rely on writing, writing, writing until I reach the eureka moment. That’s when I know just what it is I’ve been tapping on about and I’ve finally found the golden thread that brings it all together. The point that’s been lurking at the back of my head, reluctant to come out. And I know I’m not the only one.

From butterfly net to eureka moment

So this post is for you, the If-only-I-could-get-this-great-blog-out-of-my-headers, the I-know-what-I-mean-but-it-looks-pants-on-paperers, the I’ll-do-it-tomorrowers and the But-I’m-not-a-writerers. If you can type something and publish it on a blog, you’re a writer, so get to it.

[Words] are the wildest, freest, most irresponsible, most un-teachable, of all things. Of course you can catch them and sort them and place them in alphabetical order in dictionaries. But words do not live in dictionaries, they live in the mind. — Virginia Woolf, Craftsmanship

There are many more logical posts on blogging tips on the internet that will proclaim that you should always start by researching your keyword, then do the title before you even consider writing. I prefer the idea path.

It’s much easier to write something you’re inspired by or feel passionate about than forcing yourself to write a blog just to rank for a search term. Google’s search is mean to facilitate great content, and you’re more likely to produce it if you’re blogging about something you love.

So grab a notebook, scribble ideas on a train, in a pub, on the toilet, wherever inspiration find you, grasp it and don’t let it slip through your fingers, even if you have to beg a pen off a stranger and you haven’t washed your hands…

Typing on a macbook

Develop your own voice

Every hand-crafted piece is a reflection of its maker. In the same way your blog, and all your marketing copy need to be an amplification of you. A distilled droplet of text with its own distinctive taste. Your individuality is your greatest asset and your blog needs to reflect this. Writers take years perfecting their craft, and as a skilled maker, you know just how long that is. So I’m not proposing you spend decades seeking perfection. That would take time out from crafting your goods. And that’s totally against the point. Blogging is meant to help you sell more, so you can craft more, not eat into your studio time or sap your creativity.

What I’m suggesting is much simpler. That voice inside your head, your inner monologue that no one hears? That’s how you should write. Simply, naturally.

Focus on the benefit to your readers

Speak to your reader one-on-one. Imagine it’s just the two of you face-to-face. Know who it is you’re writing for and what it is they desire. Aim to solve a problem for them, calm a fear, meet a desire, inform, or entertain. If you can do that, you’re conveying value, not just rambling on in a self-serving way. And if it’s valuable and free, they’ll be back for more.

But don’t try to push them into a sale

We’ve all done it, walked into a shop knowing exactly what we want and walking right back out because the sales person was too pushy. It’s human nature to reject being forced into things. Closing a sale should be like a kiss, you lean forward towards them but you let their lips touch yours first.

You’re attracting people to your blog to make them aware of what you make and why you make it. You’re both meeting for the first time and you want them to come back to look at the lovely things you make. Hide the price tag, don’t rattle the cash box. This is about building a relationship for the long-term.

Notes with ideas

Avoid onerous alliteration, excessive exclamations and decadent descriptions

What you make is beautiful and you want to describe it in the best possible way. I get that. I’m often guilty of writing things because they sound nice. That’s the beauty of words. Just don’t overdo it. Writing in the honey-glazed voice of a World of Interiors journalist is all well and good but it can sound egotistical and over-the-top. Particularly when you’re writing on your own blog. It’s fine if someone else is reviewing you on another site, or in a testimonial but be humble or risk sounding like you’re lying. Buyers are all too savvy these days and are getting better at noticing where the flourish of the keyboard is hinting at the lining of the pockets.

Notebook pen macbook and iphone

Where possible use facts

I know that sounds boring, but it is effective. Replace an over-used exaggerated word like gorgeous, stunning, and opulent, and try describing what makes it those words. For example, if it takes you 20 coats of varnish to get the perfect finish that looks so gorgeously gloss, write it. If you fly half way around the world to research your commissioned product before even sketching out a first draft, tell your readers the story. They will be interested. And they’ll also appreciate the amount of time and work it takes to make your product a little bit better.

Be careful with humour

When you read a post that’s meant to be funny, are you laughing, crying, or cringing? It’s a fine line to walk. Feel free to crack a joke or two, just make sure it’s funny. Ask an opinion from a friend. Where the internet is concerned it’s better to be safe than sorry, people are very easily offended.

Typewriter closeup

But do feel free to write informally

Use abbreviations, (not acronyms or business-speak) but do liberally apply apostrophes. Words don’t need to be bashed out with arthritic fingers in the way stuffy Victorians did it. Keep formal language for job interviews and garden parties at Buckingham Palace. But don’t be so informal you’re swearing all over the place.

And the rule with using exclamations as punctuation is always: If you take them away does your writing is sound flat and dull? If yes, then they probably don’t need to be there. Rewrite the words with a little more sparkle, again avoiding extraordinary exaggerations.

Write first, then EDIT, EDIT, EDIT

The best way to write a good post is just to write it. Sit in front of your computer and write whatever spills out of your brain. Don’t be precious about it. Don’t chew your pen and scour Thesaurus.com for the perfect word. Do an info dump, an idea leak. Write around the topic. Then take a break (leave it to the next day and work on something else if you have time). Come back with fresh eyes and edit.

Then look at what you’ve got. Try and simplify your central argument and trim your text so it shapes it better. Get rid of unnecessary sentences. Be really, really ruthless, even if it means cutting the best thing you’ve ever written. Save it for something more relevant. Shuffle your paragraphs until the pieces of the puzzle fit in the most convincing way. And you’re almost done, almost.

Editing is by far the hardest and most important part of the process. As Stephen King says in On Writing “To write is human, to edit divine.” But the 21st century throws a further obstacle in the path of the modern writer. One Virginia Woolf didn’t have to contend with: Google.

This where the SEO fine-tuning comes in. But that’s a topic for the next post. Thankfully, it’s not as hard as you might think.

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