I have been frequently asked how I write my Blogs.
This is not the definitive list of ‘How to write the best blog ever‘ but a compilation of the key points that have arisen from the many e-mail conversations I’ve had regarding how I write my blog … all in one place.
Please remember that we are all very different; different backgrounds, experiences, writing styles, ways of thinking etc. Some of these may work for you; they may not, but hopefully my meanderings will offer some help, guidance & inspiration.
Finding The Subject
I tend to write something down when thoughts come into my head, or I’ve just learnt something myself or I’ve just experienced something/noticed something that I’ve done/someone else has done that has been helpful or unhelpful. But I think a key question here is, “What is your passion?” or “What are you passionate about?” These both answer slightly different questions but when we are passionate about something we have an energy to pursue it, investigate it and express it.
As a scientist I’ve always tended to see something and think about it, but I think my biggest ‘educators’ are the times when I personally (or one of my friends) have encountered adversity.
For example, I have had to battle with serious, unexpected depression and the lessons I’ve learnt through the help I received from others (friends, counsellors, medics etc) during recovery have often been very simple but effective ways of self-protection or self-awareness. These sorts of things stick in my mind and are always useful for evaluating what I see, situations I’m in etc.
I think my main message here is be yourself; use the tools at your disposal; learn from experiences of yourself and others.
Developing Blog Content & Style
I think that being a scientist (logical, systemmatic thinking) allows me to break things down into smaller steps or smaller pieces. Apparently one of my gifts is communication and an ability to make complex things easy to understand. This stems from my passion for helping others to develop; I really get upset when I see people making things unnecessarily complicated or inaccessible to look good!
Keep it simple where possible and err on the side of using shorter sentences, so that you keep the reader’s interest and don’t confuse them with multiple lines of disconnected thoughts. If you are discussing a number of different subjects, or aspects of a single subject, try to draw them together so that the reader can see how they fit together and what you’re saying as a whole. I try to stick with a simple principle, ‘If it doesn’t fit with what I’m saying leave it out; I can always use it somewhere else.’
One of the best lessons I’ve learnt is to carry a notebook around with me and write things downs that when I see them or soon after: ideas, observations etc. Capture them and write any other observations that occurred alongside. It doesn’t have to be neat and tidy but you should be able to read it and understand what you’ve written🙂
Some of you may prefer to use electronic means of recording which is fine; I just find that the actual act of writing with pen and paper somehow embeds and consolidates it more in my mind and enables me to be clearer with whatIi want to say; this is personal choice not a dogma.
If I have a pretty clear picture of what I’m going to write about I often jot down on paper a few of the points I want to make or sketch out a basic structure for the piece (a bit like the instroduction, materials, methods, results, discussion & conclusion flow for a scientific experiment, or like writing a story).
I’m also a musician which gives me, I guess, a more random, creative, illogical side; I also have a slightly ironic sense of humour which can help, but can also get me into trouble!! This always helps with a bit of spice & flavour.
Key points here are write it down; decide on a structure; think about a flow such as in a story so that people can follow.
Writing & Refining the Blog
Writing a blog can be a simple, quick, straightforward experience for some people. Occasionally I have been blessed with getting everything down in 5 minutes. But this is very rare and usually my one or two sentence entries🙂
Most of my meanderings take a few hours to finish; sometime that is a continuous effort; other times it’s a case of getting something down, leaving it as a draft for a few hours, a day or even longer (depending on time available, ease of pulling your ideas together etc), then coming back to revisit and edit.
Don’t be surprised if an edit turns into a rewrite! I find it helpful with longer pieces to initially write them in something like Microsoft Word or Apple Pages. This allows me to edit everything, move it around etc and usually spellcheck too. I can use extra line breaks to separate out my initial ideas and as I’m a very visual person I also use a lot of colour to ‘code’ the different subjects, points I’m making etc.
Once you’ve finished I would always advise converting it to plain text (.txt) which removes the formatting for font type, colour etc and post the text from this text file into the blog. This allows two things:
a) Plenty of opportunity to re-shape, edit, rewrite your entry and develop a piece you’re happy with, and
b) by converting it to plain text you remove all the coding that Microsoft or Apple use to produce their documents. This code can sometimes confuse blog editor software and may also be very long-winded which slows down page loading etc. Just a thought.
The Use of Images
I think that the use of images is a personal choice but a guide I use is to ask myself the question, “Will the photo add anything to what I’ve written or will it take way/add confusion?”
Images can be very powerful both ways.
Always try to use something that is good quality, in focus and relates to your subject or the points you’re making in some way.
Writing a blog is great but getting it seen so that people can find it and read it is another important issue.
Keywords are the words or phrases people may use when looking for material to read. So, one of the keywords or key phrases I’ll use for this entry, ‘how to write a blog‘.
However, there are lots of other things within the content of what I’ve written here that may be helpful to other areas, such as, ‘writing flow‘ or ‘developing a writing style’. I’m not trying to lead people to think that this blog entry has all of the answers, but I am letting them know that there may be some useful ideas here that they can use. If people like what you write they may link to you or refer to your entry.
These are great ways of expanding your readership and building relationships online.
Think about the questions that someone seeking advice or opinion would ask and make sure those words and phrases are used in your text and keywords.
Key Points: What I Have Found Helpful
The strongest driver for writing a blog is something that I feel passionate about.
It doesn’t always come out correctly first time but I get it written down and then connect these thoughts and jottings together into some sort of flow or sequence (my Plan). Thinking of a blog as a ‘story’ or ‘scientific paper’ help me with shaping it.
Keep it simple wherever possible.
Spend time refining and checking for errors, especially spelling and grammatical.
Think about the use of images and if they will help or hinder your message.
Think about what people may be looking for and use appropriate phrases within the content of your writing but also in your keyword.
Have a go; refine your method; listen to feedback; improve what you write; enjoy.
I’m always very happy to receive your feedback and comments so please post away in the response section or send me a personal e-mail at dr.stu at ntlworld dot com. Thanks and good luck🙂