Recently I invited my newsletter subscribers to contact me with their blogging questions, issues or stumbling blocks. (I’d like to extend the same offer to blog readers, but more on that a little later.) First, I’d like to share one of the reader’s questions.
It sounded something like this:
“How much do you need to have pre-written before you start up a blog? I feel like I need a lot of them done in advance.”
The subscriber wants to buy the blogging course* and also hire Grayson Bell to set up a WordPress site for free.** However, she didn’t want to do either one until she felt more ready.
Naturally I want more people to sign up for the course. But I didn’t push her to get started now-now-now. Here’s why.
Some people thrive on adrenaline and what one editor of mine called “creative tension.” Lots of us don’t. Lots of us also have day jobs and personal lives that keep us from eating, breathing and sleeping the blog life.
Thus it’s essential to prepare rather than just dive into the publishing pool. Once you get started you don’t want long gaps between postings. That’s frustrating to any audience you’ve built. Readers who enjoy your voice and point of view don’t want to wait many days (or weeks) for your next post.
Ready, set, blog
Here are some of the tips I suggested to her and to another reader who wrote in:
1. Determine your focus. Do this before you set up shop rather than signing on and flailing around. What interests you enough to want to blog about it regularly: travel, personal finance, parenting, geek culture? Life as a student, a millennial, a retiree?
If you’re not entirely sure, go out and look for some sites that are sorta-kinda what you want to do – and then write a blog that provides something those sites don’t.
2. Decide how often you want to post. Don’t try doing seven days a week, or even five. It’s a recipe for burnout. Aim for at least two or three posts a week.
3. Figure out when you’ll write. For an hour after you get up? During your lunch hour? On the train on the way home? You need to know that you can carve out some uninterrupted creative spells.
4. Start writing! Those pages won’t fill themselves. Do up at least a month’s worth (12 or so) of “evergreens,” i.e., posts without expiration dates. A post about Black Friday obviously won’t fly around Valentine’s Day, but a post explaining who you are and why you’re writing can run whenever you decide to start the site.
5. Keep a constant eye out for other post topics. Something in the news, the blogosphere, in your family or the street will give you grist for the article mill. Keep a list of ideas, with a few sentences about each one to get you going later on.
6. Mix and match. Publish an evergreen, then use part of the next day to write something new (or several somethings, if you’re on a roll). Post a new piece, wait another day or two, then post an evergreen or one of the other new articles.
7. Create a routine. If you can write even 20 minutes per day you’ll make progress on those new articles. As you finish each one, schedule its run date; you can always postpone it if you come up with a time- or incident-sensitive post that needs to be published right away.
8. Remember: Not every post has to be the Magna Freakin’ Carta. Don’t be a lazy writer (hey look at these pictures of my cat LOL), but do cut yourself some slack. Sometimes readers want a touch of humor, a shift in tone, a change of pace. Surprise them.
Ask me anything
As noted, I didn’t nag the reader to get started. Instead, I wrote her a long letter that included a bunch of the tips noted above. I think it’s smarter to be prepared, or maybe even a little over-prepared, than to struggle to maintain momentum.
Now, about that offer: Feel free to send any questions you have about writing in general and blog-writing in particular. When possible, my answer will include a snippet from the online course that addresses your concern.
Think about what’s holding you back from being the best writer you can be. Then feel free to discuss it with me at Contact@WriteABlogPeopleWillRead.com.
*Here’s a code good for 25 percent off in case you want to buy, too.
**Yes, really: Grayson has devoted part of his business to setting up basic WP sites for free. Myself, I keep him on retainer as webmaster; he makes my life much easier. Bless his heart.