"It's like taking a nap on that little rug when you were in kindergarten."

The ABC’s of Great Blogging and Writing

ABC's, blogging, writing

For purposes of simplification, let’s assume you’re writing for your blog and blogging for your writing.

Most everyone who blogs wants to write about what they’re passionate about. It’s fairly easy to pin that down:

What do you love to do, think about, talk about, or live for, that you’re so excited about that you have to share it?

Most of you are probably already blogging or writing about what you’re fired up about. Now that you’ve got that focus, how do you find the people who are interested in what you’re writing about?

In other words, who is your AUDIENCE.

A. AUDIENCE

Just because you write something, doesn’t mean people are going to come to you to read it. One of the best ways to find your audience is to seek out blogs or writers who share your passion.

If you’re into humor – which I am – check out blogs or Google “humor” and see what pops up. Then read and comment on those blogs so that you connect and can learn and grow by learning what works and doesn’t work.

Love to laugh? Check out these truly funny blogs:

* Jenny Lawson – aka, The Bloggess – SERIOUSLY funny stuff!
Serena and Teresa Wu - My Mom is a Fob (MMIAF)

Maybe you’re into the more literary, serious-type pieces. Check out “writer blogs.” There are many good ones out there. Here’s just a couple that I’ve found to be excellent sources on writing:

Jeff Goins – Jeff is a superb writer, with an amazing blog, newsletter, and writing platform. One of my favorite sources for inspiration.
Rachelle Gardner – Rachelle is a literary agent with Books and Such Literary Agency. She brings a unique perspective to writing.

It takes time to build relationships and connect with like-minded bloggers and writers. This is NOT an overnight thing. But if you’re serious about blogging and writing, it will be worth the time and effort.

So, you’ve found your AUDIENCE, made some connections, and you’ve published a few posts on your blog. The next thing is very critical to your ultimate success.

B. BE YOURSELF

- “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”  Judy Garland
- “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” Oscar Wilde
- “You are you. Now, isn’t that pleasant?” Dr. Seuss

There’s no one like you. So don’t try to write with someone else’s voice, or try to copy their style. It won’t seem authentic and you’ll more than likely lose your AUDIENCE. If you try to be too funny, when you’re not; or too serious, when that’s not really your style, people will pick up on that.

On the other hand, BE YOURSELF doesn’t mean you can’t add bits of humor to your otherwise serious nature, or seriousness to your otherwise hilarious sense-of-humor. Just make sure your voice comes through and not someone else’s, that isn’t YOU.

You’re starting to have an AUDIENCE that follows your blog, who read and make good comments. This has developed as readers see you BE YOURSELF on your blog and in your writing. However, those readers won’t stay with you for long if you don’t have the “C” of the ABC’s.

C. CONTENT

WHAT you write is as important as the first two things. The expression in the blogosphere that “Content is king” is very true. You may not know that that expression derived from a short piece that Microsoft kingpin, Bill Gates, wrote back in 1996 (click here for article).

If your content is bad, it won’t matter what AUDIENCE you had, or if you BE YOURSELF. You’ve got to deliver the goods. And once you do deliver, you have to keep “bringing it.” Otherwise your readers will find someone else who can write your type of material consistently well.

Everyone faces those times when they feel they have to get a post out. It’s better to make sure it’s something your readers find worthwhile in some form, and that it jibes with what your blog is all about.

Bad CONTENT probably kills more blogs than anything else.

The ABC’s

Just remember to challenge yourself, every time you sit down to write, whether you’re keeping your AUDIENCE in mind, staying true to who you are – BE YOURSELF, and that the CONTENT is very good, based on “A” and “B”.

***

What’s your experience with blogging and writing?
Do you have any interesting stories regarding any of the “ABC’s” above?

Comments

  1. Yup, yup, yup! ABC – you said it! I completely agree with everything here. And I think I really need to check out Rachelle Gardner!

    I think the hardest part for me lately is finding the balance between ‘writing blog’ time and ‘reading blog’ time. Never mind trying to find ‘non-blog writing’ time! Some people wind up having to take breaks to work on the latter.

    And to add onto what you said about content: I think the time and effort you (‘you’ as in ‘one’) put into each post -even the small, silly posts- ultimately shows, even if the content is light and silly.

    • You’re so right about finding the time to balance it all. Audience is all about giving, and part of cultivating readers is the courtesy and relationship of commenting, right? And that’s where time-crunch #1 comes in. The second time issue is really looking hard at what we write. As you say, “… even the small, silly posts …” take time. Humor is sometimes even more time-consuming to write. It’s like trying to get a skit down perfectly, without falling flat.

      I had this post rattling in my head for several days, put it in rough draft early in the week, and finished it around 5 am today. But then had to re-read and re-read it just to be sure it flowed okay.

      Non-blog writing time is a whole other issue, time-wise. And to tie that in – yes, Juju’s Petals *IAWL reference*, you have to look at Rachelle’s website. It’s one of the most insightful writing sites out there.

    • And throw in “writing book time” and family time and you’re doomed! LOL!

  2. Great post- I’ve been thinking about this sort of stuff all week :)

  3. I agree with you entirely on the ABC’s. It’s not easy getting started. I look back to those first months of blogging and realize it took a bit of time and work to find myself – what I wanted to write about. My biggest problem is MAKING time to write. I walk around with the camera a lot. I think about what I’m going to say about the photos, the point; the message. Then I may spend hours or a couple of days writing. Finally, my editor (aka husband) looks it over and makes suggestions or corrections. I look it over one last time… and I hope for some good hits. Sometimes those hits take days, or a couple of weeks to show up. But the end result is rewarding to have the “Like” button clicked, a few comments made, stats showing lots of hits, and mostly… a new follower or several new followers. I hope my writing means something to others… to give the audience something to draw on and absorb… a little piece of the simple life.

    • Well, you have a LOT going on the farm. Things aren’t stopping while you blog. So it’s understandable. That’s a good idea to have the camera at hand. I spend hours processing what I want to write as well. Some people can do it very quickly.

      You’ve definitely found your voice, and your content is always very good. You’ll continue to gain your audience as time goes on. People seem to relate to your message.

  4. I just read Jenny’s book and dam near peed my pants!
    This is really great advice for this newbie. It seems so easy when it’s broken down into ABC, yet it’s still a struggle for me. Time is a huge factor… I have to work because the wealthy boat sailed without me.

    • You’re very funny Lisa. Like the “wealthy boat” idea. Have you seen mine?

      Time, unfortunately, is a factor for just about everyone. And I’m pretty slow getting blog stuff done, too.

  5. I think you’ve got it. But you can’t go into blogging without looking for community to connect with. Like The Bloggess is great and all, but she rarely responds to people.

    Or, she never responded to me.

    So I grew tired of her.

    I was looking for interaction.

    Right now, I’m trying to figure out how to grow. How do I meet new people in the big, wide blogosphere? I’m trying to visit more people — especially new folks who show up.

    I’ve been lazy about doing linky-love lately, but I think it makes a difference.

    • You bring up a great point Renee: Blogging IS all about connecting. I’ve only read the Bloggess without commenting. But if they don’t respond to your comments, it’s very frustrating.

      I personally – you can’t tell, I’m sure – love interacting with people on my blog and on theirs.

      It’s been so fun meeting such a wide spectrum of people, interests, et al. And if new people show up on your blog, it’s important to visit their blogs and show the same courtesy. Harder to do the more comments one gets, but I’m certainly not there.

  6. Mj, It’s a Great article. You gave it a real thought, while writing this piece. Yes we all need to keep our audience in mind. But is n’t it fair enough, if sometimes we try something new with our blogs, to check the reaction of our readers. Yes there is a risk factor, but I believe it somehow helps us grow as a creative person.
    The posts which got most hits in my blogs are based on love, emotion and articles. So I know people visit my blog expecting to get that feel good factor and to get some thoughts to ponder. So yes, I have to give them something to read which they enjoy in my blog after a certain interval of time. But sometimes with in that gap I try something new. Sometimes things work and sometimes they do not. But we must be careful while trying something new that, if we are honest with what we are trying.
    You are making us think.

    • Yes sir, we do have to try new things. Sometimes they may not work, but other times they may be what touches someone, helps a person out, or makes them laugh.

      Your posts are always heartfelt and very universal to your audience. That’s why you have a devoted following. And I like when you try new things as well. Both do well on your blog. Keep it up, my friend.

  7. I don’t think about this stuff at all, and maybe it shows. :) I just write. My blog is a public sketchbook. Some people like to read it. At the end of it all, the blog is for me to exercise, and I’m glad a few people show up.

    • It is very intuitive for you, as you have such relatable components in your pieces and that’s what touches people. And I might add – you have more than a few people showing up, my Charleston friend. :)

  8. Blogging is great. You find such great personalities and you are right about the ABC
    Finding an audience that works for your blog takes time and patience. And once you find them, it’s like meeting long lost friends. The vast distance of the globe is so much brought closer with blogging and blogger buddies.
    And for that the B counts. Being yourself brings out the best in you and that’s what really counts and connects and yes the Content also matters.
    But my god, blogging do consume time and is highly addictive :)

    I have had to take some breaks here and there from blogging because it has been eating away my time. So I will add a D to your list – to confine blogging to a dedicated time frame. Otherwise one could end up spending too much time on blogging and eventually experience a blogger burn out :D

    • Hey MindBlur, how are you? Great to see you.

      Blogging certainly does make the world smaller and more connected. I really like that aspect.

      The time is such a factor. And it definitely takes a LOT of time. I wish it didn’t because I so enjoy doing it. I like your D that you added. But I need the other D – Discipline, to stick to a set amount of time. :)

  9. Jennifer says:

    Love it. All the above/below comments hit the mark aswell with everything we have to do. After all there is no blog if we don’t live out life a little to start with. This has jolted me to start my third blog, this time going back to the beginning of why I started blogging initially. My craft. I have stopped following several blogs as there is no interaction after the post itself, many comments and
    Ickes but nothing from the blogger, which I find rude and a bit arrogant. I treat my blog and comments as though I am in a group telling a story, I am not going to ignore people when they comment, at the very least a smiley face or a thanks. A little goes along way. Great post as always. :D

    • I love that line about “… no blog if we don’t live out life a little to start with.” Wow, that is so true. I’m so with you on not following blogs where there’s no interaction. I do my best to follow up on every comment. I’m sure I inadvertently have missed some though, and that would bother me. All the best in your restart on your bead/craft/art blog, my friend.

  10. Very nice post, MJ. And right on target. I know I’ve struggled with content, trying to find one subject to focus on. And after I did, I was unhappy (even though it freed a lot of time that I’ve been wanting back). It’s like reading. I like a variety, and if I had to be chained to just one genre, it would drive me nuts. So it is with blogging. I’ll stay focused on Friday’s…but the rest of the time…FREE-FOR-ALL!

    Now if you could just solve the whole ‘not enough time’ issues we all have…and figure out a way for us to drive more people to our blogs, that would help. Maybe find a genie in a bottle for me on your beach…a nice sexy jihn would be good. Then HE could take over my marketing, housework, laundry, cooking and shopping, and I could just write. :)

    • Oops…djinn. Could you work on the whole sleep thing, too? Cause I really need more hours in the day so I can sleep. :)

    • As you can see, I don’t stay on just one topic either. I think I’ve settled into some humor, some storytelling, and some informational. But I’m too distracted to focus on just one thing. So, I’m with you on that. As long as our audience knows what to expect, even if the expectation is “surprise.”

      I wish I had the answer on the time issue. It takes me SO long to comment on all the blogs I like – hours and hours. I love doing it, but there are things in the real world that have to be done. If I find the genie, I’ll give you one of my wishes. Oh, I do love laundry, btw (see this old post: http://www.mjmonaghan.com/2011/12/17/the-zen-of-laundry/).

      • Okay…so I just read the laundry article. You’re hired! :)

        Gotta love Borax. And it’s not just for laundry anymore. After realizing that I was allergic to something in most shampoos, and spending a little too much time researching it, I started washing my hair with Borax (dissolving about 1/4 cup in 16 ounces of water). Works great, soft hair, more shine…and, as an added bonus, it’s saving me a small fortune. Yes, I have about a dozen bottles of shampoo that I need to get rid of now…

        • I love me my laundry and my front loaders – best Christmas presents ever!

          Boy, I didn’t know that about Borax for hair, but it does make sense. If it works for clothes, why not? And cost-savings – what a bonus.

  11. I feel badly because I don’t think about most of this. Sure, I obsess over stats and I have the whole Sally Field, you really like me, thing kicking most of the time, but when it comes right down to it, my blog is where I go to play. My serious stuff is out there circulating hoping to be snagged and published. How bad is that?

    • I think that’s great that you don’t think about it, Miranda. It’s difficult for me to let it go. I’m always thinking of ways to connect more, be more accessible, etc. For some reason, it’s important to me. I blog for fun, but take it very seriously if that makes sense.

      How is your effort going on getting toward being published?

  12. I’ve noticed that quite a few of the blogs I follow seem to have just stopped one day – do you think all blogs have a “lifespan”?

    • I’ve noticed that as well. I think for some people, their blogs die because they lose interest in coming up with content, or they don’t have time and just let them go. I feel the most for those who get discouraged at the very beginning when no one comments, so they dump their blogs. Unfortunately, that’s the way it is for a while until you get to know other bloggers.

      The ones that have been around for a couple of years or more seem to evolve and grow. Not sure I really answered your question, though. :)

  13. >It takes time to build relationships and connect with like-minded bloggers and writers.
    - And this is why I’m not going to see my Stats column hit the roof. (The top of my monitor?)

    I *deliberately* do not put in the time to explore new blogs and I *even* more deliberately take my time to add a blog to my RSS list. Right now, I have 18 blogs RSSed, of which 5 are relatives/friends. I’ve been just as stringent with this category of people, too.

    I’m this strict with non-personal e-communication because my real life contacts still give me a far bigger high. It’s hard to give up that kinda crack, you know? :-)

    >One of the best ways to find your audience is to seek out blogs or writers who share your passion.
    - Again, this is something I deliberately do not do. Of the 10 complete strangers whose blogs I’ve RSSed, there’s just one whose threads within his posts are sort of similar to mine. Similar, yet different.

    I prefer not to flock with those of my own feather because one of the reasons I read online is to learn something completely different. I read posts or articles of my interest, but I don’t RSS any of those sites.

    When talking to a friend recently about the kind of blogs she and I veer towards, I told her, “One of the things that I do not compromise on is the blogger being nice.” Not smart, not funny, not profound; rather, not *just* all that, but above all, nice.

    And that cap that fits snugly on you, MJ. :-)

    Kate

    • You definitely remain true to yourself, Kate. You stick to what’s important to you, and I completely respect how you blog.

      Most of what I’m referring to doesn’t necessarily apply to your situation where you want to keep your circle small.

      I’m glad that we were able to connect, however it happened. And I’m glad that you pop in and comment on my blog, as well.

  14. Good stuff, MJ. I wish I had read this back when I was a newbie.

    I completely agree with Renee–interaction is key. That’s the best part of blogging for me, forming those relationships over time. But you gotta be careful you don’t interact so much that someone slyly steals your gravatar.

    • I know, I wish someone would have told me when I started out, too, Darla.

      You have some of the best interaction with your readers and such a great connection with them as well.

      Sorry to hear about your gravatar being stolen. If you send me a link, I can give that person “what-for” for doing that. BTW, I did notice that your gravatar looks similar to someone else’s that I know. *teehee*

  15. Great post MJ..there was no plan when I first started to blog, I was just compelled to find my voice. The ‘like minded’ links and friendships that have been forged happened naturally and I have found (this next bit may be annoying!!) that I do not know what I am about to write, it comes through me. Chuffed to bits to have found your blog my friend x

    • Sorry, Jane, I missed this comment somehow.

      I believe you when you say it just comes through you. I can totally see that (it’s not annoying at all).

      I’m glad to have found your blog as well. It’s so refreshing and calm to be on your page.

  16. sunshine says:

    My experience with writing and blogging can only be summed up in a few words: wonderful, delightful and a beautiful delicious torment.

    Andra spoke what was on my mind as I read your post…and maybe I am a bit selfish in that way, but having the opportunity to write, simply write what is on my heart is truly a gift and I am very grateful for it. At this moment in time, I think if we are creating from our hearts, everything else will fall into place without having to agonize whether all the rules are met.
    Thanks for the thoughts…

    • You are a light in the blogging world, Sunshine!

      I know what you mean about simply writing what’s on your heart. I think there’s this really broad spectrum of people in blogging and it runs from those who write just for themselves, on one end; and goes to those who write purely for their readers. Of course, there are those who are in the middle of the spectrum who are looking for both. IMO, there are more people somewhere in the middle who attempt to write for themselves while also sharing something, or engaging readers. But I could be totally wrong in that. :)

      This doesn’t mean one has to change who they are, or what or how they write.

  17. I agree with you, MJ. Blogging isn’t about success measured through page views and monthly stats, as much as it is about making connections and finding your community. And content is SO important – almost as important as authenticity. It’s always a little sad, to me, when a blogger changes his or her voice to drum up sponsored posts or drive ad revenues. Be yourself, all the time, no matter what. It’s those authentic voices that make the blogging community so amazing!

    • So true about not changing your voice, Desi. I think it totally defeats the point and in most cases, they’ll lose more readers than they could have gained by staying true to who they are.

  18. Great list. I’ve kind of taken a three month break from reading blogs, which is sad, kind of. I’m not even sure why. Mostly because I was in front of a computer too much. I’m getting back to it now, thankfully; I thrive on routine, like a kid thrives on Fruit Loops.

    In terms of audience, I think it’s key to leave room for your readers, like you did in this post. Don’t say everything on a topic…say enough and invite them in. I know that’s when my comments open up.

    • I was wondering about you. I thought maybe your book was eating up a lot of your time. It’s hard to get to all the blogs one loves. Especially the ones where they post everyday.

      Great point about “leaving room” for one’s readers. I never thought about it consciously (I guess it’s something I do subconsciously, hmm).

  19. I enjoyed this post. Thanks for all the links. You’ve given me lots to click on ;)

  20. Ha, very well done mj, this is exactly right, and is how I have always tried to navigate my blog. I’ve had several friends who have seen the success of mine and so decided to take up blogging, and have since complained that they don’t get any comments or many hits etc. What they don’t seem to realize, is the amount of effort it takes to get there. You need to connect with other bloggers, post regually, have good content and all the things you mentioned! Or it just doesn’t work. Luckily for me, I enjoy commenting and connecting with new bloggers, so it’s not a chore, I just enjoy doing it!

    Once again, great post. :)

    • Oh yeah, you’re so right, Becks, it definitely is a process in engaging and connecting with our fellow bloggers. And also about the effort. Just learning the dashboard to get a post published is a lot to learn, and then writing something others would want to read – if they can find you – is difficult at first. I think that’s why we see so many people who start up blogs and then they let them die out.

      You do a great job connecting with your readers, btw!

      • Haha ohh god yeah, I remember how confusing the Dashboard seemed at first! So many different tabs and random names and I had no idea what any of them did! It was also quite fun trying to work it out though, I’m one of those naturally inquisitive people, so I just kept trying and trying different stuff until I worked it all out. :)

        Thank you mj, so are you! It’s one of the best things about your blog.

  21. Judy Berman says:

    Great tips, Michael. I enjoy reading what other bloggers write, but I have to carve out more time for writing.
    As you stated, that balance is part of the give and take in blogging.

    • I have to say, I spend way more time reading other blogs – because I enjoy it so much – than I do writing on my own. If you figure out how to balance it out, let me know. :)

  22. Super list, Mike- Funny new tagline about the cracker jacks!

    • Thanks, Tricia. You’re the FIRST person to notice the tagline. I changed it earlier in the week, and thought for sure I’d hear from someone. You’re very observant.

  23. Great tips, MJ! I used to think that writing just comes naturally to good writers (like you). I imagine that they just sit at the table and words flow naturally out of the tips of their pens without any effort and poor ordinary folks like me just don’t have it in us to do that. I now appreciate, thanks to kind folks like you who share your tips, that it takes a lot of effort for good writers to come up with the great reads we enjoy. I still don’t have it in me, but I’m much more appreciative of writers of blogs, books, magazines, newspapers and whatever reading materials.

    • I like your blog, Elaine. And you’re photography adds so much.

      I’m glad that you’re able to get some tips out of some of my posts. And though I might be silly sometimes – no, say it ain’t so – I still try to put effort into it where it’s readable. It means so much to me when people laugh or get something out of what’s written.

  24. All great advice! And having just come from Blogher12 in NYC I can tell you first hand that attending blogging conferences is a great way to connect with other bloggers (and get some face time–what a concept!). All you have to do is spend two days wading through 5000 people!

  25. What a great post MJ, I wish I’d read this before I started my blogging life. All the blogging sites should have an MJ wiki with your ABC’s front and centre.

    Like some other commentors, lack of interaction is a huge turn off for me. I try really hard to respond to everyone that comments in a timely manner. I’ve learnt the hard way (IRL) that some people expect instant responses (as if we are tied to our email accounts every second).

    In the meantime I’ll follow my favourites, and try to post at least once a week to feed this blogging beast! I have no shortage of content. Time, ah now that’s a whole different kettle of fish :)

    • Hehe … I wish I would have known these things before I started, as well!

      Yes, I’ve seen so many blogs where the blogger doesn’t get back with the commenter, at all. I read a blog at the end of July where the blogger didn’t even read the comments UNTIL she found out the people commenting were slamming her for not responding to a single comment. Hard to believe, huh?

      And yes, when you find an hour that lasts more than 60 minutes, can you sell me a lot of them? :)

  26. MJ,
    Great post! I think I try to stay on my schedule and wake up at 4 am trying to get a post done by 6 without an idea of what to write about and end up many time with second rate articles. Then my bloggy friends who comment are too nice to tell me! :P I am better off skipping a day than doing this. You know what I would like to find? I’d like to find out how everyone else is doing? Then I can know how good I am doing, ya know? It’s all relative and I have no idea, really. I am trying to turn my back on this competitive metaphor, but I don’t think I would want to know for competitive reasons, just to gauge whether it is worth it or I should switch tactics. I want to know so I can learn and grow from it. I know I am not funny, but it’s so nice of you to comment on my blog anyway! I like funny and I am trying to integrate it in. I am really a funny person in real life, which is why I READ funny blogs.
    BTW I LOVED your other tag line, but this is good too.

    • Wow, 4 am is awfully early, Jodi. I think your posts are very thoughtful. I like your competitive spirit. :) I used to be very competitive, but now I just strive to be excellent at whatever I do. Kind of like competing against myself to be better. If that makes sense.

      Oh, I like coming to your blog. I think we need to challenge ourselves in different aspects of our personality. And since I have a personal interest in panic disorder, you address some of these issues from time to time (amongst other mind enhancing processes).

      Thanks for the feedback on the other tagline, and this one, too. ;)

  27. Great post. You don’t mind if I make one small inquiry, do you? I thought the ABCs of blogging stood for Acting Dumb, Being Bad, and Confusing Everyone…even yourself. I’m just saying.

  28. I am surprised by how much i like blogging–that being said though I get my usual stage fright the night before I post (that’s the introvert in me). My favorite part is asking a question–I love hearing what everyone else has to say.
    Love your ABC’s, I definitely don’t fall in the literary and serious category. Although it might be fun to see me attempt that in a post.
    Best of luck with the job search!

    • Interesting, Coleen – I get that way before I post as well. Have I spelled correctly, is the content good, will they like it, etc. The feedback is fantastic. That’s really the best part about blogging.

      I like your blog and your voice. Don’t think you should do “too serious.” :)

      Thanks on the job search. It’s been slow, but I remain hopeful.

  29. Audience, Content, Be yourself. Hmmm, I think I’ve figured out one of those, but am still working on the other two.

    This blogging journey has been amazing and remarkable for so many reasons, meeting cool folks like you being at the top of the list. I wonder what the next year will bring…

  30. This is great, MJ! Thanks for the concise reminder of what to do to get the message through effectively.

  31. I love this post! very informative and I find your humor very interesting :)

  32. Great post, MJ! I think the thing I struggle most with on my own blog is another ‘c’: Consistency. My work schedule is so seasonal that I spend most of the winter reading and writing blogs, and then I fall off the wagon so severely during the summer months. I’ll have to find a way to sneak in some blogging time here and there, but lately, I’d rather use every second of free time to sleep. :)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] as good friends even though I have not met any of them IRL) about the ABC’s of blogging, read here, it got me thinking about why I first started a blog in my website (see it here) in the first [...]

  2. [...] The ABC’s of Great Blogging and Writing (mjmonaghan.com) [...]

  3. [...] also to Gigantor, Tameri, Lancelot, and MJ for entering the lottery. Bring your loaded dice next [...]

Please leave a comment.

%%POSTLINK%% is a post from: mj monaghan