No matter how you cut it, blogging involves writing. It doesn’t have to be a writing-intensive exercise (Geninne has a wonderfully successful art blog with very few words), but it’s going to involve putting at least a few sentences together for each post and sometimes much more than that.
Writing is a craft just like any other. The more you write, the better you get, although I’m not sure it ever becomes easy. Composing blog posts on a frequent schedule helps, but it’s also a good idea to read what the experts say and consciously work to develop your skills along the way.
(You might also want to check out this post: How to Have a Great Blog Even If You're Not a Writer )
About a year ago I began reading some blogs and books about writing and I thought I’d share a few that I’ve found to be particularly helpful. These resources are not aimed at craft bloggers in particular, but they’re relevant to what we do and I hope you’ll find them useful.
1. Goins Writer
Jeff is terrific at writing about writing. I love his blog because it’s simple, it’s updated all the time, and it’s packed full of honest, useful advice about creativity and hard work. He explains how to write heartfelt stories that show your vulnerability and how to persevere when you feel like quitting. Jeff believes in giving more than you get and I love his approach. I’m enjoying Jeff’s new podcast, too, especially his interviews with Guy Kawasaki and Seth Godin.
Carol Tice writes Make a Living Writing, a blog that’s focused on helping freelance writers earn money from their passion. First off, I truly admire how Carol talks real dollar amounts and names names. Her 100+ Websites that Pay Writers post is brave. Carol explores how to get comments on your blog posts, how to share effectively on social media, and how to pitch your ideas to bigger media outlets.
Your writing will improve if you read things that are well-written. Reading James Clear’s blog will help. James writes about motivation, goal-setting, and making new habits (he’s a weight-lifter and travel photographer, too) so you’ll be immersing yourself in great information while also hearing how good writing sounds. Start with his Best Of articles to get a feel for what he has to say and how he says it.
Buffer is an app for automating and spreading out your social media shares, but more than that Buffer has an exceptionally well-written blog full of great information for bloggers. By becoming a regular reader you’ll see how to craft great long-form posts and you’ll learn about all sorts of things like social proof, how to create popular Pinterest images, and the power of storytelling in the process.
This 30-year-old classic book by William Zinsser is about the fundamental principles of writing. He’ll help you avoid cliché and excessive detail and recognize the benefits of editing sentences down to their essence. And he does it all in a very readable, easy way. I highly recommend it.
On a side note, I bought and read How to Write Short a few months ago, hoping it would shed some light on writing great tweets, Facebook updates, or one-sentence teasers for new products, but it lacked practical advice. I can’t recommend it.
I enjoy writing, even though it’s often painful to begin and even more painful to complete, and I’m particularly happy with a post I wrote a few months ago about delegating. I thought the dog washing thing tied things up cleverly.
Are there blogs you think are particularly well-written? Any good writing books to recommend? It’s okay if you have to think back to your school days for this one.
Christine Guest says
Thank you Abby!
Thanks for this – I’ve added Make a Living Writing to my feed reader (a high bar to jump).
I read On Writing Well this last year and found it interesting how much of his advice for general nonfiction writing lined up with advice for writing a good research mathematics presentation. In particular, have a specific point, keep organization and content in service of that point, and don’t try to include everything you know, even if it’s relevant. I’ve realized while writing this comment (which has included detours searching for journalism-specific blogs) that “a specific point” is really the central question. I’ve started co-writing a blog about fibercraft in my local area, and have been putting off doing interviews with local crafters. I think the block is that I haven’t articulated the point of such interviews (“meet the crafter” is too vague), and doing so probably requires further consideration of the purpose and goals of the blog as a whole. I don’t think I can get the answer from someone online. 🙂
I did, however, find one (defunct) journalism blog that I’ll read through: http://writestuff.journalism.cuny.edu/
Blogs I especially enjoy reading because of how they are written are: Foxes Lane because it seems authentic and honest and is engaging and interesting. Knitters knitters because the author writes beautifully and although the thread is sometimes tangential it always skilfully takes you back to the beginning and the point being made. Sometimes she is so clever at tying the loose ends back together. She is different to any other blog I have read and I really enjoy her writing. Jen is an interesting and thoughtful person. Then along with so many others I love Posie gets cozy because of the often lyrical well chosen prose and because Alicia lets you into her family without it feeling invasive for me as a reader (and hopefully not for her). She has set almost invisible boundaries which is very clever of her, while still being wholly inclusive. Finally, I have recently found Tiny happy which is lovely. The trick is to be yourself without exposing too many vulnerabilities but not pretending you don’t have any. She isn’t scared to sneak in the odd political thought either. I don’t like that many bloggers seem to live in a special land untouched by general reality and life. However you don’t need to tell all either. A show of perfection is unrealistic, and leads to blogger envy based on how a reader erroneously choses to fill in the gaps. Then the bloggers are aghast at how everyone thinks they have such a dreamy life. It’s not surprising at all as it is the construct they created, often without thinking too much about the repercussions. I don’t like the babyish talk on many craft blogs. There are also too many who obviously try and engage with a style which is actually someone else’s and it shows.
Writing is for me the most important thing about a blog – the content. However, pictures *can* speak a thousand words and I enjoy blogs where it is the pictures that are the main pull too. When they are combined, then that is great. It has to be said that out of hundreds of blogs, there are a few handfuls that I really enjoy and which stand out and they are quite hard to find.
Abby Glassenberg says
You’re welcome, Christine!
Abby Glassenberg says
I think On Writing Well could help anyone in any field. And thank you for the blog recommendation!
Abby Glassenberg says
It’s so interesting to hear what pulls you in, Sara. I think great pictures and great text can function equally well for different people. There are brands that do so well on Instagram based just on great pictures and other who focus on long-form writing and do equally well. It’s a matter of knowing what you enjoy and creating something you can stick with as a blogger.
Kim Werker says
Thank you for this, Abby! After my blog rant this morning about awful blog writing, I’m going to tell everyone I know about this very helpful post! (Though I disagree with you about the Buffer blog. I stopped reading it a few months ago because I found it overwritten, and annoyingly formulaic. But maybe that’s just par for the course in social media/business blogs? I fear it’s so.)
I loved your rant, Kim. For a long while I’ve considered writing a post about how not every business should have a blog. Contrary what everyone seems to advise, if you really aren’t so keen on writing and taking photos and sharing in this manner, you’re better off not blogging than putting something up that really isn’t showing off your best work.
I agree that the Buffer blog can be rather long-winded. Social media blogs are very formulaic for sure. I do learn quite a bit there, though, and continue to subscribe. I like James Clear quite a bit because he’s such a good writer. Also, he has the best name ever.
Teje Karjalainen says
Thank you Abby! x Teje
Thanks,Abby, for these book suggestions. To them I would add a couple more: Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott and On Writing by Stephen King. I’ve personally found the Stephen King book to be extremely helpful for building a story-like structure into blog posts and emails. Doing that has increased open rates tremendously and helped me connect better with my audience – even when it’s just a “How to” post.
I love On Writing by Stephen King, too. I read it after I wrote this post which is why it’s not included here. You’re so right that structuring blog posts and email newsletter content as a story really helps to increase open rates because the audience knows that they are going to get something engaging. What a great point!