Advice for first-time general bloggers is surprisingly scarce – a basic Google search gives just two immediately relevant lists: Babble gives some light-hearted but very useful general advice on content*, and Snagsta has an article with slightly more technical approach**. Broader, more general advice is hidden amongst the host of more specific lists. Without a strong idea of where to start, how can you avoid diving down an overly-specific rabbit hole?
Given that many first-time bloggers face the ‘blank sheet syndrome’ of not knowing exactly what to write, let alone how to develop and exercise a successful and interesting style, this lack seems quite unusual. Of course, most bloggers have an area of interest that is specific – and specialisation is the best way to dig out a niche.
I think it’s important to take a step back from the specialisations and take in the broader view, so please consider this a breath in before I expand on the need for generous generalism in the future.
1 – Tall, dark and handsome is good in a stranger. Short, clear and honest is good in a blog.
2 – Do your own research. No, Wikipedia does not count. Direct experience is primary evidence: if you can reasonably do it yourself, then do so.
3 – Learn from your mistakes: most people will respect someone who holds up their hand if they’re to blame. They’ll like them even better if they have a plan to sort it out.
4 – The chances of you being the first to stumble over a blogging truism are low to minimal; but presenting it in a new or interesting way will help enliven even the most obvious statement. Creating an exciting connection between two obvious points leads to further connections.
5 – Check, check and check again. Typos in print are like twitches in a conversation partner.
6 – Have a goal in mind, even if it’s just seeing where the path leads.
7 – Keep it up. Too many good blogs leave great hiccoughs between updates.
8 – Cite your sources. If you’ve written something interesting, then your readers will want to follow it up. Give ’em a reading list if it’s an opinion piece.
9 – Welcome and respond to feedback. Very few Rapunzels have access to the blogosphere, so don’t act like you’re in an ivory tower.
10 – Give the best at first. A punchy headline might draw a reader in, but the first paragraph is vital to develop that interest. Having vital content buried at the bottom is useless if you lose the reader’s interest in your opening statements.