Are You a Directionally Challenged Blogger?

Photo Credit: Momo Wong

Photo Credit: Momo Wong

I’ve been writing in the corporate setting for more than five years, and writing for leisure for about as long as I can remember. Two problems have always persisted for me, though. I’m long-winded and I tend to veer all over the place without realizing it, until I’m left with a piece that begins discussing the importance of social media, somehow veers into indie band territory and ends with an embarrassing story about my dog relieving himself in the surf at the beach, causing horror for all, but mostly me (ed. – Sort of like now??). Then I think to myself, wait…what was I talking about?

Pitfalls

While not as much of a problem in my leisurely narrative writing, it’s a huge problem at work. To be more specific, right here, in the space you’re currently reading – the Newtek blog. After sending off an entry for review, it returns to me, often times bleeding, with suggestions to “focus on one point and dig in” or, “’it’s great, but can you try to say it more succinctly?” (ed. –I prefer to keep it simple: Shorten It!)

Best Practices

Granted, I’ve definitely improved over the years, but I still fall into the same traps. Yes. I fully admit, when it comes to writing, this wordy wanderer needs help. That’s why it’s good to have something like these best practices in mind before even sitting down to write, and then keeping them in mind as you go through the writing process.

The Goal

When it comes to blogging, you should have some sort of template in mind to keep things consistent. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that the purpose of a blog is to create a community, and in order to engage that community, you have to open up the conversation. So before I even sit down to write, I consider the audience and then determine what I want to ask them. It’s just the way my brain has learned to think. You have to find your own process.

Tools

The best tool I’ve found thus far was produced and shared (for free) by my social media hero, Jay Baer. (If you’re on Twitter, follow him @jaybaer.) It’s called the Blog Post Worksheet, and as simple as it is, it’s really helped me deconstruct my ideas, and map them out in a way that’s reduced my propensity for wordiness and wandering. I know where I’m going before turning the ignition.

So how about you? What helps keep you on track? Do you have a favorite tool, such as a Blog Post Worksheet? Have a favorite blog you visit to provide inspiration and tips to keep your message tight? Share them below.

A few of my favorite posts on blogging:

8 Ingredients for Blog Post Success

5 Rules for Better Web Writing

40 Ways to Deliver Killer Blog Content

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3 Responses to “Are You a Directionally Challenged Blogger?”

  1. Thanks so much LIbbie. Delighted to know that I’ve been able to help you. Working on more blogging tips and such. Stay tuned.

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  2. For me, keeping a posting “tight” is not nearly as important as keeping the reader engaged and involved in the post, from beginning to end. I wonder how many fewer pages the Harry Potter books could have been, had Rowling kept it simple. Do you think she would have captured the imagination of more people, or less? Writing isn’t about “say what you want”, “say what you mean”, and “get to the point”. Its a journey along a path set forth by the author. Writing for business or writing for fun have different audiences, but the purpose is the same. Writing is about providing a piece of yourself, the author, be it knowledge, imagination, or point of view, in such a way that the reader wants to continue reading, wants to know more, and perhaps in the case of a blog, wants to talk about it. You can drive from Chicago to St Louis on I-55 and get there easily in 5 or 6 hours, or you can take Illinois’ Great River Road Scenic Byway along the western boundary of Illinois as it winds its way beside the mightiest of American rivers for 550 miles. Both roads get you there, but only the scenic byway teaches about Illinois, and shows you the state and its history in a way that you’ve never seen before. I believe, in my humble opinion, that the reader who sees Illinois from the vantage point of the I-55 writer, will not be nearly as engaged and interested as the reader who sees Illinois from the vantage point of the long winding road alongside majestic bluffs beside the mighty Mississippi river. Which way would you learn more about Illinois?

    Further, keeping it simple and to the point, means that while you, the knowledgeable writer understands your topic, and your editor, understands your topic, the audience may not understand, and certainly won’t understand “why” you feel as you do. The readers who have the most to learn, may understand the least, and move on. The readers who already court their own opinions on the topic may join in the conversation, but what has your post accomplished if the only people who benefit are those who already have an opinion?

    My secret to keeping my blogs on track is NEVER publish the first or second draft. The first draft is usually full of the ramblings of an unfocused writer. It is my thoughtful reflection of what I’ve written as I go about doing something else that molds my ideas into what I am really trying to say. In the second draft, I am free to rip out the excess garbage which made perfect sense when I wrote it but means nothing now. In the final revision, I edit for style, grammar, spelling, etc. Then, and only then, when the post says what I intended, and has been checked and rechecked, do I publish it. That doesn’t mean that there are no errors in it, it just means that it says what I intended, in the way that I intended. I created a journey for the reader so that they may see through their eyes, what I see through mine.

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  3. Hi Paul. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I love the way you summed that up with the driver comparison! I wish every reader was like you and wanted to take the Great River Scenic Route, but my hunch is that most are I-55 readers. That’s just my own humble opinion though. It would diminish the anxiety I feel in finding that perfect balance between good content and length if I knew for certain more readers didn’t mind riding with me on the scenic route. I guess I’ve found that I can’t cover as much in my posts at one time as I’d like and instead end up digging into one bullet point and exhausting that thought, leaving the others for another post. With all of the information we have access to flying at us from every direction, and the trend of Twitter shortening conversations to 140-character nuggets, it definitely filters over to other forms of communication. I continue to evolve my style with each new post, and am learning a lot as I go. Thanks again, Paul.

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