Mar 24 2009

Tips for Writers That Want to Blog

Over two years, several hundred thousand page-views and 750 posts, I’ve accumulated some thoughts on what makes a blog successful.

1.  Establish a niche, ideally one that appeals to readers that are interested in what you plan to sell. I started this blog as a superhero comedy, given that I wanted to market a humorous superhero novel.  But there are already many solid superhero comedy sites (such as ISS and Evil, Inc).  We had much more success attracting readers after we rebranded ourselves as a superhero writing site.  As far as I can tell, we don’t have any competitors.

How is your writing blog unique?  Do you have a different style?  A different audience?  A different genre, subgenre or focus?  Etc.

2.  Make it clear what you offer.  Why will a stranger want to read what you have to say?  The worst writing blogs are usually loosely organized around a theme like “the random thoughts and ruminations of [Author X].”  Ick.  That’s far less effective than something like “how to write romance” or “so you want to be a sports writer.”

3.  Organize! The typical online reader will leave instantly unless you make him see that you offer quality content that fits their interests.   The best way to do that is to organize.  If you’re the sort of person that wants to IMPROVE YOUR WRITING or read SUPERHERO WRITING ARTICLES, it’s pretty clear that this is the right site for you. Just check our sidebar!

4.  Organize redundantly. If you absolutely need readers to see something, include it in several places.  For example, let’s say that you’re a first-time visitor to SN and you’re not sure what we offer.  You could find this information by reading our title, clicking either prominent link to our site explanation, or by reading our very prominent header.  When you’re designing your site, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

5.  Make everything on your site accessible within two clicks. One easy way to accomplish that is to use indexes of popular articles.  For example, if you like our writing articles, it’s pretty easy to navigate our list of writing guides or our list of superhero writing articles. From there, it’s just one more click to any of our writing advice.

6.  Post regularly. Ideally, at least a few times a week.  Depending on your niche and target audience, I recommend focusing on 200-400 word posts.

70 responses so far

70 Responses to “Tips for Writers That Want to Blog”

  1. scribblaron 24 Mar 2009 at 5:31 am

    Infinitely useful post, since I started thinking of this last night. Let’s see, I have my niche, I have zero competition, I give good advice… I have 1 reader, and she’s a friend.

    What do I need? And how do you add the different parts to the side bar – I have blog roll and calender and RSS feeds and I’ve been trying to use that thing B-Mac’s brother has about the RSS feeds (I couldn’t find the plug-in page) but how do you add things like Common Mistakes of First-Time Novelists and Superhero Related Writing articles to the sidebar?

    Also, why don’t you add adverts on here? That is something I personally want to do when I have high traffic – as the ads will pay for my self-publishing, hopefully. Ads on here personally wouldn’t bother me and could pay for the artist you guys are looking for.


  2. B. Macon 24 Mar 2009 at 8:50 am

    Hmm. Here are a few thoughts on ads.

    For ads to be effective, you need to have hundreds (preferably thousands) of visitors per day. Unless your site really takes off, it’s probably not going to generate noticeable revenues in the first year. (Probably not in the second year, either, but at least it’s more plausible then).

    The reason we don’t have ads is because I don’t think we have enough visitors for it to be worthwhile. We get about 500 viewers per day, which would total about 175,000 a year. When we get 2000-2500 per day, I’ll think about it.

    However, there is a cost to placing ads. Even the most subtle text-ads can give a website a slightly seedy feel. If the user has any sorts of doubts about your professionalism, ads will make the site reek of amateurism. Also, I suspect that people will be slightly less likely to link to a site that has ads. Given that referrals are one of the best ways to build your audience, that might be a problem.

    If you want to self-publish a comic book, you’re going to need to pay to have an issue created, printed and marketed/sold. That will probably require thousands of dollars of startup costs: 22+ pages of art, printing costs, marketing and promotional expenses, etc. I might be mixing you up with another one of our guests, but I had been under the impression that you were going to pay a freelance artist for 5 pages and then get it professionally published? That would be drastically cheaper, probably around $400 to have five pages completed.

    If you are looking into self-publishing, there are certain organizations that can help make it happen. For example, the Xeric Foundation awards grants to subsidize self-publishing writers. But their deadline for grant requests is March 31! If you’re interested in self-publishing, I’d definitely rush off a proposal to them. Emphasis on rush. If you need any help putting that together, let me know. So far I’m one-for-one on winning grants. (My grant wasn’t from Xeric, though). Here are some initial thoughts on putting the proposal together.

  3. scribblaron 24 Mar 2009 at 11:40 am

    Self-publishing a novel, actually. I reckon I’d need between £1k and £2k to self-publish a novel, and I wouldn’t put ads on until my site traffic was high.

    I thought you had to be published to get a grant…

  4. B. Macon 24 Mar 2009 at 3:22 pm

    Actually, I got a preparatory grant to cover my living expenses over the summer I would be writing half of a novel manuscript. At the time I received the grant, I had hardly started the novel, let alone gotten it published.

    However, it will certainly help if you have a clear idea of what your novel is about and why it deserves funding.

  5. scribblaron 24 Mar 2009 at 5:08 pm


  6. Ragged Boyon 24 Mar 2009 at 5:22 pm

    How would I go about starting a blog for my work?

  7. scribblaron 24 Mar 2009 at 6:18 pm

    Best way is probably to join WordPress or Blogger or one of them, unless you are very internet savvy.

    I use both.

  8. Ragged Boyon 24 Mar 2009 at 6:27 pm

    I’m looking into Blogger right now. I’m kind of scared to name my blog. Is the name concrete?

  9. scribblaron 24 Mar 2009 at 6:30 pm

    No, but the address is. If you put it as RaggedBoyblog@blogger, then chance it to Fairydustblog@blogger, people will need to type Ragged Boy in as a search to find it.

  10. Ragged Boyon 24 Mar 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Where’s your blog? I’d like to read it, if that’s okay.

  11. B. Macon 24 Mar 2009 at 6:49 pm

    I recommend WordPress. I have virtually no technical ability and WP has worked out pretty well for me. (Then again, I have a brother that has pimped out our site in a few ways).

    However, if you were interested in doing a writing site that had the same features as this one, you could get 85% of the way by signing up for a WordPress blog here and then later picking a Paalam theme.

  12. scribblaron 24 Mar 2009 at 7:11 pm

    I found WordPress hard to use when it came to more advanced things. I couldn’t get it to do anything I wanted, and so I got books from the library – but everyone book only explained how to use Blogger. That’s why my second blog became blogger.

    In saying that, I think I prefer WordPress. I’m not sure.

  13. scribblaron 24 Mar 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Is it cool for me to post a link for Ragged Boy? If it’s not just delete it.

    My blog is here.

  14. B. Macon 24 Mar 2009 at 7:35 pm

    I like your site. My main suggestion is that the text superimposed on the header does not complement the art well. I used Photoshop and picked a more appropriately steamy font (Blackadder II). Let me know what you think.

    I tried lightening the picture, but there still isn’t a great space to put in black text.

    [I redid the header but have since removed it because my Flickr account was running out of space, sorry].

  15. scribblaron 24 Mar 2009 at 7:39 pm

    Wow! I’ve got to get photoshop. Is there a way I can replace my heading with the one you just did?

  16. Ragged Boyon 24 Mar 2009 at 7:51 pm

    I don’t want to do anything just yet. Not until I know what I want to be on my blog.

  17. Ragged Boyon 24 Mar 2009 at 8:00 pm

    Ok, here’s my blog. I’m not sure what my first move should be.

    Help please.

  18. B. Macon 24 Mar 2009 at 9:12 pm

    Sure, Scribblar.

  19. B. Macon 24 Mar 2009 at 9:31 pm

    Ragged Boy, I think your most pressing need is content. Second, I’d recommend thinking about how to pick a niche for your website*. Finally, I’d suggest that you look into organizing your content.

    *For example, Scribblar is focused on steampunk writing and we are focused on superhero stories. I’d recommend picking your favorite kind of science fiction and working with that.

  20. scribblaron 25 Mar 2009 at 2:47 am

    Em, B Mac, could you maybe tell me how to replace my heading with the one you did?

  21. B. Macon 25 Mar 2009 at 7:46 am

    Ok. It depends a bit on which type of computer you’re using, but if you right-click my picture above you should be able to get some variation of SAVE IMAGE AS… Save it as whatever you like, and then upload it as your header art. Does that help?

  22. scribblaron 25 Mar 2009 at 10:34 am

    Thanks, looks a lot better now.

  23. Holliequon 25 Mar 2009 at 11:33 am

    I had a look at your blog, scribblar. Steampunk sounds like an interesting genre. I haven’t heard much about it before.

    Ack. Now I’m inspired to create my own blog . . . but I really doubt I have an area I could specialise in. And, to be frank, I’d probably get lazy and stop at some point. I hate being so unmotivated. 🙁

  24. scribblaron 25 Mar 2009 at 12:58 pm

    It’s been around since the seventies, but only ever on the fringe of the fringe… I predict big things for steam.

  25. Ragged Boyon 25 Mar 2009 at 1:13 pm

    I only know of a few steampunk stories, Rocket Boy is one (I think). I think it’s also interesting, but I’m a big fan of alien tech and aliens in general. Ooh, maybe that could be my niche, Alien Sci-fi.

  26. Holliequon 25 Mar 2009 at 1:16 pm

    I’ve heard of steampunk through NaNoWriMo, and I’ve even read those Kenneth Oppel books I mentioned. That’s as far as my experience with the genre goes. 😉

  27. scribblaron 25 Mar 2009 at 1:30 pm

    B Mac pointed out League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. China Mieville writes steampunk, too.

    A lot of people don’t realise this, but Terry Pratchett writes steampunk… I mean, clacks towers? The printing press?

  28. Holliequon 25 Mar 2009 at 1:40 pm

    Oh, I’ve seen the League. Haven’t heard of China Mieville.

  29. Ragged Boyon 25 Mar 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Steampunk looks hard to pull off. I looks like it takes alot of knowlegde on how the machines work. I looked at your link for drawing steampunk elements, and it looks crazy confusing.

  30. Holliequon 25 Mar 2009 at 1:44 pm

    Ack. I meant to add ‘Would you recommend anything?’

  31. Tomon 25 Mar 2009 at 1:55 pm

    I’ve seen a steampunk movie. I don’t predict it’ll go too far. It’ll get bigger at some point, but not massive. It’s alright as a genre.

    Maybe if I develop that sci-fi show I was thinking of I’ll have a steampunk planet…

  32. scribblaron 25 Mar 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Wild wild west was a steampunk movie.

    Actually, you don’t need much knowledge about how things work… you can say things like “the machine clunked and groaned and steam rose out of it.”

    The drawing links for people far more technically minded than myself.

    B. Mac (or anyone) how does Trackback work… I just tried to use it and I don’t think I did it right.

  33. B. Macon 25 Mar 2009 at 5:06 pm

    I’d say that steampunk’s main problem is that it’s a collection of setting choices that don’t actually make for a genre. In contrast, if we compared a few comedies, we’d see that the stories have totally different settings and styles but share a common goal, to make people laugh. (For example, Superhero Nation vs. Austin Powers vs. Monty Python vs. Jackass vs. A Confederacy of Dunces). Likewise, there is a common goal for horror, for mystery, for romance, for action, probably for science-fiction, etc.

    Superhero stories suffer from the same problem (although probably to a lesser extent). Like steampunk stories, they need a genre. However, it’s less of a problem for superhero authors because we already have a default genre, action. Unless the author specifies otherwise, when he says “superhero,” prospective readers think “action.” I don’t think that steampunk has a default genre. That makes it harder to market steampunk books.

  34. Stefan the Exploding Manon 26 Mar 2009 at 4:34 am

    I’ve never looked at Terry Pratchett’s work in that way, but now that you mention it, there are quite a few steampunkish things in them.

    I like steampunk in comics, as rare as that is. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic was way better than the film and it looked better from a steampunk perspective as well. The Nautilus was really amazing in the comic, but in the film it looked a bit bland.

  35. scribblaron 26 Mar 2009 at 6:10 am

    Holliequ, Mieville doesn’t do comics, he writes novels. I’m not a reader myself, but Perdido Street Station is generally held to be his best, I think.

  36. Lunajamniaon 26 Mar 2009 at 7:51 pm

    I have two blogs–one is for family and friends and is just about my thoughts on life, what is happening, etc. Kind of like a semi-public diary, and I have three followers and several relatives who read it but do not have blogger accounts. Anyway…

    My second one I just started today, and it is all about anything related to books–story ideas, movies inspired by books, my thoughts on certain books (like Twilight) and other such stuff. 🙂

    I also realized I should stop trying to sound ‘smart’/intellectual in my blogs (not using contractions, using ‘shall’ and other such words), even when I do feel an intellectual moment coming on. I shall always ‘sound’ like a fourteen year old when I type, and I suppose I should get used to it. 😛

    *No offense intended to anyone who is fourteen. It’s just that, unfortunately, most fourteen year olds on the internet cannot spell very well and do not sound very mature. Happily, there are exceptions.

  37. Ragged Boyon 26 Mar 2009 at 8:00 pm

    I think I’ll hold off on my blog a little. I have enough to focus on now without worrying about a blog.

    We have some people here that are exceptionally skilled writers despite young age (Whovian jumps to mind).

  38. scribblaron 26 Mar 2009 at 8:20 pm

    I couldn’t even guess anyone’s here, but I’m starting to feel old with the fact everyone is still at school…

  39. Ragged Boyon 26 Mar 2009 at 8:54 pm

    I’m not sure how old the newer people are, but I suspect they are adults. They give off the grown-upry air.

    Oh wait, Scribblar is a grown up. *runs away*

    Just joking, grown-ups are alright when they’re not trying to dominate everything.

  40. B. Macon 27 Mar 2009 at 1:57 am

    Hmm. It depends how you define “adult” exactly, but virtually every editor is at least a twenty-something. Professionally speaking, it will serve you well to get comfortable working with them, even if they have strong wills.

    Early on in a writer’s career, the editor has much more leverage and knowledge about how things work than the author does. Also, if the project flops, in some ways the editor suffers more than the author does. The author gets paid when the book gets published, but the editor has to be successful to keep his job.

    Some editors are much easier to work with than others, but I’d be ready for anything.

  41. B. Macon 27 Mar 2009 at 2:08 am

    Lunajamnia said: “I shall always ’sound’ like a fourteen year old when I type, and I suppose I should get used to it.”

    I don’t think you sound at all like you’re 14, actually. The typical 14-year-old tends to…
    –write like he’s texting a message (omg, lol, etc).
    –use excessive punctuation!!!!
    –write lazily. Even the briefest of his comments will have typos.
    –get annoyed when we proofread his comments. This is one of the most obvious signs that he will not get published this decade.

  42. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 27 Mar 2009 at 4:22 am

    “We have some people here that are exceptionally skilled writers despite their young age (Whovian jumps to mind).”

    Aw, thank you!

  43. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 27 Mar 2009 at 4:50 am

    Shouldn’t this article be called “Tips for Writers who want to blog” instead of “Tips for Writers that Want to Blog”?

    I’m probably wrong. 🙂

  44. Stefan the Exploding Manon 27 Mar 2009 at 6:29 am

    It took me a while to figure out that lots of people here were my age. I would never have guessed that so many of you guys are sixteen or seventeen without someone actually posting it in the comments. Some of my friends think I should dumb down my Internet language, but it’s cool that the people on this site talk without teh 1337.

  45. Ragged Boyon 27 Mar 2009 at 7:56 am

    Nah, I think your language is easy to understand. We’re a relatively smart bunch. Although some of us struggle with grammar more than others, we’re all pretty clean writers, too.

  46. B. Macon 27 Mar 2009 at 11:28 am

    Thanks for being brave enough to call me out, Whovian. However, I think that “Tips for Writers That Want to Blog” is more correct than “Tips for Writers Who Want to Blog.”

  47. B. Macon 27 Mar 2009 at 11:36 am

    Stefan said: “It’s cool that the people on this site talk without teh 1337.”

    As long as we have few enough comments to proofread, I will do so. Also, if a sloppy commenter has a really bad attitude about being edited, we ban him. (So far, it’s only happened once and no one has complained about his removal).

  48. Tomon 27 Mar 2009 at 12:18 pm

    lolz 1 l1k3 t3h 1337sp35k.

    Translation: lol, I like leetspeak.

    lol is okay though, right?

  49. Fitzon 27 Mar 2009 at 12:24 pm

    I’ve seen lol used before here without problems.
    I think it would be a little ridiculous if you had to say “That made me laugh out loud to myself”

  50. Lunajamniaon 27 Mar 2009 at 1:38 pm

    ^ very true. And …

    never mind. I’ll finish my response when I can get my darn glasses to work right. (I stepped on them and now they don’t ‘feel right’ and my vision’s all funny. I hate it when that happens)

  51. Holliequon 27 Mar 2009 at 1:43 pm

    The solution: contacts! 🙂

    Once you get over the part about putting them in your eyes, they’re really convienient. Mind you, I’m not exactly a subjective voice because I really hate my glasses. They make my nose ache.

  52. Lunajamniaon 27 Mar 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Oh. My. Fudge.

    They broke. :/
    I was carefully trying to get them to fit right again, and the metal on one side snapped and the glass on that side fell out.

    It feels really weird to have one eye closed and be doing this (typing).
    I feel really bad ’cause my mom called asking if I wanted to go with the family to my grandparents–I missed the call–and I called her back not saying yes, but instead having to tell her my glasses broke (and, consequently, that means more money out of their or my pocket).
    *end of random irritating drama*

    Anyhow, I think ‘lol’ would be okay, better than the ‘l8tr’ and ‘I’ll talk to *u* in a second’ kind of text-speak/talk.

  53. Lunajamniaon 27 Mar 2009 at 1:51 pm

    –thanks for the advice, Holli. Right after they broke, that is what I thought–it’s time to see if contacts will work for me.

  54. Holliequon 27 Mar 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Glasses are good to keep as back-up, though, so you might want to get them fixed anyway. >.< Hard luck about your glasses! Hope you manage to, um, see things without them.

  55. Lunajamniaon 27 Mar 2009 at 1:57 pm

    Here’s a case where I would use ‘lol.’


    I have to have my face like three/four inches away from the computer screen in order to see what I’m typing, two if I want all the words to not be one bit blurry. ‘Tis very sad.

  56. Fitzon 27 Mar 2009 at 1:58 pm

    Contacts are great. I hated glasses, they would always break on me and fall off whenever I run or played a sport.
    If you do switch to contacts make sure you stick with them. They’re annoying at first, but once you get used to them they’re so much more convenient.

  57. Lunajamniaon 27 Mar 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Ah, but you do not understand what a traumatic experience this is for me, my friend.
    My glasses have never broken before or randomly fallen off, I have always taken such great care of them.

    And suddenly, to be without them–it is the most horrible thing ever. I was on the verge of tears (yeah, embarrassing). ‘Cause I really can’t see without them, unless someone is at least like five feet from me they’re all blurry and I can’t tell who they are.

    On the bright side, mom said that perhaps my dad could fix them with duct tape and I’d get a new pair in two weeks. I just hope he leaves me with extra in case it stops working/comes apart again.

    Okay, sorry this has gotten so off topic, and I promise this’ll be the end (for now) of the glasses posts, ’cause I can’t take this whole one-inch-from-the-screen thing. I feel like an old, half-blind lady. And it’s just weird.

  58. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 27 Mar 2009 at 3:51 pm

    “I think that ‘Tips for Writers That Want to Blog’ is more correct than ‘Tips for Writers Who Want to Blog’.”

    It does fit well. I guess it doesn’t really matter.

  59. B. Macon 27 Mar 2009 at 4:13 pm

    Unless the person is actually talking about something funny, we tend to remove it. Maybe 5% of viewers use lol to end paragraphs even though nothing funny has actually come up. Umm, let me demonstrate how weird that looks. Lol.

  60. scribblaron 29 Mar 2009 at 2:32 am

    Ha B.Mac that was hilarious. You’re such a funny guy. LOL.

  61. Ragged Boyon 29 Mar 2009 at 6:02 am

    I wish I had contacts. I HATE glasses. This is going to sound horribly conceited, but they distract from my natural beauty. 🙁 I’ve been begging my mom for contacts for the past three years. She says I’m too irresponsible, I’ve had this same pair of glasses for ages, I’m hella responsible.

  62. Holliequon 29 Mar 2009 at 7:06 am

    Too irresponsible for contacts? Why don’t you get dailies? You use them once and then throw them away. So if you lose a pair, it doesn’t really matter.

  63. Wingson 30 Mar 2009 at 9:24 am

    I wear glasses and could probably get contacts if I wanted to, but I like my glasses. I look rather nice in them, I think…I hope…

    – The Winged Wearer of Glasses

  64. scribblaron 31 Mar 2009 at 5:35 pm

    Does google analytics count your own views to your website? I ask because it has 56 views from my hometown, and it isn’t a large place…

  65. B. Macon 31 Mar 2009 at 6:34 pm

    Yeah, it does. However, you can tell Google Analytics not to count your IP address. I really recommend doing that.

    Sometimes I’m not really sure how Google Analytics counts visitors, though. For example, Analytics says that 4000 visitors have been to this site more than 100 times. So our 4000 most dedicated visitors account for at least 400,000 visits, right? But Google Analytics says that we only have around 150,000 visits. I’m having trouble squaring up those numbers.

    UPDATE: Okay, I feel that GA misled me here. When it reports that 4000 visitors have been to the site more than 100 times, it meant that it has gotten 4000 visits from people that have been here more than 100 times. The actual number of 100+ view readers will be vastly lower than 4000 because the 4000 figure increases by one each time an addicted reader comes to the website. Instead of 4000 addicted readers, we’re probably talking about something like ~100 people checking in ~weekly over the course of the year.

  66. scribblaron 01 Apr 2009 at 1:54 am

    Yeah, and there’s no explanations on how to use it (at least, I haven’t found any yet).

  67. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 27 Mar 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Looking at the old posts above is like going back in time. I just joined the glasses club – I got some that look kind of like the Tenth Doctor’s glasses. 😀

    I’m opposite to most people – I think the glasses make me look BETTER. I hate wearing them with my hair up though, my hair has to be down or it feels weird.

  68. B. Macon 27 Mar 2011 at 8:10 pm

    Those glasses look very studious. Similarly, I look a lot more studious and serious with glasses on than not. It helps in the job search. If I didn’t wear glasses, I’d probably have to run for Congress or something.

  69. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 27 Mar 2011 at 10:52 pm

    I love my glasses a lot. Most days I’m really happy with how I look, and the glasses seem to make me look smarter and a tad more masculine. Plus they’re similar to the Doctor’s, and well, David Tennant is epic. 😀

  70. Wingson 28 Mar 2011 at 9:23 am

    Glasses give me +5 to Intelligence and +10 to Fanboy Attraction. Why would I turn down a free stat-boost?

    – Wings

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