-be literate, which involves understanding both the structure of language (including mechanics like spelling, punctuation, grammar, syntax, etc.), and the ways people communicate with each other, verbally and non-verbally.
-Write The Best Damn Story You Can, However You Can (i.e. in a manner that works for you… and hopefully others. Hopefully, many, many others.)
Everything else becomes a matter of choice and style. I’m really not sure all the lists are particularly helpful at times. What works for Elmore Leonard or Stephen King may not necessarily work for you, and you cannot shoehorn yourself into writing rules that make no sense and don’t feel right… other than the two I’ve listed above (Of course! he said with no detectable sense of irony.)
So. Blog posts. I’ll start by saying they’re essentially essays, which will scare the crap out of those who hated essay writing in high school. “But I don’t wanna write an essay,” they whine. “I wanna write a witty, interesting… blog post.” Yeah, I get it. However, that’s what a post is, dammit: a piece of writing wherein you express some viewpoint or opinion --- in other words, an essay, which comes in many different shapes, remember? Descriptive, personal, expository, narrative, satirical, persuasive, etc. And like any essay, you need to start with a hook… something that draws the reader in: a declarative statement, a question, a quote… something snappy. Then you express your thesis… the central idea of your piece, before moving on to the body of your essay, developing your central idea. And you end with something snappy/clever, too.
Audience? I’m not terribly fussy: anybody who wants to read the post. I’m not looking for a specific demographic. (I know for a fact some of my students read my posts, though they’re generally reluctant to admit it publicly, bless their black little hormonal hearts.) I try to make most pieces applicable to both life and writing… I figure that should hit most interests.
I usually post once a week. Not every week, ‘cause life sometimes gets in the way. Or sometimes I just really don’t feel like it. But if I’m going to do one, it usually goes up on Monday. So, I sit down on Sunday afternoon and write the thing. How long does it take? About a couple of hours, including proofreading and editing --- those are not the same things, not at all, by the way.
Length? Well, personally, I aim for about 1000 words, more or less. It’s not ironclad… if I can say what I want to say in less, then it’s shorter. I try not to go over 1000 words, because, as a teacher, I’m woefully aware of how attention spans are shrinking. (Oy.) Not to mention that Will said brevity is the soul of wit.
(My social media guru was horrified when I told her about length and writing time. But my website provider’s stats suggest people are reading what I’m writing. Or at least going to the webpage.)
How? Sit at the computer and bleed (har har). It’s always easier if I come to a session with an idea of what I want to say. Then it flows. Other times, I have to massage it a bit. Where do ideas come from? Like pretty much everything in life, all around. Things people say. Things people ask. Things I see in my daily life journey. Books I read. Films I watch. Come on. You’re a writer, for crying out loud. You should already have figured out everything is grist for the mill. And if nothing else, remember Kingsley Amis’ dictum: “if you can’t annoy someone, there’s no point in writing.”
Style? I tend to be fairly informal and chatty with a blog post, because this is not a high school academic paper I’m writing. I want you to get the feeling you’re simply sitting opposite me in Starbucks or something while I hold forth. Humour? Sure… but don’t try too hard. Forced humour is awkward and very off-putting. Strong opinions? Again, sure… but don’t be offensive. Civil discourse in our polarized society seems to have broken down in recent years, but you don’t need to be part of the problem. There are already way too many people being shrill and abusive on social media.
Finally… why? I used to subscribe to the mistaken idea that a blogger was, as I’ve read somewhere, “someone with nothing to say writing for someone with nothing to do.” But I have Seen The Error Of My Ways. As a writer, you’ve gotta write; it’s how you hone your skills in any endeavour: by practicing. I actually enjoy my blogging… it provides a (mostly) pleasant diversion from my “real” writing i.e. my epic fantasy series called The Annals of Arrinor. (Book One, Gryphon’s Heir, is available. The sequel, Gryphon’s Awakening, is headed towards completion. Soon. I promise. Thanks for asking.)
That’s ultimately what writing should be about: having fun.
And releasing those inner tensions. In a socially acceptable, legal way.