I was discussing several things with an editor and publisher yesterday and we concluded that every writer needs a blog. It is true. They need somewhere to showcase their work, a writer-friendly place. Given how simple it is to publish in the modern world there is always a place for good, well-edited, writing. The reverse is also true, every blog needs a writer. The meaning of this is that writers and bloggers share a commitment to improve.
Every Writer Needs a Blog
This element of the title seems easy to understand. It is true, for every writer. If you count yourself as a committed writer then having a blog makes sense. Even if the site is simply shown to potential publishers or employers it can still be a powerful demonstration of writing prowess. The way to put your best foot forward. The blog has a place in a writer’s life.
In the past many writers were also essayists. Those essays being letters to other writers, friends, people of influence, and even publishers. They were a way to explore ideas, talk about what is right or wrong in society. Are we to believe that only the past was littered with societal challenges? There are as many today, writer simply needs to choose to identify injustices and write about them. Life is little different today, there are plenty of challenges to inspire. Plenty of opportunity to write essays that challenge the mind.
Much of this communication happens in the modern-day, but, in addition writers have access to a larger world population. Writer always had a keen interest in their craft. Stephen King gives many insights for writing improvement. These are not limited to his genre.
Writing and Writer Blogs
I follow a lot of writing blogs and a lot of writer blogs. The two are different. The latter concentrates on the thoughts and challenges of the writer. The former is about meta-writing. This is writing that explains the process of writing. The word meta, defined as self-referential, thus meta-writing is writing about the process, challenges, and techniques in writing. Arguably this also covers the challenge of writers getting their work published.
The article by Peter Selgin, “Avoid Nagging False Suspense Questions in Your Story Opening” offers writing advice. Meta-writing includes advice like this. How to handle that particular problem, learning, growing are each important aspects of learning to become a better writer. A skill that may take a lifetime to master. Writer blogs also bring the stories of a lifetime of writing, experiences etc.
There are many challenges associated with writing and there are many writers that love to explore each of those avenues within their blogs. But, is there more a writer could do? I believe there is. Room for improvement always exists. The blog is the start point, not the end in itself.
One Challenge, Layout
One of the challenges of writer blogs is that too many leave default layouts or choose simple themes. Come on writers! Pull up your socks, explore a bit. Be a little more adventurous. Make your blog a little more like a magazine. Showcase articles, have a sensible category list. There are plenty of themes available that can change your blog and give it a more exciting look
Many blogs are a mixture. I confess to providing a mixture on GobbledeGoox of both meta-writing and meta-blogging, which leads onto the next point in the title…
Every Blog needs a Writer
Whatever their topic. Whether they consider themselves one, or not, every blog is written by a writer. That said many concentrate of delivering material about their specialist subject, without particular attention to the mechanics of writing. They don’t necessarily consider themselves writers. But, they may openly admit that their work requires some delicate editing. Truth is they have no money to do that.
Its called doing the best they can with the resources at hand. But blog writers need to look at ways to improve their skills. Spelling correctly, syntactically correct English, and using better grammar are only the start of this process. Engaging tools are necessary. But understanding the mechanics of the language helps the most.
“I never make errors when writing.” You say. Congratulations, welcome to the club! I don’t make mistakes either, but I often have to correct what I write.
The best way to understand your errors is to have your writing analysed. There are plenty of tools available. They are not all accurate, but they help you learn as a writer. Once you learn why something is wrong it will help you break the habit.
Tools to Use
Many bloggers do not have the Hemingway editor. Nor have they installed Grammarly, to help them polish their masterpieces. These are tools to assist is the humble word processor and its checkers. Trouble is, people know that spelling checkers are notoriously inaccurate, especially if you use multiple versions of English (USA, Canada, etc.).
Now it is true that Microsoft Word, for example, comes with checks for passive sentences and other grammatical errors.
But, many people turn off these warnings. They are working without guidance. Telling a writer about use of passive voice is unhelpful if they don’t know how to resolve the problem. It was certainly the way I felt when I first started blogging. I turned off grammar checking until I decided it was time to understand what passive voice was and the impact it had.
What is Passive Voice?
Every writer needs to understand what passive voice is, how to use it and how to avoid it. General writing advice is that people should write in active voice. In an active sentence the doer comes first. “The letter was mailed by Mary” is a sentence in passive voice. “Thomas Edison invented electric light” is an active voice sentence.
Why avoid passive voice? When to use passive voice? These are two questions to understand. Most people overuse passive voice. But, there are times when use of passive voice is unavoidable. Some examples:
The person (or people) performing the action are unknown or irrelevant. One example: “An experimental wind power plant will be built in the Canadian tundra.”
It is necessary to be vague about responsibility. “Mistakes were made.”
When making a general statement. “Rules were made to be broken.”
Minimise use of passive voice. Use active voice wherever possible. One tactic to avoid use of passive voice is to ask questions.
Start the sentence with the person or group who performed the action. Yet, there are times when passive use is necessary. It cannot be avoided altogether. You should feel a rule coming up. So here is the rule that I have understood: limit passive voice usage to 10% of your sentences.
To use longer sentences, you should deliberately construct them from a series of active sentences. Create deliberate sentences. Each explaining a part of the whole. One at a time. Each built without commas centred around the subject. From this you construct the longer sentence. The subject being the person, place, thing, or idea that is is performing the action or at the centre.
There is a general principle in English that the subject is used once and replaced by he, she, or it as a sentence or paragraph develops. Yet repetition can sometimes add dramatic effect. I am of the view that longer sentences or paragraphs do not make your work unreadable. Yet sadly readability statistics take a dim view of the longer sentence.
There is a time and a place. The phrase, the sentence, the paragraph, the chapter, etc. need to be as long as they need to be to explain the point at hand. No more, no less. They are short when need demands, and long when necessary. William Shakespeare is responsible for how we use much of modern English and he used long sentences to beguile readers. If he or Charles Dickens use them, then so may we.
But, once again it is a game of percentages. Keep them under 10% of the total.
There is popular saying “there is no great writing only great rewriting”. What is meant by this statement is that all writing MUST be edited. One of the causes of writers block is not knowing the precise words that need to be used.
When starting a writing project there is no reason to know the final form of the words you will use. Get the idea down on paper (well in an electronic notepad at least). Once written, your subconscious mind will automatically know how ugly the words are and will seek to find an elegant explanation. Give it time, it will come.
In part, this is why I take time preparing articles and posts for my blog. Left for a few days, it is easy to add new elements.
Long Blog Posts
Once upon a time in the blogosphere small posts predominated. Trouble was that unless the post was complete within itself you would soon see part 2, 3, 4… 27, 28… Do you get the picture?
There is a place for the short blog post. It is when something can be accurately and succinctly described. I take the view that a blog post should be precisely the length it needs to be to complete the topic, whether that is 450 words of 45,000. Modern blog readership reflects this. Readers demand education. People don’t wish to see part 19, they need guidance through the whole process.
Posts should be longer, consider 1,500 to 2,500 words to be the normal length of your work. Being longer means being more analytical. Educate the reader on the topic and move on.You can write a non-fiction book through your blog. Write about one component, then another — when creating the book you collect these together in a logical order.
My Hope For Bloggers
I wish to encourage bloggers to seek to improve writing quality. On the flip side I would love to encourage writers to create great blogs. There is room for both and both need encouraging. Improvement is always necessary.
Do you agree that every writer needs a blog? Does every blogger need to be a writer? What do you use your blog for? Tell us about your blog. What are you proud of? What needs to improve?
Something to contribute? Please leave a comment. If you like this article, we appreciate any donations to GobbledeGoox. All images here were sourced from a public domain location, such as Pixabay, Unsplash or similar sites.