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ACW

Saturday, 2 June 2018

Why and how should I start a blog? by Lucy Rycroft


This month, my blog celebrates its 6th birthday, so I thought I'd share some FAQs for anyone considering starting a blog.

What is a blog?

The word 'blog' is a blend of 'web log' - a log, journal or writing space kept on the web, accessible to anyone and everyone. It is a chance to showcase your poems, short stories, devotions, comedic anecdotes or whatever you fancy.

Why should I start a blog?

Blogging isn't for everyone. You'll need to work out whether it's going to serve a purpose.

Some people blog to keep friends and family updated – for example, when living overseas. Others blog to make money (yes, it can be a full-time profession!). Still others blog in order to network with those who have similar experiences - for example, bereavement, chronic illness or church leadership.

Many writers will begin a blog in order to build an 'online platform': a captive audience of people who like their writing and may buy future books. Perhaps this is you.

But not everyone will be served by having a blog. Like anything, it takes time and energy to do well. As Christian writers, we need to ask ourselves: How is this helping my writing go where God wants it to go?

How do I start a blog?

If you do decide to go for it, it's very easy (and free) to get started. Simply go to Wordpress or Blogger and set up an account - these websites will lead you through, step by step, but if you have any questions I'm always happy to be contacted, or ask someone closer to you who writes a blog.

Aren't there too many blogs around?

There are loads, for sure. This was something which caused me to hesitate (for months!) before starting mine. "But there are loads of voices on the Internet! Why add mine?"

Now I've realised that each voice is important, and should be heard. Whether you connect with 50 people or 50,000 people, if people want to hear what you have to say then there's definitely a need for your voice.

How do I establish my blog?

Ideally, aim for consistently regular blog posts. Once a week, or fortnight, but probably no less or you'll lose any audience you manage to build up.

I can illustrate the importance of keeping a regular schedule.

In July 2014, my blog post on Why I'm sending my son to a school in special measures became Mumsnet's Blog of the Day. It received ten times as many views as my usual posts! (And I was delighted on another level: Mumsnet is not known for its religious openness, yet my post was overtly Christian in tone.)

Through this extra exposure, my 2014 stats looked pretty good. But, interestingly, my 2015 stats were even better! Not because of one stand-out post, but because I was blogging regularly. This was the year that our family went through the adoption process, and my frequent posts on adoption seemed to be of interest to my growing audience.

At the end of 2015, we adopted 1-year-old twin boys - so, needless to say, my 2016 output went way down, as we adapted to being a family of six. I think I wrote just 11 posts across the whole year. Since 2016, I have been trying to build up my audience again - it's coming, but it's slow work.

So: regularity and consistency - it's important!

I've recently started a blog plan - it's very simple, and I wish I'd done it earlier, as it might have kept me blogging more consistently during 2016.

It works like this: I'm currently aiming to blog twice a week, so I schedule a 'blog slot' into my calendar every three or four days. I also keep a note on my phone of any blog ideas that come – this means I always have a list to consult if nothing else has inspired me that day. It's simple - but it works.

How do I write for a blog?

Online sources disagree when it comes to the best length for a blog. Some say 500 words, some 1000 – and I recently read somewhere that 2000 was the optimum!

It depends on what you're saying and what you're offering. Your question has to be: Will people want to get to the end of this piece?

You can often get away with more words if it's an instructional blog. For example, these More than Writers blogs are supposed to be around 500 words – I've already exceeded that, but I've figured that if you're still reading, it's because you want to know how to start your blog, and therefore you won't be pleased if I stop now!

For the majority of my blog posts, however, I aim for 500-1000 words. If I exceed this then I'll always return and find there's language which can easily be tightened up (and it'll read better for the cut).

Occasionally I go over 1000 words, but there has to be a good reason.

Finally, as most people read blogs and websites on their phones, you'll need to keep your paragraphs short – a sentence or two is sufficient. Long paragraphs look even longer when read on a narrow screen, and can be off-putting for your audience.

The links I've provided in this post are deliberate! Do take a look to see some different styles of blog writing. Part two, "How do I build a blog audience?" is coming on July 2nd!



Lucy Rycroft lives in York with her vicar husband and their four crazy children. She blogs about faith, parenting, family life, adoption, and whatever else takes her fancy at Desertmum, and you can follow her on Twitter and Facebook, where she's trying to build an audience so that she has something to say on July 2nd.




3 comments:

  1. Good post! Lots of great advice. Another thing (and I guess you might cover this in your next post) is to think carefully about titles. A friend told me recently that one thing that made her click on my links was my titles (I always start them with either 'Reasons why ....' or 'Evidence that ....') and I'd never really considered that consistency as a 'draw', but I do now.

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  2. Yes! Good point. I'm rubbish at titles but am trying to work more on them, as of late, having realised the power of "click-bait". Questions can be good too: I've recently blogged on "Should children be allowed to run around in church?" which has quickly become my second most read post EVER, and I'm sure people click on it just because that question is interesting and likely to cause debate!

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    1. That one is definitely a draw! Everyone has a vested interest: parents and non-parents alike ;)

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