July 15, 2013

14 Writing Tips from Blogging

writerIf you aren’t a blogger, you don’t realize how top-notch you must be to succeed in that field. You need a strong voice, a friendly style, and a command of all 7,486 writing rules itemized in tomes like Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. But in blogging, you only get a couple hundred words to capture an audience. Compare that to the thousands you get in a short story and the tens of thousands in a novel.

I was a novelist before a blogger and I understood that styles differ, so when I started blogging, I stumbled on TimeThief’s One Cool Site. That became what Oprah would call a ‘life defining moment’. In a day when common sense isn’t always so common, she had it. I learned about the importance of headings, good content, brevity, and proper grammar. As the months passed, the surprising by-product of becoming a better blogger was I became a better writer. I found myself incorporating her hints into everything I wrote. I even taught them to my 3rd-5th graders. Of course I did–they were cogent, pithy, and effective.

She recently posted ten tips about writing. Now, her audience is bloggers, but as I read them, I found they summarized the essential elements that go into novel writing. See if you agree:

  • “The main rule of writing is that if you do it with enough assurance and confidence, you’re allowed to do whatever you like. (That may be a rule for life as well as for writing. But it’s definitely true for writing.) So write your story as it needs to be written. Write it ­honestly, and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.” – Neil Gaiman’s 8 Rules of Writing
  • “People who think well, write well. Woolly minded people write woolly memos, woolly letters and woolly speeches.” – 10 Tips on Writing from David Ogilvy
  • “Work of section in hand, following plan of section scrupulously. No intrusions, no diversions. Write to finish one section at a time, for good and all.” – Henry Miller’s 11 Commandments of Writing & Daily Creative Routine
  • “Use plain, simple language, short words and brief sentences. That is the way to write English–it is the modern way and the best way. Stick to it; don’t let fluff and flowers and verbosity creep in.” – Mark Twain
  • “Paragraphs are almost always as important for how they look as for what they say; they are maps of intent.” – Stephen King
  • “Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.” – Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Great Story
  • “Find a subject you care about and which you in your heart feel others should care about. It is this genuine caring, and not your games with language, which will be the most compelling and seductive element in your style. I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way — although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petition to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do.” – Kurt Vonnegut
  • “Two kinds of writers. Those who think this life is all there is, and want to describe everything: the fall, the battle, the accouchement, the horse-race. That is, Tolstoy. And those who think this life is a kind of testing-ground (for what we don’t know — to see how much pleasure + pain we can bear or what pleasure + pain are?) and want to describe only the essentials. That is, Dostoyevsky. The two alternatives. How can one write like T. after D.? The task is to be as good as D. — as serious spiritually, + then go on from there.” – Susan Sontag on Writing
  • “If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise; whatever you do, don’t just stick there scowling at the problem. But don’t make telephone calls or go to a party; if you do, other people’s words will pour in where your lost words should be. Open a gap for them, create a space. Be patient.” – Hilary Mantel
  • “One that works for me every time is to focus on the positive intention behind my writing. What is it that I want to communicate, express, convey? By focusing on that, by getting into the state that I’m trying to express, I find that I stop worrying about the words – just let them tumble out of their own accord.
  • It’s a great strategy for beating writer’s block, or overcoming anxiety about a particular piece of writing, whether that’s composing a formal business letter, writing a piece from the heart, or guest blogging somewhere ‘big’…” – Joanna Young
  • “There’s a sureness to good writing even when what’s being written about doesn’t make all that much sense. It’s the sureness of the so-called seat of an accomplished horseback rider or a sailor coming about in a strong wind. The words have both muscle and grace, familiarity and surprise.” – Anne Bernays
  • “If there is a magic in story writing, and I am convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another. The formula seems to lie solely in the aching urge of the writer to convey something he feels important to the reader. If the writer has that urge, he may sometimes, but by no means always, find the way to do it. You must perceive the excellence that makes a good story good or the errors that makes a bad story. For a bad story is only an ineffective story.” – Six Tips on Writing from John Steinbeck
  • “Both running and writing are highly addictive activities; both are, for me, inextricably bound up with consciousness. I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t running, and I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t writing.” – Joyce Carol Oates

What do you think? Has blogging made you a better writer? If you’re struggling with writing, have I convinced you to try blogging?

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, IMS tech expert, and a bi-monthly contributor to Today’s Author. In her free time, she is the editor of a K-8 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum, and creator of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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