blogging, behind the scenes: writing

Posted on Sep 10, 2011 in Career

Missed the other entries in the Blogging, Behind the Scenes series? Check them out here.

If you looked at blogging from the outside, it’d be easy to assume that writing is the most important part of…well…writing a blog. But for me, I rank the actual writing of words way down low on my hierarchy of importance. Of course, I want the words that go along with my photos and recipes to be well-composed, easy-to-read and sometimes funny, but I don’t lose sleep thinking about my prose.

Writing for me is very organic and lax. I know some people are very structured and that works awesome for them. Because my writing style is so unstructured, I don’t have a lot to offer you in this post, but I do have some general guidelines I tend to follow.

Before I dig into the actual body of the post though, a note about writing post titles. I used to be more obscure with my post titles. I’d try to be clever or pun-y, but I saw a major uptick in my hits from search engines when I began writing post titles that directly correlate to the content. It may not be as fun, but it makes it easy for people to search for, find and read my content. Which is the whole point of this here blog. I save my pun-erifficness for the body of the post.

Alright, moving onto the real goods of the post. I do have a few guidelines when it comes to writin’ the wordzes. And these rules apply to all my different kinds of posts:

  1. Be conversational. I have a degree in Journalism, a well-meaning English teacher for a father and, in my day job, I work with writers and editors. My grasp on grammar is decent (although far from perfect). I even know the different between an em dash, en dash and hyphen! But I honestly think perfect writing can be a bit heavy-handed when reading a blog. Sure, a semi colon might be appropriate, but that doesn’t mean it makes for a great reading experience for a visitor. I’m not saying I make mistakes on purpose (lord knows I make enough mistakes and typos without even trying), but I am saying that I write like I speak.
  2. Tell a story. This one applies mostly to recipe posts, but I like to have touches of it in all my writing. People identify with anecdotes, stories and personal experience. That’s what makes blogging what it is!
  3. Let it flow. I think over-edited blogs feel a tinge stuffy and prim. That is (obviously) not my goal here. I write. Edit once. Proofread twice and then move on. Of note, this is an extremely different process from when I’m writing for magazines or other publications. That is a much more structured process. Research, outline, write, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, proofread, edit some more, proofread again, edit again. You get the picture. My feeling is, on those types of articles, the writer should float away and the story should shine. That is all well and good, but what I like about blogging is that you get a really great picture of the person behind the blog. And part of that is not editing yourself out.
  4. Make it interactive. I always end my posts by posing a question. My whole goal is to get people thinking and get a conversation started.

Of course, I do have a wide variety of posts. I think my breadth of post types ranges wider than the typical blog, and each style of posts requires a small shift in process. Let’s talk about my main post types and my basic guidelines for each:

  • Recipes (example | example)
    (1) Tell a good story to give the recipe context
    (2) Be brief with the prose, peeps want the recipe!
    (3) Let the photos illustrate the story.
  • How To (example | example)
    (1) Break up the content in manageable chunks using subheads and photos.
    (2) Research and share resources.
    (3) Go easy on the anecdotes, get right down to the nitty-gritty.
    (4) Don’t treat my own experience as the only “right” way to do it.
  • Event/Day Recap (example | example | example)
    (1) Let the photos tell most of the story.
    (2) Leave out the boring stuff.
    (3) Don’t be tedious or repetitive.
  • Motivation (example | example)
    (1) Set a good example.
    (2) Be quick and to the point.
  • Ramblings (example | example | example)
    (1) Be real, honest and true.
    (2) Spew my feelings out first, edit later.
    (3) Find photos to accent the writing, not overtake it.
    (4) Try not to make it too long.
  • Fun (example | example | example)
    (1) Be brief.
    (2) Light, airy, playful tone.
    (3) Paint a picture of my personality.

I wish I could say that my writing process was more structured—it’d probably make me a better writer—but alas, I’m more of a goes-with-the-flow kinda gal. I think that is partially what makes writing a blog so cathartic. I can do a brain dump here and people don’t judge me or question my writing skills. There are no editors on BTHR and sometimes that is a really, really nice thing. Of note, it also sometimes really sucks and gets me in trouble because I post things I probably shouldn’t, but the good heavily outweighs the bad. :)

I wish I had more to say about my writing process, but honestly, that’s about it. I’m sorry I don’t have more insights! Next behind the scenes post, we’ll be chatting about blog promotion which is something I have a lot to say about.


Do you have a structured writing process (research, outlines, etc.) or are you more of a brain dumper?

4 Comments

  1. I would have to say my blog is more of a brain dumping grounds. I write about what is important to me and what is happening in my life right now. It is more for me to get my thoughts out there. I appreciate you sharing your process with us. Keep up the great work!

  2. I’m totally a brain dumper. I very rarely edit my posts, looking for the obvious typos or sentences that I might regret. Other than that, I write just like I talk. (Well, I talk a little faster, which can be a negative because the great thought can be *gone* before I get it out of my fingers.)
    I do also sometimes have to delete a few lines when I catch myself wandering, but again, that’s just because that’s where my thoughts have gone and I do want to keep things a LITTLE focused!

  3. As a Journalism student and food blogger, I can so relate to this! I have to make such an effort not to be so formal in my blogging. Thanks for the advice! :)

    • Definitely! They try to kill all of that casual tone right of you in J-school. :P

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