Starting a New Blog – Mistakes I am Not Making This Time

Today marks the launch of my fourth blog: Fundraising Mums. Actually, if I’m being honest there was that other anonymous blog I started a couple of years ago and then freaked out and stopped publishing. It’s still out there in the virtual world, gathering dust and confusing people.

But Fundraising Mums is the first blog I have set up with an actual business plan. It is not just a place to collate memories like Relentless, nor a way to improve my clicks at WeekendNotes like Perth Food Reviews, and it is not all about me like shannonmeyerkort.com

Fundraising Mums was created because I identified an actual gap in the market and I wanted to fill it. I did my research, engaged professionals to help, I marketed, I sought advertisers, I spent three months working on it before I hit publish.

I am pretty happy with it today – but I cannot wait to see it in six month’s time when it really hits it stride.

Mistakes I made with Relentless

The biggest mistake I made with my first blog was not really thinking about the name I gave it. I was at a blogging workshop with the inspiring Amanda Kendle and even though I should have realised we would be expected to make (and name) a blog, I did not prepare. So gave it the first name I thought of: From Mum to Me.

Did you just wince? Or screw your face up? Because you don’t know what that means?

In my head it meant: I am starting this blog at a time when I am so heavily involved in being a mum to my (then) two daughters that I no longer remember who I am, or what else I am other than being a mum.’ The blog was meant to represent my journey from being ‘just a mum’ to being ‘me’.

But apparently that wasn’t immediately clear to others. You can read more about my ridiculous decision here.

After a year or so and the arrival of Baby Number Three suddenly it dawned on me that the blog should be named Relentless. Because that was what my life with three kids was like.

But it is not that easy to change the name of your blog – there is all this technical stuff with URLs and the like – not to mention the fact that you just confuse people.

Lesson 1: choose a name that not only suits your blog now, but will stay relevant as the blog grows and changes. You must LOVE it and it must make sense to others immediately.

Some might argue that Fundraising Mums is a sexist title that excludes not only Dads but teachers, coaches, grandparents and anyone without kids. I totally get that and I will wear the criticism, but it struck me as being a catchy title that was inclusive of about 90% of potential readers.

Mistakes I made with Perth Food Reviews

There were a few mistakes I made with Perth Food Reviews.

The first was that I was trying to break into an extremely full market already brimming with some top-notch and well established bloggers. Perth simply did not need one more food blog, especially when it was blatantly clear that my primary intention was to send traffic to WeekendNotes.

I am proud of my restaurant and cafe reviews on WeekendNotes and I think they are really useful, but I was constantly being asked by friends ‘where can I go in xxx to find yyy type of food’ or ‘where is the best xxx in Perth?’.

WeekendNotes doesn’t have the ability to search on questions such as this, so my thought was to create a new blog where people could search for particular types of food (Asian versus pub grub), certain styles of restaurant (fine dining versus share plates) or on particular requirements (child friendly versus views).

It was all rather noble, but apart from the cent per view I would receive if people actually clicked through to the WeekendNotes article, there was nothing in it for me. So I lost interest.

Which is a pity because I put in a lot of time setting it up, but it hasn’t been updated in ages and with the rapid rate restaurants go out of business here in Perth and new ones spring up, it is probably already outdated.

Lesson 2: don’t start a new blog unless you are really invested in it. Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons and be prepared to commit both time and energy in the long term.

I see Fundraising Mums as a long term project, and it utilises all my talents and interests from writing, reviewing, researching, storytelling and project managing. I have hundreds of story ideas – my problem is going to be finding the time to write them all. The other point of difference is that this will be the first of my blogs that I monetise and offer advertising for. I have always been reluctant to put adverts on my other sites thinking it will annoy readers, but when people come to FRM they will WANT to see adverts for innovative fundraising companies. Win win.

Mistakes I made with shannonmeyerkort.com

I’d like to say this is a perfect site considering this is the one you are currently reading, but I acknowledge it is a small group of you who visit (thank you) and the content – while hopefully relevant and interesting to writers – is highly specific and also very personal. Readers often want broader information with no obvious author.

They don’t want to hear my voice, because frankly, they don’t care.

And I respect that.

I am the first to admit that I tend to spend more time on blogs that are less personal. Why? Because I make the (perhaps incorrect) assumption that the information is more universal and therefore, perhaps more relevant to me and my situation.

Lesson 3: personal blogs will attract like-minded followers who will engage and support you, but chances are you will have far fewer readers than a blog which is more universal and objective. Decide on your tone and style as well as your content, as this will influence people as to whether they want to feel involved personally, or more remotely.

Fundraising for schools is relevant to me (next year all three of my children will be at school) but it isn’t personal. I can invest more of my time in FRM without necessarily investing more of myself and my family. There is already plenty of that here and on Relentless. FRM is more business-like and while I really enjoy sharing great products and ideas, it’s not all about me, and frankly, that’s a good thing.

What are the main lessons you have learned from starting your own blog? What mistake won’t you be repeating?

PS. I have actually released my first book on Amazon: The Brutal Truth About the Third Child. You can buy it here. It will actually be FREE for July 1 and 2.

But that’s a story for another day.

I Want to Write for You, Not Talk To You

It’s the moment most writers wait for. Someone sidles up beside you and says ‘I read your latest blog/book/article’ and proceeds to share their own story.

But when your latest blog is on leaking pee when trampolining, or the humiliations of pubic hair shaving before a Caesar, generally those conversations don’t go so well.

Many moons ago an article I wrote called ‘Diary of a Caesar’ was published in Offspring Magazine. It was a blow-by-shameful-blow account of having c-section, peppered with all the blood and glory that happens to a lady’s business end during this time.

And then my uncle-in-law approached me, and started to discuss my article and some of its not-so-fine details.

It made me reconsider my limits when it comes to sharing personal information.

See, the thing about writing is that you don’t do it in front of an audience. It’s usually just you and a computer. You can sit and deliberate about what turn of phrase to use, or scroll through the thesaurus looking for a better word, but ultimately, when you hit ‘publish’ you’re still on your own.

You never get to see the facial expressions of people reading about your intimate secrets. You never get to hear them laugh at your jokes (and humiliations). You don’t get to see them nodding their head in agreement, or watch them as they share the article with their friends. You don’t hear them mutter obscenities if they don’t agree with what you’ve written. Any feedback you get is often delayed: silent words on a page or a number that clicks over.

Which is why, when an actual real-life human approaches you and starts to talk about enjoying your article it can be a special moment. Except lately, people only seem to be talking to me about my post about peeing when I was jumping on a trampoline with my four year old. Not my finest moment.

People assume that because you have shared an intimate moment online where millions of people can read it, also means you are willing to discuss it in person.

Here’s the thing: that’s not actually true. Comment by all means online, but let’s keep those comments virtual.

I often write painful, embarrassing, humiliating, intimate or just plain disgusting things online because I want to share, and let people know ‘yes, it happened to me too. You’re not alone.’ But I don’t necessarily want to rehash those painful, embarrassing, humiliating, intimate or just plain disgusting things in person.

Probably because they’re painful, embarrassing, humiliating, intimate or just plain disgusting.

So now I’m considering a coding system on my stories: green for ‘let’s talk about this one’ and red for ‘let’s never mention this again.’

 

For the record, this one is GREEN.

1,000,000 Clicks and Counting: How to write a viral blog post

On Monday the 13th of February in 2012 I sat down at the kitchen table and bashed out a post for my blog Relentless. I was about a week short of giving birth to my third child, and it was a tongue in cheek comparison between the first, second and third pregnancies. Much of it was based on experience, some of it was – shall we say – writer’s liberties.

It took me a bit longer than usual because of how I structured it, but when I was done I was pretty happy with it. I gave it a title and hit publish. Then I forgot about it. For about four hours…

‘The Brutal Truth About the Third Child’ quickly become my most popular post. By mid afternoon it had been read 4,500 times, by bedtime on Tuesday it reached 10,000 views. Within a month it had been read around 25,000 times. Two years on it has been read on my blog a quarter of a million times. But these numbers are relatively small, and it was only when other websites asked to republish the post (and I allowed only three other sites to do so) that the numbers went viral.

When the post was republished on ScaryMommy, a hugely popular and very funny site in the US, it was shared over a million times in the first five days. ScaryMommy founder Jill Smokler said she’d never seen anything like it.

I’d like to think I could match its success, but in the years since I have tried and failed. But something resonated with readers, so today I am going to pick apart the anatomy of ‘The Brutal Truth’ and list the seven key essentials for writing a viral blog post.

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1. Sharable Headline

Unless they’re your mum, most people won’t read a blog post simply because you’ve written it. You’ve got to give them a reason to click, and by this I mean a killer title.

For some reason, negative headlines seem to be more popular than positive ones. Therefore while my choice of the word ‘brutal’ was dumb luck at the time, I realise now it was inspired dumb luck. Everyone wants to read horrifying things, they want to be shocked. If I had called it ‘The Exciting Truth About the Third Child’ or ‘The Inspiring Truth About the Third Child’ no one would have bothered reading.

I’m bored already.

2. Killer content

A great headline might make people click, but unless what you have written is gripping and well paced, people won’t read to the end, and they sure as hell won’t share. Shares are what makes a post go viral, and it also makes it almost impossible to track.

A few months after I published ‘The Brutal Truth’ a friend sent me an email she said had been making the rounds. It was really funny and she thought I’d like it, since I now had three kids. I scrolled down and sure enough, there was my post. It had been cut and paste into the body of an email and was being forwarded. Unfortunately there was no link to my blog nor any mention of who wrote it.

3. A Little Bit Longer

When you think about all the blog posts your friends have been sharing and reposting and saying ‘you have to read this’, they probably all tend to be a bit longer than the average blog post, which runs between 500-800 words. The Brutal Truth was a whopping 1,900 words, which breaks a number of blogging rules, but it didn’t seem to make a difference to readers. Perhaps people are more likely to share something they have invested more time in, and short crappy posts can make people feel ripped off. ‘I wasted my click!’

4. People love lists

So many viral posts are lists of some form, and this is apparent in the title. Seven Reasons Why Cat People are Better than Dog People. Nine Things You Can Learn from Your Fetus. Five Things Only a Pregnant Woman Will Understand. (Feel free to use any of those titles and write your own viral post, by the way).

Lists are popular for a number of reasons. We are all lazy readers these days and the way we read text on a screen is different to how we read hard copy, and we are much more like to scan and skim read. Lists make it easy to do this. It increases the amount of white space on the screen, making it easier on the eye.

And for some reason, odd numbers have a bigger impact than even numbers. It’s true – have a look at the next ‘list’ post that comes your way.

5. Make it urgent

The blog has to be written, titled and marketed in a way that makes readers feel that if they don’t read it, they will be missing out. No one likes being the person who hasn’t heard of the hottest new trend, so you need to create the desire for people to click. Sometimes this is by writing about a controversial topic, or giving an ordinary topic a controversial spin. You should never tell a reader what to think in the title (eg don’t say ‘ten things you must know about packing school lunches’ but say ‘ten things you should know about packing school lunches’). It should make them desperate to read it.

Like you all now want to read about school lunches.

6. The curtains should match the carpet

It should be obvious, but if you’re going to use a really dramatic, negative, punchy and urgent headline, make sure the blog post is actually about that topic. Don’t use controversy to attract readers and then waffle on about your cat. That really pisses people off.

7. Be different and specific

Everyone is a writer these days. All you need is a computer and an internet connection, and away you go. There is a lot of great content out there, but also a lot of crap, and it makes it a lot harder to be noticed when there is something like half a billion blogs in existence and more being published every day.

How can you stand out in such a noisy crowd, when we are all shrieking ‘look at me, look at me’?

You need to find your niche and you should work with what you have. I am a mother of three now. 90% of the random traffic to Relentless are people who have googled topics to do with having three kids. Should they have three kids? How to tell their husband they’re pregnant with number three. How to cope with three kids. That’s what people want to read, and I’m fine with that. Sob.

The brutal truth though, is that you can’t actually write a viral post. There are no ‘rules’ or guarantees, otherwise we’d all be doing it, all the time. And I’d be very rich because I would put advertising on my site and cash in on my own success. Readers are a fickle lot, one day they want to read about grumpy cats and the next day they want awkward pictures.

My advice: keep writing if that’s what you love. And maybe one day, you’ll get lucky.

What’s it Like Receiving Free Stuff?

I had been writing for WeekendNotes for quite a while before I received my first freebie. I was offered a free lunch at a café in West Perth in return for a review. I was absolutely terrified, so I took my Mum as support. As you do.

But you remember that saying… there’s no such thing as a free lunch… well, this free lunch certainly changed the way I viewed reviewing.

Simply put, the café didn’t like my review. I had been ambivalent about the food and I said as much. In truth, I was kinder than I would have been in a normal review. Still, the owners read between the lines and they were disappointed. As I had been in their food. Not long afterwards, they asked another writer to do a review and the result was a sickeningly sweet love-fest, that undoubtedly made the owners happy, but was painful to read.

It was a great lesson and I decided at that point never to accept another freebie because I felt compromised.

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A knife through the centre of your free lunch isn’t terrifying at all!

Over time as I felt more confident as a writer, and my ability to write candidly and fairly, I began to accept other items in return for a review. Usually they were tickets to a new movie, occasionally a book or DVD. I found it easier to be completely honest about a massive Hollywood production than a husband and wife team, whose livelihood was being discussed. The value was never more than thirty dollars and WeekendNotes had a policy of putting a clear disclaimer on the published articles in red that the write had been a guest of the company. Readers were always aware of who got their goodies for free and who paid full price.

As I became a more senior writer, the freebies got bigger. An opening night to the summer outdoor cinema. A new exhibit at the state zoo. A $200 chef’s table dinner with wine matching. I wasn’t earning much money from my writing, so receiving these free tickets and items felt like a justifiable reward. I also felt that since they were contained within the mantle of my WeekendNotes writing, that it never impacted on my personal writing (my blog), and I had always been very strict about not doing any reviews or sponsored posts on Relentless.

Apart from the conflict that I inevitably felt when trying to write an honest and fair review by balancing my integrity with the needs of the business, one of the main reasons why I never did sponsored posts on Relentless was that my readers didn’t want to read them. Every time I even remotely hinted at some sort of commercial enterprise – mentioning a book written by a friend for example – my readers stayed away in droves. When they read Relentless they wanted a warts and all, farts in the bathtub description of parenting. They did not care whether I had tried a new dairy product or what my favourite washing powder was. My stats made that very clear to me.

And I respect that. I personally hate it when my favourite bloggers interrupt their normally hilarious or thoughtful posts to do reviews. I don’t read them. And even though I know blogging is a poorly paid (if at all) career, and writers need to earn their money somehow, if I see [review] or [sponsored] in the subject line of a post, I don’t tend to read it.

And all of this is made even more cringe-worthy because now I am working for a great online shopping company. I write posts on their blog about general parenting topics, often including links to their products, and yes, receiving the occasional freebie. But because I am asked to do shout outs on Relentless, I am asking my readers to read them.

Let’s be clear, I don’t have a problem with people (including myself) doing reviews. When I am researching a product or place I would much rather hear what a consumer has to say than whatever guff the marketing agency comes up with. This is why I not only write for WeekendNotes, but I also read other people’s articles when they’re relevant to me. I also google forums and even glance occasionally at sites like Urbanspoon because people tend to let loose when they’re writing anonymously. I have more readers over at WeekendNotes than at Relentless, precisely because they want to know what I think about a place and they know I am going to tell them.

What I am trying to do now, is balance the needs of readers who just want straight stories and no sponsored posts, with my own need to earn an income, with the needs of readers who would be interested in reviews and other articles if they deem it relevant, with the needs of the businesses who employ me. The key is transparency. I’m going to do it anyway, but I need to be able to flag to readers what I am writing about. Some other bloggers like to use hashtags in their post titles, but I would just feel silly doing that since I’m not on Twitter and I don’t really know what a hashtag is.

So I decided Relentless needed a disclaimer policy. Any post for which I received a product for free and have chosen to review it, I will now add [review] in the title, and if it is an article I wrote for Mamadoo (whether it contains product mentions or not) it will now include [Mamadoo] in the title. It’s messy, but it’s a lot fairer than waiting until the end of the post before mentioning that money exchanged hands. Awkward!

But I still haven’t answered the question have I? How does it feel receiving free stuff? The excitement is pretty similar to when you get a big package you paid for (or a small package, they’re cool too) but with the freebie comes a price. Perhaps some writers don’t experience this, but I admit I do. I want to like the product. I want to write positively about it, but I want it to be natural and genuine. Readers can tell when you’re lying through your teeth, and some of my readers are good at reading between the lines at what I am not saying.

And what happens when you have an issue or problem with the product? Do you go back to the supplier privately or do you fulfil your end of the contract and do a public review, warts and all. As a reader I want to say ‘write the review’, as a writer, I sometimes feel the area is more grey.

How well I manage this balance will become clear in time. My stats will tell me, my readers will tell me. It is a shift for me, a change in something I have always been clear about. No monetisation of my personal writing. If I had put AdSense on Relentless before I published ‘The Brutal Truth About the Third Child’… well, I don’t think I would be able to retire quite yet, but it does make we wonder…

 

How do you deal with sponsored posts? Do you find a difference in your readership when you publish a normal post versus a sponsored post? Do you think it puts some readers off?

Writers versus Bloggers

I recently attended a blogging conference in Sydney, during which I learned many things, mostly that I seem to be breaking a lot of the unbreakable rules of blogging*.

But over the three days, as I spoke with different people, with a range of blogs and diverse stories, the main thing that crystallised was that there seemed to be two distinct groups.

The distinction was not one I had put on them. It seemed to be self-assigned, with no discomfiture nor judgement. And I’m not saying that people could not fit into both categories, it’s just that people seemed to want to choose to be one or the other.

People were either bloggers or writers.

People who referred to themselves as bloggers often said they were not writers, although they obviously possessed the necessary skills to run a blog. Bloggers tended to be more professional, had bigger numbers of followers, were more likely to monetise their blogs and make money from sponsored posts, advertising or selling products.

Their blogs were pretty phenomenal. Bloggers seem to treat their blogs as a virtual workplace. They’re organised. They utilise multiple social media platforms. They schedule posts. They know cool stuff about blogs and how they work.

Then there were the writers. All the writers I met had blogs obviously, because this was a blogging conference. But the writers also did other writerly things, in addition to their blogs: they wrote children’s stories, or eBooks, or feature articles, or poems. They published on multiple platforms, including good old fashioned print. Their blogs were merely one of many mediums to get their words out to the wider world.

Writers seemed eager to make sure they said they were writers.

I am a writer. It’s on my business card, so I must be. In fact, in every single bio that I have ever sent out attached to a blog post, review, article or story pitch, I always write ‘Shannon Meyerkort is a writer…’. Sometimes I am also a blogger and sometimes an author, but I always say I am a writer.

Until I heard others do it too, I hadn’t really realised I was doing it.

Are the two mutually exclusive? Or are bloggers a subset of writers? Are writers (me included) claiming to be better than bloggers because we seek to share our words on more platforms, or does that just make us greedy and unfocussed? Are bloggers suggesting that by not being a writer they are more resolute and professional?

I’m not suggesting that bloggers don’t have superb writing skills, nor am I suggesting that writers lack professionalism, but there must be a line in the sand that writers and bloggers draw, and then choose a side. Go and visit your favourite blogs now: look at the ‘about me’ page and the tagline: are they calling themselves a writer or a blogger?

What side are you on? And why?

 

 If you like shannonmeyerkort.writer please vote for me in the People’s Choice round of the Best Australian Blogs Competition (oh the irony). Click here to find the voting form, go through each of the pages by clicking on ‘next’ button at the bottom, and look for Shannon Meyerkort. Writer on the 4th page. All you need is two minutes and a valid email address. Voting closes May 4th 2014. Thanks for reading.

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*But that’s okay, because I’m a writer, not a blogger, right?

Should I Let Other People (Re)Publish my Posts?

This is an issue I have been grappling with for a while: should I let other websites publish my posts on their site?

What about SEO and duplicate content? Will Google freak out? Will readers get annoyed when they see the same post in multiple places? Will I be losing blog traffic? Will I be making other people money at my own expense? Will it affect my blog’s ranking?

On the other hand, will I be getting great exposure? Will I have access to thousands of other readers who wouldn’t normally come across my work? Is this actually the big break I am looking for?

The answer is: I don’t know.

I recently found this article by Kathryn Rose, where she discusses the topic of duplicate content, along with something called rel:canonical tags (which I’d really like to more about if anyone can translate), but the article focuses on when you guest post on someone else’s blog, and then republish on your own.

My specific question is whether I should let other sites republished my content. Do the pros outweigh the cons, especially for new writers, and are there circumstances when it is a bad idea?

In January 2013, iVillage Australia (23,000 Facebook likes) asked to republish ‘A Letter of Apology to my Middle Child’. I agreed on the basis that they were a respected Australian site with a decent following. It was the first time one of my posts had been republished and I was pretty flattered: apparently the editor followed my blog Relentless. Shortly after they asked to republish The Brutal Truth About the Third Child but at the time I refused, since that single post was bringing in about half my blog traffic.

Nothing much happened for a year, then suddenly in February 2014 I had multiple requests to republish The Brutal Truth About the Third Child. First was the UK site Best Daily (31,000 Facebook likes), then came the US site Scary Mommy (164,000 Facebook Likes), the Australian site Mamamia (123,000 Facebook Likes) and finally News.Com.Au (113,000 Facebook likes).

These are big sites, and have brought me an enormous amount of exposure.

Scary Mommy recorded over 1 million shares of my article in the first week, with the editor Jill Smokler saying that only 6 or 7 posts published on her site have ever recorded those sorts of numbers. My Facebook followers have tripled over the past couple of weeks, and Relentless (and this blog) is seeing a lot of traffic coming from these sites.

So I think the first point to make is that compared to my modest number of followers, these sites are massive. The exposure alone is worth the price of possible issues with ranking (though I doubt my ranking was that impressive to start with). So while it would make little sense to allow a site with a smaller fan base than your original blog to republish a post, there are plenty of benefits of being republished on a much larger site.

What about money you say? Those sites earn money from advertising, and people reading your article are probably earning them money.

True. Sort of. In the case of Scary Mommy, Jill puts her money where her mouth is, and Scary Mommy Nation raises money to help feed families who are in need of support. I’m happy to donate my words to an awesome cause like that.

The other sites are commercial, and yes, in a roundabout way my post might be making them a (tiny) bit of money. But I made the decision long ago not to monetise Relentless (maybe it is a decision I will regret) so every time someone clicks on Mamamia and not Relentless, it is not as though I am losing money I would otherwise make.

What about duplicate content?

I’m still scratching my head over this one, because Brutal Truth has now been published on three major sites in three different countries, in addition to my original Blogspot post. That means there are four sets of identical information out there (actually, the version on Best Daily isn’t identical – they wanted me to cut it down to 500 words, an impossible task considering the original is 1,900. We settled on 1,200 words).

So far Google hasn’t seemed to spit the dummy, but what will happen if it does? When you Google ‘The Brutal Truth About the Third Child’ the original blog still comes out on top, closely followed by Mamamia. Scary Mommy had the decency to change the title of the post so that I wouldn’t lose my original traffic, and Best Daily also changed it considerably. Mamamia didn’t change the title of the post, even though I asked them to, and I suspect with their followers it’s likely it will overtake Relentless on the rankings soon enough.

I have also decided that enough is enough, and I will have to say no to future requests to republish The Brutal Truth. It’s out there now, it’s a bit like a mogwai that got fed and now is a gremlin, threatening to take everything else over. I would like to see some of my other babies get some attention.

Another thing I didn’t plan for once the post was republished on big sites, was smaller sites then duplicating their content, with or without my permission. I have found  brutalised versions of The Brutal Truth, chopped and edited to pieces, without my name or blog mentioned anywhere. Needless to say, I have written some strongly worded letters asking them to cease and desist.

So what are lessons I have learned from this, and should you let other sites duplicate your content?

I think for someone in my position, the answer is an overwhelming yes.

I wasn’t make any money from the post anyway, so it’s no issue that commercial sites might be making a few dollars from my post. (It would be nice though, if I could cash in on my own success though.)

The enormous number of new readers is something I could never have hoped to achieve from my own modest blog, and it means that my writing – and my name – have now been seen by millions of readers that otherwise would never have stumbled across Relentless.

I have seen a boost in my Facebook followers and my blog readers.

Finally, I would like to think it paves the way for me to approach these sites (and others) with original work in the future, and hopefully negotiate a payment for new work. Which (I sometimes need to remind myself) is the whole reason for me being here.

 

What are your thoughts on having similar stories published on multiple sites? Is it annoying? Is it dangerous?

How to Unblock Bloggers Block

Feast or famine.

Flood or drought.

Inspiration or desperation.

Do these sound familiar to you? As writers, do you find that it’s all or nothing when it comes to your writing?

People who have been reading my other blog Relentless over the years can see that I tend to write in spurts, and can either publish a number of posts in a relatively short period of time, or my blog comes to resemble the literary equivalent of an abandoned Old West town, with spinifex rolling across the screen.

I recently attended some workshops at the Perth Writer’s Festival and found just being in a room of writers was enough to get my writing mojo back. I have been thinking about what inspires me as a blogger so here are my top tips for unblocking bloggers block. If you’re a novelist, click here for my top tips for unblocking writers block.

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During times of feast, prepare for the famine

When things are going well and the ideas are coming thick and fast, write them down. Keep a single book with all your writing ideas, even if you write in different genres. When times are good you probably won’t have enough hours in the day to act on everything, so leave them (with sufficient details and notes) so that when you are blocked you can go back and look at previous ideas.

What worked before, might work again

Look through your stats and see what has been popular in the past. What have been your five most read posts? Try and figure out what was special about those pieces – what made them resonate with readers? Was it the content or the format? Was it funny or thought-provoking, controversial or sad. Find what your readers respond to and write more like that.

Sometimes the answers for future posts can be found in your readers’ comments. See what people have responded to, and find out if they have asked any questions about you or your post.

Similarly, why not write a follow-up post about one of your popular articles or a Part II, like this follow-up to The Brutal Truth About the Third Child which ended up winning a writing competition at Parent Express.

Change it up

If you have an idea for a post but for whatever reason it’s not working try changing perspective. Perhaps you always write from the first person, but this time it’s not flowing. Pretend to be your child, your dog or a stranger writing about the same thing.

If you can’t change perspective then play with the format – rather than a straight story from your own point of view, write a letter or make a list. ‘Top 10 reasons why…’ posts tend to be popular as well as any list article that claims to be the ‘best of’.

There is a degree is universalism in these types of posts, the title gives the impression that they are relevant to a wider community, and isn’t simply a story about you.  What would you rather read: ‘My horrible day at the shopping centre’ or ‘Ten reasons why taking your toddler to the shops is bound to end in tears?’

Figure out what brings readers to your blog

Most blogging platforms offer easy stats programs which will tell you what search terms people have used before ending up on your blog. For Relentless at the moment they tend to be terms like: ‘advice on having baby number 3’, ‘planning for baby number 3’, ‘should I have a third child’ and my favourite ‘how should I tell my husband we’re having baby number 3’ (while offering him a stiff drink, dear).

While it is interesting to find out what random terms brought people to your blog by mistake, it is also a great tool to see what your readership are actively searching for. Why not offer them what they are looking for.

Based on the search terms people use before they come across Relentless I could easily write a series of posts dedicated to specific questions about having three kids: “How to tell your husband you want three kids”, “What happens when you want three kids and he doesn’t” or “How to prepare for the third child”.

All really good ideas I don’t have time for right now, so I will write them in my ideas book (see point 1).

Be a thief in the night

There is no copyright on ideas, I was told once during a writing workshop. While I wouldn’t advocate merely pinching someone’s idea carte blanche (that’s boring), I certainly think that finding inspiration in other writers’ posts is fair game.

When you read something that makes you feel happy/sad/angry/motivated ask yourself WHY did this evoke such a reaction? Now figure out how you can take that reaction and write your own post. Have they left any part of this story untold? Is there another side of the story? Could you tell your own version?

Sometimes it might be the title of the post that strikes a chord: write it in your book, give it some times to marinate and then begin your own post. It might (and should) be an entirely different article than the one from which you got your inspiration, but now at least you’re over your bloggers block.

What other ideas do you have for overcoming bloggers block?