“Screw you, whiskers!” I said (OK I didn’t. I wouldn’t dare start a fight with Chris; his scriptwriting/filmmaking Kung Fu is too strong … He would crumple me like a beer can).
Instead I said: “OK Christoff. What do you advise?”
He said, “… That your blog is your shop window, young Skywalker!” … And turned green.
Yeah Chris Jones is Yoda. Here’s why: your blog IS your shop window. You can be one of those X-Rated shop windows with the red lights; one of those mouldering old knitting shops that never opens (which are probably a front for dodgy old Grannies who sell drugs); or you could have the kind of shop window that INSPIRES CONFIDENCE in you and your writing/filmmaking.
Hmmmm. Let me think.
Now of course the old version of this blog was not completely crap. I had lots of readers and plenty more allies. But B2W had “outgrown” Blogspot. Chris was absolutely right. The time was ripe for a change to WordPress, not to mention a revamp of the site’s content, purpose and look. And here it is. Isn’t it nice and shiny?
I’d love to take all the credit, though I must admit Team LSF did most of it, like the hard stuff of actually moving it and putting up with my techno-freakouts every time something goes wrong with it. Which let’s face it is frequent and everyone at LSF HQ now has a PHD in talking me down off the ceiling (thanks everyone).
BUT I did decide on the new approach, which you may have noticed is:
– Weekly updates (minimum)
– Writing Craft How Tos mixed with more philosophical/psychological posts
– New categories – ie. submissions, social media, novels
– A new look Required Reading List at bit.ly
– House Style that’s balanced between smack talk and moral support
I didn’t do any of this by accident. I did this by reading other blogs; some of them by writers, but the majority of them about blogging and using social media to your best advantage such as Mashable, How To Make A Living Writing & Freelance Writing.
However, in reading all these blogs, I noticed some common things that turned me OFF other writers’ blogs. Here’s my top 10:
10) You don’t “own” your blog
I read loads of blogs that do one of two things in this regard, which are:
i) You’re a scaredy-cat. This is YOUR space; no one else’s. You don’t need to be apologetic, writing content and saying “Anyhoo this is what I think, Mmmm’kay, don’t hate me, I’m trying hard here, maybe I’m wrong, SORRY, but anyway, look, LOLcats!” If you’re going to blog, really OWN what you say (and create a strategy/mission statement for this via number 4 on this list) – or seriously, don’t bother. Oh and by the way: haters gotta hate, so whether you own your blog or not, someone’s gonna hate you and say you’re talking out your arse. That’s just the way of it.
ii) You get everyone else to write your blog. Now I’m obviously not including crowd sourced blogs here or in fact trashing guest posts! Of COURSE I love guest posts, Bang2write has had some FAB guest posts in the last five years and I WANT to give the people, organisations and initiatives I like and want to get behind a platform to do this wherever possible.
However, simply copying and pasting guest posts or press releases willy-nilly into your blog – as a writer – is generally an appalling idea. Sure, we’ve all done it, but nowadays, with the demand for high quality content to a huge plethora of devices growing daily? Your blog will not get taken seriously.
On this basis then, as B2W has grown in popularity, I found myself increasingly having to make more and more editorial decisions, such as, “Is this article a right “fit” for B2W?” as in (but not limited to):
– Does this article reflect the “house style” of B2W? (as in “voice”; article length; layout and so on).
– Does it reflect B2W’s remit of the “alternative view” of the industry, or one of its other facets such as submissions, novel writing, filmmaking?
– Is this article original (with high “Googlability”, see number 6 on this list) or a cross-post (which will get penalised in the rankings.
– Will this article create a flame war that will divert the point of B2W?
As a result, I now ask all guest posters to pitch me their ideas FIRST and do not guarantee publication of anyone’s article, even if I approve the idea, based on the above.
HOWEVER, I’m not heartless: this is people’s time and effort being offered to me for free, I wouldn’t trash that. So I will offer feedback and ask the writers to make various changes wherever possible. I’m pleased to say the vast majority of guest posters take this on board, even if they end up feeling B2W is not the best place for their article after all. When this happens, I always try and make suggestions for other sites they may want to consider, instead.
[If YOU want to pitch me an idea for a guest post by the way, please do – Bang2writeATaolDOTcom.]
9) You don’t act & react to your readership
This one is obvious and relates to engagement (see number 2).
If you have a blog for longer than five minutes, you will find your readers’ expectations – whether that’s delivery (as in number 2); content and/or purpose – will change over time. This may be down to a variety of things, whether it’s changing tech; new platforms; or simply the way they view YOU.
It’s fair to say I launched B2W to a fairly hostile environment. At the time, script readers were seen as the leeches who were keeping writers “out”. I was very young by industry standards too, so told constantly I should shut my yap and I was embarrassing myself. I didn’t live in London either, so was also told I was nobody and would soon sink without trace.
Back then too, writers themselves were generally so MISUNDERSTOOD: the notion of peer review was not a given (like it is now) and there were no big events like London Screenwriters Festival (and very few small ones, like London Breakfast Club) where writers could see “behind the scenes” so easily … There wasn’t even Twitter and Facebook!
So writers generally didn’t treat me much better either. Even the ones who hired me to do coverage would take to various e-bulletins and threads via thinly veiled posts about the “young script reader who doesn’t even live in London and was probably watching television at the same time as reading my script”; or the “feminist trash who thinks she knows a good character”; or “the impostor working out of her kitchen” (oh yeah, I never forget, LOL).
BUT … and there’s always a but … I did get various emails that were beacons of light during this shitty time. I had allies. They kept me going.
And yes, early B2W posts were probably less shouty and more chatty, on the basis I was keen to show people I WAS a real person, with real feelings, who did actually care about my job. I wasn’t out to tread on anyone’s dreams; I respected people’s writing, ie. I was trying to help.
And little by little, things changed. People got less hostile as a general rule. So B2W has changed over the years, too. Gone are the chatty and./or random entries; instead it’s much more streamlined, with a very specific aim and objective, which is underlined by the banner at the top of the blog. You can choose to buy into it, or you find your writing info elsewhere. Your choice.
So B2W is much more “corporate” now – but then, if you want the chat of old, you can always find me on Twitter in particular. I also source a lot of the blog entries there – either overtly, via Bang2writers’ questions – or by noting down what people are talking about that week. [So if you have a Q? Tweet me with it or leave it on the wall at Bang2writers!]
8) You talk down to your readers
As I always say: there are no rules and NO ONE has the answers, whether the subject is writing OR blogging. This might be “10 Reasons Your Blog Sucks” but in truth, it’s “10 [Possible] Reasons Your Blog Sucks” – and one (wo)man’s meat is another man’s poison and all that guff. On this basis then, you could argue the remit for this blog (and indeed the whole of B2W) is:
“This is what I have found out [by doing this] … What are YOU gonna do with that information?”
Now you’re either going to like that approach or not – someone called B2W “Marmite” at last year’s London Screenwriters Festival, in fact – but this is who I am and what I do and frankly if you don’t like it, you can go swivel, LOL.
But when it comes to blogs, I’ve noticed: so you’ve been paid for your writing? Great! Top notch work. Does this mean you know *more* than anyone else? Not necessarily.
I truly believe breaking in is not about “arriving” … Every project is as hard to set up, get made and make work as the last; you essentially reset to zero every time, especially when it comes to the physical CREATION of said project. One great idea does not guarantee another great idea, never mind a sale.
What’s important here is the approach: not so much WHAT you know, but **how** you disseminate it. No one likes false modesty; but being British, no one likes a Know It All either. Do it any way you like, but do appreciate it’s a fine balance [she says, being an apparent Know It All, yeah yeah yeah, got there first, PYSCHE].
6) Your blog is BORING
Sorry, it’s true. You’re a writer, so hook my interest. Tell me a story. Hit me between the eyes with it. Make me WANT to read the next article … and the next … and the next. The best blogs devour whole afternoons and you’re like, “Wha …? It feels like five minutes since I looked at the clock last!”
So, to avoid being boring, choose a great title that tells the reader WHAT IT IS. And deliver content that CORRESPONDS to that title. Remember lots of people will find you via Google, so make sure your blog post titles have “Googlability”.
And don’t harp on FFS. Be short and sweet; we’re talking 500-800 words, 1200 – 1500 MAXIMUM. Or if you’re going on a rant or off on a tangent – yes, yes, I KNOW: I’m harping on – be funny or devastating or insightful or all three (but never, ever number 3 on this list).
In other words: do what you like, within some very broad perimeters and you’ll be streets ahead. You’re a writer, for God’s sake. Just be INTERESTING. Or the blog fairies will hunt you down and take out your first born’s front teeth. True story.
5) It looks like crap
Presentation is important. We know this as writers and filmmakers, yet design appears to be the bottom of the list for most people online. (Yes, yes I know: I can talk, hence Chris Jones pulling me up on this … Plus I started out yeeeeeaars ago on AOL Hometown FFS and used pink and blue Comic Sans, whatevers, do what I say not what I do; I make the mistakes so you don’t have to, blah blah blah).
So DO pick a clean, minimalist theme. DON’T fill it chockfull of widgets, weirdness or the wrong colours/pictures. White background preferred. Plain font preferred. BOOM.
4) You don’t update it regularly
There’s only one thing worse than a shitty looking blog … and that’s a blog that hasn’t been updated in aeons.
No, you don’t have to become a keyboard monkey. Blog once a week or once a month, whatever you want. But do it in such a way people know WHEN to your content is likely to hit social media. Make sure your archives are easily searchable. And yes, give it a shout out, as and when but especially when people are talking about various subjects you might have covered in detail.
If you can’t commit to fill-length blogging (ooooh Matron), then stick to microblogging or social media. DON’T start a blog and then leave it dusty and forgotten in the BLOGGING GRAVEYARD because one day all those megabytes will come back and haunt you and it WON’T BE PRETTY.
3) It’s an extended moanfest
Trashing the industry you want to enter and the people you want to work with is bad business sense. It’s as simple as that.
Equally, if all you write is negative? People will think **you’re** negative and hard to work with. And guess what: no one will want to work with you. DOH.
It’s really not hard to grasp, yet every day I see writers shooting themselves in the foot on this issue. C’mon. If you’re so depressed by the state of the industry, I would suggest you STOP RIGHT THERE. Really. Don’t do it. Be a florist. Lovely flowers, everyday! W000T!
2) No one knows about it
Here’s the thing. In Ye Olden Days of about six or seven years ago, readers orbited around the blogs, waiting for them to be updated via aggregators and readers and whatnot.
Now Google reader is gone and all your readers are on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Quora, LinkedIn and so on. They would far rather be reading funny puns and looking at pictures of dressed up cats and hamsters than reading yet another damn blog about whatever.
This means you have to do the virtual equivalent of literally ENTICING PEOPLE THROUGH THE DOOR of your blog, just like the ringmasters of old: “Roll up! Roll up! HERE IS MY BLOG EFFING READ IT.”
Only don’t actually say that. DO tell people about your blog via social media – but have a strategy to INTEREST people. Saying timid stuff like, “for anyone interested, I done a blog” is not interesting. There’s countless other people doing that. It’s dull.
The blogs that get the most traffic are those where the bloggers understand how to market themselves. They turn up on social media not just to hawk their blog entries, but to ENGAGE with their potential readers. You can do this however you want. But engagement is absolutely key.
What’s more, the more people you engage with, the more potential allies and advocates for your blog you will get. So HIT your readers over the head* and drag them to your writing cave. GO ON. (*not literally, OKthxbai).
1) Your blog has no “perceived value”
It comes down to this: readers read blogs primarily to get something out of it. Whether that’s information; to challenge themselves; for entertainment value (or all of the above OR something else), NEVER underestimate a blog’s primary function is GIVING something.
Give and ye shall receive ‘cos hey presto! Your blog will have “perceived value”.
BUT — and there’s always a but!! — your blog’s perceived value will take a nosedive if readers aren’t sure what your blog is FOR.
To really capitalise on your blog’s potential “perceived value”, your blog needs an IDENTITY. Decide what your goal **is** for your blog. What YOU want should inform the blog, but still give people what THEY want. It’s a symbiotic relationship.
One caveat to the above: we have enough writers’ diaries; script reading blogs; libraries of contests and opportunities; and/or online film schools. Yeah. Others got there first. Unlucky.
So you have to differentiate. Stand out by giving something no one else does. Check out your competition; work out the gap in the market. Exploit it to the max. Remember: give and ye shall receive.
Yes it’s hard. but then the stuff worth doing always is. Good luck!
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