Monday, 24 September 2012

Why writing blogs are boring

I've noticed how it works. I've started doing it myself. Take something you think you know about, or something you might have just learned; or something you'd like to know about - or something you know absolutely nothing about - and act like you’re the world's authority. You want to be the part,  act the part.

Then you come up with a ludicrous title that promises the earth, and perhaps more importantly how to attain it - something like 'How to be the best writer in the world ever in 2 days', or '5 ways to be a bestseller without writing a word'. No reader is going to believe that you have the answer to those headlines but they can't resist clicking through just in case you do.

Now you've got to work fast. It's not going to take long before the reader susses you out as a fraud so you've got to go for the sell all over again - you need a quick, punchy opening paragraph that keeps up the promise of delivery and, if possible, also enforces the ludicrous promise of the title. Drop in a war-story for authenticity: 'McEwan laughed at the crit group, and Zadie was reticent, but they laughed the other side of their faces when I blasted them off the bestseller list'.

But you're losing them and you know it, because the bottom line is you don't really know what you're talking about – you don't have the answer on how to be a bestseller without lifting a finger, because, let's face it, if you did you wouldn't be writing a blog. You begin to suspect that your readers don't actually bother reading the main body of your blog post because you never bother either.

Never fear – this is where the trusty sub-title comes in. Aim for five – it's the magic number (or was that 3?). You can guarantee that at least they'll read these just to see if you offer anything like what you've suggested in your title. And even if they don't you'll look like you know what you're doing.

And who cares because you'll have got the click through anyway.

If you still don't get it, here's a quick template you can use for all your writing posts:

Title: How to be whatever in the shortest possible time you can get away with
Subtitle: select five of the following meaningless platitudes applicable to anything:

  1. Work harder
  2. Think better
  3. Exercise your imagination
  4. Find your true self
  5. Work more efficiently
  6. Do different
  7. Think outside the box
  8. Write every day

Et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam.

Stay tuned for more of the same.

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  1. You completely forgot the ceremony to the Muses, wherein sacrifices are made to...oh wait, no that isn't it.
    Great post, James!

    1. Thanks, Gene. Believe it or not, I do have a post on here somewhere about Muses...

  2. Good post. My own writing blog is, I hope, very different from the ones you describe - I've seen far too many of that kind.

    One particular bugbear of mine is when people dispense the advice: "Read". Occasionally, it's followed by the words "a lot". So patronizing. Writers are invariably avid readers - it's a completely redundant bit of advice.