Credit: Mine, all mineMy husband recently joined IB and he was so excited. And when I say excited, I mean he lost sleep over sharing his tips/tricks and other I.T. knowledge. Shame the poor man looked like a racoon when he finally did emerge - black puffy eyes and a very grumpy demeanour. But he finally had some time last night to put some thoughts down. He grabbed his laptop determined to start and finish the post, but alas it was not meant to be. I checked on him and the laptop's bright screen highlighted the fact that he had succumbed to the dreaded brain freeze. And what is brain freeze you ask? It's basically the online version of being speechless!
He just didn't have anything to write, express, share...nothing! So this morning I was determined to put my article posting format down on paper (or the screen) so that he could use it. However I realised that there are plenty of "onliners" that suffer from the same ailment so here is a quick guide on how to get started.
1. PICK A TOPIC YOU ENJOY
I know that it may seem obvious, but many people choose topics based on how popular the key words are. Yes, I understand the need to make money (who doesn't), but it is easier to get the practice first and then worry about financial return once you have posted a few articles and gotten a feel for sharing your thoughts or knowledge.
Where my darling dearest husband went wrong was he was trying to steer a cruiseliner instead of mastering the row boat first. So instead of writing about the programming and other I.T. stuff that flies way over my head, he should of started with something simpler, like sharing info about his passion (which currently is wood working). He can go on and on and on about it, so I am certain he would have had enough material!
2. CREATE A MAP
How many times have you gone shopping and forgotten your shopping list? Too many times I am sure! So just like we need a shopping list to keep us focussed and on target, a map would help with keeping your thoughts structured and ensure that you don't leave a huge chunk out.
This focusses your thoughts and ensures that you get the most important information out there and also helps you to jot down the important bits of information or any anecdotal stories.
It can be as simple as you need. Mine looked like this:Credit: Mine again
3. THIS IS IT - START TYPING
Now after the ground work has been laid down, it's now time to ... gulp ... start typing! Really this isn't as stressful as it may feel. This step is literally about you typing what you want - no matter if it makes sense or not. As it hasn't been published yet, no one will know what nonsense you are typing!
Personally, I type the main points that I get from my map onto the editing space first (format and highlight them) and then I start filling them out with the info that I have obtained either from personal experience and/or through research.
The first time I wrote something for an online audience, it took me 3 hours just to make something that resembled a semi well written post! I was forever deleting, adding and editing and I believe that it was my lack of guidance and focus that made the first blog post seem like summiting Mount Everest in high heels and a mini skirt!
4. MAKING POINTS MATTER
It's all good and well typing rows and rows of words that make coherent sentences. You might even give yourself a pat on the back for typing 500+ words on a subject and following your map. But now you have to take off the Author "hat" and put on your Editor "hat". And ask yourself these questions:
- Does this make sense;
- Am I sticking to the map;
- Have I added all the info that I wanted to;
- Does it flow;
- Does it make sense; and most importantly....
- Am I entertained, amused or interested?
Don't feel bad if it sucks. Nothing is perfect but the great thing is that you can still edit, change and make it not sucky. Perhaps it lacks more depth, or more amusing revelations... whatever it lacks (or has too much of) you can re-hash it before it gets published.
5. ADD MEDIA TO BRIGHTEN UP THE POST
I have 2 sons (9 and 3) - my minions as I refer to them. We have a huge stack of books in our bookshelf and without a single doubt in my mind, they will both choose the book that has the most colourful pictures to read - time and time again! Why? Well the 3 year old cant read yet so shame he has no choice. But the 9 year old does.
I can't really say that it was a revelation, but I figured out that people are exactly the same. Why read through screens of monochromatic words, when you can interrupt the "monochramaticness" with a colourful picture, video or a colourful meme. I subscribe to tons of bloggers and have noticed that the main trend in my blogger feed is that they use large colourful photos/pictures inbetween all the information.
So, perhaps take a photo of your map (as I have above), insert a funny picture of a brain freeze victim, or a relevant video post that you stumbled upon while researching. Think of it as "infotainment"!
6. ENTERTAIN, INVITE AND ENGAGE
As I mentioned, I subscribe to a lot of blog posts across a wide range of topics. And my pet peeve is if the author is missing in action after writing a post. She doesn't comment when a subscriber asks a question, she doesn't appreciate any thoughts or thanks that her subscribers send to her. What's the point?
You are sharing a piece of yourself so why not engage with your audience? You need to engage to be engaging, you need to entertain in order to be entertaining - sounds simple but so many people get it wrong. Appreciate the people that have given up some time to read your post and ask for comments, thank them for their thoughts and move along.
7. GIVE CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE
When my eldest has a project to hand it to school and I have helped him in some way, he always make sure to give credit where its due. So there will be a small note saying "Thanks to my mom for helping me with the bibliography, the volcano sculpture and the volcano goo". That makes me feel that my help has been appreciated and the teacher knows that I helped (not took over). Its the same in an article. If you use a picture from another site, credit that site. If you use a video, credit it. The web is a small place although it seem ginormous so keep you plate clean.
This is my method to my madness - sometimes it works and sometimes it works less. There are tons of writers out there so make yourself unique and find your niche. I am going to make my darling dearest hubby and strong cup of coffee and make sure he reads this post. Hopefully tonight he won't be a victim of the dreaded brain freeze ailment and will be able to put together an interesting article for all of you to read - probably not as good as mine though!
So good luck with your article endeavours and please leave any comments or thoughts you may have.