December 4th, 2008


Nick's Three-Step Guide to Successful Blogging

On Tuesday, Simon & Schuster -- remember Tuesday, when there was a Simon & Schuster? -- released The Huffington Post Complete Guide to Blogging, written by Arianna Huffington and the editors of The Huffington Post. They were kind enough to publish it as a paperback, but still, why spend $15 and countless hours wading through page after page of heavily Greek-accented text? Especially when I can give you the three secrets to successful blogging absolutely free, right here, right now! (My credentials: This blog is read by roughly 400 people -- not big by Neil Gaiman or Wil Wheaton standards, certainly, but pretty big for a nobody with a few silly horror stories under his belt -- and I gave a talk on the subject before the Garden State Horror Writers in April.)

And now, without further ado, Nick's Three-Step Guide to Successful Blogging.

1. Be interesting. Obviously, it's your blog, so you can write about whatever you want. You don't have to answer to anybody (unless you're working on a corporate or company blog, in which case these rules don't apply). However, blogging about how annoyed you got because the line at the supermarket was really long isn't going to turn your blog into a must-read. Sure, you can complain about mundane stuff once in a while, we all do it, but if that's all you ever blog about, you're not going to grow an audience. Instead, think about the things in life you really like, the things you're obsessed with -- hello, Doctor Who! -- and take it from there. You'll be surprised how many like-minded people discover your blog once you start analyzing the news, deconstructing politics, commenting on societal trends, and nitpicking about how the Sontarans have three fingers in some episodes and five in others. Unfortunately, the problem some people have with being interesting is that it often means rocking the boat, and that makes people uncomfortable. My advice would be not to be afraid of rocking the boat, not to be afraid of naming names when necessary, and to always do so with integrity. Don't make shit up or pick fights just to seem "cool." Everyone will see right through that. Rocking the boat might get you in hot water, but your integrity is what gets people on your side.

2. Interact. Some people use their blogs as a bully pulpit, appearing once in a while to make some grand declaration before disappearing again. Others use it like a billboard, only showing up when they have something they want to sell. Me, I prefer to think of blogging as being part of a community of interesting people (LiveJournal makes this especially easy with its friends list). I read other people's blogs. I comment and get into discussions. In return, they tend to do the same, reading my blog, commenting, and getting into discussions with others. The more I interact, the more people stop by my blog to see if I'm doing anything interesting with it. I can't tell you how many times I've made this point to people who come to me for blogging advice. Many of them don't listen, wind up feeling like they're talking into a void because no one "friends" them or leaves comments, and then give up and never blog again. Don't be like them.

3. Be funny. This one I learned from my unofficial blogging mentor, nihilistic_kid. Making your blog readers think is a good thing. Making them laugh too ensures they'll come back for more. You may not think you can do this, you might not think you're funny, but even the least funny among us has a working knowledge of sarcasm and irony to build from. Always leave 'em laughing.

There, I just saved you $15. The above three steps are pretty much all you need to know. There are some further steps for the more advanced, like knowing which day of the week sees the most traffic, which topics get more comments than others, why those little bars that track your manuscript progress are stupid, etc., but we can cover them some other time.

Until then, happy blogging!

(And yes, I'm available to speak on this subject to you, your loved ones, or your company for a reasonable rate.)