I decided to write another one of these. You can find the first here, though that was shorter than this one.
6. Use a great title
Believe it or not, a good title is probably 51% of your blogging work.
As I mentioned before, you’re not just writing – you’re competing. With hundreds of posts in everyone’s WordPress Reader. For those users, your title is their only introduction to your work. You have to ensure that it’ll actually tempt people to click.
Let’s sample some titles currently showing in my Reader:
“Let’s Just Get Real For a Minute”
“I have been learning that…”
“Today’s Meditation, 4/29/17”
“Pruning is Painful But Good”
Forgive me for being critical, if your title is among these. I don’t doubt that there’s worthy material behind these titles. But in the name of being helpful, I opine that these titles don’t compel or entice as well as they could.
What are these article about?. “Movie Review” doesn’t mention which movie; “Today’s Meditation” doesn’t say whether it discusses Jesus or Buddhism; “Yellow Paradox” is too dense.
On the other hand, “Pruning is Painful but Good” is clear, but I fear it reveals too much. It’s the entire lesson. The harried reader, trying to catch a few precious minutes of reading before the baby wakes up, might get all they need from that title and move on without clicking on your post. Which is awesome if you just want to bless people, but not ideal if you’re also building a large platform to showcase for a potential publisher.
Even “God’s Love” might not grab people – precisely because everyone is writing about it! I can’t possibly click every such article. I’d be surfing forever. (That’s how big God’s love is.) Instead, I’d ask what angle on God’s love is being taken? Is there a verse you’re focusing on? A story? A specific aspect or application?
Now, try these titles:
“WARNING: SPIRITUAL NUDITY INSIDE”
“Let’s Be Offended”
“Dying to Be Me”
“Upon This Rock I Will Build My _________?”
“Justice? Wait, I Thought God Loved Me!”
“Do You Doubt What God Can Do?”
“What Is Jesus’ View of the Definition of Marriage?”
Sure, the “nudity” one is a little clickbaity, but not as bad as some. It did get me reading…and it was reasonably indicative of the valuable lesson inside, instead of being a total switch.
The next three are my personal favorites – carefully crafted and calculated, nicely indirect and spry but not too vague. Those authors might actually have spent numerous cups of coffee hammering out those titles in their minds.
The last two are refreshingly straightforward, promising relevant ideas. Plenty of people appreciate a title that just gets down to business.
Hitting the right combination of intrigue, hint, wit, brevity, and relevance in a title is difficult. That’s why it’s 51% of the work. But it’s worth the time.
7. Ask God to guide your writing
It seems obvious. But how often do we do it?
I find I have to daily crucify that part of me that goes “Oh, come on, giving God the pen will make your posts dull and irrelevant”.
God is a terrific writer. The Bible is Exhibit A. All of human literature, in fact, from Shakespeare and The Lion King to the most potent nonfiction to the latest HBO tripe, borrows from the Bible, with varying degrees of competence and purity.
You can trust God with your writing.
Ask him what you should write about tomorrow. Ask him whether that sentence is too much, or not enough. Be in the Word; be understanding it. Be asking for the Spirit as you read and write. He knows what your readers need.
8. Find the right paragraph length
All right, bloggers – there’s this thing called a paragraph. It’s multiple sentences connected without hitting the Enter key. They are used to encapsulate specific ideas, array them in support of (or against) each other, and lend structure and rhythm to your post.
Sorry for being a wiseacre. I know I’m venturing into English 102 territory.
But seriously, we bloggers have a problem here.
It is popular these days to build entire posts out of single lines.
To eschew paragraphs.
To start multiple sentences with the same word.
To wear down the Enter key like the backspace and F5 keys.
On and on.
Throughout the entire post.
It’s the thing to do these days.
Now, there’s emotional value in occasionally doing this, to draw your reader’s attention to the emotional core of your post.
But if it’s all you do, you’re robbing your reader of orientation. They can’t see the overall ebb and flow of your post, where the ideas collide or mesh, because everything is single sentences. They can’t pick out your post’s punchlines or payoffs (alliteration! I love it!). And no, using bold italics for the payoffs is not a substitute.
On the flipside, some articles are nothing but one long paragraph running off the screen. If people see that, they’re probably going to blank out and move on. That’s what I do. It’s too much work to suss out the interplay of the ideas. Remember, readers are like short circuits – they’ll take the path of least resistance.
(Example: Do you see how the previous two paragraphs pitted two extremes against each other?)
Your paragraphs should be like your sentences: varying lengths, avoiding monotony and sensory overload. Be merciful on your readers. Make your paragraphs short enough to avoid scaring people and long enough to elegantly reveal your structure.
9. Find your posting frequency
If you’re trying to expand your blog, this is another balance issue to consider.
If you only post once every few months, it’s hard to build a following. You just don’t have enough regular presence in the reader, enough people reblogging and spreading them, unless you manage somewhere along the way to create The Post – that brilliant, urgent, concise, powerful post that goes viral all over online Christendom and sustains your online presence enough to coast for a while. But, of course, if we could all do that all the time…
On the other hand, if you post multiple times a day, you might actually be sacrificing a lot of viewership. People might assume that you’re posting little whimsical bites. There’s an audience for that, but others see it as lacking in substance. A few bloggers can manage both relevance and multiple posts a day. Atimetoshare.me is a prime example. But it’s hard to pull that off regularly.
Additionally – and I mentioned this before – if you post all the time, you run the risk of dominating people’s Readers and burying other bloggers.
(See? There are times when a single sentence is called for.)
You needn’t tiptoe around WordPress, of course. Do your thing – to a point. But it’s best to find a posting frequency that keeps you on your readers’ radar without sacrificing good content, and one that fits your schedule and rhythm.
10. Remember whom you answer to
When we blog, we also teach.
That should scare us straight, for it places us directly under some sobering Scriptural mandates:
“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1)
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.'” (Luke 17:1-2)
Doesn’t sound like God’s messing around.
We can all be teachers these days. Just open a free blog on WordPress. But the downside of the internet is a host of fools blaring into the ether without any concept of Scriptural truth. Sure, they’re teachers…false teachers.
Put in the homework. Use good versions of Scripture. Get the quotations right. Get the context right. Avoid prosperity gospel and empty inspirational posts that don’t once mention God.
We’ll disagree with each other sometimes. We’ll differ on Scriptural interpretation, context, word usage. That’s okay. There’s room for difference in disputable matters.
But we must all be fully and objectively convinced that you have the backing of Scripture behind you, even if it stands against our favorite ideas.