Monday, December 5, 2011

Traits of a good blog - and do I match up?

I've been blogging for a few years now, and I have a horrible confession to make: I have never understood what makes a good blog. Other than great content, that is. There are differing opinions on the metrics of blog success--comments, followers, link backs--but what makes a blog good to read? (Note that when I speak of blogging, I mean writers who blog, published or unpublished.) Humor? Excellent writing advice? When I thought about it, I came up with the following traits of blogs I love reading:

1. I always learn something. Be it plot, characters, or finding ways not to use the word "because," I love writing craft blog posts. Blogs that consistently offer fresh takes on craft are always popular. Note that craft posts coming from unpublished writers are usually not taken as well--not by me--but in general. There are some notable exceptions to this.

2. Humor. I love a bit of silly, and bloggers who consistently offer humor are always visited in my list.

3. Honesty. Showing me a piece of who you are is actually really important when I thought about it. Everyone is human but no one likes to admit it--when you do it for us, we all feel better about our own struggles.

I'm sure there are more traits of interesting blogs, but these were the strongest for me. And also, I haven't slept in a long time--my 7 month old baby, Rainbow Puppy, is such a horrible sleeper at night that we usually only get about 4 hours of sleep tops a night now, so I kind of move through life listing to the right like a boat with a leak. So that was all the deep thinking I could do on that.

And like all shallow thinkers, I then turned the three good blogging traits onto myself. Did I do all three? Let's take a look. Because honestly, in the four years I've been blogging, I kind of thought I was doing a good job but actually I think I've been a little full of myself. Like, I've been righteous about what I post. What an ass I've been, actually! Check it:

- Do I teach something in my posts? Ha ha ha ha! Who cares what I have to say? Who am I? Well, sometimes my instructional posts are good (I was the only one surveyed though), but it's kind of hard to get over the fact that apart from having 15 years of experience as a professional technical writer, I'm not a professional fiction writer (yet). So me giving writing advice is not wonderful. Especially when I do like I'm an authority. Sheesh. Gross.

-Am I humorous? We all know the dangers of believing yourself funny. I crack myself up a lot, but as Mr. Sierra is constantly pointing out, I'm the only one laughing. Hey, at least I'm having a good time, right?

- Am I honest? At first I said yes to this. But actually, I realized I hide behind quasi-instructional posts that nobody comments on because I'm too...I don't know. Shy, embarrassed, afraid to be honest? I realized I rarely tell the truth about myself through posts. Here is the truth: I am a high strung mother of two young boys, just launched into a wonderful new career I never thought possible before of a freelance graphic designer (and it's working!), and I started writing fiction seriously four years ago. That's nice but it's not honesty. Here's the honesty: I don't sleep at night (4 hours tops) thanks to baby, and I'm exhausted and annoyed and I worry a lot. I swear a lot. I am frustrated that my mind is 85% oatmeal from it and that my current WIP is at least 6 months behind where I thought it would be because of the non-sleeping, and also, I'm sassy and sarcastic and caustic and no one likes that. I'm tired and I make a lot of mistakes. A lot. Sometimes I care, sometimes I don't. I hate it when people think badly of me. I can't stand it. I'm introverted. When talking with people, I almost always assign them a higher status in the conversation whether it's warranted or not. I don't know why that is. My rear end is wide but I sure as hell am not going to the gym. I'll walk but that's it.

I think when I can reveal my total failings as a human in my posts, then there will be some honesty (and since I touched on them above, I figure I'm good for a few months, right?). I don't tend to reveal my failings, but those are what really make blog posts good. Like writing failings. I never say what I've done wrong, only what I've done right. And that makes for boooooooorrring reading.

I don't know. I'm burned out on blogging. I'm tired of writing posts that I feel like I have to write. I want to write posts that *I* want to write. I'm just not sure what those are yet.

What do you think? What makes a blog worth reading?

23 comments:

Laura Pauling said...

Humor and content are terrific. But I think as writers we really want honesty. That appeals to me more in a blog than anything b/c I feel like I'm getting to know the person, I'm invested in them, and I'm more apt to want to read their book. Where I love straight craft blogs - but I'm not invested in the person!

Linda G. said...

Know what I think? You're an exhausted mom of young children who needs to cut herself some slack. If the blog is a pleasant escape for you, keep it up. If it's one more piece of stress in your day...take a break. The blogosphere, and your readers, will be here when you get back. :)

P.S. Yes, your blog is humorous. Would I be here if it weren't? ;)

DL Hammons said...

Your last paragraph is the key. If you're not writing post YOU want to, then maybe you're doing it for the wrong reason. I read blog post mostly to get to know the blogger/writer better...and if they're witty (which you have in spades) then I'm always interested. Writing/publication tips are nice, but not the primary reason I'm here. That doesn't mean you have to drop your drawers and bare yourself in an effort to show honesty...that's actually not very HONEST when you think about it. Just be who you are...we can figure out the rest. :)

Diane Henders said...

First things first: I love your blog. You're funny, and you're honest, and you give good advice. And I haven't a clue how you manage to be a mom and a graphic designer and a blogger and an author all at the same time. I don't have kids, I usually spend at least 12 hours a day in front of my computer, and I still don't get everything done.

Honesty is important, but you're being pretty hard on yourself here in telling us the things you don't like about yourself. Yeah, sometimes we need to admit to the bad stuff, but I think honesty is also about acknowledging your good qualities. We know they're a big part of you: it shines through in your writing. Go ahead and admit those good qualities to yourself (and to us). :-)

And go ahead and blog about what you want. Some of us like sassy, sarcastic, sleep-deprived women who swear a lot.

Sarah Allen said...

Wow, very good check list. I definitely appreciate humor and honesty, it makes me feel like I know the person. Thanks for these ideas...Now lets see...

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Sierra Godfrey said...

Laura, great point about being invested in the person. Thanks for the comment.

Linda, you're right as usual. Dang it. And thanks.

Don, you're right, I was doing it incorrectly. But that'll change. I have a bunch of silly posts all lined up.

Diane, will you marry me? Wait, didn't I already ask you that before? you're way too sweet. Thankyou.

Sarah,I think you're right that getting to KNOW the person is the point of the blog. More on Wednesday.

Lt. Cccyxx said...

Sierra - First of all, I really enjoy your blog, and it's on my list of blogs to visit every M-W-F that I can. I also think Linda makes a good point.

You may feel some tension in your blogging in part because you're trying to walk a line between engaging people (which you do) but also mostly staying away from those things agents etc. always tell unpublished writers not to blog about. But I add my vote to those who say be yourself because, like writing, you're blogging for you.

Kristen Lippert-Martin said...

You're a lovely blogger, Sierra. Have faith in that. Absolutely funny and honest. Let's face it, the only people who should be blogging on professional topics of interest are people who we writers are chasing after, namely agents and editors. They have a different vantage point and we can get an optic on their playbook by reading their posts. Everyone else is just talking about struggling to get their work done, and dealing with the ups and downs of the writing life. You can do no more than this. You manage it beautifully on very little sleep. So be proud of yourself, Miss Sassafras.

Roni Loren said...

First *hugs* on having a non-sleeper. We've talked about this before, but my kidlet is the same way. I barely managed to survive that first year without walking into traffic by accident or something because I was so damn tired. I never would've been able to manage all you are, so kudos to you.

And it's easy to be hard on yourself in this public domain. I have those days too where a post I thought was sparkly falls flat or comments are few and far between. And sometimes--when my author blog consistently gets less traffic than my writing blog--I think "people only want me for my writing advice, they aren't really interested in me. I'm only interesting if I'm in teacher mode. Woe is me, blah blah blah."

But I've tried to take a different view lately. Let's call it something eloquent like hmm--screw it all. :) I write the posts I want to write and if people want to stop by and read it, I'm thrilled. If not, oh well. It's probably nothing personal. People are busy, the blogosphere is glutted, we're all trying to keep our heads above water. I know I love your blog and even so, I have to play catch up (like today) and catch a few of your posts at a time because life got in the way of my blog reading.

So do what feels right for you. If you need to blog less because you're busy and sleep deprived, we'll still be here. If you need to blog about different things, go for it. We like YOU. The topics are secondary. :)

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