Bloggers are writers, but sometimes they forget to put writing and publishing lessons to use in their blog posts and on websites. Today Emmanuel Nataf (@EmmanuelNataf), co-founder of Reedsy, reminds us of five essential blogging lessons that arise out of the writing and publishing world.
At first glance, bloggers, nonfiction writers, and novelists might not seem to have much in common. One, for instance, needs to dig deep into SEO while the other is busy wrangling unruly plot twists. And while you don’t tend to see bloggers working on a piece over 5,000 words, nonfiction authors envision magnum opuses of 50,000+ words on the other end of the spectrum.
However, there’s a vast ground that all share in common: writing. Put simply, all three types of writers—bloggers, novelists, and nonfiction writers—cut their teeth and make a living on words. So it stands to reason that some mutual lessons benefit bloggers as well as other kinds of writers.
With that in mind, here are five things bloggers can learn from fiction and nonfiction authors.
1. Constructive feedback is good.
It’s one of the bitterest pills authors have to continually swallow: constructive feedback and all of the pain that comes with it.
No one enjoys getting feedback that says anything but: “Your manuscript is the best thing that I’ve read this decade. It’s even better than sliced bread. There’s not a word that you should change about it. Now go and publish it.” As lovely as such a comment is, it isn’t necessarily useful to the recipient. Instead, feedback that notes which elements didn’t work, what could work better, and what can be removed altogether is what actually transforms authors into better writers.
Authors learn early on that constructive feedback is necessary. This is something that bloggers should seek as well if they’re serious about advancing their writing craft. Ask friends, family, or even your readers what they think about your blog and writing — and specifically ask what you might be able to do to improve both.
Negative feedback might sting a bit at first, but think of it this way: the sooner you fix any problem areas, the better your blog will be for future readers.
2. Show your voice.
“Show, don’t tell” is one of the most popular and oft-repeated maxims in the world of writing — for good reason. Showing immerses readers in the story and is most effective when it comes to capturing an audience’s attention. As Anton Chekhov said, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
So how does this advice intersect with blogging? Bloggers specifically want to keep “show, don’t tell” in mind when it comes to voice. “Telling your personality, not showing it” is one of the biggest mistakes a beginner blogger can make, according to Hubspot.
For instance, don’t just tell readers on your “About” page that you’re approachable. Instead, show them by infusing a sense of accessibility and friendliness into every post you write—and the content on your About page. Keep your tone personal whenever you can. As all authors already know well, your voice is what separates you from other writers in your category. The same is true for bloggers—your voice makes you stand out from the million other bloggers in your niche on the Internet—so don’t be afraid to claim it.
3. Commit to a regular blogging schedule.
When authors come to me with concerns over finishing their books, one of the first things that I ask is, “Have you got a writing routine?”
A writing routine is a regular block of time you dedicate exclusively to writing. It can be any time in the day that’s convenient for you. A working mom, for instance, might find that writing is easiest after 10 PM when the kids are asleep. Or a busy manager might only be able to fit in time to write right before breakfast. Figure out which time works best for you, and then commit to it.
For bloggers, it’s very easy to run out of steam when you need to churn out piece after piece regularly — which is why a writing routine may do wonders for you as well. If you don’t believe me, check out this post on Smart Blogger In which 14 famous bloggers (including Neil Patel) share their writing schedules.
At the end of the day, for both authors and bloggers, writing is 30% inspiration, 70% dedication. A writing routine is one of the most solid building blocks when it comes to actually producing content consistently.
4. Don’t neglect your blog design.
All authors know that their #1 marketing tool is their book cover. In fact, a professionally designed book cover is the one thing that we at Reedsy strongly recommend authors spend money on, even if you’re not going to pay for anything else. A good book cover should encourage readers to judge the book by its cover. More than that, it should intrigue readers so that they end up buying the book or downloading it to read on their Kindles to satisfy their curiosity.
The same basic principle applies to bloggers. As Nina mentions in this post on the visual appeal of blogs, you might not want to waste too much time perfecting the appearance of your blog when you’re starting out. However, as you progress, you want to update your blog design so that it’s professional and eye-catching to readers.
With this in mind, the best kind of blog will appear clean and inviting. It should enable your audience to:
- want to stick around, and
- find content easily.
And, most of all, your blog design is what your audience bases its first impression of you. Don’t miss that moment up by neglecting your blog design!
5. Proofread, proofread, proofread.
My last piece of advice is perhaps the most important — and that’s to proofread. As authors know, there’s a reason that all traditionally published books go through a proofreader at a publishing house before they’re seen as fit to put on the market. That’s because, in short, nothing screams “unprofessional” more than a hasty typo or a sentence that’s missing a period. Such mistakes reflect poorly on your blog and your brand — and most of them are easily avoidable.
Some apps are available and regularly touted to help with your proofreading. There’s Grammarly, for instance, or Hemingway, which tightens up your prose. However, an app can’t substitute for your own eagle eyes. Before publishing a post, take ten or fifteen minutes re-reading your piece to catch any mistakes — it will be well worth it in the end.
Bloggers are writers, but sometimes they forget to follow the same wisdom writers use to become successful authors. Don’t let that be you. Learn from writers and authors and put those lessons to use.
What have you, as a blogger, learned from writers and applied? Tell me in a comment below.
About the Author
Emmanuel Nataf is the founder and CEO of Reedsy, a marketplace that connects authors and publishers with the world’s best editors, designers, and marketers. Emmanuel dedicates most of his time to building Reedsy’s product and is interested in how technology can transform cultural industries.