I’m a bit reluctant about today’s post, since it won’t appeal to a number of my readers. However, I don’t know where else to publish this, and I wanted to give a few tips to those who are new to blogging or considering a blog.
Here are some things I’ve learned in my years of blogging:
Find your voice. When I first started writing fiction, I really wanted to write like Jane Austen. But I couldn’t get too many words on the page before my characters started cracking jokes, and eventually I figured out I was just a snarky girl.
Likewise, I hesitated writing and speaking for a long time because I didn’t sound like a lot of the female Christian authors and speakers I admire. But I am no Stormie O’Martian, Beth Moore, or Sheila Gregoire. My voice is my voice. And once I embraced that I enjoy writing about biblical sex (holy), that I believed it could be exciting (hot), and that certain things about sex crack me up (humorous), I’d found my voice.
Thankfully, what’s demonstrated again and again in Scripture is that God wants all personality types and spiritual gifts engaged in furthering His kingdom. Your own perspective, aligned with God’s Word, can be the fresh take that helps someone else who finds your blog. As Oscar Wilde (reportedly) said, “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.”
Keep your posts brief and readable. What constitutes “brief” may vary from reader to reader, blog to blog, but as a rule of thumb, most people don’t want super-long posts. So if your standard writing length is 2000+ words, consider whether you can pare that down or break it into a series of posts.
You may need to edit your posts several times to get to a manageable length. Writing shorter posts can at times be harder than long ones. After all, consider Mark Twain’s marvelous observation: “‘I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” But make the extra effort, and resist the urge to cover everything about a topic in one post.
Get to the point quickly. Sometimes I read blog posts in which the introduction is half the post. My own drafts often start this way, with my explaining how I got an idea for a post and then why I want to cover it and what difference it will make. Or telling a personal story or an apt analogy with deep description and fervor. Blah, blah, blah. Your reader needs to know pretty quickly why she’s reading this post — what’s in it for her.
Imagine a 250-page book that didn’t get to anything meaty until page 100. You’d stop reading, right? Use a few words of introduction, but get to your theme fairly quickly. Honor your reader’s time.
Be consistent. Try not to post 11 times in November and twice in the next six months. Some successful blog authors do post whenever time and inspiration allow. However, the more common pattern for success is consistent posting, whether that’s once a week, twice a week, or every day of the week.
Choose what frequency you can honestly manage, and then try to stick to it. If you miss a day, don’t worry about it. If you want to put up an extra post, go for it. But remain fairly consistent so your readers know what to anticipate and expect.
Watch what you cite. Quotations and statistics are often cited incorrectly. Make an extra effort to check your sources. You needn’t hunt down every single citation like a bloodhound on a scavenger hunt, but try to find two sources or the original study or a reputable source. It’s easy to get this stuff wrong, because bad statistics, in particular, float around like dust specks in the air. For instance, in Shaunti Feldhahn’s recent book, The Good News about Marriage (which I haven’t read but plan to!), she talks about how we’ve all been citing a 50% divorce rate for years — and it’s flat-out wrong.
I’m sure I’ve messed up a citation now and then, but I try to get it right. And it’s one thing to be human and err, and another thing altogether to be careless and irresponsible. Check your citations as best you can. And while you’re at it, give credit to others for their words, stats, and ideas.
Decide what your comment policy will be. Some blogs take any and all comments, others moderate all comments, and some are in between. Simply consider ahead of time what kind of blog you want this to be. Do you want to encourage vigorous debate, like a public forum? Do you want to have deep discussions, like a college class? Do you want more lighthearted give-and-take, like a cocktail party? It really helped me when I finally realized I want my blog to be like my home. Respectful guests and lively conversation are welcome. People who insult or make others extremely uncomfortable are not asked back. Those who encourage me and make me laugh will probably get served dessert first. *smile*
Imagining my blog as a particular setting helped me figure out how to treat the variety of comments I receive. Encouragement, respectful disagreement, helpful tips, and personal testimony are welcome, but disrespectful trolls are shown the door.* My house, my rules.
Keep your own priorities. Sometimes it’s difficult to walk away from answering comments or emails or drafting another blog post, when I really need to go on a date with my husband or spend time with my family. You can get swept up interacting with others on your blog or social media, or feel the strong tug of wanting to help others. But having a marriage ministry should never take precedence over your own marriage.
Maintain your own priorities. Since I write about sex, I’d better step away from this screen when my husband approaches me to engage in sexual intimacy. (Sure, I’ll say, “Let me finish this thought,” but then I step away and head to our bedroom.) First things first, and that includes God and your family.
So those are my tips for new or inspiring bloggers. Do you have any tips of your own to share?
*By the way, spam is constant, but disrespectful trolls are not common.
19 thoughts on “7 Tips for New or Aspiring Marriage Bloggers”
I used to write a marriage blog, and I identify closely with many of your points. The desire to capture a reader’s interest and offer detail displays in over-worded entries that bring the exact opposite reaction: readers running away from a blog due to lengthy posts that roll back on themselves so frequently they steamroll the point.
Whittling the content to a readable length for the audience seems a much overlooked aspect of the writing process. Rereading a piece and seriously considering “does this matter?” makes a difference. Read it out loud. You will hear things you didn’t mean to write, as well as find sections that don’t read easily.
It means forfeiting your effort sometimes, actually deleting full paragraphs or (dramatic pause) entire posts, in order to create a well-crafted piece that says what it needs to say. If I read a recipe blog, I want to learn about the experience with the actual making of and results of the recipe and in the final product. When I, instead, read paragraph after paragraph about recent escapades with friends and family and specific information involving baby’s schedule, I want only to scroll to the recipe at the end and decide for myself. In a marriage blog, tangents like these confuse equally, and with no recipe at the end, you lose your content in the midst of sharing your life.
I think our voices come out in a few well-constructed paragraphs, sacrificing some of wittiest or deepest comments for the point we want to make. Don’t fear the delete key. When a writer has a real point to make, it won’t vanish from the brain as the words disappear from the screen. Something better … more right … will come.
Great guidelines, J. Thank you!
Very well-put! I think many writers, of all varieties, struggle with editing down and deleting words. I’ve simply learned that I may write 3-4 times as many words as appear in the final product, and that’s just part of the process. If I really like something I’ve written, but it doesn’t relate to the post, I cut and save it for another time.
Good heavens, I should have added “Proofread your posts” as an 8th tip! I just realized that my original graphic had “7 Tips for New or Inspiring Marriage Bloggers.” Oops! That should be “Aspiring” — which I did correct. 😉
These are great tips. I really need to be reminded of the keep your own priorities one. I can get so obsessed with our blog that I miss out on opportunities to actually spend time with my husband. I have to tell myself close your laptop and go hug your husband.
These are great tips, J! I still struggle with the “brief and readable” one. Brevity is not my strong suit.
One thing I did before I started my blog was to be sure I had a clear sense of mission. I knew exactly who I was targeting and what I hoped to accomplish by writing my blog. I stray from that at times, and I know a lot of people outside my target audience read my posts. Still, knowing who I am addressing, and why, has helped me decide what to write about, how to handle those subjects, and how to address some behind-the-scenes work.
Yes, sometimes I’ll hear from guys who say something like, “What about us?” And I think, “Well, I’m primarily targeting the wives.” Of course, I’m happy for anyone to read, but it does help to have your intended audience in mind. Thanks, Chris! Glad your voice is in the marriage blogosphere!
Yeah, I’ve got a couple 3500 word posts…
I love this list. You’ve accurately listed a great guideline for all of us. What’s really hard is when God changes your normal. Last October He said He wanted me to slow down on my posting and let them percolate instead. I discovered I don’t like percolating so much. I’d much rather blow full speed ahead! But obedience is at the top of God’s list for marriage bloggers to follow, so I’m still percolating. Which means I only post when I sense He wants me to share something. I guess there are times when less is more, and my husband is happy I’m not so plugged in all the time. I thank God for your voice!
Thanks, Debi! Maybe God pushes us outside our comfort zones, because I feel like He’s pushed me to go a faster speed ahead…when I’d be fine with percolating a lot more. 😀 Of course, I still keep my priorities, but I’ve ended up writing far more with this blog and books than my original plan. God’s plan just took over!
Great tips, J! Keeping it short is something I often struggle with. I don’t think I’m “wordy” per say (at least I hope I’m not!) but I do like to go into detail about certain things. But I think a lot of my readers like that about my writing. I write things similar to other bloggers but go into a good deal of psychology/biology and I think that’s what people expect from me at this point. I will be completing my first year of blogging in October and I’ve learned a lot. One tip is you get what you give. I try to comment on other blogs regularly and feel this is important. Not only are you getting your blog and your ideas out into the blogosphere, you also get to participate in stimulating and inspiring conversations and get to know some cool people!
As a blog reader, I will admit I am one who will skip posts that are long and wordy. I tend to communicate by being short and to the point, and that’s what I tend to like to read. If it looks to be too long, I will try to just hit the highlights, if a blogger starts a habit of being too wordy, I quit reading the blog regularly.
Thanks for the tips. I think brevity and focus may be my areas of needed work. I should probably think about breaking up my posts. I already do serial posts (as you well know, thank you once again 🙂 ) but I could probably break them up into smaller bites and post more often which would likely be beneficial for myself and the readers.
The other biggie around here is prioritizing between my blog life and personal life. Thanks for reminding me. You have it in the proper place in the post at the bottom, but it needs to be at the top in our blogging lives.
Thank you, as I have been toying and praying about this move but I also want to give it my best. So this article has been a blessing, as it were the dotted yellow line on this road to blogging. Thank you so much.
Thank you! Best wishes with the blog and many blessings!
I appreciate this post as God is leading me to begin a blog (one day a week will be devoted to marriage). Now I’m wondering what a good length is for an individual post. I know I have a tendency to get long-winded at times, so I already know to watch out for this but now because of your admonishment, I’m wondering what is an appropriate length.
It depends somewhat on the type of blog you have. Some do well with daily blogging at 200-500 words. Some rarely write but do 1500-2000 word posts. For my twice-a-week blog, I aim for 500-1200 words.
Thanks J, that was helpful!
Great post. Relevant to all of us who blog, not just marriage bloggers. I love your blog. I, for one, need to be reminded frequently that humour is part of intimacy! Keep up the good work!
Thanks so much!
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