Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Quality vs. Quantity

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With NaNoWriMo almost upon us, I was all ready to write up a nice pep-talk post to bolster your spirits (and mine), when something my sister said held me back. We were talking about dance, and passions in general, and I started thinking about all the successful writers of history, past and present, and what made them successful.

I know we've all heard the phrase "quality over quantity" a hundred and one times, but if you were expecting this post to say anything about how this is the key to higher page views, or something of the sort, your in the wrong place.

I want to tell you why I think quality work is more important than the speed at which you produce it, for your own sake above anything else. We're artists, you and I - we want our work not just to be loved, we want to be the best in our particular genre. And often, in the rush to keep up with the speed of media these days, we scurry along our work and in the particular case of NaNoWriMo, shove in the extra words to better fit our goal.

The issue with this way of thinking is that you begin to sacrifice the style of your piece of work for the expectations or goals of someone else. Yes, length is nice, but a good, well-crafted sentence is not graded on length but its ability to effectively and artfully relay information.

It may take longer to get to your goal - in fact, I guarantee you it will - but in the end, a 40,000 well-written piece is far more valuable than 50,000 words in dire need of editing. You're not learning or improving on anything by speeding up; in fact, you cripple your ability to write well by scrambling to write "faster" for any extended period of time.

This goes for blog posts as well. I often find myself wanting to post on this space simply for the reason that "I haven't posted something in a while," and while that is completely valid, posting for the sake of posting, writing for the sake of writing, creating for the sake of creating - is missing the point of the process. We create, we write, we design because we have something to share - not because we "think we should."

My father always asks, when I tell him how much I've written in a day, "how many of those words were good words?" And I want to ask you the same thing.

Every word should fight for its existence in your sentence. If it can't make a good case for lodging, it doesn't belong there.

Monday, October 20, 2014

My Top 5 Blogging Tips

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Someone emailed me yesterday asking for some blogging advice, and as I prepared to respond, it occured to me it would be much easier to share it here. I have gotten several of these emails in the past, and I love helping people in whatever small way I can; however, instead of replying to multiple emails, it's much more timely for me to share them here, for anyone and everyone.

I have to preface this with the fact that I am in no ways a blogging expert, and any advice I may share is simply what I've learned through the past 4 1/2 years that I have been blogging. That said, however, I have picked up in a few things that I think are particularly essential.

1. Design (I'm aware this could be considered advertisement. I promise it's not. :)
A good design is like dressing well - it makes reading what you have to say enjoyable, instead of distracting from your content, and it is often the difference between readers that will stay and readers that will go. If the first impression someone gets from your blog is that the design is clunky, they might not stay around to realize how fantastic your content is. That's the sad truth.

2. Consistency of Purpose
When people read your blog, they begin to expect a certain style or general range of topics from you. If they keep coming back, odds are they like it - so don't change it. Try to keep a consistant style and post about the same topics - writing, fashion, fitness - you choose, just stick with it. Dovetailing with this, try to keep to a posting schedule if at all possible (this is the hardest for me). Maybe you always post on Monday mornings, or you share monthly snippets of writing, or you host a recurring event (Chatterbox is a brilliant example). Find your niche, and stick with it.

3. Color
I am, as you can probably tell, a very minimalistic girl. You could attribute this to many factors - I am both claustrophic and OCD, which if you're psycologically-inclined, you could probably trail it back to - however, it is important to add color and interest to your blog. I know we as writers can easily get caught up in the words, and that is very important; it's just as important to break things up with a picture here and there. Keep your pages short and to-the-point, and limit, where possible, the length of your posts as well. I only want to spend so much time looking at a screen per day, and if your post does not feasibly fit into that length, I might have to forgo it.

4. Cleanliness & Housekeeping
Proofread your posts. Try to avoid typos and run-on sentences. Know the basic rules of grammar, and try to formatt things fairly decently (tip: it's better to go basic). Update your pages regularly. Keep your sidebar items to a minimum. If I have to struggle to understand a post due to technical issues, odds are I won't stick around long. Don't make your readers work to understand you; it's just common courtesy, like keeping your house clean.

5. Be Gracious
My favorite blogs are the ones in which the authors interact with the readers; it makes blogging more of a community, and some of my best friendships have been formed this way. It doesn't take long to tell someone thank you, reply to a comment, or read a post. If you want people to promote your blog when you have Special Things happening, it's important to reciprocate. Help other people! Don't get into catfights in the comments section! Remember that people took time out of their day to comment on your blog, even though they didn't have to. You can't build up a readership, frienships, or audiences without helping other people too. The street goes both ways.

Anything you'd like to add? Let's chat!
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