What Every Blogger Should Know (Plus Prompt)

Blogging. Some professional writers loathe it, regarding it as a cheapening of their art. Others adore it, and do it for the sheer love of the instant form. Some accept it as a necessary evil in a platform development often key to securing a book deal. Others do it for the joy of broadcasting themselves, for better or worse, to anyone, anywhere, on any subject.

No matter why we do it, though, everyone tends to have their share of quality posts, and an equal sampling (I admit with rosy cheeks) of, err, less than stellar offerings.

So what’s the secret formula? In the latest from the Top 20 Tips From WD in 2009 series, my favorite bits of advice from our pages this year, writer Dinty W. Moore has an idea.

No. 11: Avoid the Blog Rabies
Good blogging, like any good writing, is not just foaming at the mouth. First drafts are not your best work, and the audience must be foremost in your mind.
—Author and teacher Dinty W. Moore, as featured in our November/December 2009 issue.

As with many areas of the publishing world, the key seems to be the same, a constant of the art: Readers, readers, readers, always.

That said, do you blog? Why? Moreover, what do you think makes for a solid post?

And now, paranoid to write any more in light of Dinty’s advice dangling above, lest I froth in hypocrisy, I bid you an excellent Wednesday.

See you Friday!

WRITING PROMPT: Self-Help Surprise
Feel free to take the following prompt home or post your response (500 words or fewer, funny, sad or stirring) in the Comments section below. By posting, you’ll be automatically entered in our occasional around-the-office swag drawings.

A self-help guru makes you an offer you can’t refuse, no matter how much you’d like to.

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0 thoughts on “What Every Blogger Should Know (Plus Prompt)

  1. Karen A, Winters Schwartz

    The ‘Ning’ is exactly what I’m referring to. I hope to be-friend you all. Zac, I love your prompts. I didn’t have time to do this one, but I did your cliche and "Why?" prompt. What fun! Thanks!

  2. Zac

    Hey Mark,

    Dig the story! To you, and to Karen and Martha, thanks for checking the prompts out :). I’m going to follow the link to your story after I post this comment, Martha.

    For the membership question, I think Karen might be referring to the new WD community on Ning (http://writersdigest.ning.com/). It’s pretty cool, and they’re fashioning it into a social network for writers. (Befriend me!)

    As for those Z’s on your clothes, Mark: Hopefully they’re not little sleep Z’s from reading too many rambly prompt-based missives. No matter, thanks for your stories in the last weeks.

    Jared, good point, too. I think that’s why I love Hunter S. Thompson so much.

    Hope you all have a good weekend,

  3. Martha W

    Well, I did this prompt but sadly my little tale went over by say… 300 words. Yep, my scene (as I now call it) is not a flash fiction at all. But what I am lovingly calling a start to another book… Thanks Zach! *grin*

    If anyone cares to take a field trip, here is the link to where I posted it on my blog since we’re only allowed 500 words for the prompt…


    BTW, Mark, you’re short is fabulous. I was right there with Larry at the end, ready to run as quickly as possible out the door! Great job!

  4. jared david

    weighing in on the blog discussion…wishing i had time to write some fiction, or poetry, or anything other than statements of purpose for school.

    ‘foaming at the mouth’ blogs are my favorite. they are raw and real and now. blogging was built on these principles, but now i see some blogs that look like online publications. i don’t mind editing (especially poems or short fiction) for clarity (although less a necessity), spelling, grammar, etc… but when a daily rant looks and feels like an article in a magazine, i have a hard time believing the author cares more about [important issue] than how his/her audience perceives them as a writer. how about how their audience perceives them as a person? no one talks like they publish, and writing to that goal distances an author from both their subject and their audience.

    i like reading bloggers who don’t care what i think because they aren’t writing for me, they are writing for themselves and i choose to read. if i wanted to immerse myself in prideful, self-loathing, i-matter-more-than-you rants filled with language used only by the speaker with the help of a thesaurus in an attempt to both impress me and distract me from their weak arguments or boring life details, i’d go home for the holidays.

    nothing hostile intended…thanksgiving and xmas coming up, trying to get out of the trip home. have a good weekend everyone

  5. Mark James

    Morning Karen:

    Thanks. I had fun with that one. I try to do the prompts whenever my schedule allows. Most times, it’s the best hour of my day.

    Zac: I didn’t know I could write here and be a member too. Until now, I’ve been a Zachite – that could explain the strange "Z" like formations emerging on all my clothing.

    I seem to be ‘net challenged this morning, tho. Would you post a link for WD membership?


  6. Karen A, Winters Schwartz

    Hi Mark James! I loved ‘The Greatest Good’. I’ve done a couple of these prompts and they’re a great exercise and a lot of fun! Thanks for entertaining me this a.m.!

    I wanted to be your friend, but could not find you in the list of members . . .

  7. Patricia A. Hawkenson

    It was Wednesday, October 28th, 2009, when Zach, self-help guru extraordinaire, suggested that I reflect on my blogging abilities, even though he should have known better than to insult his audience with things that we should apparently know, but need his advice to REALLY understand. So be it. (I understand my humbled place in this hierarchy.)
    His advice on Blogging, with a capital B, reminds us that some professional writers (certainly NOT Zach) loathe it, regarding it as a cheapening of their art. Others adore it, (that would be ME) and do it (no insinuation of anything sexual here) for the sheer love of the instant form. Some accept it as a necessary evil (666 not 69, 69, 69, but I digress) in a platform development often key to securing a book deal. (This is where I plug my book: Magnetic Repulsion, coming out soon to a bookstore near you!) Others do it (again, nothing sexual here, so stop checking) for the joy of broadcasting themselves, (where you can join my other 1,041 Twitter followers and follow me @phawkenson. Proud to self-acclaim my Twitter rank at 4th in the state of WI!) for better or worse, (for richer – if you buy my book, or poorer – if you don’t) to anyone, anywhere, on any subject, especially free verse poetry, which is my favorite. Feel free to check out my blog, Expressive Domain: http://www.phawkenson.edublogs.org where I am blatantly proclaiming a fair share of quality posts, and only a few posts on the subject of stars or other stellar offerings.
    My secret formula? My willingness to grovel and beg for an understanding robotic code that allows me to post my poetry and comments on the FIRST attempt at Poetic Asides, and if you think that is an easy feat, you haven’t tried it. I could ramble on about my favorite bits of advice from WD, but I am reminded of my 500 word limit. So be it.
    I will skip then to No. 11 in the Top 20 Tips from WD: Avoid the Blog, baby.
    To this I reply: "NEVER! I have my adoring audience to think about."
    My key to coming up with new material is: never plagiarize. Never. Never. Never. Cheater. Cheater. Cheater.
    That said, lest I froth in hypocrisy, I will not write any more, but if I did, it would be to give you my advice: There is nothing in life for you to be paranoid about. You don’t even know my mother. You have been saved from her dangling, wagging finger of disapproval of your writing skills.
    So be it. See you in the blogs.

    (I bid $5.00 for the solid post. It would look nice covered with a doily and a potted ivy.)

  8. Mark James

    The Greatest Good

    “Mr. Arran, I’m sorry, but we’re a fully guaranteed, no refund service.”

    Larry unbuttoned his shirt. The hospital cafeteria was empty except for him and the rep. “I don’t want a refund. My wife, she’s gonna be fine. The doctors say it’s some kind of miracle.”

    The rep – Mike – gave Larry a doleful look, the look you give someone when you’re offering condolences. “Unfortunately, you chose not to purchase the ‘Survival Eventuality’ clause in your contract.”

    Larry, who’d been awake for almost seventy two hours, didn’t quite catch Mike’s point. “Look. I’m ending the contract. It’s over. You get it?”

    Mike leaned forward, tented his long white fingers on the table. His voice took on the pedantic tones of a professor addressing a hopelessly dull class. “I fully comprehend your situation, Mr. Arran. However, Ultimate Exit has built our reputation on never failing our clients.”

    “But I’m calling it off,” Larry said.

    Mike gathered a small pile of crumbs, swept them neatly onto the floor. “Although it may seem a better option to end your contract, our pre-evaluation Consultation indicates that your Optimal Window for Disconnect falls within the next five days.”

    “That’s insane. You can’t just do it ‘cause some computer says now’s the time.”

    Mike looked almost pained. “I’m afraid we can, Mr. Arran. Your contract included a ‘Hold Harmless in the Eventuality of Survival of Presumed Dead Spouse’ clause.”

    Larry looked at the man in disbelief. “You gave me a discount for adding that clause.”

    “We often do if our client indicates that their spouse has less than a five percent chance of survival.” Mike gave Larry a long suffering look. “We stand to pay out a good deal if a spouse survives, but at Ultimate Exit, we believe in doing the greatest good.”

    Larry looked around the dark cafeteria, expecting to see large men heading his way.

    Mike leaned forward, with all the intensity of a salesman selling his top product. “At this time, not only will your wife recover, but because of the flawless logic of the Hold Harmless Clause, upon Disconnection, Ultimate Exit will pay all medical expenses, your house will be paid off – – ”

    Larry laughed, a soft humorless sound. “You can’t just do this because it’s logical.”

    “Ultimate Exit is based on the Ultimate Founding Logic, ‘the greatest good for the greatest number’. If you meet your Optimal window, your wife will receive a stipend the rest of her life under the Early Widow Act, and your children will enjoy a free college education.”

    Words slipped from Larry’s numb lips in a low monotonous tumble. “I don’t wanna die. You can’t do this. It’s murder.’

    “No, Mr. Arran. It’s Disconnection from the Life Force. Once you’re Disconnected, the Force will flow without your disruption.” The rep held both up hands, like a magician saying voila. “In short Mr. Arran, your Disconnection will be the greatest good for your family.”

    “Oh God. What have I done?”

    “Regret is normal at this stage, Sir. If you’ll go with my assistants, they’ll bring you to the local Ultimate Exit Disconnection Station. There, our staff will present you with a broad array of options for your Disconnect Moment, all of them pain free.”

    Now Larry saw the men who’d been lurking in the shadows. As they closed in on him, he bit back a scream.