Ask Casual Kitchen: Advice for a New Blogger

As Casual Kitchen's readership has grown over the past several months, I've been getting a lot more questions emailed to me directly from readers. I'd like to address some of the most thought-provoking questions publicly, so I'm creating a new (and occasional) column, Ask Casual Kitchen, for that purpose.

If you have a question you'd like to ask,
contact me!
Q: I'm starting up a blog to accompany my business. What are the four or five top suggestions that you'd give to a beginning blogger?

A: Here are five things I tell new bloggers, based on my three years' experience blogging here at CK and elsewhere:

1) Pace yourself
Don't let yourself get carried away with enthusiasm in your early days as a blogger. Establish a posting rate that you can maintain for the long term--especially after your initial blogging excitement wears off. A good starting rate is 1-2 posts a week. Stick to that for a while and see how it goes.

2) Keep a backlog of extra posts "in the can"
Have four or five posts ready to go at all times (or even already queued up and future-posted) so you never have to write something under the gun or at the last minute. Those last-minute posts are almost always substandard, and they'll be a burden to your readers.

Also, if you write an article that happens to be time-sensitive, you can always put it in the front of your queue.

3) Make it daily
Make a daily habit (and I mean every day) of writing or working on blog content. Set an easy goal that will at the least get you to sit down and write. A good goal that works for me is to write for a minimum of 30 minutes. And more importantly, keep non-judgmental track of the days you write and the days you don't. After all, what gets measured gets controlled.

This single tip will probably be the most important determinant as to whether you sustain your blogging efforts long term.

4) Make sure your work provides value.
Most blogs are forgettable or irrelevant because they are narcissistic and self-absorbed, or they cover already well-trod intellectual ground.

What can you write that isn't already being written? What can you teach your readers that they haven't already seen in a million places already? What angle can you take on an issue or subject that is new and different and will help your readers think differently? If you ask these questions when you sit down to blog, you'll increase the chances that your blog will become something new, different, and useful to your readers. And they will read you.

5) Reach out
Interact with other bloggers. Don't be insular in your blogging. Link to other blogs. Leave insightful comments on other bloggers' articles (but please, please don't leave comments that say "great post!" and nothing else--don't be a waste of pixels). Write articles in reaction to other bloggers's posts. Gather other bloggers together to do roundtable discussions, either virtually or in person. These steps will help you gain a following and your readership will grow.

Good luck!

PS: Readers, if you're interested in other thoughts on the writing and blogging process, have a look at my Quick Writing Tips Blog.

Related Posts:
On Writing for Casual Kitchen
On Writing for Casual Kitchen, Part 2: Keeping Track
Blog Improvement 101 Links
A Sincere Thank You to Casual Kitchen Readers

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Tino said...

Great post! (just kidding)

But seriously, another tip I would give new bloggers is to give yourself some time to discover your "voice" or your writing style. The biggest thing that surprised me was when I looked back at my first handful of entries versus what I write today, my style and point of view were very different. It just takes time to settle into your own effective writing style.

I like your idea of having a few entries in the queue, ready to go. This is a great way to be able to go back and proofread your entry before it goes live. Nothing turns me off more quickly than a poorly written article, even if the topic is interesting.

Exploring Food My Way

Unknown said...

I'm one of those bloggers that's been emailing Dan questions.
Specifically, about #5, Reaching Out, and Dan was a big help. Thanks, Dan!

I have to say that tip #2 (Have a backlog of posts) has helped me the most.

Having some extra posts ready to go helps when life gets in the way (vacation, kids sick, too busy); that way your readers don't miss out, or think you've disappeared.

And, as Dan mentions, it lowers your deadline pressure and gives you time to think about what you're writing. I always regret when I post a "first draft" version of something I wrote; all my writing improves after I've put it down for a day, then re-read it.


Daniel said...

Good one, Tino, thanks for the chuckle, and thanks for the insights on finding a voice. It took me about a year to find my voice.

Mike, thanks for the feedback. Once I started keeping a backlog of at least four or five posts in queue, my writing quality became a LOT more consistent.


Anonymous said...

Something I do that I think helps my blog to have a consistent voice and sustain a steady group of readers is that I have seven key words that define my blog. I use these words daily to test each post. If it doesn't match all or most of those words then I don't post it.

It's the same technique that branders use to create a unified image of a product.

Daniel said...

That's an excellent idea Dana, thank you for sharing.