In last week’s post, we talked about the reasons authors need blogs, and how blogging can transform the way you build relationships with readers and promote your writing.
If you’re still on the fence about starting one or aren’t sure what you think about this whole blogging thing, it’s worth a read to see all you have to gain by becoming a blogger.
But once you decide on a general theme and get your page all set up, you ultimately hit one of the most dreaded challenges all bloggers face…
What kinds of posts do I write on this thing, anyway?
Face it—we’re writers, and not having something to write about is one of our number one fears.
But here’s the good news: the more you blog, the easier it gets to come up with new material.
That’s because the best way to write a blog post is to do your research (all blogs require some level of it), slam down a draft, go back and clean it up later, and then get it set up as a post on your site as soon as possible.
This isn’t sloppy or irresponsible. It’s the easiest, most effective way to get a solid blog post on your site without going into unnecessary trouble. If you’re anything like me, you’re a born overthinker, and the last thing you want to overthink is a blog post.
Blogs are friendly and usually pretty informal. They’re designed, first and foremost, to provide answers to very real questions your readers have.
This isn’t your Ph.D. dissertation or even a magazine article—the purpose of a blog is to offer valuable, easy information that your audience needs.
The greatest news of all is that because the best posts are written and revised quickly, coming up with a good topic is half the battle.
So, if you’re sitting at your computer ready to bang your head against the screen because you don’t know what to blog about, you’re doing it wrong.
Back up a smidge, and then try one of these methods for coming up with ideas for your blog.
Keep a Blog Idea File
The more you blog, the more you know a good post idea when you hear it. You’ll develop an instinct for recognizing awesome topics, and there’s nothing worse than saying, “Oh yeah, that’s a great one, I’ll remember it,” then losing it to the Idea Abyss forever.
So start an idea file on your Notes app. Now. That way, when a good blog idea strikes, you’ll be ready for it. Whether you use it immediately or down the road, that idea will be preserved for whenever it fits your blog’s current direction.
Pay Attention to Trends
The best blog ideas thrive on surprising connections between things you normally wouldn’t associate with each other. One of my favorite formulas for creating a blog post is to choose a trend in pop culture, then craft a headline that somehow links it to your blog’s general topic.
For example, remember at the end of 2020 when Taylor Swift released her surprise album Evermore? Would it surprise you to learn that there is a connection between Swift’s writing process and J.R.R. Tolkien?
As the chief literary strategist at a company called Inkling Creative Strategies, I’m very interested in all things Tolkien. And it didn’t take long for me to recognize that the way Swift layered literary references, personal experiences, and invented stories throughout the album echoes some things he wrote about where our subject matter comes from.
The result was “A Walk in the Woods with Taylor Swift and Tolkien,” which has become one of the top posts in the history of Creativity Matters.
So, if you can come up with some way to link Cobra Kai or Spiderman with your blog topic, go for it. That kind of connection is bound to attract readers.
Borrow from Other Blogs
I can hear your questions now…huh?? Isn’t that plagiarism? Isn’t my blog supposed to be…you know…original??
Yes. And no.
One of the best parts of the internet is that it’s filled with inspiration for writing about a variety of topics. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with borrowing a basic concept or idea for what you’re writing.
Plagiarism happens when you steal someone else’s writing and put your name on it, or when you blatantly reproduce someone else’s ideas without making them your own.
Good bloggers don’t do that.
Good bloggers know good material when they see it. They are able to grab things that are relevant to their topics and spin those ideas into something unique to them, the way any good craftsman works with raw material.
When you work with general ideas, they will morph into something that is different for you than they were for the posts where you originally found them. Although parts of what you write may be inspired by other sources, those sources provide a springboard for you to be able to create original material.
Of course, if you feel the need to use someone’s actual wording or specific ideas, the classy, ethical thing to do is quote them or give credit. Your college English prof is watching.
Use a Topic Wheel
A topic wheel is a marketing concept that you can use to brainstorm ideas for your blog. It helps you categorize your blog readers, then come up with topics that are unique to each audience group’s needs.
Here’s a picture of a topic wheel’s layout:
In the center circle, write the general topic of your blog. Then, in each of the surrounding circles, define a particular group of people who reads your blog or might read it.
For each of those groups, you’ll then come up with three questions those audiences might have about your topic. For example, let’s say you write a blog about writing fantasy stories. Your three groups might be fantasy readers, people who are just getting started with writing fantasy, and people with completed manuscripts.
The questions each group will ask will be very different. The fantasy readers might want to know what new authors they should read in the genre. The new fantasy writers might want help creating characters or charting the plots for their books. Authors with completed drafts might want help finding a publisher or agent.
All of these questions represent possible blog posts you could write that meet very real needs your audiences have. And that is how you build great relationships with readers and show them what you have to offer.
Want to learn more?
There is WAY more to cover about blogging than I can get to in one post. So, here are a couple of ways you can get even more tips:
Keep reading this blog. All this month, we’re exploring different elements of blogging that can help you take yours to the next level, with better ideas, planning, and audience connections.
The best way to do that is to sign up for my newsletter. Each week, I’ll send you my latest blog post, along with other great content that will help you become a better writer.
Sign up for my webinar! On Tuesday, January 25 at 7:00 PM EST, Inkling is sponsoring How to Create a Killer Blog, a webinar that will help you spread your message, get more readers, and build better audience relationships.
Best of all? It’s totally free, AND you’ll get access to more blogging resources as the webinar date approaches.