Friday, November 13, 2009

The Subtle Art of Blogging

Dear sweet lady from the UK or Australia,

Why on earth did you submit your blog to us? You have to know that we are not fond of mommy-blogs, as a genre, and we're very, very bitchy and demanding. We are not your target audience, and you are definitely not going to be happy with anything I have to say to you today.

You write:

I started this blog in January 2008 with the following aims:

1. To improve my photography
2. To learn a new skill (the subtle art of blogging)
3. To have a pictorial record to look back on at the end of the year.
4. To prove to myself that once I’ve started something I can jolly well finish it!!


You've accomplished your goals, at least to your own satisfaction, so you really don't need us. And, I have a feeling that honest criticism is going to cut you like a knife. So, here's a backpat for keeping a chronicle of your kids' growing up years, and taking plenty of pictures, and it appears, being a very good mommy.

If you can't handle sharp feedback, STOP READING NOW. This warning is for your own good.

Okay, here comes the rending.

Goal 1 - Pictures: Your photos are poorly focused and have zero emphasis on composition. You need to do your homework. There is more to photography than point and shoot. Do some research, read up on how to properly frame a subject, and really WORK at it. These times will pass quite quickly and at this point, all you have to show for your efforts are some blurry, smeary, not very interesting shots.

Here's a good place to start.

Goal 2 - The Subtle Art of Blogging: You've put words on a page, on a regular basis, that much is true, but you haven't learned to blog. Blogging, at its essence, is telling stories. It isn't keeping a journal. It's writing, FOR AN AUDIENCE. Even if that audience is only family members (only), they do not deserve to want a bullet in their head after reading something like this.

Barbara, congrats. You've turned the miracle of birth into a scientific manual slash middle school girl's diary. Holy fuck. No one wants to read this. It's painfully dull.

A story is not "I went here." "I did this." "I saw this."

Go here. This is blogging. It takes more time than just regurgitating, "and then we bounced on trampolines" onto a page, but it's also clearly BETTER. It's something that people actually WANT to read, even though it involves sucking a bird's guts into a vacuum cleaner (and the word protein is misspelled). That's the SUBTLE ART part. And, that's what your blog is lacking at present. A good blogger can make getting blood drawn interesting. A bad blogger can make childbirth dull.

It's good to write, but it's better to be a writer, and actually THINK about the words you are writing.

Your blog at present:
This isn’t a great picture (I still haven’t got around to reading the manual on photography in low light) but the girl saw it and immediately said “I look great in a smile and a pink plait, don’t I”.

(note grammatical errors and boring introductory sentence)

What your blog COULD BE, if you worked at it:
I didn’t see it at first. I was talking to husband about his day and was walking from the living room to the kitchen.

There it was. A pile of feathers on the carpet–all that was left of the cat’s lunch.

Crap.

“Your cat did that,” he said. I just sighed and went to find the vacuum cleaner.


Do you see the difference, how the first few sentences suck you in, and make you WANT to read the story? How it's clear that this IS a story? Even this example could use more editing, but the beginning is GREAT. It takes work, that. But you COULD do it, if you tried.

Here's an example of how the pink plait could be reframed:

When she saw the photograph, the girl said “I look great in a smile and a pink plait, don’t I?”

I agree, she does.

Do you see the difference? You could then go on and talk about how the photo could be improved, how use of the manual might allow you to properly focus the lens, how you wish you were improving faster. But the focus is on the PHOTOGRAPH and the girl, not you.

Obviously, your voice is going to be different than Franklin's or mine. But, primarily, the subtle art of blogging consists of GETTING OUT OF THE WAY of your story and telling it in a way that is visual, stimulating, and engaging.

Also, you selfish cow. Why, oh why, would you tell us about making a Christmas cake (nut-free, no less), and not provide a recipe? That's just evil and wrong. You did the same damn thing with your mincemeat post, which means you are not only selfish, but you have selfish tendencies. You should share. That's all I'm saying.

So, move. Get out of the way. Tell the story. Focus on the subjects of the story. Make it come to life. Use interesting words. Think about whose eyes are seeing the story happen, and how THEY would tell the story. Use their perspective, not just yours.

That's blogging.

And you, my dear, are not yet a blogger.

But you could be.

I give you

19 comments:

  1. Nice review. I don't think you really slammed her hard at all. Instead, you gave her real examples to show the difference between mediocre and magnificent.

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  2. First, can I just say how excited I get when the girl-with-the-scar avatar pops up in my reader? All the reviewers rock my socks, but there's something about a Love Bites review first thing in the morning...

    Mom blogs like this are great - if you're the mom of the person writing it. She seems perfectly lovely, there's just not a lot to make me come back. (And before we label her a selfish cow, note that she DID show us what ingredients go into the cake. Maybe we're just being lazy.)

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  3. I look forward to getting a comment from Bsouth on my blog. Her comments are funny and insightful. She has a wicked sense of humour.

    This review will sting but I fucking well love you Bsouth because you are my friend.

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  4. Three things:
    1) Yay LB!
    2) Yay hereinfranklin!
    3) Yay Chihuahuas!

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  5. Mongoliangirl's conscience11/13/2009 4:13 PM

    Why don't you blog instead of leaving these stupid fuckin' "Yay" comments?

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  6. Ah...that explains the traffic. Thanks for the love, LB. I can't believe no one ever pointed out that protein was spelled wrong. (It's not anymore.)

    And MG, at least you can spell chiwawa!

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  7. Awesome review. I think it's honest and constructive. Also, Here in Franklin is amazing so I'm happy to see her given as an example of how to blog.

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  8. LB, this may be one of the nicest things anyone´s every done for this blogger.

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  9. As a rule, you have two paragraphs to hook the reader. And with the advent of the Internet and this pervasive ADD culture, it's probably even less than that.

    Yet on the front page of this blog, I read things like "Things are happening slowly lately" or "We had a momentous occasion today."

    Don't tell people something great happened, describe it immediately! Put the reader back on his heels and make 'em want to read to the end.

    As a newspaper reporter who constantly looks at what people click on and for how long, I can tell you a solid and intriguing lead is easily the most crucial part of any story.

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  10. It's good to get reminders of how important it is to try to hook the reader from the beginning. Sometimes I get sloppy at this (a lot of times). Thanks.

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  11. Drat, I thought you'd forgotten about me, it's been so long.

    Firstly, sorry. Go here - http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/cuisine/european/english/christmas-easy-home-made-christmas-mincemeat.html just don't add the nuts and here - http://www.deliaonline.com/recipes/cuisine/european/english/the-classic-christmas-cake.html just don't add the nuts (anyone see a theme developing?). I don't think they're going to go in as links are they? That's probably going to annoy you more than if I hadn't bothered. Can I get a retrospective flaming finger? I do hope not.

    Secondly, blimey, I thought I'd do much worse than that. You're right, I should never have submitted but I read a few of your reviews and, during a pissed moment, stupidly thought that I might be better than I thought I was.

    It wasn't a stinging review at all, your points are all fair and constructive. And I popped my Larousse Gastronomique into my big girls pants before I read the review. Barely felt a thing!

    It was lovely to meet you LB (if I may be so presumptous?). I'm off to go and do something that I'm actually good at now, once I've worked out what that is, and then I'm really going to read that bloody camera manual.

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  12. I really love this review, LB. You handed her her ass without being too harsh. Well done ma'am. Well done.

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  13. The problem with these reviews is that the authors of this blog think that their definition of blogging is know all and end all. Well, it isn't. A blog is whatever the author wants it to be. anybody that takes the time to express themselves on their blog should be commended, however the blog may turn out.

    Not everybody is Mark Twain and not everybody is Ansel Adams. The one thing I will agree with is that anybody who submits their blog here to be reviewed should have their head examined. Blogging was essentially create as a way for the average guy or gal to express themselves. Saying that blogging has to be done for an audience is totally incorrect. To the author of this blog: Your blog was fine. don't listen to these negative people. Truth be told, their blog isn't all that great, either.

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  14. Chris - I submitted my blog here to get honest critical feedback about my blog and that's what I got. Some people are interested in improving their writing and aren't afraid of criticism. It doesn't mean they need to have their heads examined (I need to have my head examined for other reasons).

    Why are people under the impression that the blogging world should be a place where anyone can just barf up whatever they want without even remotely thinking about it? Fuck that.

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  15. Chris...I have to echo what Blues said. I write for a living, but not in a way that lets me express myself the way my blog does. You are right in that a blog should be whatever anyone wants it to be. But if that blog is submitted here, it will be judged by the standards of the reviewer. This blog is perfectly nice and I'm sure that the grandparents think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread. But the previous blog, The Daily Smoke, is writing...it's evocative and elegant and makes you want to KNOW the writer. I'm sure that if I knew BSouth I'd find her a charming person. But I don't want to sit on my back deck with her for a couple of hours picking her brain about literature and travel and wine. Not all of my favorite blogs are that well-written, but they are interesting...at least to me. It's completely subjective.

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  16. Chris,

    You personally should stop "blogging" immediately because your blog sucks ass.

    Just a tip.

    Love,

    LB

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  17. Chris, of course a blog is whatever you want it to be.

    But I'm sick of all these people saying "I write for me." Well of course you write for you. It's narcissistic and childish to believe your words soooo important that you are willing to display them for all of the world to see. What gall we have, as bloggers, to think we have something special to offer. Along with millions of other people who also believe they have something special to offer.

    But the ENTIRE POINT OF BLOGGING is interaction and feedback. Otherwise you would keep a fucking journal or have a private blog for some hand-selected readers.

    Have no illusions - a blog is self-promotion for an audience. Perhaps your goal is to facilitate a discussion - but even so, you want your readers to discuss all of the shit you just threw at them, and in return you will discuss the shit they throw at you when you're on their blog. You're promoting your ability to tell a story or give advice or display your knowledge or share your opinion because you believe it's more valuable than that of someone else.

    Any asshole with a computer and literacy can start a blog that they think deserves an audience.

    And that's a wonderful thing. It's therapeutic, it's fun to trade thoughts, good writing is always worth reading. But don't for one second try to convince me that "expressing yourself" in public is done without the intent of having an audience.

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  18. Literacy not required.

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Grow a pair.