How to Write a Blog Post That Strangers Will Actually Read | Mara Reinstein | Skillshare

How to Write a Blog Post That Strangers Will Actually Read

Mara Reinstein, Writer, Editor, Teacher

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10 Lessons (1h 12m)
    • 1. Introduction

      2:28
    • 2. Project

      2:26
    • 3. Focus

      8:36
    • 4. Headlines

      10:49
    • 5. What's Your Point

      7:39
    • 6. Structure

      9:38
    • 7. Finding Your Voice

      11:09
    • 8. Credibility

      8:56
    • 9. Little Secrets

      6:49
    • 10. Wrap Up

      3:53
42 students are watching this class

About This Class

“How to Write a Blog Post . . . That Strangers Will Actually Read” is an accessible, conversational class that covers all the basics of blog writing 101. You’ll learn all the essentials in how to craft a personal or business post that’s both informative and engaging, from finding a focus to writing a catchy headline to structuring a story, to finding your writing voice to establishing credibility in the big bad blogosphere. 

The class is geared for anyone with basic writing skills and — this is important! — a genuine curiosity in learning how to write a blog for an audience. (Bottom line: There’s a difference between writing in a personal journal and writing for readers.) No hard experience is required but if you’re thinking about starting a personal blog or contributing to an open forum such as Medium or just want to fine-tune what you’re already working with, this class is definitely for you. 

Anyone can benefit from having a solid grasp on blog writing, and I’m not just saying that. You’ll become a better writer because you’re recording your thoughts and convincing others to agree with them. (Think of how the importance of those skills when you’re giving a presentation, sharpening your resume and writing an email to your boss!) You’ll become a better thinker because you’ll have to stop and delve deeply into your life and your outlook. And once you start blogging about your life and chronicling your thoughts, you’ll begin to think about who are you as a person. Not bad, right? 

Here are 10 examples of strong blog posts to use as a guide: 

Transcripts

1. Introduction: We all have a writing voice. You're all essentially you can write and you have a speaking voice. It means you have a writing voice. The key is to really learning how to hone this writing voice over time. I firmly believe that anyone could become a blog writer. My name is Mara Reinstein and welcome to your skill share class. Today's class is called, how to write a blog post that even strangers will read. I am an entertainment journalist. I am the movie critic for US weekly magazine, and I've written for places everywhere from parade to the cot, to the Hollywood Reporter, to TV Guide, to the Washington Post. But most importantly, I have my own blog, it's called Mara movies.com. At that you can tell what my blog post is about. Music, of course, just kidding. It's all about movies. In this class I am going to be teaching you about how to focus your blog, how to develop your voices, how to find a point. How to structure a blog post, how to write and attention grabbing headline. By the end of this class, you are going to be able to write your own 500 word blog post that yes, people who are not related to you and are not friends with you are actually going to really want to read. I promised we can do this. Why is blog writing important. Actually, learning how to blog write, is important because A, It teaches you how to become a better writer and communicator because you're articulating your own thoughts and putting it out there. You're wanting people to agree with what you're saying. This can be helpful and anything from writing an email to doing a presentation, to even doing a resume. It also just makes you become a better thinker in general because you're going to be delving deep into your own outlooks and life and really putting it out there. A lot of people have struggled with that, but that's what the beauty of blog posting is all about. I am so excited about teaching you all about the ins and outs of log writing. Let's do it. 2. Project: Before we dive into the actual nitty-gritty lessons, let's talk about the project that we're going to be working on. When I say that every blog is unique, I actually do me it in the sense that I'm going to give you a project, what a specific blog post should be about, and you're all going to think of a completely different blog post idea. Here's the topic. Okay? I want you to think of any city that you're passionate about. It can be one that you live in right now, it can be one that you visited, it could be where you grew up in your childhood, doesn't matter. For me, I am going to pick New York City. This is New York City's where I've lived since 1998, it's my home, so New York City is going to be my blog post. Now, I'm I going to write just about, this is my experience living in New York City? No. It's going to be much more specific than that. As we go through the various lessons, what's going to happen is that you're going to be thinking about the angle of the blog post itself, the headline, how to structure it, how to put your voice in there, all those little details. That's coming up. But right now, all I want you to do is think of any one city that you're passionate about. Okay? Ready? Go. Once you've got your city chosen, we're going to start diving into the nitty-gritty of blogging and all the wonderful lessons that come along with it. By the end of this class, you are going to feel comfortable and confident and have the savvy to know how to write a 500-word blog post that is so unique that people are going to read it as if they're reading something for the very first time. I really encourage you guys to upload your blog post to Skillshare so everyone can read and be educated and be entertained by what you have to say, and why not? After all, that's the whole point of blogging. 3. Focus: Hi, so this lesson is going to cover how to focus your blog. I'm not talking about the individual posts, I'm talking just in terms of your blog. This lesson is really for people who are thinking about starting a blog or who have a blog, but something is just not clicking, and I think I know why it's not clicking. Here we go. When I ask you to think of what makes a really successful are popular blog, what do you think the answer is? I think a lot of people would say, it has a clean homepage, or the post themselves are really funny and engaging, or they're really short, or I really am interested in the subject. But this all falls under the same reason. The reason why a blog really succeeds is because it's well-focused. Now, mind you focus is not the same thing as I like the topic. A topic is the actual individual blog posts. We're talking big picture. What is the focus of your overall blog? Now, focus is really three components. You're talking about a topic, you're talking about an angle, and you're talking about your audience. Those three components are what goes into the focus of a really strong, successful blog. For example, my city is New York, so for my blog posts, Amar Movies, I would think of say, my favorite five movies that are said in New York City. That is going to be my blog topic. For you, think about how that one city can fit into your blog in terms of topics. You've got to be thinking, what is it that I'm really passionate about and an expert at, and that theoretically I could see myself sitting down and writing about this one topic every single day for years, and years, and years? For me, the topic is movies. I love movies, I see movies, I know movies, I want to write about movies. But hey, maybe you haven't seen a movie in a year, that's fine. Take your topic. Travel, cooking, food, parenting, fashion, beauty, endless. Just think about what it is that again, you are passionate about, or you're an expert at, or even if you're not an expert at for that matter, what you want to learn more about. That's number one is picking your topic. Now that said there are about 2 million food blogs out there. That's why you have to think of your angle. That's why angle is so important. What is going to be the angle of your blog? For me, again, there's also about 2 million movie blogs out there. What's going to be different? What is the angle that I'm bringing to movies? For me, I'm really just focusing on my specific views about movies. I am bringing my opinion to a new release, I am not going to show you new trailers, I'm not going to bring you movie news, I'm not breaking any news. You can find that at a thousand other different outlets. I am giving you my specific take on a certain movie or a certain issue regarding movies. An example of this is, I don't know if you guys have ever seen the movie Julie and Julia, about Julie Powell. She was doing a food blog in the early odds. But she didn't just do, here's me cooking every day. No. She wanted to do a recipe by Julia Child every single day. That was her angle is attempting to replicate Julia Child's recipes. When you think about your angle, think about actually like an action verb as to what you're actually doing. Are you educating? Are you replicating? Are you entertaining? So many different possibilities. That's why you want to think of the angle. If you're doing a travel blog, is it solo traveling? Is it a people for a people on a budget? Is it a specific country? Is it for people who are experienced or just traveling for the first time? Think about what it is that you can bring to the table in terms of an angle for your blog. Lastly is your audience. Now, I know it's easy to think, I want everyone, that's my audience. Why not? The more eyeballs to better. But here's the dirty little secret about blog writing is that the more narrow your audience, and the more narrow your focus, actually, the wider appeal it is. Because think about it. It's one thing just to be writing about everything and all things that have to do with movies or anything and all things that have to do with TV shows, but what if you're just writing about Hallmark movies around Christmas? That's pretty niche. But guess what, how many other people are writing about Hallmark movies? Not that many, and the audience is so rabid. That's why audience is so important. In that case, you're talking about females of a certain age, maybe who live in a certain part of the country, maybe they're married, maybe they've got kids. You really want to think about who your audience is for your blog. Again, you're talking about topic, angle, audience, my audience for mymovies.com, I'm going to say with the exception of my parents and all their friends, my audience is really females, 30's to 40's, because I make some obscure reference to some movie from the 80's, I don't want to explain myself. I don't want to assume you already know what I'm talking about. My reviews are for people who really love movies and want to go and pay and see movies, not people who see movies once a year. So that is my focus. What is your focus going to be for your blog? Again, traveling, cooking, food, that's a start. But now really think about narrowing it down to something that only you can bring and that's your focus. We are starting broad here. You've got your one city and we're going to go narrow. Think of your one city and in terms of the focus of your blog, how you are going to go from A to B. When I have you think about your city, the point is that it doesn't matter what your blog focus is. You could take that topic of the city and fit it and fashion it into any kind of blog post. Right now what I want you to do is think of five different kinds a blog post that you can do, relate it to your city and your angle. Write a list of five, and then after your five, pick your favorite. It's always good to have options. That's why I'm giving you five. So do five different kinds of blog post ideas related to your city and then pick your favorite. Now that you've got your blog focus in mind and you've got your idea for a blog post, we're going to go step-by-step into the actual craft of writing the blog post. But hey, you've got your topic. That's a really good first step. 4. Headlines: Okay everyone, now we're going to be talking about headlines. Fact is, I don't care if you just wrote a blog post that's going to win some Pulitzer Prize for web post, if you don't have a great headline, nobody's going to read it. It's sad, but it's true. You've got to nail that headline. That's what draws people in and what gets people clicking to what you have to say. You can't assume that people are plugged into your blog post, that they're going keep refreshing. You've got to imagine that someone is googling something that on a topic that you're writing about, you want that headline to come up and you want it to be strong, and you want it to be enticing. There's a phrase in New Journalism called clickbait headlines that's gotten a bad rap. It means that they bait you with the headlines because they want you to click on it, even though they're not exactly promising on the delivery that's in the headline. But it doesn't matter because once you click, you're going to read it anyway. But guess what? They're called clickbait headlines because they're baiting you to click, and it's working. It's actually quite effective. Now, the key to writing a good blog post headline, it's first of all, this is not the time to be cute. We all love a good pun, we all love a good joke, but you really want to explain what the blog post is about in the headline. You don't want be too vague either. I'm going to give you an example. This is today's New York Post. This is the front page of Betrayed. It's in nice big letters; BETRAYED. We all want to know who got the betrayed. Now, this is going to work for a newspaper. This is not going to work for a blog post. If you read a blog post that says"betrayed," that could mean anything. It's way too vague. You're going to go and read something else. You want it to have a subject, a verb. You want to be clear on what is going to be happening in that blog post. Here's another example of what not to do. This is the back page of today's New York Post, "Living on the edge". That's fine. Who exactly is living on the edge? What does living on the edge mean in this context? Again, that's not going to work for your blog post. Now, a blog post headline should be about first of all, five to 10 words. Five to 10 words is just long enough to explain what it is that the blog post is about. Also, there are a few other general tips once you have that set amount of words to the headline. First of all, you want to pose a question maybe, like, will the New York Yankees win the World Series this year? That's a good question. That has key words in it, like the New York Yankees and the World Series, and this year. If you actually list the year, it's probably even better because it narrows it down. Again, you want it narrow enough that people are going to click, so pose a question. Here's another good tip. Play on emotion. Can't go wrong with playing on emotion. Something like; how I got rushed to the hospital from eating chick-fil-A. That is an example of playing on emotion. Rushed to the hospital, what? chick-fil-A, what? Think about what a better headline that is, than just a headline like; in the ER. In the ER is going to do nothing. You want your basic key words there, like rushed to the hospital and chick-fil-A. By the way, I love chick-fil-A. This has nothing to do with chick-fil-A. No judgments on chick-fil-A. Here's another example, is why don't you promise a benefit to reading your article? Like 10 ways to write a great headline. That's got a number in it. People love numbers. By the way, if you're going to do numbers, make sure it's something reasonable, like five. When you get into 30, 60, 90, that's probably too much. Maybe five ways to lay on the beach this summer and not get bored. That just was off the top by head. That's not a great one, but that's an example of a number. How about five reasons why you should get a green eyeglass case instead of a black one. Simple like that. You just want a number in there. It helps. People like reading numbers. People like learning benefits. How is this blog post going to benefit me? That's another example. How about a sense of urgency? Read this blog post before you go to the beach this summer. Oh my gosh, I'm going to want to read that. Read this before you do that. The scary thing I learned about caffeine before I went into Starbucks. I think I want to read that. That's urgency. You want people to click on that right away. Again, you've got some keywords in there. News events. What's going on in the news that people are thinking about right now, and are going to want to click on it? It can be anything from sports, entertainment, politics. You name it, whatever it is, movies, television, whatever it is. Something that's in the news that people are talking about, you want to make sure those newsy things are in the headline. Also, what about something a little bit controversial? Something that you have your own unique opinion on, that no one else does. Why I hate puppies? Oh my God, what? Why do you hate puppies? Puppies are so cute. I want to read this right now. That's something that's controversial. Why the new laptop is a piece of crap. What? I love my new laptop. How could you say that about a laptop? It's so fun and in sleek and gray, and I use it every single day. That's something that I'm going to want to read. Again, you're talking five to 10 words for your headline. Make it specific and make it emotional, promise the benefit, ask a question, make it urgent, something that's going to want people to click and read on your story. I want to read you guys some examples of headlines that are very effective that I found in peoples' blog posts. Again, these are examples of great headlines in very successful blogs. First one is apartment therapy, and the headline is; the three living room trends experts love are also surprisingly low-key. That's a pretty good length. You've got the number in there over the three living room trends and you've got a little bit of element of surprise in there by literally saying that, not only do experts love it, but they're surprisingly low-key. That also plays into a sense of emotion and urgency. That's something that I would want to click on right away instead of something like; three expert living room trends. That's not going to want to make you click on that. Again, that's the right length for a headline. It's got the number in there, it's specific and it's got great words in there, like surprisingly low key. Here's another example of a headline that I love. This is from lifeinleggings.com. The headline is; Hamilton- is it worth the hype? Of course, there's something a little bit newsy in here, in the sense that it's Hamilton. Hopefully you've all seen Hamilton, maybe you haven't. It's been around for a few years, but people are still talking about it. It is hyped up. She does ask a question, is it worth the hype, with that question mark in there. It's something again that she's playing on emotion and urgency and she's got that key word. This is only one woman's opinion. Maybe you agree with her, maybe you don't disagree with her, but the point is, if you are a regular reader of this woman's blog, or if just you're curious about Hamilton, you're going to be clicking on Hamilton- is it worth the hype. That's a lot of better effective headline than why I loved Hamilton. You already know that you loved Hamilton, so why are you clicking on it? You want to pose that question to get you to read on. That being said, now it's time for your exercise. Think of your city, you've got your blog post idea, now I want you to think of five possible headlines for that one blog post. Again, it could be a question. Don't forget, you can put a number in there. It can play on emotion, maybe turn it into a news event, whatever it is. Again, make it five to 10 words. Think of five different headline ideas for that one blog post, and then afterward, give it a few minutes and think of your favorite. Again, you want five different headline ideas for your blog post that has to do with your city, and then narrow it down to one. If you're having some trouble thinking of your headlines, you know what's a really easy solution? Go on the Web and go on your favorite blogs, and read those headlines. Pretty soon you're going to be able to detect the difference between an effective headline that you're going to want to click on, and one that just does not do the trick. The more you read, the better, more practice and more comfortable you're going to become. Once you've got your headline, that one headline that you love, that's going to make a great blog post, now let's move on to the actual blog post itself and how you structure it. 5. What's Your Point: Guys, I know this sounds super basic but quick, easy tip, make sure that all your blog posts have a point. In the sense that, what are you trying to say? What is the reader's takeaway from reading your blog post? It seems like this is a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many posts, either A, don't have a point or B, actually worse, have too many points where you don't even know what the point of the story is. Let me break it down for you. Very easy. Every blog post, number one rule, know your point. When you sit down, know what the point of your blog post is going to be. Again for me, my blog posts about movies in New York is going to be that there are so many great movies to choose from in New York that showcases New York in such a positive, and fun, and glamorous, and gritty way. These are five of my favorites as a both movie watcher and as a New Yorker. That is my point. I know this before I even pop up in that lab tab that's going to be my point. A, know your point. B, number two, make your point. Make it. We can't read your mind that's why you're going to express it into the blog posts. Make your point. Number three, and this is really key you guys, stick to your point. Stick to it. Make sure it's there and don't be wishy-washy. Now listen, here's the thing. Not everyone is going to agree with everything that you ever say. That is what one of the benefits of is for blog rating. You're putting your opinion out there. I know it's not easy and I know people are going to disagree with you, but that's the beauty of communication and a discourse. It's that we can agree, we can disagree. It's okay if not everyone agrees with you or likes what you have to say, don't back down. Stick to it, stick to your guns or whatever it is. I don't care if it's something as benign as why every woman should wear white during the summer at least once, or something controversial as to say politics, everyone's got an opinion when it comes to that. It can be one of those two things, but just make sure you stick to it. I know it's not easy getting feedback in negatively from strangers. Social media, people are so quick to criticize, but the problem is that haters going to hate. [inaudible] is that sometimes the loudest voices are the negative ones. You have to remember that the people who agree with you probably don't speak up as much. Whatever it is, stick to that point. Put it out there. Don't be ashamed of it and don't back down. Again, if you're going to make a point here is my point, know your point, make your point. Stick to that point. Do not be wishy-washy. Again, it's something that seems easier than it really is, it might take some practice and that's why I'm encouraging you all to write it down. That's why I'm also encouraging you not to write five different points like we did with the other exercises, especially when you're starting off. Again make it easier for yourself. One point, that's it. Once you have your point and you know your point, your hardest work is done. We are in the home stretch now into writing that great blog post. If you're having trouble with what your point is, just imagine that you're relaying what the post is to a friend, or you're relaying a story. What is it that you would want this friend to get out of it? Don't think of it in terms of writing. Just think in terms of what your verbally saying. What is the number one takeaway of all of this? That's what you should be writing. Not of those exact words, but that's a good idea to how to distill all your thoughts into one sentence. But one other thing, where you put in the point in your blog post? If it's a straightforward blog post, like five best movies set in New York. It's going to be in that nut graph, which is really tough to talk about in structure. You're going to want to make it as high up as possible. You don't want your readers to play a guessing game for no reason. Straight forward, nice and high, no problem. Make it so that we know what it is, what your point is, and keep on sticking to it. However, if it's an unexpected point, like you think the writer is going to go one direction and then the writer goes in another direction, you can put the point later on in your blog post. Just think about that. You think it's going one way, okay okay, I get it and then you sneak it in there, that's good quality writing if it's an unexpected point. For example, if I'm writing an example about the my favorite summer movies, and then midway through I say something like, you know what, none of these movies are good. Why am I even writing those posts? Let's just get on with fall. That's something that we've put midway through. Because again, you're starting off with something that everyone expects. Here's the typical list. Here's what she thinks of summer movies. Great, great, great. But then you think, oh, my gosh, no, this not even worthy. Why am I even bringing this up? No good movies came out the summer, you're going to put that midway through your posts or about the last third of your posts. Now, I know this is a little tricky, not everyone is comfortable doing that. But it's just something to keep in mind about where you want to put that point in your post. Again, for the straightforward post, straightforward point, put it nice and high so it's obvious. If it's unexpected, if it's a little bit of a twist, if you're making some profound realization, if you're thinking of a post that people are thinking, oh, I never thought of it that way. You don't have to show your hand right away. You can still make that lead really strong. You can still put in a crack in there, but it's okay to make that point a little bit later on in your blog post. Hope you got my point. Now, here's your exercise. Nice and easy. You've got your blog post idea about your city. You've got your headline, you've got your lead, you've got your structure, now, in one sentence, write down what your point is. Just write it down nice and easy. Eventually you're going to want to put it in your blog posts but it's always helpful like I said, to know what your point is before you sit down and start writing. 6. Structure: Hi everyone. Now we are going to cover structure in this lesson. Structure, what do I mean by that? Basically it's about how to organize your blog posts. How do I know what to put where? I have all these ideas jumbled in my brain. What is the proper order? It's not a really glamorous topic per say, but it's enormously helpful when you have a guide. How do you structure your blog post? Number 1, and I got to say probably the most important thing of all is called the "lede." Journalism we used like to spell it L-E-D-E, I know. It's a long story, I go figure, but what is your lead? It's got to have have a great lead. Why is the lead so important? Because if you hug those readers with the lead, they're going to keep reading. I have to tell you there is really an art form to writing lead sentences into lead paragraphs, because it's not a book report, it's not starting with the date by saying, "On August 1, first I woke up and then I went to the store, then I got on the subway, and then I worked and then I came up." That's boring, we need more nuance to that. First you need your lead sentence, have to be attention grabbing, we'll get to how to write a lead in just a minute. You've got your lead, your opener, you're starting off with a bang. Then you have what's called a nut graph. Again, another fancy word, N-U-T GRAF, G-R-A-F. All that really means is that this is where the nuts and bolts of your blog post, all of the information really should go in this one nut graph. The who, the what, the where, the when, the why, what is the point, why am I writing this, why am I reading this. All that information should go into your nut graph. From there you go and unpack all of those details that you want to say. That's called the body. The body of your blog posts should be good few 100 words, several paragraphs. Again, you've got the introduction, you've established what the point is of this blog post and now you're going to unpack all those reasons and give details and give backup, that's your body, and then you end with what's called a kicker. A kicker is exactly what it sounds like, you want to end it with a snap, with a kick, something that you remember. That doesn't necessarily literally have to add with an explanation point, but it really should be something that stands out and a great blog post, the kicker sort of ties back in with that lead. If the lead is something about how I love to eat cookies and these are my favorite cookies, the kicker would be something like, "Well, that's the way the cookie crumbles." You get the picture right. Again, lead, nut graf, body, kicker. Now let's go back to the lead for a second, because again it's really important and I cannot emphasize this enough. How do you write a great lede? Few suggestions. First you can be short indirect, just give a one sentence [inaudible] , like I almost died yesterday. That's a pretty good example of a lead. You are going to want to keep reading as to what you almost died, what? Simple and direct. Maybe you want to share a personal story about yourself. That's what's called an anecdotal lead, where you share an anecdote. But again, that first sentence should really be strong. I am going to start writing about the importance of magazines. Well, maybe my anecdotal lead will be about the time when I was 12 years old and got magazines in the mail every single month that I couldn't wait to open up the mailbox and see which magazines were packed in that mailbox. That's an example of you're sharing an anecdote. Maybe you want to even start with a line of dialogue. When I write movie reviews, occasionally I will start with a line of dialogue if only it makes sense and then the context. There are really are no hard and fast rules as to how to write a lead, only that, it's there to catch the reader's intentions and to keep it going. One of the best leads I ever read in my life was about an actor. Again, the lead was, it was raining the day this actor almost died. That's something that stands out, just a little detail, one sentence and you want to keep reading. There are so many good examples of leads. Again, what you really want to do here is go on the web and see examples of strong leads. A lot of them are information based, a lot of them are entertaining, a lot of them ask a question, maybe some of them even do a multiple choice question, but you really want to take the time and think about how is this story going to start? Now, I'll give you another little hint in terms of structuring, your blog post. Outline it ahead of time, it's basically your own cheat sheet. You have all these ideas. For me it's okay, I want to write about my five favorite movies that are set in New York. Well, I guess my lead is going to be about how I grew up in the Midwest and New York always seemed like a scary place, whenever I watched a movie, that's how it was expressed to me. I'm going to write down lead growing up, and then I'm going to write in my nut graf about how now I live in New York and I see New York kept in a whole different way, and how it's expressed on screen a different way, and how New York maybe in the 80s is different from how it's presented in the 90s and into the Millennium, and then I'm going to tee that up and say, "Here is simple. Here are my five favorite New York set movies, one, two, three, four, five, five is a perfect number." Far you're out of there. I got to tell you something else. I actually write the outline first in a notebook old school, how we did it in English class back in the day. This is my a star is born notebook when you're a movie critics, sometimes you get free stuff from the movie studios. It's true, but I got a star is born notebook, thank you very much, Warner Brothers. They have a little Lady Gaga quote on the first page. Lady Gaga sometimes as my inspiration, it's true. Then what you'll see it here in my scribble handwriting, are a bunch of notes. I actually do write notes to myself, I write outlines to myself. Exact here, it's just a good example. Even if you can't read the words, no one could read my own handwriting. I can't even read my own handwriting. Just dash. I lined it up, and when I write a blog post or any article for that matter, I go by what's written up first. When you write something first, whether it's in a notebook or on a screen, it's avoids that writer's block, where you're not staring at an empty screen and a blank screen, you're not staring at a blank screen with that flashing cursor, and getting that nervous, "Oh, my God, what am I going to write about feeling." If you have that outline in front of you, it's a guide, again, it's your own little cheat sheet to help you along the way and guide you as to how you're going to structure that blog post. Here's what I want you to do right now. Think of that one idea about that one city. For me, it's my favorite movie set in New York, and I want you to think of five different lead sentences. You're just writing out sentences. You can write it, you could type it, you want five different sentences that really pop. Then you're going to take your favorite sentence and then you're going to outline your posts from there. You've got your lead sentence, you've got your nut graf. Just write down a few notes as to what you want to put in that nut graf. Again, you're who, what, where, when, why, how, and then maybe use sentences each for listing out the body of your blog post, and then think about how you want to end it, your kicker. Again, you're thinking of five leads and then you're thinking about how to structure a 500 word blog post. You're not writing out the blog post, you're just writing out an outline for yourself, and this is going to help you go a long way. 7. Finding Your Voice: Now we're going to be talking about how to find your writer's voice and this is needless to say one of the most important lessons that you can learn as a writer at any skill level. Even someone like me who's been doing this for over 20 years. Yes, I know. I look young and I just got out of college, but it's not true. Even someone who has been doing this for a long time, I'm always working on sharpening my writer's voice. It is an on going skill. Here's the good news. You already have your writer's voice. Everybody has their own writer's voice and I'll tell you what else. I can not tell you what your writer's voice is. Everyone has their own unique writer's voice. They're like snowflakes and fingerprints in that sense. How I write is going to be different than how you write. But what I'm going to teach you now is how to become better at your writing voice. When I say what your writing voice is. We all have our speaking voice obviously. But again, it's how do you get all your thoughts in your brain to what is going on on the screen? How do you express what it is that you're thinking in a way that's going to be engaging, and appealing, and informative to whoever is reading your blog post? What exactly is your writing voice? Writing voice has three components. It's your personality, it's your attitude, and it's your outlook. Your personality, your attitude, and your outlook. You're putting them all together, and that's how you develop your writing voice. Now, I got to say, just in terms of outlook, I don't have the most rosy Pollyanna outlook out there. It's a little bit more negative than that. It's a little bit more cynical, that's okay. That's my voice. I'm owning up to it. I want you guys to think about your own voice. How would you describe your personality, your attitude, and your outlook? If I had to describe my voice and again, my voice not your voice, I would say my voice is pretty conversational. It's pretty irreverent. It's pretty casual. I use a lot of words like, 'like' and, 'you know'. I use some slang in my voice. That's my voice. I'm also not one of those people who jumps up and down with a lot of exclamation points, even if I love something, I'm not going to say, "this is the greatest movie". Or if Taylor Swift just released her single I'm not going to tweet something like "OMG, I'm so happy this totally made my day". That's just not me. It's not bad, it's not great, it's not good. You don't have to put a value on it. It's just not my voice. I'm much more cynical and irreverent when it comes to that thing. I really want you to think about how it is that you want to come across when you write, are you the big sister? Are you a big brother? Are you the little sister? Are you the all knowing guide? Are you the educator? All things to keep in mind in terms of how to establish this voice. Once you think you have your voice nailed, it's something that you have to hone over time. This is really what practice makes perfect. That really is no such thing as perfect in writing. But practice makes better, practice makes more comfortable. What you want to do is get to the point. Hey, point. You want to get to the point where someone reads what you're writing in a blog post and not even in terms of what you're saying, but in terms of how you're saying that. People think, "Oh, it's so obvious that Mara wrote this because she's writing in her writing voice." That's really what your end game is, that someone could read something that you write and know that you wrote it, because no one else can write like you. That's really what the end goal is in establishing your voice. To establish your writing voice, it does definitely take some self-awareness. It's going to make you unique. Ultimately, it's going to make your blog unique because it's coming from your point of view, because it's coming from your combination, a personality, attitude, and outlook. Now, how do you fine tune your voice? There's actually a few really great and useful tips into doing it. Few things to start off with. Number one is the rhythm of the sentences, think about it in terms of a great pop song and the verses and the chorus and the bridge, you want to get that musicality going on. Think in terms of the length of the sentences. Do you have long sentences followed by short sentences? That's what you want to do. You want to have that pit or pattern, that rhythm in everything that you write it really helps it along way. It's difficult to also just read these long form paragraphs or one long rambling paragraph. Even if that's what you're thinking, you want to put some more nuance into it. A rhythm really does help. You've got the rhythm down. Now you really want to think about your word choices. This is very tricky. Words, like perched is a better word than sit, you will add a think on a high level choice. Something like seek wind is better than the word, right. You want to go over your blog post and look at these words and think a little bit about how much more descriptive these words can actually be. You want your words to be interesting. The same level, think about your verbs. I have a problem myself with overusing verbs like has, gets, those kinds of verbs do nothing. You want verbs like scratch and squish instead of stare. It's another way to enhance your writing. It's something that comes in time, but again, that's why it takes time. It is not just a writing, whatever I want, and then I'm publishing it. You want to take the time to pick over those words. Even picking is a better word than going over. Really be wary of those words like going and having. Those state of being verbs that do nothing. Think about your five senses, hearing, seeing, tasting, touching, smelling. When you're describing something, think about those senses and how you can use them in your blog posts, especially if you're doing a food post. Think about words that you could use to describe the taste and the color and the smell. If you're writing about travel, think about what it was like to look at the water and blue water, that's okay, turquoise is okay. But think about something like it was Turquoise blue versus it was Windex blue. That word could make such a difference. We all know it Windex blue looks like. That's such a better word than Turquoise. That's why you really want to think about those interesting words, the interesting verbs and using all your senses in putting it down into that blog post. Something else, emphasis. Think about all caps. Think about italics, think about punctuation, think about Colin's and em dashes. All those things that we probably take for granted. That also helps when you're writing. Now if you're going to use all caps italics, makes sure that you do them in moderation. If something is in all caps, it sounds like you're screaming to your reader, you don't want that. A little bit of all caps, a few words italicized. They'd make your point without hammering at home. Sometimes I like to write a sentence and then in parenthesis, I'll put three exclamation points. That's just a little thing that I do. I don't do it very much, but it has an element of, wow and then I saw 30 movies in one day, three exclamation points and then parentheses. It's just a little something that adds to your voice. Think about doing it a little bit in moderation, a few words and caps, a few italicized words. Think about the punctuation a little bit, goes a long way and also helps to establish your voice. Lastly, I also just want to address sarcasm in a blog post. I tend to be a little bit sarcastic. It's something, again, that goes in moderation. You don't want to come off like a jackass quite frankly. That's why you just want to use it a little bit. If you're so bitter Betty and negative Nancy and sarcastic about everything, it's a turnoff to the readers. Even if that's how you really are, just use it sparingly. Those are all keys and how to establish your writing voice and how to strengthen your writing voice. Now, I'm going to give you a little bit of an unusual assignment here. What I want you to do is write down either in list form or in a paragraph form, how you would describe your writing voice. Really open yourself up and look within and really think about what it is that you want to present to people who are reading you and your opinions. Think about again, your personality, your attitude, your outlook, that all goes into helping your writing voice. 8. Credibility: Hey guys, it's time to talk about credibility. Credibility. This is something else that a lot of people take for granted and don't think about. But man on man, if anything, on the web, no matter if your Instagramming or tweeting or blogging, you've got to come off as credible. Why is it so important to be credible? When it comes to the Internet and the what's on the web, there are no rules, you guys. We're talking about the wild, wild west for the 21st century, in the sense that anything goes. Why would someone go onto your blog post or for that matter, your Instagram and your Twitter feed, and not only read what you have to say. but care about what you have to say and trust what you have to say, because you are credible on what you're talking about. I don't mean to say that if you're writing about Yoga, that you have to be a certified yoga teacher. That's not what I mean. It means that you have not only the experience into yoga, but you've got the credibility in terms of what you're writing, in terms of you're the real deal. That's why, again, the words themselves are so important. Now, how is it that you are establishing credibility? Again, this is really important in terms of texts. Number 1, when you're writing a blog post, be as specific as possible. Don't just say that sugar cereals are really bad for you. No, you want to give actual statistics enlisting why sugar cereals are bad for you. For Frosted Flakes, you're going to want to mention what the sugar count is and what servings, and maybe what a dietitian has to say. A really easy way to do this, is to hyperlink your story with something else that's out on the web. Something that may be ends in.gov or ends in.org, so it comes off official. That means don't link to Wikipedia, you guys, anyone can write and edit on Wikipedia. Look, I love Wikipedia, but that is not a valid source. You want to source what you are writing. Even if I'm writing a movie review, I source a lot actually outsourced to IMDB, outsource to a New York Times article. You want to source your things and you want to be specific as possible. Another thing you want to do is revise your work. This is not just in terms of improving the language this is important and that's what we talked about and voice. But you want to check for spelling, you want to check for word usage. You want to come off professional quite frankly, if your blog posts are riddled with spelling errors or your spelling they're, like T-H-E-I-R, when it should be T-H-E-Y-'-R-E. That makes a difference. We're all not going to win the spelling bit, but you want to make sure a reasons professional as possible. It's really that easy. One tip for this is to read your stuff out loud. If you are stumbling something as you're reading it to yourself, it'll be stumbling for people who are reading it on a screen. That's also where you catch a lot of the spelling mistakes and if you forget a word, I have a problem where my brain and my hands are working at two different speeds. I have a lot of problems with skipping over words and missing something, and readers will bring it to my attention that I'm so embarrassed. Again, you want to revise. You want to make sure those details are there. You want to fact check and you just want to again, make sure that you come off credible, and if you're presenting facts, make sure that you present these facts. If you're presenting an opinion, you still want to be linking to things, a YouTube video, just anything to improve the overall credibility of your post. Again, you want people to listen to you, you want people to trust you. One more thing that's so important for being credible, is that on your blog post? You definitely want to have some sort of about page or some biography of you. You can mention this within the actual blog post. You could maybe put a paragraph underneath every blog post that you write. Again, you can't assume that people are constantly reading you. Pretend they're reading you for the first time. They want to know why it is that you think you can write about yoga. If it's because you've taken 20 different kinds of yoga classes in the past year, that's something you want to put it in your blog post. For me, writing about movies, I have my own about page, and this is what it looks like. It's called marsh peel. Again, it has a little bit of my voice in there. It's not just about Mara, like I said, I'm a little bit of reverence, so put a little Yiddish word in there. I have a photo of myself from the Cannes Film Festival to show that I'm not just in my apartment all day. I'm out there seeing movies, I'm part of the action, I have an image gallery beneath. This is probably too long of a bio, but this is really what you want. Your bio, you can write it in first-person like, Hi, my name is Mara Rammstein, or you could just say Mara Rammstein is an entertainment journalist and continue with the details from there. You want to put your education if you do have background in the field. Definitely put your education, where you live, a few, hobbies. If you were writing about Hallmark movies, yeah, mentioned, oh during the day I'm a CPA, but at night I have Hulu and Netflix and my DVR all synced up to all the Hallmark movie channels and I watch them every single night. Whatever your level of passion or expertise is, you want to make sure it is also listened in your bio, you also want to mention maybe your email address, so people don't think that you're some bot who is just creating this. You want to show that you are a real person with real facts, with real figures, with real opinions, and that you are accessible. All of these things help in establishing your credibility. Even if you don't have your blog up and running yet, I definitely recommend that you still just go to your computer, or go to a notebook, and write your About page. First of all, it's actually really fun, and second of all, again, it makes you think about all the things in your life that you've lived and seen and done. You wanted to distill it into about 100 words that frames you as a person to the outside world. That's why it's so important. Again, it can be something that's your own About page or it could be a few sentences underneath each blog post, but you definitely want the readers to know who you are. Here's your exercise. If you haven't done it already on your own blog post, I want you to write your About page. This should be about 100 words. It's not like just a pretty good number. Again, you want to mention your experience. You want to mention your education if it's necessary, you want to mention your hobbies, if it pertains to what it is you're blogging about, you want to put your photo in there. Eventually you maybe want a headline. You want to really capture who it is, who you are, and so that the readers know to trust you and that they like you, and they consider you an expert in the field. Guess what? By now, you have your angle, you have your headline, you have an idea of your writing voice, you know your point, you have your lead, you have your bio. What's next? We're going to do a little bit of troubleshooting and now we're going to wrap it up. 9. Little Secrets: Everybody, congratulations. You've made it to the end, how to write a blog post that strangers will actually read. Now we're just going to wrap up with a few miscellaneous comments, addressing some concerns and questions in terms of the actual blog itself. Again, none of this I knew as recent as February, 2017. Let me just say, if I can do this, I still have every cigar in my apartment. That's how much of how loaded I am. Think, you can do this. First of all, what you need is that domain name, very simple, something they can go on the web and get it, make sure it's unique to you. I really like the fact that my name is in my website, so people know that it's Mara movies. Yes, the alliteration helps, but it has my name in it, it has the movie. So pretty simple. Also, what you need is a platform. That's where something like WordPress or Squarespace comes in handy. Believe your not, both of those are free. I use WordPress for more movies and it's super easy and helpful. I swear, if I can do it, you can do it. Another of my friends have just Squarespace. Some people don't even have that. They just go on Tumblr or they go onto something, a platform like Medium, and put all of their posts onto Medium. Again, this if you want to really put your own website out there, you do need that platform like a WordPress or Squarespace. In terms of making money, yes, it would be nice. It's not going to be easy. But do you really come here to make money on blogging? No, again, it's an overall tool in marketing yourself and becoming a better writer and a communicator like we already talked about. But if you do want to make money, it can be done, I promise. That's where Google AdSense comes into play. That's we're teaming up with the partner like Amazon. If someone clicks on an Amazon product, you get a certain amount of money from every click. That's where some of the money comes into play. Yes, it is possible. I do know people, I do actually know actual people, who do make a living just on their blog posts alone. What else can I tell you? You want to make sure that it looks visually appealing. This is where an expert can really help you make sure it looks clean, and the photographs are beautiful, and that you can pull photography from the web and not get sued for copyright, and to make sure that the size is all bind up. All those little things go in to making a blog professional, and popular, and successful, and readable. What else? You definitely, new need to do some marketing on your own. This is where it will help you to cross-platform. Make your own Facebook group, go on Twitter, tell your friends, join writing groups, do a newsletter, you go on male chip for free and do newsletters that direct people to your blog. Yes, you are in charge of the writing, yes, you're in charge of the editing, yes, you're in charge of the design, the photography. Guess what? You're also in charge of marketing. So you are the Chief Marketer, which means you've got to be your own cheerleader, and you've got to make sure that the whole wide world knows about your blog. Even if they're not your readers per se, even if it's not your demographic, make sure that people know, maybe they can recommend it to others. You never know who that person is, who is going to read your blogging, gets something out of your blog and make a difference in someone's life. That's why it's important. I know it doesn't come naturally to a lot of people. It takes some hustle, it really does. But the dividends are worth it. It takes a lot of time and commitment. That reminds me, guess what else you need for blogging. You need commitment. You need to be able to sit down at least once a week and be able to put the commitment and the time in into putting down these blog posts. I know it's not easy. Some people do multiple blog posts a day, if you can believe it. But what really helps is that if you have maybe five blog posts at the ready to go when you launch that blog. That's why it helps to do a blog post based on your city. It just gets you thinking, think about what are some of the holidays coming up, what are some of the events coming up. Think about the seasons coming up. Take a gun, take your notebook, and think about all the different kinds of blog posts that you can do. Plan it all out, so that when your blog is ready to launch, you have some posts at the ready, so you don't become overwhelmed. But ultimately, yes, you do want to be able to put the commitment in, so readers can keep going to you to be that voice of authority, that voice of reason, to share your tips, whatever it is. You want to keep it up. Most of all, you want to have fun. That's right. You want this blog to have fun. If you're not having fun, the readers are going to fun. Make sure no matter what else you are having a good time doing this, and you're enjoying it. You can always tell what it is that you're reading a blog post when the writer actually enjoys what they're doing. Given that space, have your own office, put the music on, put the TV on, whatever it is that helps you get in that writing zone, make sure it's there, so you would come to the computer and blog, you're actually enjoying it and it's not a chore, right? Because at the end of the day, you do want to enjoy what you're doing. That's why blog writing, yes, it is going to help you make it be a better writer, yes, it's going to help you learn about yourself, be a better communicator, you're going to meet new people, you are going to interact with people you never even knew existed all over the world. You might make some money from this hobby, but ultimately, you want to enjoy it. 10. Wrap Up: Guess what? We've reached the end of our blog writing course. I hope you had fun. I hope you've learned a lot. Now what I would love for you to do is yes, write up that 500-word blog post, headline included, about your favorite city and put it on Skillshare so everyone can read. Like I said, that's part of the fun of blogging and that's why you're not writing in that personal journal, it's so that people can read your work. Even if you don't have that blog yet, even if it's still like a hazy plan, that's why it's so great that we have access to a platform on Skillshare, so you can upload your first blog post on Skillshare. It is such an easy, yet effective first step and I encourage all of you to do it. Now, this is just one blog post. Hopefully there are hundreds and thousands more for where this came from. I know it sounds daunting and I know it sounds overwhelming, you just got to take up, honestly, one blog post at a time. That's why the planning in advance helps, that's why the commitment helps. It just helps to enjoy what you're doing. I'll let you guys earn a little secret as we wrap up. I actually started a blog about 10 years ago about teen idols. I figure I'm going to write all about teen idols. I used to work for a teen magazine back in the day. This is my porte, everyday I'm going to write about the teen idol and guess what? I got pretty sick of teen idols after one month. I did not have the commitment or the passion to do it day after day, month after month. Movies was a whole different ball of wax if you will. I love movies and there's an endless supply of movie-related topics to write about. There's always fresh movies coming out. There's always controversial issues. I just love putting my opinion out there for everybody, even though it doesn't actually come naturally to me in real life. I got to tell you one more thing. Like I said, don't be afraid to change your mind if this isn't feeling right for you, this blog focus, you can always change it to something else. You want to be committed, yes, but you also want to have a good time and have fun and not get burned out. You're going to get burned out quickly if you don't like what it is that you're writing about and you don't have that passion for it, so make sure you have it. Whatever you're doing, we're not writing on a tablet. This is everything that could to be changed and reverses, so it's okay to change your mind on whatever your blog focus is. Just make sure that whatever it is, you have the expertise and the passion and that you love it because then other people will love it as well. At the end of the day, I want you guys to have fun, have a good time, enjoy what you're writing about because when you love it, your readers will love it too and that's why they'll keep coming back to you. That ultimately, aside from focus, is what makes a successful blog. You want people to appreciate the craft and skill of what you're doing. I hope you all learned a lot and yes, had a little fun along the way and I can't wait to read what all of you guys have written. Happy blogging.