Everyone knows that some topics are just more appealing than others. If you write about the best way to peel a rutabaga, you shouldn’t be too surprised at the lack of hits. Juicy, sexy topics will almost certainly be more popular. Many readers, just like actual people, are bottom-feeding gutter dwellers. They savor scandal and yearn to laugh at the idiocy of others.
So penning a post on the “Real Housewives of Tulsa” or a similar bit of pop-culture fluff will almost guarantee hits. Even so, you’ll inevitably get comments from people who don’t watch “those shows”. Given half a chance, they’ll point out that while you’re watching inept goldminers sift through dirt and try to fix broken front-end loaders, they’re sitting on their intellectual buttocks watching BBC America for the higher-browed, better versions of The Office, Kitchen Nightmares and Who Wants to be a Bloody Millionaire, Eh Guv-nah?
The long-standing advice to writers has always been to “write what you know”. This advice is quite logical, as writing about what you don’t know is damn near impossible. If you doubt me, refer to my post titled, “How the Minds of Women Work” .
The trouble is that what most of us “know” is pretty boring and not even of interest to ourselves, let alone others. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started writing a post on “wheelchair seating assessments for the non-ambulatory pediatric population” only to realize that there’s just not enough sex and violence to keep most readers on the hook. Similarly, my post “Forty Shades of Brown” on the best approaches to raking leaves in a yard littered with Labradoodle dookie, while filled with useful information, fell flat on the hits. I’m almost certain that recounting a less successful outing in the yard, complete with slips, falls and cursing would have been better received.
The best strategy then, is this; if you have to write what you know, be sure to jazz it up with some dirty humor and fabricated violence whenever possible. I’ll show you what I mean. Here’s a brief paragraph I wrote up for an example;
Peeling a rutabaga doesn’t have to be difficult. Using a sharp knife and cutting board, I start at the end where one of the flat spots is. I chop a fairly thick slab off – maybe a 1/4 inch - parallel to the flat spot. This gives me a nice stable root vegetable to work with – you don’t want that thing rolling around when you’re handling sharp knives! Next, I systematically slice the waxy skin from the equator down towards the cutting board. Don’t worry if you cut the skin off on the thick side, rutabagas are pretty big – you should still have plenty! In my next post, I’ll describe the best way to chop, cook and prepare the rutabagas for your table!
There wasn’t much wrong with that paragraph. It gave a fairly decent idea of how to peel a rutabaga. My special hints on how to make the homely rutabaga a star on your Thanksgiving table will remain top secret. I’m trying to instruct you rubes on how to write successful blogs, if you think I’m going to divulge decades of culinary knowledge in the process, then you’ve got another thing coming. Wait..Don’t pout! You know it pulls at my heart strings to see you that way. Alright… I’ll give you a cooking hint, but then it’s back to writing winning blogs. Here it is: If you put enough butter on it, even a turd becomes appetizing. Happy now? Good! Now let’s dab those tears away and get back to writing. I’m going to take that same paragraph, but punch it up and really give it some zip.
You want to know how to peel a rutabaga? Cut all the waxy crap off the outside of it and try not to lose any fingers. If you’re a woman – and you should be, because this is woman’s work, after all – I suggest wearing a lacy apron and a pair of pumps while you do it. It’d be nice if you did something with your hair too, but it’s not mandatory. When you’re about half way done, put down the knife and go see if your man needs his martini refreshed. When you ask him, try to smile and use a soothing tone – he’s probably had a tough day already. If he slaps you on the fanny as you turn to return to the kitchen, be a good sport and give him a little squeal.
Did you notice the difference? It was subtle – go back and read the two paragraphs again if you need to, I’ll wait.
Careful readers might think that the second paragraph was a tad sexist. I wouldn’t be surprised if the more sensitive among you were even insulted by it. The important thing is the end result; the next time I post something, no matter how inane the subject matter, readers will hopefully click on it as they mutter the words “I wonder what that idiot will say this time“.
To summarize, it doesn’t matter what your topic is, as long as you write with some style and a voice, even if the voice is that of a moron. Here are some more helpful rules of thumb:
- If the post is “clean” enough to send to your 12 year old niece, you need to go back and sex it up. You also need to drop your niece off your email list. I’m sure she has more than enough homework and only reads your blog because your sister-in-law makes her.
- If there aren’t enough scatalogical references to keep the attention of your average 6th grade boy, then put some in there. Refer to my “buttering a turd” reference above – that one’s a gem!
- If no one gets slapped, pinched or threatened, you need to find a way to work that kind of stuff into your post - I’m telling you, violence is blog gold!
- Finally – Give your blog a test-read, aloud, before you consider publishing it. If it sounds like the audio-book adaptation for “Changing The Oil In Your Ford Taurus”, narrated by Ben Stein, you’ll need to consider an overhaul, or better yet, just trash it and start over.
Tune in next time, when I provide more tips for writing winning blogs!
About the author: Ironically, despite his massive following and several “likes” of most of his posts, 1pointperspective has yet to be Freshly Pressed. He’s been blogging about the goings on in his head for 10 months or so, and he doesn’t seem to heed his own advice, except for the stuff about poop references. He lives in a cardboard box just adjacent to a steam grate, just south of City Hall in Philadelphia. When not giving free blog advice, he pan-handles and screams at tourists.