First, I never believe any blogger who says he or she is “only writing for him/herself.” If you are writing for yourself, why do you have a blog? All you need is a diary. By definition, if you have a blog, you are expecting others to read it. Unless you have it set up so no one can read it without a private password, it’s public.
In this quote “value” means “something interesting, funny, engaging.” While I don’t have a short attention span, I also don’t have a lot of spare time. If I start reading and it’s not interesting, I move on.
Every reader is perpetually one click from leaving. Not only on blogs, but in books, on television, on a podcast. We are all ready to change the channel, close the book, or put the newspaper in the recycle bin. Until you grab their interest and they become immersed in the wonder of your words, they’re ready to leave. Ah, but when you’ve got them wrapped in your words, you own them — at least for a little while.
Overall, I pretty much agree with the quote except some of us enjoy a bit of verbal meandering as we write. Some material requires more context and/or background information to make it understandable and interesting. But on the whole, I agree. Unless you have a reason to verbally wander, write as if you doing the news.
Here’s the formula:
- Who, what, where, when, and why. It’s a good for most subjects other than fiction. Tell your readers who you are writing about, what and where it happened, and finally, why.
- Why usually takes more words than all the rest combined. This is also where you can offer background information and context. It’s the “explaining” section. Why is news written this way? For all the reasons in the quote. Whether it’s a paper or TV or radio or online, give the basics at the top and hopefully, that will tease your reader into reading, watching, or listening to everything else.
- Don’t bury the lead. Put the most important information at the top. Write “frontward.”
- Keep your language lean. Which doesn’t mean dull. Hemingway was lean, but not dull.
People read news (and blogs) “informationally.” Give readers basic information and grab their interest. If you are good at it, they might hang around to read the rest of your ruminations.
I thought maybe I’d include a good “first paragraph” that sets up a much longer story. This one is from The Boston Globe:
The consequences of withholding reproductive choice were expressed in stark and varied terms, by a Republican state legislator in South Carolina, by voters in New York, by political pundits balling up their midterm predictions, and by HBO viewers shocked by the premiere of the “Game of Thrones” prequel “House of the Dragon.”
What a great hook! Here are the next paragraphs:
But before we get to Westeros, let’s stop in the Palmetto State, where a Republican state lawmaker’s abortion regret clearly struck a chord.
Rep. Neal Collins told an emotional story about the real-life fallout of the “Fetal Heartbeat Bill” he had supported, which prevented a 19-year-old whose water broke at 15 weeks from terminating a pregnancy that was not viable. She was sent home from the hospital with a greater than 50 percent chance of losing her uterus, he said, and a 10 percent chance of developing sepsis and dying.
— Chronicling the next chapter in America’s battle over abortion rights. By Stephanie Ebbert, Globe Staff
Not dull, but all the information is there. Now, Ms. Ebbert can fill in the rest of the story. I know this sounds very dry when you describe it, but it’s not dry unless that’s how you write.
There are a million ways to convey the same information using this simple format. I learned everything I know about writing by reading. You don’t have to enroll in a course or pay a lot of money and you get to read interesting books. It’s a great way to learn. Everything to gain and nothing to lose.