writer

Does this sounds familiar? You read a bunch of awesome blogs from some really great writers, and you watch them succeed. They seem to be making much faster progress than you.

You feel like they’ve got some special secret that you can’t crack.

I felt like that for a long time. I was convinced that these bloggers had something I didn’t … and I was, if I’m totally honest, a bit envious.

The truth is that they’ve almost certainly got there step by step, with a lot of hard work (and a few mistakes along the way). And you can do exactly the same.

In this post, we’ve brought together six of the greatest bloggers around to share their experiences and to give us their best advice. We chose people who we admire not just for their results as bloggers but also for their writing style. They are:

  • Henneke Duistermaat of Enchanting Marketing
  • Jeff Goins of Jeff Goins, Writer
  • Mary Jaksch, of Goodlife ZEN and Write to Done
  • Joanna Penn, of The Creative Penn
  • Daniel Scocco, of Daily Blog Tips
  • K.M. Weiland, of Helping Writers Become Authors

We asked each of them five simple questions:

1. Was your current blog your first one?
2. Who inspires you as a writer and why?
3. If you could send a time-travelling email, what would you tell your younger self about blogging?
4. What one writing-related mistake do you see newer bloggers making again and again?
5. Do you have a fool-proof post structure (or title formula) to fall back on when you get stuck? (And if so, could you share it with us?)

We found their answers fascinating … and illuminating. Read on to find out what they all said.

(Our authors appear in alphabetical order of surname.)

 

HennekeDuistermaat

#1: Henneke Duistermaat, Enchanting Marketing

Henneke Duistermaat is an irreverent marketer and copywriter on a mission to stamp out gobbledygook. She is a regular contributor to popular marketing blogs such as KISSmetrics and Copyblogger. Find out more about Henneke and sign up to her free copywriting and content marketing tips at Enchanting Marketing.

1. Was Enchanting Marketing your first blog? 

Enchanting Marketing is my first personal blog. I started it in November last year when I set up my own business. But I didn’t start the blog without experience; I had already launched two blogs about cookers and cooker hoods for the company I used to worked at.

2. Who inspires you as a writer and why?

That’s such a difficult question! I find my inspiration from many different sources, but the people who inspired me to start blogging are the Copyblogger team and Jon Morrow of Boost Blog Traffic.

3. If you could send a time-travelling email, what would you tell your younger self about blogging?

Don’t worry so much about Google and keywords. Think about your readers and tell them something they find useful, entertaining, or inspirational.

4. What one writing-related mistake do you see newer bloggers making again and again?

Publishing too many posts is one of the biggest mistakes I see. I’d rather read one fantastic post that inspires me than 20 crappy posts with regurgitated tips. There’s too much mediocre, uninspiring writing on the web.

5. Do you have a fool-proof post structure (or title formula) to fall back on when you get stuck? (And if so, could you share it with us?)

Most of my titles follow one of these three formulas:

  • How to avoid [mention a problem your readers are struggling with]
  • How to [mention a benefit your readers are looking for]
  • 27 tips to [do something better]

Sometimes I combine two formulas, e.g. 11 Copywriting Tips: How to Turn Marketing Drivel into Serious Sales Copy.

Simple title formulas work great as long as you are specific, use power words, and focus on your reader’s fears and wishes.

 

JeffGoins

#2: Jeff Goins, Jeff Goins, Writer

Jeff Goins is a full-time author, blogger, and speaker. He frequently speaks and writes about how to make a difference in the world through our words and actions. You can follow him online at goinswriter.com(Photo credit Ashley Goins.)

1. Was Jeff Goins, Writer your first blog? 

Not at all. It was something like my ninth blog. I had at least eight terrible blogs before I started this halfway-good one. Apparently, I had to learn every way to NOT do it to find out the one way blogging could work for me.

2. Who inspires you as a writer and why?

I love Steven Pressfield; he has a way of speaking to a writer’s heart like few people can. Same goes for Anne Lamott. I just read her short book on prayer, and it was perfect. Lately, I’ve been really swept up with Hemingway — both the man and the author. His prose is, of course, legendary, but the life he led is interesting, as well. Reminds me that you can’t just write about adventures; you’ve got to live a few yourself.

3. If you could send a time-travelling email, what would you tell your younger self about blogging?

Stick with it. Don’t quit. Start helping people as soon as possible. This isn’t about you, but if you do this right, you will get to influence a lot of people. So get over yourself already.

4. What one writing-related mistake do you see newer bloggers making again and again?

Chasing numbers and celebrity and thinking that it’s about them. I get SO sick of people putting out anything less than their best work and expecting people to care about it. It’s narcissistic.

5. Do you have a fool-proof post structure (or title formula) to fall back on when you get stuck? (And if so, could you share it with us?) :-)

If I’m stuck, I’ll ask one question, “Why?”

Why do people need to hear this?

Why do I care about this?

Why does this matter?

And then I answer why (often, the title reflects this). People don’t just want to know how something’s done; they want to know the big reason behind why they should be doing it in the first place.

 

MaryJaksch-180

#3: Mary Jaksch, Goodlife ZEN and WritetoDone

Mary Jaksch trains bloggers at A-List Blogging, and is the blogger behind GoodlifeZEN.com as well as WritetoDone.com where you can download the free ebook “The (nearly) Ultimate Guide to Better Writing”

1. Was Goodlife Zen your first blog?

I began my journey of  blogging at the end of 2007 with GoodlifeZen.com. Soon after, I became Chief Editor of WritetoDone.com. At first, Leo Babauta and I shared ownership of WritetoDone, but then Leo became too busy and gave me full ownership.

2. Who inspires you as a writer and why?

I particularly love Indian writers, like Arundhati Roy. Their novels flow like rivers and they make every single word lead the reader deeper into the heart of the story. Here is a passage from “The last Song of Dusk”, written by the new star of Indian novelists, Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi:

Yelling his mother’s name to her face, he ran out of her room, shaken by her brutality, wounded by her capacity to walk right out of his life and wipe her feet on the shreds of his childhood.

3. If you could send a time-travelling email, what would you tell your younger self about blogging?

Here is the email I would send:

Hey Mary, do you want to reach over a million readers a year and create a six-figure income? If so, you need to start a blog. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know anything about blogging. Just see each challenge as a blessing because it will make you a better blogger in the end. Be patient – and keep writing!

4. What one writing-related mistake do you see newer bloggers making again and again?

A key mistake new bloggers often make is that they write blog posts that focus on what I call the ‘Me-tape’. That is, the words ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘my’, and ‘mine’ are the central to the post. They key to successful blogging is to take your own experience but focus on how it can help or inspire others. If you do this, your blog post will have a lot of words such as ‘your’, ‘you’, ‘we’, and ‘us’ and you will strike a chord in the heart of your readers.

5. Do you have a fool-proof post structure (or title formula) to fall back on when you get stuck? (And if so, could you share it with us?) :-)

I rarely feel blocked in my ability to write. But when I do, I use Scrivener when writing an articleThis is a software program with which you can start anywhere, write a paragraph or more, and then put all the small bits together like a puzzle. This method means that I can lead with any idea that comes to me, without having to start at the beginning.

 

JoannaPenn

#4: Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn

Joanna Penn is author of the #1 bestseller ‘How To Market A Book’ as well as ‘Career Change’. She also writes the bestselling ARKANE thrillers under J.F.Penn: Thrillers on the edge. Joanna’s site for writers www.TheCreativePenn.com has been voted one of the Top 10 Blogs for writers 3 years running and offers articles, a podcast and multimedia courses on writing, publishing and book marketing. You can connect with her online on TwitterFacebookGoogle Plus and YouTube.

1. Was The Creative Penn your first blog?

No, I had two before it – before I really knew what I was doing or the direction I wanted my life to go. The first was ‘How To Enjoy Your Job’ and focused on career change, the topic of my first non-fiction book. I was working as an IT consultant at the time and wanted to get out of that career, so the focus of the blog was on finding your path and everything to do with career change. That blog died as:

a)  It was focused on one book and I wanted to write more – I always recommend people have a site that is more centered around them so it grows with them – whereas a blog on one book will inevitably die.

b) I was bored with the topic and wasn’t enthusiastic about posting – a death knell to any blog! You have to go through months or even years without much return of any kind so you need enthusiasm and passion!

The one after that was ‘Success Student’ as I went through mountains of self-help and online business books, trying to understand the new world and possibilities online. I did the equivalent of a short degree on the subject! But again, once I grasped the concepts for myself, that blog fell by the wayside.

I finally started www.TheCreativePenn.com  in Dec 2008 as a way to document the process of my first self-published book and to help others avoid the pitfalls I did. The title was intentionally broad enough to cover anything creative and could last a lifetime!

I also have www.JFPenn.com which is my fiction brand, which has an occasional blog on it. It’s a different site because the audience is readers, not authors.

I’ve also had a couple of others over the years, all fallen by the wayside as well. I don’t think I could have more than one main blog because of time constraints!

2. Who inspires you as a writer and why?

On the aspirational scale, Stephen King, for continuing to deliver books his gazillions of fans love for so many years and for not obsessing about critical success. And James Rollins, for continuing to write books I am desperate to read as soon as they come out.

On the indie side, authors like CJ Lyons, Bob Mayer, Kristine Kathryn Rusch and Dean Wesley Smith, who demonstrate that consistent, creative output and hard work over the long term pays off.

And Chuck Wendig, whose Miriam Black series and blog encourage to me to become more honest in my own writing.

3. If you could send a time-travelling email, what would you tell your younger self about blogging?

Be patient. It all takes time. I’d say the same to my writing self.

I started to see some traction in terms of comments and traffic after about a year of blogging, and then started to get paid speaking opportunities from it after two years as self-publishing became more mainstream.

4. What one writing-related mistake do you see newer bloggers making again and again?

Thinking that one post, or one book, or one anything will make a dramatic difference. In my experience, it’s the cumulative effect over time that changes your life. There’s a great book on this, The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. It’s how blogging and social media build reputation, it’s how authors build a fanbase over time, it’s just a little every day, consistently, for years.

5. Do you have a fool-proof post structure (or title formula) to fall back on when you get stuck? (And if so, could you share it with us?) :-)

Not at all. I never get stuck. :-) I have far more ideas for posts to write than time to write them, and currently the blog is scheduled 4 months in advance with content. I put this down to (eventually) identifying the passion that will last a lifetime, and for me, that’s writing and creativity as well as the practical side of creative business.

 

DanielScocco-180

#5: Daniel Scocco, Daily Blog Tips

Daniel Scocco is a programmer and entrepreneur. He works developing websites and online applications.

1. Was Daily Blog Tips your first blog?

No. Before starting Daily Blog Tips I had already created three blog/websites. The very first one was in raw HTML back in 2005. It was a mess! Then I discovered WordPress, and that’s when one of my sites started to grow. Within a couple of months I was getting 500 visitors per day or so, and that’s when I decided to start Daily Blog Tips, to share the tips and tricks I was learning along the way. A couple of months later I launched Daily Writing Tips, which is focused on helping people improve their English.

2. Who inspires you as a writer and why?

My favorite fiction writers are Charles Dickens and F. Scott Fitzgerald. I don’t know how to describe it, but their books have a very unique style in my opinion.

As for non-fiction I am a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell and James Altucher. The latter runs a blog by the same name where you’ll find dozens of amusing posts/essays.

3. If you could send a time-travelling email, what would you tell your younger self about blogging?

I would tell myself to play the long game. That is, to always focus on quality and on building something useful for other people, forgetting about tricks that might only work on the short term. When you do that, in my opinion, you’ll not only be building something stronger and with deeper roots, but you will also be more proud of it.

4. What one writing-related mistake do you see newer bloggers making again and again?

I think the one mistake that most writers/bloggers do initially and that has a huge impact on their work is writing and editing at the same time. That is, they will write a couple of words, read everything, edit what’s needed, write some more words, and repeat. If they separate the processes, first writing everything and then editing the whole thing at once they would become much more productive.

5. Do you have a fool-proof post structure (or title formula) to fall back on when you get stuck? (And if so, could you share it with us?) :-)

I don’t have a formula or structure, but I do the following when I am out of post ideas:

  • Buy a magazine and scan through it looking for interesting stories.
  • Think about interesting books I read recently, and what insights from them could lead to a post.
  • Browse social networks looking for what people are talking about, then try to adapt the general idea to my own niche.

 

KMWeiland

#6: K.M. Weiland, Helping Writers Become Authors

K.M. Weiland is the author of the epic fantasy Dreamlanderthe historical western A Man Called Outlaw and the medieval epic Behold the Dawn. She enjoys mentoring other authors through her website Helping Writers Become Authors, her books Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, and her instructional CD Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning InspirationShe makes her home in western Nebraska.

1. Was Helping Writers Become Authors your first blog? 

I started out with a book review blog (called K.M. Weiland’s Bookshelf or something like that). But I got bored with it after a few months and switched focus to blogging about my writing life. Hence: Helping Writers Become Authors.

2. Who inspires you as a writer and why?

As a novelist, I am inspired by countless excellent authors and filmmakers. Specifically, Brent Weeks’s epicness, Margaret Atwood’s prose, and Patrick O’Brian’s sheer genius speak to me and urge me on. As a blogger, I’m inspired by the professionalism and creativity of people such as Joanna Penn, Porter Anderson, and Jody Hedlund.

3. If you could send a time-travelling email, what would you tell your younger self about blogging?

Probably the biggest bit of advice I would have offered myself would have been to seriously consider where my blog would be in five years if it succeeded. By that point, many of the decisions I made in the beginning were too difficult to change. I wish I’d spent more time considering my blog title, url, publishing platform (Blogger, WordPress, etc.), subscription options, all that stuff. You don’t want to have to make major changes down the road that might undo some of your hard work in building a following.

4. What one writing-related mistake do you see newer bloggers making again and again?

I’d say lack of focus—in the sense that they have no real plan for their blog’s subject matter or posting schedule. Blogs are like books. To attract a solid audience, bloggers need to first figure out who that audience is, then craft focused articles that will appeal to and either educate or entertain that audience.

5. Do you have a fool-proof post structure (or title formula) to fall back on when you get stuck? (And if so, could you share it with us?) :-)

I wouldn’t go so far as to say anything’s fool-proof! And I don’t follow a structure, per se, in my posts. But I try to incorporate several elements: bulleted lists, headers, strong examples of both the wrong and the right way to do things, and titles that appeal directly to the reader.

 

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