This is the tenth part in my Start a Blog series about blogging. This post is relevant whether you’ve started your blog or not, but you might want to check out my other posts if you haven’t seen them since they lay the groundwork for starting your money-making blog journey. Also, keep in mind that some brands won’t work with you unless you have a dot com and you’re self-hosting (both easy things to do!!) so check out my post about setting up a hosted blog if you aren’t there yet.
The art of not including everything and the kitchen sink is a tricky skill and one that a lot of new bloggers struggle with. I’ve seen this problem up close ever since Kyle started blogging with me, because he sends me his posts to proof and smooth out before they go up. He’s a great writer, but he has a habit of telling three or four stories all at once because he has so much he wants to stay. I love the man and could read his words all day but ultimately it’s best to tighten blog posts as much as you can so they’re easier to digest for the reader.
I’ll go ahead and lay out a blanket rule for blog posts right here: the shorter, the better. Yes, I think this applies even to storytelling blog posts or epic recap blog posts (Hello, birth stories! I’m looking at you!). Include the meat of the story, no matter how much there is, but trim that fat or you’ll lose people. No matter how much your readers love you, we all have a limited amount of time to give to each other everyday so you don’t want to waste it with blog excess.
When thinking about what you should leave out of your blog posts, there are 5 things you need to remember:
1 /// Don’t include unnecessary backstory. If you’re putting up a post about a recent trip and it would be beneficial to the reader to know that you visited that same location five years ago and had a good time, go ahead and toss in that information. Do not, however, give them the full rundown about how you really needed a vacation and you only get a certain amount of time off and you didn’t know where to go because you sort of wanted to go to this other place and it was a little too expensive so you ended up picking this place because of this thing that happened to you five years ago…
All of this backstory only works if your blog post is about making decisions on travel destinations when you don’t have a lot of money or vacation time. If your post is supposed to be about your trip and what a good time you had, don’t bother telling the other story.
2 /// Don’t repeat yourself. Saying that a recipe is delicious once or twice in a food post makes sense. Spending three paragraphs talking about how delicious the recipe is doesn’t make sense. Even if it really is the best recipe ever (*cough* my baked paleo chicken *cough*) your reader isn’t going to learn more about the recipe if you spend too much time repeating that it’s yummy. If anything, you’ll lose them before they get to the juicy food pictures. Remember: technology has amazing perks but it has shredded our attention spans.
3 /// Don’t overshare. I could write a separate post in this series just on not oversharing, but the truth is that the line between share and overshare is different for each blogger. I think an argument could be made by many that I overshare on this blog all the time, giving people the type of peek into our home that other bloggers/parents wouldn’t be comfortable with. So, I won’t stand on a soapbox and tell you that you can’t write about personal things online.
What I will say is this: reminding yourself not to overshare is a good way to tighten your writing. Don’t give three sentences outlining your digestive troubles if all you really wanted to say was that your stomach was upset. Don’t give out the details of your latest marital conflict if all you really wanted to say was that the two of you had an argument. Remember, if it’s not the focus of your blog post, it’s probably not a good time to tell that whole story. Touch on it lightly and move on.
4 /// Don’t spend a lot of time on something you covered in another post. If you recently (or even not so recently) wrote a post on something, feel free to mention it and link back to that post but don’t tell the whole story again.
For example, if you love Autumn and you devote a whole post to everything you’re looking forward to about Autumn, don’t go into it all again at the beginning of your post about your mom’s pumpkin pie recipe. Just say, you guys know how I love Autumn, add the hyperlink back to the other post, and move on. Maybe they didn’t read that older post but if they really want to know how much you love Autumn they can click back. Going into all of that again for the sake of one person who just joined the conversation is rude and time-wasting to the people who have been standing around listening to you the whole time.
5 /// Get an editor or be your own editor. Like I said, I’ve been editing Kyle’s posts and I know that it’s much easier for me to see when he’s wandering a bit than it is for him to see how things don’t fit into the story. In the same way, even though I know these rules and I’m here giving out blog advice, I know that I wander all over the place when I’m not paying attention. Since I don’t run everything by Kyle before I post, I usually put up a messy post and then trim the overflow later when he (or someone else) lets me know that their eyes glazed over before they got to the end. An editor is better!
At the very least, go over your own stuff a week after you put it up. Having fresh eyes on your own writing often helps you see the loose threads. You never know who might stumble upon that old post as an introduction to your blog, so don’t forget to tighten up those archives!
One more thought about blogging: being a blogger doesn’t mean that the world needs/wants your whole story. I think that’s important to remember both as a blogger and as someone who reads other people’s blogs. Even here on the mom blog, where I’ve talked about painful things and messy things and mistakes I’ve made, I’m only ever giving out a flash peek into our lives. The photos are cropped and curated. The stories are intentional and edited. I’m deliberate about everything that goes out.
I think it’s smart to carefully curate your posts, even if it means you aren’t telling the whole story. There’s definitely an argument to be made that blogging has created an unhealthy stream of perfect images that people can’t possibly live up to (perfect meals, perfect hair, perfect outfits, perfect family time) but you have to remember that bloggers (including you!) aren’t obligated to share any story they don’t want to tell.
It’s fun to get a peek at the messy kitchen sink behind a food post every now and then, but if all the blogger really wants you to see is how delicious that cookie recipe is, it makes sense that they would only include curated, Photoshopped, artfully posed cookies on a sun-drenched and deliberately flour-sprinkled rustic table. That way you will really see the cookies. Showing you the messy kitchen sink along with the cookies is telling two stories at once and the other story isn’t the one they want you to hear.
So don’t feel like you need to include your messy kitchen sink AND don’t forget that all of the bloggers ever (even Gwyneth and Lauren and Martha) have messy kitchen sinks they’re probably not sharing with you. It’s just not part of the story.