Wednesday 11 March 2020

The Ten(ish) Commandments of Good Blogging - Kelly McCaughrain

A giant Pro of my Fellowship project to help schools set up creative writing clubs (by writing blog posts on the subject) is that I can work from home. This is a major plus if you a) quite like working alone and b) are in the midst of a Coronavirus epidemic.

A giant Con is that I’m now producing 2 blog posts a week, plus reviews on ABR, plus this monthly ABBA blog and when I sat down to write this, I discovered that the well is not, in fact, bottomless.

Couldn’t think of a thing to write about. Totally blogged-out.

So I thought I’d go meta and blog about blogging. Specifically, what several years of reading and writing blogs have taught me about producing a good blog post, in case any of you would like to join the lovely bloggers here at ABBA and give blogging a go!

So here we go:

Blogs are for the readers, not the writers. If your blog is solely intended to keep your mother abreast of happenings in your allotment, then fine, write what you like. Your mother will be interested because she thinks you’re the bees knees. But if you want anyone else to read it, then there has to be something in it for them. You’re asking for their time (it may only be five minutes but is there anything more precious these days?) and in return you MUST give them something to take away. Useful advice, a link to something helpful, a new way of seeing the world, even just entertainment is fine but it had better be freaking hilarious. And unless you’re JK Rowling, ‘Here’s a new book of mine that you can buy!’ is not a good enough reason. 


Remember, the reader is ALWAYS going to be asking ‘What’s this got to do with me?’

Don’t scattergun. Do let people know your blog is there but don't annoy everyone. I do have a blog that is literally just a way for my mother to keep track of me when I’m off in my van, and when I put up a post I link to it on my Facebook page for my Friends to see because they love my little camper and seeing what she gets up to. But I don’t make these links Public and I don’t share them to the SCBWI or SASSIEs pages because no one would be interested. Likewise, I generally don’t link to my Writing posts on my Friends pages. 

Don’t go off topic. It’s perfectly acceptable to present attractive photos of your recent cooking triumphs, as long as there are recipes to accompany them and YOU’RE ON A COOKING BLOG. But if it’s a writing blog then you’re basically guilty of false advertising. If you want to blog about writing AND cooking, fine. But have different tabs on your blog so people can choose what to read.

Use images. Well-lit, relevant, in-focus ones. 

Blogs are not Tweets. They’re not throwaway, rambling streams of consciousness. They’re an example of your writing so make sure they reflect well on you. It’s as important to edit your blog posts as anything else you put out there. I can spend 3 hours writing a blog post (it takes a surprisingly long time to find all those memes) but I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting anything out there that I wasn’t completely happy with. TBH, I edit my Tweets too. And like the rest of your writing, your blog should have a voice, a tone, a style that is uniquely yours.


Be upfront. Give people an idea of what the post is about, either wherever you advertise the post, or in the title. Don’t think that if you make it unclear and mysterious people will click to find out. They won’t. They’ll just pass. You’re not aiming to lure in every single person in the world; the blog won’t be of interest or use to most of them. Be clear about what it’s about so those who are interested will visit and those who aren’t will thank you for not wasting their time.

Include your bio and links. Blogs may be for the reader but there’s also no point in writing brilliant posts if they’re not going to lead anyone to your other work. Especially if you’re writing them for free.

Be a good digital citizen. Credit people for their work. Make your blog typo-free and clearly formatted. If people comment, reply. Use your blog to champion the work of others. If you have something helpful to add, comment on the blogs of others. Don’t start fights in the comments sections – a blog can never be a PhD-length treatise on any subject and it’s always going to be subjective so you’re always going to get someone complaining that you didn’t cover every tiny aspect and perspective of the subject under discussion. Just thank them for their input and move on.


Be brief. I completely fail at this myself, but I try to be as concise as I can. I may have a lot to say but I edit my posts several times to ensure that I’m at least not repeating myself.

Don’t tangent. Don’t ramble off into something that could be a separate post. Your blog should have its own Elevator Pitch – you should be able to sum it up in one short sentence if you had to.

Don’t whinge. OK, I am a total whinge. And an inveterate ranter. But I try to keep my ranting to subjects that are career-related and might have relevance to readers.

Don’t blog if you don’t love it. I know we’re all supposed to have a social media presence etc these days but honestly, if you don’t actually LOVE blogging, your readers will know. And the lack-lustre posts of a bored, reluctant blogger who occasionally drags herself to the keyboard will not give the best impression of your writing. Your books are brilliant because you loved writing them. You wouldn’t want to read a book by someone who wasn’t wholly invested in writing it. Same with blogs.

Hope that’s useful. Do share your own tips for great blog posts!

Kelly McCaughrain is the author of the Children's Books Ireland Book of the Year,

She is the Children's Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland #CWFNI

She also blogs at The Blank Page



Anna Gamble said...

Brilliant post - makes me want to read more of your blog and destroy mine entirely! 🤣

Kelly McCaughrain said...

Ha! I'm sure yours are wonderful. And I'm not known for taking my own advice!

Sue Purkiss said...

Lots to think about here - oh heavens, I've been breaking the rules!

Kelly McCaughrain said...

You're a rebel, Sue!

Penny Dolan said...

Another great post, out of a heroic quantity. I do admire the collections of images you find for your posts.

NB. I have a gentle "Ahem . . ." to add to this excellent list, Kelly, and not just for you.
"Always include your name in the title at the top of your group blog posts so the reader knows exactly who's talking to them." :-)

Kelly McCaughrain said...

🤣 Touché Penny!