The first confession: checking my blog stats is a bit of an obsession. I look at them every day – several times. Why? Because I like it when people read my stuff and I like the patterns and trends as they ebb and flow day to day, week to week and month to month. To my inner-nerd, blog stats are catnip; a fix. The stats give me a sense of the words and ideas going somewhere, having a purpose – and I’m always amazed by the numbers themselves.
Today I’ve reached the 5 million mark!!
This has happened far faster than I ever imagined. Back in 2012, I met Alex Quigley at an SSAT event about six months into our respective blogging adventures and we were both astonished at having had more than 10,000 blog hits – it seemed implausible to us that so many people would read about such prosaic topics: marking; assessment; how to ask a question. Seven years on and the whole blog/twitter community has expanded hugely and it’s great to still be a part of it.
To celebrate my mega-milestone, here’s a blog about how I write a blog… and, in true meta-style, I have written this blog in exactly the same way as I describe the process below. Here’s generally how I go about it.
Think of something to write about. Sometimes I have an urge to do some writing – keeping the blog going requires a reasonably regular flow – and then I decide what to write about. More often the idea comes first – I think it would be good to get some ideas down to share with others. These days mostly I write posts based on my work in teacher development mixed in with a few personal reflections and the occasional rant. I like to try to capture everyday teaching practices and write something useful about them. I’ve decided not to bang on about Ofsted anymore… not for a while at least!
Find a voice. I find this varies with the topic – but the main thing is to write freely without worrying about who is reading at the time of writing. It can feel great to write something polemical. My bigger hits come from writing something with personal emotional content or, more often, something that is just ‘common sense’ – that sense of cutting through the crap. That’s what people want.
Capture the essence in a title. If you want people to read what you write, the title is key. This tells people what they’re about to read and if you get it wrong, people don’t give it the time of day. There’s more to it than click-baiting… it just needs to sound interesting and capture what the blog is actually about. I start here because it shapes the post but often, after writing it, I edit the original title because usually I end up having written something slightly different to what I intended. That’s how it goes.
Find or make a featured image. I’m not sure why this matters but it seems, without an image that fits, the sharing process just doesn’t seem to work. I always sort this out before doing the writing just to buy some thinking time and to get it out of the way.
Knock out a preamble. The first paragraph is usually a scene-setter: what’s this all about? It sets out the problem or issue and hopefully draws people into reading the rest.
Scope out the structure. For most blogs I try to break the idea down into a series of key points and I write them out in a list. Here in this post, that’s the bold headers for each paragraph – I do this quite often. If I get this right, the rest flows easily.
Fill in the detail. I go back to each planned section or paragraph and explain what I had in mind. It’s easy to write these bits quite freely because I know I’ve already scoped out the overall content. Short paragraphs are usually more accessible.
Stick in some images. Where they are relevant – eg linking to slides I use in my presentations – I put in some images or photos just to make it more visually interesting.
Try not to go on too long. My average blog length is about 1100 words and I’m conscious when I go over this in the word count because it means it’s probably time to wind-up. Very occasionally I get up to 2000 words and I’m aware this feels like a long read.
Proof-read. Admittedly I often cut a corner on this but it needs to be done. I’m a sloppy typist and there are always a lot of mistakes to correct. Sometimes I’m horrified at the errors that remain in posts that have been read lots of times.
Publish! This is exciting….I love this moment. It’s great to get the words out in the world and to see what happens.
Promote! There’s no point writing something on a public blog post if you don’t want people to read it. Twitter for me is largely a platform for sharing my writing – Yeah I know, you’ve noticed! My view is that by sharing the links several times, I’m helping people to know the blog is there. I’m not shy about this bit as you will probably be all too aware. I can usually tell early on from the stats how popular a post will be. I used to use hashtags like #ukedchat to share but I never tag people in. I have some personal rules about that stuff. I actually never read blog posts that people tag me into on twitter – almost on principle. I want to choose what to read and I guess everyone else does too.
Thanks to everyone reading my blog over the last seven and a half years.. it means such a lot to me. I once told myself that if I ever reached 5,000,000 I’d pack it in and do something else but nope – I’m going to keep it going. I love the whole process too much.