Blogging Tips & Tricks

This post kicks off a brand new blog category called “Ask the Expert.”  The goal: get to know creative people who like to create as much as they share.  The result: I pose 11 questions and share responses.

First up: Sara Lancaster. Sara specializes in web content writing and she knows a thing or two about killing writer’s block.  Her site and blog, No 2 Pen, contains some action-packed writing recipes for success.
1. Which desert island book would you bring: a Dictionary or Thesaurus? Why?
A dictionary if I can play Scrabble while on the island. Otherwise, I choose a thesaurus, since I could probably figure out the meaning of a word by looking at the synonyms. Who doesn’t love studying synonyms?

2. Do you have a recommended software you like to write/publish your posts?

I don’t rely on many tech tools, so I don’t have much to recommend. I’m pretty old school with my Microsoft Word and WordPress supported blog.

3. How does a new blogger establish their writing style and tone?

Write, write, and write some more. After you’ve done a fair share of writing your writing style will evolve naturally. More importantly, though, you should write like you speak. Let your personality come through in your writing.

4. What blogs do you enjoy reading most?

Copyblogger for online writing know-how and The Bloggess for a chuckle. Trust me. She’ll make you laugh.

5. What’s one important lesson you still apply in your writing today?

Walk away from your writing before you publish it to the blog. When you look at something with fresh eyes you’ll be able to make some very beneficial edits. Promise.

6. Name three common pitfalls you see in blogging?

  • Blogs fail when they only promote the business they represent and don’t offer information or entertainment. People read blogs because of what they get out of it. People don’t read blogs because of what the blogger gets out of it.
  • Bloggers who refuse to show their face rarely succeed. Most successful bloggers have a picture of themselves on the site, a bio, a way to be contacted, and posts written from their perspective. People can get their news anywhere. They’ll come to you because of you.
  • Blogs need to be updated regularly. If someone lands on your site and they see you’ve been out of touch for awhile, they probably won’t come back.

7. How do you find your audience?

I work Twitter when I’m sitting in front of the couch wasting time. Twitter is a good way to meet people that I’d NEVER meet otherwise. Also, in order to get visitors you have to be a visitor, so I try to visit at least two new blogs a day and leave comments or follow them.

8. What’s your fountain of inspiration for writing topics?

Depends on the blog. For my No. 2 Pen website content writing blog I usually answer questions that come up in client conversations. I don’t necessarily try to be cutting edge or break any news; I only want to be helpful to my community.

For my Saucy Dipper blog where I talk about how to make sauce and dip, I follow my stomach and write about food I enjoy eating.

I also have a few websites that I browse for ideas: StumbleUpon, Technorati, and Ted for something out of the ordinary.

9. Where and when do you find you are most productive when writing?

I’m most productive early in the morning and late in the afternoon. My productivity doesn’t rely on location, but it does require some good tunes and a pair of headphones.

10. If you could meet one writer, dead or alive, who would it be?

Humor writing has to be one of the most challenging styles of writing—50% learned and 50% natural talent. I’d want to sit in on a creative session with Tina Fey and see how she works.

11. Name your biggest writing/blogging pet peeve.

Biggest pet peeves: The overuse the word “so” and sentences that start with the word “I.”

I do both of these things so often. It annoys me.
Thanks, Sara, for your pearls of wisdom!  

Check out two likable posts Sara shares on her No 2 Pen blog (they will pop up in new windows for ease of back-and-forth reading):

Stay tuned for future “Ask the Expert” interviews featuring those who love to create as much as share.  

Blog readers: I’m always looking for suggestions for new content.  If like what you see, toss a comment below. I’m all ears and love to hear your recommendations for future “Ask the Expert” interviews.

7 Responses to “Blogging Tips & Tricks”

  1. Sara — March 7, 2011 @ 10:17 am (#)

    Thanks for taking the time to find out more about me, RJ. What a great idea for a blog post series.

  2. Jason Lancaster — March 7, 2011 @ 11:01 am (#)

    I agree – great idea for a post series. Excellent tactic for building links, not to mention sharing ideas with a wider audience. Maybe once you’ve got a few expert interviews together you could turn them into a PDF and then send out an email to all your newsletter subscribers…might be a good gift.

  3. Bethany Giannini — March 7, 2011 @ 7:07 pm (#)

    This is a great idea for a new category. I’ve already been following your blog through Google Reader for quite some time but this is an added bonus. I look forward to more of these posts.

  4. Tanvi — March 8, 2011 @ 6:59 am (#)

    This was really worth the read! Thanks for sharing both of you 🙂

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