Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Tricks of the the Trade: Writing a Horse-y Blog

Courage is the best at blog tips
Every once in a while, I get an email from a new blogger, introducing themselves. (I love it. Keep sending them!) Not infrequently, they ask me what it takes to write a horse-y blog. It's an interesting topic that Lauren covered here, and it varies from person to person. Definitely read Lauren's post-she covers a lot of important points. Here's what I'd add to her post, though:








Main ideas:



The story of Courage
When I'm browsing a new blog, the #1 thing I'm looking for is a good story. Everyone has a story and I'd venture to say that most people have good ones. I want to see their story conveyed in their writing though. Where are they from? What are they moving towards? Do the characters catch me? It can be a sad story, a happy story, a fun story, or anything in between.

The blogger can battle the clock, the bank account, or their own limitations (or all of them). The story is the glue that sticks all the posts together and differentiates a blog from a training calendar. It's frequently the relationship between the blogger and their horse, but it can be other things.
Bloggers with great stories: Sweet Horse's Breath, Pony Express





The voice of SprinklerBandits
The biggest thing that makes a blog stand out is the voice it's told by. Writing a blog is about more than just good grammar and coherent (SHORT!!) paragraphs. It's about finding your voice in the horse world and learning to speak. This is something to pay particular attention to when you read back over your own posts (unless I'm the only weirdo who does that?).

Everyone has bad days, but if your tone is consistently whiny or entitled or cynical, I'm unlikely to add you in to my daily feed. A strong voice in a blog shows your personality and gives me a character to engage with.
Bloggers with great voice: Pia's Parade, Chasing the Dream


Focus on halters
In order to make a blog readable, it is important for the author to focus. Again, we all have days where everything is so right (or wrong) that we just do a massive brain dump, but in general, readers can track so much better if the blogger picks a topic and sticks with it for a post. Topics can be anything: that funny thing my horse did, how my show/lesson went, something I love (or hate!) about the horse industry or something else entirely. Focus helps the reader identify with the writer's ideas and respond.

A lack of focus makes it very hard for me as a reader to respond--I'm still thinking about the first thing you said and since then you said four other things.

Bloggers who focus: She Moved to TexasWe Are Flying Solo

Being honest about Cuna
Honesty is one thing a blog can't stand without. Horse bloggers are a unique group of hard working individuals. Sometimes it's awesome. Sometimes it's horrible. Instead of glossing over the ups and downs of life on four legs, embracing the raw honesty available on a blog is another way readers can connect with a blog. If you're knee-deep in road apples, you don't have to play it off as rainbows and unicorns. We're all vulnerable and we appreciate people who can admit it.

Bloggers who are honest: Dandyism, Poor Woman Showing

Those are my big must-haves. I read a lot of blogs, but the ones that consistently demonstrate these qualities are going to get my attention first because I've connected with them. Here are a couple other things that are less of a big deal, but still important to me as a reader:


Extras


Pictures!!! Pictures pictures pictures!!!! I love good original photographs. They don't have to be pro-quality. Heck, most shots on my blog are from my phone. I grew up with my Mom taking pictures roughly every 30 seconds, which I thought was really annoying. Now I probably take a picture every 15 seconds. I try to only share the best or funniest shots, but adding a picture can really make an entry pop. (Noted: I really can't stand pirated pro photos and random stock shots you didn't take. What is the point.) <-Yes, that could have been a question mark, but I'm not leaving room for discussion. Watch A Collection of Madcap Escapes to see someone who takes more pictures than me and uses a real camera and Suzanne for someone who doesn't steal pro photos.

Courage and Diva approve this message
Layout/readability/ease of use: If I go to your blog and your font/background color combo is completely unreadable or I have to click something to see the full post or your organization is super kitsch and doesn't make sense to me, the odds are that I'm not going to stay on your page. If that's your personal style, good for you. I like things simple and accessible.

Pages: If you have multiple horses or make frequent references to characters I can't remember or are drawing on a backstory I don't have any way of knowing, it is really helpful if you have some tabs I can click on to find out that information. Solid writing probably makes this a non-issue, but who doesn't want more places to put up cute horse pictures? I vote yes to tabs.

In Conclusion

At the end of the day, we read for ourselves. These are just my standards. The great thing about the blogging platform is that you can make it your own and express yourself any way you want to. I can't be the only one who's thought about this--what did I miss? What one thing keeps you reading?

37 comments:

  1. Great points! I try to meet all of these, but I am not sure if I am successful or not. In the end though, I write for me and my progress (or lack of). But it sure is great for other people to read and comment :)

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  2. I feel like Dandyism and I got lumped together in the group that's actually called "People who fail a lot." ;)

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    1. Yeah. You're the failure who realized that despite what trainer pros were telling you, your horse needed something else, so you RIPPED HIS SHOES OFF WITH YOUR BARE HANDS and taught yourself how to trim.

      Did I say failure? I meant badass.

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  3. These are the same qualities I look for in blogs that I read, but I know for a fact I don't meet some of them with my own blog. However, my blog is for myself - to track both my successes and my failures with Fiction. My posts may get bland, repetitive, whiny, etc....but they are for my own benefit. I do, however, very much enjoy my readers and their very constructive comments. I've learned a lot from them already!

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  4. As a new blogger, thanks for the tips! I can definitely see how blogging is an art - one that I'm not particularly good at. Hopefully that will improve! I have to agree with the other posters that a lot of what I blog about (so far) is for me to remember where we've come from and what is working for us and what hasn't. Along with the self motivation to actually work on stuff through the winter so we come out strong in the spring!

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    Replies
    1. Lydai HAI! You never told me you started a blog! *mustfollownow!*

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    2. Yea, just started it. Bored at work, so yea. my blog kinda sucks.

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    3. What is your blog address? I would love to check it out!

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    4. www.brokeeventer.blogspot.com

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  5. These are all great tips I have definitely gotten a bit behind on mine! My laptop died so I am forced to blog from work (shhhh) and it's our busiest time of year! It's interesting though, after the weekend when I look at all the blog entries I've missed over the weekend and which ones I read first (I am sure many of the points you mentioned above have something to do with that).

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  6. Great post! Thanks for the shout out. :)

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  7. So glad you brought up the tabs. I have been wanting to ad tabs but can't figure out how to???

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    1. Ho to your home page on blogger. Click the drop down menu next to "new post". The third option down is pages. Click on that. It's pretty self-explanatory from there on out.

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  8. Great points! LOL @ Carly - I don't think you guys fail. I think y'all do well with difficult horses ;)

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  9. Well said! I wish I made the cut!

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  10. Good points! I always am looking for ways to make my blog better. I do write it for myself to keep track of my progress. I have fun writing but know I have LOTS of room for improvement!

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  11. I think honesty is one of my favorite things to see in a blog.

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  12. You know, these are excellent points that I probably subconsciously look for when *reading* blogs, but in terms of writing posts I must admit I have a lot to work on: I'm long-winded, have not enough focus, or photos.

    And I completely agree with you especially on readability/layout. Tiny font, bad color combos, etc are the worst!

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    1. Hey, I'll read all the way through a long blog as long as it's engaging. ;-)

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  13. Thanks for the post! Now I know what I can work on.

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  14. Definitely needed those tips. :)

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  15. Ooo Thanks for the tips! (And hello! from Australia)

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  16. Those last three are big ones for me! Not many people seem to mention them, but they definitely make a difference in whether I will be back or not. I definitely post a lot of pictures, but I feel I lack engaging stories and voice.... I proofread for grammar, but never really thought about the other things really. I sometimes think my blog is boring because we don't do anything (we don't compete and I haven't even been riding much), but it's mainly for me to look back and remember what we've been through together. :) I started my blog before I even got him as a five month old foal four years ago, so it's good memories.

    Great post (better than mine that I did on this subject lol)!

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  17. I so fail badly with the taking photos thing - mostly because I have very limited time with my horse, screaming babies to take care of and a household that seems to fall apart without me.

    All of the above means that I'm concentrating on the most efficient use of my time and forget to point and shoot, even though I am always thinking to myself that *this* time I ought to get my act together and get a few snapshots. : P

    Dreadful, but I hope not too many people are put off by the lack of pictures.

    bonita of A Riding Habit

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  18. All great points to keep in mind!

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  19. Replies
    1. I think Bug is better for your health. ;-)

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    2. Until he gets teeth that is....I do miss writing a horsey blog. Maybe if I ever get off the waitlist I will revive wildponybeast

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  20. Well written! I started blogging just for myself, because I started eventing two years ago and somehow ended up going to the AECs my first year- then got handed a free baby green horse, so it finally sunk into a real theme and focus and kind of took off from there. Then I started to get more structured with my blogging, attempting to integrate a lot more of the tips you gave!

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  21. Awwwwe, look who is an all grown up blogger!! Thanks for the mention, although I find it hilarious that I, as an actual ADHD woman, make it in the "focus" category. Great post though and I completely agree with your list, especially simplicity and remembering: huge text blocks = my eyes explode.

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  22. I like the honesty. It isn't always sunshine and butterflies. Sometimes the hardest lessons we learn are the ones we don't want to, the ones we fear the most and the ones that stick with us the longest.

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  23. One more tip. Above all else, it takes TIME. It takes time to build a blog and a readership. I think that Green n' Green = Black n' Blue got it's 10th follower at 6 months old! When I stopped really writing it (lack of horses) it had 240 followers. Also, just because someone doesn't "follow" doesn't mean it doesn't get read. Write for yourself. :) (Denali's Mom, now Bug's mom at www.fbxadventures.blogspot.com)

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  24. Great post! I wish I had more of a "voice", I don't think my writing style is very unique or eloquent, and I tend to be long winded. I have more than enough pictures to make up for it though!

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  25. Thank you for the shoutout! I wish I had a happier honest blog sometimes. This rough patch is lasting too long. :)

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  26. These are actually great tips for not horse-y blogs too. :)
    Thanks!

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