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Taking Your Blog to the Next Level: Tips on Writing and Publishing

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If you want to take your blog to the next level, there are a surprising number of ways to do it. No matter the core subject of your blog, the actual art of writing posts can be the way by which you pave the road to your greater success. Say you want to have millions of people reading your blog or have a book published someday. Have you ever thought of getting published in a magazine as a stepping stone to such goals? Writing articles for both print and on-line magazines can provide a desirable boost in technical skill and recognition, and provide immediate financial gains and industry connections.

At evo 2012, more than 60 bloggers had the opportunity to learn how to write great articles and get published at the hands of two industry experts: Heather Morgan Shott, Senior Pregnancy Editor at Parents.com and blogger at HighChairTimes.com; and Ellen Seidman, blogger at LoveThatMax and long-time magazine editor, senior staffer, freelance editor and writer for  Redbook, Good Housekeeping, SELF, Child, Teen People, Glamour, American Baby, Martha Stewart Living, Whole Living, Allure, People StyleWatch, In Style, Real Simple, Woman's Day, and All You. "Making your blog rock is a great way to impress an editor," say Heather and Ellen, but what exactly are the brass tacks of blog-rocking? Here are a few:

How to Make Your Blog Rock

  1. Writing a great blog post starts with a great lead paragraph. Get to the point as quickly and as enticingly as you can. When writing, sharpen and shorten your first paragraph before writing anything else.
  2. Jump on news and trends.
  3. Edit yourself. Proofread and pare down thoroughly, even letting it sit for a while if necessary.
  4. Kick up the formats. Try lists, letters, and photo essays.
  5. Consider doing series around recurring themes or characters.
  6. Don't post just to post.

And then there are headlines, those hooks of all-importance. There are several ways you can make them "killer":

  1. Be clear and concise but show personality.
  2. Invite conversation by making your headline a question.
  3. Be controversial.
  4. Use numbers, as in "Three Essential Devices for Emergency Situations."
  5. Tell a bit of the story in the headline
  6. Say something unexpected.
  7. Use words that encourage a click, like "new," "best," and "secret."
  8. Try not to be vague, generic, or boring.

Even if one were to master all of these techniques, one would still be nowhere without also mastering the art of pitching to a magazine, or approaching one to seek the publication of one of your posts. This process requires a set of skills all its own, according to Heather and Ellen, who provided these tips:

  1. Aim your pitch at the right target. Take time to research appropriate publications for your posts, and the right contact. Schmooze editors at conferences and press events if you can.
  2. Write a must-read pitch. Lead with a compelling first paragraph, then a juicy anecdote or compelling statistic if you have one. Provide suggestions for a grabby headline, sidebars, and graphics. Keep it about one page.
  3. Propose it in the right format. Know the possible sections of the magazine (digital or print) where your article might fit, and format it appropriately. You can often find a magazine's "editorial guidelines" on its website.
  4. Include photos with your pitch.
  5. Toot your horn. Briefly relate your expertise as it relates to the subject matter of the article.

Ultimately, although it sounds cliché, if you believe you can elevate your blog or your writing career, you can. You just need to have the concrete skills behind it.

Do you want to get published? What steps are your taking to step up your blog or contact publications?

Pen and paper photo courtesy of Flickr.

Dart photo courtesy of Flickr.

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