NBI: Figure Out Your Blogging Goal

So you wanna start a blog

…now what?

There’s an intimidating blank white page that could be filled with anything… anything at all.

That, my friends, is a screamingly delicious recipe for writer’s block.

Before you know it, you’ve put the blog post aside for another day, which stretches into another, and then a week goes by, a month… Whoops.

Just as poetry benefits from some constraints on one’s writing, so too can your blog benefit from some restrictions on what or how you write.

The only caveat is not to make it too restrictive either. If you decide you will only post in three verse haiku about one specific game with screenshots to match, well, that’s up to you, but I strongly suspect you’ll get tired of either the format or the game eventually.

Some things I would suggest thinking about:

Blog Focus

The subjects you’d like to write about – one game, a few, many games. Will you be sharing other interests, or primarily just one?

I’ve seen blogs cover things like games and psychology, games and cooking (yum), games and gender issues, etc. and it’s not a bad way to give a unique concept to your blog.

Or you may just want to have the blog be about your unique take on games – in which case, a memorable name and viewpoint may be of some importance. Rest assured that we are all very different, if united in our love of game, and the moment you put words on the page, your voice will be trying to come through.

Post Length

This is just a rough guideline for yourself – how do you know when you’re done? 250 words? 500 words? A lot longer?

A general rule of thumb is that short posts are more frequently read by more people, whereas their eyes will tend to glaze over and scroll past 5000 words of squished together wall-of-text.

A short post also takes less time to write, and you’ll thank yourself later on slow days.

However, too short a post may also end up restrictive in that you may find yourself editing too heavily. Once you turn on the editor, it tends to kill off the creative freewriting portion of your brain that produces all the freaky ideas, so you don’t necessarily have to take a word limit to heart too literally.

If you’re like me and love walls of text, producing 2-3k words every time you have something burning deep down that you want to say – just bear in mind the tradeoffs. Personally, I welcome turning off the readers who can’t concentrate beyond a paragraph or two, I think it spares my comments bar a great deal.

It’s also good to break your wall of text up into short, easily readable chunks. Pictures are a very good formatting cheat that I use all the time. Or consider a two-parter post.

Post Format

Conversational first-person?

Letter style “Dear Reader” like Stubborn?

More formal third-person?

Picture and text caption?

Whatever else you can dream of?

Again, bear in mind trade-offs. An informal conversational style tends to be the easiest to write on those dark dry blogging days, but may not match the image you want your blog to project.

If you intend on putting pictures in every post, it’s going to be a barrier to posting one day when you don’t have any pictures or can’t muster the energy or time to find, take or edit any.

Post Frequency

Fact: If you want more eyes on your blog, a very regular and frequent posting schedule will have the most effect in getting more readers accustomed to you being out there and making your blog part of their daily or weekly reading. Especially when they’re bored at work and are looking for -any- reading material.

But not everybody has as much time as Syp to post twice or three times a day. 🙂

Trying to keep to a daily posting schedule may already drive you insane.

Personally, my advice is to try for 1-3 days. It works for me, with some flex slippage of up to 5 days or so.

You may note that I keep a calendar on my blog’s sidebar. That calendar is mostly for me. At a glance I can tell when my last post was, and I try not to leave too large a gap of white numbers in between the numbers with hyperlinks on them.

The idea is just to get in a habit of writing. This has a net positive for yourself as you’ll find it easier to get in touch with your inner voice and ideas over time.

It does mean that some posts you produce may be rougher and less well-formed than others. If your blog format/standards allow you to post those, go right ahead. If not, just keep them as drafts – they can be worked on and improved over time, or just kept as a record for yourself.

Your Motivation For Blogging

Why you even thought this was a good idea in the first place…

The suggestion many bloggers will give you is to try and find some internal motivations for why you’d want to sit arse to chair and type stuff into the ether.

Fixating too much on garnering views, readers, attention or feedback will automatically depress you on the days the Internet doesn’t give a fuck.

You may also end up adulterating your blog too much in the attempt for ever-growing numbers. (Little tip: If you do want to do that, one of the best ways is to post informational guides. Lots of short, timely informational guides. You can try being a Dulfy for your game of poison. It may end up being more work than play, but hey, if that’s your blogging goal, work towards that.)

But ultimately, relying on external motivations that are out of your control can shake your self-esteem, affecting how frequently you post.

Maybe you’d like to practice writing more consistently. Or practice the use of English if it’s not your mother tongue.

Maybe you just need a personal soapbox. Or a space to share your screenshots or stories.

Maybe you want to be a community hub of some kind, or just part of some community or another.

Keeping this in mind helps to direct what you’d want to do as well. Being a hub requires lots more socializing and networking and marketing than someone who just wants their own personal hermit space online.

If you want to be part of a community, then you have to participate in it somehow – read and link other blogs, make comments, engage in friendly banter and interaction, etc.

If a writing habit is your goal, then that is your prime directive that should be prioritized.

None of this has to be formalized or official.

A goal is not a set of chains binding you to a writ-in-blood commitment.

If your initial set of goals isn’t working out, feel free to change them on the fly and adjust and iterate as needed.

The idea is mainly for them to provide some needed guidelines so that you have a clue whether you’re headed in the right direction that works for you.

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NBI: The Newbie Blogger Initiative is Back!

Got an opinion about games?

Taken a bunch of screenshots or have MMO stories you’d love to share?

Don’t like that your comment gets lost in a sea of inane utterings from people out to spam and troll, rather than engage in a discussion?

What you need is your very own blog!

This October, the Newbie Blogger Initiative is back for round 2!

Its goal: To create a community of game bloggers that can offer a friendly network of support and encouragement for any and all aspiring newbies who want to be part of that amorphously-defined “blogosphere.”

Throughout the month, sponsor blogs will be helping to promote the event and provide blogging advice.

They’ll be doing their best to be eyes and direct traffic to new blogs to assist in getting over that first hurdle where you proudly post something online and promptly deflate when tumbleweeds roll by and find yourself begging for even a bot to be interested in visiting…

My blog and I are happy to be living proof that the NBI works.

stats

I joined the tail end of the NBI in May, and as you can see, the first month of June was… heh.

Things have only gotten better from there.

I owe a big debt of gratitude to both Bhagpuss and Ravious, two venerable blogging veterans who somehow enjoy my writing so much they hurl traffic in my direction every chance they get.

Hugh from the MMO Melting Pot was also instrumental in sending initial visitors my way, and when MMO Gypsy Syl of the then Raging Monkeys (I still love that name!) stumbled over one of my posts, things really got rocking when I got added to her blogroll.

You know why I name names?

Forget the stats, this is the TRUE magic of the NBI.

It’s the people you meet. The exchanges you have. (Of hopefully friendly banter.)

The new blogs and wonderful writing you get to read.

All my colleagues and fellow alumni of the first NBI, I still read with avid interest and occasionally jump in with a comment – Eri / J3w3l, Ocho, Paeroka, Rakuno, to name just a few.

By starting your blog now, you get to be the class of 2013, with all the magic that happens when you have a collective to interact with.

Convinced?

If you’re a new blogger, here’s what to do:

Come by the Newbie Blogger Iniatitive forums and read this introductory post on how to get started with it all.

Then sign up, ask your questions, make your plans, read whatever surrounding resources you feel like and don’t forget to write!

For sponsors, it’s also not too late to join in the fun.

Pop by the forums to check out all the stuff planned in October, sign up as a sponsor and participate!

Where I’ve Been: Retro-Gaming, Writing and Sales

Pixelated landscapes can still be pretty.

Yeah, I know I’ve been gone for more than a week.

It’s funny, but with the flip of the new year, MMOs have been the last thing on my mind.

I blame the recent GoG sale. Even though I’ve not played a single one of the games I bought so far. But it brought my mind way back into the past.

I picked up a copy of Darklands to keep. It’s a phenomenal game I intend to cover on this blog some day, set in a medieval fantastic Germany. I played it way back when, and even bought a CD copy of it a decade ago (god knows where it is now, digital distribution is too convenient.)

I picked up a collection of space games, and instead of playing any of them, ended up with a sudden intense nostalgic craving for Project Nomad – which is fortunately available free as abandonware. The highlight of this space trading and combat game is the interaction with the diverse spacefaring NPC races – who speak in characteristic Sound Blaster powered tones ranging from cute growls, snorts and chiming melodies, while your ship translates their words into English text that scrolls across your screen.

Trading with the enemy
Trading with the enemy

I spent a couple days starting a new character and trying to get to the comfortable level of power I remembered it was capable to achieve. Much trickier than I remembered. I got blown apart multiple times by Korok cruisers, vainly trying to remember the most powerful upgrades I was supposed to get for my ship, and wondering how it was possible to barter trade for them when starting off with goods that essentially have the trade value of cotton wool. I’ll post in more detail as I make more progress. There’s some depth to this game that I used to know once upon a time, and have by now, completely forgotten.

I played Alpha Centauri‘s Alien Crossfire expansion for a night, mischievously trying out The Hive and Sheng Ji Yang. In the old days, I would gravitate without fail to the green planet-hugging faction led by Deirdre Skye, partly due to school-influenced brainwashing on the importance of environmental intiatives and recycling and “green” issues, and partly because mindworms own. I’ve been tooling around with a writing/solo roleplaying campaign setting that’s a mix of cyberpunk, superheroes and the supernatural, with the ever popular megacorporations as the bad guys trope, so it seemed like a fun idea to play an industrial drone type of faction.

I made allies with the Morganites, economic megacorporation faction and all that, seemed narratively fitting. Bumped into the Spartan military faction, made temporary peace, but soon realized the continent wasn’t big enough for all of us. Wiped them out for lebensraum. Attempted peace with the Nautilus Pirates, a new faction from the expansion, me on land, they on water, seemed doable. Except when I was busy wiping out the University for the Morganites who were having trouble with them enroaching onto our joint continent, the Pirates took issue with this. So I cranked into naval war footing and made them public enemy number one, taking over the seas and crushing them back to the point of pathetic surrender, where they offer a Pact of Brotherhood, and promise never to bother you again, essentially becoming an annexe state to your faction.

Midway through this war, the next most powerful faction, Miriam Godwinson’s Lord’s Believers took fundamental issue with Chairman Yang’s expansionism. Hello, it was self-defence! (Sure, right.) Which led to an interesting and escalating modern war of more and more powerful lasers and aircraft bombings – all fortunately conducted on Believer soil, using nearby Pirate bases.

Alas, -something- happened, which to this point I am unsure exactly what… but the movie for a captured leader came up and I suddenly appeared with a small group of soldiers and one lone colony pod, with the message that “Fortunately, you escaped” or something along those lives, with all of the Hive’s previously owned cities hidden by fog of war. My best guess is that my capital city got taken over, but I could have sworn nothing was even on that continent. I have this vague suspicion it might have been the Morganites, despite our Pact of Brotherhood. I saw them with more than a dozen probe teams during their conflict with the University, but have no proof. Or maybe Miriam fired a nuke. Are there nukes in Alpha Centauri? I don’t remember anymore.

Not inclined to struggle uphill against insurmountable odds, I called it. That was the end of that.

I got in some Magic: Duel of the Planeswalkers 2012 time. The regular games against the AI  felt a little slow, though I enjoy the puzzle challenge scenarios. I found the Ghoulkeeper deck quite amusing to use in the campaign.

Where Guild Wars 2 is concerned, I’ve dialed back very hard on time spent. Playing the same game for over three months 5+ hours a day does get old. Instead I’ve been taking it a heart or two and a personal story chapter each time in Metrica Province, inching my Asura up a level a day. I haven’t even bothered to complete the daily, looking about for five events has gotten boring.

Guild Wars 1 used to have a chat message alert that would count off the hours you’ve spent online. I’ve been tickled to use the coincidence of my crappy WinXP computer and the propensity of GW2 to crash out of memory after zoning a couple times as my 1.5h alarm clock that it’s time to stop playing GW2 for the day.

I did intend to catch the New Year character slot sale day, but somehow, the shop failed to connect to Paypal when I tried to buy gems, and I had to log off to tend to RL. On coming back later, the promotion had passed. I picked up the two slots I wanted regardless. I had wanted them for some time anyway and was willing to pay full price. My potential engineer and mesmer is now taken care of.

When I’d actually choose to roll them up, we’ll see.

What has suddenly taken me over the last few days is a strong compulsion to write and continue scenes in a solo roleplaying game cum novella for fun that I got several pages into last year and then stopped.

I dunnno how it happened. I was just idly rereading stuff I attempted to write over the last seven years, which mostly consists of aborted attempts a few pages long. In between being mildly tickled by a Neverwinter Nights solo RP diary (there’s another game I oughta play again some day), I stumbled across a story that actually seemed viable to continue.

Which I did, for a couple pages. Then found myself thinking about the next scene, GM-like (or author planning-like) throughout the day, and couldn’t wait to get back to it the following day.

You know what. I’m not arguing. I haven’t been bitten this strongly by the muse and the narrative bug since Nanowrimo 2006 or so.

I’m only getting about 500 words a day, not even a third of Nanowrimo’s usual standard, but I’m having fun and I don’t care.

I’ll be back, when I’ll be back.

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions. There’s just the vague hope I’ll get more old games played this year. I’d like to get some The Secret World played again, now that it’s F2P – I got it updated, then didn’t log in.

Some more writing and roleplaying? Hell, yeah. (There’s a DrivethruRPG / RPGnow sale going on, by the way, if any tabletop gamers read this blog. 40% off, with this additional 15% coupon code for a whopping 55% off. In a moment of weakness, I’ve succumbed and picked up a bunch of megacorp cyberpunk / post-apoc settings to fuel ideas for my own. Seems urban sci-fi fantasy is now the in-thing.)

Steam is also running a midweek madness sale for Spec Ops: The Line at $7.49. That’s $2.70 cheaper than when I bought it over Christmas.

See, I was right when I was convinced Steam’s Christmas sale this year was priced higher than it could have been.

I got the game out of my system though. About ten days earlier. So well, I won’t fret about it.

It’s not too bad a price now for anyone sitting on the fence. Though you know, it -will- go down to $4.99 one day. Maybe the Summer sale. Up to you, can you wait six months?