Bloggers who have personal blogs know about host blog. Many of these are fun and often help fuel creativity.. A is a meme with a theme hosted by one blog. Participants write posts following certain criteria, then they submit the link to their post to
Monday Listicles fuels my creativity because I am forced to think beyond just listing ten items related to the topic. I usually write an intro and then explain why I included that item on my list. I also write an introduction to each post. I usually have a lot of fun participating in Monday Listicles.
Yeah Write is a little different. You bring your best post to the link-up, you read the other blogs in the link-up and then you vote on your favorite posts when voting opens. There are several winners: popular vote, editor’s pick, and lurker’s pick. Spots on the grid are at a premium and the linkup closes at 50 posts. If you don’t feel like competing, there is a second hangout grid where you can post and not worry about reading 49 other posts before voting opens.
The popularity of Yeah Write led to some changes. Right now, the Yeah Write Summer Series is starting to wind down. This summer series is part writing group and part reboot of the linkup itself. During the summer series, people who wished to linkup had to follow rules: your posts had to follow one of three prompts without mentioning the prompt anywhere in the post, it could be no more than 500 words and the grid would now be moderated.
With the change came some grumbling, of course, but I found the changes welcome. People would stay up and they would wait until they received the e-mail or saw the tweet announcing the opening of the grid every Tuesday at midnight eastern time and then they would pounce. I’d then go to bed and when I woke up at 7 am, there were maybe four spots left on the grid. The grid closing when it did also excluded some very talented writers with very good posts. It was frustrating to see a grid spot taken up by someone posting a recipe at the expense of a post that fit the criteria of a winning post. Instead of a writing showcase, the linkup became a way for people to boost their blog traffic at the expense of quality.
There were always rules and guidelines, but they were not moderated like they are now. Moderation means that if your post doesn’t fit the rules, it’s sent back to you to be edited.
I’ve participated in most of the summer series. When I did not, it was because the prompt did not speak to me. When the prompts are posted on Monday morning, I take them and I start brainstorming to see where I end up. If I have a good idea, then I run with it. If not, then I don’t participate.
When the summer series ends, the challenge grid will still be moderated, but the word limit will be increased to 1000 words. The prompts will not be there (although I wish they would keep them and make them optional).
While some people have grumbled about the changes, I found them very helpful in improving my writing in a number of ways.
1. Having that structure gives me direction. When I have to adhere to things like a strict word count and a prompt, it gives me a firm starting place and a firm guide for my writing. When I write other types of pieces, I have that structure. I’ve learned that blogging really isn’t any different than other forms of writing. For a creative non-fiction blog post, it needs to follow a story structure with a beginning, middle and an end. There must be a conflict within the story.
2. I stopped trying to write or wanting to write like everyone else. Many times, when we write for a linkup or write for a contest that is open to voting, we note who wins and what they write about. We may notice certain patterns of who gets the most votes and what kinds of posts get the most votes. It’s human nature to want people to like us and to want their approval for what we do. Because we want that approval, then we start forcing ourselves into boxes that don’t fit us.
I noticed that the pattern of winning posts or high vote getters either had to do with author’s kids and the darn things they say and do or with some sort of personal adversity. While those types of posts can be compelling when handled correctly, those subjects aren’t, well, me. Plus, they’re overdone. I don’t want to write on sad topics all the time because it feels like I’m dwelling on the past. But yet the competitor in me wanted to write posts like that so I could win something. The summer series has forced me to rethink this idea and stay true to my own voice, ideas and style.
3. I noticed that my writing in general improved. As the summer series progressed, I not only saw improvement in my Yeah Write posts, but also in the writing I’ve done for paying clients.
4. It gives participants a taste of what writing for publications is really like. When you have your own platform like a personal blog, you are free to write about whatever you want without worrying that an editor is going to come in and make changes to your post. Many people use their blogs as their author’s platform and to help launch a writing career. It’s a different ballgame when you’re writing for publication. What some of the grumblers and detractors don’t realize is that if they wish to go from blogging to writing, they have to conform to submission guidelines, word counts, revision requests and even outright rejection of the work.
When you blog, you’re insulated for the most part from the realities of writing for publication. When you own the blog, you decide the content and you’re the one who hits publish. Your audience is limited and you’re not exposed to readers who are outside of your genre who look at your work through different eyes.
The new Yeah Write criteria are a lot like submitting poetry or prose to a literary magazine or submitting a query or manuscript to an agent. I’m also a submissions editor for an online fiction magazine and part of my job is to offer feedback to the other editors as to whether a story should be accepted, rejected, or needs more polish. Having a post sent back for revision may seem defeating and humbling to the blogger, but it is meant to help you hone your writing skills.
5. It helped me learn to avoid “one trick pony” syndrome. In some respects, this point goes back to point number 2. Every week during the summer series, the Yeah Write Summer Series posts featured very helpful writing advice. My favorite advice post was about finding the “so what” moment in your own post. My favorite line from that post is this one:
But guess what? They don’t.
All our stories need shaping, honing, pruning. They need, in short, a “so what.”
I’m being honest when I say that in the past, it was difficult for me to fulfill the requirement of reading other posts because when I opened a link and saw it was yet another painful experience/cute toddler/fight with spouse type post, I had to fight the urge to close the tab without reading the post itself. I also did not feel compelled to comment because it was difficult for me to not say “Your post bored me to tears because I’ve already read this theme twelve other times today.”
The challenge grid was filled with posts like these, but only a few of them actually compelled me to keep reading. The authors of those posts found that “so what” moment and expressed it in a way that made it stand out from the rest of the pack. It’s one thing to write about your children, but give me a compelling reason why I should care that your toddler embarrassed you in Wal-Mart last week. It’s one thing to write about a family member with a medical issue, but give me a compelling reason why I should care that your sister had a heart attack.
I know this sounds cold, but as a writer, we have to remember that we need to draw in a reader and then keep them engaged. Bored readers become former readers. If a writer wants to increase his or her audience, they have to remember that they need to craft their topic to appeal to a broader audience.
Most blogging advice tells you to find a niche. I’ve found that a blog niche works well for a business blog or a hobby blog or any type of blog that you might want to monetize, but not so much for personal blogs because you’re limited to writing on that one topic. If you’re trying to establish credibility as an expert in a particular area, then you should become a niche blogger.
Niche blogging, however, is the very antithesis of creative writing. Prose writers who get stuck in a niche become one-trick ponies. One-trick ponies are really the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse of creativity.
The summer series is drawing to a close, but the revamped challenge will resume soon. However, it makes me happy to know that Erika, the curator of Yeah Write, is willing to make the changes necessary to keep true to her vision of what Yeah Write should be. Yeah Write, first and foremost, is a writers’ showcase.
For all of my Yeah Write posts, I’ve included a link to that category on my personal blog. If you have time to dig in, please do. I’m linking to it because I want you to see how my writing has changed and improved, especially after the summer series began.
If you are interested in participating in Yeah Write, either in the hang out grid or you feel up for a challenge, please visit their site. If you sign up for their e-mail blast or follow them on Twitter, you will be informed when the grids open for submissions. I highly recommend participating as not only a way to learn and improve your writing, but to gain readers and find new blogs to read.