29 Jan 2012

Getting Started with MMO Blogging

In the time since I started blogging about MMOs, I’ve learned a huge amount about writing, sharing and being part of a staggeringly huge community. In many respects though I’m still a noob, bumbling around and making mistakes. Things like the blog going offline due to setup or configuration errors because I’m too stubborn to use a free service, or losing my entire blogroll moving from one host to another.

I also look at the other bloggers and still feel amazed. How on earth does Tobold manage to come up with a new topic to write about every day? Where do Psynister and Cynwise find the time to put together their detailed, well researched guides? How does Spinks manage to read all the things and pull it all together into a well researched reflection of both the community and her own opinion? What inspired I Like Bubbles to convert the rant into an entertaining art form? How is The Daily Blink regularly and consistently funny?

When MMO Melting Pot mentioned that people felt intimidated by long-standing bloggers I was surprised to see my name listed there. I guess I still see myself as a newcomer to blogging compared to a lot of other people. It also reminds me how lucky I am to have created something that seems to work, even though I have no clue how I managed it. Part of me puts it down to trial and error, while another part reasons that it’s just fluke.

Even so, when I started out with MMO blogging I was given a bucketload of advice from a range of different people. There were many good lessons that I learned, but the four most important ones were these. I don’t know if they’re common sense (something I don’t have) or based on old proverbs, but they’ve worked for me. If you’re starting out as an MMO blogger or you’ve been doing it for a while but you’re struggling with it, I hope these are helpful.

Think About the Future

Starting out as a blogger is a daunting thing. You’ve got ideas for a handful of posts that you’re desperate to share and you can’t wait to get started. With blogging platforms like WordPress and Blogger you can be registered and writing in minutes. And that’s a great thing!

But before you start publishing take a moment to plan things out. If your head’s full of ideas then draft the articles up in Word or Google Docs or similar to free up your mind. Put on some relaxing music, grab a notepad and think about your blogging future. Contemplate everything: will you still be playing the same games, digging into the same classes or grouping with the same people?

Likewise, where do you hope your blogging will take you? Are you happy for it to be a hobby or are you hoping to use it to move into a career as a paid blogger or video game journalist? Are you thinking about making an income from advertising, selling ebooks or something similar? Do you want to move into the games industry as a programmer, community manager, artist or sound designer? I’ll be honest – one of my goals is to eventually work in MMO game design, and although I don’t think it’ll ever happen it at least gives me a target to aim for.

Never Bin An Idea

Blogging is great when the ideas are flowing and posts come together almost like magic. It’s when the well of ideas runs dry and the muse is out of town that things come grinding to a halt. No inspiration means nothing to write about, which means that the blog you put all that effort in ends up being neglected.

Ideas are fickle things – sometimes there’s a huge flood of them desperate to leak out everywhere, other times your creativity is left like a barren and dry desert. The best safeguard is to write down ideas when inspiration hits you so that you don’t forget them later. If a blogpost spawns further ideas as you’re writing it then consider saving them for a follow-up post in the future. Keep a notepad next your PC so that when you’re gaming you can make a note of something. Take screenshots!

Get Involved

Putting up your writing for everyone to see is one thing but helping people to know it’s there is something different. This is a difficult topic because it’s like walking a tightrope between crocodiles and alligators. On the one hand you’ve got the conundrum that if you don’t share your new blog with people then they’ll never find it, but on the other hand if you start spamming places with “Visit my blog!” then you’ll quickly earn yourself a bad reputation. The trick is not to get eaten by either creature, which usually relies on something that I have none of – common sense.

The best thing I’ve found is to become involved in communities gradually in order to understand what accepted behaviour is. Twitter works differently to Reddit, which works differently to forums, which are different to Google+ It’s important to get to know each community before posting a single link to your own stuff. Some forums are happy for you to link your blog in your signature while others are completely against any form of self-promotion.

That said, be free with getting involved. Talk to other people. Post comments on other blogs with your own thoughts. If they inspire you to write your own blogpost, link back to their article. The same with forum threads and Twitter interactions – if you can share where the idea came from then do it.

DO NOT just spam everywhere advertising your new blog. Be sensible and respectful of the places you’re participating in.

There Are No Rules

My final bit of advice is another truism. There are no rules to successful writing, no guaranteed formula that will work for you. It takes work, experimentation and persistence to find a setup and style that works for you.

To give you a bit of background, I’d originally started out writing a tech blog. I’d research my articles and carefully give reasons for my opinions. I got some great feedback from family and friends, but it just wasn’t going anywhere. I tried making it more interesting by including subjects that I was more passionate about (games), but then it became disorganised and unfocused. After trying to reboot the idea a couple of times I decided to shut it down.

Since then I’ve read a lot, learned a lot and tweaked things a lot to gradually improve how I write, how I lay pages out and how I organise the blog. And I’m still learning – how to make better Youtube videos, how to design my own games and so on. I’m finding new bloggers with interesting ideas and I’m loving what they’re writing about.

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