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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8 Responses to Getting Started with MMO Blogging

  1. Tesh says:

    Perhaps oddly, one inspiration I have is a series of books, the “The Cat Who…” books. They are a series of mystery novels where a cat helps solve crimes. The primary human character is a writer by trade, proud of his ability to ‘write 1500 words on nearly anything by tomorrow’ or something like that. I thought that to be a curious thing to brag of when I first read it (in junior high), but it did make me think that the ability to write intelligently about nearly anything was perhaps a mark of a well-versed mind and good writing skills.

    I’d not say that I have the same ability, but I most certainly can crank out 1500+ words about things I’m interested in and well-versed in in very short order (without aiming for a word count at that; I just write and explore ideas as much as I feel like, and it tends to be pretty… verbose). I’ve had a great deal of practice reading and writing over the years, and it really does make a difference. I think that extensive experience with nonfiction, novels, short stories, technical papers, news writing and even other blogs ingrains a familiarity with the language that allows for ideas to flow into useful text forms.

    It still strikes me as odd at times when someone compliments me on my writing. I don’t see it as anything all that impressive, as familiar as I am with truly gifted writers. I just write in a way that I hope makes my ideas clear. It comes with practice (especially many papers written in school), I guess. I write much the way I think; the logic chains and presentation are simply the way I think through a topic.

    I think that any writing that stays true to that inner voice, even if there’s a bit of RP or anonymity for whatever reason, will ring genuine to the reader, and even genuinely interesting. It need not be doctorate-level puffery or gutterspeak, it just needs to have that core of honesty. At least, that’s what I’ve come to believe.

    To be sure, sometimes that honesty means those who disagree have the potential to be more… personally injurious, but that’s always the risk one takes when sharing with others, I figure. It need not mean a complete brain dump, either. I don’t write about religion or politics much, just because I know I hold minority opinions and people love to belittle them. I have better things to do than be misunderstood.
    Tesh recently posted..Why Play, Why Pay?My Profile

    • Gazimoff says:

      I think one of the problems I have is that a lot of my professional writing tends to be highly technical and pretty dry as a result. I feel that with my blogposts I have to fight against that by putting a bit of myself in them, otherwise it reads more like a school report than a blogpost.

      I guess that’s why I’m wary of being complimented for my articles. There are so many much more talented writers out there who don’t get nearly enough praise while I feel like a six year old throwing phrases around like Duplo.

      You’re right about being honest to an inner voice though. About six months ago I was really struggling to make my posts resonate. I had a couple of chats with Alyzande over Skype and she suggested that I ask people why they read me. The answer: they read me for me. Since then I’ve put more of myself and my opinions in my posts and the result has been incredible!

      • Chris says:

        I find the same thing Gazimoff. It took me a long time when I started writing to figure out not only my own voice, but the voice that best fit the current content that I was writing about.
        My default style is quite dry in nature, too “educational” (I’m a teacher in my day job) and I struggle to make it more entertaining.
        Chris recently posted..MMO Reporter Episode 63 – ShavedMy Profile

  2. Bronte says:

    That is one thing you cannot stress enough, that we should never bin an idea. One thing I like doing, no matter how obscure the thought may be, is writing it down in a short title, with a little bit of description, and saving it as a draft. On days that i cannot figure out what to write about, I go through my drafts folder and within minutes I have 10 different ideas!
    Bronte recently posted..“Epic Witcher 2: Assassin’s of Kings Cinematic” or “The Best Cinematic You Will See All Week”My Profile

    • Gazimoff says:

      I completely agree! Getting past the first five posts on a new blog project is a real challenge. I’m just glad I get inspired enough to write an 800 word post three times a week.

      The other trick is making sure you get inspired regularly. Playing a variety of games, reading a wide range of topics and getting great discussions in comments and social networks are all really helpful.

  3. Oestrus says:

    If I had to give someone who was thinking about getting into the scene a piece of advice, other than the pieces of advice that I have already given, it would be to keep writing. Nothing makes me more sad than when I’m going through the pages of links found on a site like Blog Azeroth and I read articles that are really good and from authors with so much potential and they either don’t keep it up or they post so infrequently that you can’t hang on any longer and forget to check back on them. I think it’s important while you’re initially getting established to really churn out posts more frequently, if you can, until you have been around long enough where you have a more established audience and you can afford to be AFK a bit more. I think going AFK too early in your blogging career can blow up in your face and I see that happen far too often.

    Great post, Gaz!
    Oestrus recently posted..Oestrus’ Comprehensive Holy Priest Guide – Version 4.3My Profile

    • Gazimoff says:

      Great advice. One thing I’ve heard is pacing yourself by limiting how often you publish. For example, say you’ll update weekly then get a stack of ideas, save them for next week’s post or build up a buffer with them. Don’t crank out five posts in five days then vanish for a week.

  4. Thanks for the advice :)
    Jamin (@JaminToTheTop) recently posted..Covered In Dust & NostalgiaMy Profile