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What Makes a Post Freshly Press-able: It’s All in the Details

Every day, a handful of WordPress.com bloggers are featured on Freshly Pressed. And every day, many more wonder, “What do I…

Every day, a handful of WordPress.com bloggers are featured on Freshly Pressed. And every day, many more wonder, “What do I have to do to get Freshly Pressed?”

Here on The Daily Post, we take a close look at posts that have been Freshly Pressed and explore why they were Press-worthy. We hope this series provides insight into the process and offers tips and tools to make your blog the best it can be.

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As a child, I was always entranced by complexity.

Photo courtesy of Cheri Lucas

Photo courtesy of Cheri Lucas

The web is full of great reading, waiting to be discovered. But so much is out there, and if a post doesn’t grab my attention right from the beginning, I drift and click on something else. We’re lucky to read on the web in a time in which writers are crafting thoughtful, engaging longer reads each day. And I sensed, from James’ first sentence (above) in his recent post, “It’s All in the Details,” that it would be such a piece.

James immediately sets the tone and mood, and how fitting that his post on details — within the stories we tell, and in our own lives — is rich with details and layers. He ultimately creates a textured post that works on different levels.

Here are some specific reasons why we featured this post on Freshly Pressed:

He grounds us with personal experience before exploring larger ideas.

“It’s All in the Details” explores how details shape the worlds within fiction, from stories by James Joyce to Virginia Woolf. But before James dives into this literary discussion, he tells us about himself, and how he’s always paid attention to details since he was a child:

Details were important to me then, not because of the raw information itself, but because of the plan, the narrative, I was able to construct for myself because of them. I could plan out my sledding adventures now, and start calling friends. Our minds want details and information in order to help us build a more certain, predictable world, a world we can make sense out of. A narrative world.

In addition, he talks about a human’s innate desire to consume information and gather data — it’s an intriguing discussion, and it sets us up for his thoughts on using details in storytelling.

Writing about yourself may not always make sense in your own posts, but doing so humanizes you as a narrator and lets your reader know where you’re coming from.

He provides literary examples to illustrate his points.

James Joyce was probably the most exacting of all authors when it came to details. He famously asserted that he wished for a reader to be able to reconstruct Dublin, brick by brick from his descriptions in Ulysses. While he lived in France, he frequently wrote back to relatives living in Dublin, demanding the exact time it took to walk between different locations in the city, taking specific routes. The world seems real, because Joyce has put in so much effort to construct it.

He supports his post with concrete examples of books and authors that have built entire worlds with details — from A Song of Ice and Fire and Harry Potter to J.R.R. Tolkien and James JoyceWithout these specific references, it could be challenging for readers to follow his discussion. If it’s appropriate in your own posts, illustrate your ideas with examples in our culture to strengthen them.

The discussion is contemporary and relevant, too.

Too often, we’re very adept at paying attention to details in last night’s episode of The Walking Deadthan in our own lives. . . . People often seem more invested in fictional families, friends, and lovers, than their own.

Photo courtesy of Cheri Lucas

Photo courtesy of Cheri Lucas

In addition to using classic literature to inform his post, James keeps his discussion timely with references to current TV shows — The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey — to further his ideas: that our regular, run-of-the-mill lives are boring, and that the stories we watch and read about are hyperactive versions of normal life, but much more interesting.

Ultimately, he offers his own take: he loves the detailed narratives of books, TV, and movies, but fears that we, as a culture, don’t bring that same attention to detail back with us to the real world.

We increasingly wander through our days in a daze, head down, engrossed in our phones, coffee in hand.

We especially like how James takes the time to cover his points in detail and concludes with his own opinions and commentary on a much larger discussion on life — and the richness and complexity of it. “Life, real life, is the best written of all works,” writes James.

When concluding your own posts, offer your own commentary. Contribute to the existing discussion. Your reader has followed you this far on a journey — they want to read what you have to say. So, go for it.

What did you think of this Freshly Pressed pick from the blog James’ Room?

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  1. I’m still yet to check it out. Meanwhile, the highlights and commentary on his post is already captivating, motivating and enlightening enough to quickly begin exploring the beauty and dividends of details. I had a beautiful time experimenting details in the last writing challenge and came up with this: http://teeceecounsel.wordpress.com/2013/01/22/short-fiction-our-table-and-the-entrance/
    I hope to pick some more tips from James.
    I appreciate the clues and I feel sure they are making me more proficient in writing. I have always longed to be a better writer. Thanks! :)

  2. I think it is a lovely piece. It is well observed and beautifully written. This took time and care to prepare. It is thoughtful. James is so correct that many live in fictional worlds with virtual friends. Life is fed to us in short sentences. Pressing a ‘like’ button is the briefest of communication and sometimes leaves the receiver wondering why or what. Did you like my writing, my idea, my picture, the light?
    Longer words are going out of fashion and advice on writing for the masses tells us to use short words, short sentences, short paragraphs, and to cut out anything that doesn’t keep the story moving. Long descriptive narrative is less appreciated. Short stories are getting shorter with flash fiction and Haiku are becoming more popular and less meaningful. I am generalising a lot here. There are some excellent flash fiction stories that are cleverly written and some lovely Haiku but I believe the message is clear.
    I am rambling on here and haven’t reached a point. I loved this post. It made me think.

    1. “I like this”. Short is good, long is good. Details clarify, brevity emphasises. Every style and length has it’s role. Beauty is in the eye of a beholder. I would have just clicked on “like” comment if it was available, but I don’t think you would have read my mind. Smiles!
      Good stuff, believe me, you made some point. :)

    2. Love your thoughts here, especially:

      Life is fed to us in short sentences. Pressing a ‘like’ button is the briefest of communication and sometimes leaves the receiver wondering why or what.

      Glad you enjoyed this and that it made you think. Made me think, too.

    3. Hi, Kerry,
      It’s absolutely true about the ‘Like’ button, because I feel the same way too! What did you like about it if you ‘like’ it? Am I rambling or am I making a point? Good stuff.

      1. I find it frustrating if you end your post with a discussion point, and all people do is click ‘Like’…it tells you nothing, it contributes nothing to the post. It’s fine to ‘Like’ when its nothing to discuss, or a photo, but if someone is asking for another viewpoint etc, they are expressing the preference to find out what others think…to engage with the readers…why are people not more willing to comment and discuss what they read?! that’s how you really build a following, and a community.

      2. The pleasure of blogging is in the interaction with people kind enough to read the blog….not everyone wants to comment but the ‘like’ button is frustrating..
        What was it you liked? What has your experience been?
        We shall never know when you use the ‘like ‘ button.

    1. Wow! Congratulations James! You are exceptionally creative! You are a master of words, strategy and organization of concepts. You are very creative with details. That’s unique. Your piece is a good subject of study. :) Welldone!

    1. Hi Brenda — Freshly Pressed is a feature in the WordPress.com Reader — the content you find in the Reader, and that we promote to Freshly Pressed, is on blogs hosted on WordPress.com, not .org.

  3. I hope I’m never freshly pressed – all the greats are never appreciated in their own time. Plus, I’m not American so it’s never going to happen, although I do love the endless posts about things that have no relevance to anyone who does not live in America.

    1. We do feature blogs from those outside of the US; we’d like to feature even more. Do send us links to blogs with solid, well-written writing focused on international topics if you’d like us to consider them. You can tweet us @freshly_pressed or post in the comments.

      1. Thanks for the response, sorry if my comment seemed a bit abrupt but I’d just like to read more posts that are more relevant to me, I mean I can’t imagine there ever being a freshly pressed post about David Cameron’s speech on Europe, but there’ll most likely be posts on Obama’s inauguration. Thanks for the advice, I’ll just keep writing, I don’t think I could ever elect one of my own posts to be freshly pressed.

    2. I find your comment refreshingly honest and widening th circle, so to speak. Why do you feel that way? And I didn’t even realize WordPress was international…which I wouldn’t, if I never see something from someone not American Freshly pressed, would I?

      1. When I first signed up to wordpress I acutally thought I’d signed up to the US version of freshly pressed – I even asked in the support forum if there was a UK version, but alas it’s in fact just one freshly pressed.

      2. I am also from the UK, Erin.
        Wordpress is US based, so we are in a minority, along with the people from other countries too. On my blog I have luckily had visitors from US, Canada, Arab Emirates, Portugal, Australia and Romania to name a few. So non-US’ers are out there…just fewer and farther between! :-)

      3. Hi reikipixie, thanks for that info, I didn’t know that, I just signed up cos I thought it looked better than blogspot. I love that people read my blog from around the world too, a lot of the time I don’t have one single visitor from the UK!

    3. Agree. :D But then again America is a big country so it’s logical there’s going to be more people blogging from there. I do think though that some of the British politics should be more highly featured (and politics from other countries, and not just because there’s a war on). Sometimes it’s hard to find people from the UK who you can connect with because of America being dominant.

      1. True. I genuinely thought there must have been a UK version of FP because all the posts were from the US – all the new ones yesterday were from the US and I find it hard to relate sometimes – the major problems facing the US, although I care, are not necessarily at the forefront of my mind.
        Bizarrely, most of the blogs I follow on bloglovin’ are from the UK, maybe blogspot is a more common platform for the UK – but I prefer wordpress.
        I agree with finding it hard to connect with people blogging in the UK – hence why I’m now following your blog, as well as it being interesting.

    4. Laughing. WP is very americacentric, and also often youthcentric so you have one bonus in your favour (I have neither).

      Now if you think anything about David Cameron won’t make freshly pressed, imagine me writing about Fabian Picardo (chief minister of Gibraltar) or maybe Mariano Rajoy (I try to avoid writing about him, president of Spain). I could do a poll. Does anyone know where Gibraltar is. Trouble is, if they read my blog they do!

      When I was on blogger most of my readers were American. I still have American readers, but the balance has shifted, more UK ones, Australians, Canadians, people living in Europe, and Asia, primarily.

      As for the Americacentric aspect of highlighted blogs, what really annoyed me was the ex-pat blogs that were highlighted a while ago. It was hugely Americanised. I mean, really, Europeans have been ex-patting before America existed. ‘Here we have a brave American sophomore (whatever one of those is) who has ventured out of the US…’ etc etc. ‘What an awesome blog about life outside Walmart,’ or some such similar.

      More than half of the featured blogs were American in some way or other. Of the ex-pat blogs I read, one is American, most are British, one is Scandinavian, others are Asian.

      I understand WP has staff based around the world, but it certainly doesn’t get demonstrated with featured blogs.

      Nice comments ErinOrange. I’ll probably get blackballed for my response.

      And separately, I thought the FP post was boring as hell. I wasn’t even going to say that but your comments about does the world exist outside America drew me in :D

      1. It hadn’t occurred to me to think about ‘nationality’ when moving to WordPress but my brief experience of the huge overhang of American culture on display leads me to agree with you.

        The amount of navel studying stuff that appears on Freshly Pressed depresses me too…so now I only take occasional glances.

        And no, I don’t need an opening sentence to grab my attention. I like to read a blog where the action develops as it goes along.

      2. I have to say, I’m finding this conversation much more interesting than the blog featured… Totally agree that minority bloggers don’t seem to get proportionate representation in FP, but at least they’re making their voices heard here :-) I’ve discovered three great new blogs to follow from this comment thread.

    5. I’m not from America, and I was living in Asia all of the times I’ve been on FP. My buddy, who has also been on there, was writing about Korea every time he’s been on FP. A lot of my hits are from the U.S., but it is overwhelmed if I add the other countries together.

      Don’t want to harp on you. Am just sayin’.

      1. Living proof!
        All the recent FP posts were from somewhere in the US. As well as irrelevant content, I think it’s the language that partly annoys me, e.g I call a movie theatre a cinema, I say mam not mom, wee not pee and friend not buddy. It’s real annoying.

  4. I think being freshly pressed could be really cool.

    However, it would be strange to have one of my posts dissected and analyzed like this one from James’ Room. Even if everything that was said turned out to be good, it would still feel strange to have one of my blog posts dissected.

    But I think that’s what a lot of bloggers do with posts that are freshly pressed anyway. So, if I became freshly pressed… many of the people who visit would analyze/dissect my blog to figure out how they can become freshly pressed.

    1. Writing workshops have been really valuable experiences — close, critical readings of my work and the work of others…dissecting, analyzing, talking about writing. I think it’s a healthy and necessary part of the writing process, and also trains us to offer criticism and feedback constructively in ways to help a fellow writer craft better work.

      I’m reminded of the writing workshops I’ve attended in the past each time I write one of these Freshly Press-able posts — I think they’re a way to illustrate, with concrete examples, why some writing may stand out more than others.

      Of course, not everyone has the same perspective and taste, and some may not agree with my comments. Even still, sharing and discussing work openly like this seems to be a nice resource.

      1. I agree that writing workshops are important. I agree that being able to understand why a post is freshly press-able is also important. I’m not saying you did anything wrong.

        But for the author, at least the first time, I think it would be strange to know that many people are coming to your blog not to “read” your blog post, but to “analyze” your blog post. There is a difference in mindset, that’s all I meant.

  5. I started reading this blog, but clicked away after the first part. I enjoy Slice of Life blog posts if I know the poster well enough to follow them. It is my opinion that the main idea of the blog should be presented clearly at the start of the blog. I enjoy reading about the writing experience but completely missed that idea in this post because I was not engaged in that issue at the start.

  6. No matter where the writer comes from, I think what really matters is the richness of his/her piece – that is, a well-researched and well-written post always appeals to readers.

  7. This is very helpful for us to do better and the keypoints will guide us if our blogs is going in the right direction. As a new blogger i still find it difficult how i can share better my blog and what/should i be writing on my blog. THanks for this!

  8. I love reading a post that has heart, whether it is exceptionally written or not. I have read many blog posts that are written extraordinarily well although many of them have bored me stiff.

  9. Wow very good post! Gives quite an amount of food for thought. I usually write in my own (first person) narrative in my posts (never wrote a fictional/short story though) and I often question if that is the ‘right way’ to go about. After reading this I have no doubt :)
    And it’s so awesome that the contributors take time to read comments and respond, kudos to you fellas!

  10. I’ve come across lots of posts on the artform of getting “Freshly Pressed”. I might be unfair but I still consider it more a matter of luck than judgement. There are so many posts published every day that a fair evaluation of them all must be impossible. Many great books do not have illustrations but still get published. This does’nt seem to apply in the Freshly Pressed criterria. If I am mistaken, I apologise in advance

  11. Pressing a “Like Button” is sort of akin to putting up a “LOL” which is the new age equivalent of “nothing to say.” Same with Fresh Pressed … Given far too much importance, an elusive goal that most people have no chance of ever achieving, controlled by a few. There are a host of souls contributing to WordPress.com each and every day, that will never be Fresh Pressed, but they are still a great read.

    When you say “James keeps his discussion timely with references to current TV shows — The Walking Dead, Downton Abbey — to further his ideas: that our regular, run-of-the-mill lives are boring, and that the stories we watch and read about are hyperactive versions of normal life, but much more interesting.”

    There could be a grain of truth there … I watch television daily and I never heard of either of these shows. Guess that is why my life is so boring.

    There is NO key to being Fresh Pressed it is like the rest of life, a crapshoot at best, and nothing more. A carrot dangling in the wind, something to shoot for, an elusive prize at the end of the WordPress.com rainbow. In the end, we write because we want to write, we think we have something to say, we want to share a part of ourselves with others, we write because we feel the need to write.

    It isn’t to get Fresh Pressed, that has nothing to do with it at all.

    DS

    1. So true, even after all my complaining about only US blogs being freshly pressed, I agree with your reasons about why write, that it’s not to get FP.

    2. In the end, we write because we want to write, we think we have something to say, we want to share a part of ourselves with others, we write because we feel the need to write.

      +1.

      1. I am from India and I understand and empathize with ERINORANGE.

        CHERI LUCAS says :
        “We do feature blogs from those outside of the US; we’d like to feature even more. Do send us links to blogs with solid, well-written writing focused on international topics if you’d like us to consider them. You can tweet us
        @freshly_pressed or post in the comments.”

        “… blogs with solid and well-written writing ” is alright but need it be international topics? I beg to differ.

  12. The details I agree are very important. In my own book, it’s part of what is so important to making it realistic (as realistic as fantasy fiction can be!)

  13. I would like to take up the point made by Lalitha Prakash.

    The idea of featuring blogs from outside the U.S. A. if focused on ‘international topics’ seems to me, apart from being blatantly Americo-centric, to negate one of the most positive effects of blogging.

    We learn from each other in the accounts of what interests us….and those are rarely international topics.

    1. Hi Helen — thanks for your comment. I wasn’t implying that we’ll only FP a blogger outside of the US if they cover “international topics.” Completely agree that “we learn from each other in the accounts of what interests us.” I just read/selected a post from a writer in Mozambique that wrote about the start of the rainy season there, as well as a post from someone sharing pics from the streets near Tahrir. Both share a slice of daily life from others’ worlds, and those more personal accounts are oftentimes what resonate the most.

      Thanks for keeping us on our toes — your feedback helps.

      1. I can’t tell you the number of times a comment on my blog has made me stop, reflect and do something to answer it!
        It’s such an eye opening, horizon widening experience….I’d never expected anything like it when beginning to blog.

  14. Great tips here! Beautiful elaborate piece of writing by James , congratulations on your writing talent! However, as far as” blog posts” are concerned I prefer to keep & read them short & sweet ….

  15. If I can accumulate 3,700 followers with almost 11,700 all time views in less than three months without the help of Freshly Pressed – I’m doing beautifully well. So, I am not biting my tongue for this one.