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Anticipation Builders: Three Ideas for Recurring Features

If you’re not sure how to serialize your posts, here’s some food for thought.

Image by elPadawan (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Not sure why you’d want to add a recurring feature to your regular mix of posts? Our earlier posts on this topic will give you some background.

Late last year, Krista shared a few ideas for serial features — those recurring posts that help build a reading habit among your readers, and that can form the backbone of your editorial calendar. In case you just recently started your blog, or if you’re still shopping around for post ideas to adapt to your blog’s niche (if it has one), here are three more directions to explore.

Be a (friendly) parasite

One of the most natural ways to ease into a steady rhythm with your own posts is to write in response to something else that sets the pace for you. Why not make the most of the regular schedule of TV shows and podcast episodes, or real-life events like college courses and book club meetings?

You could write a weekly spoof of your professor’s most obscure, undecipherable comments, or come up with a roundup of the best (or funniest, or most puzzling) reactions to the work your book club just finished. Or find an offbeat angle from which to analyze the latest episode of your favorite show. (A weekly takedown of the fashion on Downton Abbey, anyone?)

The ideas are endless, but the point is the same: to use something that repeats itself organically in your own life and echo the pattern, in a fun, engaging way, on your blog.

Build anticipation with a long-term countdown

Blame it on evolution — or on too many representations of spaceship launches in sci-fi movies — but many of us find countdowns irresistible. The (extreme) ubiquity of lists and end-of-year rankings drives the point home.

You can help readers who start following your posts after you’d already launched the series by collecting previous installments in one convenient location — for example, a category page with its own sidebar Image Widget.

With a serialized countdown, though, you avoid the pitfalls of doing “just another list.” You create a slow-brewing sense of anticipation, instead of the cheap, short-lasting thrill of instant gratification. Your countdown can be about anything: from “My 15 favorite [insert whimsical object you’re passionate about]” to “Things I’ll never do without an umbrella” to “Reasons other people’s bucket lists are annoying.”

This type of series requires a bit of planning ahead of time — you might want to have a rough sketch of where you want it to end, and how many installments you want it to include — but it’s a fairly minimal investment for something that could pay off in the long run.

Document the passing of time

Most of us don’t have the time and resources to pull off a Boyhood-like project, where the same cast and crew convened yearly for more than a decade to tell a coming-of-age story. But the powerful effect of showing the passing of time — on people, on places, on objects — can still be achieved in a serialized post, if you have the patience and perseverance to attempt it.

Serializing triplets: both cute and meta!

My colleague Pam has been posting a picture of her three boys every single month since they were born. The time it takes to produce each individual post isn’t huge, but the cumulative effect, more than seven years down the line, is nothing short of dazzling.

Of course, not all of us have a set of adorable identical triplets to photograph. But that shouldn’t stop you: you can write a weekly report on the evolving status of your garden (or your desk, or your fridge…). Post a poem once a month about the happiest moment you experienced in the previous 30 days (or the most moving, most bizarre, or most humbling). Or find another way — whether visual or textual is your call — to show your readers the progress you’ve made on an ongoing project.

Do you have any other ideas for a serial post? Share them with us in the comments!

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  1. I’m currently attempting a series of fictitious, “not real news’ short stories about people, places, events–and whatever I think is appropriately absurd enough to write about. It’s like the “Balderdash” game in the form of a post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m doing something similar, but using absurd odd news stories to drive the story. It’s Odd News Mondays over at Wits End. The most absurd part is that I don’t have to make up very much.
      I’ll wander over and check out your posts.

      Like

  2. I started a story called the Swamp Fairy and set up a menu with category links and a image widget with a link to the stories for my readers. I have done that with a few other of my categories once I learned how to do it in your fabulous blogging classes. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like to do serial posts, they are a great way to keep readers interested. Of course every serial post should have links to the first and immediately previous posts at the top, and a link to the next post (when it’s added) at the bottom.

    Here is the first post of a finished post-chain about mushrooms:
    http://deepnaturegardens.com/2012/12/06/some-cool-shrooms/

    Here’s one that’s still in progress about one of my gardens:
    http://deepnaturegardens.com/2012/11/11/little-yellow-house-1/

    More ideas for serial posts: the weather, ongoing news stories, your pets, birds seen in your garden, the progress of a big project you’re doing, a series of recipes for how to use (insert ingredient here)… so much potential!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been thinking about ideas for broadening the scope of what I write — as a food-oriented blog, it’s easy to get stuck in the habit of recipe after recipe with no real links between them. Serialisation is something I hadn’t really considered but perhaps is a good idea for me, since it adds a narrative arc to otherwise disjointed posts.

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  5. I am attempting a mini series –on Canadian regional differences in weather, time zones, food. Here’s one post which gives part 1, link at end of post.

    https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/part-2-food-for-canadian-soul-and-fans-shaped-by-climate-soil-water-and-culture/

    Advice:
    1. Keep serial topic theme simple. Mine takes more effort.
    2. Publish each part of series close together in time. I’m not quite there since I get distracted by other blog post topics.

    And now I have an injury, which I can’t spend time on computer long for now…my series posting “rhythm” is abit messed up.

    Oh well. I still get post hits, maybe not in huge hit numbers.

    Like

  6. I have written five books in the course of my life that never been seen by other eyes than mine. They are residing in shoe boxes inside the closet. I’m planning to serialize them in my blog one of these days.

    Liked by 4 people

  7. Another idea is on an event. I do have several blog posts on living in a Winter Olympic city (Vancouver) during the Olympics.

    No doubt this works for wedding preparation, sickness and recovery (awful but true), home renovation (better make it quirky. Technical details won’t grab a lot of readers), etc.

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  8. As a new blogger, I like the idea of using the serial widgets to group all my topics together to help readers find my posts. I am doing the blogging u right now so I’m sure I will find that lesson soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I often think about writing about show I am writing about. However I wish my socialmedia fans wouldn’t go on and on posting about a show I have no intention of looking at. I don’t know why they advertise a show that they are not getting a penny for.

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  10. I have a Christian blog, and I’ve wanted to start doing a weekly or monthly Bible study for a long time. I am really inspired by this post. Thanks.
    The only negative thing about serializing a post series is that you may forget one day and BOOM! Some credability is lost.
    Other ideas for serializing:
    Weekly rant. (on FB, selfies, or the news)
    Weekly or monthly blog-i-like. (fairly easy to write, still interesting to readers)
    A series of book reviews. (something that could keep you accountable to keep reading)
    This is a very interesting topic, thanks again for writing about it.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. When I started blogging about my First World War reading project, I knew I would have difficulty sustaining frequent book reviews over four years. The day job gets in the way of leisure reading! But I wanted to have regular posts. So I started a regular Monday photo feature, also related to the First World War. People can come to https://greatwar100reads.wordpress.com/ for the books or come for the memorials and get a taste of both.

    Thanks for all the ideas generated through these conversations.

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  12. I like this idea. Also, I’m working on a piece where I’ve summarized my life. Once I’m done I plan to go back through writing more in depth about each experience. I haven’t decided whether I will publish the summery, because I’m writing it for myself. To help get the habit of writing back into me. But so far I am really enjoying the process.

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  13. I did a countdown to New Years Eve of photos and people seemed to enjoy it! It gives an opportunity for a thread through a group of posts that easy for the reader follow. And invites them to return right down to the end. I was quite pleased with the approach.

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  14. I recently realised that we become so busy coping with life that we forget to see the beauty of our world and those special small things which make life worthwhile. So I decided to do a series and find one thing of beauty to write about each week. I call these posts Wide Eye Wednesday and try to post each Wednesday. So far I have reached the fifth week. Maybe someone would like to join me. Here is the latest post. http://wp.me/p2BDQm-1Ll

    Liked by 1 person