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Experiment with Formats

Not sure what to write today? Consider a new format for your post: a shorter or longer word count, a letter or list, or a different approach to your content.

Image by Jason Rogers (CC BY 2.0)

A few weeks ago, I led writing workshops at the Press Publish conference in Phoenix, an event for bloggers and WordPress users. In one of the sessions, I talked about the importance of building a regular writing habit and allowing yourself the time and space to write. We also talked about ways to get inspired and break free from our ruts, from free-writes to prompts to new formats.

The ideas in this post are from Writing 101 and 201, a blog I created for my workshops at the Press Publish conference.

Your blog posts can take many forms. Here, I’ll share some basic suggestions, which might be helpful to new Daily Post readers and writers who’d like to switch things up on their blogs.

Play with word count

If you feel stuck one day and aren’t sure how to write a post, it might well be that your topic and content are solid, but your approach needs tweaking. Have you tried experimenting with word count? If not, here are some ideas:

  • Practice: Pick a previously published post you could improve by paring down. Keep it at 750 words or less, like the essays at Brevitya site of concise creative nonfiction.
  • Practice: Want to go long? Expand on an existing post. Search your drafts that are thematically similar and see if you can combine parts of each. Or, get more ideas in our Blogging U. course on longform writing called Writing 201: Beyond the Blog Post.
  • Publish: Take a look at some 100-word stories at 100 Word Story, or this recent piece on Claire Fuller’s blog, then take a stab at one of your own. Your first attempt at flash fiction? Your last vacation? A fleeting encounter at the grocery store?

Give the (open) letter a chance

Shaping your post as a letter might open your eyes to a different way to approach a subject that is important to you. Indeed, the open letter format can fall flat, and some say it’s overused and trite. But great open letters are focused, specific, and passionate.

For inspiration, here are examples of letters:

Want to try your own? Here are questions to consider:

  • Can you rewrite one of your previous posts as a letter?
  • Could you pen a new letter to another blogger you admire?
  • Have you read a recent article and wish to respond to the author?

Reinvent the list

One of the most personal posts on my own blog is an outline of my parallel universes, in which I write about my life timeline thus far. I could have approached it as a straightforward, chronological musing, but the numbered outline that lays out various paths of my life, depending on the choices I made, is more interesting.

Not interested in writing a letter? Consider, then, a list — and let’s think beyond the shallow listicles that offer little value or provoke no thought. You’ll find different kinds of lists out there: lists with numbers or bullet lists, outlines with Roman numerals, and more. Some of my favorite posts published on WordPress.com are presented as lists — and transcend the genres of personal essay and creative nonfiction.

Anna Fonte at Girl in the Hatwho once hosted a Daily Post writing challenge on lists, publishes a mix of lists:

Maggie Messitt, an author and nonfiction storyteller, has contributed recent posts to Bending Genre that are formatted as lists, from “In What She Left Behind” to “North 20°54, West 156°14.” Take a look at Maggie’s pieces to get an idea for how to approach a numbered list as more of a personal narrative, or to segment an essay or series of musings.

Collaborate with others

In a post offering tips on creative storytelling, I suggested combining forces with someone else and mentioned the collaboration of blogger Shelley Sackier and cartoonist Robin Gott at Shelley’s blog, Peak Perspective. Other ways to collaborate with others:

  • A site that takes submissions: Jessica Gross, writer for publications like the New York Times Magazine and the Paris Review, recently launched a fun site, Things We Like, which publishes submitted lists of things people like. From blogs like this that invite submissions (think Broken Light Collective) to recurring challenges (such as Jennifer Nichole Wells’ One Word Photo Challenge), there are different ways to work with others.

These tips are pulled from the blog I created for the Press Publish conference in Phoenix. Feel free to browse the site for additional resources.

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  1. Sorry to jump in with an unrelated topic but I don’t know where else to go. I’m trying to find out of I can block another blogger from viewing my blog, if anyone has any suggestions please? Sorry again!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Faye Elizabeth — no worries. I can answer this question. I’m assuming you’re referring to this blog attached to your username: https://kaboodlemum.wordpress.com/

      Your blog is public — unfortunately you can’t just block people from visiting it. As an alternative, you can make your site private and invite people to view it by changing your blog’s privacy settings: https://en.support.wordpress.com/settings/privacy-settings/

      You can also update your comment moderation settings if you’d like to accept/trash comments before they appear: https://en.support.wordpress.com/settings/discussion-settings/

      For future reference, the support forums are the best place to ask questions like these: https://en.forums.wordpress.com/

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you for your help. It’s for a separate blog but it’s okay, I just had a persistent commenter that was a by rude. I’ve trashed all the comment now so hopefully they won’t come back, thanks again for your help! I really appreciate it

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I write some rather interesting things in my blog. I don’t know if I’ll be able to change the format of it soon, but I may consider doing that sometime in the future.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I reckon that would be a great idea to experiment with creativity, as it is all about it in the long run. 😉 Thank you for sharing it! 😉

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I’ve been interviewed twice, 1 per different blogger for entirely different topics. I agreed to the interview after perusing and following their blog for awhile so that I understood the “tenor” of their blog and of them as a blogger. It allowed me to see how they interacted with other commenters.

    One of the interviews was on identity and race relations while the other interview was on personal experiences on water use and environmental concerns..it was tied abit to my cycling lifestyle. She also interviewed my partner, so contrasted his response to mine for same questions.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I personally found it easier to answer on my own time, a few set questions from a blogger, for the “interview”. It’s interesting to compare my own response to others who are interviewed. It’s a lot of work for interviewing blogger since there is some editing/further questions for clarification.

    That said, I wouldn’t do it often. It’s only for another blogger where there is a great rapport between the 2 of us.

    I have inserted an online fun poll within topic posts. It was an okay response. Intent was to get readers thinking/commenting.

    Other bloggers offer a real mail-in mini-prize.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thanks for this very informative post. It does expand the creative horizon.
    On another topic : Nominated for Awards. How does this work ? Who sets up these awards? Are they part of WordPress? There seem to be a variety of different awards too. Would be interesting to know. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This single article could take me all the way through summer. I can’t wait to dig in and start reading and writing. You’ve even included a section of fresh ideas that I can use with in my current epistolary writing class for high school juniors and seniors. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person