The pen is mightier than the sword – Catching and keeping attention.

I’ve written some poetry which I’d like to share with you all.

Oh vapid transient opinion,

how time distorts and moves you,

swirling in a cacophony of moralistic values,

pulled hither and forth on the tides of the modern day,

Now its utter rubbish and merely a collection of words I almost randomly threw into semi-coherent sentences, but for you to get that conclusion (and to read this now) you have to (kindly) give me some of your time.

And its how important the first few lines of your text are when hooking in the reader.  In my case the fact that you’ve probably read my work before and thought to yourself “this fool is no poet, what’s this rubbish?” actually kept you in this article to this point here.

Now for any writer this technique is an exercise in the obvious, but for someone who maybe wants to start a site/blog/articles of their own but want’s a reader-base there’s probably a few pointers that I’ve picked up that I can pass on.

I have found what works and what doesn’t as a result of trial and error and some damn good advice from others who I would regard as expert bloggers, what I present to you is a light hearted piece intended for you to think up your own rules.

You are probably best off taking advice from only yourself, but I bet I can get you to read this to the end.  Think I can’t? Read on.

The DO NOT’S

1. Unless you have your own team of journalists, its probably best you don’t try to become a news site.  There’s too much of it already, you’ll never keep up to date with everything and your work will lag behind the people who report it live, to which you will be merely rehashing.  – If you are giving opinion on a subject then fine, but if you are looking to write about current affairs in an unbiased way whilst keeping up to date, I’d say forget it.  People have so much choice out there you’d never be read.

2. Do not mention Cliff Richard if its not in total praise.  I did once and had much grief.  I happened to make fun of a Cliff Richard calender which I’d bought the wife for Xmas (She can’t stand Cliff so I thought it would make a good joke present), the result of this was a horde of Cliff Richard fans venting their wrath on me.  Stay away from Cliff Richard, trust me, its not worth it.

3. Be suspicious of anyone giving OTT praise on your comments section – it’s usually spam disguised as someone who thinks you are really great.  I hate to say this (as it applies to me also) but you are not that great.

4. Do not expect to get an instant reader-base as a result of your first article (unless you get lucky) and also never write an article assuming that your readers will return for more, you are only as good as your current article.

5. Never joke about animals either real or virtual.  I mentioned once that I hit a chicken with a battleaxe in a Playstation 3 game called Skyrim to which I had all manner of allegations thrown at me….yes apparently it glorified animal cruelty.  Don’t think you are safe posting a cute picture of a dog wearing a hat either, you can almost guarantee someone will appear on your site outraged at it.

6. Do not promote people/services/goods just to be nice.  I highlight other authors, coders, software houses, hardware that I have a genuine like/respect for.  Remember your endorsement carries your reputation.  If you highlight something/one who transpired to be a trans-dimensional lizard come to take over the world in a David Icke vision of reality, then you would lose any future credibility.

7. Stick with your handle.  Whatever you identify yourself with in your writing try to stay consistent, people tend not to associate multiple names with one person and if you want to create a reader-base you need to have an identity.

8. Do not, take yourself that seriously.  If you can joke and laugh at your own expense then all the better.  You are most likely not the most interesting person on the planet and don’t expect reader loyalty to come easily at all.  Some of the most flattering comments I have are the ones by people who comment regularly.  Having someone read your work and come back is a huge compliment and it doesn’t matter if they agree or not.

The DO’s

1. Be honest about your views and be proud of them.

2. Deal with people as they deal with you.  Recently I had a debate here about Cannabis (which I certainly do not think should ever be legal) with someone with different views.  After its complete, if you can both walk away feeling your views were expressed properly, then there’s no “aftermath” and things carry on.

3.  I put comments on hold (pending moderation) as an individual in the past would have flooded my comment section with hundreds of messages of abuse.  You may think I’m totally wrong and as long as you are polite/non vulgar, you are more than free to express that opinion here.  My favourite comments would be the ones that stimulate debate – Thats difficult if someone agree’s with me. There is a line, a line of decency which we have all set at different levels.  For me, I’m aware that younger people have read some of my works.  I do not want them to read some of the vulgarity thats been directed here in the past.

4. Give fellow authors/writers/bloggers a shout-out.  The distribution of material and the interactivity is a social thing.  Engage your readers but also give them other avenues to read.  There’s so many people out there with interesting things to say.  Even if I disagree with what someone says, I’m happy for their “outlet” to be linked in order that they too can express their opinions, of course this doesn’t mean you have to give up your own personal values and morals, so when I say disagree I’m talking very neutral, plain subjects here like a Windows v Linux debate.

5. Link your articles/work on G+, Twitter et al and remember the use of #tags.  Make sure you help others by linking and retweeting their works, you’ll find more often than not, people will do the same for you.

6. Do expect to be insulted.  You would be very lucky if you went through your blogging life without picking up one or two individuals who want to insult you.  If you have a picture of yourself expect people to insult that.  If you have views about anything, expect individuals to try and belittle you.  If you have a hobby, expect that to be made fun of.  If you attract readers to your work, you will pick these things up.  If you’ve not got a thick skin and are easily upset, I’d suggest disabling comments entirely.

So these, which are obvious to those writing blogs/articles already, are the things I’ve picked up over the years.  Probably the biggest DO NOT is: do not accept “gifts” if you are writing a blog.  The only thing you have is your integrity, by accepting a gift you will ruin your chances of keeping to your opinions.  Years ago when we had allegations of laptops being given to bloggers by a large corporation, I was one of the people covering and exposing these recipients, one of which had two different usernames on my blog so that he could back up his own viewpoint.  You cannot, in my view hold an honest opinion if you are receiving gifts and it takes away the independence of the blog itself.

Remember that most blogs are meant to entertain people.  I try to achieve that through sarcasm, flippancy and sometimes the factual.  People do not owe you a second of their time and the “service” you provide is most likely one of entertainment.

I expect it would be difficult for new writers to be able to achieve the same dizzy heights that I have.  They would probably lack the looks, intelligence and raw wit of myself – but thats ok.  Consider me something to aspire to rather than something you can ever attain.

And that above statement of utter rubbish is an example of how you can have a joke at your own expense and still keep the reader hooked until the very last line of text.  After all, you are still here aren’t you? – and I won the bet I made earlier.

Enjoy your writing!

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