The Modern Day Rules For Writing (And Why I Break Them)


Photo by dbbent (Creative Commons)

These are the rules of writing today:

1. Have a blog and post at least 2-3 times a week.

My ruleI now only write when I have something important to say. 

2. Build up web traffic (via Facebook and Twitter) promoting yourself.  

My rule: Sure I do this some, but I don’t schedule tweets or posts to any social network. I try to share others work more than I share my own as well.

3. Get as many comments, retweets and likes as possible, because they are the currency of blogging.

My rule: If I get those, that’s fine and dandy, but that’s not how I judge if the writing was effective or not. I have to like the writing myself and be able to say, “Hey, I really enjoyed that post.” I also only check my web stats a couple times a month, if that.

4. Build your email list.

My rule: Connect with people. I prefer to connect with people on Facebook, Twitter, email, text, and phone calls. Newsletters are impersonal to me, so I try to connect in a more personal way. 

5. Guest post to get even more traffic.

My rule: I am super selective and make sure I can serve the host’s audience well. I don’t guest post all over the place any more, rather just in a few intentional places. 

6. Reuse blog posts in ebooks to sell as products.

My rule: Some of this is unavoidable, but I don’t want a product to be the same as my blog. I try to keep the overlap as minimal as possible.

7. Follow steps 1-6 to get the attention of publishers and build up your audience.

My rule: I don’t want to publish with a traditional publisher. I believe strongly in self publishing. Sure, I want my audience to grow, but I also want to give the readers more personal attention. 

I’m sure the original rules might work for some folks—and that is great—but they don’t work for me. A one-size-fits-all approach does not work for everyone.

The key is to find what works for you. Many of these things are so new what worked yesterday and brought success very likely won’t work tomorrow.

Have you found what works for you with your writing?



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  12 comments for “The Modern Day Rules For Writing (And Why I Break Them)

  1. Kim
    January 19, 2014 at 4:37 pm

    I aim for striking a balance between following certain “rules” and breaking them. Doing it that way has helped me maintain my sanity while building the traffic and following I want. Like you, I am interested in making connections and building relationships with others. I want the numbers but I the connections matter more to me because engagement and knowing I reached someone, even just one person, is so much better than having 10,000 followers but no engagement.

    • January 22, 2014 at 3:33 am

      I get that Kim. I don’t break rules for no reason–I try to break them when I can improve them in my own writing. Totally agree about engagement and connection! Thanks for sharing your thoughts Kim!

  2. Pablo Ellsworth
    January 20, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Rule 1- blog once a week is fine. Rule 2- be real instead of just offering “I’ve got life down to an art” crap. Rule 3- offer something of true value.

    Thanks for this post Jim. Makes me realize that the magic formula for blogging doesn’t have to be my story.

    • January 22, 2014 at 3:30 am

      Thanks for sharing Pablo. I soooooooooooooooo wish someone would have told me this a while ago 🙂

  3. David Mike
    January 21, 2014 at 2:55 pm

    I have been following your advice! Thank you for being a guy who cares to share his knowledge and experience with others. I appreciate you! I do love the comments I get on my blog though. It’s proof that someone is actually engaging your writing.

    • January 22, 2014 at 3:29 am

      Thanks for the kind words David, I totally understand what you are saying about having engagement. That makes sense!

  4. January 21, 2014 at 6:15 pm

    I learned early on in my first blog that I get much better content when I write when I have an idea, rather than on a schedule. I know that it makes for more posts, and constancy that some readers rely on, but I don’t want to write filler just to get something out. Sometimes I’m not happy with what I wrote and need to sleep on it. Not having a strict deadline allows me to do that.

    Also, having gone down the self publishing route, it really is quite the experience that I learn from all the time.

    Glad to see that you’re staying true to your beliefs.

    • January 22, 2014 at 3:31 am

      Totally agree Ryan. Self publishing is QUITE the experience isn’t it! Thanks for the encouragement. Really appreciate it!!!

  5. January 22, 2014 at 11:25 am

    Jim I think the key to everything is authenticity and transparency. When it’s fake or calculated and the ‘ask’ comes in on the backend, it tends to shut me down. Great thinking points!

  6. January 22, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    Finding what works with you is so important. I am also a big believer in connecting with people, and not worrying about the numbers.

  7. January 23, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Good stuff Jim! I tried so hard to follow a particular “process” when I started blogging, and I still find myself trying to follow someone else’s guidelines. It’s nice to hear that’s not necessary.

  8. February 8, 2014 at 5:10 am

    I love this Jim. There’s a sincerity and level of integrity in your approach that is refreshing. The “rules” you list are based on very recent trends; there’s not a lot of history or long term perspective to back them up. I wonder what will be said of them 20-30 years from now. Thanks for being true to your voice. I think you capture what will offer the most and the best for the long haul.

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