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Confident Writing Survives First Round of March Writing Blog Madness

Phew! Through the first round of the basketball style tournament over at the Writer’s Resource Center. The critiques are thoughtful and thorough (and well worth a look to get you thinking about your own blog design, content, purpose, usability and so on).

The main points I need to work on for the next round are shifting some things around so my archives more visible, trying to get the comment feed up and running, and making sure my last 5 posts are high quality (of course I always try to do that anyway!)

I am trying to put into practice some advice on handling compliments from Managing With Aloha Coach Rosa Say. So I’m going to bask in the bits of the critique that mean the most to me:

Purpose

Confident Writing’s Joanna Young is also upfront about the fact that she is offering her services as a writing coach. Her main, stated goal is to turn people into more confident writers, and she does so with a mix of practical advice and “Yes You Can” encouragement. Her posts each month run along positive emotional themes , which keeps the posts focused. The fact that she can weave so many elements into the basic premise of writing with confidence is impressive.

Personality

Joanna Young isn’t just a writing coach, she’s a life coach, and it shows. Her posts are enthusiastic and affirming. With posts like, To My Muse: 10 Reasons Why I Love You, you don’t go to Confident Writing looking sober analysis or angry rants. Her posts are written in the first person and she will tell you about what she hopes for and dreams of.

I would also like my wonderful blog designer Cat Morley to bask for a moment in the feedback on the design, because the critique captures three essential things we were trying to achieve in the redesign.

First, it shouldn’t look like a Typepad blog (so the fact he couldn’t recognize the theme = result).

Second, it has a clean and simple design.

Third, “none of it detracts from reading the actual posts”.

I seem to recall that was our primary objective - and it’s worked.

I guess what’s missing from the critiques is anything about sense of community around a blog. That’s probably the most important thing to me, and although it’s interesting, fun and challenging to be critiqued on these other aspects it’s the sense of connection I can make with you, and you with me, that drives me forward. I wonder if that’s something John can add into the mix for future rounds?

What are the things you look for when you’re critiquing blogs as a reader? Is it design, content, usability, purpose, personality… or some subtle blend of all of them? Or maybe you have different criteria for different blogs?

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

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17 Responses to “Confident Writing Survives First Round of March Writing Blog Madness”

  1. On March 27, 2008 at 2:19 pm cat responded with... #

    Whooh! Congrats Joanna :-)

    Reading through the critique was indeed an eyeopener. A bit like watching a sports program, updated scoring and all.

    I smiled at this comment, “Joanna Young isn’t just a writing coach, she’s a life coach, and it shows.”

    So true, so true. It would be impossible to be an effective confident writing coach without also being a great life coach.

    And this, I feel, is one of your main strengths. You give your readers (and those you tutor) the confidence to write by your light, human touch. You don’t control. You nudge and demonstrate the ‘ah hahs!’ of writing well. With your ‘ah hah’ moments and kind support comes the confidence to be free. Free to write.

    Btw - I also noticed how the design comments came straight out of the agreed design brief. And thanks :-)

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  2. On March 27, 2008 at 3:31 pm Debbie Yost responded with... #

    Isn’t it nice to get compliments once in a while. It gives you warm fuzzies. Your’s, of course, are well received! Thanks for sharing them with us. You deserve to toot your own horn.

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  3. On March 27, 2008 at 4:45 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Cat, what can I say. Thank you. We’re a good team :-)

    Debbie, I’m still learning to toot my own horn, but I think it’s good to do so once in a while - and maybe it will inspire others to do the same - I think a lot of us could do with the practice (women in particular, don’t you think?) Thanks for being such a loyal supporter. Makes the horn tooting easier.

    Joanna

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  4. On March 27, 2008 at 6:49 pm Jim Murdoch responded with... #

    The first thing I look at in a blog is presentation. It’s not the decider but a poorly-presented blog does itself no favours. It not really is a judging-the-book-by-its-cover mentality because the layout in a blog is a part of the whole experience. If a blog starts playing music as soon as I hit it then I’m usually out of there. I don’t like my audio being dictated to me.

    If the site is a slow-loader (due to having far too many widgets or the like) then I’m also not usually very patient. I’ve even written to one site I like and told the author of the problems I’m having in case they aren’t aware how much this can affect their readership.

    Content is paramount. I am a busy person and really don’t care very much about hearing about people’s personal lives unless what thy have to say is relevant to the subject of their blogs. Even I’ll drop the odd paragraph in here or there to humanise my entries. But only a bit. Besides it pleases my wife and daughter to get a wee mention now and then. But I read for a reason. If I find a blog that presents itself as a literary blog then that is what I expect to see 90% of the time.

    I subscribe to a log of blogs and every one of them gets a few seconds of attention each day and that’s all they have to catch my interest. There are a few I always read but only a few because they’ve proved themselves over time. If I find myself skipping a blog more often than not it is only a matter of time before I delete it. Also, I check every now and then and if someone hasn’t posted for three weeks or more then they usually get deleted too.

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  5. On March 27, 2008 at 9:03 pm Karen Swim responded with... #

    Congratulations Joanna! The accolades are well deserved. My view of blogs has continued to transform as I learn more about the very principles you stated. At a basic level, it’s really about the content and whether or not it resonates. A big part of that is also feeling a connection with the blogger. There are some blogs with great content but I don’t feel “welcomed” or the blogger is cold. So I guess I have to like you to read your blog no matter how talented. I have also come to love features I never knew existed like “comment love.” I can forgive presentation (God knows I hope my readers do!) if I like the person and the content.

    I’m rooting for you to go all the way Joanna!

    Karen

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  6. On March 27, 2008 at 11:20 pm amypalko responded with... #

    I’m with you on this one, Joanna (as I am on most things ;-) I tend to look to the community a blog has accrued, and also to how the blogger actively engages with that community. I think it would be a great idea for this element to be included in the critique. I know you would excel in this area also.
    I’m so pleased for you that you got such a positive review. All praise is most definitely deserved.
    Well done Joanna!

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  7. On March 28, 2008 at 12:56 am Naomi Dunford - IttyBiz.com responded with... #

    I just found your blog via a ZH comment, but I wanted to stop by and say congrats anyway. Good luck in the next round!

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  8. On March 28, 2008 at 3:04 am Bob Younce at the Writing Journey responded with... #

    Like I said earlier via Twitter… Good form, Joanna!

    Like the other March Madness, you’ve got a few days to breathe a sigh of relief, it looks like.

    I, on the other hand, am dreading my turn. Wish me luck!

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  9. On March 28, 2008 at 3:35 am Jeanne Dininni responded with... #

    Joanna,

    Hearty congratulations for your strong finish in the first round! It’s no surprise, though, because you run an excellent blog! (I must admit, I’m shaking in my boots, as I await my turn!)

    I agree that community is important and would be one area worth looking at in this competition, because it speaks both to blog personality and content value. These two areas are crucial to a blog, and many other shortcomings can be overlooked when a blog is strong in these two areas. Though everyone enjoys a visually pleasing site and both navigation and archives are important for helping us find all that great content, I’d have to say that personality and content are definitely the leaders where my own experience with other blogs is concerned. Those are the things that keep me coming back. They’re also the things around which a blog community is built.

    Wonderful work!
    Jeanne

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  10. On March 28, 2008 at 9:03 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Thanks everyone for such great feedback on what works for you

    @ Jim I can see you’ve got strongly held views on content and design. Design matters to me when I first visit a site, esp without a recommendation, but I quickly forget because I follow so many in a feed. And once I’m reading them I don’t worry too much about the design if I go in to comment. But you’re right, first impressions can be a killer (and audio for me too is an absolute no-no)

    @ Karen my views are constantly changing too as I read and visit more blogs. And I guess we all have different preferences. The feel of a blog and the way you’re treated is vital to me too. No matter how good the site if the host doesn’t reply to their comments I’m not going to bother.

    @ Amy I think you and I value very similar things :-)

    @ Naomi - good to meet you and I’m glad you found me, though I have to confess I have no idea what a ZH comment is!?

    @ Bob - good luck. It’s quite a daunting prospect isn’t it? I was quite relieved to get critiqued early on before I’d had time to worry about it. I’m sure you’ll be fine though

    @ Jeanne I share your views on personality, content and community. It would be interesting to see John pick this up in future rounds. Good luck with your own blog critique, you have a strong blog with lots of great content (and loyal followers) so I’m sure you’ll do fine

    Joanna

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  11. On March 28, 2008 at 9:15 am Lillie Ammann responded with... #

    Congratulations on the well-deserved excellent review, Joanna.

    Content and community are most important to me in a blog. If I like what I read, I’ll subscribe and only go to blog when I want to comment. What I really do NOT like is partial feeds - I subscribe so I don’t have to go to the blog.

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  12. On March 28, 2008 at 10:31 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Lillie, good point. Maybe we should suggest to the organisers that partial feeds = automatic disqualification!

    Joanna

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  13. On March 28, 2008 at 3:41 pm John Hewitt responded with... #

    Hi Joanna,

    Congratulations on moving forward, and thank you (and your community) for the critique of my critiques. Some categories will change as the contest moves forward, so that I don’t just repeat the same scores. I will certainly give community some thought. I kept it out of the initial round because it so deeply favors the bigger blogs, but it is certainly a key element of success.

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  14. On March 28, 2008 at 6:23 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi John, thanks for stopping by. As you can see you’re creating quite a lot of ripples with your tournament! But it’s a great learning process.

    I’m interested in your comment on community - I don’t agree it favours the bigger blogs, in fact some ‘big’ blogs have a terrible sense of community, where some smaller ones can make you feel like you’ve been there your whole life. I think it all comes down to how you treat people. (Not sure how I’d try and gage it in a critique though)

    Joanna

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  15. On March 30, 2008 at 3:31 am Jeanne Dininni responded with... #

    Joanna,

    Don’t you dare suggest that partial feeds equal disqualification! (You don’t want to give me a heart attack, do you!) That would disqualify Writer’s Notes, though I have absolutely no control over the type of feed Orble offers. I’ve tried my best to get them to institute a full feed, but that hasn’t happened yet. It is frustrating, I must admit. (Does it count that I’d offer a full feed if I could?)

    Jeanne

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  16. On March 30, 2008 at 9:28 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Ouch, sorry Jeanne! My comments were running away with me.

    I think it does count that you would if you could :-)

    It must be very frustrating - seems very restrictive not at least to offer people the choice.

    Anyway - good luck once again!

    Joanna

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  17. On March 31, 2008 at 1:09 am Jeanne Dininni responded with... #

    Thanks, Joanna! That makes me feel a bit better! I’m hoping that soon Orble will come around on the full-feed issue!

    Thanks for your good wishes!
    Jeanne

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