As with the vast majority of bloggers, I admit I have an ulterior motive. In the longer term, I’m hoping this site will be the place you can book guided tours of London with me. To that end, I need to build up an audience for my blog, hold your interest, keep you entertained. Then if, at some point, you are visiting London (or already live here) and feel the need for a guided tour, you will think of me, see I’ve got a tour suited to your needs and think ‘well, I certainly enjoy his blog. I expect his tours will be equally entertaining and informative‘. And I trust that my tour will be entertaining and informative.
That’s the theory, anyway. The key point in that paragraph for me now is that I must ‘hold your interest, keep you entertained’. The last few weeks working on this blog have been a very steep learning curve, but also eye-opening. Some personal rules have started to emerge, helped by feedback. While I suspect that some of these rules are already commonly held truths in the blogging community, I’m not entirely sure other London blogs try to adhere to them all. Here they are:
I. Don’t just reproduce a Wikipedia entry. It is tempting, oh so tempting, to find a subject and just edit and rewrite a Wikipedia page, perhaps with the addition of some cursory additional research. But a post is an opportunity to do so much more than that. So no, I haven’t done a search on ‘blog philosophies’ to write this – it’s all been freshly composed in my noggin, based on my experience.
II. A post should be about a topic I know – or want to learn about. Author enthusiasm – or lack thereof – permeates the written word. For this reason I am unlikely ever to write a post about the Dr. Who Museum. Sorry, Dr. Who Museum – I’m sure you are a brilliant destination for those interested in all things Dr. Who, but I’m not one of them and there are some sacrifices I’m not willing to make for this blog.
III. A post must contain at least one thing a visitor to London could do. A building to visit, an exhibition to see, a walk to walk, a book to read, a website to seek out, a recipe to try.
IV. I mustn’t restrict myself to writing about buildings, events or museums. I should think outside the box. The topic could just be a loose concept linking disparate facets of London. Or a neighbourhood, or an organisation, or times past. It could be very esoteric or obscure, although I mustn’t make a habit of that.
V. A post should contain something of myself. There is no point just producing a series of facts and dates – however original the research. This blog is about London and that is an awesome subject chock-full of indisputable facts – why else would I be doing it? There are facts written on signposts, hidden in road names, growing in parks and built into the fabric of buildings ranging from palaces to loos. But a post needs more than a bedrock of facts – it needs colour and a unique take on the subject, if possible based on personal experience. That makes it unique as long as it avoids trite phrases along the lines of ‘I enjoyed the British Museum. It is very big and has lots of interesting stuff’. I do enjoy the British Museum, it is big and does have lots of interesting stuff. But one thing I love to do is to sit in the glorious covered courtyard having a coffee and slice of cake and watch the visitors walk by – puzzled, or elated, perhaps lost or dithering as to whether to buy something. You see a huge range of emotions on museum visitors’ faces.
VI. On a related note, I shouldn’t hesitate to offer an opinion – as long as it is clearly signposted as such, and isn’t offensive. I personally find that often, the most interesting aspect of someone else’s blog is the sense of the writer’s character I get from following it over time.
VII. I should try to be original. I don’t mean simply avoiding plagiarism. I also need to avoid producing a slightly personalised take on a topic covered by a load of other blogs about London. Believe me, there are a lot out there. I almost gave up on one post when I realised how many bloggers have recounted – often in excessive detail – the story of George Villiers and the road names on the site of his former town house; but I realised I could create a refreshing new take by using that as a starting point for a deeper, humorous look at some road names in the city, based upon a specific book that I own. I admit that I like ‘single book’ posts. On a purely selfish note it limits research effort, but more positively it allows me to bring something of the author into my post and put my own spotlight on her or him, albeit weakly and briefly. The author might have been forgotten, or is known only by a small group and perhaps deserves to be more widely read.
VIII. Get someone to proof-read before publishing. Oh, the errors in my own work I’ve had to correct after it’s gone live. Mortifying.
IX. Don’t make it too brief … If I’m writing well, a post ending after 200 words is going to annoy the reader.
X. … but don’t ramble on and on and on. If my readers wanted a short story I suspect they’d be reading Somerset Maugham. Which gives me a nagging suspicion I should wrap up now.
Well, a post outlining my own emerging blog philosophy certainly ticks all those boxes. As regards point III, you can visit the no doubt superb Dr. Who Museum. No need to thank me, Dr. Who Museum.
- Image of quill and parchment: © Mushki Brichta. Used under licence (SA BY-CC 4.0)