Review: Stephen King’s “On Writing”

Stephen King is a household name. As one of the most popular authors in America, his books routinely place high on The New York Time’s Best Sellers list. Such is his fame that even people who have never read his works still know his name–largely due to the success of the film and tv adaptations of his books.

When I first picked up “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”, I only knew two things about Stephen King: 1. He is wildly popular; and 2. He writes horror. I had never read any of Stephen King’s books, or watched any of the movie or tv adaptations of the same. Here’s why: I’m a wimp. I can’t handle scary. I was no fan of Stephen King, so why did I feel drawn to this book on my husband’s bookshelf?

It was the title that caught my interest. “On Writing.” After being laid off due to Covid-19 and deciding to launch a freelance writing career, writing was suddenly more important to me than ever. It could become my livelihood.

I wondered, What pearls of wisdom could I learn from this world-famous author, who has been in the game for decades? What secrets to success might he reveal? In this way, I approached “On Writing” like a pilgrim climbing the summit of a mountain to ask a holy man the meaning of life. 

I didn’t find the meaning of life, and in the beginning I was even afraid I was going to be disappointed. King sets the stage in the First Foreword by talking about a band he formed with a few other famous authors, causing me to suppose I was in for several chapters’ worth of boring, vintage-Hollywood memories and pretentious name dropping. Autobiographies like that are a dime a dozen.

Little did I know that after reading the brief First Foreword and even briefer Second and Third Forewords, and diving right into the C.V., I would be hooked. Filling the first half of the book, the C.V. is King’s memoir, a series of memories from his childhood and early adulthood, and it is a testament to his storytelling skills.

King shares his memories honestly, infused with the fondness of an adult who realizes that all of these things–the good, the bad, and the ugly–are what made him who he is today, and he wouldn’t change a thing. His treatment of his family is no-frills: no villains or heroes here, just real people who may have been flawed, but were loved nonetheless. 

His memories are never boring or drawn out; he never makes up stuff to fill in the gaps. If he doesn’t remember why something happened or the exact timeline of events, he simply says so. Even more refreshing is King’s sense of humor. His dry wit and periodic self-deprecation took me by surprise by actually making me laugh out loud.

Reading the C.V. was as enjoyable as reading a novel; King followed his own advice “…to make the reader welcome and then tell a story…to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.” 

While the first portion of the book feels like hanging out and sharing memories with an old friend, upon arriving at the second portion of the book, we find the fourth wall is firmly back in place. There, King reminds us, You’re the reader. I’m the author.

The second part of the book is On Writing, King’s how-to guide for writers. It is later revealed that King wrote this second portion while recovering from the life-altering accident that almost killed him, which could account for the change in tone. 

Because the sections are longer, reading this part of the book felt like a tougher slog than before. Even so, On Writing is peppered with personal anecdotes and King’s trademark humor that keep the reader’s interest and balance out the scholastic nature of the content.

King has certainly earned his stripes, but he’s never overbearing or pompous with his advice, generously sharing all the wisdom he’s got. He describes the “toolbox” every writer should have, stocked with vocabulary, grammar, and the elements of style, plus skill with description, dialogue, theme, plot, etc. 

He shares his own writing process and encourages the reader to find what works for them. Most importantly, he declares that there is no secret to becoming a successful writer, only hard work. It’s maybe not what writers want to hear, but he is emphatic.

“If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. There’s no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no shortcut.”

And so the holy man gives the pilgrim the answer that should have been obvious all along. But instead of the stereotypical ending where the pilgrim walks away abashed, shoulders slumped, this pilgrim is thrilled and inspired. 

I discovered that Stephen King is not some wild-eyed sadist, churning out horrific tales of blood and gore. He’s just a regular guy who had a typical childhood, loves his family, and faces the same struggles as anyone else. He also happens to love his craft and has worked hard to be the best. 

And as writers, we actually have a lot in common. “On Writing” validated some of my feelings about writing, and provided me with fresh perspectives and ideas to implement in my pursuit of a writing career. “On Writing” is full of nuggets of wisdom that can benefit any writer. 

I will end this review with one such nugget, issued forth by Stephen King like a Braveheart rallying his warriors, and hopefully it will inspire us all to bring nothing but our best to our writing.

“You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair–the sense that you can never completely put on the page what’s in your mind and heart. You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names. You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world. Come to it any way but lightly. Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.”

Locke & Key

Review: Netflix Original “Locke & Key”

For your next summer binge, unlock spooky, suspenseful fun with Netflix’s original series, “Locke & Key”

Has COVID-19 put your summer vacation on hold indefinitely? While physical travel might still be out of the question, there’s nothing to stop you from travelling in your imagination. Indulge in a mental vacation by bingeing Netflix’s original series, “Locke & Key”. Visit a world that may look the same as ours, but is filled with magical possibility and is plagued by demons, caught in a classic ‘good versus evil’ dynamic. 

The Plot

“Locke & Key” is adapted from the comic book series of the same name written by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, and is brought to the Netflix big screen by Carlton Cuse, Meredith Averill, and Aron Eli Coleite. 

The series focuses on the Locke family: three youngsters whose father is murdered right in front of them. Their mother whisks them away to the coastal “Keyhouse,” a mysterious old mansion where their father spent time in his youth. They soon realize the building houses more mysteries than they ever thought possible, when the youngest Locke, Bode, discovers an ancient key. 

After some simple experimentation, Bode discovers the key’s magic: when the key is used to open a door, that door can become a portal to anywhere he’s ever been before. He later finds the Mirror Key, as well, which turns any mirror into a portal to a dangerous maze of neverending funhouse mirrors. When his mother accidentally becomes trapped in the mirror dimension, Bode calls upon his teenage siblings, Kinsey and Tyler, to save her. 

Their mother, Nina, immediately forgets about the incident, but Kinsey and Tyler are now in on the secret. They discover that they, too, can hear the whispering beckoning of the hidden keys. 

But there’s a problem: In a desperate attempt to save his mom, Bode gave the Anywhere Key to the “Well Lady” (aka Echo), an evil demon personified, and now she is loose in the world. She demands that Bode give her all the keys they find, and threatens harm to his family if he does not comply. She will stop at nothing to get the keys; after a series of callous murders, she is shown to have enormous power and no conscience. 

Throughout the series, the Locke children unlock many wondrous magical experiences, all while grieving the father they lost and learning more about the father they never knew. Their mother, Nina, is also seeking to learn more about her husband’s past, and reconcile the small-town mysteries she discovers with the haunting memories of his death.

Bode, Kinsey, and Tyler share their discoveries with a few newfound friends, who band together to fight against Echo. They strive to keep the keys away from her and to destroy her forever, all while dealing with the normal struggles of adolescence. 

While not “happily ever after”, the series does end with a feeling of contentment and hopeful possibility. The Lockes have confronted their father’s killer and protected the magic of the Keyhouse from evil. They learned a lot about themselves along the way, not the least of which is that they are actually happy in their new home. But within the last few minutes of the final episode, it’s revealed that not all the characters may have been who they said they were, setting the stage for more drama in the next season.

With only ten episodes of 45 minutes each, “Locke & Key” is a good candidate for a quick binge. The plot moves along quickly…too quickly, it sometimes felt. Each episode hops from action point to action point, with very little time given the characters to fully explore the magic of the keys. 

Neither do they take the time to consider the implications of what the keys can do, or the possibility that there may be more keys out there, so they seem to always be taken by surprise when things go wrong. Their decisions seem rash, as if the characters are not taking their situation seriously enough. This is especially noticeable when the Lockes are so quick to share their secrets with just about everyone. One would think they would use a little discretion if they understood how dangerous the keys can be.

The series is so fast-paced that the viewer might sometimes be confused. The story prompts the viewer to ask themselves a lot of good questions, like puzzling over motives and wondering what might happen next. But the presentation creates a lot of questions in a bad way:  Wait, what just happened? Why did they do that? Leave the room to grab a snack from the kitchen, and you might miss an important detail. In addition, the story encompasses a lot of different characters from two different time periods, so the viewer might struggle to keep up with the action if they’re still trying to figure out who all the characters are.

Those same characters can be a bit difficult to relate to for older viewers. Perhaps this series would resonate more with young teens, but as an adult, the characters’ flaws are less endearing and more irritating.

Locke & Key main characters

The Characters

Bode, the youngest Locke (played by Jackson Robert Scott), has a strange tendency to vacillate between acting like a wise old soul and a child. Halfway through the series, you realize he’s the smartest of the Lockes, but the script has him acting like a five-year-old when it’s convenient. How odd.

The other two Locke children (teenagers, really), are a bit bland and stereotypical. When Kinsey (Emilia Jones) removes fear from her head, she transforms overnight into a punk rock Barbie, which is just one step above the old nerdy-girl-takes-off-her-glasses-and-is-suddenly-super-hot trope. Worse, she loses her ability to consider the consequences of her actions, and ends up destroying the few solid friendships she had built.

We could believe that big brother Tyler (Connor Jessup) is grieving the death of his father and therefore guarded, while simultaneously trying to be the rock of his family. Yet his actions are typical of every male protagonist in any given teenage drama. Unfortunately, this idea that teenage boys are driven only by a desire to fit in or the more carnal desires of hormones is tired. The hints of depth we glimpse in his character when visiting memories of his dad are overshadowed by his self-centered and impulsive decisions.

Their mother, Nina (Darby Stanchfield), is a recovering alcoholic whose presence is sometimes merely decorative. Her relationship with her kids is so awful that we can only assume one of two things: either the writers are not good at dialoguing motherly affection, or Nina is actually just a really bad parent. It is possible that the writers intended her interactions to be clouded with grief, but the character has no trouble focusing on side characters, such as Joe the biology teacher, her new friend, Ellie, or her potential love interest, Detective Matuku. So not only is Nina mostly unrelatable, but there’s just enough ‘off’ about her to make her unlikable.

Locke & Key Keyhouse

The Rest

The special effects used throughout the series are pretty decent, at least to the untrained eye. The scoring perfectly complements the storyline in a way that “Harry Potter” fans will relish. One scene in particular pairs the two to great effect: after finding the Ghost Key and unlocking the door to the spirit world, Bode soars over the nighttime landscape as a ghost. This is the first time the magic of the keys actually seems amazing; sadly, the series moves too quickly to dwell on the enchantment of any of the other keys.

The premise of “Locke & Key” is certainly interesting, and, for all its minor faults, the story is engaging. The viewer can’t help but want more, which is the best thing that can be said of any television series. Hopefully the second season (expected to run in 2021) delivers the goods.

Overall, “Locke & Key” is easily recommendable, especially for family viewing with older kids. It’s a fun mix of spooky, suspenseful action and the exploration of human emotion and relationships. But do be aware that some scenes may be too intense for young viewers. The violence is not gory but often happens suddenly and on-screen, and one scene implies a sexual encounter. The series is officially rated TV-14.

For fans of fantasy or anyone needing a break from the depressing realities of the real world, “Locke & Key” is an engaging adventure in a world filled with magic. The story is quick and interesting; the characters are perhaps a bit stereotypical but the viewer can definitely root for them. The overarching theme that good can conquer evil is a refreshing taste of hope in a time when we need all the conquering good we can get. 

Watch the producers and stars talk about what drew them to “Locke & Key” on IMDB

By Emily Domedion

Contact the author at 

Becoming Lucky Friends in Pokemon GO

Yesterday I was super lucky: I became Lucky Friends with both my husband and another friend! 

Becoming Lucky Friends is somewhat rare, and it’s not something you can force. It happens by random chance. 

You have a 5% chance of becoming Lucky Friends every time you interact with a Best Friend, so basically for every 100 interactions, 5 might be lucky. If you have friends who are local (and I hope that you do), grow your friendship with them until you are Best Friends, but don’t stop there! Continue to interact every day, if you can. The more you interact, the more chances you have to become Lucky Friends. And when it happens, it’s so exciting! It’s like winning the lottery!

You may be asking, what’s so great about being Lucky Friends? Well, when you become Lucky Friends, you are guaranteed that the next Pokemon you trade will both be lucky. Lucky Pokemon have base stats of at least 12-12-12, and subsequently are stronger than average Pokemon. In addition, the required Stardust to power them up is half the usual requirement. Because it’s ‘cheaper’ to power them up, you can power them up much more quickly and spend fewer resources to do so.

How do you know when you’ve become Lucky Friends? First, remember that this can only happen with a Best Friend. What will happen is after you interact (whether it’s opening a gift they sent you, battling together in a gym or raid, or trading) their screenname will turn golden with little golden bubbles around it. You will very soon get a pop up on your screen announcing that you and your friend have become Lucky Friends. It’s not possible to miss it; you’ll know.

You don’t have to trade as soon as you become Lucky Friends–the friendship will remain Lucky until your next trade, even if that’s weeks or months away. But you won’t have any more chances to become Lucky with the same friend until after you’ve traded. You can’t be double Lucky, so to speak. So trade as soon as you are able, so that the clock will reset and you might become Lucky with that friend again.

When you are ready to trade with your Lucky Friend, you do have to be in the same vicinity. You must be at least within the same distance as you would to interact with a gym or spin a Pokestop. Unfortunately, at this time it is not possible to trade with friends who are oceans or even a few miles away. (But, who knows? Maybe someday Niantic will change that.)

Before you initiate the trade with your Lucky Friend, have a conversation about what Pokemon you’d both like to receive. This is a great opportunity to add a strong fighter to your team that you can quickly power up to max level. Take into consideration how much Stardust will be required to make the trade; if it’s a Pokemon that you don’t yet have in your Pokedex, it will cost significantly more Stardust.

My husband and I traded the same day we became Lucky Friends. He had been thinking about building a team of Dragonites, so he asked me to give him a Dratini or Dragonair. Luckily (haha, see what I did there?), I happened to have a Dratini to give him. After much deliberation, I asked him to give me a Litwick, which I can evolve into Chadelure.

Remember, the Pokemon you receive will be cheaper to power up, so you want to pick something that will be an asset to your team. Dragonite and Chandelure are not “A1” Pokemon, but they have diverse movesets and are good for raiding, which is a favorite activity of ours. The stats the Pokemon have before the trade don’t matter, because traded Lucky Pokemon are guaranteed to have at least 12-12-12 stats. So don’t worry too much about that!

Once you have your Lucky Pokemon, your last step is to enjoy powering it up and/or evolving it. If your Pokemon is Legendary, it would probably be a good idea to use your Rare Candy to power it up, like I did with Mewtwo. Don’t be afraid to use TMs to give it the optimal moveset.  Once you’ve done that, you’ll have a killer Pokemon to use to your advantage.

There are many benefits to having lots of friends in Pokemon GO, but becoming Lucky Friends and getting a Lucky Pokemon is one of the more exciting aspects, because it doesn’t happen too often!

But don’t lose patience; keep sending and receiving gifts with your local friends. When the time comes that you become Lucky, you’ll have the happy advantage of receiving a Lucky Pokemon. Because your Lucky Pokemon is so cheap to power up, it could quickly become your strongest Pokemon, and be the biggest asset to your attack lineup. The reward is well worth all your planning and walking and interacting!

Do you have a Pokemon GO topic you’d like to see featured in this blog? Please send your idea in an email to:

By Emily Domedion

10 Tips for Quick Success in Pokemon GO

My husband and I started playing Pokemon GO pretty seriously more than six months ago (on our honeymoon, funnily enough). Now he’s level 39 and I’m level 34. Even though we both have goals we’re still working to achieve, it’s safe to say we now know a thing or two about how to have the best playing experience in a short time frame. 

Some of those things we’ve learned through trial and error, and many things we’ve learned just by going online and doing the research. Other tips were revealed to us by fellow players in our network. Now, we want to share these tips with you. Whether you’re a beginner Pokemon GO player or have been playing for a while and need to level up, these tips should help you reach your “GOals” too!

1. Network. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, right? Log on to Facebook or Discord and search for Pokemon GO groups in your own community. Having teams to go raiding with is especially helpful when just starting out. Plus, you’ll meet real, live people who probably have experience and advice to share with you.

2. Make friends. Make lots and lots of friends. (You can have up to 200!) Use Facebook or other social media channels to grab the friend codes of people who want to exchange gifts. Sending gifts and growing friendships in-game is one of the quickest ways to earn XP (Experience Points). Plus, when opening gifts, you’ll receive much-needed items like balls and potions.

3. Track your friendships. In the Friends tab, you will see a list of all your friends along with their avatars. If there is a blue halo around their avatar, that means you’ve already interacted with them for the day. You only need to interact with a friend once a day to grow your friendship. Interactions include sending/receiving gifts, trading Pokemon, and battling together. 

4. Know when to crack a Lucky Egg. Lucky Eggs double your XP earnings for 30 minutes, so if you’re trying to level up quickly, there are a few key moments to use one. One such moment is when you’re about to become Best Friends with someone. Use the Friendship tracker to see how many days of interaction are left until you become Best Friends. On the last day, crack a Lucky Egg just before interacting with that friend. If possible, coordinate with them so they can do the same!

5. Movesets matter. TMs (Technical Machines) can be used to change either the Fast Attack or the Charged Attack of a Pokemon. Use your precious TMs wisely. The ideal movesets for your Pokemon somewhat depend on what you’re trying to achieve. Do you prefer raiding, or battling Player-vs-Player? Or is defending gyms more your jam? There are a lot of websites that can coach you on which Pokemon to use and what movesets they need. Here’s my favorite resource:

6. Walk for candy. The more steps you get, the more candies your buddy will find, which is necessary to evolve and power up your Pokemon. I would recommend going to your game settings and making sure Adventure Sync is on; this will reward you for all the steps you take with your phone on your person. (The only downside is it can be a drain on your phone’s battery, so this is not possible for everyone.) Then…walk! Walk everywhere you can–around the neighborhood, running errands, at the mall–and always take the stairs instead of the elevator. It’s good exercise too! There are also apps and devices that simulate walking for you, but these are considered cheating and can make you susceptible to consequences from the game makers. 

7. Look for Pokemon with high CP. When collecting Pokemon and deciding which to keep and invest in, looking at the assessment stats is helpful, but the CP (Combat Power) is more critical. Briefly, CP is an indicator of how strong a Pokemon is, and the higher its CP, the more damage it will inflict in battle. A simple way to gauge the CP is to check out the “rainbow” arching over the Pokemon on its display page. At the very bottom on the right is the maximum CP for that Pokemon; you want to see the white dot as close to that as possible. This means the Pokemon is already pretty strong, and you won’t have to invest as much candy and Stardust into powering it up.

8. Take note of events. Pokemon GO has a new dashboard feature (accessed by clicking on the binocular icon in the lower right corner) that describes ongoing events. This is often important to help you maximize resources. For example, if an event offers 2x hatch candy, hatch as many eggs as you can during that time. Look for events that offer double XP or double Stardust so that you can use a Lucky Egg or Starpiece to quadruple your earnings when appropriate.

9. Watch for the Weather Boost. The weather in Pokemon GO reflects the weather in your area, and different Pokemon are boosted during certain weather. (Click the top-most right icon to view what the weather is and which types are boosted.) Try to catch Pokemon that have the Weather Boost, especially if raiding, because their base level will be automatically higher. Which, again, means you’ll have to invest less resources to power it up down the road.

10. Farm resources by battling. PVP (Player-vs-Player) battles are a great way to collect resources that are otherwise pretty scarce, such as TMs and Rare Candy, as well as Stardust. If you play the maximum number of battle sets allowed (at this writing, five sets of five battles) you can earn up to five TMs, 10 Rare Candies, and 9,000 Stardust. These are all items you NEED to build strong teams.

These 10 tips for Pokemon GO only touch on some of the many intricate parts of gameplay. Some of the more complex aspects will be revisited in future posts, so stay tuned! In the meantime, these tips should be enough to get you on your way to being a Pokemon Master.

We hope you learned a trick or two, but more importantly we hope you continue to have fun playing Pokemon GO!

By Emily Domedion

Contact the author at

Click the image above to make screenshot larger and to view captions.

Review: So Good They Can’t Ignore You

“Do what you love” is often dished out as career advice, especially to young people in high school or college. But in the book So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love, author Cal Newport argues that this advice is often impossible to follow and won’t necessarily lead to professional happiness. 

After hooking the reader in the Introduction with a story about a Zen monk, Newport proceeds in Chapter One to use statistical data and survey results to disprove “the passion theory”, which is the idea that people can only find professional contentment if they get a job that matches their passion. 

In the following chapters, he instead posits that it is possible to find happiness in any career by using a process of deliberate practice to build career capital (marketable skills) and becoming the best you can be in your field. Then, you can determine your mission and start trading in your career capital for the job traits you truly desire: great benefits, a flexible schedule, control, meaning, etc. Only when you have sufficient career capital will you be able to participate in work you find fulfilling. Throughout the book, Newport describes the career paths of a number of professionals who exemplify this process.

At first, I was really excited to get into this book. I was totally on board with the statements in “Rule #1”, where Newport defines the difference between a job, a career, and a calling, and asserts that most people don’t have a passion that translates to a livable salary. These are things I have found to be true in my own professional life. But it was in the last three rules that he lost my support a little bit.

When presenting his career profiles and defending his case in Rules 2, 3, and 4, Newport’s arguments often seem circular, and blind to other potentially influential factors. The shining examples of happy career people he provides were supposedly chosen because they prove his thesis; yet, one could argue they got to where they are by means of privilege, networking, and sheer luck. Not only that, but I felt that many of Newport’s career profiles actually do support the passion theory.

Nevertheless, I don’t think Newport is totally wrong. I just don’t think he’s totally right, either. If you consider people who are truly content with their jobs, they probably are employing a multi-pronged strategy of doing what they’re good at, working to become even better at it, and dealing with or simply ignoring the aspects of the job they don’t like. On the other hand, when you consider people who are miserable in their jobs, it is possible that they don’t have the advantages of extra time and money to invest in career capital. Newport’s assertion that if you just work hard at something, you’ll grow into opportunities you love simply doesn’t work in every case. 

Overall, So Good They Can’t Ignore You is adequately written. The language is a bit bland and repetitive. The book starts out engaging enough, but becomes somewhat boring as it takes on the characteristics of a thesis. The book is painstakingly structured, but too much time is spent rehashing points the author already made, as if by repetition alone he strengthens his argument. And I can’t ignore how irritating Newport’s arguments sometimes were; it really chafed that the career profiles he selected to argue against passion in fact had passion as a prominent factor. 

Still, I would recommend this book to anyone looking for clarification or guidance on how to start a career or improve the career they already have. It does offer many helpful takeaways. 

I, myself, would read other works by this author. In fact, I am interested in reading one of Newport’s more recent books, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.

I am giving this book 4 stars out of 5 based on readability and helpfulness.

By Emily Domedion

Contact the author at

Starting a Blog: 7 Steps Before Beginning

Blogging is so easy! Anyone can do it, and everyone who tries will find immediate success!

For my very first blog post on my official website, I decided to write about blogging. I may have started off on the wrong foot, however, because the first two sentences are lies.

First of all, blogging is not easy. I have dabbled in the blogosphere for several years, and I have hit many of the stumbling blocks common to writers in general and to bloggers in particular. For me, blogging was always a hobby, a way to channel my creative energy into something to share with the world, but unfortunately it was never something I stuck with for very long. Unlike me, successful bloggers need to be dedicated.

Check out some of my old blog posts here. 

Secondly, while many people are able to draw vast audiences to their blog and make a good living with it, that’s not as simple as you might think. It takes a lot of hard work and perseverance. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight.

It is true that just about anyone can make a blog, but it helps if you are a skilled writer, and authoritative on your chosen topic. And even if you’re the best writer in the world, success won’t happen right away. You’ll need to post frequently to build a library of content and to establish trust with your target audience. Then, you’ll really have to hustle to expand your reach. It could take many months or even years to achieve the results you’re looking for.

So, how do you start a blog?

Starting a blog is easily said, but not so easily done. In fact, it can be daunting! As you may have noticed, this is my first blog post, so trust me when I say, I know exactly what it’s like to struggle with starting a blog. I have a few blog ideas in mind….but where do I go from there?

That’s why I’ve established this list of seven things to do before you even start writing. These are the steps I took before starting this blog. Hopefully, in turn, this list will help you narrow your focus and provide actionable items for you to get the ball rolling.

Determine your purpose.

Why do you want to write a blog? No, seriously; this is a question you must answer. Most bloggers want to inform and entertain. But are you looking to make money as a blogger? Build a career? Become famous? Or do you just want to have fun, maybe share some knowledge with a small, private audience?

Your objective will dictate all the decisions you make about your blog, from where to host your blog, to how often you post, to how you market your brand.

Choose a topic.

Obviously the topic of your blog should be something you are passionate about. If the topic doesn’t interest you, there’s no way you’re going to want to write about it week in and week out. So grab a piece of scrap paper and jot down all the things that interest you. Consider your lifestyle and activities. Think about things you love to talk about with friends and family. The items on this list don’t have to be too specific.

When you’re satisfied with your brainstorming session, it’s time to narrow down your list. Cross off topics you don’t want to invest in. There are some things you do just for fun; you don’t want to spend so much time on them that they aren’t enjoyable anymore!

Next, get rid of items that are maybe too prevalent. For example, there are thousands of blogs about weddings, DIY, and cooking — the market is so saturated that any blog about those topics would be just a teardrop in the ocean. That’s not to say you can’t choose a popular topic, just understand that you might have a hard time competing in those areas, especially if you’re looking to monetize your blog. Furthermore, it might be helpful to be more specific with these broader topics. Focus your blog on country weddings, DIY for the garage, or cooking for two, for example.

Cross off topics you don’t feel totally authoritative about. It’s okay to not have all the answers about your chosen blog topic! Just be sure to recognize that if you choose a topic that’s not your strong suit, you’ll have to do a lot of research and will have to list sources and attributions in your blog posts. Research is time-consuming and not suited for everyone.

Soon you’ll have your list narrowed down to one or two topics. If you want to pursue two topics in the same blog, it’s helpful if they complement each other, such as movie reviews coupled with celebrity gossip. If the topics aren’t related, you can create separate categories within the same blog, or create two distinct blogs. For the beginner, it might be less overwhelming to just focus on a single topic.

As your blogl grows and evolves, your topic of interest might change. That’s totally fine! You can always rebrand later. The important thing for right now is that you have a starting point.

Envision your audience.

This is particularly important if you want to monetize your blog down the road, because it will direct your marketing strategy. But it is also helpful to do even if you are blogging for fun. Knowing in advance who your audience is will help you to keep your writing consistent. It will also dictate your style, tone, and content.

Your target audience will depend on your topic. Basically, it boils down to: Who do you want to read your blog? Is it teenagers? Stay-at-home moms? Contractors? You could even go nuts and invent a “persona”, an imaginary person who would enjoy your blog.

For instance, if you want to blog about RPG video games, you might envision a younger person reading your blog, maybe someone in their teens or early twenties. This person is really on top of trends, enjoys YouTube and Twitch, and prefers to communicate via text message or social networks like Discord. They like books and movies with a lot of action. When they are looking for information, they want it immediately, and won’t sift through a lot of verbiage to get answers.

With this persona in mind, you’ll know that your writing has to be hip and concise. Get to the point right away, and maybe use bullet point lists to expound on your message. Marketing to an audience of this type would definitely involve social media.

This is just an example of how imagining your audience will affect your writing and marketing strategies.

Come up with a title.

This one is a little trickier, and it may be some time before you feel you’ve got it right. I’m sure you’ve seen blog titles that are clever and memorable. But even if you’re not one for wordplay, simply try to keep it short and sweet and to the point.

Think about your topic and keywords, as well as your writing style and personality. Jot down ideas as they come to you, and maybe you can recombine them in different ways. This step is just a matter of brainstorming, and letting your ideas percolate. Work on it for a little while, then go do something else for a bit. When you return to it, your mind will be refreshed and you might see things in a new light.

Finally, when you think you’ve got a workable idea, give it a quick Google search to make sure someone else doesn’t already have that title in use.

Plan content ideas.

This step, like the one above it, is all about brainstorming and letting the ideas flow. Think about what subtopics you’d like to write about. Ask yourself how you can branch off of those ideas. What ideas will be featured in your blog’s main posts? Which subtopics can you provide more detail about? What questions does your reader have that you can answer?

Consider all the popular blog formats, and think of ways you can incorporate those: lists, reviews, “How To” guides, etc. 

Once you have a healthy list of ideas, you can rearrange them and create a schedule for writing and publishing. I used Google Sheets to create my content list and schedule, but there is also software available online to help with your content strategy. Having a schedule will keep you on task and help prevent writer’s block.

Choose a blog platform.

If you already own your own domain, hooray! Whichever web host you decide to use will certainly allow you to have a blog page. (For example, I’m using WordPress.)

Otherwise, you’ll want to find a platform dedicated to blogs. I did a simple Google search for “best free blogging platform” and found dozens of results. Do a little research of your own to find one you’re happy with.

I’ve used Google’s Blogger before and was very happy with how easy it was to use; it’s perfect for beginners or for users who want to avoid web design. I’ve also used Wix and WordPress, but have found those to have a steeper learning curve. There are many, many options available. Your choice will depend on your skill level with computers and web design, as well as your long-term goals for your blog.

Educate yourself.

Never stop learning! There are so many resources available to us in this modern age. You can read blogs about writing blogs (just like this one), but you can also find free classes and webinars online about blogging, content creation, and marketing. As your blog grows, you might want to learn more about SEO and monetizing options.

Visit your local library and ask the librarian to help you find the business section. (Seriously, librarians love to help.) There you will find books and other resources on every subject you could ever want to explore: marketing, web design, writing, and more. 

Or do something as simple as brushing up on grammar and punctuation. There are tons of books and websites on that subject. Use your smartphone for word-a-day apps to expand your vocabulary, or proofreading apps to sharpen your editing skills. Listen to podcasts about blogging, copywriting, social media, and digital marketing. 

Anything that piques your interest: dive in and learn more. There’s no such thing as having too much knowledge. You’ll be amazed at how many tidbits you can take away to help you on your blogging journey.

I promise I’m not asking you to do more than I’m willing to do myself. I’ve recently been using HubSpot Academy, which offers free online courses about business, writing, digital marketing, and more. Check it out here.  

Once you’ve gone through this list, taken into consideration your audience, and made a content plan, FINALLY you’re ready to start writing! Be sure to check back later for tips on how to write and format a blog post. 

Blogging is not for everyone. Whether it’s a simple pastime or a career, it requires a lot of hard work and planning. Nevertheless, it is so rewarding to have something you wrote published for all the world to see! If you love to write and have a topic you want to share, go for it!

I wish you all the best on your blogging journey. Happy writing!

By Emily Domedion

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