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Monday, July 15, 2013

How to write Sound Blog articles

You’ve just crawled out of a taxing Foley recording session. Perhaps you’ve returned to the studio after hours trudging through wilderness recording atmospheres. Sound work requires stamina. Who has time or energy at the end of the day to compose a fascinating 1,000-word article for your sound blog?

But yet, you must. I wrote in my previous article that you must blog about sound. However, the problem remains: how do you find the time and energy to represent your work and ideas, and network with others? Isn’t there a cheat sheet for writing about sound?

Today’s article will explain how you can write posts that will represent you well, and connect you with others. Of course, the articles won’t write themselves. However, the tips here will help give your writing direction and strength, and keep your readers coming back for more.

Four Blog Writing Hazards

Field recording, sound design, and editing are complex crafts. You can learn quite a bit in schools and workshops. However, there is always more that can be absorbed. There are dozens of tips and tricks that are only discovered over time. New recordists and even seasoned pros love the craft of sound. They’re always eager to learn more. Sound blogs are a powerful way to share and learn. I shared seven reasons for starting a sound blog in the last post.

So, the need for a sound blog is clear. It benefits your career. There are perhaps under 50 sound blogs on the Web. They range from personal diaries to massive sites, such as designingsound.org. This is good, but, compared to the number of sound pros, it’s actually a small number. Then why aren’t there more sound blogs?

Unfortunately, it’s easy for a blog to fade away. Here are reasons why this happens:
  1. Lack of time. Writing takes time and concentration. Sound editing and field recording are demanding crafts. Schedules are long, and narrow deadlines can appear suddenly. Blog writing can quickly become a distant priority.
  2. Lack of topics. What do you write about? What would be interesting to readers? Isn’t everything written already?
  3. Writer’s block. The battle is not over after you’ve decided on a topic. Many writers describe the terror of facing the blank page. They stare at their computer screen for hours. They simply don’t know how to start.
  4. Atrophy. Writing anything on a sound blog is a success. It’s tricky, though, to keep this going. Your publishing schedule may slip as a new gig demands more of your time. And, as it does, your readers fade away.
These issues aren’t as bad as they seem, however. You will overcome these problems, and I’ll show you how.

What a Good Blog Looks Like

First, let’s see what draws a reader to a blog.
  • The stories must be fresh. Popular blogs have compelling posts that make readers visit, and stay to read more.
  • The blog must be updated regularly. As they say, no one would visit the New York Times if had the same front page every day. Articles must be released on a predictable schedule.
  • Good blogs have strong writing. You don’t need to be Shakespeare, of course. However, you must be able to communicate ideas clearly. Spelling errors and bad grammar drain a reader, too.
  • Communication. Visitors become readers. Readers become fans. Unlike newspaper journalism, these people want to be included in the discussion. Good blogs facilitate communication. This includes commenting, as well as clear links to the stock social media sites.
  • Decent design. There’s no need to have Apple’s UI team design your blog. However, the layout does need to be presentable. That includes text itself. Walls of text dumped upon pages with a jarring colour scheme guarantee visitors will flee within seconds.
What about sound blogs? What makes writing about audio appealing?
  • Sound. What sound blog would be complete without audio? Field recording missions share attempts, successes, and samples. New libraries tempt with clever previews. Good sound blogs pair audio with text. Embed sound snippets using SoundCloud, or a native audio plug-in.
  • Simplicity. Field recording and sound editing are complex crafts. Ideas must be explained clearly and simply. Sound blogs that parcel procedures and techniques into simple, bite-sized steps are better. Simple, informative posts become the most popular sound articles.
  • Good sound blogs describe the process. They may explain a field recording shoot, or a mixing tutorial.
  • Images. All good blogs posts include images. It’s especially essential for sound blogs. Are you describing an elaborate microphone arrangement? Have you arranged a complex chain of plug-ins? Photographs and screen shots break up heavy technical text, and explain how to get things done in precise detail.

Broad Decisions

The best way to start writing a sound blog is to decide the biggest decisions first.

  • Choose your audience. Who is visiting your blog? Yes, they are sound pros. Wait. Or are they? Maybe you’d think so because you’re a pro yourself. But it’s more likely that it is beginners who are drinking up every tip you’re pouring out onto your blog. Don’t stop there. Dig deeper. Sure, readers are interested in sound. But are they field recordists, sound editors, mixers, or Foley recordists? Your writing fortifies as your audience narrows. It becomes specific, more pertinent, and increasingly prized the more intimately you address your audience.
  • Is it a you blog or a me blog? A me blog writes about yourself, the author. For example, this type of blog may list your journey discovering field recording, or experimenting with a suite of plug ins. It’s a diary. Readers love these sites because they offer a glimpse into a professional’s life. Me blogs may also be used for promotion. This is a great idea, since there are few ways for a freelance sound pro to get noticed, or break into the industry. The articles may guide readers toward products at a store. They may highlight the author’s skills, leading them to hire their services. A you blog may write about similar topics, but its approach is completely different. It’s written specifically to help others. Because of this, the writing is shaped so that it can be understood by beginners of the craft. These blogs are incredibly helpful, become popular, and cultivate loyal fans.
  • Good blogs offer something of value. People visit blogs because they get something from them. They may learn a new trick or technique. They may read a review for gear they were considering buying. The writing may be entertaining. Whichever the case, readers visit a blog because they are want something. Your blog must help them. If it doesn’t, there’s no point for anyone to visit, is there? The idea is that your sound blog must be created to provide value not just for yourself, but for others, too.
  • Choose a maximum of four topics. Share with readers a limit of only four storylines. They can be we whatever you like, however you must be consistent. Varying topics confuses readers. They won’t know what to expect. Does your blog share video tutorials? Does it describe how to record ADR properly? Maybe you interview pros. Your blog presents your professional identity, online. A concise identity sticks in people’s minds. Are you the blogger that knows everything about Waves plug-ins? Or are you the writer that covers microphones, music production, and community events? Too many topics dilutes your message, and loses your identity in the chatter. You can strengthen your identity by focusing on a maximum of four topics. For example, I write about field recording sound effects worldwide, creativity, and sharing sound on my blog, jetstreaming. I don’t write about studio recording, mixing, or dialogue. That means readers know what to expect and look for when they visit my site. It creates a destination.
  • Your writing must be original. I don’t mean avoiding plagiarism. That’s obvious. What I mean is that no one wants to read the same tired subjects. That includes reviews of old gear or describing established techniques. That’s boring. It’s unhelpful. You won’t be able to pierce the noise with bland topics. Instead, provide a new spin on an old idea. Write a post that differs from prevailing opinion. Criticize established ideas (respectfully, of course). Bring together unusual subject combinations, and discuss. Take your work in a new direction, perhaps by describing a unique combination of atypical gear, a new style, and a novel subject.
  • Write about what you’ve accomplished. Describe your experiments. Feature your successes. The point is that you’re writing about what you’ve already done. Writing about what you plan to do isn’t as valuable. Readers value your experience instead. Time, combined with experience, provides a reflective perspective that readers value.
  • Be natural. Avoid sales pitches. Don’t use blatant promotion. Why? No one wants to spend their free time reading advertisements. Instead, write about what you feel. Share your thoughts, and your experiences. Write in the same way you’d speak to a friend. Readers can sniff out when you’re trying to manipulate them to purchase something. Avoid this.

We Need You to Write

You bring something unique to your craft. Yes, everyone knows how to use the same software, and microphones. We’ve all heard the stock sound effect tricks, and microphone mounting tips. But you, as a creator, offer a perspective that is more important than stats, charts, and to-do lists.

This is why you must write. These ideas define your personality, craft, and creativity. When you share them online, you begin to shape your career for others to see. You help them on their own journey. This combination creates a tight mesh of fans, collaborators, and peers. It’s what makes the sound community grow, with a pleasant bonus: it amplifies your own craft as well.

About the author: Paul Virostek travels worldwide recording the sounds of cities and cultures. He shares his collection at airbornesound.com, and writes about his experiences field recording, and sharing sound effects at jetstreaming.org. He is also the author of "Field Recording: from Research to Wrap - An Introduction to Gathering Sound Effects", which was published in 2012.

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