The 1,000 Words Rule of Blogging (Book Excerpt)

Want to be a successful blogger? Every new endeavor requires a period of ascetic dedication. You must write a minimum of 1,000 words a day.

Some bloggers make this their ceiling, but many make it their floor. Either way, you must produce on a daily basis. How do you do this? You can crank out, perhaps, three posts of a few hundred words each in the morning and three in the evening. Or you can write one big post. Either way, do the word count. Why is this important? Because if you have a goal, you can meet it. After his heart attack, blogging great Om Malik set this number for himself to ensure he produced quality content in a timely manner and did not kill himself in the process. Sadly, Om’s heart attack was brought on by the blogging lifestyle, as well as too much booze, cigars, family history and bad luck. It took a massive change in his everyday life to reorient him toward a saner blogging schedule, and he found this 1,000-word limit invaluable.

This word count is not impossible. It’s about two pages of standard paper a day. At first, do not surpass this word count. This is an endurance race, not a sprint. The recommended dosage of 1,000 words a day is doable by the average writer, is a concrete number for you to strive toward, and is about as much as your audience can read in a day. Do not do less, either. This is a regimen. You need to get used to producing this much content quickly and without complaint. Consider using a speech recognition tool: you’ll be pounding out words without pounding on the keyboard. In fact, you’ll find that by speaking your posts you often write more than you originally intended.

This also brings up an important point: writing for blogs is conversational. Some of the best bloggers write like they’re telling a story. For example, Eben Oliver Weiss, author of BikeSnobNYC, does two pertinent things when he creates a blog post: He first offers a bit of information about an important aspect of biking lore or current bike news, then blends that news into a tightly spun yarn connecting the news to his unstated mission: to poke holes in the smug superiority of biking experts. It’s a noble goal and he’s been rewarded with a book deal and great popularity.

The hardest part of this 1,000-word regimen is accepting that your audience may not appear magically out of thin air as you write. Luring readers to your writer’s online lair is addressed in my book, but rest assured that the 1,000-word regimen will give vibrancy and life to your blog. A blog that has not been updated for days is a sick blog. A blog that has not been updated for a month is a dead blog. If you do not produce 1,000 words a day, no matter what, you’re risking running out of momentum far too early.

Some bloggers do considerably less than 1,000 words a day and some do more. For example, John Gruber at Daring Fireball posts small “nugget” posts and then creates long, well-written essays on technology every week or so. Like the prize in a box of Cracker Jacks, Gruber’s long posts are a reward to his readers and a joy to read. Why not do the same? Post lots of nuggets—100 words each—and one or two huge posts every few days. Or you can publish one large post every day. Either way, you’re going to gain an audience if you give them something they want.

Just remember this motto: ABP. Always Be Posting. You will burn out. When this happens, take a break. Always take weekends off and limit your off-the-clock consumption of social media. Your conversations should happen in comments and in your writing. Bloggers should use services like Twitter as news sources and broadcast media instead of a source of endless distraction. Do this every weekday and leave the blog alone on weekends. Or, if there is no one in your niche writing on the weekends, that might be an opportunity for you. Either way, give yourself a regular weekly break.

Keep writing. Write 1,000 words a day.

John Biggs is the editor of TechCrunch Gadgets and the former editor of Gizmodo. This excerpt is from his new book, Blogger's Boot Camp: Learning how to build, write, and run a successful blog.

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