Blog Writing Tips 1 – The Power Of Story

Once Upon A Time

Lots of people set up a blog out of a hunger to engage. I know I did. I’d been reading sewing and knitting blogs for a while and I couldn’t ignore my desire to contribute in a more meaningful way. I didn’t want to listen to the conversation; I wanted to be part of it. So, I set up a blog.

I’m sure this is a familiar story to lots of you and that you went through a similair journey. You set up your blog page, chose a name, wrote an excited first post … and then what? Fear.

  • I’m not very good at spelling and grammar – will people judge me?
  • I don’t know what to write about, or how, or when…
  • I can’t remember the last time I wrote anything that wasn’t a shopping list.

This last one is a biggie. When was the last time you sat down and engaged in a creative writing task? (Because that’s what you’re doing when you compose a blog post.) For some people, creative writing has been long left behind in the toy box of childhood. Grown ups don’t write stories. They pay the bills, hold down jobs, do the laundry, talk about how exhausting life is as they watch their children play make believe. Don’t they?

Not in my world and not in yours, either.

Grown ups do tell stories. We tell stories all the time. We can’t help it; it’s in our DNA. From the moment we were born, people were singing lullabies to us, reading us picture books, parents exchanged gossip over the top of our heads and as soon as we understood words, we started to learn the mythology of our own existence: You came out of the womb with a full head of curly hair and screaming your lungs off! We knew you were going to be a character from the start.

See? They’re all around us. And it’s my opinion that stories make the best blog posts. They’re life affirming, they’re satisfying, they can make us laugh or cry over our breakfast cup of tea. Here are some examples:

Raggy Gets A New Coat

Classic storytelling. Jane’s son, Charlie, was very attached to his comfort toy, but it needed repairing. Jane shares a touching story about what happened next. As one reader comments, Charlie is very lucky to have such a lovely mum…

Kimono Silk Wedding Dress

Sunny Gal Studio wrote a series of posts about the commission to make a wedding dress from some vintage kimono fabric. It’s a beautiful story and the ultimate example of how sewing stories have a very satisfying beginning, middle and end. I dreamt of a dress, I made the dress, I wore the dress. See? Our passion for sewing supplies us with stories on a plate. All we have to do is tell them.

Changing Guards At Buckingham Palace

This is a very old blog post from me, back when I engaged in the challenge of Me Made June – and getting photographed with a different stranger for every day of the month. (What a hoot that was! What a dork I look!) One day I wandered past Buckingham Palace and the most incredible story emerged. I had to share it.

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Being photographed with random strangers is fun! Anyone remember this?

On a bigger scale, I think entire blogs or elements of those blogs become stories in their own right. I have a running joke about The Man Outside Sainsburys – the man who takes a lot of my hard earned cash in exchange for lovely fabric. (Who, by the way, has still not set a date for our wedding. Or even mentioned our wedding. I’m wondering if I should put the wedding dress patterns back in their drawer.)

Or take a look at Tilly and the Buttons, for example. Sets up a sewing blog, gets the pattern drafting bug, appears in the first series of The Great British Sewing Bee, has a book published in over eight countries, moves into her first studio… Guys, aren’t you breathlessly turning the page to read the next chapter? I know I am!

So, what I’m trying to say is this: don’t over think your blog writing. Have faith in yourself. You DO know how to do this. Find a story and tell it. It can be the story of what happened when you set the sleeve in wrong three times or the story of the dress you made for your wedding or the story of the dress that ended up in the bin. Yeah, there are going to be those stories too.

Why does the power of story work for building a blog readership? Because you’re engaging people’s emotions. They start to care about you, they want to read more of your stories which means they’re going to come back to your blog.

Here’s my PRACTICAL EXERCISE if anyone wants to play along. Go away and have a think about a story for a blog post. Give it the loosest possible framework: a beginning, a middle and an end. Write it up and then link back in the comments below so that we can all go and read! I can’t wait to see what emerges. We’re all telling stories all the time, and some stories can become truly wonderful blog posts.

Starring me as third donkey

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49 Responses to Blog Writing Tips 1 – The Power Of Story

  1. Jan says:

    Thanks for a really informative post, for a newbie like me it’s great to get some writing tips. I’m just starting out and am building my blog at the moment, which is all uphill for me, not really being of the computer age! I love your blog and loom forward to more tips. Jenna.

  2. I love Raggy gets a new coat, I cry everytime I read it. My nephew is autistic and it’s lovely to know that other people will do anything to make their lives easier aswell !
    X

  3. Jennifer says:

    Hi Karen, thanks for this great post, I also enjoyed your interview with Alex from Sewing Bee earlier in the week. I’ve been blogging for about 9 months and have really enjoyed reading lots of other people’s blogs and seeing all the different writing styles. I’ve always loved writing and telling stories, so in a way I guess I don’t think about how I write, I just try to get it all down out of my brain in some kind of sensible order and in a ‘voice’ that sounds like me! But it’s always great to get tips from other people and an outside perspective, to step back and examine how things are going, and I’m sure my own blogging style will develop more in the future. I’d love if people want to have a look and my blog, and constructive criticism is very welcome 🙂

  4. charlottepb says:

    a very inspiring post,it has given me the realization that having started and stopped my blog several times over to ‘have some faith’ and go with it.
    thankyou

  5. HappyHermit says:

    I sometimes feel the urge to have a blog, when i have made something great but then i think about all the effort involved in photographing it, writing it, posting it and i just can’t be bothered! I LOVE reading other blogs and find much inspiration from them but i just don’t want to be a blogger. This makes me feel that i am not part of the gang, just a lurker but hey there’s more time for sewing and reading! I appreciate good writing and great photos so keep writing please Karen (and all the other great bloggers) i hugely appreciate all the time you take to make your blog so splendid … keep them coming ….

    • I think it’s good to acknowledge when you DON’T want to do something. Nothing worse than forcing yourself to.

    • nita says:

      You don’t have to be a blogger to participate in the blogging world 🙂 All of us bloggers need readers and people who leave comments…that’s where the conversation is. It’s in the spaces between the blog posts. 🙂

    • Andrea says:

      HappyHermit, this is wonderful to read. I hope that what I write is an inspiration for anyone that reads. In my mind, my audience is first my family then the world. I image the reader standing at my sewing room door looking on and asking questions.

  6. Hila says:

    Such a helpful post! I started my blog as a way to catalog my makes; to remember that i can make stuff especially when life takes me over and i have to work really hard to carve out time for me. It helps remind me of joy but more than that i have (unexpectedly) made friends and started to feel more connected where before i had felt isolated.

  7. Claire says:

    This is a lovely post Karen! It’s inspiring me to try to use my blog to do more than just report the latest thing I made.

  8. jennifer miller says:

    Oh how perfect this blog is for me right now! I have been wanting (needing?) to write for the longest time. And I’m longing, after decades away, to return to the craft I love – sewing. I have time, passion, ability – all that is missing the courage to go after it. I think your blog has helped! I will be joining the story exercise. Thank you. Jen in NY.

    • Go for it, Jen! Courage is often the only missing piece of the jigsaw – I speak from experience. I look forward to reading your story!

      • Jennifer Miller says:

        Ack! You now have lesson #2 and I haven’t finished #1. Have nearly completed my “story”; and have yet to actually get my blog up and running. I shall continue that process, then go on to the next challenge. You might receive a glut of work from me all at once and for that I apologize in advance. Carry on! Jen in NY.

  9. Jen (NY) says:

    Good tips, there! I am one of those who started a blog (1/2 sewing 1/2 women’s history) and has fallen off the blog wagon so-to-speak. Life has just been too chaotic and for the time being, there are other priorities that can’t be avoided. However, I just wanted to say that I think there is a particular balance – a balance between the fun/creative part and the part of blogging that can seem like work. Sometimes it is evident when a blogger is not having much fun, but she feels obligated to post something, and then writing starts to feel strained. Practicing the violin is one thing, but forcing creativity is another. So, I am clumsily trying to say that IMO some bloggers seem to feel pressure to perform like a mini version of the 24 hour news cycle. As primarily a reader now, I say don’t worry about it! Some day I will go back to my blog too, but for now, I’m sure no one is reading my sparse posts – its just a record for me.
    ~Jen

  10. Hi Karen! I always love reading your blog posts, and now that I think about it, what I like so much about your blog and several others on my reading list is the way you narrate, not always just with words but also with the pictures. Especially since I often tend towards the “here’s what I did” way of writing. Thanks for reminding me that it’s not always the factual details that matter, but the way you tell them. 🙂 Here’s my story: http://farben-freude.blogspot.de/2015/02/an-oufit-with-twist.html

  11. lizafrica says:

    Hi
    Man alive, just have to tell you again how much I enjoy reading your blog. I pretty much drop everything when it lands in my inbox. As a blog writer myself, I am intrigued by your current series. Can’t wait for more. I have pondered on why I am drawn so much to your particular blog…….I think it is your funny, witty and relaxed style of writing. And the sewing too!
    Just got a wonderful email from my son & his family who now live in London with pics etc of where they live including my dearly missed little grandson. Methinks a visit next year is definitely on the cards. Been too long since my last visit to London (I’m in Vancouver, Canada)
    Gotta say…….stick with the blog writing. You are GOOD!
    Thank you.
    Liz T

  12. What a great post. Like many people I don’t find writing easy and as much of what falls out of my mouth is solid Scottish sarcasm then I always feel I have to rein myself in or risk offending people. I am in the process of culling a lot of blogs from my reading list as they have no voice or, my pet hate, try too hard with the flowery language and words out of context. Love to read a good story. Even over great pics. There are some amazing blogs out there and it is amazing being able to connect with people whom you would never meet in real life. Xx

  13. Bekki Hill says:

    I had a real ‘ah ha’ moment the other day when you said blog posts were really short stories, When I previously set up a blog I got bored with it very quickly, whereas my new blog I’m loving writing – although it isn’t so different from my first, it’s got more of me and my story in it. I now see I was hiding too much of myself in my first blog so it lacked a character and without a character there was no story. Now you’ve pointed out it’s a story, I stop myself from being too shy and hiding from my readers. Thank you!

  14. emsewcrazy says:

    Thank you for this reminder. You’ve also inspired me to post a different sewing story that I’ve been afraid to share thus far.
    http://tumbleweedsinthewind.blogspot.com/2015/02/arias-needle-sewing-story.html

  15. Fadanista says:

    Thank you Karen, your posts are always so inspiring that I took up your challenge – http://wp.me/p3lcu5-1uy. A bit of a different blog post for me, which is fabulous.

  16. Pingback: How blogging expanded my world | fadanista

  17. Stacey says:

    I need to start focusing more on a narrative on my blog rather than just pretty clothes … thanks for the inspiration!

  18. Catherine says:

    I’ve just read the Kimono wedding dress posts. What a lovely story but also full of sewing tips. I recently asked my followers what they find interesting on a post and quite a few said when they get a feel for the person writing. i.e. they feel like they are listening to a friend. photos were important as well. Not too many, not too few.

  19. Hi, thanks for a really interesting post. I accepted your challenge and guess what? YOU are part of the story! Blog post just up – http://www.clarindakaleidoscope.com

  20. Wendy says:

    Thanks Karen. I am very much a newcomer to blogging and this post was just the push I needed to keep doing it!

  21. Lauren says:

    I can’t believe you had a month of taking picture with strangers! It would have taken me a month to pluck up the courage to have a picture with one stranger! You rock! I did the practical exercise and everything flowed so much better than it normally does, so thank you! http://www.ladysewalot.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/cherry-blossom-tree-chardon.html

  22. Kimmy Rocket says:

    Great tips Karen, keep them coming. My inner story teller and I have had a chat, and this week’s blog post is about a little knitted hat that was born in the skies above Canada and was finally debuted today in a West Sussex park.

    https://kimmyrocket.wordpress.com/2015/02/08/james-c-brett-jb110-a-hat/

  23. J K says:

    I so enjoy your blog!!
    I save yours to read when I need a pick me up or inspiration!
    I lurk, enjoy, am touched by, and appreciate special blogs.
    But I don’t feel I have a voice that would be uplifting or fun.
    Had to retire, deal with chronic pain, vertigo. Take care of my precious funny Mum.
    Go for weeks without sewing.
    Immense financial pressure.
    Could do an artificial funny blog. But my real voice – don’t want to be a Negative Nellie.
    Have the feeling blogs are best written by those in their prime!

  24. izychampion says:

    Hello! I just blogging last week and your tips were really helpful – thanks Karen!

    http://izywritesaboutthings.wordpress.com

    Hope you guys enjoy! 🙂

  25. Great post Karen 🙂 My story begins with a plan to design a knitting pattern …. and how it went wrong ! http://makeandwear.wordpress.com

  26. What a fantastic post and as somebody above mentioned it inspired me to write something other than about my latest make and something I’ve been mulling over for a while. A bit self-indulgent and off topic for a sewing blog but something that I keep coming back to. I’ve written it and posted it here http://www.nobleanddaughter.com/new-blog/waxing-hopeful. Any feedback always gratefully received! As always your sewing and even more so your writing is witty, open and inspiring!

  27. quickerby says:

    I completely agree with everyone about how interesting and inspiring this post is. I loved reading the comments and the accompanying stories, so much so that I have a host of new bloggers to follow. Trouble is now I may spend so much time reading the blogs that I may never leave the sofa to knit and sew let alone write my own blog! All those lovely patterns and fabrics are just feeding my growing sewing habit, not to mention the stash. Aargh! Better go back to my sewing shed before I spend any more money.

  28. Hi Karen just wanted to post a link to the seaming tutorial I used for seaming my knit http://kelbournewoolens.com/tipsandtricks/mattressstitch . I just realused I was calling it kitchener when I meant mattress stitch!!

  29. Inadvertently I have just written a story within my blog posts. I was invited to a fancy dress party: what to wear, (Decided on Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett) researching, designing and making. Next I get to reveal what we wore! I didn’t realise I was doing this until now. Great post Karen.
    http://seamsoddlouise.blogspot.com.au/

  30. James says:

    Your information is really helpful. Thinking of it as short story really makes sense. What fun reads : ). I’m still working on getting my posts to be more cohesive but I made an attempt at giving more of a story to my latest post. I enjoy reading your blog.

  31. Hi Karen! This is a wonderful post and your blog is always such a pleasure to read. I just started blogging (after being a longtime lurker) and my favorite non-sewing part is definitely the writing…It’s so refreshing to create something from scratch instead of in tracked changes! Here’s my latest make, with a story: http://domesticcoquinette.blogspot.com/2015/01/two-wrongs-sometimes-makes-it-right.html

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  33. Caroline says:

    Thanks Karen for your blogging tips, which will help me as I am a newbie. I was inspired to create a dressmaking blog (after much thought) by ladies like yourself. I really enjoy reading your blog and you are so amusing!

  34. What a great post thanks. My favourite story blogger is Idle Fancy, http://www.idlefancy.com/2014/10/miss-cressida-and-slipping-scissors.html – I love the names she uses.

    I had great plans for a post for this competition, but I fear my draft is too long and its not even finished I’ve been too busy wearing the trousers to finish them! (bad seamstress). Then I realised that the post I wrote yesterday probably counts, so this is the bird in my hand post so to speak https://prolificprojectstarter.wordpress.com/2015/02/14/how-my-children-stole-my-cupboard-and-inveigled-me-into-making-soft-furnishings-for-it/#comment-678

  35. I inadvertently did this in my last blog post, and it’s really good advice! http://forwhoitsfor.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-knitting-saga-that-was-and-wasnt.html
    Ended up a bit long-winded, but I definitely think it’s more engaging. Now to take your advice from part 2 for my next post!

  36. Pingback: A very quick skirt story – Colette Mabel | dottie doodle

  37. dottiedoodle says:

    Thank you for the inspiration! I wrote a little story around a make I wasn’t going to blog, and really enjoyed it. https://dottiedoodle.wordpress.com/2015/02/17/a-very-quick-skirt-story-colette-mabel/

  38. This post warms my heart. You’re so right that sewing and stories go hand in hand! How fun that you’ve inspired such a conversation here. Today I discovered your blog, and just yesterday I wrote a post that suits your prompt. It’s about the tiny joys of my everywhere bag: http://bluecarpaintedgreen.com/2015/02/21/the-tiny-joys-of-my-everywhere-bag/

  39. Kara says:

    I just saw this post and found it really helpful. I’ve been trying to figure out how to write my blog, since I just don’t feel like I have a way with words.. There’s been a lot of “I made this” and then pictures of whatever it was I made. I realized that the blogposts I enjoy the most are those that tell of the journey of how the item came to be.
    So here’s my attempt at a story:
    http://www.karaw.com/blogg/?p=759
    And I’m looking forward to the next step in this journey.

  40. Pingback: Beyond Measure hatches | Beyond Measure

  41. Update: I never got back on track with the writing exercise – ugh – but I did finally get my blog up and running. Made a comment or two on yours without realizing this thread still existed. Very much enjoy your blog and your beautiful creations! (http://letthesewingbegin.wordpress.com)

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