Blapril 2020: Coming up with topic ideas for your gaming blog

Keeping a blog alive isn’t just about writing and promoting, it’s about idea generation. Everyone may have three or four really good ideas for posts, but after those are written up, what then? You gotta keep ideas coming and need to have them be interesting enough to both write and read about.

And that can be tough, especially at first. Going from not writing at all to churning out daily posts is a Herculean undertaking for most starting bloggers, which is why I’m not surprised we see some people flee back into obscurity at the end of these blog initiatives. But then there are those who get in the habit of generating and cultivating ideas, and once you get that process locked down — coming up with ideas, writing about ideas, and promoting posts — then you’ll have a system that is much easier to sustain.

So where to get ideas? Here’s a quick and dirty guide to how I come up with 5+ posts every week for Bio Break:

  • Constantly be taking screenshots in game and then write a post to sum up major accomplishments or interesting encounters in that game over the past week.
  • Whenever I’m gaming, if I start to think about a particular topic or issue or something pokes out at me in a significant way, I’ll jot that idea down in a short, temporary post to flesh out later.
  • I’ve established a loose schedule so that I know what I want to write about which days (Sundays are music posts, Wednesdays are retro gaming and podcast posts, etc.).
  • Giving a hot take of some game story that’s in the headlines.
  • Bouncing off of an idea or topic that other bloggers raised.
  • Making a list. Of something. Of anything. People like lists.
  • And when all else fails, going through the hundreds and hundreds of Daily Grind questions from Massively OP and answering one or more at length.

When you mix together personal observations, day-to-day gaming experiences, news headlines, and other voices in the blogosphere, there’s never a lack of things to write about. The important thing is to choose the BEST things that make you the most excited to post and run with those!

Blapril 2020: Taking up the blogging pen

This post is part of the game community collaborative blogging project known as Blapril. Find out more about Blapril, including how you can get connected and involved, over at Tales of the Aggronaut.

As our household has been adjusting to teaching kids at home, we’ve been reorganizing our house into a semi-educational facility. Getting the kids connected to devices that they could use for distance learning was important, and so we dusted off a pair of chromebooks that have been sitting on a shelf for a couple of years. My daughter immediately took possession of one, not for internet use or gaming, but to write. She’s got the writing bug BAD, and now we find her sitting on the couch, furiously typing away at pages and pages of her first book.

It’s great to see that writing bug bite her, because I know exactly how that feels. Ever since I’ve been a kid, I loved to write. I’ve gotten my writing fix doing movie reviews, writing horrid books no one will ever read, writing for Massively OP, writing here on Bio Break, doing sermons, and so on. It just pours out of me, day after day, to the point where it’s not a hardship at all to write. My writing “muscle” is strong and I have the pleasure of being able to write about subjects that interest me.

But just because you like to write or have an interest in writing doesn’t mean it’s going to come effortlessly at the start. One of the great things about blogging is that it’s an ongoing project. You don’t just show up for a couple of days, hammer out paragraphs of brilliance, and then leave it forever. Ideally, it’s a treadmill of expression, observation, and ideas, always moving, always asking you to contribute more. And that’s what develops that writing muscle and feeds that writing bug. I’m mixing metaphors, but you understand me.

Every time we have a Blaugust — or, in this year’s case, Blapril — us experienced game bloggers try to convince people to jump in and try it out for a while. To see if that writing bug can bite and if they can develop the passion and stamina for a continued presence. I love to read blogs over months and years, and so it’s always my greatest desire during these initiatives to have more people to read.

So my advice today, if you’re thinking about starting blogging or returning, is this: Set a pace. Set a routine. Understand that writing is easy and exciting for the first 10 paragraphs, crucially hard for the next 100 paragraphs, and then gradually easier again and more satisfying every paragraph past that. I don’t spend gobs of time every week doing Bio Break because I have a routine, I have a set time that I write up these posts, and I’m always jotting down ideas for the next week. It was chaotic at first but now it’s relaxing and enjoyable, the way a good hobby should be.

I hope it’s the same for you, and if you’re not writing with us, I do hope you’ll be reading and supporting these blogs during April! Here is the still-being-updated list of participants:

Blapril wants YOU to fight against homebound boredom!

We’re about two weeks, more or less, into this bizarre homebound isolating quaratine to help slow down the spread of the coronavirus. Even if you’re a practiced introvert, as I am, it’s wearing to not have the option to go out and do other things and stressful to have this cloud of fear and uncertainty of the future hovering overhead. I’m finding that it’s more important than ever to be focused on projects and goals that I can influence and accomplish, and with that in mind, I invite you to join me in participating in this year’s Blapril blogging initiative.

While it’s usually called Blaugust and scheduled for late summer, Belghast moved this annual project up to next month due to the actual need for a really good distraction and a way for us as a gaming and writing community to socialize and collaborate. The basic idea is to get everyone writing on a blog, hopefully at the pace of one post a day (but it’s up to the individual to determine this). New bloggers can get help getting into the scene, experienced bloggers are welcome to become mentors, and everyone enjoys a shot of added visibility and promotion.

I think this is a great idea for right now and I hope you’ll join me in blogging — even if you’re just trying it out for a month! Here are Bel’s instructions how to get started:

  • The first step is to fill out the Sign-Up Form for Blapril 2020 which can be found hereOnly those who have signed up will be given credit towards the awards.
  • Next make sure you are active on the Blaugust Discord and the link for that can be found here. This is the third year we have been active on Discord and it is a community that has managed to stay evergreen throughout the years. Maybe even share your content each day in the appropriately named “share-your-content” channel.
  • When you share your content on social media please use the hashtag #Blapril2020 for tracking purposes and to make it easier for those watching the event to find fresh content.
  • Mingle with your other Mentors and Participants because this is a community event, and part of the fun is getting to know the community. These folks represent a social structure that you can lean on for advice in the coming years. I personally deeply value my ties with other bloggers that I have built up over the last decade of doing this thing.
  • If you are so inclined there is a “gaming-together” channel on Discord for impromptu grouping in various games while the event is going on.
  • Welcome to Blapril 2020 as we use the power of internet togetherness to help combat those negative side effects of social distancing.
  • If you want an archive of all of the various logos and such, check out the Media Kit page which is the final resting place of all Blaugust and now Blapril related media.

Blaugust 2019: Beating writer’s block with a flurry of ideas

This week’s Blaugust 2019 theme deals with topic generation — in other words, how to keep coming up with new ideas to write about. That can be a really tricky thing, especially for writers starting out. After you get done with that initial batch of posts that have been sitting in your head… then what next? How do you keep on coming up with ideas, especially when you worry that it’s all been done and said before?

I’ve seen this happen to so many bloggers, where there’s a strong, excited start and then a quick drop-off into complete silence. That’s not just a blogging thing, that’s a writing thing. Writing takes a lot of time and effort and discipline, and you can’t just keep going based on that initial enthusiasm. You have to build up your “writing muscles” and develop a good schedule and pattern to help you go the distance.

For me, one of the most important aspects of this is to always be thinking of new ideas to write about. Back when I started my first gaming blog WAAAGH! in 2008, I initially thought I’d be writing three times a week. By the second day, I was going daily and sometimes two or three posts a day for a good long while. I felt like I had uncorked a bottled-up flood of things I wanted to write about because I was passionate about MMORPG gaming, and I had to get it on the screen.

But it’s been over a decade now and that initial enthusiasm has dimmed. What’s replaced it is an ongoing interest in sharing my perspectives and journeys and opinions. A long time ago, I got away from the habit of sitting down every morning to think of what to write for that day’s post, because that more often than not bit me in the butt with a complete lack of ideas. Instead, I started writing ahead and making a habit of creating quick post drafts with various ideas that I had no time right then to write about. Nowadays, I’m usually writing a full week ahead with a note on my scheduler to finish up any remaining posts for the next week on the Friday previous — and it’s honestly not that hard.

We come up with ideas all the time, but the problem is that they usually pop in our head when we aren’t right in front of our computers at the optimal time to write. We figure that we’ll remember them later when we do have that time… and then we totally forget them. A mountain of ideas, all forgotten. Unless, of course, you develop that habit to write down small prompts for yourself to address later.

You see someone else write on a post that you’d like to address? Drop that link into an otherwise blank post draft and save it! You read something in the gaming news that gives you a notion? Quick, grab your phone, load the WordPress app or zip an email to yourself, and jot down a short phrase about it.

Probably one of the best idea generation times for me is while I’m playing games. I have trained myself to always be thinking about potential blog posts when I’m going through my gaming sessions, and I will not hesitate to tab out and start up a temporary post if I have a particular experience or a topic comes to mind.

It’s not magic, it’s just a skill that you develop, and it really does help you avoid any future writer’s block. In fact, some days you might bemoan having way too much to write about!

Blaugust 2019: Game blogging tips and tricks

Welcome to the official start of Blaugust, the annual month-long festival of games blogging. Part of the fun of this event (hat tip to Belghast for organizing it all, by the way) is encouraging the blogging community as a whole with some advice and support from us more “established” writers.

Bel gave us a general schedule of theme weeks, and so the topic of this week has to do with offering up general tips and tricks for becoming a strong blogger. In no particular order, here are 20 that come to my mind for anyone who cares:

  1. Always put a picture at the top of your post so that it’ll show up when the post tweets out
  2. And yes, you need to link your blog to however many social platforms you want to promote it on, especially Twitter
  3. Use appropriate tagging to help promote that post, but don’t overdo it!
  4. If you think of an interesting post idea, make sure that you at least write it down somewhere or start up an empty post with just the title prompt — even if you have no time to write the full thing. Trust me, you’ll forget it if you don’t.
  5. Every once in a while, go through your drafts folder and finish up interesting posts and delete the rest.
  6. Becoming a strong writer means you need to write regularly. It’s not easy at first, but like any discipline, it becomes easier with practice. Set a schedule and stick to it!
  7. Give your blog enough leeway in its title and theme to talk about what you want to talk about. Creating a one-game blog may backfire if you end up leaving that game. Trust me, I know.
  8. Tie yourself into the community. Follow lots of other bloggers on Twitter. Talk on Discord. Comment on other posts. Take all chances to promote others and build up goodwill.
  9. Write for yourself first and foremost. Don’t write trying to appease everyone or to become some sort of writing super-star. If you’re interested in what you’re writing, so will others.
  10. Lists are an easy and popular post type. Use them, don’t abuse them.
  11. Writing about a certain game? Make sure you include that game’s official Twitter account handle when you tweet it out. Sometimes it’ll get picked up and retweeted by that game’s CM.
  12. Follow tons of other gaming blogs, especially in your particular circle. Use Feedly or another reader for that sort of thing. The more you read, the more you get inspired.
  13. Speaking of which, never be afraid to use someone else’s post as a jumping off point for your own. And make sure to link to them to give them credit!
  14. Paragraphs are your friend. Don’t write in massive blocks of text.
  15. Break posts up with subject headers and/or pictures — your readers will thank you!
  16. I like writing ahead at least a few days (if not a week!) to give myself leeway on days where I don’t have time or am not feeling as inspired to write.
  17. Short, punchy posts written off the cuff can sometimes be your surprise breakout hits. Don’t be afraid to do them.
  18. Often topic or list posts on a question to get readers to engage in the comments.
  19. Don’t look at your stats. Don’t live by your stats. They’re not as important as you may think initially.
  20. This is a HOBBY. Don’t let it become work. But do your best with it and enjoy it fully!

And thanks to Belghast, here’s the current list and links of Blaugust participants for you to check out:

Blaugust wants your word-thoughts!

It’s that time of year again when we bloggers and writers pack up and head out to our version of summer camp, which we call Blaugust. Yesterday, Belghast announced the official start of this year’s month-long event, and I’ll let him introduce why this is both a fun and helpful way to get into or return to blogging:

We live in a time when blogs are going dark and the hope is to keep infusing the community with a fresh lease on life. Those of us who have been doing it for over a decade now can easily lose hope. It sometimes takes a fresh batch of whippersnappers to keep us engaged and interested in making sure that the community thrives. Blaugust lives on as the inheritance of so many other great initiatives that have come before like the Developer Appreciation Week or the Newbie Blogger Initiative. If you have a blog that is waning in frequency, or if you ever thought of creating one… this month is the perfect time to put those plans into action.

So head on over to his post to read the full details and start gearing up for what will no doubt be a terrific month of both writing AND reading!

Blaugust Reborn: Five tips for coming up with blog topics

As Blaugust Reborn gets going proper this week with around 70 (!) blogs participating, I’m having hectic fun trying to keep up with everything. The suggested roundtable topic this week for the festival is on brainstorming topics to write about, so I thought I’d put forth five easy tips that helps me keep this blog going.

  1. Don’t procrastinate! If a topic or idea comes to mind, try to write a quick post on it as soon as you can! It’s always much easier and generally better to write on a topic when you’re interested and engaged with it than days later when you’re struggling to remember why you wanted to write about it in the first place.
  2. Shamelessly steal! One of the great aspects of being part of a larger blogging community is that topics are firing off left and right all over the place, so if you are having a hard time thinking of something to write, bounce off or become inspired by something someone else wrote! I’ve done so many times and seen others do it from posts I’ve written.
  3. Come up with a schedule! This doesn’t work for everyone, but for some writers it’s nice to have certain days of the week slated for specific types of posts, like a “screenshot Monday” or a listicle on Fridays. At least it gives you a structure to use, with the topics falling into place after that.
  4. Keep it personal! What interests you? Don’t write for the audience to tell them what you think they want to read, write what is near and dear to your heart! By keeping it personal, you stay the most engaged and have the most real things to say — and people generally love reading that more anyway!
  5. Challenge routines! Yes, I suggested a schedule, but also don’t be so beholden to a routine that you never try anything, write about anything different, or develop a writing portfolio that is about more than one very specific thing. If you feel like you’re getting into a rut, then make a concerted effort to challenge yourself by writing and doing something different!

Blaugust 2018: The prepper’s guide to survival blogging

Learn more about (and possibly join) Blaugust Reborn!

With the official start of this year’s Blaugust blogger event next week, us participating sites have been asked — demanded at gunpoint, really — to chew on the theme of “preparation” for new bloggers. As I’m sure that many of my contemporaries will be covering blog setup and the like, I’m going to take a different tack and discuss my approach to post preparation.

Probably the most difficult and challenging aspect of blogging is keeping the posts coming. It’s a constant, ongoing event, unless you don’t care about building up an audience and want a once-in-a-blue-moon post frequency. Everyone gets excited about writing at first, but consistently churning out posts requires discipline, effort, routine, and — pertinent to this article — strategy.

There’s nothing wrong with coming up with a good posting strategy and preparing for your upcoming days. While you can surely write up posts the morning they go live, that can become stressful quickly as you feel pressured on a daily basis to get something, anything, out on the site.

My strategy? I work ahead.

The busier I am in my life, the more I work ahead with projects, and that includes writing for Bio Break and Massively OP. I don’t need the stress of “this has to go out NOW” if I can avoid it, which is why I often write and schedule my posts a week or more out from the current date. For Bio Break, I start writing for the next week on Wednesday evening, trying to go for one post a day through Friday (which gives me Mon-Wed). Then two additional posts are written up on Saturday, and wowzers, I’m done for the next week. It’s a good feeling and quite helpful if there’s a day or two of writer’s block.

But what if there’s a timely issue or event that needs to be written about right here and now? Then I just do it and bump a non-essential post to the following week. Recently, I took two weeks off for vacation, but I doubt anyone noticed from my blog. That’s because for the month before, I slightly increased my scheduling output so that I ended up with a three-week buffer. Let me tell you, it was a great feeling to not have to worry about writing or disrupting the regular posting schedule during those weeks!

One other strategy — a tip, really — that I employ is that if there’s an idea that pops into my head, I try to write it up right away. I find that, at least for me, jotting down the general idea to write up later ends up filling up my drafts bin but never getting done.

Anyway, good luck preparing your blog wherever you’re at, and enjoy writing and reading Blaugust this year!