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Andrew Kauz avatar 6:10 PM on 04.20.2011  (server time)
C blog cheat codes: Getting your opinion on the front page

Hey community writer people types! Itís time for another C blog cheat codes post. Looking to get some awesome writing done? Hereís a great place to look for that little bump thatíll get your writing from awesome to slightly more awesome.

Today, our topic is topics. Namely, whatís going to help you get your preferred topic on the front page, and how should you choose that topic? How are you going to get your point across?

Not every blog on Destructoid is an editorial (or opinion piece, if you prefer), but these sorts of pieces come naturally to a lot of us since theyíre so damn fun to write. Rant for a while about what I think? Have a bunch of cool people read and care about what I say? Score!

So, if youíre looking to write something else, go for it. But if youíve got that great idea for an opinion piece that you just havenít written yet, linger for a spell. Letís have a chat.

Big head mode -- Pick something good to talk about

Yeah, I know what youíre thinking. ďOf course what I have to say is good!Ē Youíre probably right. But just in the event that youíre instead actually very very wrong, you might still want to read on.

The thing about good topics is that they come and go. What might be a good topic today might be totally outdated and useless a year from now. Hell, maybe even a week. There are a lot of ways that you can avoid this. Use this as a sort of checklist:

Is my topic timely? If your whole point is related to a ďbig thingĒ that happened months ago, Iím willing to bet people have moved on.

Did someone beat you to it? Yeah, someone has probably already written something similar to your idea, but if you can find another post on the same thing in the blogs, best to try a new topic.

Do you actually have an interesting angle or approach? Yeah, Beyond Good and Evil is a cool game, but unless you have something new to say about why it is cool, maybe save that for your buddies who havenít played a videogame ever.

Can you hold a readerís attention for an entire blog with this topic? Yeah, Iíve had to kill cool blog ideas too because I just didnít have enough to say. It hurts, but itís for the best. Reevaluate your topic or leave it until later.

There are millions of other things that go into a good topic, so try this: keep track of which of your blog ideas get the best response. Your readers will tell you when you write something great. Or, check out other blogs that have been put on the front page. What did they do to make their topics awesome?

And hey, thereís always the monthly musing!

30 lives -- Fully form your opinion and state it early

So, youíre writing an editorial. Cool. Wait, what does that mean again?

Youíre trying to get an opinion across, right? Youíre trying to explain why you think that Dragon Ball is better than Dragon Age. Awesome. So that blog you just titled, ďThe thing about games with Dragon in the titleĒ has words in it and all, but apart from that, itís kind of shit. Howís that for an opinion?

Before you even start writing, be sure you understand what you really think. Do you just want to write something about Dragon Age 2 because it just came out, or have you been thinking lately about how way cool the Dragon Ball universe is and how totally boring the Dragon Age universe is? Can you guess which of these is going to make a blog that people actually read? Take some time to actually think about your topic, and youíll immediately see changes in how your blogs are received.

Of course, you canít forget to actually get people to understand why they should read your opinion, which is why a good title and first few paragraphs are so important. Yes, Iíve passed up well-written blogs for promotion because they either had a crappy title or didnít say what the blog was about in the first few paragraphs.

Why? You have to understand the average reader. They want to know exactly what a blog is about just by reading the title (hell, sometimes they just look at the header image and stop there). If they get past that, youíd better believe that theyíll be looking to fully understand what your point is before they link through to the full post.

I hate to sound like a high school composition teacher, but your post needs a thesis. It doesnít have to read like a college term paper, and it doesnít have to outline the rest of your five paragraph essay. You just need to clue us in to what the hell your point is.

Infinite time -- Write a damn intro

Your post needs to be introduced. Thereís no getting past this. This is true whether youíre writing for the front page, writing for your dog Skippy, or writing for that little box under your bed where you keep your dreams. Why is your intro so important? Because most people wonít read a word past it.

Yep, the sad thing about the Internet is that interest is lost faster than a leggy blondeís virginity at summer camp. Youíll never grab your readerís attention if you just launch into this crazy ass rant about why Grasshopper should make the next Call of Duty game.

Every blog should have two or three paragraphs that do nothing aside from frame the topic, grab the readers attention, and get them into the full meat of your topic. Look at any editorial post on the front page. What do you see? Two or three paragraphs. What do they do? You get the idea.

It may sound like nitpicking, but I canít promote a post that doesnít have an intro. Itís even just a logistics thing -- how am I supposed to convert your post into two separate parts: before the jump and after the jump? I canít write an intro for you, so Iíd have to just cut and paste the two first paragraphs before the jump. You can imagine how this could make a post seem disjointed, ugly, and unreadable. Bottom line? If I canít find a statement in the first few paragraphs that clearly gets across your point, itís not going on the front page.

So write your intro with the front-page format in mind even though the blogs follow a single-page format. Not only does it help me promote your stuff, but it also encourages good intro-writing habits. Bottom line?

Level select -- Stay on topic, damn you

I hate to speak in generalizations, but Iím going to say right now that a multiple-topic post is not going to make it to the front page. Are such posts bad? No, of course not. They just donít work on the front page. Ever.

So, if youíre writing for the front page, make sure that youíre following the chart you set for yourself in your intro. Sure, little digressions are fine, but you shouldnít start at Halo and end at how much you like drinking root beer with no pants on.

You might be compelled to say that you just donít have enough to say on one topic, but thatís almost never true. Think about the last time you got into a really good verbal discussion on a game. How long do you think you went on about that? Yeah, now consider this: you were speaking that shit. No time to prepare, no time to pause and consider your next thought. Think then how much you could write about that topic. A lot.
Just keep in mind that a scatterbrained post is hard to read, and people want depth, not a bunch of dips in the shallow end.

Infinite money -- Make it look good

If your post is ugly, I donít want to bother fixing it for promotion, and no one will bother to want to read it anyway. For more on this, jump over here. Do that. Itíll work.

Kill everything -- Be careful about series

So, you have a really cool idea for a blog series and you want every single one up on the front page. Easy, right? Yeah, not so much.

I love a really good series, but there are a few drawbacks to doing this. For one, the tendency is to subconsciously write as if everyone has already read the other entries in the series -- maybe you make a subtle reference to past writeups in the series or you donít fully explain what your point is because you assume itís implied in the ďseries.Ē Iíve written a lot of series pieces before, and Iím talking about my own mistakes here.

So, keep a couple of things in mind if youíre going to do a long series. First off, consider not using the series name in your titles. Instead, put it in a header image or just in the blog itself. This helps people approach it and not feel like theyíve missed something. Of course, once you establish the series, having people identify its name can be a big help -- just donít expect them to all be on the front page even if theyíre all awesome. Itís just not feasible.

Next, just approach your writing style as if each piece is totally self-contained and not a part of a series at all. Sure, they might be in the same style and perhaps even about the same subject, but donít make people play catch up just to enjoy your post. Make sure any post stands on its own somehow.

So, what should you take away from all this? Basically, you want to make your blog engaging, original, well-formatted, and timely. Itís easy enough to think youíre doing all these things, but the best way to know for sure is to read. Read front page editorials, read promoted community posts, and really start to pick them apart. Why were they chosen for promotion? What is editor x doing that helps people enjoy his writing?

And, above all, just write. Write daily if you have to.

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