Writing Blog Posts – What Beethoven and Muddy Waters Can Teach Us

by James on August 21, 2008

Writing blog posts can be hard. Writing blog posts that are long can be very hard, hard for you to write and hard for your readers to read.

I’m helping my teenage daughter write her first long essay. We are talking a lot about writing and structure.  I used one of her favorite pop songs to show her how structure can provide form when writing a longer piece.  She plays piano so I used a common chord progression, I IV I V I, to demonstrate that even a paragraph can have structure: intro (I), development (IV – I), anticipation (V), and resolution (I).  BTW, this progression is also the basis for the 12 bar Blues.

Have you ever marveled at how some bloggers can write long blog posts that you finish reading in what seems like a moment?  Look closely at the posts and you will see they have used a foundation structure.  Humans and nature strive for structure and symmetry.  The greatest, most inspiring pieces of music have a foundation structure or form.

There are many forms used in music, I won’t go into them all, but one of the common ones is Sonata Form.  Sonata Form follows this pattern: Introduction (optional), Exposition, Development, Recapitulation, Coda (also optional).  Using this structure allows the composer to write a long piece that sustains the interest of the listener.

A great example of this is “Looking for Eddie Field,” a 23 paragraph long blog post, written beautifully by Ann Handley on Annarchy.  If you looking closely at what she wrote you will see it follows Sonata Form.  There is an Introduction (paragraphs 1 – 4), an Exposition (5 – 9), Development (10 – 16), a Recapitulation (17 – 20), and a Coda (21 – 23).

Before you start writing your next blog post think about the structure you will use.  When you finish your first draft, compare it to the predetermined structure.  Use the structure to tighten your writing.  When you think you are done, read your post out load. Does it sing? Does it flow easily from paragraph to paragraph, from idea to idea? If it doesn’t, go back and compare it to the structure again and then look closely at each paragraph. Identify tangents that distract your readers and may potentially cause them to lose interest. Look for flab that can be cut, dissonance that isn’t adding value or spots where a little dissonance will give your writing more energy.

Hip Shot

The structure may be deliberate or it may be instinctual but when writing blog posts it should be there. Structure gives the writer freedom to explore ideas and the reader the basis to move through the piece without getting lost or losing interest. It’s the skeleton from which you hang your writing. Think about the structure of your next blog post or essay or business recommendation, before you start writing, and you will get an “A” for sure.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Bamboo Forest August 22, 2008 at 9:31 pm

This is beautifully written, apparently you practice what you preach.

What you said is right on – and I am very much a student of writing. On the one hand I want it super clear; I want it to be effortless to understand.

On the other hand, I don’t want any excessive sentences. It seems a balancing act at times, one I’m still striving to master.

James August 23, 2008 at 10:56 am

“Student,” is the key word for me. I try to learn something every day. It keeps me young, and keeps life interesting. Thank you for the kind words.

Ann Handley August 23, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Hey James — I’m flattered to be noted here, and also kind of intrigued. I don’t know much about writing sonatas, but it’s interesting how the two — sonatas and writing — mirror each other. You definitely got me thinking. Thanks for your kind word and interesting comparison!

James August 23, 2008 at 6:14 pm

The rhythm of nature is frequently found in the creative arts. The Golden Mean, is very important in painting, design and music. Bartok’s beautiful composition, Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste, is an almost perfect reflection of symmetry and the Golden Mean. Listen to it for its beauty and marvel that his use of symmetry appears to be quite deliberate. Larry J. Solomon (http://solomonsmusic.net/diss7.htm) provides some background on this if you are interested. You can also see it in a cross section of a snails shell or a pine cone. I notice it in good writing and thought calling it out would help folks write better blog posts.

Leave a Comment