If you read only the headlines of my first two guest posts here at Lorelle on WordPress you may have gotten the impression that I take link posts lightly. Those who know my link posts know that this is not the case. Hence is it time to set the record straight and let the party analogy rest. What follows is how I write link posts. At least how I write most of them as I do try to vary it and play with content and form on occasion. Over time do I put a lot of work into my link posts to make each the best it can be. Surely some work better than others, but neither the topic nor the circumstances were the same so that is only natural. Striving for perfection may be admirable in some cases, but when it comes to blogging a little less will do as well.
Since I began blogging have I constantly been reading a lot of other blogs. To begin with I simply added every blog I liked to my feed reader and then explored the blogs that it linked to and added those if I liked them and so on. At some point did I realize that simply adding blogs based on initially liking is too unqualified. You end up with too much clutter and too little substance. It is quite hard to unsubscribe to blogs that you basically like though. You have to convince yourself that it is better that way and believe me it is. Spending more time on less blogs gives you more time to read individual articles from other blogs just as it gives you more time to actually read the posts rather than merely quickly scan them.
Each time I like an article I bookmark it. I have a piece of software where I can add it and when the list of links grow I divide it up in themes and subjects and sort the links into those. Since I work with more overall themes of already existing blogs or blogs that may or may not come into existence at some point do I collect links on a wide variety of stuff. Regardless how many themes or topics you cover do you need to sort them if you link like I do at least. That way you can easily see where you have enough links to build a link post around and where you need some. Before writing the link post do I usually search various places to see if I missed some good articles on the same subject.
Practically from the beginning I decided to link to somewhere between five and ten articles in each of my link posts. It depends both on how many links you can find on a given subject, but also how you qualify them. If you merely quote a sentence or two do you need more links to make a full post than you do if add a lengthier comment to each link or the subject of it. It works the other way around as well. Having more links on a subject do I believe require less qualification of the individual link as they qualify each other collectively. Reading only the quotes will still give you a pretty good idea about both the topic and the individual post, but also how they relate to each other.
Pruning the links is essential before you go on to actually add content to them. That you thought it was a great read when you bookmarked it doesn’t mean it still is. Maybe you used poor judgment when picking it or things it describes changed since then rendering it obsolete. It also happens that it simply doesn’t fit the other posts on the same topic or perhaps the blog moved, was abandoned or the post deleted. You can thus not simply link blindly, but have to check the posts again. If you are to comment on them you need to anyway unless you already wrote the comment when picking it. I sometimes do or at least I write a comment or a few key words when moving the links into the text file that will be their home until the link post is complete.
Having picked the links I search for the short quote that introduces each of them. Some articles are full of them or have a perfect few first or last lines for it and others have nothing quotable about them even if they contain great material in other regards. Should that be the case do I drop the quotes altogether and stick to writing comments instead. Sometimes I combine quotations and comments. That way it almost turns into a regular article as it has lot of my own thoughts on the subject as well as the links. The form is still that of the classic link post though. Having grown a little tired of that concept and playing with another idea of mine I also tried something that I referred to as a virtual interview, which is a combination of a regular link post and an interview.
The introduction to the theme or subject and the conclusion do I sometimes write before commenting on the individual links and sometimes afterwards. It really depends on what speaks more to me as well as what comes most natural, which varies from time to time. Since you can do as you like should you just go with the flow. You can always move text around or edit it afterwards. To begin with is it important simply to get something written. The first one or two paragraphs are generally both an introduction to the theme and my take on it. The conclusion is usually not aimed at summing up, which is hard to do as people have to read the posts linked to first, but more about suggesting how to use them, where to go next or the like.
To sum up would I say these are the basic things I consider important: You should read a lot, but not more than you have time to actually think about what you read. Not so much that you don’t have time to write either. Dividing things up will not only give you a better overview, but will also force you to think in themes and topics. Settle for a good structure of your link post. Organization and structure will not only help you, but also the reader. Take your time thinking about what the theme actually is and how the links help explain it or add to it. Pick your links carefully as they reflect both on the quality of the post, but also on your blog. What you add is at least as important. It is not just links after all, but is supposed to be a link post.
PS: Have you noticed that I have managed to write three posts about link posts practically without linking out? I will tell you how I think that came about. The first two were concept posts while this one is an experience post, which means that any distraction would break their flow in my opinion. You either read from start to finish or not at all. Furthermore did they focus on a fraction of the overall topic, which means that finding articles relevant to that particular point would be both hard and meaningless really. Linking to articles expanding the view would have been an alternative, but somehow also besides the point. There are thus times when it is more appropriate to link and times when it is less so in my opinion. After all we do not want to stress or confuse anyone do we?
This guest blogger post is by Jan of Circular Communication, author of the first “virtual interview” featuring Lorelle VanFossen and Liz Strauss.