derailed by darry, powered by potemayo, built by the home depot

I’m under the influence of cold medication. Great time for a 2,000 word post! First things first, thanks again to Sixten, who also did the previous banner, for the sparkling new and highly appropriate banner. Love it.

“Built by The Home Depot”

From time to time, I get e-mails asking me about blogging. I always wrote back saying, “I don’t feel like doing copypasta, so I’ll just toss up a post about it one of these days.” When I say “blogging,” I’m not talking about using WordPress templates or ways to increase pagerank, but about the most fundamental part of blogging: writing. The other things are parts of blogging that making blogging blogging, but it’s already dressing around the core. Maybe it’s weird that these people are asking the advice from someone who invents words that who horrify any English teacher, but I’m going to try to answer some of the more popular questions.

I think a lot of people, when they start creating a blog, they think about things like “what am I going to use as a header image?” “Who can I get to trade links with?” “Do the digg and technorati buttons make this layout look fat?” “How can I be ‘edgy’ but not copy the other 1,000 ‘edgy’ anime bloggers out there?” I don’t think a lot of people think about writing. Fundamentally, a post must be written. (Of course, you can just toss up pictures, like what I do when I’m on vacation, but there’s nothing unique about a collection of images.) And that’s where the fundamental uniqueness and differentiator in blogging comes in: words and language and prose. Words are a primary tool in which bloggers can communicate their opinions, their emotions, their thoughts, and it’s also the best way to convey those opinions, emotions, and thoughts.

The hardest part of any post is a post idea. A lot of bloggers (myself included) cop out by tossing up “series episode ##” type of posts and then spend paragraphs describing that episode. I’ve never been a fan of these type of posts, but I see them as a necessary evil: I can’t come up with enough unique, fresh post ideas, and the “series episode ##” format at least lets me toss up relevant, fresh posts about a series. It also instills some discipline, which isn’t a bad thing. Plus, it gives the reader something to look forward to. I used to not write “series episode ##,” now they’re the majority staple of Derailed by Darry. One thing I do differently, that seems to drive some people crazy, is that I don’t write out explicit, 500 word summaries for each episode and spend more time sharing my reactions to an episode.

I’m not a big fan of writing episode summaries. I think this is a task left for Wikipedia, and if you’re spending 10+ minutes reading a summary, you might as well watch an episode on 2x speed mode (works great for Da Capo II). I don’t feel that it is my purpose to archive each episode objectively, but rather to present my thoughts unobjectively. Because the only thing that differentiates me from another person isn’t how Potemayo-tastic my image banner is or how well I describe a scene, but it’s my thoughts on the proceedings. I tell a lot of people that they shouldn’t treat blogging as archiving but rather blogging as thinking and reacting. Let’s say you ran an NCAA football blog and wanted to blog about the Michigan vs. Illinois game, you wouldn’t chart every play. “Henne passes to Arrington for a first down.” You’d blog your reactions and emotions… if you were a Illinois fan, you’d probably write, “OH SHI- GOOD GOD! IT’S HENNE’S MUSIC! Michigan put Henne back in!?!”

One thing I realized from blogging is that it is a fundamentally different writing style from other forms of prose. I’ve written for news before, and I’ve written fiction before, and they’re two different beasts. News requires objectivity, facts, and the five point five double-u’s. News is quick hit. Fiction, though, needs more foreplay, needs more description, needs less facts. Blogging is kind an unholy stepchild of the two: blogging requires the quick hit style of news plus the added emotions from writing anything else.

“So what can I do to be a better writer?”

Being a “better writer” isn’t about following MLA guidelines (though it helps!) or about proper spelling, I think punctuation and grammar is important but only that it shouldn’t detract from the writing itself. I think the most important and the hardest part of writing is properly conveying an idea. The most fundamental part of non-fiction prose is to present and opinion and defend it. There’s nothing more than that. What separate a good writer from an average writer is with the same amount of information, who can write more convincingly?

In this case, my advice is to go out and read. For blogging, I highly suggest reading good non-fiction authors (current faves are Bill Bryson and David Foster Wallace), The New York Times, and a wide assortment of other bloggers. For instance, I read mostly sports blogs, and that’s kinda reflected in how I present Derailed by Darry. As I said before, sports bloggers may comment on an event, but they’ll rarely do play-by-play for a full event (might be illegal too… egads). I also read a few investing/personal finance blogs, and that’s why I like to use the tongue-in-cheek “I want charts and graphs and everything” expression since those blogs are nothing but charts and graphs and everything. You’ll rarely see a post such as “Man, I’m eying GOOG like Haruhi eyes Mikuru. Hopefully it’s not ruined for purchase at 600 a share.” (And, if you did, I swear I’m not that blog’s author.) I think there’s a lot of entertaining writers in many different blogospheres, and it’s limiting to think just in terms of anime blogs.

If reading is the first part, then writing is logically the next component. Writing means just that. Write. Writing is no different from drawing or coding or pitching: practice makes perfect. And writing, like drawing or coding or pitching, requires everyone’s own style. For Derailed by Darry, I’m usually in a very casual style, and I make use of direct metaphors (i.e. next sentence) and grammatic themes (I don’t care anymore. Just shoot me. No way there’s proper English here. None. I won’t accept it.) a lot. It fits me, just like how the sinker fits Wang or the fastball fits Zumaya. What fits you?

You should also know what you are good at, and think of ways to incorporate that into your writing. If you can speak another language like Greek or Latin, maybe try incorporating words from that language into your blog post. If you are really into astronomy, maybe a few astronomy references. If you are good drawer, maybe instead of leading off with a screenshot, lead off with a quick sketch. Other things you are good at or enjoy are part of who you are. There’s more to you than just unhealthy nekomimi meido obsessions.

“Do you have any technical tips?”

I think with reading good writers, you’ll develop better grammar/spelling by osmosis. At least I hope you will. I always read through a post before publishing, but I don’t take the drastic steps I normally do when I prepare a term paper or a research paper. It’s a blog! As long as the spelling/grammar isn’t poor enough to distract, it’s okay. It’s like animation quality, only there’s only a penalty and no reward for uber-awesome grammatical structures.

“What’s the best way to come up with post ideas?”

I wish I knew too! The secret, actually, is very similar to a sports blog. A 44-7 blowout NFL game is less interesting than a 27-24 nailbiter won in overtime. Stuff that gives you something to talk about will lend itself to making it easier to write a post. Not a novel idea, and I can hear the snide, “Tell me something I don’t know already!” comments. But it’s true. During the Gurren Lagann climax, I found it excruciating easy to write. I would be at my keyboard and write and write and write and write. I had to drag myself away from the computer to stop. Other times, like during parts of Raki Suta (and now a bit with Shana), I find myself going, “What am I going to write about?!?” It’s like cooking. Good ingredients just make it easier. So what do you do when you don’t have grade A organic ingredients? You got me. But the better writers will be more like Haruka than Kana Minami with their milk and veggies. I’ve learned now that some days, it’s just better not to post and fire up Assault Heroes on my 360 instead.

(But going to being a better writer, even though I might get keyboard diarrhea from writing about something as awesome as Gurren Lagann, in those cases, it’s about what editing and rewriting. One of my English professors instilled in me many moons ago that the secret to writing is constant rewriting. Sometimes, the best thoughts are the ones never truly written.)

(I also get a lot of ideas from readers. “Hey, jason, you should write about this series” or “check out this screenshot!” I feel very fortunate that people spend time to encourage me to write about something, because it makes it a lot easier to come up with post ideas.)

“What do you mean by ‘gimmick post’?”

Have you ever watched FSN’s or VH1’s “Top 50 Most Awesome Touchdowns” or “101 Reasons To Love 1990” Those are gimmick shows, and they definitely apply to blogging. I find them very useful when used sporadically, as I like going to this well from time-to-time. But I also realized it’s hard to do them consistently and consistently well. It’s very easy to slap together a “Top Ten Ms. Wang Outfits,” but to keep coming up with ideas? More difficult. Pretty soon you’ll be reduced to “Top Ten Homo Gay Moments in Gundam 00.” As I discoverd with “101 Reasons To Love 1990,” I was enjoying the show for a while, but I was also fuming that they ranked this too high or this too low– and it’s a perfect blog post for this because of the reaction it gives (I could have very easily written “Top Ten Anime Characters” instead of this post and put Shinji Ikari as #1 with Goku as #2 to see the reaction from everyone), but I wouldn’t watch this show regularly over Heroes or The Simpsons or even NBA on TNT. Now, if Sir Charles hosted “101 Reasons to Love 1990,” I would watch, just to see his reaction to “Magic Johnson wins NBA MVP“. But we’re not all The Big Sexy. The point is that gimmick posts incite reactions from your readership but, like snickers pie cheesecake, might not be a good idea to eat it after every meal.

“Why do you blog?”

Actually, no one ever asks me that. But I think it’s something everyone has to ask themselves. “Oh, it’s cool!” “I want to share an opinion!” “I want to put up pictures of my cats!” I think for any and everyone out there, that’s the important issue. I’ve always wanted a medium to discuss and share thoughts about anime with others (though I probably would be just as content writing an NBA blog), and that’s why I write. But I want to share my opinions with like-minded individuals, hence I skew everything on this blog to reflect what I like, hence the comparisons to Escaflowne, Mushishi, Haruhi, Yoriko, et al.

Like any writer, you gotta have a muse– a motivation– for writing. If you want to share an opinion, by all means, go ahead and do it. Gear your writing to that task. If you just want to be cool and have the coolest anime blog ever (a paradox of great proportions), that’s what you have to gear your blog to be. Once you answered that question, you can start answering others that will lead down the road to better writing. “What’s my core audience?” “What content should I post for that core audience?” “How will this or that appeal to the readers?” For example, if you want to start an anime blog, and you’re really into giant mecha series, maybe it’s a good idea to establish that somehow through your writing rather than just toss up an image of Escaflowne or Gurren Lagann.

I think a lot of people don’t ask themselves the very fundamental “Why do you blog?” question, and as the result, their blogs tend to be very general. That’s great if that’s your goal, but I get the feeling not everyone intended for that. A lot of times, I don’t remember who said what in what blog, mainly because they’re too general. Even the “edgy” bloggers all seem too similar. But if you read a post that references Joel Zumaya and Chien Ming Wang and features Darry fanservice, you’ll probably think, “Oh, it’s that Derailed by Darry again.” Also, I also think it’s important because, as I have advocated previously, the biggest part of any blog is to have fun writing it and have others have fun reading it. It shouldn’t be a chore. It’s our free time. It’s our hobby. If you’re not having fun, maybe it is time to re-examine, “Why do I blog?” In the end, it’s not the blog software or the theme or the blogroll or the shoutbox that makes a blog unique. It’s the writer. And for each writer, they gotta find their own style and have fun doing it.

Now excuse me, I have “Gundam 00 4″ and “Ranking the Kimikiss Harem” posts to get to…

16 Responses to “derailed by darry, powered by potemayo, built by the home depot”

  1. God bless Jason and his unholy union of sports and meido. Even if I don’t understand a single thing about Uh-Mah-Ree-Kan sports. I assume they’re funny and move on.

    Honestly I’m also a bit tired of reading anime blogs where they give you a play by play account of the anime. I mean, it’s good if you’re lazy and you don’t feel like watching a show (Dragonaut, which thankfully i gave up early) but sometimes it’s just better to read a blog and laugh WITH other people’s train of thought, like Dammit-they-should’ve-inserted-fanservice-A-here-I’ll-show-you-how-it’s -done.
    So well done Jason. We follow your blog with much interest.

  2. Awww…! How cute! :D Very, very nice banner Jason. I thank thee on behalf of all Darry’s fan everywhere.

    …Now back to reading this post. :P

  3. …Oh! And Sixten too! Thank you for this nice new banner. :)

  4. One of the things for me when it comes to writing is to keep on writing. It doesn’t have to be good writing, it doesn’t have to be posted, but so long as I keep writing, my writing ability slowly improves. More imporantly, it doesn’t deminish.

    So far, some of my better blog post ideas (whether they reached being posted or not) have started out as comments on others’ blog posts. This is a hidden outlet for writing here! When you read a blog post you feel strongly enough to respond to, don’t simply write “lol i agree =P”. Make a worthwhile comment about it.

    I started my own blogging earlier this year, and I’m still working out my style. I originally planned on a blog for all series I enjoy, whether animated or not, whether “anime” or not. However, almost all of my postings has been on Japanese or Korean animation (although I do have content for a live action Australian series written up for the first half of the first series, just not posted), and this post here leaves me wondering whether I should stick with my general “posting about series I like” or a more narrow “posting about Asian (animated) series I like”. Looking at the episode commentary portion, people reading “Petite Princess Yucie” episode commentary will generally not be the people reading “As Told By Ginger” commentary or “Spellbinder” commentary. (Now, where would a show such as “Code Lyoko” fit into this equation? Hm…)

    See, now I have to do some heavy thinking. Thanks a lot…

    By the way, that banner and the one before it are both positively adorable. I may not know anything about the characters (and I didn’t even realize the girls in the prior one were twins until I read up on them after seeing how they looked the same in screenshots!), but they make for adorable banners to me nonetheless. The derailing of the toy train’s too cute for words.

    I can’t tell, is “Derailed by Darry” a temporary or longterm site-name change?

  5. >>>One thing I do differently, that seems to drive some people crazy, is that I don’t write out explicit, 500 word summaries for each episode and spend more time sharing my reactions to an episode.
    Why would anyone care to read a summary of an episode the JUST watched? I mean, even with Garten’s posts, I usually just read his image comments and his reaction at the end.
    On a different note, one thing I love about your writing is that if you find something crappy, you’re never vitriolic about it. Even if I don’t agree with you, it’s hard to argue with your humor.

  6. My blog was going to be all about pooping on peoples walls, but now because of you I’m going to change it to defecating all over people’s walls.

    It makes it sound more civil.

  7. Best post I’ve read on this site in ages.
    I’ve always thought that you know you’ve really succeeded when people can identify an article as something you wrote without being told who the author is. If I see a blog post littered with NFL references and financial tips masquerading as anime character comparisons, I don’t have to look up at the title bar to know it’s Jason Miao.
    In this overcrowded online environment full of “me-too” bloggers, producing something with a distinct voice and flavor that people can identify and identify with is a real achievement, and one that you should be commended for.
    Well done Jason, and excellent advice for all of us, battle hardened veterans and fresh-faced newbies alike. :)

  8. “Why do you blog?” is indeed one of the most important questions for a blogger to ask. I had a work-related blog going where I used a specific format and style which other workers in my field would immediately get. It was very successful and made me a minor folk hero in my field. But after a year I was burned out by the labor-intensive format and switched, and now I’ve pretty much lost interest and post only once every couple of weeks. Hardly anyone visits it anymore.

    One great thing your blog does is reminds us how this all should be fun. You obviously love what you’re doing, and it rubs off. I always looked forward to coming here after seeing the latest Haruhi fansub because I knew I would be taking part in a celebration.

  9. fuck yes you are the best header ever

  10. Jason, when the season is over, could you please make a
    “Top Ten Homo Gay Moments in Gundam 00” post?

  11. I, like other commenters (what an ugly word!) find summary posts rather pointless – but then, since we’re reading your blog in the first place, we’re more likely to think that way.
    I’ve felt in the past that the jazzy writing and the thin slicing posts are the two things I’d say most distinguish Derailed from other blogs out there. Though the thin slicing posts are a logical extension of the ‘beginning of season preview’ found elsewhere, they’re done in a different manner and on a different premise.

  12. put Shinji Ikari as #1 […] to see the reaction from everyone

    Speaking as the only fan of Shinji on the internets, I find your statement…depressing. It’s like finding out that you’re the only person in the world who would choose Nayuki over Ayu. (eye twitches) I mustn’t run away…
    On topic, I will definitely keep your advice in mind if I launch my own blog. Still, I have yet to decide on a “hook”…current ideas are “Greek mythological references”, “the fact that I am the only female anime fan in three countries who doesn’t like yaoi”, and “self-depreciating jokes about being a Shinji fangirl”. Decisions, decisions…

  13. You’re on fire, 5 posts in just 3 days! 7 posts in 7 days!

    >> I mean, even with Garten’s posts, I usually just read his image comments and his reaction at the end.
    Same here. Completely agree with not summarising an episode.

    >> “What’s my core audience?”
    Possibly a dangerous question to ask for this blog though XD

    Is AOMM Derailed for good now? Doesn’t feel right.

  14. Keep up the good blogging, Jason. I may not be into Meido as much as you are (its growing on me, god have mercy on my soul), but I generally enjoy reading Derailed/AOMM because its just good fun.

    I’m kind of sad you didn’t post any reactions to Ep 4 of Clannad though. That was just something I thought you’d love.

  15. Can’t go wrong with this post. My primary reason I enjoy your blog so much is that you go straight into your thoughts on the episode, whether they’re outrageous or funny or short. RC? Memento? I guess you could depend on them for summaries if there are no subs available and you’re itching to understand after a raw, but I’d assume the majority of anime-watchers are subs-only.
    Too bad you aren’t doing episode-by-episode of CLANNAD this season. Though I’m not enjoying it like a KyoAni fanboy would, it’d be nice to spice it up with a couple of humourous comments on it.
    Not to say I don’t enjoy your other blog entries. Keep it going!

  16. The fact that you emphasize writing — and do it well — is the reason I keep coming back to your blog. Anyone can do play-by-play. Thanks for the post!

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