How we choose what to put in our Saturday round up

We weren't sure whether to write this, or where to put it, but decided to go for it, and to put it here at a slight distance from the main blog.

In the past year, a couple of people have messaged us to ask why something they'd written didn't make our round-up; and we've also seen a few people asking for advice on what they can do to improve their writing.

We hope this will offer something of use on both fronts.

One: a report of a city break or holiday isn't often interesting in its own right. That's especially true if the destination is a classic beer place, eg Prague, or Bamberg.  If you're writing it as a travel diary for your own benefit, that's fine, but if you want other people to get interested, it probably ought to combine one or more of the following:

  • Contain news or some other revelation – a district little visited, a neglected history, a new venture.
  • Be interestingly written – extravagant, literary, poetic, amusing.
  • Offer a new perspective – what's it like to visit X when you're Y?
  • Go deep – if you've lived somewhere, that's more interesting than visiting.

Two: posts which form an argument are usually more interesting than those that don't. The example we always think of, one of our favourite blog posts of all time, is Robbie Pickering's piece on Dudley, which opens with a startling claim: the Black Country is “England’s Franconia”. There's an immediate hook there – will the article prove this to be true? If not an argument, then at least a theme, or some attempt at narrative.

Three: brewery profiles need an angle. This is especially true when the same breweries get written about over and over again. A profile which reveals something previously unknown, or fits the story of that brewery into a larger narrative in a surprising way, will grab our attention. But interviews with people who've never been profiled before are even better.

Four: conflict and tension are more interesting than everything-is-fine PR. You can't manufacture tensions if they're not there, of course.

Five: tell us something we don't know, with authority. It's hard to resist putting every single post Lars Marius Garshol writes into the round-up because every one seems to break completely new ground.

Six: good writing is good. The following are particular turn-offs, if not deal-breakers:

  • cliches (mops of hair; whispering grass; Christmas pudding in a glass; more)
  • aimless rambling (eg descriptions of hotel rooms, an excess of tangents)
  • lack of structure and clarity – aim for one point per paragraph, and have a clear start and finish.

On which note, that’s almost the end, except to say keep writing – the more you do it, the easier it gets, and the better you get. And (crucially) the more capable you become at knowing the value of your own work.