Du Malone writes: The advent of FM20 saw a burgeoning of blogging. I sensed — these things are difficult to measure — that early spring saw a diminution of posts. But now lockdown seems to have brought a second growth (which @fm_library have, in their admirable way, been promoting).
The staple FM blog remains save-based. At a basic level, this recounts the progress of a save in chronological form with, typically, a focus on results, tactics, players, and transfers.
The popularity, amongst writers, of this chronicle is understandable: it’s the easiest way of getting the thing done. But unfortunately the form is less popular amongst readers: such accounts can feel flat and fail to engage readers’ sense empathy or imagination.
For example, asked in an interview for fm_library what puts him off reading blogs, Score More FM says, “In general, I don´t like blog saves which just have a list of matches with goal scorers, key players and transfers”.
In an interview in the same series, FM Stag commented, “posts that are just ‘I sold this guy, bought this guy and had this list of results’ aren’t really suitable for blogs, instead maybe better suited to the numerous (and brilliant) forums for short, succinct updates”.
Moving up a level
So I’ve been reflecting on how bloggers can move beyond what we might call the entry-level chronicle. For this purpose I’ve taken my cue from comments from successful bloggers who are also readers of blogs.
And here I have some good news. The inference I take from such comments is that blogs can be moved on a level, beyond the entry-level chronicle, by doing just one big thing.
Moreover, for many writers, that one big thing is unlikely to prove difficult to achieve.
- entry-level save blogs tend to focus almost exclusively on the ‘What’ — what happened
- blogs that attract more enthusiasm and engagement also tell you the ‘why’.
So: the change of tactic worked – why did it work? Your centre back was outstanding — why? You bought such-and-such a winger — why did you do that? Your team fell away at the end of the season — why did that happen?
Why the ‘why’?
In — yes — another fm_library interview, Extra Time FM was also asked what put him off reading certain blogs. His response ran as follows: “It would have to be blogs that just list …results of their save without much context and try and blast through the save as fast as possible. If I’m to read a blog, I’d like a bit of world building – explain your decisions, what else is going on in the save apart from what your team is doing? [my italics].
I suggest that taking this advice (i.e., explaining your decisions) can lift the level of a blog for two reasons: first, the analysis provides depth; and second, it throws up ideas and insights that readers can apply to their own saves.
Why did I say above that writing like this — telling the ‘why’ — is “unlikely to prove difficult to achieve”?
Because, in conversation, if you ask an FMer why they’ve done something — “What made you choose that formation?” — they can usually tell you. Many FMers relish such opportunities. FM Heathen, for example, has mentioned on social media how he’s been known to keep his partner informed of his star signings (notably Neymar for FC Caen) — even though apparently she is, quite unaccountably, sometimes less than enthralled.
And, in the event of a lack of real-world interlocutors, FMers have been known to invent occasions, such as press conferences, as a pretext for articulating their wisdom.
My point is, if you able to talk about the why, you’re at least half way to being able to write about it.
So I suggest that the difficult thing about writing the why is not the execution, but rather recognising that it needs to be done.
From this point of view, there are two bloggers who I find particularly interesting.
First, Jonathon Aspey, (highly accomplished) author of The Tactical Annals. Announcing his plans for blogging about his save with UE Cornella in Spain, he wrote:
“Welcome to a new save on this website and one that will be in an entirely new format. This save is going to follow almost a ‘forum’ format. Posts for this save will be relatively short, and each one will focus on a specific aspect of the save. Some will purely be about results and performances, some will be about tactics, some will look at player development, and some will focus on the bigger picture of the club itself. My aim with this is to plain and simply produce more content for the blog, in a way that I can document a save, and really delve deeply into what I’m actually doing“.
And, second, FM Athlete. In the posts on his Down the Danube blog he typically includes both narrative and analytical material, though split into sections. For example, in ‘Getting back to work’, after his save update he provides a protocol for how to get back into a save that you’ve been away from for some time. Similarly, in ‘Setting up a new club‘ he provides a protocol for what to do at the very start of a save.
From these examples I take the lesson that there is more than one way to include the why: it can be woven into your main account (as implied in my own discussion above) or set out in distinct sections (FM Athlete) or even (as Aspey indicates) in separate posts.
Take-home message: Write the why as well as the what.
Post-script: Since the above post was drafted, FM Stag has announced a new blog series in which each post will be divided between two modes of writing (narrative and, I think, discursive). The first post on the series is here: https://fmstag.com/2020/06/08/thestrongest1/.
PPS: There’s a very constructive post on how to grow your FM blog, written by Viva La Vida FM. It was published in 2018, so not all recent bloggers will be familiar with it. It’s available here: https://vivalavidafm.com/2018/03/07/how-to-grow-your-football-manager-blog/.