We monster heads still strongly believe in the value of the blog format, but sadly life has conspired to mean none of us can post as often as we used to. The site remains popular though, and we receive an average of around 5,000 views per month. So rather than having this platform sit here twiddling its thumbs, we put our monstrous heads together to think about how we could make the most of it at the current time. The answer was obvious: for at least the next six months we want to make the monster a platform for our postgraduate and early career readers to showcase their research, and to voice their views on academic life.
We hope there will be a number of benefits. Obviously the takeover will give early career scholars the chance to bring the fruits of their research to a wide audience, but it is also an opportunity for writers to give blogging a try and for us to share some of the insights we have gained over the years. Of course with lockdowns still in place in many parts of the globe, and with further postponements of conferences and symposia, the takeover is also intended as an alternative way of encountering and engaging with current research and work in progress – and in a digestible format that can fit in around online teaching, caring duties, daily exercise and lying on the floor in a darkened room breathing deeply, etc.
So if you are a budding historian who does not have a permanent academic job (our deliberately baggy definition of postgrad/early career), then please consider writing a blog for us. You can download our simple guidelines and style guide here: Submission Guidelines For Authors.
The rest of this post provides a gloss on the guidelines, familiarising potential contributors (or anyone else thinking of venturing into blog writing) with the reasons why we have come to write for the monster in the way that we do. As you will see, most of them relate to our sense of who reads the blog, when and why.
Advice for aspiring bloggers
We’ve come to think of the monster as a ‘magazine’, rather than a research blog, so we ask for short, succinct posts no longer than 1,000 words. As blog readers, we all know that once you get the gist of a post, you are unlikely to read right to the end of longer pieces unless you have a particular interest in the subject matter. So shorter is better when writing for a non-specialist audience, and fits with blog reading as a ‘supplementary’ research activity that scholars use to fill in gaps between other tasks. A neat side effect is that blog posts can serve as excellent brief introductions to topics for undergraduate students, so they work well as a teaching resource.
We’ve also found that it’s a good idea to approach a blog post in a different way to other writing, and indeed to make a virtue of the freedom the format gives you. A more conversational style, colloquialisms, and jokey asides can all find a place, or perhaps you want to write a listicle, or experiment by storifying or playing with genres. One of the reasons the monster has lasted so long is undoubtedly the enjoyment we get from speaking to a different and wider range of readers, and writing just for the pleasure of it. This also explains why we want you to keep footnotes to a minimum – posts are not intended to replicate or ape conference papers or research articles.
We know that many of our readers are not early modern specialists, nor are they all historians, so writing with this audience in mind and avoiding or explaining technical language and key concepts will expand the reach of a post. And being able to communicate the substance and significance of your research to an informed but not necessarily specialist audience is absolutely vital for scholars applying for research grants and being interviewed for academic posts, since the panel is likely to be interdisciplinary and may only include one member who actually works in your field. Thus the experience of thinking this through could be a useful one.
Finally, we welcome contributions from early career scholars working on any time period, but we do ask that your contribution speaks to some of the blog’s existing themes, broadly defined. Though the monster has largely developed organically over time, there are unifying themes and questions that we believe form a core of our output and which give the blog a distinctive character. Our ‘tags’ are a good guide to what these are, as are some of our ongoing ‘mini series’.
The final thing to say is that we are offering only the bare-bones editorial service – if submissions don’t meet our guidelines or it isn’t/hasn’t been made clear how they fit with the character of the blog then we will return them with a brief explanation but without detailed revision suggestions. However, you are welcome to revise and resubmit.
Now it’s over to you. We are very much looking forward to seeing how the takeover develops from here! #monstertakeover