Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Blogging - look before you leap


A couple of months ago, Colin Mulhern did a guest post for us on the advantages of blogging. So let's say you have decided to go ahead and are currently canvassing opinion about the merits of Wordpress, Blogger, Posterous and Tumblr. With free software so quick and easy to set up, it's tempting to dive right in and launch 'Fred's Self-absorbed Musings' with a post about how the publishing industry hates you and writing is soooo hard and only slebs get book deals because agents are too stupid to accept your stream-of-consciousness account of life as a depressed headlouse. Before starting a blog, however, there are a few things that might be worth considering:

What's it for?
There is no right answer – everyone has their own motivation, but it's helpful to know what that motivation is. A few examples:
To attract the attention of agents or publishers
To publicise an already-published book
To keep a personal journal
To regale the world with your superior knowledge about everything
To enjoy the achievement of completing short pieces while working on a novel.
To campaign on an issue that is important to you.

Identifying the purpose of your blog will help you start – and, more importantly, keep going - on the right track.

How are you going to sustain it?
You don't have to blog every day, but to build up a regular readership you do need to update often – preferably two or three times a week. Is this possible? Have a think about what subjects you want to write on – will you really be able to keep generating regular posts for years, or will it soon become a chore?

Who will read it, and will they all be people you know anyway?
Consider whether your blog will appeal only to the 20 people you already talk to every day online. If that's exactly who you want to reach, that's fine, but if you're looking for a wider audience, think about what will attract and retain them – the blog needs to give them something (e.g. entertainment, knowledge, useful advice), not just beg for their attention.

Does it really have to be about writing?
Just because you're a writer, that doesn't mean you have to blog about writing. Of course, there might be tons you want to say on that subject – if so, great! There are other topics in the world, however. I made the mistake of setting up a writing blog and then realising I don't know a whole lot about it. My history blog, however, has a bottomless supply of material that appeals to people who like history – many of whom also like to read historical fiction.

What's it going to be called?
It's possible to set up a blog very quickly in a fit of enthusiasm. But it's worth spending some time thinking about a name. 'My Ponderings' might be ideal for a personal diary that you don't expect others to read, but it won't necessarily stand out from everyone else's musings, jottings, random thoughts etc. A name can also end up limiting what you write about – be too specific and it will be difficult to shift the direction of the blog once you've got into the swing of it.

These are just a few points I wish I'd put more thought into before I started my first blog. Of course, one of the wonderful things about blogging is that you can write what the heck you like without me or anyone else telling you how – but I reckon it's worth doing a bit of planning before you jump into the blogosphere head first.

10 comments:

Samantha Tonge said...

Yes, I love regaling readers with my superior knowledge... Ahem!

Great post, Caro, really constructive advice.

I think there's still some people out there who thing having a blog could lead to some sort of back door into the publishing industry -whereas in actual fact, the blogs that have led to publishing deals are few and far between.

The main reason i set up this blog was to create some sort of presence for myself on the web. Also, i enjoy talking about writing, so that was a major factor. It was also to discipline myself into writing short pieces, something i rarely do as an aspiring novelist.

I think some of the best blogs are those with an underlying sense of humour - like the crabbit old bat's. But i agree, you have to be clear on what you want your blog to be about, and avoid rambling on about what you had for breakfast.

Roni said...

A very interesting post, thank you!
I am a writer from Israel, about to publish my first novel in Hebrew.
Would you mind if I translate this post to Hebrew and publish it in my own personal blog? if you agree, I will, of course, credit you and supply a link to this blog.

Gillian McDade said...

I think my reason at the moment is:
To enjoy the achievement of completing short pieces while working on a novel.
Interesting post, Caroline.

CarolineG said...

That's really interesting and useful Caro, thank you.
Although I'm not sure I can easily fit my own reasons into that list. What about letting off steam and sharing tips on a subject that is your passion? I think I would add this to the list.

Olivia Ryan said...

Thanks Caroline, this is very interesting and true! I find it quite hard to explain to people why I write a blog and what I expect from it. I think, in a way, it's just another piece of writing - and those of us who enjoy writing like an extra little outlet now and then. Not that I write mine as often as I'd like to ... but then again, I don't want it to become a chore - something I 'have' to do. There are enough of those already!

Helen Black said...

My publisher was always very keen for me to have a blog, but I kept worrying that it would take up too much time. And that I wouodn't have anything remotely interesting to say every day or so.

That's why i love being part of Strictly...it's a joint affair, that seems to work. Well it does for me, anyhow.
HB x

Susie Nott-Bower said...

Me too, Helen. It must be incredibly tough to keep coming up with new and intriguing posts every day or so. Blogging on Strictly gives one time to reflect and 'mullage' - and also to write in between!
Susiex

debutnovelist said...

I won't deny that after nearly 2 years my own blog is sometimes a chore, and I'd be pushed to give one single reason I do it, but it sustains me too, by giving me a bit of discipline and something to write when other projects get stuck. And even if my audience isn't exactly vast, it's still an audience, which let's face it, is what every writer wants!
But this is great advice to ask 'what's the point?' not just of the blog itself but each individual post. Rambling just so does not work!
AliB

womagwriter said...

Great post.

My own first blog ran to all of 1 post, because I had not decided what its point would be. Then a year later I came up with womagwriter, not realising the day would come when I'd have to answer to that name in public. Ah well!

Strictly Writing's a great concept for a blog, and its popularity is well deserved.

Becky said...

I'm completely new to blogging so I love finding posts like this...something to reflect on. .