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.