Any advice on what to do or not to do when starting/using a blog? I'd love a blog, love to write out notes from the seat of my pants, but it is probably is a good idea to know some ground rules first... We see so much 'advice' about blogs, and sometimes articles seem to contradict each other. I'd love to know what you'd recommend we keep in mind when starting up a blog.
I've been putting off a response because answering the question is akin to answering that of, "How do I solve world peace?"
A quick Google search about how-to-blog shows 285 million websites. It's no wonder those asking the question are as overwhelmed as those attempting to respond.
When in doubt, however, the place to start is at the beginning.
In the Beginning
As with most endeavors, people have three choices:
1. Set up and run the blog yourself, which is what most people do.
2. Hire someone to design the blog. You can even hire people to write blog entries.
3. Do a combination of both by hiring a consultant to get you started, then have at it.
If you decide on Door #1, you again you have three choices:
1. Attend a basic how-to workshop, such as that led by Bill Belew on Saturday in the San Francisco Bay Area:
Complete Hands-On Blogging
8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
$45 for California Writers Club members, $60 for nonmembers
2. Use a basic book, such as Blogging for Dummies or The Complete Idiot's Guide to Creating a Web Page and Blog.
3. Do both.
I particularly recommend finding blogs you like, both for their content and visual appearance, so you can determine what features you'd like and what tone you'd like to set.
What I've Learned
There's no way I'll put myself forward as an expert on this subject. But I will tell you what I've learned along the way:
1. You've just got to jump in and do it. Period. Put start blog on your calendar and on that day, start a worksheet in which you begin hashing out the what, where, when, why and how.
2. Choose a type of blog that best suits your personality and lifestyle. Do you have the time and effort to create sites like Bill's that pull in a million viewers per day and feature advertisements? Or do you want to create a small community that revolves around a very specific subject?
3. Expect your blog to morph. This means you may start out with goal that then evolves. I started out writing posts about various aspects of writing.
The more I've taught as a writer, instructor and writing coach, however, the more I've seen the need to answer questions people ask me, hence the Q & A angle.
4. Don't ever post anything you might want to take off the web someday.
This comment hopefully answers that posed by Karen Hartley:
Is it a good idea to post my novel chapters, or should I just engage in general conversation about the book, without putting any of it on the blog?
In the past I posted part of my current novel-in-progress as a way to demonstrate various concepts to those in my writing classes. I then took the segment down. Only last week, however, while checking out what's listed under my name in Google, I found the chapter segment still posted via some obscure URL route.
Once you post, other people can post your work elsewhere. Most of the time, they're using the content in a "look what she has to say" way instead of plagiarizing.
The problem is that if you change your mind about an opinion you expressed or make improvements to your work, the old material may well float around out there forever.
Therefore, don't make comments you may regret. And unless you have no intention of changing anything in your novel segment, go ahead an post it. Agents, however, usually prefer that you send them a hard copy.
Here are a few last questions from Karen:
Q: How do I go about getting people to see my blog (and read the posts)?
A: The answer to that is akin to the answer involving world peace and the subject around which the multi-billion dollar blogging industry has arisen. Consult people like Bill or the books mentioned above.
Q: How will agents see what I've posted?
A: When writing a query letter, you can invite them to visit your blog, then give the URL.
Q: How do I refer to having a blog when querying an agent?
A: You can say my blog. If you've titled your blog, and the title is pertinent to the reason you're querying the agent — Thanks for looking at my proposal on How to Get Rich Quick by Saving a Penny a Day. Feel free to visit my website, Money Secrets: What Every Millionaire Knows — use the title.
Do you have anything funny or wise to add on the subject? Do tell!
Happy writing (and blogging)!