Thursday, December 23, 2010

Why I Want You to Blog

Are you writing daily? No? Then blog.

Don't tell me you don't have time to blog. How hard is it to write 300 words?

The benefits of blogging:

1. It's free, unlike a website.
2. It makes you write every day.
3. It makes you find your brand, your focus, your personal theme as a writer.
4. Your writing improves.
5. You develop a routine.
6. You display your personality and writing skills (no you don't short cut your talents on a blog).
7. You develop a social media talent that can become marketable.
8. It allows you to post instantaneous ideas, enabling you to think quicker and write quicker as a whole.
9. It makes you study the world with a more acute eye, searching for post ideas.
10. Editors, agents and publishers read your blog (if you don't tell them about it, they'll find it in a search anyway) and form opinions about you. If you have a steady blog and someone else pitching does not, your blog might be the tie-breaker that lands you the deal.
11. It shows readers more of your personality, earning you a following.

If you say you can't, or don't know how, you haven't tried, because it's not hard. Blogger and Wordpress make blogging simple as kindergarten. And again, remember it's free.

What not to do in your blog:

1. Don't talk about not posting everyday.
2. Don't talk about not having ideas.
3. Don't email or Twitter and say "Read my new blog post." Instead, post a snippet or hook of your blog piece and the link, but don't say "Read my blog." Amateur-city.
4. Don't rant about a topic that has nothing to do with your theme/brand/topic matter. If it's election year, be careful. If you get ticked about a religious topic, stop. Unless you write a controversial blog on purpose (i.e., Glenn Beck or Howard Stern stuff) avoid choosing sides unless you are trying to winnow out your readership. Online readers are the most fickle readers on the planet. They'll abandon you in a heartbeat.
5. Don't just sell. You can educate, editorialize, but don't get all in-your-face saying "Buy my book." It's irritating. Here around Christmas I've been swamped with such messages, some that don't even tell me what the book is about.

What you need to do in your blog:

1. Be unique. It's hard, but it gets easier as time goes on.
2. Be consistent. If you skip days, readers notice and move on to others who don't.
3. Keep a notebook of ideas. I have starred items all over my writing notebook. Stars tell me the topic is good for a FundsforWriters editorial or a blog post. Before I know it, I have more than I can handle, but it's so nice to have options.
4. Use links. Make your blog alive not only with your writing, but with links to other places that support your stand or aid the reader. Writing narrative without lnks is boring.
5. Use lists and bullets. Readers read differently online. Their eyes tire sooner, and their brains have shorter attention spans. Blocks of copy without lists or bullets or headlines chase readers away. I'm a fast reader, but give me 80 words of fat paragraphs, and I'm gone . . . delete. Bullets and lists often make a reader glance over the piece, note the critical points in those lists, and make him go back and read from the start.
6. Pay attention to those who leave comments. Comment back. Make your blog come alive. So many writers have told me, "I never thought you'd write me back." Be the writer that does write back.
7. Have multiple ways for readers to follow you. Wordpress and Blogger allow you to follow blogs, but I enjoy Feedburner or Feedblitz so that I receive new posts in my email. Others prefer RSS feeds. Make it easy for others to find you.

Finally, pay attention to other blogs. Soon you might even develop a system. Erika Dreifus has a blog entitled Practicing-Writing. Monday through Friday, you know what to expect. Monday is Markets/Jobs/Opportunities. Tuesday is Quotation of the Week. Wednesday Web Brower is a handful of links to sites and other posts that aid writers. Thursday's Pre-Publication Post talks about her self-promotion efforts for her new release Quiet Americans. Friday Find is a new idea or revelation or writing happening Erika's found online. I know her schedule. Some days I already know to read quicker than others. Some I just delete if I have a busy day. But the schedule not only helps orient readers, but it probably assists her in her own efforts.

Freelance Switch has a cartoon about a homebound freelancer on Mondays. I always read Monday's post. Sites like Problogger, Copyblogger, and Men With Pens have an array of writers, so each day is someone different. I've noticed many writers/agents/editors/freelancers who choose one day to post great links from the previous week, like Jane Friedman's blog There Are No Rules.

On my blog, some days I post contests. Other days I form an opinion and write away. Then in still other posts I educate. The diversity keeps my blogging from becoming stale - for both me and the reader. Find a routine of your own.

This blog is much longer than I expected, but I hope it's enough - enough to get you interested in blogging. It's just a good writing habit, in my opinion. Take it from someone who once thought blogging a waste of time.


Erika D. said...

Dear Hope: Thanks so much for the shout-out to Practicing Writing. You're quite right: I find the system helps me keep the blog moving right along, and I'm glad to know that it suits you, too! Thanks again, and happy holidays/New Year.

Carol J. Alexander said...

Thanks for the encouragement, Hope. Such great advice is needed. Have a great Christmas. said...

Great advicewith many ideas that I have also realised over the past 5 months I've been blogging.
Blogging is a commitment that certainly does reap rewards. HAPPY CHRISTMAS :O)

Marilynn said...

Thanks, Hope. I'm just beginning, just organizing my thoughts about a blog, and your ideas are very helpful. Should I be surprised? All your other ideas are useful, too.

JD said...

Thank you for this encouraging post. I admire your candor, and enthusiasm to give writers advice. Have a joyous holiday season!

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Hope. Your points are really helpful. I sometimes feel discouraged because I started my blog as a way to help me find my feet and my voice, and to discover what I want to write about. I keep hearing that a writer needs to have a focused and consistent blog, but as a beginner, I feel like I'm not there yet. Any thoughts?