Beginner Blogging for Writers: part 1

The Crafty Writer has had quite a lot of feedback in response to an article I published a few weeks ago about getting started with websites and blogging. Due to the interest, I’ve asked guest blogger Rodney Smith of Hippo Web Solutions to put together a short series exploring the topic in a little more depth. Over the last few months Rod has been helping me get The Crafty Writer and VeitchSmith off the ground. And now, over to Rod…

Hi, Rod here. The kind of comments I hear a lot from those just learning about blogging for the first time are often very similar, and fall into two main categories:

  • “Why would I want to start a blog? That’s just for technogeeks!”
  • “I want to start a blog, but have no idea how.”

This series of posts will concentrate on providing some pointers for those in the second camp, but before we get onto that, I want to spend the rest of this article addressing the concerns of those in the first.

Why blog?

I’m sure Fiona won’t mind me saying that not so long ago she shared the view that blogging is often ‘just a way for sad, lonely people to air their (often) inane views, interspersed with the occasional rant about the state of things’ – kind of an online diary that no-one really wants to read. But while it’s true that many blogs fall into that category, there is a lot more to it than that, and you should be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

There are plenty of very informative, content-rich blogs out there that provide real value to their readers. Here are just a few examples:

    He wrote, she wrote – a year-long workshop, updated twice weekly, on the craft of writing a novel presented by NY Times best-selling authors Jenny Crusie and Bob Mayer.
  • problogger – nuts and bolts of blogging and how to make it pay.
  • Get rich slowly – personal finance for real people.

See what I mean?

Yes, but why should I blog?

There are a number of benefits to running a blog, for example:

That’s apart from the potential financial benefits, but we’ll be looking at that in a future post.

Exposure

Having your own blog gives you a creative outlet for your work – you decide what gets published, and bear the consequences of those decisions. Even if you turn out to be very bad at it (although I’m sure you won’t), the experience you gain from having to produce quality writing for public consumption on a regular basis, is invaluable.

And if your portfolio is a little thin on the ground, it’s great to be able to point people to your blog so they can see what you can do.

Feedback

You cannot learn without feedback, whether positive or negative. And this is where blogging comes into its own, via comments and being a part of the “online conversation”. Used correctly, this can really help improve your writing.

Credibility

One of the big spin-offs of running a blog is that you become recognised as an expert in your field (assuming of course that your content itself is credible and helpful to your audience). This can result in lots of other opportunities to get freelance work, speaking engagements, book deals, you name it. It takes time and commitment, but with patience and perseverance, you’ll be amazed at the results.

Networking

Blogging is very much about hooking into the online community that exists around a particular topic or niche. The extent to which you can do this successfully will not only have a direct bearing on the success of your blog, but can also have many indirect benefits. For instance, you can not only get to hear about useful opportunities, but can also draw on the collective experiences of the community when faced with a particular challenge.

What should I write about?

This is a question that only you can answer. The general answer is to focus on a specific niche or topic, as the above examples do, rather than write about anything and everything. This will give your blog a focus, which in turn will attract a certain type of readership, and draw you into a specific online community. Ideally the topic will be broad enough to give you plenty of scope, whilst still maintaining a degree of cohesion.

Obviously you should choose an area where you already have a certain amount of knowledge, or at the very least have the skills to be able to research and learn about as you go.

It’s also important to choose something that interests you and you have some passion for, or it’s unlikely that you’ll be motivated to sustain the blog for long.

Who’s your audience?

Closely related to your choice of topic is your target audience. You should have some idea of the profile of your potential readership so you can tailor your content accordingly.

This kind of up-front planning can be frustrating, particularly when you’re raring to get going, but consider it a worthwhile investment, as you’ll be more likely to find yourself with a loyal readership down the line.

What’s your timeframe?

Some people are quite happy to start something with no thought of how or when it might end – and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if it helps you, why not put some kind of limit on it, for example “I’ll try blogging for six months, at the end of which I’ll re-evaluate and decide whether to continue or not.” Or you could blog about a specific project you’re involved with, in which case the blog’s timeframe will be constrained by the project’s.

Ready to get started?

Hopefully this has helped you to make up your mind about jumping into blogging, and given you some idea of what it’s all about. One final thought I’d like to mention is that being already a writer gives you a distinct advantage over many other bloggers: you know how to string a coherent sentence together; you’d be surprised how many don’t! :)

Be sure to join me next time to look at some of the technicalities involved in setting up a blog.

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Related posts:

  1. Beginner Blogging for Writers: part 3
  2. Beginner Blogging for Writers: part 2
  3. Beginner Blogging course
  4. Ideas for writing a weekly column
  5. What a publisher does – part 3:marketing

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23 comments on “Beginner Blogging for Writers: part 1

  1. I feel like puppy that’s just stumbled on a Great Dane’s food bowl. Lovely job you’re doing here.

  2. Jay Mandal on said:

    Hi.

    Please would you stress blogging etiquette. Private conversations should not turn up on Google. And, if you mention someone in your blog, be sure that your comment is fair and not able to be misinterpreted.

  3. Fiona Veitch Smith on said:

    Hi Wayne, one day you too will be able to match your bark to your bite! Jay, sounds like you’ve had a bad experience of this lately; want to share? I’m sure we can all learn from it.

  4. Jay Mandal on said:

    I’ve dropped enough clues!

  5. Jay Mandal on said:

    And I don’t want to be guilty of what I’ve complained of.

  6. Fiona Veitch Smith on said:

    Mmmm, interesting. I shall investigate and report back, darling!

  7. Fiona Veitch Smith on said:

    Sorry Jay, I’ve failed. I’ve done a google search and can’t find anything negative about you. Maybe you can drop me a private line and tell me what you’re referring to.

  8. Dave Faulkner on said:

    Re; ‘Who’s your audience?’ I started out with one audience in mind, but found I didn’t attract them. However, I did find others whose profile was different. Hence, I have changed direction. Sometimes getting to know your audience requires a mid-course correction.

  9. Fiona Veitch Smith on said:

    Good point Dave. Who was your original intended audience?

  10. Rebecca Laffar-Smith on said:

    This is a great start to a series I’m looking forward to following. Thank you so much, Fiona and Rod, for sharing your knowledge and experience with us.

    I found, when I first began blogging it was just like those self-involved side walks that talk about the molding cheese in the back of my fridge but over time the blog and I evolved. I think it’s important to spend some time originally thinking about what direction you want your blog to take and who your readers should be. Take the time to focus and plan ahead but don’t forget to be flexible to changes, adjust as you and your audience requires.

    One of the wonderful things about blogging as a medium is that blogs have exponential growth opportunities. If you don’t like the direction you’ve begun to head into you can turn it all around with the same persistence and hard work you put into every moment.

  11. Fiona Veitch Smith on said:

    Hi Rebecca, I’ve just stopped by your blog and I’m impressed. As you say, you don’t just talk about what’s at the back of your fridge (I haven’t seen the back of my fridge in about 3 months!). Other visitors might be interested to stop by http://www.writersroundabout.com/

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  15. Carol Russell on said:

    Thank you so much. At last a site that explains blogging clearly. I’m thinking of starting to blog so I will look forward to reading all your other stuff on here (I don’t have the time just now) Thanks again.

  16. giri on said:

    hi fiona, this is a lovely site , have just started blogging, was looking for tips, u r doing a grt job, i wish to write,write and write :) and wish to leave my job for that so that i can b at peace !! :)

    but is it really true that one can make money writing online ? do they really pay for good writings ?

    thnx & regards
    giri

  17. Fiona Veitch Smith on said:

    Hi Giri,

    Reality check for all writers (online or otherwise): if you’re doing it for the money, you’ll be disappointed. Check out my post on writing for the internet http://www.thecraftywriter.com/2007/10/19/non-fiction-writing-for-the-internet/ – note particularly the section on ‘the bottom line’. Yes, there is some money, but whether it’s worth giving up your day job for it is an individual decision. And don’t put all your eggs in one basket! I earn some money from advertising and some money from selling books online. But I also write for the ‘dead tree’ press, do some copywriting, teach, tutor, critique etc etc. All told I make a living, but whether it is a good one or not is subjective. Why do I write? Because I love it. Good luck with your writing!

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