Monday, June 1, 2009

Starting a Blog Week: Five Questions to Ask Yourself

Many of you have blogs--fantastic blogs, I might add--but for those of you considering dipping your toes in the blog waters, I've written an article to help you decide. I've broken it into three sections and will post the rest on Wednesday and Friday.

Five Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Start a Blog

It seems every aspiring author has a blog these days, and why not? They’re free, a fantastic way to promote your writing, and relatively simple to set-up. If you’re considering starting your own blog, here are five things to think about.

1. Why do I want a blog?

Many writers start a blog out of peer pressure or as a shortcut. They see other writers blogging and they feel left behind, or they think it’s a fast track to get noticed by agents and editors.

There are several valid reasons to blog, but jumping on the blog bandwagon because everyone is doing it or counting on agents and editors to find yours will only disappoint you.

Here are a few reasons to start a blog:

- It promotes you as a writer.
- It’s a platform tool to reach potential readers.
- It will build your writing skills.
- It shows agents and editors you’re able to promote your work.
- It can be a social network to interact with other writers and readers.

For a blog to enhance your reputation, you will have to put effort into it. It needs to look professional, be updated often, and provide readers with interesting content. A blog is an interactive tool that needs care. It’s not a website that can be left alone.

2. What will I write about?

Maybe a better question to ask: who is my audience? It can be tempting to share every detail of your life on a blog, but your mother, your pastor, and a teenager over in Scotland all have access to the Internet and all can read your blog. What information do you want the entire world to know? You’re basically sharing a bit of yourself, your values and ideals on your blog, but it can be as personal or impersonal as you'd like.

Every blog should have a theme. My theme is Motivation and Encouragement from One Writer to Another. Spend time thinking about what your message is. It should reflect your personality and the writing you intend to publish. A blog about plant identification will not help you sell your Regency romance novel.
It may take time to discover your theme. If you aren't certain what your blog should be about, that's okay. Post regularly and your voice will become clear. You’ll realize your writing conveys your wit, sarcasm, or encouragement, and your style will loosen up. Your theme will jump out at you when you've blogged for a few months.

As far as content, write down a list of topics you could post about. Take it a step further and jot ideas for each month of the year. Some bloggers share their music lists, favorite movies, or cherished recipes. Some write informative articles or they review books. Others write personal journals chronicling their writing journey. One word of caution on the personal journal: keep it interesting. If you can’t make your daily chores sound entertaining, don’t write about them. You don’t want to bore your readers.

Play to your strengths and nourish your voice—that’s what will bring readers back for more.
Current bloggers: In the comment section, please share any advice for writers who are thinking about starting a blog. I know you'll have some great tips!
Join me on Wednesday when we'll look at the next two questions.
Get Motivated! It's Monday!


  1. Great post, Jill! I started blogging a couple of years ago and didn't do a whole lot with it. But then I began writing and found wonderful writers out there who blog about their journey. So I changed the name of my blog and what I wrote about and here I am! I didn't have a plan and my blog just evolved. The layout doesn't match my writing (medieval), but it is easy to read. (which is a must for my aging eyes!)

    I don't have any advice, but am looking forward to hearing more from your readers. :)

  2. Commit to your blog once you've started it. I've stopped following bloggers who only blog every blue moon. :)

  3. Great post Jill! Makes me happy I started my blog! I started this year - in January. It's been a lot of fun. An excellent way to keep writing.

  4. I think that we all have different needs and thus find different blogs appealing. But I would have to say that no matter what we're looking for in other blogs (personal friendships, writing info, etc.), we should strive to be genuine and engaging.

  5. Good morning!

    Sherrinda: I love your blog. It is easy on the eyes--good point! My blog has evolved too.

    Jennifer: Yep. I've stopped following terrific blogs for the same reason. Bloggers have to post regularly.

    Katie: I'm glad you started your blog, too! It's fun to read.

    Jody: Why didn't I include that? Ha! Ha! You are so right. Genuineness is vital.

    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  6. Blogging is definitely a time committment. I decided not to start blogging until I was editing my WIP. That way it didn't take too much time from the creating process. I'm sure my blog will slacken when I finish editing and start on the next novel.

  7. Great thoughts. I had little knowledge about the blogging world before I entered I feel flooded at times. I am perfectly clear on my audience, but began knowing that my content would be open...I didn't want to place rules on myself (I think my website will help w/ that). My one true goal was that *I* would grow in the process of writing my blog.
    I also think the heart of my blog is sharing faith, my passion (writing) and my thoughts (as random as they come).
    ~ Wendy

  8. i'm going to share your blog address with a writing bud of mine who is debating this very thing! thanks for doing this!

  9. Joyce: Yes, it is a time commitment. I've found a good balance by writing all of my posts a week in advance (on Mondays) then editing and scheduling them on Friday. It truly saves a lot of time. I also try to comment as often as possible on my fave blogs but realistically can't every day. It's important to find a balance.

    Wendy: Your blog shows off your personality. I love it! I'm so glad you blog.

    Jeannie: Thanks! What a compliment! Have your writing buddy click on the full article because there's a link to a great blog post by Rob Eager about the dangers of blogging. The link is under my profile.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing!

  10. Thought provoking post. Honestly, I started a blog because I thought it would be fun. And I was right. I really enjoy blogging.

    I wanted a place where I could establish a web-presence that wouldn't cost a bomb, esp. since at the time I wasn't bringing any money with writing (quite the reverse with conferences, how-to books, time, time, time.)

    I love connecting with other writers and hopefully in the future readers. My blog has brought me some great friends I wouldn't have otherwise. :)

  11. Good post! I agree about committing to the blog in some shape or way:)) Keep the posts readable--it isn't the place to write a book!

  12. I would def. suggest keeping it simple and 'doable' if you have a frantic lifestyle don't worry about blogging everyday. Two or three times a week is plenty!!

  13. With me, I had to decide to commit to blogging 5 times a week and until I knew I would do that, I didn't blog. The other thing is to decide who you want as an audience and what topics you'd like to blog about. I basically do two things. I write about writing related topics or about something in current events that appeals to me. Ah. I guess every once in a while I write a little personal something just so I can share a bit about me, too. However, that's basically it. Some bloggers are all over the place with their posts. I find that hard to follow.

  14. Erica: I can tell you enjoy blogging. Your attitude shines through in your posts.

    Terri: Good point. I read somewhere the ideal length for a post is 500 words. I have yet to follow that advice!

    T. Anne: Right! I think regularity is more important than frequency. Sure, you'll get more readers if you post more often, but it's not a popularity contest.

    Lynette: The title of your blog definitely represents your posts.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  15. Jill, AWESOME post! If anybody wants tips on blogging, I have three posts on my blog about it. Just click on the Create A Shiny Blog link in the left hand column under Glam's Top Help Posts.

    You have an awesome blog by the way!

  16. Great post, Jill!

    Only two bits of advice here:

    1) Respond to each commenter. This only spreads the love. :D

    2) Repay the comments by commenting back on the commenter's blog. This also spreads the love.

    Very, very nice post. :D

  17. Lady Glamis: I printed out your Create a Shiny Blog series for future reference--it was terrific! Thank you!

    Danyelle: Of course! Of course! Spread the love. Always try to respond to comments and check to see if the commenter has a blog. Great advice! It's how I met all of you :)

    Thanks so much for stopping by.

  18. I love the idea of responding to each commenter, but I also find it hard to do because some days I hardly have time to post and read the comments, never mind respond thoughtfully and graciously. (I greatly admire those of you who pull this off.) When I found myself avoiding blogging altogether out of guilt over being a bad blog hostess, I had to let go and let meself be a less than perfect blogger. Some days, I just post and let it be. I try to make up for it other weeks, when I have more time, reading friends' blogs, including posts I may have missed before.

  19. Tara Maya: Welcome! Ah, the guilt. I don't think it's necessary to respond to every comment, but if you have a bit of time and are in the mood, go for it. I post comments on several blogs that don't respond and it doesn't bother me. They have entertaining and thought-provoking blogs and that's what keeps me coming back.

    Great post over at Literary Lab, by the way!
    Thanks so much for stopping by!

  20. Great post, Jill! Lots of good advice here. I agree, one of the biggest things is to make sure that you have the time to commit to it. The most successful blogs are the ones that have 3+ posts/wk.

  21. Jill, this is a great post. I really do need a theme and one to stick to. I jump around a lot these days.

    I think, too, though that blogs can be a form of diary for you as well, and so that gets in the way of staying focused sometimes. I'll have to think on this more.

  22. Great tips! I'm sort of remodeling my blog at the moment. I started it for family and friends and slowly overtime some of my focus has shifted. Now I'm trying to incorporate all of my audiences and interests. We'll see how it turns out:)

  23. Ralene: You and I are on the same page--that's the next question! Studies have shown frequent bloggers get the most traffic. Good point!

    Eileen: Nothing wrong with jumping around topic-wise, as long as you're consistent. If your theme is: Grammar Basics and you write about tarantulas, then you've got a problem! Your blog is always worth reading.

    Kara: My blog evolved last year. I started out posting once a week about writing related things, but a few months later, I realized what I have to offer and tweaked my blog. Just do what comes naturally until it becomes obvious.

    Thanks for stopping by!


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