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Every Blog Has Its Day
by Karin Gillespie

I used to have a pink diary with a miniature key. Every day I'd record my deepest secrets in a loopy, girlish cursive and lock them away. My greatest fear was that my diary would fall into my little brother's hands.

I still keep a diary, but my pink book has been replaced by pixels, and my daily entries aren't nearly as private any more. As a matter of fact, I actually encourage people to read my online diary or "blog," as it's commonly called.

Have you entered the blogosphere? If not, you might want to give it a whirl. Blogging can be an important tool for people of all professions, but it's an especially useful technology for writers.

Why Blog?

Many writers use blogs as promotion tools. Novelist Neil Gaiman's http://www.neilgaiman.com/journal/journal.asp web site helped him to attract a following of readers, but it's his online journal that keeps the author and his work fresh in their minds. Web sites alone can be static; a web site accompanied by a lively and entertaining blog is always fresh. People have a reason to return over and over again to a site with a well-written blog.

Blogs also provide an important connection to your readers. If your blog interests them, they'll develop a loyalty to you and your work, and will frequently forward your blog address to others.

Promotion isn't the only advantage to the blogging life, I keep a blog called Southern Comfort http://www.livejournal.com/users/karin61/, which covers publishing gossip and offers valuable advice to aspiring novelists. I've found that regular entries help to "prime" my well of writing ideas. There was a time when I worried that I wouldn't have anything to say in my blog. Now my head is swirling with countless ideas for blog entries as well as nonfiction articles.

Getting Started

Can you type? Do you know how to use a word-processor? Then you're on your way to becoming a blogger. Several sites offer blog hosting and most are free. I use Live Journal http://www.livejournal.com/. Another popular hosting company is Blog Spot http://blogspot.com/, but there's a variety of hosts to choose from, and it takes only five minutes to get set up. Best of all, you don't have to know HTML to blog. Most blogs resemble notebooks, and you simply type your entries in the space provided.

I find it useful to write my blogs in my word-processor, and then copy and paste them into the log. Be sure to choose the rich-text mode when entering your blog so hyperlinks, italics and bold print will be included when you publish it to the web.

Tips for a Successful Blog

Too many blogs are exercises in navel-gazing. If you want an effective blog, keep it focused. Novelists, for example, often discuss their books or offer publication advice in their blogs. Nonfiction writers can blog about their specialties or interests. If you're a parenting writer, blog about the latest study on breastfeeding. Health writers can blog about exercise and diet habits. But resist the urge to blog about your child's bout with the flu or fret over the mysterious rattle in your car's engine. Too much personal information can turn off your readers.

Don't forget to carefully proof your blog. Blogs have an informal-feel, so it's tempting to get sloppy with your writing habits.

Finally, don't get so caught up in blogging that you neglect your "real" writing. A blog entry shouldn't take more than thirty or forty minutes of your day. Blogging will take even less time if you rely on hyperlinks to enrich your entries. Instead of elaborating on a specific point yourself , you can direct the reader to a particular topic with a link.

Buzz Your Blog

How can you let the world know about your blog? First, send an e-mail to everyone in your address book announcing the birth of your blog. Encourage your friends to pass the information along. Then, search for blogs similar to yours (the Blog Search Engine http://www.blogsearchengine.com/ will you help with this task), and see if writers will be willing to add your blog to their link list. Also, submit your blog to sites such as Technorati http://www.technorati.com/ and Globe of Blogs http://www.globeofblogs.com/ to help create a visible presence for it on the Internet.

Wonder if you're just blogging to the wind? Create opportunities for visitors to participate in your blog so you can gauge the size of your readership. Novelists can ask readers to register for a free book. Nonfiction writers may want to entice their audience with free articles. Pose questions in your blog, and encourage readers to offer their comments.

It won't happen overnight, but if you've devised a consistent blog which contains worthwhile information, you'll eventually develop a loyal following. Blogging is a simple, inexpensive way for a writer to establish a presence on the Internet.

Here are a few examples of writer's blogs:

Southern Comfort http://www.livejournal.com/users/karin61/ - This is my blog, In addition to publishing news and writing tips, I also discuss my experiences as a debut novelist with Simon and Schuster.

Snark Spot http://jenniferweiner.blogspot.com/- Jennifer Weiner, author of GOOD IN BED blogs about the life of a successful novelist.

Maud Newton http://www.maudnewton.com/blog/-Maude Newton writes creative nonfiction and fiction. Her blog discusses literature and politics.

© Copyright 2004, Karin Gillespie

Karin Gillespie is the author of BET YOUR BOTTOM DOLLAR, a humorous Southern novel which will be released by Simon and Schuster in July 2004. The novel is the first in the BOTTOM DOLLAR GIRL series, and has been selected by the Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Clubs as featured alternates. Please visit her writer-friendly blog and web site at http://www.karingillespie.com

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