Before you start your blog, it’s worth asking yourself, What am I going to be passionate enough to write about, day after day after day?
Frankly I never bothered (or didn’t know) to ask myself this.
I jumped in and started to blog.
Although I didn’t think of it as ‘blogging’, maybe because in 2005 the word ‘blog’ seemed a bit alien to me. It was something other people did, and as a non-techie non-geek non-computer kind of person who could barely manage her cell phone, thinking of myself as a blogger seemed pretentious.
I’ve come to believe that with blogging, the only way to learn is to do it.
Bloggers will advise you to figure out your blog purpose, your niche, your mission statement, your ‘personal story’ before you touch the ‘publish’ button for the first time. Some will say that you need to stockpile about three months’ worth of content.
The problem is that you can get so obsessed with preparing that you put off the actual blogging.
And chances are that the true purpose of your blog won’t reveal itself to you until you’ve been involved with the process for weeks or months or more, and you’ve started to develop a sense of what your readers actually want as opposed to what you thought they wanted (but don’t), or what they ought to want (but don’t).
So give the identity of your blog enough thought in order to come up with an intriguing title that means something to you, and a tagline that spotlights the words and ideas you resonate with to steer you in a general direction.
Then you need to decide on your blogging platform, and by ‘platform’ I’m referring to the service you use to blog, be it Blogger or WordPress or Typepad (which costs money) or Livejournal. These are hosted platforms, which means that if you’re a non-techie — and let’s face it, most writers are — you don’t have to worry about servers or CSS editing or hacking or making templates from scratch.
The tech stuff is taken care of, and you can focus on content, content, content, which is enough of a task in itself.
Another cool thing is that your stuff will appear in the search rankings quicker and higher than if you were hosting your own blog.
Choosing a blogging platform is largely a matter of personal preference, and depends on what your goals are.
If you aim to evolve into a ‘serious’ blogger, then you’ll probably want to end up at WordPress.org, which is not a hosted platform, and so it makes sense to start out at WordPress.com, which is. Like the other hosted platforms, a blog at WordPress.com can be set up within minutes, although the interface might be a bit intimidating for newbies and take a little time to figure out and get comfortable with.
WordPress.com also allows you (for a fee) to use your own domain name, which comes off as a lot more professional than if your name is followed by the service you’re using (ie: http://www.justinemusk.com as opposed to http://www.moschus.livejournal.com, or http://www.tribalwriter.com as opposed to http://www.justineleemusk.wordpress.com).
If you think your blog is going to be more along the lines of a personal journal, and you’re attracted to the community aspect of blogging and social media, then you might want to be on Livejournal.
LJ is so easy and simple to use that many people don’t take it as seriously as they do Blogger or WordPress. It does, however, have a thriving community of writers, as well as a ‘Friends Page’ that streams the latest entries of the journals you follow by the people you ‘add’ as your Friends.
Checking out someone’s Friends page is a convenient way to discover new blogs and, if someone with a large following adds you to their Friends page, a good way to gather new readers. Livejournal also offers groups and communal blogs, where you cross-post entries that can then drive traffic to your own blog.
And then there’s Blogger, which is associated with Google and works neatly with Gmail and other Google services. It’s a quick and easy set-up involving point-and-click templates, and you can modify them by dragging and dropping the different sections to exactly where you want them.
What people complain about with Blogger is the lack of ‘static pages’, which are like permanent posts on the front page of your blog; you click on them and they take you to an ‘About Me’ section or ‘Best of Blog’ section.
These pages are vital because they allow you to provide information that the reader will be looking for (such as a Bio) as well as anything else you want them to see (such as your published novels).
They’re also a way to keep your best posts — your ‘money posts’, the ones that continue to get linked to and draw readers long after they’ve been written — front-and-center on a ‘Best of Blog’ page. Otherwise they might get lost in the archives, and although some readers might fall in love with you enough to read through your archives, you shouldn’t bet on it.
People also complain about a feature in the top corner of every Blogger blog. When clicked on, it takes the reader to a different and completely random blog, including blogs you might not want your own to be associated with.
There are other blogging services, but chances are you’re going to be using one of the three free platforms I’ve mentioned above. It’s worth taking a few minutes to check them out and see if one feels like home.