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March 27, 2008

Drilling Down Your Blogging Niche?

Over the past year alone, I can’t count how many hundreds of people who have told me that they’ve just decided to make “beginning blogging” be their blog’s focus. They wanted me to tell them what I thought of their plan.

I told them they weren’t done, yet.

Yes, this news can be crushing, but let’s look at the example of creating a blog for beginner bloggers. Most summarize their blog’s plan of action with this purpose statement:

I want to create a blog to teach beginner bloggers, people who are totally new to blogging how to blog. It will cover the basics, step-by-step of blogging, including how to monetize and build a successful blog.

The target audience? Beginning bloggers. The style? Step-by-step introductory basics. Content stretch? Monetization and commercialization of blogs.

Good start. But not done yet.
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March 13, 2008

Looking For New Places to Take Your Blog Out

At the Romance Writers of America conference on web publishing for authors I spoke at last week, a running theme on blog marketing kept popping up: how to reach beyond your current market.

In other words, how to reach new readers who wouldn’t normally read your blog.
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March 6, 2008

Are You a Writer Who Knits or a Knitter Who Writes?

Learning to knit in the past few years, I’ve now got a great collection of knitting blogs in my feed reader. While I’m reading the blogs to learn more about knitting, I’m learning a lot about everything else, including blogging.

In Lamb and Frog’s Knittus Interruptus post, Amber wrote:

Yes, yes, I know. A lot of politics, precious little knitting. What can I say?

Lorelle says “Blog your passion.”

Brenda says “Start as you mean to go on.”

That’s not to say that politics is my (only) passion and that I mean to go on ranting about politics forever. But, as I said in the book review, I’m addicted to democracy. I love this country and the ideas and ideals upon which it was founded. And, after much introspection, I have decided that I am a writer who knits…not a knitter who writes. I can live without knitting…heck, I might even be able to manage living without knitting and crochet. A lifelong ban on those two addictions hobbies would leave me more time for gardening (or as I & the rest of the working class call it…yardwork) and baking. I cannot, however, live without putting what is racing around my head down on ‘paper’…

Do you feel that way?

Are you a writer who knits or a knitter who writes? A doctor who blogs or a blogging doctor? Or maybe you’re a writer who blogs, not a blogger who writes. Even more confusing, eh?

In 2007, Wil Wheaton, actor, author, and blogger, finally came to terms with whether he worked best as an actor or writer or actor-slash-writer. This was magnified when he got a part in the television series Numb3rs as a comic book creator and bad guy. Wrestling with the two sides of his work life, he admits:

…yeah, I know. Weird, isn’t it? For the rest of this week, I’m a working actor. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ll be thinking of myself as a writer the entire time, and not just because it serves the character.

Many of us lead two or more distinctly different lives, but when we come to our blogs, who are we? Amber got it right, as did Wil.

The true definition of what you do, especially with your blog, is defined by your need to “get it down on paper” and share it with others. Your blog is a form of virtual paper, and the need to share our thoughts with the public is what blogging is all about. It’s the difference that makes or breaks a blogger over the long haul.

It doesn’t matter how many lives we have or labels we or others give us. If we choose to blog, we have a writer’s instinctive desire to “put it down on paper” and share it with others. That puts the blogger or writer in our job description – and our life.

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February 5, 2008

Does Your Religion Influence Your Blog Writing?

In my husband’s family home, there is one resounding rule: Never discuss politics nor religion at the dinner table. While I’ve tried to keep that rule on several of my blogs, I’m about to break it.

There are a lot of bloggers who blog about their religion, but the bigger question is how much your religion influences your blog writing? Does it?

There is a whole industry of religious bloggers blogging on their religion. I haven’t found a united umbrella organization, but they are a growing industry as more and more religious evangelists and educators take to their blogs to share their faith with the world.

For these bloggers, their purpose is to blog about their faith. But what about the rest of the believers in a particular faith who blog. Does your religion influence your blogging style and writing?
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January 25, 2008

I Hate What I Blog About

I was rather stunned when a blogger I’d met at a recent conference told me, “I hate what I blog about. What should I do?”

All I could say as my brain ground to a clattering halt was, “Oh, my.”

Not very profound.

Author William C. Knott was much more profound in his book The Craft of Non-Fiction:
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January 1, 2008

Bring Something New to the Blog Table, Please

Bore. Boring. Bored. Aren’t you a little bored with blogs lately?

In the past few months, I’ve been to many meetings and conferences on blogging and have been introduced to many wonderful bloggers, but also plagued by many bloggers who want to start a new blog. It’s not the starting of the new blog that bothers me. It’s the subject matter.

Here is the list of what too many new bloggers say, proceeded by the words “I want to start a blog about…”

  • SEO
  • Blogging about blogging.
  • WordPress
  • WordPress Themes
  • Web Design
  • Making Money With Blogs

First, IT’S BEEN DONE!

It’s been done by the best of the best, people who have lived it, suffered for their decisions, and lived to tell the story on their blogs. They are experts who know their stuff and live it daily. They’ve been doing it for three, five, or even ten or more years. It is their passion, their goal, and their life.

And you think you can compete with that passion, experience, and longevity?

Second, how are you going to compete? Huh? How are you going to bring something new to the table?
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December 25, 2007

Want. Want. Want. Blogging is About Giving.

I want. I want. I want. I hear this every day from other bloggers, especially new ones.

Guess what. Blogging isn’t about want. I know you want more traffic, more readers, more money, more attention, more links, and more wants.

Blogging isn’t about your wants. Blogging is about the gives.

Here’s how it works.

I give good content worthy of links, and others link back. I give links to information and resources, encouraging readers to leave my blog and go elsewhere, and they come back for more if the giving was good.

I give links. I give content. I give readers an opportunity to air their opinion and advice on what I give. I give other bloggers content worth linking to and referencing. I also give other bloggers challenges to improve their blog and blog content.

I may want, but without the giving, I won’t get.

Neither will you.
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December 18, 2007

Blog Writing: Are You Writing With Grit?

Every piece of writing . . . starts from what I call a grit . . . a sight or sound, a sentence or happening that does not pass away . . . but quite inexplicably lodges in the mind.
Rumer Godden

Pebble Beach, California, photograph copyright Brent and Lorelle VanFossenAlong the Pacific Coast of California is Pebble Beach. While a beach of rounded stones, it also hosts some of the most amazing stone structures and creatures created by the interaction of the sand, rocks, and stones.

A bit of grit would catch into a crevice in the soft stone along the beach’s edge. Waves come up and swirl around in the crevice, sweeping the grit round and round with it. In time, with the coming and the going of the tide, the swirling grit acts like a drill bit, grinding a circle into the stone. In time, more grit, sand, and small rocks are swept into the hole with the tidal and storm waves, strengthening the grind.

Pebble Beach, California, shape like an owl or Darth Vader, photograph copyright Lorelle and Brent VanFossenThe holes carved into the beach edge create ghostly figures, one like an owl, though some claim it’s Darth Vader, others like birds, monsters, and other creatures and structures our mind struggles to identify along the unusual beach.

A good piece of writing does much the same thing. It crawls into the cracks in your mind and spins around as you consider its meaning. In time, it carves out a hole into which new thoughts and ideas, and even changes in perception, flow, changing the way you think.
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December 13, 2007

Improving Your Blog: Why Blog?

I’m often contacted by companies who tell me they need a blog. “So how do I get a blog?”

“Why do you think you need a blog?”

“Everyone’s got a blog. I need a blog.”

No, you don’t. Not everyone nor every business needs a blog. Should they? Maybe? But do they need one? Absolutely not.

If a static website, a billboard on the web, is enough for their customers’ needs, giving them basic information about the company, its employees, location, driving direction, and products and services, that’s good enough. Why blog?

If the business has a strong customer service base that is Internet savvy, and it wants to improve its online identity and reputation, then maybe a blog is worth considering.
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November 30, 2007

When Your Blog Forces You To Keep Your Commitments

KUOW/National Public Radio’s show Sound Focus (November 29, 2007) featured an interview with blogger and reporter David Swidler, of the Seattlest, about his project to learn how to cook by researching an “ethnic” recipe associated with the city the Seattle Seahawks football team was playing every weekend during the season. He wrote about the research he did on the city, and the recipes he would prepare that weekend in his Friday post. On Monday, he’d reports on how he did preparing the weekend football feast, and what he learned along the way.

While the purpose of his blogging is unique and fun, and definitely of interest to sports fans and cooks alike, something he said during the interview really caught my attention.
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