Lazette Gifford
Publisher & Editor


Blogging: It's Not Just for Journals Anymore!

By Jon Chaisson
Jon Chaisson

I will admit that there are days when I'm on my LiveJournal more than I'm on the word processor writing.  Let's be honest -- blogging is addictive.  I find myself going online and posting things that run through my head at odd times of the day, talking about anything from music to writing to everyday life.  I was even a week late sending this article in because of, among other things, blogging.  Sometimes I feel like I've spent more time online than actually getting any writing done.

On the other hand, my LiveJournal has lately become a place for me to do some writing-related work while I'm at my job.  Recently I've been coming back to the trilogy that I'd put aside for six months, and I felt like talking about it.  I'd lost focus on the story and had been wondering if I would ever pick it up again, especially since it was so close to the end.  And as I wrote the journal entry, I realized where I'd gone wrong and where I needed to go to finish it.  This was all in the span of ten minutes.  And to add to this wondrous revelation, I got feedback from friends on what they thought of my ideas.  My trilogy was saved!

This is only one instance of my blog helping me with my writing.  I've posted germs of ideas, names, and even a few snippets of things I'm working on, just to get feedback from whoever was reading.  It's become a wonderful writing tool for me.

However, there's so much more that one can do with a blog.

Ever since I started writing, I knew I'd eventually have to learn at least the basics of HTML in order to set up my own "official" website for my future books.  I knew a long time ago that I'd have to create an extensive website of my work for fans and readers to look up for more information about me and my work.  For me it was a daunting task, because I was worried that I'd spend more time tweaking the site than writing.

It wasn't until a few years ago that one of my friends suggested I start a weblog, if just to keep in touch with each other without the slowness of email.  It worked out well -- we still keep in touch, and probably talk more by journal and reply post than we do in real life.  Soon, though, I began to wonder if I could use the weblog to my advantage in the writing field.

So how does a weblog help with writing?  First off, it's a cheap and incredibly easy way to promote yourself.  Add the URL to your business card, your website-in-progress --perhaps even the signature portion of your email, like I do -- and someone's bound to check it out.  Many published writers, including a few here at Forward Motion, have a blog in addition to their website.  Some other writers have posted snippets of their works in progress on their blog as a way to get quick feedback from their frequent readers.  Still others have posted random ideas for possible future stories they'll write down the road.  In short, blogs keep writers in touch with their readers in a very personal sense, letting them in on the writing process.

This, of course, begs the question -- how personal is too personal?  Most weblog sites like blogspot and LiveJournal offer weblogs that are open to the public, though they do include settings that limit posts to a certain group of readers.  They also have community blogs, run by a moderator and open to anyone who signs up -- very much like a BBS site, only in blog form.  If you're planning on starting your own weblog, you should decide whether you want something open to the public or only to a select few.  It depends on how much you want to offer.

A second question that comes to mind, and rightfully so, is whether or not the writer's copyright or first print rights are at stake.  The rule of thumb, I'm happy to say, is that you can post a short amount of your writing without worrying too much.  However, it should be under ten percent of the whole work in progress.  You don't want to post too much at once.  And besides -- you want to keep your readers wanting more, right?  On a more important note, you might want to think about whether or not to post on a community site, especially those catering to a shared world plotline, even when said site says it will not claim your copyright.  As our humble editor pointed out to me (thanks Lazette!), "Copyright and first print rights are not the same thing.  Don't ever put an entire story up on an open site if you hope to sell it elsewhere." 

The only con to all these pros that I've listed in using a blog for your writing is that it alone won't gain you any popularity if no one's looking for it.  Selling yourself, for lack of a better term, is something you constantly have to work on, and the same goes for regular websites.  You might be searchable through Google or Yahoo!'s search engines, but you need to get your name out there first.  Print out some business cards or fliers and find a place where you can distribute them.  Join an online blog or BBS community and network yourself.  And above all, make it fun and creative!