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The Blog of Writers

I am like a lot of writers, caught in a twilight zone between loyalty to print and excitement over the digital publishing system.

This year Sunoasis X will look at blogs, the ways and means of communicating effectively on the net, finding an audience, turning expertise into business, along with staying alert to how the internet is changing the media landscape.

There are subtle changes writers have to be aware of as they start to negotiate this new publishing system. As I have mentioned in the past a change of habit joined with new skills is a necessity for a writer of the new era.

Ultimately, we are looking for that tipping point that will bring more capital into the internet, more talent, new exciting publications, new ways for writers to use their skills and expertise.

       B L O G G I N G    F O R    W R I T E R S

Blogging has been in the news the past few years. I would like to think, without destroying the spirit of the beast, most blogging is made up of scribblers, ranters, linkers, and that persistent beast, marketers. Hopefully, writers and editors are there as well.

You, the writer, have resources. She, the reader, wants the resources because it enhances her life. This is the bottom-line. When writers get the idea that it is their resource and expertise that counts they will be able to profit from the new medium.

"Everyone is doing it," an old song says. They weren't referring to blogging but if everyone is doing it, it must be a happy activity.

Here are some pointers I've learned from my experience on the beast:

  1. Keep to the topic at hand. If you are interested in other things than your topic make another blog. If your audience is impressed with what you give them, give them more. You are never going to have exclusive rights to an audience. If you are lucky you will be one of dozens of blogs a person will go to at some point during the day.
  2. It's helpful to draw up a regular schedule and stick with it. Since Friday through Sunday are not good days on the Net, plan on the week-end and write during the week.
  3. Always ask yourself the question, "why am I doing this? What is the goal?" Stick to the goal as much as you can and focus the writing on the goal. It could be that you simply want to lead readers into greater resources that's stored on a web site. It could be you are promoting a book and deliver resource to gain the trust of the reader. It could be you are trying to deliver some ad revenue to the pot. It might even be you are training yourself for some responsible, respectable occupation and want to be a "blogger-in-training," as corporations and governments figure out it's pretty good business to do. Whatever it is, write it down and keep it in mind.
  4. Let everyone know what you are up to.

This fellow makes money as a blogging journalist. His tale is very instructive and it's worth taking up some of the advice. Note that he has a day job as a visiting professor but the persistent feeling is that writers will be able to set up one-person publishing shops. It's worth the adrenaline if nothing else.

* * * * *

Within the past month I've been approached by two long-time subscribers to Sunoasis X, published writers, looking to create web sites and/or blogs to start promoting themselves. It makes sense to read the following sites and get a clear-cut idea of what this blogging thing is about.

A writer teaches how to set up a blog.
An introduction to reading and writing a weblog by Anton Zuiker. Well-made and attractive site on why and how to do blogs.
Amy Gahran describes seven different formats for blogs.
If you are a teacher of writing here is an outline to get students involved in it.
The Art of Great Blog Writing sets out a list of criteria that can be helpful to conceptualize a blog.
ProBlogger is one of the best resources out there on how to become a great blogger.

T h e   B l o g   O f   O r w e l l

George Orwell once described the pamphlet this way: "(It) is a one-man show. One has complete freedom of expression, including, if one chooses, the freedom to be scurrilous, abusive and seditious; or, on the other hand, to be more detailed, serious and 'highbrow' than is ever possible in a newspaper or in most kinds of periodicals ...

"Above all, the pamphlet does not have to follow any prescribed pattern. It can be in prose or in verse, it can consist largely of maps or statistics or quotations, it can take the form of a story, a fable, a letter, an essay, a dialogue or a piece of 'reportage'.

"All that is required of it is that it shall be topical, polemical and short."

Ok, we accept that as an excellent delimiter for the blog. It is what you make it to be. Thank you George Orwell and thanks to Chris Locke who alerted me to this quote in an article I read recently.

Bloggers should re-read this part, "the pamphlet does not have to follow any prescribed pattern." As in most art it will be the ones who step out of the box and execute their talent at the highest level who will make the models for the future.

Speaking of Orwell, the author of the above article says that writers have an obligation to counter-act the power of image that has swept the modern world into a massive propaganda mill. "So long as we are able to consume information through words, are able to re-read, check exact quotation, pore over figures and statistics and carefully chosen descriptions then we, the public, will still have some purchase or grip, and therefore power."

* * * * *

I like TypePad for blogging. For a nominal monthly fee you can get as many blogs as possible up and running.

You want a nice, spiffy looking blog and learn the rudiments of keeping the thing going. Have a plan of action, make sure you get an entry up every few days, ask for links from people who are doing something similar. Read many blogs and the "how-to" links above.

A   F e w    S p l e n d i d    R e s o u r c e s

Debbie's Blog: A blog managed by Debbie Well that contains great ideas and links to many other resources,
PR Opinions: A blog of thoughts and opinions on the public relations industry hosted by Tom Murphy.
InfOpinions: A blog about public relations and technology.
Blogging Pro: A collection of links to blogging resources.
Blog Business World: Blogs in business, marketing, PR, and search engine optimization,
CyberJournalist.net has the most comprehensive freelance and journalist blogs around.

S o m e   T h i n g s   T o   T h i n k   A b o u t

It's relatively easy to get traffic but difficult to keep a steady audience around. Transience defines the Net as much as anything. In Taoist terms, "who is your reader today will not be your reader tomorrow; who is not your reader today, tomorrow will be your reader."

Professional editors are needed online as much as writers. One thing that distinguishes print from digital is the presence of good editors. They do a good deal of filtering that saves people time. And one advantage that print has is that it is "mature" and a typical reader can find what they want. The net is still a hairy beast roaming wild in the forest trying to find a way out. It stands to reason then that good writers take on the role of editors until the system matures.

One thing I've discovered on this thing: If one or two different audiences passes through your web presence without a sound, the third one will make thunder.

Everyone gets the feeling they are behind on the beast. You're not. Just keep rolling the ball up the hill. It will escape from you several times and roll to the bottom. Go down as quickly as you can and start rolling it up again.

You don't know what you'll run into. As I mentioned on The Digital Writer, I was threatened by nasty corporate lawyers in my third year and have run into some awful characters online. The majority of people are good and decent and supportive. Get bold and stay open to learning new things.

* * * * *

There are many bad blogs. But, there are very resourceful ones since the people doing them have taken the responsibility to help edit this beast. The problem I see is that there is too much standardization, not enough real creativity and it replicates the odd experience of hearing the Ambassador of Uruguay explain why the world is messed up on TV, with Millie from Kansas explaining why her kids are messed up. Or, an endless summation of blog conferences. And nasty political types who have never fought for their freedom or, even, thought about why they have the thoughts they have.

So, is blogging for you? If you are a writer and have some notes or writing idea or can write at a drop of a hat, then start one. Dig in your heels. Don't expect the Earth to move on your behalf but slowly and surely align your blog to others and to interests that would attract people involved in the same area of expertise. Blogs have shaken the journalism world to the root; they will shake the publishing world to the root because they are an attempt on the part of talent to get front and center in the new literary system.

It is talented and intelligent minds getting outside the big boxes and kicking tail. I can hear Jefferson and Adams and Franklin, among others, whooping with delight. This is the way it was supposed to be and the world will be forever different.

______________________________R E S O U R C E  N O T E S

The Blog Herald--News about blogging. Often links to information or to-dos that any blogger would need to know.
Radiant Marketing Group--Expertise on how blogs can be used by businesses.
Is it ethical for bloggers to accept paid vacations in a country in exchange for some ads and good publicity? It certainly defines those bloggers as PR types rather than journalists.
If print media and broadcasters don't produce news coverage a blogger can match, "they have no right to survive," writes Jack Shafer.

Written by David Eide, Sunoasis.com

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