All About Blogging: Just Do It!

I went to theBlogHer Writers conference on Friday. I arrived with seven copies of a 40-page book proposal. I was hoping to put them safely in the hands of eager editors, who would then joust each other for the opportunity to publish my masterpiece. Well, I still had fun. I met a ton of sweet, creative, supportive, smart women. The speakers were informative and inspirational. I would totally go again, but without 15 lbs of proposals.

Because I've been blogging for eight years, I ended up giving out a lot of blog advice. Over those year years, I blogged for very different reasons and in many different styles and dealt with many different topics. Then, I wrote a bunch of academic papers on blogging (which are still getting cited, she says without a trace of bitterness or resentment.) I taught politics and media college classes, where I showed the kids how to blog.  I've also been unofficially working as a blog and social media consultant. I was surprised to find myself the elder statesman of blogging at this conference, but I was. 

This is the first of a series of posts about blogging, which were based on the conversations that I had on Friday. 

Just do it. I met quite a number of women at this conference who were thinking about starting a blog, but hadn't done it yet. They were worried about how they were going to frame themselves and which design to use. Some had been thinking about starting a blog for years, but were too caught up in these worries to start. 

 One afternoon eight years ago, Steve told me about Lileks and Instapundit. That evening, I found the blogger website and started blogging. A couple days later, I found the mommybloogers (Dooce and this woman works), the academic bloggers (The Invisible Adjunct, Crooked Timber, and Easily Distracted), and other political bloggers. Eventually, I learned how to blog properly, but did any harm come out jumping in too quickly? No. Well, almost no harm.

Never blog about neighbors, extended family, or friends. Even if you don't use their name, they will still find it, hate you, kill you. I lost a friend from something I wrote during those first few months of blogging. I thought my observations about the parenting styles of over zealous NYC parents were such COMEDIC GOLD that she would love being used as a case study. She did not. 

Because I learned that lesson the hard way, I restricted the subjects of my personal posts to my husband and kids, who are used to my bloggy ways. So, as much as I really, really wanted to blog that a neighbor had a job that involved a pole, I didn't. And I really, really wanted to follow up that very true and amusing story with a follow up line like, "and she wasn't a fireman!" Again, more COMEDIC GOLD. I refrained from doing so.

Until now, because we moved. 

If you want to blog, you should just jump in to get over the fear of blogging. Even if you have zero readers, you'll build up some archives and improve your writing style. When readers finally trickle in, you'll be ready for them. The design can change as time goes on. But what about your brand? If you keep shifting your look, won't that turn off people who want consistency? You are your brand. People show up to hear your views on politics/art/literature/children or to follow your life path. They don't care what kind of font you use on your logo. Besides, lots of people read blogs through RSS feeds and never even see the masthead.

Never blog about your job. Never say rude things about your co-workers, even if they are complete asses and would again lead to COMEDIC GOLD. They'll find it and you'll lose your job

There are some professions, which have a large number of nasty people who would love, love, love to ridicule you for not being smart or serious enough. Because blogs are unedited and quickly written, there are lots of opportunities for you to say dumb shit. The haters will have plenty of material to make rude comments about you. My advice is to get out of that toxic environment. Life is too short to be around such idiots. 

(This is the first of week-long series on blogging.)

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9 thoughts on “All About Blogging: Just Do It!

  1. Laura what a great piece on blogging! Since I was one of those women at the conference who listened carefully to your advice I really appreciate the chance to read your series. It was great to get to meet you and I too enjoyed meeting some great women and bloggers.

  2. Just FYI. There’s lot of good advice online about how to write a book proposal. (They’re not usually forty pages long.)
    There’s also a book on Amazon called “how to think like an editor” who provides pricessless information about what to put in a proposal, what to leave out, how to structure it, frame it, etc.
    Also, did you GO to the websites of all the publishing houses you were interested in, go to their submissions page and use their recommended format for putting together a proposal?
    You have a great voice and I think your book could be terrific — but you’re selling yourself short if you’re not doing the research Re: how to put together a book proposal. Stop sabotaging yourself!

  3. Thanks, Sarah. Yes, I’ve done those things. I’ve put together the official non-fiction book proposal. I’m kinda sorta working with an agent. I would characterize our relationship as “It’s Complicated.” I am doing another revision right now and plan on sending it out this week. I suppose I thought I could bypass that hassle by going to the conference, but the conference wasn’t designed for people who had actual proposals in hand.
    Haven’t seen that book “How to Think LIke an Editor.” Thanks. Going to check it out.

  4. But what about your brand? If you keep shifting your look, won’t that turn off people who want consistency? You are your brand.
    I take comfort from this advice, Laura, and I sincerely hope it’s true. Of course, the “atrociously long ruminations on the nexus of radical political philosophy with everyday politics, plus excursions into Mormonism and 1980s pop music videos” brand ain’t particularly popular for obvious reasons, but still: it’s my brand, dammit.

  5. So, as much as I really, really wanted to blog that a neighbor had a job that involved a pole, I didn’t. And I really, really wanted to follow up that very true and amusing story with a follow up line like, “and she wasn’t a fireman!”
    I’m guessing Batman. Did you used to live next to Stately Wayne Manor?

  6. Generally speaking, editors and agents don’t want your book proposal at an actual conference. Have your business card ready if they ask for it. But otherwise, if they’re interested they’ll ask you to email the proposal.
    If you haven’t read it already, I loved How to Write a Book Proposal.

  7. For whatever it’s worth, pretty much all of the sample proposals (for books they had taken on and placed) I got from a Big Name Agency were at least 40 pages. Granted, that was about 10 years ago and attention spans may have shortened in the intervening time. On the other hand, there’s no real substitute for sample chapters for showing the ability to write a long-form project.
    Got any chapters that could be sold as a stand-alone magazine article? Because nothing says, “This will sell” better than “This has already sold.”
    I’m not sure how much 11D overlaps with SF readers, so at the risk of repeating what people already know, Heinlein’s Five Rules for Writers. Short-form markets functioned better in his day, I think, so modern mileage may vary a bit but they are still very useful.

  8. “Got any chapters that could be sold as a stand-alone magazine article? Because nothing says, “This will sell” better than “This has already sold.””
    That’s a good idea. There’s a very natural progression between “article everybody’s talking about” to “book contract” even when the author doesn’t have book’s worth of stuff to say, as unfortunately happens.
    Slate or Atlantic Magazine might be a good match. I wonder if they pay anything?

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