How to Blog and When Not to Blog

Blogging is a great way to find out what you love to write about. This may seem like good news, but it is not always welcome if you’ve started blogging for reasons other than love (i.e. to make money).

Here’s how the process works: you start a blog thinking that it will be all about Subject X. But somewhere along the way, Subject Y starts to seem like a much better fit for your interests and imagination, maybe even for your career goals. You find yourself flush with ideas on how to write about Subject Y, and how to market it to people who want to hear what you have to say.

What do you do then? Do you write about both things? Start a second blog for Subject Y? Repurpose your blog to focus on Y, while still hoping to keep readers who started reading you because of X?

Nutcracker-pivot gracefully in publicThings get even more complicated if you started your blog in order to write a book on Subject X. Does this mean that your book project is no longer viable? Have you just wasted time and resources, or is it a matter of finding a graceful way to pivot publicly in midstream?

A Writer’s Guide to Blogging

It is rare to find a resource that helps bloggers sort out these complex strategy questions while also answering  more basic questions like what platform to choose and how often to post. I am happy to report that Dan Blank‘s new book A Writer’s Guide to Blogging does a good job with both, and even more beyond that.

What I like best about Dan’s approach is his emphasis on blogging to build relationships. You will learn a lot about the mechanics of blogging, but he consistently underscores the importance of having conversations with readers. Put another way, it really is all about who you know. Blogging gives you the perfect opportunity to widen that circle both online and off. A Writer’s Guide to Blogging comes with a set of supplemental worksheets as well as Dan’s expertise. He readily answers questions from readers on his own blog.

Is Blogging a Book Really a Good Idea?

It used to be that anything written in a blog was considered untouchable by publishers. But that was several Twitter-based bestsellers ago. Now that the line has been breached, writers are increasingly using blogs to generate content intended for a book.

I have done this myself, and while some projects succeeded, others just didn’t seem to pan out. I never stopped to analyze why, but thankfully every writer’s best friend Jane Friedman has just spelled it out brilliantly and clearly. You really should read the whole thing, but her most important point is that not all blog content translates well into a book.

Particularly if you write memoir or literary fiction, it is unlikely that the format of a blog will suit your content. And even if you write the kind of short, snappy non-fiction blog that is most likely to succeed as a book, it will still need more editing and development before being published.

Mind the Enthusiasm Gap

All this is not meant to dissuade anyone from starting a blog—far from it! Not only is blogging fun and enriching, it is also great writing practice and will hone your entrepreneurial skills at the same time.

Blogging will not make you rich, but it will help you build an audience over time. And there’s the rub: you have to stick with it. So if you have the enthusiasm to start now, get some pointers from the pros first to make sure you have what it takes to endure. The blog you save may be your own.