What Drives you to Blog?

Your Blogging Type is Artistic and Passionate

You see your blog as the ultimate personal expression – and work hard to make it great.
One moment you may be working on a new dramatic design for your blog…
And the next, you’re passionately writing about your pet causes.
Your blog is very important – and you’re careful about who you share it with.
You Are a Life Blogger!

Your blog is the story of your life – a living diary.
If it happens, you blog it. And make it as entertaining as possible.

No Splogginess

It’s been quite awhile since I did anything here. Kind of a shame when there is so much emphasis on monetizing and splogging and it has become rare to find a really good personal blog.

Why have so many bloggers gone to splog? Is it just greed? Jealousy? The thought of missing out on easy money? Short sitedness?

Whatever it is the blog world has not changed for the better from it. Reading a website (usually using blog software) has become like watching TV. You can go out for a snack while you wait for the junk to load. Then you sit there and seek out the content out from under all the junk.

This blog (whatever becomes of it) will continue to be personal, purely without splogginess.

Don’t Stress About It

What brings you stress? Kids, your job(s), spouse, parents, deadlines, or any of a hundred other things. For me, people give me the most stress. Also, one that will seem odd, my name. You will think it odd that I’d stress out over my name but I do. I gave up my maiden name when I married, the husband wanted me to and I did it to make him happy. Then, we got divorced and I decided to keep my married name, like a marker to show that I had at least gotten that far. Now, I don’t feel I have a last name at all. I get stressed when I have to fill in my last name cause I don’t want to be that name. Anyway, it’s a long winding story.

What odd things bring you to the stress breaking point? Have you ever written about them. Just a freestyle, brain storming type essay to vent your feelings. It’s amazing how much you can discover about yourself and your feelings when you vent on paper. You know you control who reads it, if anyone so you can type things you’d never say and not even dare to think in public. Vent your stress. Maybe all it really needs is an outlet, a chance to let off some steam.

Stressing about family and friends – personal relationships, is something we have to live with. You just can’t get rid of people. I think of various Twilight Zone style stories I’ve seen and read. Those tales of the last person on Earth or the only one, somehow, even for just a day. Doesn’t that just seem like paradise sometimes? I wrote about my adventures as the only person left. It was such a blast, I did so many things I’ve always wanted to do, went to all kinds of places and tried all kinds of things I’d be too shy to do if anyone were watching. But it was great fun to write it and see it all happening in my mind as I wrote.

The best way I handle family stress is to give myself a day off, even if I have to lie to get it. When necessary I tell them I’m working (my day job) and then go out just as if I were working. Then I drive. Most of the time I don’t even have a real destination in mind. I might not have much spending money either. It doesn’t matter. I just go for coffee and read a book in one of those coffee shops where all the soccer Moms hang out. It’s a nice break. I start to feel like I’m really part of the world again and not tightly fitted into my little space squished between family and work. It’s nice to just be me in the world.

Deadlines are another big stress. I have a bad habit (for lack of a better word) of taking on too much. I just seem to think I can never do enough. As if I have to compare myself to some perfect woman writer who probably doesn’t exist outside of my own mind. I have begun to realize this about myself. I handle it by admitting I am not super woman. If I have dug myself in too deep I allow myself to decide what stays and what goes. I’ve learned to make better decisions about what projects I do take on. Rather than saving the world I am just doing what will work for me. (I only save the world every other week now).

Anyway, everyone has evolved different stress management techniques. Do what works for you. Find something that does work though. Don’t wait till you have steam coming out of your ears and you’re yelling and screaming at everyone in your vicinity. That’s not good for anyone’s stress level.

Query Letters

We’re writers, we know the words, so why is it so tough to write a query letter? Why do we second guess every word on that page? Why do we agonize over the punctuation, the grammar and the spelling? Why do we “just die” when we realize a typo was missed in our proofreading of that all important query letter?

Because we are bundles of self conflicted maniacs. Geez… I thought you had that figured out by now. Anyway, I thought it was time I wrote something about query letters. We know how important they are, giving prospective editors and publishers (clients) that vital first impression. Plus, of course, the actual idea you’re pitching them.

A query letter is a proposal, describing an article or book you would like to write for a particular publication or publisher. Queries should be kept short, a readable length, one page. A couple of paragraphs to sell the story, a line or two to actually ask for the sale and another paragraph to describe your qualifications.

If you get no reply after a month send a follow up letter. Of course, you kindly ask if they read your first query and remind them of the particulars. You know yourself how hard it is to catch up with an idea you brushed against a month ago. Keep that in mind as you write your follow up. Make a copy (or keep a copy) of your letter. You’ll sound foolish if you finally hear from the editor only you don’t remember what you queried about, exactly.

The basic elements of a query letter:

Start with something to catch their interest and make them read on. An anecdote, statistic or something you can enclose in the envelope along with the letter. Chances are you won’t have anything to send other than your words but if you can come up with something more go for it.

In a paragraph or two explain your idea, why you want to write about it, why their publication would be interested in publishing your article. Gear your idea to the market you have chosen. Of course, you have already spent time picking out your target market. Make sure you also get the editor’s name right (and spelling counts!) and the name of the publication. This would also be an important part of researching your market.

Draw them in with your special angle, slant or hook on the topic. It’s likely true that everything has already been written about at least once. So you need something new to say about it or say the old stuff in a new way. Show them how your slant is new and interesting. Let them know if you can include photographs or other illustrations to go along with your article.

If you have clips (copies of previously published articles) offer to send them. Remember, you’re selling yourself too. Add any other credentials that would help. Are you an expert in the field or have some related experience?

How many words will your planned article be? The editor will know how much space they can offer and you’ll have to work with that. But, start by giving them an idea of what you plan, how much content you can provide. Tell the editor what format you will be using- plain text email, Word document, double spaced, etc. Maybe these seem trivial things at the beginning but to someone working on filling space and keeping a layout they matter and make life easier.

If your query isn’t being emailed or faxed you need to send a SASE (self addressed, stamped envelope) for return mail. This is part courtesy and part hoping making a reply easier will make it happen sooner. We always have our wishful thinking, they can’t take that away from us. Also, make sure the editor accepts email queries, some people still don’t like or use email. Email queries should also have an email signature which sticks to the rules of email etiquette: not more than 4 lines or approximately 60 spaces wide. Please, don’t send an email where your return address shows up as “CutsiePie69”. Unless you’re writing about online chat or some such thing you want to project a professional image. That means no smilies too.

In the end sell yourself and don’t be too modest. What makes you the right writer for this job? How can you (especially) bring this story to life for their readers. Enclose your writer’s resume if you have one and it seems relevant enough.

Don’t forget the letter writing basics. Add your return address and the date to your letter. Start and finish your letter with salutations, something suitable, not too personal. Don’t forget to proofread and proofread without using spellcheck on your computer. Be meticulous, even down right nitpicky, check your spelling, punctuation, grammar and the typo factor. Don’t ever send a query letter you haven’t checked more than a few times and don’t ever write one when you’re too tired (or just not in the mood) to check it as well as you know you need to.

Short for Impact

The best quotes are those that dazzle and enlighten with one sentence. That quick one two punch that leaves you thinking. Quotes wandering along into two, three or more sentences loose their power. You have to read them and think as you’re reading. It spoils the effect.

Condensing your sentences, your whole essay, story, whatever you’re working on, will also give it more power. Short sentences get noticed. Long winding sentences wandering around to make their point tend to blend into the wood work and take longer to be absorbed. See the difference?

When you’re writing an article draw the reader in using content and focus. Content being the subject. Focus is making the subject clear and important or interesting enough to be read. You can get someone to read about bug spray if you write it right. Tell them something new. Don’t muddle the idea. Use short sentences like a trail of bread crumbs. Keep your wordage uncomplicated too. Don’t load them down with dictionary words they’ll have to stop and think about.

Later, when they’re into your subject and you’ve given them questions they want answered, you can bring on the longer sentences and the more detailed information. First the focus and then the heavy duty content. At the end you give them closure of some kind.

Not so different from a quote. Think about that next time you’re writing. What was the last really great quote you read and why did you like it? Maybe your eye was drawn to it because it was one simple sentence. Possibly one word had some personal appeal to you or perked your curiousity, so you read it. When you rewrite see if you can shorten a few sentences, yank their chains and make them stand up and take notice. Check for extra words just hanging around not adding to the focus or the content. If you want to be read think about what gets read.

Deadline

Did that scare you? Well, it scares me. Not to the extent that my hair is turning white… well, not all at once. But enough that I feel the pressure to procrastinate.

How do you procrastinate? I tend to play computer games. At least it keeps me in the right area, if not very focused. Sometimes I snap out of it, grab a hold and tell myself (sternly) that this is not a good thing. Most of the time I begin planning my article around then. Being stern with myself seems to give me inspiration.

I think most of us come to a point where we have to force ourselves to write. For whatever your own personal reasons, its not easy to create something out of an idea and a blank page. You aren’t going to feel that orgasm of inspiration and lust to write for each and every article you work on. Or you might reach a point where you don’t have more to say about a topic you write about frequently.

How do you get new ideas, new angles? Try procrastinating, but in a good way. Read the newspaper, take a walk outside and see what you come up with. Sometimes all it really takes in combining ideas. While you are outside you see a few birds and think about how birds often fly into buildings. Could that be a new article for your architecture column? Or a new fiction story about what drives birds or doesn’t drive them? Its up to you to twist things around and put them into print. Just don’t procrastinate too long, you’ve got that blood thirsty deadline, remember?

Using Catchy Phrases

Hitting their sweet spots has never been more important than for someone writing on the Net. What is a sweet spot? To take it out of writing context, think of yourself driving over a bumpy train track but steering your car to the side, to a spot where it’s not bumpy. That, sweet spot, is the easy on your car and yourself.

In writing the sweet spot, as I think of it, is hitting just the right word or phrase. Something that your reader is looking for and has a personal ‘thing’ for. For instance, to appeal to women you can use words like ‘diva, goddess, grrl’. Phrases like ‘adventure living, backpacking, Earthy’ appeal to nature lovers. There are better choices but those are the current pickings of my brain. Hope you get the idea.

Anyway, those catchy phrases and words are even more important online because people will be searching for them. Your article will be picked over by search spiders and those catchy, sweet spots will be caught in their web and added to a mind boggling list. You may not be first on the search list but you will appear somewhere. That’s why those sweet spots should be considered, not just in titles, subtitles and descriptions but throughout the article or essay. Don’t go crazy over it. Too much is not a good thing. But keep them in mind and don’t think it’s too cliché to use the odd cliché if it’s an effective sweet spot.

Consider some of your own sweet spot words and phrases. Which appeal to you especially? Why?

One way to find sweet spots for a certain group of people is to join one of their online discussions, chats or boards and keep track of what comes up frequently. Let me know if you come up with more sneaky ideas.

About 9 Rules

Is there any real benefit to joining 9 Rules? I think blog networks are interesting but, looking at their site I see a LOT of the blogs in the network are suffering post rot. In the For Women category none of the blogs have posts since July. Pretty sad looking and not great for promoting 9 Rules as a network. So, other than being part of a clique, is there any good reason to join?

I guess it brings traffic but for a personal blog like this getting traffic is just a way to amuse myself.

Blog for Fame

Want to be famous and trendy on the Internet? Join the personal publishing era – get blogging.

Weblogs are part scrapbook, part magazine, part journal, part soapbox, part obligation and part fantasy. Anything that can be typed on a computer keyboard or made into a digital file (images, sounds and scanned items) can be part of a weblog. People (bloggers) with a scanner or digital camera can include pictures of themselves and the objects they write about. Links to other websites are what really make a weblog a digital twist to the old fashioned scrapbook. The best weblogs are those with well-written journal content, interesting links and an eye catching design.

However, don’t get the idea that weblogs (blogs) are just another personal home page. News and commercial sites use them too. Blogging software makes updating simple and quick. Just open the program, add your content and click. Automatically the software puts your entry into HTML, sets up the navigation (layout, date, etc.), and publishes it to your website.

Some blog software will have more features. Movable Type is very popular but not simple to install. Blogger.com is simple but (has been) unreliable due to high use. As a new blogger, you need something easy to use with dependable technical support. Almost all blog software is free for personal use.

There is a group online called GTA Bloggers, for people with weblogs in the Toronto area. Join the email list or read the website if you need help, inspiration, ideas or just want to chat with other bloggers. I also found a webring for Ontario bloggers. Take a look online for blogging groups in your own area.

Digital Scrapbooking


It’s like web desiging but more personal and maybe uses more creativity. You’re designing a web page like a scrapbook online.

I’m working on creating Digital Scrapbooking as a new category at Dmoz. There are tons of sites. Lots of freebies to download and great ideas. I don’t see why a lot of these couldn’t be used for any site or blog, not just creating pages for scrapbooks. Some of the sites they have created are really amazing.