Every time a bell rings, another person starts a blog … and apparently that bell is ringing a lot.  As writers, I wouldn’t say that it’s mandatory for you to have a blog, but I would highly recommend it.  I’m going to confess something: I’m subscribed to around 100 or so LiveJournals, Xangas, MySpaces, and blogs.  Many just to keep up with friends and colleagues, some for industry (both writing or religious) news, some just to read other writers.  Writing is a solitary pursuit and the blogosphere has allowed a sense of community by being our water cooler.  Also, blogs serve as a convenient way to communicate with fans.

The problem is that as more and more people start up blogs, the amount of noise in the blogosphere increases and the less likely you are to be heard.  Without a platform to spring from, it is hard to launch a new blog with enough splash to draw notice.  Then there’s the sad reality that most writer’s blogs aren’t that interesting.  I can count on two hands how many writer’s blogs I look forward to reading.  I don’t know, maybe writers don’t have much to say outside of their work.  Maybe writer’s just aren’t naturally interesting people, after all, we spend our time by ourselves in front of keyboards.  You would thing that, hey, you’re writers: fictionalize your life and make it interesting if you have to.  I have a much cooler online persona than I have in real life (or at least that’s the lie I’m telling myself).

There are a few things to consider when it comes to deciding whether you want to commit to having a blog.  They can be a time sink. I can’t tell you how many hours I wile away writing blogs, checking for replies to my blogs, checking for replies to my replies on blogs, and so on.  So you have to ask yourself if you only have an hour or so to write a day, do you want to spend it blogging?  I do, but I consider blogging part of the discipline of writing daily, no different than journaling.

There are several advantages to having a blog.  They are great vehicles to drive traffic to your web site.  Your site is a fairly static place, but your blog is a regularly updated place that can be used to increase your name recognition.  For me, blogging allows me to have something for folks to read from me between my short stories getting to the marketplace.  In the same vein, you can used your blog to develop an alternative audience for your writing.  I know several horror writers who have cultivated whole new fanbases around their blogs because, while many folks might not pick up a hardcore horror novel, they will read intelligent, well written thoughts on various subjects.  Blogs can sometimes pay for themselves.  My blogs are a trove of potential essay material that I can draw on for non-fiction work (though remember, things posted on your blog are considered published).

Remember, your blog becomes your public face.  Here are a few DOs and DON’Ts:

DO:

-blog about something.  Content is king.  If your blog is about something, some central theme, people will seek you out.  Being a cancer survivor, being a writer, writing tips, being an editor, life as an agent – write about some topic you have some expertise on.  With my blog, I believe that I have something to say in the areas of spirituality, writing, and pop culture analysis (maybe another delusion.  I sometimes confuse it with being in love with my own words).

-mix in some touch of the personal.  Every now and then writing something on the personal side allows for a reader connection.

-be passionate, be interesting, be engaging.  At the very least, we are most passionate and most interesting when writing about the things we care and know about.

-update regularly.  I would suggest at least weekly, but however often enough to give people a reason to come back or subscribe to you.  You set the schedule and train your readers to come back, so be regular.  However, there do seem to be tiers of blogging schedules that increase traffic:  weekly, daily, three times daily.  Each level will see a bump in traffic.

-write well.  One would think that one wouldn’t have to mention this to writers, but if you claim to be a writer, treat your blog like you would any other piece of writing.  Edit it, be aware of how it looks on the page, and at the very least, spell check.

DON’T:

-just throw up a random jumble of your thoughts.  Few people can get away with having their grocery lists published, even fewer can keep readers by having long rambling blogs.

-take your break ups with your significant other to the blog.  Don’t take your hurt feelings about having a story rejected to the blog. Don’t take your frustrations with an agent to your blog.  Don’t get me wrong, if I’m reading you meltdown, you will greatly amuse me.  I love a good train wreck, in fact, I will direct friends to you and we will point and laugh.  However, it is your career and you will be judged by prospective agents, editors, and other pros as well as potential readers.

-overwhelm your readers.  I’ve been told that people shouldn’t blog too often or multiple times a day nor should their blogs be very long because folks have a short attention span.
-don’t let it become a time sink.  To help out in that regard, here are a few tools that you ought to familiarize yourself with (but not obsess over): Statcounter, Marketleap, Technorati.

Lastly, know when to violate any lists of dos and don’ts.  I’m blogging about blogging.  I’m so meta.