I had a friend send me an email today, wondering if I had any pearls of wisdom about getting into blogging. Now, I certainly am not one of the best bloggers out there, or the biggest, but I guess I learned a couple of lessons along the way that I could share.
I started out on a free WordPress blog, because I wasn’t sure if I had the commitment to keep writing. Nothing at all wrong with free WordPress either (although I did find the design restrictions and what not to be a little irritating). After a few months, I changed over to self hosting. I went with Dreamhost, because I knew of a couple of other bloggers who used them. That sets me back around $130 a year (hosting and domain registration), or a little over $10 a month.
Self hosting can be scary occasionally – you do have the potential to break things (especially if you suck as badly as I do at CSS), although you can usually just throw up a new theme and you are set. Almost everything that is involved can be learned fairly quickly and easily – took me about 2 months to have a functional knowledge of everything that was involved.
I believe that the most important thing in the beginning is to just write. Write whatever comes to mind. Write often, write as much as you can, just practise putting fingers to keyboard and get going. Don’t worry too much about the quality of your content – that will improve as you practise. In fact, this is SO important that I am not even going to really give much more advice on writing than this. Polish can wait until later.
Save drafts! When I first started out, I could write two or three posts a day. Rather than publish them all, throw them in your drafts folder. You will get to a day, or a week, where you just don’t have time to write. Drag a couple of drafts out, give them a polish, and you are set.
Some people believe that the appearance of your blog is one of the most important things about it (probably true, although it’s clearly not something I really fussed about). You have a few options when it comes to your blog’s theme:
1. Choose one and use it straight out of the box. I do this on my personal blog, and to some extent on my Druid blog. There are plenty of functional themes out there, and if you just can’t do one of the below options for whatever reason, this is a great way to go. It’s probably also a good way to get started.
2. Choose a theme and edit it. I’ve done this for Destructive Reach (albeit badly) to suit the whole ‘Warlock’ thing. I just used Photoshop to change the images in the theme, and made a few minor changes to the CSS. The more you want to edit it, the more knowledge you need of CSS and/or Photoshop.
3. Buy a theme. There are a stack of places out there that sell fantastic themes, although you are looking at a decent outlay to buy a good theme. There are plenty of reputable websites that sell themes, such as Zidalgo. Personally, I haven’t found a theme anywhere that is worth the money, but I am a notorious cheapskate.
4. Write your own from scratch. Don’t even ask me about this, because I’ve got nothing.
Personally, I think there are only a few important things you need to remember:
Make sure the writing is clear and easy to read! Again, something I probably fail at, which would explain why most of my readers read me through my feed.
Have an easily locatable RSS button, search bar, and archive. These can usually be found in your sidebar. The search bar and RSS button should be near the top. Using the easily recognisable RSS icon is generally a good idea, but by no means is it required.
Try not to use colours or fonts which hurt the eyes. ‘Fancy’ fonts should only be used for headers. Colours like fluoro orange rarely work well in my experience!
Make sure you have a way for readers to contact you. Oh, and an about page is usually nice. Browse through blogs to see how people approach the sticky problem of crafting the perfect about page.
I like to write using Windows Live Writer. That way, I can see what my posts will look like as I write them, and if my browser crashes, it’s no biggie. There are also other similar programs for Apple, etc.
The best thing about WoW blogging is the rich and diverse community. You’d have to be insane to not be part of it.
Join the Blog Azeroth Forums. BA is a collective of WoW bloggers with varying ranges of experience (some have been around for years, others are just starting). The forums contain helpful posts on just about every blogging problem or idea you could possibly imagine. It’s also just a good way to meet a great bunch of people (not to mention get some great stories…).
Don’t take all your comments to heart, and don’t let yourself get carried away with the hype. Remember that you blog for you, not for everyone else – if they like it, great, but don’t feel pressured!
Set yourself a limit as to how much you want the community to know about the real you when you start. Everyone has their own comfort zone. For example, my readers know my real name, what I look like, and where I live, but they don’t know where my personal blog is. Occasionally it’s tempting to post more, but remember to think about how you’ll feel in a couple of weeks time with everyone knowing that about you.
Similarly, don’t post anything about anyone that you wouldn’t say to their face. Bad bad bad idea.
When talking about other blogs, it is good etiquette to link back to them. Avoid copying and pasting massive chunks of text from them (even with acknowledgement; never do so without a link!) – people tend to get peeved, and sometimes it is against their copyright.
Read, read, read! Other blogs can give you some great perspective on things, and you might often be able to write a great post inspired by someone else’s idea. A good 50% or more of my posts are just stuff I borrowed from another blogger and put my own spin on. Again, remember link love!
Advice from the rest of the internet
“If you put it on the internet, be prepared for the internet to talk back” – Gnomeaggedon
“Be sure to include as many Red Dwarf references as possible” WoW in an Hour. Pop culture references can be awesome amounts of fun (although less fun now that Matticus has seen The Princess Bride and actually understands what everyone is saying).
“My suggestion, keep a somewhat routine schedule. "Every other week" or "every Friday", something. Just keep with it!” from Ndmiko. However, do not beat yourself up if you break it every so often. Life happens!
Most important advice of all?
Don’t take yourself or blogging too bloody seriously. (Because, you know, you guys haven’t worked out that I think this is important, right?)