I recently had an article published in an online journal. The published version is a completely revised and expanded version of a blog entry. In fact, I used the blog entry to present the storyline to the editor of the online journal. Since publication, I have used my blog to discuss the article. Based on this experience, I feel that blogging can be useful during many phases of the writing process.
- Blogging captures a story and/or storyline as it is still germinating – This is very important for those in a stimuli-rich world, as one’s attention span is at best fleeting. Blogging allows one to capture and then refine. (Here I use refine to imply both the process of editing and elaborating.) My blog-to-article example above illustrates refinement. Even comments on blogs provide a form of refinement. In fact, comments on blogs might be regarded as a method of stepwise refinement.
- Blogging shares stories and/or storylines with others – Blogging offers just the right degree of formality. It encourages the author to use simple language and to be informal, while also to be clear and concise.
- Blogging enables feedback on a story and/or storyline while it is still germinating and even after it’s published – This is also very valuable, as it allows the writer to retain a degree of attachment with the writing. By keeping a fraction of the writing lodged in the writer’s cache, possibilities for additional refinement are present. Eventually, this can develop into promotion of one’s writing.
Though not necessarily a consequence of the experience described above, here are some other thoughts on blogging as a writer’s tool:
- Blogging creates writing opportunities – I’ve had numerous articles published on science and technology. This is the first time I’ve ever written about writing as a process. Prior to this blog entry, such introspection would’ve been limited to informal dialogue with a colleague in person, over the phone or via email. Perhaps this is why blogging is so enabling. Like email, in many ways it’s closer to being more of an oral rather than written form of communication.
- Blogging creates IP challenges – One of the gravest challenges with blogs is intellectual property or IP. The IP spectrum spans from personal IP (not wanting to publically scoop yourself) to corporate IP (not wanting to publically scoop your employer). Both have the potential to present challenges. However, as others have written elsewhere, the benefits (as above) typically outweigh the downside.
- Blogging enables exploration of the breadth and depth of my interests – In the past, every time something became interesting, I’d set up a mailing list. However, over time, my interest typically focuses then defocuses in a nondeterministic progression. Blogs and blogging allows my time-dependent interests to be handled with ease.
I spent a few minutes Googling for keyword combinations on this topic. In all honesty, I didn’t come up with very much too quickly. There was, however, one notable exception that even Writer’s Write has glommed on to. That exception is the following quote from Chris Anderson, the author of The Long Tail:
IWM: You’re writing a blog for “The Long Tail” book. What has it taught you?
Anderson: I think it’s a fantastic aid, especially under circumstances like mine. It had three advantages for me, as I was writing a non-fiction, research-heavy book that was based on an article already published.
By feeding the conversation, it allowed me to keep the momentum of the article going during the 22-month dead time between the publication of the article and the book. I gave away some of my research results and ideas, but got back many times that in comments, other people’s blog posts and emails.
Hundreds of people applied The Long Tail to their own industries and experience and revealed resonances I never would have thought of, from The Long Tail of beer to travel to warfare. I tossed out half-baked ideas and phrasing, and my smart readers helped me bake them. Those thousands of readers have great word-of-mouth influence, which I imagine will help market the book when it comes out.
I’m sure that more-exhaustive searches will be revealing.