Thursday, December 10, 2009

Blogging tips - and your internet presence

By now I bet most of you have read the John August vs. Scriptshadow debate. I won't say too much about it since I think it's been exhaustively debated, but I did think this response from Craig Mazin was thoughtful.

I think there is another lesson to be taken from all this, though: be careful about what you put on the internet. It's incredibly easy to blog and Twitter and everything - and it's also incredibly easy for people to find whatever you've put out into the world.

We all know that you shouldn't post a million pictures of yourself smoking pot on Facebook and keep them public for potential employers to find - but it gets more complicated than that. I try not to badmouth people or things on here, partially because I don't really think I am successful enough to have the authority to do so, but also because of the Google effect. Let's say I get a meeting with a showrunner or something, and she types my name into Google, and this blog pops up. If she finds a post in which I totally bashed some pilot she did, she's probably not going to have a very good impression of me. Sure, not everybody will Google you - but some people will, and I think it's important to be aware of what comes up when people search for your name. So before you write that post about how much some show sucked, ask yourself if it's really necessary. I'm not saying we shouldn't all have our own critical opinions, but talking film over coffee with a friend is different than broadcasting your views on the internet. Is it going to help you at all? Sure, we can learn a lot from bad movies and TV shows - but we can also learn a lot from great ones. Personally, I like to focus on Things I Love.

There's also the issue of anonymity, which came up as people revealed Carson's real name. In the beginning of this blog I stayed partially anonymous, not revealing my company or my last name, obviously to keep my job but also because I didn't want the company associated with the blog if they didn't like it. I always thought very carefully about what I was writing - no company secrets, no name dropping, no badmouthing.

Some people do choose to blog completely anonymously, but I'm not sure that's the best way to go. First off, your identity may be revealed at some point, by no fault of your own. And second, if you're going to put so much time and energy into a blog, don't you want to get credit for it? Don't you want people to find it and be impressed with you? Sure, you could always post an email address and have people get to the real you that way. But I think that if you're going to blog, blog thoughtfully - and proudly put your name on it.

I have gotten a few queries about how to have a successful blog. Here's my take on that:

1. Have a clear focus. Very few people can write about a ton of different topics (or just chronicle their lives) and be compelling. If you pick a specific topic, then you'll be more likely to attract readers because they'll know exactly what they're getting. Make sure you're adding something to the internet that isn't already there. What is special about your blog that is going to make people want to come back? What information are you providing?

2. Blog often. If you blog less than once a week, people will generally stop bothering to visit. On the flip side, a million posts a day get very exhausting and annoying.

3. Have an attractive layout and don't clutter up your blog with ads. Maybe I'm hypersensitive about this, but if the font is too small or the ads are too big or I don't like your color scheme, I don't want to read your blog. (And if you're wondering if you can make decent money from ads: probably not, unless you can drive more than a thousand visitors to your site each day. I could probably work harder to monetize, but if your sole blogging purpose is to make money, I doubt you'll be successful.)

4. Get more successful blogs to link you. I pretty much owe everything to Jane Espsenson.

Bookmark and Share


The Bitter Script Reader said...

Valuable advice, Amanda, and I will say that those are most, if not all, of the factors I considered when I started my blog earlier this year.

And with regard to number 4, I am one of those who found you via Jane Espenson.

If I may offer one bit of advice - in trying to get more successful blogs to link to you, don't email those people after you've only made one post and say, "Hey can you give me a shout-out?" Before I give a blog an endorsement, I like to get a sense of the writer; how insightful they are, how interesting they are, and most of all, if they are going to generate regular content.

Pay your dues by posting for 2-4 weeks at a steady pace and then go begging for that shout-out. That also helps so that when people discover your blog, they'll find an archive to get lost in and be more likely to remember you in the future.

Nicole Leigh said...

I completely agree!

Dan Williams said...

My mentors told me: "You can disagree without being disagreeable" and I think that works. Each person is entitled to their own opinion, and most people respect that. With creative people, they seem to value the truth more than most people so I think they deserve to hear it. It's really a service for the other person.

Firefly Games said...

Excellent and timely advice, as I'm pondering a screenwriting blog. Getting technical for a sec, how do you (or other commenters) feel about Blogger vs. WordPress? Thanks for any advice you can offer.

Patrick Sweeney

Mery Raquel Vieira said...

Good advice on the blog start - up. W One of my blogs is focused (a reading group) while the other is just about me and my musings. Didn"t want to put a shameless plug on your site but would love your honest feedback about them. Email me if you get a chance.

Cheers, and keep trying.You"ll get there:)

Amanda said...

@Firefly - sorry to respond years later... but I use Wordpress for and I like that too. Not sure if I really have a favorite!