02 June 2008

From No Blog to Carnival in 10 Easy Steps

I'm sneaking away from the cacophany at my cantina for a bit. Shh. It's our secret.

Just a little overwhelmed by the response over there. You see, the first ever Carnival of the Elitist Bastards set sail on May 31st. PZ Myers of Pharyngula plugged us on his site, and my swarthy crew got the recognition they deserved - and then some. Can I hear a Huzzah! for NP? Her contribution has done precisely what the Carnival was intended to do - make people think.

All of this - the huge response, the compliments, the excitement - has made me very thoughtful indeed. As writers, we know that words have power. We just don't always see their impact.

Writing can change the world.

It can certainly change the writer.

The entire course of my life has been changing since I started En Tequila Es Verdad. A few months ago, I was an isolated scribbler, struggling with a recalcitrant (and alcoholic, I'm certain of it) Muse, doubting every day that I'd ever get words out to enough people to justify the sacrifices I make for them. Today, I have a rabble-rousing blog that's frequented by some truly incredible thinkers, and I'm the captain of the HMS Elitist Bastard, freshly returned from a maiden voyage that succeeded beyond my wildest dreams.

Here's what I've learned on the journey:

1. If you have an alcoholic Muse who's frequently absent, start a blog that doesn't require her.

2. Write what you're passionate about. It may have nothing to do with your magnum opus. All it has to do is get you to write.

3. Read a plethora of blogs that are related to what you're writing. You'd be amazed what you'll learn about blogging just by reading blogs, and reading the comments sections.

4. Comment! When something grabs you, don't keep it to yourself. Say so in the comments! It helps you practice getting short, relevant responses together, which is good practice for writing blog posts. It tells the poor beleagured author of the blog that somebody actually gives a damn about their words. You get to interact with a lot of wonderful people. And some of those people will follow you home to your own blog to continue the conversation, and you'll end up with readers who are far more than just readers - they're your friends.

4a. A caveat: do not use another blogger's comments section to shamelessly advertise your own site. It's bad manners and it puts people off. If you wrote a post that has a different take on the issue discussed in the other blogger's post, you might be able to get away with a link in a comment - but observe the norms of the community you're in. If other bloggers get thumped for linking to themselves, don't do it. And only leave comments if you have something to contribute to the conversation.

5. If you get a lively community going, and many of you are of the same mind, and there's not yet a blog carnival for your interests, don't be afraid to start one.

6. Don't be afraid to reach out to your favorite bloggers and give them the opportunity to join your Carnival. More than a few of the contributors for the Carnival of the Elitist Bastards were bloggers I'd actively approached, because I loved and respected their work and I just knew they'd be an excellent fit. Others I would have approached if they hadn't signed on to the idea immediately. (And then I ran out of time, so not everyone I'd like to see on board got a personal invite, but that's okay - there's always another voyage!)

7. Have your contributors advertise shamelessly on their sites.

8. Put the contributions together in the liveliest fashion you can, make sure it's perfect (DON'T forget any of your contributors in the heat of the moment!), and then go live.

9. And then, if you know of a popular blogger who's a generous soul and who's likely to enjoy what you've put together, and is never averse to giving baby blogs a leg up, by all means don't be afraid to shoot off a little email request saying, "If you like this and you could, would you please give us a mention?" The worst they can do is say no. The best they can do is give you a beautiful plug on their site, and ensure that your amazing contributors get the recognition they deserve for all their hard work.

10. Watch your life change, and possibly see your words change lives.

That, in a very brief nutshell, is the path this writer took to get where she is today. Your path may be very different. Use the guideposts that are of use to you and discard the rest.

And never, ever, give up on your words.


  1. Dana, thanks for posting this! I'm so glad you're a co-blogger here!


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