I’m trying to make a living blogging my city – that’s how passionate I am about where I live. If you’d like to try blogging your town, here’s three simple questions – and plenty of answers – that will help to get you started.
How do I find story ideas?
You need to make sure you have a big list of ideas if you are going to write a story every weekday. So make a note of every little club and society that you can find. You can check meetup.com and upcoming.org, but the best thing to do is to go through your free local suburban newspapers – especially the community noticeboards, arts guides, websites for amateur theatre groups, alternative music media, neighbourhood groups and so on.
Check LiveJournal to see if your city has any groups of people. One of the most helpful places for me to find stories has been the brisneyland LJ community. If your city has something similar, it can be a great resource. Lots of people go to brisneyland to ask questions about little things – like what is the best venue to hire for a big party.
Ah…flickr and YouTube. You are my friends. But if you’re doing a commercial site like this one, you’ll need to be careful about videos on YouTube that violate copyright…you don’t want them disappearing from your site six months down the track. This is not a problem with flickr – there are about 5, 500 photos about Brisbane on flickr that are free to use, even for commercial reasons – here, here and here. A thousand of those photos are by me.
Remember how the pros do it: every newspaper keeps a ‘circular calendar’ – a list of what events happen at the same time every month or every year, and you’ll need to do the same. Each month you need to be able to look at your calendar and say something like : “Great, the State Fair is on in a fortnight, the art gallery starts its regular exhibition next week, the football season starts in two and a half weeks, and the mediaeval re-enactors will stage a huge display at the end of the month”.
Keep reading to see the other two important things:
How do I start writing?
What Makes Your Blog Special?
How do I start writing?
First of all, find your ‘voice’ – that means you have to know how you like to write. You need to find your own style, so if you haven’t written a lot yet, START WRITING! You don’t have to write long articles, but you have to be good at getting people interested. So write something about your city every day – even if it’s only 50 words.
You also need to think very hard about your HEADLINES. These days, everyone has a really short attention span, so you have to grab people with an interesting headline. Everytime you write a story, think about why other people might find it interesting. Try your hardest to keep it to about ten words, but if you have to go longer, then you have to.
And if you’re writing something that is a bit long, break it up into sections, or bullet points. Make it easy for people to see what you are saying, and let them know that they won’t have to wade through huge slabs of words. (That’s why I bought my first digital camera last year – to break up the stories on my blogs).
The other thing you need to think about is this:
your blog special?
Why would people come to your blog above all the others – its a great big internet out there, after all? As Tony Hung said at Problogger, “What is making my blog an indespensible read?”
That’s something only you can answer, but what I do is make sure I go the extra mile for my readers. If I’m writing about a band, say The Grates, I look on You Tube, I check last.fm, I see if they have a myspace page and/or an official web page, and so on.
If I’m writing about a particular gig, like Scuurvy’s pirate metal that I mentioned in my very second article, I’ll go to maplandia and create a Google Map with a placemark showing exactly where the venue is. And I went and took photos of the front of the venue, so anyone who wants to go will know EXACTLY where it is. Because ’235 Edward St’ tells me very little about Club Phoenix. But a map, photos of the front of the venue, and an explanation of what shops it is in between mean that you can head out knowing just where you are going.
If this article has got you excited, you should have a look at Home Turf Media and see if you’d like to put yourself forward. And you should either subscribe to the Brisbane Is Home newsfeed, or sign up to get all new Brisbane Is Home articles sent to you by email.
What gets you excited about your city? Do you think you could turn blogging your town into some real money? Leave a comment and let me know.
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