New use for a blog

On Sunday, I spoke on a panel about freelance writing at a journalism conference with my friends and fellow freelancers, Chris Kenneally and Hannah Wallace. Chris’s new book, The First Word: The Search for the Origins of Language, is coming out later this week and during the panel, she mentioned that she is using a private blog (a blog she doesn’t publish) as an organizational tool for her next book. Now that I’ve discovered how easy and useful blogs can be for keeping track of writing thoughts, online links and other stuff you don’t want to lose, I loved this idea.

Chris wrote me a note with some tips on how she is using it:

I have a public blog at
which I maintain so as to personally stay on top of any
relevant news about all the science in The First Word,
and also to update readers. I’m also use a private blog to
store and organize information for my second book. It’s
streamlining the writing process for me because:

1. By linking to articles, I cut down on the huge pile
of paper in my office.

2. The posts and typelists allow me to store different
kinds of information–on the typelist I’m working on a
synopsis for the second book that stays front and center,
and the posts allow me to store information as it comes in.

3. Probably the most useful thing about blogging your
research publicly and non-publicly is being forced to build a
list of relevant categories as you go along. With my first book,
I would toss relevant articles onto an ever-growing and very
disorganized pile. Later I would read through them and
work out how the findings fitted into the story of my book. Having
to categorize items that I link to makes me much more organized
upfront. Plus, the web storage is much truer to the way the information
is organized in my head than when it’s printed out.

Chris’s book is an engrossing tale about a subject I’d never given any thought to — how humans evolved the ability to speak. She brings the subject to life with gorgeous writing and by introducing a fascinating cast of characters — the heroes and villains of this linguistic mystery. I highly recommend it.

If anyone has any other tips about using private blogs, please share them…I just love this concept!

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Filed under Blogging, Books, HeyMarci Blog, The Heymarci Blog, tips, Writing

3 Responses to “New use for a blog”

  1. Joe Fusco Says:

    This is a wonderful idea; in fact, until this morning, I thought I was the only one who thought of it!

    For me, it’s a way to capture, play with and mature ideas and concepts (not all of them ultimately “keepers”) without quite worrying about narrative or other “rules.” So it’s a low-risk way to exercise creative muscles.

    This differs from an informal written journal or notebook in that it gives me the small psychic reward of actually “publishing,” so I pay particular attention to the design aesthetics and other quality issues, even though it’s private.

    And, at some point, I expect that letting others read what you’re working on in “limited release,” so to speak, creates an easy feedback community that improves the final product, so my suggestion would be to look at it as ultimately “semi-private.”

  2. "heymarci" Says:

    yes..the idea of the semi-private blog is another way to go. the options seem to be endless here.

  3. John Says:

    I was calling it a “notebook,” but I’ve just started doing much the same thing. There are a couple of advantages to keeping a blog for this kind of project. One is as you and the other commenter have noted: it feels somewhat published and so I am encouraged to write more, to move toward a “public.” Another advantage is that I can access such a notebook from anywhere that I can get an internet connection. And, finally, if you are using a hosting service, chances are their backup routines are better than yours.

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