Sunday, December 23, 2012

Blogging - A Year In Review

It has now been one year since I began blogging.  I have always had lots of opinions and would add them to whatever message boards or other venues that presented themselves, but this was my first attempt at something consistently coherent.  Over the course of the past year, I've learned several things:

1.  Blogging consistently is important.
This can be hard, but blogging on a consistent schedule is one of the keys to success.  You can do it once a week, four times a month, or daily, but be consistent in what you choose.  Lots of people look to blogs as part of their routine, and if you want to be part of that routine, you need to be there when expected.

2.  Readers might like you, but they don't care when life is hard for you.
This is a corollary to the previous point.  If you're lucky, readers will begin to relate to you and will look forward to reading your stuff.  However, most don't really care if you are too tired to blog, or too sick, or if your cat died.  Oh sure, they might care later once you're back on the air and able to explain your absence, but the loss of time can cost you lots of readers, readers who, when they don't see you at the regularly scheduled time, will simply shrug their shoulders, maybe mutter what an asshole you are for letting them down, and will move on to the next blog(one that won't disappoint them).

The point is that you have to push through the times when you don't feel like blogging.  We all have times like that.  To be honest, now is one of those times for me.  I just got back from a weeklong vacation, I don't have anything clean to sleep in(naked to bed doesn't work for me), and it's getting late.  However, I promised to put up a post three times a week, and we have arrived at the appointed time.  Were I not to do it without giving prior notice, I risk being seen as unreliable.  Yeah, I could get away with it once or twice, but why get into the bad habit when it just requires a little more testicular fortitude?

3.  Most viewed and most commented don't always match.
Prior to blogging, I took it as an article of faith that the more popular a post, the more it'd draw comments.  Well, as I looked through my page views for the last year, that proved to be about as wrong as could be.  Certain topics stir the pot and get the most engaged to comment on them, but that doesn't necessarily provide the greatest measure of what interests folks.  Much like with a radio talk show, most people who come across a blog don't comment - they simply read.  That can be a discouraging facet at times since I like to engage readers, but there's little I can do about it short of begging people to comment, and even that likely wouldn't work.

4.  Engage with fellow bloggers.
I've found some great blogs this past year.  While getting more involved in the writing community, I've discovered people who are very talented and give great advice.  Some are established writers who have earned awards for their work, and others are new to the field but rapidly finding success.  Some are still looking, but all are great people who love to engage and find people who read their work to be what drives them.

I have yet to encounter a writing blogger who was a complete ass(the same cannot be said of other types of blogs).  Most are eager to talk with others about the craft and love people.  It's been a refreshing experience to get to know so many insightful individuals(at least as well as you can get to know someone across the digital domain).

5.  Plan out what you're going to say.
This one's hard...maybe the hardest part of blogging.  I admit that there have been times I've sat down to post and had no idea what I'm going to say.  The results of randomly coming up with subjects rarely pleases me, and most of you can probably tell when the effort is a little half ass.  That's not to say I don't pour my heart into it, just that I tend to reach when I don't plan out far enough in advance.

I used to think I have a great memory, and when an idea for a post came along, I could simply tuck it away for later.  Experience has now shown me that's not the case.  Therefore, when I get a great idea on what to blog about, I now write it in my trusty journal so that I can reference it when the time is right.  Doing so has led to many more engaging pieces and helped ensure I don't repeat myself too often.

6.  Cherish the good ideas and be creative with them.
We writers rarely find ourselves in a beam of light with a celestial chorus playing in the background, our latest idea surely divinely inspired.  Oh sure, it happens, but those times are few and far between.  That means that when we do come across a decent idea, we need to be creative with it.  Doing so serves two purposes - first, it helps engage readers in a way that lets them feel connected; and second, it allows us to practice our craft.

My personal favorite from here has been my Muse Series.  It began as a way to express how I felt a conversation should unfold in a story, and it took on a life of its own.  True, I haven't done this as often as some might like, but I've found myself looking more and more for ways to do such stories.  I've found that engaging with my Muse through this blog has helped me understand her better, and the results can be hilarious at times.

7.  Blogs help you explore what you want.
Blogging is kind of like thinking out loud.  When I first started out, I was obsessed with finding a literary agent and getting a traditional publishing deal.  Over time, however, I began to ask just what it was I wanted to accomplish with my writing.  On top of that, I started researching traditional publishing more and found it not to be to my liking.  That was when I decided that I wanted to make an okay living, get my work in front of readers, and stay on control of what I produced.  That made indie publishing, once a refuge of last resort, something that captured my imagination.  I'm not sure I'd have ever come to that conclusion if it wasn't for this blog.

This blog helped me work through my feelings about indie publishing and what it would mean.  Such reflection helped me evolve my position to where it's nearly unrecognizable from where it began.  If not for this platform, I'd probably still be obsessing over query letters and worrying over whether I could afford to go to the latest writers' conference.  Writing about the literary world, however, has opened my eyes to what I really need to do to be successful, and I now have greater focus on the goal.

8.  Stay focused on what your blog is about.
I'm an opinionated person.  This will come as no surprise to those who know me well.  Events of the past couple of months have left me chomping at the bit to talk about.  However, this isn't the place for it.  We are here to talk about writing, not argue over the last election or the fiscal cliff, and certainly not to discuss polarizing issues like abortion or gun control.  There are tons of blogs for stuff like that, but this isn't one of them.

I used to like Peter King of CNN/SI, but he has begun using his platform to promote certain ideological viewpoints.  Whether you agree with King's point of view or not is irrelevant.  The problem is that when I read MMQB, I want to read about football and have an escape from the daily influx of bullshit we see on our news channels.  I don't want to get drawn into the same partisan bickering that makes each of us so very mad.

Were I to drop in a stray comment about a politician or issue I care about, I risk angering at least half the audience.  In our polarized age, a large number of people will stop reading your work if they sense you are of the opposite political persuasion, most likely accompanied with a muttered "drop dead."  In fact, the next novel I plan to begin in January - tentatively entitled Schism - is about the divide in our country.

9.  It's challenging but worth it.
Blogging is hard, no doubt about it.  But it's a fun kind of hard.  It challenges us to grow in the craft and stay disciplined about providing content.  It stretches our imaginations in ways we never intended, and it allows us to engage the people who mean the most - readers.  There are times I wonder if it's all worth it sometimes, but then I'll get a comment saying that someone really enjoyed what I had to say and it'll be worth it.

Okay, enough reflection.  I hope you have enjoyed this blog as much as I have.  Next time, I'll get back to the craft and discuss writing against conscience, aka - how I wrote that blood curdling chapter found in the previous post...

No comments:

Post a Comment