TTT: Blogging Lessons

It’s time for Top Ten Tuesday! This week I’m celebrating my blog’s first birthday with a series of articles reflecting on my blogging experience over the last year. Yesterday I announced some changes I’m making to the blog–more particularly with the blog schedule. Today, I’m deviating from The Broke and the Bookish‘s Top Ten Tuesday topic (though it’s a good one–I’ll probably revisit it on the next “free-for-all” week) to share the Top Ten Lessons I’ve Learned About Blogging. These are some lessons I’ve learned and observations I’ve made as I reflect upon the last year:

Blogging is writing too! We writers often consider time spent blogging to be time spent not “writing”, but that’s not entirely true. I try to put as much care into my word choices and the “voice” of my blogs as I do with my fiction. Not only is this good practice, it also helps you, the reader, get an idea of what my books might be like. I’ll be honest, the thought does cross my mind when I read writers’ blogs: is this how their fiction sounds? That might be unfair of me since the bloggers in question are probably not even thinking like that when they write. But I’d just as soon assume you’re thinking the same as me, and try to make these articles interesting to read.
But blogging isn’t book-writing. The flip-side of #1 is that my blog is not my novel. This is not my writing career. And if I spend an inordinate amount of time blogging using the excuse “well, it’s writing, so it counts,” not only do my novels not get written, but my fiction writing as a whole suffers. Face it, aside from when I write flash fiction for the blog, I’m not writing fiction on this blog. Yes, I’m practicing grammar, voice, word choice, etc. But I need to be creating stories. So I need to make sure this blog doesn’t become a major time-suck from the work I hope will eventually give me a writing career.
I like it when people comment on my blog. It makes me feel as if people are not just grabbing the pictures and running (like I did for this post–oops!), or looking at the title and the hundreds of words underneath, and moving on. It’s like they’re actually engaged, reading and thinking about what I said, and sharing their thoughts. And if that makes me smile, perhaps other bloggers like comments too… so maybe I should comment more on other people’s blogs…
I like it when bloggers respond to my comments. When I comment on someone’s blog, I will invariably check back to see if they’ve responded to my comment. When the blogger replies to my comment, this tells me they took the time to read what I said. I understand if you have 50 people commenting on your blog posts, it could take an inordinate amount of time to reply to them all. I’ve not yet had that problem, but if I did, I think I would read all the comments and reply to those that I thought really warranted a response. At least this shows I’m reading the comments. So, I need to be sure to respond to comments.
I will usually visit the blog of someone who comments on my blog. If you’ve commented here–even just once, the chances are that I’ve visited your blog. And if I liked what I saw, there’s a good chance I became a follower. This is another reason for me to comment on blogs–perhaps that blogger will visit me!
I need to make long blogs entertaining. This is something I’m challenging myself with from now on, since I don’t think I’ve done a good job of this in the past. And by entertaining, I don’t mean peppering the post with lots of pictures, moving gifs, and YouTube clips (not that there’s anything wrong with those–do you like the cartoony numbers?). I mean writing in a way that sucks you in so you don’t notice the word count. I hate to pick on people, but one person who exemplifies this for me is Jaime Morrow. I don’t think I’ve ever once been bored reading even the longest of her posts.
Some posts are hot flashes, while some are slow boilers. Huh? Let me ‘splain. As I look at my stats, I notice that some of my posts get a lot of attention the day they go up, and then hardly get a single hit afterward. A number of my Road Trip Wednesday posts are like that. Some posts, however, don’t get a lot of hits the day they go up, but continue to get hits every day, even six months later. Case in point: my review of Stephen King’s THE SHINING. Right now, I think that’s the third most-viewed post on my blog. Not because hundreds of people looked at it on the day it went up, but it has received at least 2 or 3 hits just about every day since. And those all add up. So the lesson for me is not to be discouraged if certain posts don’t seem to get a lot of attention at first. They might just be slow-boilers.
Keep stats in perspective. Speaking of stats, I need to remember that this is not network television: my blog won’t get cancelled if the ratings are low. Of course, I want this blog to be read, enjoyed, and of use to people. But right now in my writing career, it doesn’t matter if only a handful of people pay it any attention. After all, my goal in life is not to have a million followers. My goal is to be a published author. This blog can certainly play an important role in my writing career, but I’d rather have a million people reading my novel than a million blog followers.
Be patient. There is a huge temptation to exert a lot of time and energy pushing this blog all over the internet, trying to attract followers, and participating in every bloghop, blogfest, and what-have-you I can find. But, again, my goal in life is not to have an insanely popular blog. What I need to concentrate on with regard to the blog is quality content. It may take a while to build a readership, but if I give people something worth reading, they’ll be back, and they’ll tell their friends, etc.
I’m trying to become a published author, not a professional blogger. I’ve already said this more than once, but it bears repeating because I need to remember this. I love this blog, and I enjoy writing for it. But my writing career (or my attempt at building one) needs to come first.

I hope at least some of these are helpful or encouraging to you. There won’t be a “blog reflections” post tomorrow since it’s Road Trip Wednesday, and I’ll be blogging on the topic of the week which is: How did you spend/how will you spend the summer after graduation? See you tomorrow for my response!

And don’t forget to enter the Blog Birthday Giveaway!

19 Responses to TTT: Blogging Lessons

  1. All these things are very true, and very good advice. :) I’m glad you wrote down number 10–I know that, but hadn’t articulated it in that way before.

    Happy blog-birthday to an excellent blogger!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I am loving this post in more ways than one (actually in 10 ways :D).
    Very good advice, Colin. Honest, direct and very true for a lot of us out there!
    Thanks for sharing :D

    • This top ten really was pointed at me, with a hope that others may benefit from it. I’m glad you got something out of it, Elodie… although yours was one of the blogs I learned from. As a fellow aspiring author, I think you manage to strike a good balance between quality content and fun stuff, and you don’t appear to obsess over schedules and numbers of followers. So thank you for that! :)

      • Awww thanks (blushing a bit I have to admit :D)…right back at you actually because I learned a lot from your dedication and your posts!

  3. Excellent tips! Very interesting and numbers 1,6 and 7. I find Road Trip Wednesdays usually get the most feedback for me. So I really need to work on my own post ideas. I’ll be bookmarking this to refer to in the future. Such helpful advice! Thanks!

    • Thank you, Robin! I’m glad there are some useful thoughts for you here. I admire the fact that while you have a good blog with interesting regular features, you are making great progress on your writing. I think you have the blogging/writing thing in much better balance than I do right now. :)

  4. I agree with everything you’ve listed here. Sometimes when I’ve written a post that I’m really proud of, but it doesn’t get that many views or there aren’t many comments, I have to remind myself of #1. Blogging is writing too, so this all helps. But then there’s #2, which I have to remind myself of also. I spend too much time on my blog some days, and I need to reign that in. I’m actually kind of enjoying the slower pace this summer on the blogs—not as many people posting, which lets me off the hook somewhat. :)

    • “I’m actually kind of enjoying the slower pace this summer on the blogs—not as many people posting, which lets me off the hook somewhat.”

      This reminds me of another point I could have made, but I didn’t so I’ll say it now: keeping to a lighter (or non-existent) schedule does your readers a favor. If I post 2,000 word articles every day, not only will I get worn out, I will also put my readers in a difficult spot–they want to read my blog, but they also have a life. We all have more than a handful of blogs on our RSS feeds, I’m sure. If they all post every day, that’s a large amount of time out of the day reading blogs. But if they post a few times a week, and maybe not all on the same day, that’s much more manageable. Yeah, we love to read each other’s blogs, but we also have books to write, families to spend time with, etc. This is one of the lessons I have learned by observing my own blog reading habits.

      Thank you, Jaime, not only for your comments, but for your blog. I’ve probably said it before, but based on your blog writing, I expect your fiction to be awesome. I, for one, think you do the blog thing very well. :)

  5. I really can identify with 6, 9 and 10. Thanks for sharing!

    • As I said, the accepted wisdom is to keep blog articles short. Number 6 is my concession to the fact that often I can’t say what I want to say in less than 500 words. Some can–but this is an area I need to work on. In the meantime, I *try* to make it as easy as I can to read my word dumps. :) I also think 9 and 10 sort of go together. If I focus on writing at least one weekly quality article, spend a little time visiting and commenting on other blogs, but then pour the rest of my energies into writing that novel, I think the blog audience will eventually take care of itself. And the major plus is that my novel gets written!

      Thank you for your comment, Summer! :)

  6. This was good to read and very meaningful today. I just restructured my google reader from a past job’s focus (nuclear weapons) to YA lit and writing blogs. 8, 9, and 10 came into play when I saw how much traffic other blogs got!

    • It’s hard not to be discouraged when you see or read about how many hits other blogs get. But unless blogging is your life and your purpose, you (and I) need to keep that perspective. I’m glad this was helpful and encouraging to you today, Katie. Thanks for reading! :)

  7. What an excellent list, Colin! I always enjoy your blog because it shows that you put thought into your content. I need to remember numbers 1, 2, and 10 – simultaneously! :)

    • Those three were the first that come to mind as I thought about this list. I know I’ve got into a bad habit of giving my blog more time than my novel. *shame* Hopefully, that will change now. Not that I’m going to neglect the blog, but that I’ll have a healthier balance in my writing life. Thank you for your kind words, Daisy! :)

  8. What a great post, I found this really useful so thank you for linking to it from my post! Definitely true that my aim is not to become a professional blogger – it’s to get out of it what I want to, I guess, to make some connections.

    And ha ha yes nobody will cancel me if my stats are low, good point!!!

    Happy Blog Birthday.

    • Thank you Viklit! I’m a little hesitant about linking to my blog in someone else’s comments (another blogging rule, perhaps?), but in this case I hoped it might help you, so I’m glad I was right! :D

  9. PS now following you on twitter (am vixatthemovies!). I love your twitter button, wish I had the coding capability to do it!

    • Thanks for the Twitter follow, Viklit. Since I follow your blog, I’ll follow back on Twitter when I have access to it (I’m at work at the moment, and they block Twitter here). That’s one of my Twitter rules, btw–if I follow your blog, I’ll follow you on Twitter too.

      I think I found my Twitter follow button on the WordPress site. There should be something for Blogger sites that’s as easy to install as mine was. I wish I was as familiar with Blogger to be able to help you. At the very least there should be a way you could put a picture of the Twitter logo on your sidebar that you can link to your Twitter profile. Hopefully someone can help you with this.

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