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Saturday, April 01, 2017

Every Writer Needs A Blog

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I've been blogging for years, probably at least 15. In the beginning I didn't take it very seriously and I wasn't very good at it. My blog had no consistent theme. I wrote about whatever I wanted to write about. It was simply fun to do and it was practice for thinking up ideas and writing itself. I made no attempt to draw readers. I just published it and if by chance someone came along and read it, that was great.

I do better than that now although I still don't consider myself a mega-professional blogger with thousands of hits every day. I write three blogs - one about politics; one about NASCAR and this one, Rafe Vincennes (the name of the main character in my on-going series), about writing. The political blog is the one I've been doing the longest. I watch my stats with interest now and I must say, its a real thrill when you first hit 100,000 hits or you see that 700 people read your blog the previous month. 

I faithfully update the blogs. I now include pictures and links. I have enough readers that I get feedback if I fall behind. I use BLOGGER.COM and my blogs automatically appear on Twitter and Google+. I post them myself to Facebook. (I didn't know about any of these when I first began blogging). 

I still don't try to make money off my blogs by selling ad space. There are lots of tricks to increase your viewership or earn income off your blogs. I have just never had the time to look deeply into it although I might when I retire from my real job.

If you write books, a blog is an excellent platform for keeping readers up to date with your progress or to alert them that you have published a new book.

I'd recommend that every writer have a blog as a presence on social media. Of course, first, you have to find a subject that interests you enough to write about it every week at least - whether that is being a parent or pets or fashion or movies or whatever it is you have a passion for. Then you just have to DO IT. I've known several people who started a blog with great aspirations then simply petered out after the first few. 

For those of you who'd like to start a blog, here is what it was like for me as a newbie.

WHEN I FIRST BEGAN BLOGGING..... (written, I think, in 2008)

Blogging has always simply been an exercise in self-indulgence because I write it for myself and the three people a year who just happen to stumble on to it accidentally when they’re surfing the web.

It is nothing but writing because I never learned to use all the bells and whistles offered by the blog people who provided my space for free, although they frequently sent me encouraging messages to “enhance” the blog by adding this or that new feature. My blog doesn’t have pictures and it doesn’t have links. I write about whatever subject piques my interest. Sometimes, I go long periods without posting anything at all. Maybe there are a few more than three people who read it because I get complaints sometimes saying, “I went to your blog and there was nothing new.”

My goal in life is to sell my novel before I retire. (*Note - this never happened. I turned to e-publishing instead). To that end, I bought a book about how to market a fiction manuscript. I had an old copy but publishing companies and editors and agents change frequently so if you’re serious, you need to have the latest edition. In this most recent update, I discovered a new twist: publishers and agents who may be interested in buying your book manuscript consider it an advantage if you have a “platform”.

When I read this, my first reaction was – “huh?” I had no clue what a platform was but it turns out, it is any way you might have to reach potential readers of your book – a radio or television show, a column in a newspaper or magazine, a blog. Unbeknownst to me, I was already two steps ahead of the game. I write this column and I have a blog.

I decided I needed followers to make my blog look impressive in the unlikely event an editor and/or agent ever actually checked it out. A blog without readers is sort of like the tree that falls in the forest: you don’t know if it makes a sound or not. So, I sent e-mails to all my friends asking them if they’d go to the blog and become followers.

The young girls at my office had no problems. They instantly sent a one word message, “done.” Unfortunately, though, most of my friends are roughly my age. I began getting a flood of responses saying, “I went to the blog but I couldn’t figure out what to do.” So, I tried myself and I couldn’t figure out what to do either.

When I looked at it with a critical eye, I thought the blog looked amateurish. Any editor who viewed it would instantly know I was old because only an elderly, behind-the-technology person would have such a boring blog.

I decided I would pay to have the blog professionally done. The first thing the blog developer at Visionary Web asked was, “why pink?”

“What?” I said.

“Why pink?” he repeated. “The name of your blog is “red state blue collar” so why did you use pink as the primary color in your blog theme? Seems as if red and blue would have been the obvious choices.”

I felt like a fool right off the bat.

The new blog is red and blue. I “own” my very own domain name now, providing I can keep up the annual fee. The blog has a little button to press to become a follower. It even has a link from my Facebook page. The Visionary Web guy, Toby, showed me how to import pictures and to link to other sites. (And I plan on doing this before long, really). He told me about tags. The more tags, the better. Tags describe what your post is about. Like tags might be: “NASCAR, Jimmie Johnson, Daytona, Sprint Cup, auto racing….etc.” Tags are how you distinguish yourself to the search engines such as Google so if someone does a search for Jimmie Johnson, there you are. (Only it really isn’t quite as easy as that because you have about 4 billion competitors out there trying to do the same thing).

The pink blog was a pleasant dalliance. I dropped in now and then when I was in the mood, then waved a cheery good-bye – “see ya later”.  The new professional red and blue blog is a marriage requiring devoted attention in order to flourish.

To make it even more stressful, the Visionary Web people are like the friends who introduced you to your partner. They have a proprietary interest in seeing that the relationship works. They send me suggestions about things to do now and then. I worry about not living up to their expectations. I imagine them going to my blog site, shaking their heads in disappointment.

“She hasn’t imported a single picture yet,” or, “her latest post was pretty lame.”

My hope is that the blog will be an effective sales tool should a publisher happen to pop in. Over all, though, the old blog with my three + readers was a lot more relaxing.

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