I’ve taken a lot of advice from others who have come before me. That’s what I did. But there’s other advice I’ve left aside—for various reasons. That’s what I didn’t.
What I Did
I started a blog.
There are many posts out there about the Blogging Commandments, and somehow the Commandments change depending on whose blog you’re reading. Thou shalt not blog off topic (whatever your topic happens to be). Thou shalt blog regularly (some say more regularly, 2-3 times per week, some say less, about once a week). Thou shalt not have more than 500 words per post. Thou shalt have pretty pictures in thou’s posts or the masses shalt not read thou’s words. Thou shalt not…
I don’t adhere to the rules of blogging, as you plain well know since you’re reading this. I don’t adhere to the rules of blogging because I don’t want to. So there.
It’s fair to say that most of my posts fall under the theme of writing, but I write about whatever I feel like writing about. Sometimes it’s news about my books, blog tours, interviews, etc. Sometimes it’s writing ideas. Sometimes, when I’m wearing my editor’s hat, it’s advice from an editor’s point of view. Sometimes it’s my odd observations about whatever is tickling my fancy at that moment. Sometimes it’s book reviews. Most readers find me through the Loving Husband Trilogy. Some find me through Victory Garden or Woman of Stones. Some find me through The Copperfield Review. However you find me, I’m glad you’re here. I love that readers can (and do) post messages and use the Contact Me form to drop me a line. I’m always amazed that there are people in the world who have read my books and will take the time to get in touch with me. The blog isn’t merely a way for me to share information or ideas. It’s a two-way lane of communication, and I love that aspect of it.
I like to post once a week, but you know how it goes. When I’m in writing mode (as I am now) I don’t have time for much else. That’s just the way it is for me. When I’m writing fiction I’m so engrossed in my imaginary world that it’s easy to forget there’s this thing called the real world so I may not post as regularly as I would otherwise.
Mainly, I’ve learned that I have to do what works for me. There are many blogging articles out there that say if bloggers don’t post in a regular fashion they’ll lose their readers. Oh no! Don’t go! The result was I felt like “It’s been two weeks since I’ve posted!” and I’d stress about it. But after a while I realized I’d rather post once a month with something I’m happy with instead of scrambling to slap up whatever comes to mind as fast as I can because it’s Monday and I’m supposed to post on Mondays. I’ve read many blogging articles that say you shouldn’t nitpick over your blog writing, but words are what I do so I can’t be careless with them. It takes me a few running leaps to get the words lined up exactly right. According to WordPress, I’m currently working on the ninth revision of this post, and I’ll work at it for another nine revisions if I have to. If the Powers That Be of Blogging think I’ll lose readers because it takes me longer than others to write a post, I can live with that.
I don’t like it when I’ve signed up for e-mail updates and my inbox is bombarded with posts. That’s my personal preference, obviously, but I’ve unsubscribed to more newsletters than I’ve kept because it was too many e-mails to weed through. I figure if I post only once a week or so, then I won’t outstay my welcome. So far it’s working.
There are many great sites out there with blogging tips. Copyblogger and Problogger are the two I turn to most often. But I’ve learned that you have to read any and all advice as simply that—advice—especially since so many articles contradict one another. It’s not that one “authority” has better information than another. Those who write about blogging are sharing their personal experiences, and everyone’s personal experience is different. As a result, we get articles that say, for example, that the sweet spot for blog posts is 300 words, and then the next day there’s another article that says blog posts should be 750 words but no more than 1000 words. If your post contains 1001 words, such posts say, people will run from your site screaming as they evaporate into cyberspace, never to be seen or heard from again.
I have deliberately not put any pretty pictures in this post. Are you still reading? I didn’t think so.
Apparently, people need pretty pictures to read words online. In theory, I don’t have a problem with that. I like pretty pictures too (hence my current addiction to Pinterest), but random pictures don’t add to my interest. I read an article because I want the information or insight offered. If I have a picture that makes sense, book covers for an article about the book, for example, then, sure, the picture goes in. But I’m not adding a photograph of a bear cub hitching a ride in an article about blogging. I don’t care how cute the bear cub is. I won’t do it. I might repin it on Pinterest on my Bear Cubs Hitching Rides Board, but I won’t post it here.
If I have any lesson here, it’s for authors to play around with blogging to find their personal sweet spots. If once a week works for you, grand. If you have the time to post more often, go ahead. If you only post sporadically because you feel you only need to post when you have news or something important to share, that’s fine. If you try blogging one way and you’re not happy with the results, try something else. It’s all good. There are examples of authors who have been successful with no blog at all. Experiment. That’s my magic word for the day.
Meredith Allard is the Executive Editor of The Copperfield Review.