Wednesday, January 11, 2012

How to Be a Better Blogger, Part 1

For those of us who are serious on this writing journey, we've probably realized by now that a blog is important to our platform. But the blogging waters can be murky, and jumping into them even murkier.

Recently a blogging friend asked me some questions about my personal blog. (In addition to The Writers Alley, I blog over at my website.) And I realized that her questions were no different than mine when I first started out.

So today, I'm sharing a few things I've learned (sometimes the hard way) that have helped me build a stronger blogging platform.

1) Figure out the right pace for you. Whether it's once a week or five days a week, don't worry about what your fellow bloggers are doing. Understand your schedule and do what's reasonable. (Most blogging experts recommend a minimum of once a week.)

When I first started blogging, I jumped right in to five days a week. And learned very quickly it was too much. Before I landed my agent, I had scaled back to one day a week, listening to the advice of publishing professionals who say a fiction writer should focus on polishing their book more than their blog. In the current stage of my writing career, I've now gone up to three times a week and it works for me. But when circumstances demand it, I'll probably tweak again.

It doesn't matter if you have to tweak your schedule, as long as you communicate and stay consistent.

2) Don't be afraid to change your blog content over time. Study your site stats and figure out which posts are resonating with readers. And especially think about the topics that most fuel your passion.

Kristen Lamb, a social media expert for writers, says most writers should avoid blogging about writing. It's different advice than what we'd expect, isn't it? I found that once I freed myself from that trap, the blogging became fun. I now post about things I'm passionate about outside of writing, and it has drawn in dialogue with people other than fellow writers, which I love.

The more important thing here: Be yourself!

3) Provide something for your reader and initiate a conversation. People are selfish. They visit blogs to gain knowledge or to receive encouragement or to laugh. Figure out what you have to offer blog readers and then offer it. As you're consistent in that offering, you will also be building your brand.

4) Build relationships with other bloggers. This is the most time-consuming part, but the most worthwhile! Reach out to other blogging friends and comment on their blogs. Consistently. Cultivate these online relationships as genuine friendships because that's what they are!

I try to view blogging as I would an in-person friendship. If someone talks to me, I respond. If someone invites me to their house for dinner, I accept the invitation. Now I'll be the first to admit that I can't always visit everyone who ever visits my blog. I have two kids under the age of five who tend to usurp my time when I least expect it. But the key is to do your best and make an effort to reach out.

So let's talk...What stage of the blogging journey are you in? How do you handle your blogging schedule and content? Do you have any examples of friendships that have grown from your blogging journey?

*Blog photo by digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
**Dialogue photo by Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Sarah Forgrave is a stay-at-home writer-mom who feels blessed to pursue her calling and passion. She writes contemporary romance for the inspirational market and is a regular contributor to the webzine Ungrind.

To learn more about Sarah, visit her personal blog at:
http://www.sarahforgrave.com/blog

31 comments:

Wendy Paine Miller said...

Yep, I can think of a few friendships that have grown as a result of blogging. ;)
~ Wendy

Jessica R. Patch said...

I hesitated blogging for a long time because I thought it had to be about writing and there are so many people who know more and can say it better, but then I read something that told me I could just be me and blog about what I like.

I found 3 days a week is a good pace, I started blogging 5! And I love it. I really do. Plus, I have life long friends and even agency mates...ahem... ;)

Great advice, Sarah!

Casey said...

Love your post here, Sarah. Been looking forward to this one since you mentioned it.

All great tips and a deep well to pull from. I actually like that advice about not blogging about writing and now that you've mentioned it, that's what I've done on my blog and it's drawn others in. There are SO many blogs on writing, it's hard to choice which to listen to. It's great when you find those people you really resonate with.

Can't wait for part 2. :)

Angie said...

I love blogging...I consider my personal blog as a virtual journal...but I have been really inconsistent since little miss was born! Blogging has definitely given me friendships with the Alley Cats as well as a couple of other writers I got to meet at ACFW! Fun to connect that way!

Mary Vee said...

I attended a conference class on blogging. The instructor, Craig VanBuseck echoed two major points you make today: write what you know well (and enjoy), and don't be afraid to change your content.

I had a theme for my Mondays that didn't work well for me because it was too time consumming. My stats show viewers still visit those old Monday posts. But the new theme takes little time, I love the topic, and my viewer count is even higher. a win/win scenerio. :)

Great post, Sarah:)

Teri said...

I live in an old house and love photography. These two elements have become the platform for one aspect of my blogging. As a writer, for a while I felt I needed to blog about writing, but that was becoming a real chore. Just last week, I made the decision to switch from blogging about writing, to sharing Bible studies instead, which is a passion for me and something I'm looking forward to doing.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Right back atcha, Wendy. ;)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Jessica, Isn't it fun to blog about things that interest us outside of writing? So freeing. And yep, I've got some pretty cool agency-mates too. ;)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Casey, You're right. There are so many bloggers who focus on writing and do a great job of it! I'm afraid my voice would get lost in the clutter. :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Angie, Little Misses and Misters have a way of hijacking our blogging schedule, don't they? :) I love the connection we've made here too!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Mary, That IS a win-win! Gotta love that! :)

Heather Sunseri said...

Great advice, Sarah!! I like how you remind us not to be afraid to change it up when necessary.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Teri, It sounds like you've got a great approach! We all have something to offer if we search hard enough. :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Hi Heather! Yeah, all my changes either mean I'm A.D.D. or I'm "adaptable". I'm scared to find out which one it really is, lol.

leonielucas said...

I'm way, way back at the beginning of my blogging journey. I am rapidly losing the idea of what I thought I SHOULD write and instead am thinking about what I feel passionate about. Thanks for the post. :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

You're welcome, Leonie! Hopefully I've saved you some time in your blogging journey. :)

Jennifer K. Hale said...

I'm with Wendy--a few good friendships have formed from the whole blogging experience!! ;)
I'm at 3 days a week, although right now I've backed off to whenever I can because I'm deep into my WIP and trying to finish. A couple weeks of 1 or 2 posts won't hurt anyone. :)

Melissa Tagg said...

Oh, this is great! Casey Herringshaw pointed me this direction and your blogging thoughts are great. I definitely have some friendships formed because of blogging. I currently blog three days a week...except on one of those days I welcome guests posts (like Casey today!)...it was my way of upping my commitment without actually making myself come up with a third post for the week...hehe. At first I thought committing to a blog schedule was more than I could handle, but it's really been a great way to hold myself accountable while also finding my voice and niche.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Jennifer, I totally agree that a break is necessary once in a while. (And I look forward to your return!) :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

Melissa, You're so right about guest posts! It not only gives you a break, but you bring all that person's friends along for the fun too. :)

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Sarah, these are great tips and some of the most important we can learn from. Number two was the biggest from me. I saw this tip on another blog awhile back and took it to heart. I enjoy blogging about writing but I didn't necessarily want that for my personal blog. When I opened it up to family and writing and my personal joys (not really a specific focus), I started to enjoy blogging again. Good advice!

Naomi Rawlings said...

Oh Sarah, this is such good advice for someone like me, who's currently trying to figure out where she belongs in the blogging world. Thanks for advising on being yourself. That's an encouragement to me. :-)

Jeanne T said...

It's been one of THOSE days. I just had time to come and read, and boy am I glad I did! This is so helpful, Sarah!

Where am I in blogging? Um, I'm not? I know I need to begin one, but I've been overwhelmed at the thought of beginning one, figuring out the time commitments and how to fit it into my already tiny amount of daily writing time, family life and the unexpected happenings that come into my days. This post is very helpful in helping me to focus and maybe even begin a blog. :) Thanks so much!

Sarah Forgrave said...

Cindy, I love the changes you've made to your blog! And I think focusing on something other than writing makes us all seem more human to our readers too. :)

Naomi, It can be a scary world, can't it? I'm glad my post encouraged you! :)

Jeanne, I'm so glad it was helpful! I'd go back to my advice to consider where you're at in your writing journey. If you're just starting out, it may not be wisest to pour a lot of time into blogging. But getting the wheels turning in your mind...thinking of things you might like to do in the future...could be just the right place for you. Jody Hedlund did a post several months ago about blogging for your writing stage. I wish I had the link, but I can't find it. :/

Pepper said...

Great post, Case.
Lately I've not been as consistent on my personal blog. I'm trying to post once a week until my work schedule evens out.
And I'm starting to rethink how I want to post htings. I know the normal/expected thing is to stick to one thing, but I've thought about blogging 3 times a week and each post have a different 'expectation'. For example, MOnday is a devotional post, Wednesday is a writing post, and Fridays are 'fun' posts - with book reviews on teh weekends?
Then there are my 1 x every 3 months writers series...

I guess I still have some thinking to do :-)

Pepper said...

You know, Sarah
I KNOW you posted this, but the last comment I read was Casey's...
and there you go :-)

I was also typing from the treadmill desk.
Can I use hyperventilation as an excuse ;-)

Sarah Forgrave said...

LOL, Pepper, No problem on the name confusion. ;) And I think it's totally fine to focus on different things on different days. I do that on my blog and nobody complains. :)

patti.mallett_pp said...

Hi Sarah, This was very insightful. Thanks! I like the idea of different things on different days, too, but, when I go to a writer's blog I expect to get some helpful writing tips, at least once during the week. The other stuff is fun, too, and meeting people a big perk, but I never get tired of reading about writing. Everyone's take on it is different. And there is so much to learn.

I must admit to being nervous about the commitment of a Blog. Perhaps I'll take the plunge in 2012.

Susan G. Weidener said...

I love blogging about writing and our Women's Writing Circle. I agree that each blogger should stick to the pace that best works for her. I try to take time with each post I write; that way, I don't put something unpolished out there. As someone said to me once, "Think of your blog as if it were a magazine."

marytattoo said...

Hi, many years ago i used to blog, but ended up ditching the effort, for various reasons. Now i'm considering beginning again, but my question is this: most blogs i follow have many links added: "click 'here" to go to her page" or something. How does one do that? Those little things are keeping me from beginning a blog.

Mary

Sarah Forgrave said...

Hi Mary! That's a great question. Are you referring to links in the sidebar or links within the posts themselves?

Links in the post: Regardless of which blogging platform you use (Blogger or Wordpress), there's a little icon that allows you to link to another website within your post. You just select the text that you want to make a link and click the icon to redirect it. Or sometimes if you type the URL directly in the post, it will create a hyperlink for you.

As far as sidebar links, it differs between Blogger and Wordpress. In Blogger, you would go to the "Design" tab in your blog's admin page. And you can "Add a Gadget" to the side.

Wordpress sidebars can be changed by going to your Dashboard. Then clicking "Appearance" and "Widgets". There are several widget options, one of which is links.

I hope this helps! If you're still intimidated, you can always create a blog and change its settings so only you can see it at first. Then you have the freedom to play around with different options and get comfortable before you "go live". :)