Monday, February 7, 2011
Finally, I can have chocolate cake - Happy Birthday Never as the Crow Flies!
So, what have I learned from blogging in this last year? Number one is, I should probably blog more often and that, even the limited amount takes a lot of time. You can't just put any 'ol thing out there... well, you can, but not without making an ass of yourself. Which is fine and dandy, but if you've got a goal with your blog, maybe you shouldn't. At least not on purpose. Here are my lessons learned through one year of blogging:
Read other blogs first, decide what works.
No, I'm not advocating for you to go out and copy other's blogs. What I am advocating is finding blogs you love (Fiction Groupie, Totally4YA, Pat Rothfuss, Read Now Sleep Later) and really think about why you love them. What do they do that makes you want to tune in each week? Are they professional? Are their blogs a tool, or do they have a goal (such as getting published, promoting their books) or are they help oriented (such as Guide to Literary Agents)? Which do you want your blog to reflect? Do you have lots of information to share with your community? Do you want to show off your voice and promote yourself as a writer/photographer/artist?
Reading other blogs can help you define what you'd like to put out into the world. I wished I had paid more attention to other blogs before starting my own. Not that mine went all scary or anything, or I made really horrible mistake of venting about the industry, but I didn't have a direction. I struggled with what to write, feeling nothing really was interesting enough.
Find a theme and stick with it.
Okay, I'm not saying you can't change your background... every once in a while. But know that as you get more readers, the background and theme of your blog becomes a comfort. Weekly readers become used to the look of your blog and there is something to be said for consistency.
When I go to goodreads I know where everything is. I know what to expect when I click on a button. And as a user, I like that. The same goes for a blog. When I visit one of my favorite blogs, I know where the comment buttons are. I know that if I pull up my email and my browser is behind that, I can see the edges of the blog I was reading/exploring and am quicker about getting back to it.
I used to change my background to match the pictures for the YAFF Muse series. Each week I had a new one. Sure, my buttons stayed in the same locations, but after a while, I realized that it wasn't staying with my central theme of the blog. The changes didn't fit with the blog identity.
Of course every once in a while it's okay to change something about your blog, make it better. For instance, I changed my blog and website so that the background color was white with dark letters. Having worked in PR and spent time designing pamphlets, websites, etc, I should have known better anyway - anything else is too hard to read. Nevertheless, I had a black background and white letters.
Comment & connect with other bloggers.
One thing I was very slow about was connecting with other bloggers. (hence the very first suggestion) But I found once I started commenting and engaging with other bloggers, it helped direct traffic to mine. (okay, I know 26 doesn't seem like a ton of traffic, but I love each and every one of you, and for my first year, seems pretty darn good)
Overall, you'll thank yourself for getting involved and talking to others.
Blog about something important/interesting or skate by on your funny.
Yeah, yeah, I know I don't always adhere to this sentiment either. But, I'm working on it (see... hints/tips on what I learned right now!). If you can engage your readers, you'll gain more traffic. People will talk/type, refer to your blog. It's either that, or be super, super funny. The best blogs, have both of course.
What doesn't work is random ramblings (yikes!) that have no clear direction or purpose. When I read these types of blogs, I tune out and turn the "channel" never getting halfway through. You've got to hold your reader's attention (um, are you guys still with me? hope so or this would be pretty embarrassing... er... you're not here so I guess it's not - see!?! who wants to read that?).
Do something that gets you to blog at least once a week.
Try to post at least once a week. I know, sometimes it might feel like you're blogging for/to no one. But that doesn't matter. Keep doing it. If you blog it, they will come. LOL sorry! For me, that's the YAFF Muse series. Sure, I post last minute on Wednesdays (which especially seems like the case because I'm west coast compared to almost all of my east coast/middle partners) but it's worth it. Plus, for you writer types it's a fun way to exercise your short story muscles and step outside your comfort zone. Though, I think there's a lot of debate among the industry-set that maybe you shouldn't post your work online because, agents/editors will go and check out your blog and you wouldn't want to embarrass yourself, right? Well, that might be. But it's still your blog and if posting a short story now and then gets you to post something during the week, then so be it. Just make sure you do spell check, 'kay?
If you aren't into short stories, then post something you learned recently. Been to a conference lately? Read something in the news or on another blog that made you think? Pose a question to your audience, engage them. And make sure to refer back to whatever your inspiration is too (especially if it's another blog).
Maybe you didn't learn anything this week (that's sad), but you did just finish a book. Write a review. Or maybe you're not too much of a reader (though if you're a writer, you should be) and you watch more T.V. Why don't you write a review on the latest episode of your favorite show? Crushing on Castle? Great title, huh? You can use it. Provided you watch Castle.
And the most important lesson ever? Have fun!
That's right. We all know that writing, editing, cutting, writing, and editing some more can be both fun and difficult. But we love it anyway. Look at your blog the same way. You might have to give some thought to what you want to blog about this week, and it might cause some sweat and or tears, but do it anyway. After a while it gets easier. Or at least it has in my case.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY to me, my lovely followers and Never as the Crow Flies!