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To Blog or Not to Blog, That Is the Question

Whether or not to blog is a question for every writer these days, when social media dominate communications and the connection with readers is usually at a great distance. Is it worth the effort?

When considering whether to create a series of blogs to accompany The Ravenstones series, I went back to the source of all knowledge — the Internet — seeking advice on whether or not to do so and, if so, the best method to proceed. The results were positive, but only just. To the question “Do I need a blog?” Steven Spatz answers “a resounding, ‘Probably’” (https://blog.bookbaby.com/2019/04/do-i-need-a-blog/). That probably sums things up.

Several experts in this field exist (see, for example, https://buffer.com/resources/blogging-advice-for-beginners-from-16-experts), but the three I usually gravitate to are Spatz https://blog.bookbaby.com/), Joel Friedlander (https://www.thebookdesigner.com/about/) and Jane Friedman (https://www.janefriedman.com/blog/), since they focus on authors and the writing process rather than entrepreneurs.

Jane Friedman has an excellent compendium of advice for the aspiring blogger. Her “How to Start Blogging: A Definitive Guide” was first published back in 2012, then republished in April 2020 (https://www.janefriedman.com/blogging-for-writers/). I’d urge any neophyte to read it before starting out.

Ms. Friedman’s first words of advice, however, are not encouraging: “The average author does not benefit much from blogging.” Perhaps I should have quit right there! But no, here I am. Clearly I am either crazy, foolish or desperate. The point is, blogging is a huge, daunting task. You have to produce new readable, entertaining, original, interesting, relevant material week after week … like, forever! Or, failing that approach, you can bring in or collaborate with others, which presents its own challenges, such as outreach and reciprocity.

In either case, blogging is not like novel writing, which is a slow, deliberate and insular process (especially in my case) and where a great deal of time must be allocated to editing, re-editing and proofreading — and then there’s the publication process! Blogs are short, punchy and time-sensitive; unless you write a lot of material ahead of time, how can you ever let up?

I’ll try to summarize Ms. Friedman’s advice for fiction writers here:

  • Treat the task seriously (editing and formatting must be appropriate to the medium).
  • Be consistent in both frequency and subject matter.
  • Be patient.
  • Five models are suggested for the content:
    • literary citizenship (celebrating authors, the craft and books)
    • advice to authors (best practices)
    • one’s field of expertise (good for nonfiction)
    • peeks behind the scenes (research, news, current events, contests)
    • personal essays or daily life
  • Choose the right platform (same as the author website).
  • Key things to consider in starting out:
    • blog title and tagline
    • readability (font size, layout)
    • the “about” page or biography section
    • comment opportunities and management
  • Crafting quality posts:
    • Length is not the crucial factor, but remember that the longer it is, the more readable it must be
    • It must be easy to scan (subheads, paragraph breaks, bold lead-ins to lists)
    • There should be at least one attention-grabbing image per post.
    • End with a question, because it’s all about connecting with the readers.
  • Headlines:
    • specific and clear
    • intriguing or provocative
    • offering a benefit to the reader
  • Plan cornerstone content.
  • Have a sidebar that offers navigation tools.
  • Use SEO for discoverability (e.g., Google Analytics).
  • Interviews
  • Guest spots on other sites
  • Have patience. (This is repeated, so it must be important!)

This was but a brief outline. Ms. Friedman offers much more detail, and I encourage any determined blogger to give her advice a good read.

Still, as much as I must give credit for the soundness of these ideas, I don’t plan to follow them to the letter. For example, I will not be blogging several times a week, nor even weekly. In my view, we — the reading public — are already overwhelmed with content. Far better, I believe, to make two eagerly anticipated, interesting posts a month, than to create the burden of a raft of content sitting in your inbox like vultures waiting for their prey (hmm, that might be a mixed metaphor).

One of the best blogs I subscribe to is that of Dan Blank of We Grow Media (https://wegrowmedia.com/thepodcast/). Dan blogs only once a week (every Friday) and his content is superlative in tone and intent, with original, empathetic, supportive and community-oriented messages that are second to none. I’ve been reading him for several years now and always appreciate the photos of his two boys and their weekly meal.

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