Short answer: consistently.
Here’s a better question: if I want to be a novelist and not a blogger, should I bother at all?
Blogging for Writers, by Robin Houghton
A while ago (way back in November 2021–the library graciously keeps auto-renewing the book for me because someone decided charging fines for overdue books is mean) I checked out a book titled Blogging for Writers: How Authors and Writers Build Successful Blogs by Robin Houghton.
The book caught my attention, not just because of the title, which is to-the-point, and relevant to my own interest in blogging, but because of the visually appealing design of the book–square instead of the traditional rectangular book-shape, and every page visually appealing, filled with graphics, framed in a different pastel color designating which chapter each page belonged to.
Every page in chapter one (“First Things First”) is bordered in a cool, blue-gray hue, the sort of calming, neutral color an interior designer might choose to paint a living room.
Not too far into the book, Neil Gaiman’s blog is featured on page 11. Next to him is Seth Godin, described as an “entrepreneur, business author, and public speaker,” and “one of the blogosphere’s big players” who receives over half-a-million visitors a month. He publishes a blog post every day.
I immediately looked up Mr. Godin’s blog on my phone while I stood in the middle of the library shelves. Sure enough, his blog was updated for that day (November 7th, I think, the day I checked out the book).
And as of today, May 30th, 2022, he updated his blog with a 163 word post titled “Personal Responsibility.”
If we dump something in the river, are we responsible for what happens to people downstream?
What if you buy something from someone who dumps something in the river?An excerpt from Seth Godin’s blog, dated May 30, 2022.
Seth Godin’s blog posts are extremely short, with no pictures. Is that the key to frequent and consistent blogging? Brevity and no pictures?
In my experience, the more images I include, the longer it takes me to publish my blog post, and the longer I take, the more likely I am to abandon the whole thing.
Later in the book on page 76, from the chapter “The Power of Images,” the author recommends including pictures. Good images can make the difference between deciding to read and clicking away. Another section suggests writing every single day.
I want to be a novelist, not a blogger. My time is limited. Given my career goals, do I really need to be blogging as often as the book suggests?
I skimmed through the rest of the book, which is mostly about how to set up and maintain a WordPress website, something I already know how to do.
The book is eight years old, published in 2014. I wondered how much of the advice in the book is outdated.
Given my career ambitions, blogging doesn’t seem to be the best use of my limited time. I think writing and publishing short stories on other websites would be more helpful for my writing career. I would love to upload audio narrations of my stories on YouTube and accompany them with professional illustrations, which, I believe, would attract more attention than random pings on my blog posts.
And yet… I kind of like blogging.
I keep a private journal and enjoy writing in it. Should I use my public blog to post an occasional journal entry?
The blogs of T.C. Boyle and Neil Gaiman often read like journal entries. T.C. Boyle summarizes his thoughts about the past month. Gaiman, who titled his blog “Journal,” keeps his audience updated on his projects such as a stage adaptation of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, or the TV series based on his Good Omens novel… (oh what? Neil Gaiman was in San Diego on May 5th? How did I miss that?).
Four Reasons Why I Don’t Blog More Often
1) Not enough time
I write in the mornings and quit at noon for a lunch break. I spend the rest of my afternoons doing everything else that needs my attention–bills, appointments, vehicle tune-ups, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, etc. The day goes by quickly.
I have a hundred other things I’d like to do with my free time. Read a book. Write in my journal. Learn to draw. Organize the family photos. Not to mention all the other hobbies I’ve taken up and abandoned due to lack of time–violin, piano, hammered dulcimer. And of course, spending time with my family. I don’t want to spend every waking minute of my day writing.
I come up with so many blog ideas I can’t keep up. What’s slowing me down is my perfectionism. I’ll start writing, then set it aside for a day or two. Next thing I know, a month has gone by and the topic is already outdated. It takes me half of forever to write anything, including stories. Anything I’ve just written looks like garbage.
People have become mean, easily offended, and vindictive these days. It doesn’t seem worth it to express an opinion on a blog post, only to have it taken the wrong way and tank my writing career.
There’s a little voice inside my head telling me no one reads my blog. No one cares, except maybe an occasional Facebook friend or random person who happens to stumble on my website. Is it worth it to blog when I could be using that time to write fiction?
I’ve got three published stories to my name. My two completed, unpublished novels didn’t make it through the querying grinder, and I’ve got nothing ready to peddle to literary agents at the moment. Why would I want to spend my time blogging when I’ve got a novel to finish? And who in the world would want to read my blog when there are literally thousands of other blogs out there competing with each other for attention? Why should I blog at all?
Blogging Strategies That Work in 2022
Jane Friedman, April 21, 2022 Writers Digest webinar
Years ago, I bought a Great Courses lecture series titled How To Publish Your Book taught by Jane Friedman and found her advice helpful. So when Writer’s Digest University advertised a webinar taught by Jane Friedman called Blogging Strategies That Work in 2022, (April 21, 2022), I signed up.
I’ll share some of my notes from her webinar.
Blogging, in the beginning.
According to Jane Friedman, blogging started in the early 2000s, like a journal practice. Before search engines took over, before the days of social media, blogging was intimate and personal, novel and exciting.
Fast forward to today.
Blogging has changed. Now we have social media to share our thoughts and feelings. There are also search engines that direct us to certain content. And there’s a lot more competition.
The Downsides of Blogging
Maybe you should not pursue blogging if…
- You prefer to be anonymous (defeats the whole point)
- You have pressing (paid) work
- You feel drained/poor fit for your strengths
- Someone told you that you should
If you’re motivated to blog to attract an agent or editor
- Unlikely to work for novelists
- Think through how agents or editors will find out about your blog
- Consider if social media is more appropriate
For novelists: want to publish fiction on website? Rethink that.
- Try instead: Wattpad, Radish, Tapas, Kakao
- Posting fiction on your own blog is usually a path to nowhere. Most of us don’t want to read fiction on your website.
Blogging takes a lot of time and patience. You need to commit for a year before seeing payoffs.
And Yet, the Upsides
Why blogging can still work well for writers
- It’s a natural extension of what you already do: write.
- It grows your body of work.
- It can test ideas and show you what’s working.
- You can re-use or repurpose material.
- It’s a good creative practice.
What blogging can accomplish
- Build your readership (platform)
- Gain visibility in your community (networking)
- Sales (earn money), a long-term goal
Practice literary citizenship: Interviews, book reviews, author Q&As
- Particularly good option for novelists, poets, memoirists (works for anyone). New books and upcoming books.
- Ideal: focus on new and upcoming books
But you can also benefit from searches of popular authors and books
- Example: Stephen King Still Fears Failure: How about you?
- Example: 5 Lessons in Publishing Success From Bella Andre, by Jane Friedman
Or you can take a niche approach
- Example: Top 5 Most Disgusting, Revolting, Gross and Hilarious Kids books
I’m not going to share her entire lecture here. After all, she’s trying to earn a living and would like you to pay her for this precious information. Besides, much of the information she presented during the webinar is available for free on her own blog.
I had the opportunity to ask Jane Friedman a couple of questions via the online chat forum. Here are her answers.
ME: Do you know if literary agents expect blogs from unpublished writers seeking representation?
ANSWER: No, it is not an expectation. They do expect nonfiction authors to have a platform, but having a platform doesn’t mean you must blog.
ME: My time is limited. Would it be better to blog in my spare time or focus on shorter fiction and not blog?
ANSWER: If you enjoy writing shorter fiction and already know of places you’d want to submit to, I’d focus on that.
There’s the answer. Focus on writing fiction, not blogging.
I don’t think I’ll ever abandon my blog. I enjoy writing too much to do that. But I’m not going to worry about updating my blog every single month either. Or even every other month. Once a quarter is probably enough. I’ll try to follow Jane Friedman’s advice and keep my blog posts relevant to my own interests in writing and publishing for the sake of my website’s SEO. When I manage to publish any new stories, I’ll post a link to them in my blog.
Meanwhile, I should probably return the Blogging for Writers book to the library.