Should You Have a Blog, Too?

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Maybe my immediate answer to this question should be no (after all, I don’t want too much competition for the reading time of the audience out there) but there has been an explosion in blog numbers in the past few years and I’m hardly one to lecture others – after all, I’m relatively late to the party. I’ve only had my blog for about nine months.

But my more considered response is to think about why you are contemplating starting a blog and to make sure you understand what is involved. Here’s some pros, cons and tips that might be able to help you decide.

Pros
Meeting Deadlines
One of my suggestions is to post to a consistent schedule. If you do this, you will have deadlines that need to be met. It’s a terrific skill to be able to meet deadlines, in both writing lives and working lives (assuming you aren’t lucky enough for your writing life to be your working life). Having a blog gives you a chance to practise this skill without the sometimes terrible consequences that might befall you in a professional context if you fail.

Consistent Effort
Having a blog inevitably means a requirement to develop a lot of content. I can easily say that this year, the first of my blog, has been the most productive writing year of my life. And the variety of my content has refreshed my enjoyment of writing. Apart from the quantity being high, the quality is up there as well because I’ve been writing about so many different things and not getting fed up trying to write the same thing a million different ways.

Your Writing Is Out There
I spent a lot of time when I was younger locked in my bedroom writing. Which was fine. It was all part of my writing journey. But I got to my late twenties and realised I was a decade behind where I should have been because I wasn’t putting my writing out there to be read.

If you want to be diarist, then I highly recommend the hidden bedroom writing model. If you want it to be something more one day (like a paying job), then being accessible and developing a reputation as a good writer is an important part of the process. I’ve had readers from as far away as Ireland, Chile, Canada and many other places that I never would have been able to reach had it not been for my blog.

Your Writing Is In One Location
My online footprint really began in 2012 when I published my first novel, Enemies Closer. I started posting book reviews on Goodreads. I started my Twitter account. I did interviews. And in 2014 I began writing articles on employment and posting them on LinkedIn. Slowly, I started to realise that I had a lot of content in a lot of very diverse places, sometimes under slightly different names (on Goodreads I’m listed as L.E. Truscott, the name I published my first novel under). Anyone who wanted to read me would have to have gone to some trouble to find me in all those locations.

Now that I have my blog, all my different types of writing are easily accessible and anyone googling my name will see my blog come up in the first page of results. Much easier for my readers.
Also easier for my potential employers. Now when anyone asks to see samples of my writing, I can direct them to my blog.

Marketing Tool
When I published my first novel, one of the real difficulties was getting the message out there. Now that I have a blog, I can use it as one of the many channels to do just that.

Cons
Time Away From Other Writing
I openly admit it. I have spent so much time writing for my blog that my current novel in progress has been put on the backburner. The only thing that really makes this a con is if you regret the time and consider it wasted. I don’t. I’m trying to think of the time away from my novel as a much needed break. But if I was a glass half empty kind of person, I might look at the past few months and wonder how much further along in writing my novel I could have been.

Unending New Content Required
You have to keep developing and posting new content otherwise it looks like you are neglecting your blog. And sometimes we all experience the problem of running out of ideas. As I’m only nine months in, I haven’t reached that point yet but it’s highly likely I will.

To try to prevent this, I keep an ideas board on which I write one-sentence proposals to myself on concepts for new blog posts. Often these ideas will come to me just as I’ve turned the light off and am trying to sleep but I get up every time to write them down. Here are some that are on the ideas board at the moment:

*Taking inspiration from the things around you every day – I thought of this as I looked at the stuff stuck to my refrigerator and wondered what the police would be able to tell from it if I was the victim or the perpetrator of a crime and they were searching my house for clues.

*The importance of being good at more than one kind of writing – I have an idea for a new novel and I am considering writing it as a series of prose chapters, diary entries, emails, newspaper articles, online chats, transcripts and anything else that seems interesting.

*Just because you have an idea doesn’t mean you have time to develop it – I have so many ideas for novels that never get acted upon for logistical reasons.

*Character development strategies, perhaps psychoanalysis – some of the blog posts I have written were developed as updated versions of the weekly pieces I had to write when I was studying my Master’s degree and this is one of them still to be developed.

*The relationship between reading and writing – another former Master’s topic.

*Are you conscious of the reader as you write? Another former Master’s topic.

*Where have all the idealists gone? Something I wondered as I watched a news report on refugees and thought about again as I discussed with someone how people leave jobs with toxic cultures. While I understand the inclination to run, I also wondered how anything will ever change if nobody stays to take a stand.

*Confessions of a reformed perfectionist – I just liked this as a title but as a reformed perfectionist (it’s a constant everyday struggle, a bit like alcoholism), I thought there might be a blog post in this.

*The trick to coming up with good book titles and article headlines – this is a genuine skill and an important part of marketing anything you write.

Keep an eye out in the future to see if any of these make it past the ideas board stage.

Tips
Pick the Brain of an Experienced Blogger
I knew nothing about blogging when I first started. I didn’t even know which platform to use. So I talked to someone I knew who had her own blog and asked a lot of questions.

Pick a Title
You can just use your own name or you can come up with something that is going to stick in people’s minds, but remember that you are not just creating a blog, you’re creating a brand.
Of course, you need to make sure that you don’t pick a title that’s already in use, so do a bit of research first. The platform you choose will help you a little in this regard as it won’t let you have a web address that is already in use but there are multiple platforms.
Just make sure it’s personal and relevant.

Pick a Topic
My blog is obviously a writing blog (and by extension a reading blog as well). I post examples of my writing, book reviews, tips on the craft, and discussion points on the areas that tend to trip up writers, that sort of thing.

But I know from the weekly emails I get from Bloglovin’ and WordPress that the most popular blogs tend to be about fashion, food and fitness. Mommy bloggers seem to get a lot of attention as well. You can write about anything.

Once you’ve picked a topic, you don’t have to stick to it religiously. You can set up a category called “Off Topic” and post on things slightly left (or right) of your normal post subjects. Readers don’t mind a bit of variety.

Decide How Often You Want to Post…
There are no rules about how often you should post. It has to be your decision. Think about how much time you want to devote to writing blog posts and how much time you want to devote to other activities. There’s no point deciding to post daily if you don’t have the time to develop that much content.

…Then Stick to It
Once you’ve made a decision on how often you want to post, make sure you stick to the schedule. Your readers will look out for a post once they get to know your posting schedule and if you miss one, then you’re missing an opportunity to have guaranteed readers for your writing.

Write Posts Well in Advance
I don’t want to feel like I’m spending all my time writing for my blog so I set aside a few weeks and try to write as many blog posts as I can. Then I schedule them to be released on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays every week. Even though this blog was posted on 25 September, I wrote it all the way back on 9 July and I am probably at the moment developing content that won’t appear until December or January.

Which means I am giving myself plenty of down time before I need to think about developing new blog content. In the interim, I can work on my other writing, socialise, renovate the house, whatever else I want to do in order to have a more well-rounded life. It also means when the time eventually comes, I will be fresh and ready to write.

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