It’s been five years since my first blog post was published all the way back in June 2016. Since then I’ve blogged monthly and never missed a month. Some have been carefully thought through pieces, like my bit of reportage on a series of mysterious deaths in Finland, and some have been thrown together on publication day (like, ahem, this one). Either way, I’ve learned a lot over that time so here’s five of the biggies you should know about blogging.
1. People like numbers
People are much more likely to read blogs if the titles include ‘[insert number here] things I learnt… / reasons to… / dinners that will.. / golfers who…’
My most popular blog post (by hella far!) is ‘Four reasons not to read Stephen King as an eleven year old’ which gets a thousand or so views a year from parents who take one quick look at it, realise it isn’t particularly useful to them and move on quickly enough. On the other hand, two of my favourite of my number-in-the-title-blogposts include ‘10 writing fails: My life in bad writing’ and ‘8 things I learnt about life from spilt milk’
2. There are surefire ways to make your blog a hit
You need to establish a consistent voice and brand and ideally build up a network of fellow bloggers to share and support each other’s work. I heartily recommend you do all this. I, however, only briefly attempted it then stopped bothering. Instead, I’ve spent the last five years writing about whatever interested me from an account of a social worker’s burnout to a visit to a remarkable bookshop to interviews with fantastic and inspiring authors and, as the ads say, much, much more. Some of my blogposts have slipped by unnoticed. Some have caught attention and engaged readers. Some days it rains. Some days it don’t.
3. Blogging is a great way for writers to practise failing
When a blogpost flops, nothing happens. It just goes out into the world and no one notices it. No likes except for a couple of my kind hearted buddies. No reads. No shares. No nothing. It just floats off into the ether, forgotten. And, yes, there’s still a sting to this, especially if I’ve put a lot of work into it. But on the other hand there’s no one star reviews on goodreads, no rejection letters from agents and no one asking you, ‘How’s it going with that blogpost?’ No one notices the failure. You learn pretty soon that the hits are less common than the flops. You learn that as long as you’re happy with what you’ve written, you can’t control what others think. You just keep at it.
4. Blogging builds community
One of the reasons I started to blog was to get to know other writers, both established and up and coming. It worked. Although I’m a little hit and miss with Twitter these days, my blogs keep me connected with other writers. Whether it was with my recent interviews over Twitter DMs or doing my one year long, twelve blog series called The Story Thief Challenges or just through sharing and commenting, I’ve got to know loads of writers and made plenty of friends. They help keeps me connected to the writing world and from floating off into writerly self-absorption. Well, somewhat.
5. Always make the last point something sorta sentimental and meaningful
Right back at the start when I was still trying to do blog this stuff properly, some website, probably the excellent Annerallen.com., recommended bloggers pick a schedule and stick to it. I chose to do a blog on the first monday or every month (or, like today, on the Tuesday if the Monday was a bank holiday) and I’ve kept to that. It’s been five years and I’ve never missed that deadline.
On one level, it’s because I’m stingy. There’s an annual fee for this website. I can’t be wasting that money so I have to keep using it, but, of course, it’s more than just that. This blog post has keep me going writing wise at times.
All other aspects of my writing life are out of my control and have been far more challenging and taken far longer than I expected. However no matter how my novel writing or querying is going, I’m in charge of this blog and some months it’s felt like my only achievement. In that context, it’s fantastic that every month, I get to finish something, submit it to the publisher and get it accepted. I feel a little glow of pride each time a new blog post goes out into the world. ‘I made that,’ I think to myself.