For what it’s worth, my thoughts on blogging.

Recently Janet Reid, a respected literary agent at FinePrint Literary Management and future Queen Of The Known Universe, took a hiatus from her blog in order to await the Resurrection. During her time off she suggested to her minions that they should get to know each other by visiting each other’s blogs.

Ever obedient, that’s exactly what we did, and what a good idea it turned out to be. I now have a long list of blogs I’ll try to visit on a regular basis. Some are informative, others are simply entertaining, and quite a few are both. More on-line activity to keep me from getting book two finished. Yay.

Colin D. Smith often leaves comments on Ms. Reid’s blog, and has earned himself the dubious title of Mayor of Carkoon (please, don’t ask). When I checked out Colin’s blog he was on his third day of a very good idea called A to Z Challenge. The rules are simple. Write a story every day using 100 words or less, and have the title of the first piece start with an A. Colin’s first story is Air, his second is Balance (my favourite so far), third is Crab, and so on. Check Colin’s stories out here, http://www.colindsmith.com/blog/. They are great examples of writing concisely while keeping the reader interested and satisfied.

Over this past weekend I ran into two women interested in starting their own blogs. One is a young woman just learning about life, and the second is an older woman with a lot of life experience. Both are unsure of how to start and maintain a blog. Valid concerns, but easily fixed. I can help them get the blogs started, and content will come easily after the first post or two, as long as each of the women try  (and this might be tricky), to both forget and remember their readers (I’ll explain later). What they SHOULD worry about, is their writing.

It isn’t easy. Putting essential thoughts into the proper order using the necessary words to make the post logical, informative, and interesting, is time-consuming and often frustrating. You know what you want to say. You’re educated and understand basic grammar. But pouring these feelings  onto a blank screen is not easy. Be prepared to put some sweat into it. And don’t tell yourself you couldn’t care less if people like your blog or not, because that’s just a cop-out. If you don’t care about your readers then write in a notebook and stick it in a drawer.

Now ask yourself why you want to get your story out there. To inform? To entertain? To help others? All good reasons, but none of this will happen if the visitor to your blog gets; a) bored because you’re too long-winded (which is what’s happening to this post); b) cannot follow your train of thought because you’re haphazardly skipping along with no organization of thought; or c) (which is the worst) it’s all about you. No one else is really interested in your life story UNLESS they can relate to it. And if they can, then they’ll want to input their story, compare with your story, there will be sympathy and empathy, and by then you’ll have the start of a good blog. Which brings me to…

Forget and remember your readers. While you’re drafting your blog, forget about who might read it. Get everything you want to say on the screen, ignore all the suggestions I just pointed out and get the important stuff down. Don’t worry about what other people will think of it at this time.

Then revise. If you’re going to write, even if all you ever want to write is a blog, revision is a very important part, if not THE biggest part. Make sure your post is cohesive, correct in spelling and grammar, and then remember who’ll be reading it. Will they care about the topic? Is it entertaining, or informative, or better yet, both? And keep in mind, some comments might not be favourable, or even related to your post (scammers…ptooey). Your blog should be set up so you can approve or delete comments before they are seen by anyone else. And when you reply to comments, be sure you are polite, even if they disagree with what you’ve posted.

Lastly, do not post, or comment for that matter, when you’re not in your right mind. Too angry, too sad, too drunk. Do not post until you’ve read, re-read, re-re-read and revised until it hurts. In other words, anything you write after 11 pm at night should wait until after you’ve had a good night’s sleep before you hit the publish button. Hit ‘publish’ only when you’re satisfied that what you have written will not embarrass someone you care about, and you’re stone cold sober.

Back to Colin. Remember Colin? Mentioned him at the start of this post? He writes great little stories in 100 words or less. And he can do this because he practices. A lot. He is not offensive, he uses humour to get his point across, and you would do well to use his blog as a template.

We’ve missed this April’s alphabet challenge (you can find out more about it on Colin’s site), but you can challenge yourself no matter what the month. Start May 1. Write stories, or comment on movies, or review books, or whatever it is you’re interested in, all in 100 words or less. Doesn’t need to be on-line if you’re not ready for that yet, just keep a notebook and practice writing before you put it out into cyberspace. Make every word count. Make it interesting. Make it informative. Make it something, and then the next day, make it something a little bit better. And eventually, as it is with anything you practice on a regular basis, it will get easier, more satisfying, and sometimes actually fun.

And now, here’s a picture of my dog’s butt.

maple's butt

 

 

 

You’re welcome.

 

 

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13 Responses to For what it’s worth, my thoughts on blogging.

  1. Colin says:

    Wow–thanks for the shout-out, AJ! I have been at this blog thing for a few years, and trying to be concise and to-the-point can be a challenge. Especially when you don’t think you have anything to say, so you end up rambling. The 100 word challenges are really helpful to me because they make me hone my editing skills, trying to find one word to replace 3, 4, or 5. My natural tendency runs counter: finding 10 words to replace one or two. :)

    Probably the #1 problem most bloggers seem to face is, “What do I talk about?” I suggest finding a blog article that speaks to you in some way, then write about it. Link to the article (which will make you a new friend), and share a paragraph or two about why that article is meaningful to you. Interact with the article a bit. That should help get you acclimated to blogging.

    Thanks again, AJ. Good post! :)

    • ajcap says:

      You’re welcome, Colin, I do enjoy your 100 words every morning. I’ll be sorry when April is over. :)

      Babbling is also my tendency, but at least now I can see the problem and know how to fix it…usually. If I can’t fix it, I generally take the extra words out altogether.

      Good suggestion about the ideas for blogging, I’ll remember it when I’m called upon to help my friends set a blog up. I’m so used to my website, I’ll have to brush up on starting just a blog. Lots of sites to choose from now, and probably new formatting, but I’ll blunder my way through it.

      One question about your site; you don’t have a heading titled ‘blog’, so if I go snooping around your other titles, how do I get back to your A to Z challenge? Just keep hitting the back arrow? Or am I missing something?

      • Colin says:

        Every week on the blog I’ve been doing a Flash Friday feature where I use a Random Word Generator to produce 5 words and then write a story using those words (sound familiar?). Until now I’ve been allowing myself up to 200 words (and sometimes a little over), but after this month I’m thinking of scaling that back to 100 words. So if you want a flash fix after April, just check back every Friday. :)

        You can use the back arrows, or you can click on my name at the top and that will take you back to the main blog screen. At the moment I don’t have anything other than my blog. If you go to http://www.colindsmith.com it will auto-forward to the blog. One day, when I’m a published writer, I anticipate using http://www.colindsmith.com to give info about books, signings, readings, etc., and the blog will continue to be the blog.

        • ajcap says:

          It does sound familiar, lol.

          I think 200 to 300 words is fine! Every Day Fiction allows 1000 words and it doesn’t take up much of my time to read, but I find the most enjoyable stories are around 400 – 500 words. Still a challenge to write, and leaves a lot to the imagination of the reader.

          I will be checking in frequently, Colin. And as for Bouchercon, all rooms in all three hotels are booked solid. Sigh.

  2. LindaMS says:

    You’re ending this blog with a photo of your dog’s end? LOL! What you’llI really enjoy your sense of humor, Amanda.
    I did have one question – well, OK, two questions. How often should you put a new post on your blog? And, if you’ve had a long hiatus (and I’m talking over a year or more here) is it permissible to repost an old blog to remind people who you are and get them back into the swing of your posts?
    Three questions; goes your blog have to be directly related to what your book is apt, or can you write about what interests you at that time?

    • ajcap says:

      LINDA MS! How the hell are you? I miss you, but every now and then you show up out of nowhere and it’s always a nice surprise.

      How often to post is a good question, but can only be answered by you. How much time can you devote to your blog? Don’t set unrealistic goals, set achievable goals.

      Sorry. That came out sounding like advice from somebody’s mother. But I’ll let it stand. Take the pressure off yourself, enjoy your blog, and post whenever something strikes you as interesting. On the flip side, if something only interests you once a year, your life is boring and you should get out more.

      And sure, I think it’s a good idea to repost. My buddy, Barb Taub, is a very funny lady and she often reposts columns she wrote during her newspaper days. Check her out http://barbtaub.com/
      These days my posts are usually about writing. My books, or someone else’s books, or ideas for writing, because reading and writing are two of my favourite things to do. But three years ago, when I first started blogging, I wrote about anything I found funny or interesting, no matter what the subject.

      Now, having said all this, I would recommend writing on a regular basis. Once every two weeks shouldn’t be too hard to handle, and if you make it the same day, say every second Wednesday, then people would know to check in. And I’d keep them short, 300 to 500 words. There are so many blogs out there, and attention spans are notoriously short, so your writing needs to be concise. Again, though, there are blogs that prove me wrong. Some ramble on and can be entertaining for a short while, but cannot keep up the momentum for any length of time. They become tedious. Like this comment. I am now, officially, rambling.

      Hope this helps. And stop in more often, let me know how you’re doing! You’ve been there for me since the beginning and I’ve never set eyes on you! :)

      • LindaMS says:

        I’m finally at the stage where this move to Michigan is becoming a reality instead of a nightmare. It’s a really long story and I’ll tell you about it when we meet up someday. I’ll be up to Michigan this next week to prepare it for getting my stuff moved in.
        I was so glad to see you’re writing your second book! I’ll be the first in line to buy that one also. I can barely wait!
        I’m glad that you can blog about non-book related topics. The two books I’m trying to find the time to write are wildly different in types and styles. My proposed blog topics are even more so. Friends from my old local writing group are voting that I blog on my “life stories.” Mostly because I don’t take them seriously and they end up laughing. (They’re easily amused.) Plus, I find them very easy to write, which would help me to keep up on my blogs. That and the fact that I’ll have so much time when I’m not preoccupied by this endless move. I’m even getting a few written ahead of time for when my brain refuses to work.
        Once every two weeks would seem doable then. See how I say that with full confidence? So look for my blog staying back up then.
        It’s great to hear from you again. Once the moving company is finished and my livestock is moved in, we should finally meet.
        In the meantime, I’m looking forward to reading more of your blog again. And following Barb Taub again since I enjoy her posts also.

        • ajcap says:

          Linda, as long as you keep writing, whether it’s your blog or short stories, flash or a book, it’s all good practice. My second book is turning out be even more difficult to write than the first. I’m putting more onus on myself to make it better that ABOB and I’ve received feedback from an agent that is making me want to almost totally rewrite. Change from first person to third person close. So…no idea when this one will be ready to go but I’ll be giving updates on the blog

          Let me know when you get to Michigan, we will make a date to meet somewhere half way. We’ll make a weekend out of it and have our own little writing conference. :)

  3. LindaMS says:

    I’m writing this post on my phone, so some of those words are NOT the words that I intended. Sigh… *#! $*! auto correct.

  4. W.R. Gingell says:

    I’ve really enjoyed getting around and visiting all the different blogs, too. Such a vast array of completely different content! I now have a whole heap of blogs I’m following that I wasn’t before I started.

    As for the dog-butt, all I can say is, at least it’s not cat-butt 😀 Nice to see there’s more writers out there who go with dogs instead of cats 😀

    • ajcap says:

      For me, it’s dog-butts all the way. Which is a sentence I never thought I’d write. :)

      I’m enjoying the visiting as well, but Holy Hannah, there’s a lot to visit. Janet has many, many followers. Glad you’ve stopped in to see me, nice of you to visit!

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