I guess this post was just meant to be.
As I sat down to write a post for April 26, I realized that my one year blog-iversary had come and gone. I began this blog sometime around April 20-something, 2012. I thought I’d missed the date in all the promo hullabaloo.
Nope. I went back to check the dates of my first posts: lists of quotes from “The Crimson League” and a character bio of Kora Porteg.
The date? April 26, 2012.
Happy First Blog-iversary to me!
WHAT I’VE LEARNED IN A YEAR OF BLOGGING
I started this blog last year without any real concept of what running a blog entailed or what I should be doing. I’d just released “The Crimson League,” and I’d heard that authors should have blogs, so this was what I did. I’ve “learned by doing” and taken baby step after baby step.
I needed a few months to get the hang of things and build up a following. But now I’m on my way, with a writer’s handbook in the works based upon my posts, 29,000 total hits so far, and almost 700 followers.
Here are the most important lessons I’ve learned about blogging this year.
- Learn from the experts. I started off experimenting with different things, but how I should have started was by doing research: finding, following, and studying successful bloggers and and interesting blogs, to see what characteristics they had in common. You know, characteristics I could employ to make my own blog more engaging.
- Engage your readers. You do this by exploring interesting questions in your posts, and then posing more at the end. Seriously: ask for comments and other points of view by ending a post with a question or two, related to the topic of hand, for readers to respond to. When people do respond, answer back thoughtfully.
- Remember: people want to leave their mark on your site. Blogs should be interactive, by nature. People want to comment when they have something useful to add, because that lets other readers on your blog find them. People will comment if you provide them thoughtful lead-in questions. And they’ll be grateful for the guidance about how they can truly contribute.
- Remember to learn from your readers. I cannot tell you have much wisdom regarding the writing process, and even marketing, I’ve learned from you guys. When people say, “This has been my experience….” or “I do things a bit differently….” or “Have you tried this…?” I just love it! I’ve learned new approaches to old problems. And just as important, I’ve learned I’m not alone in this whole “trying to be a writer” thing.
- Be yourself. Never try to force a sense of style that isn’t you. For instance, I’m not really that humorous a person. I can be funny from time to time, in a specific way. When I know I’m a mood to pull that off, I’ll write one of my “funny lists” posts. Otherwise, I don’t force it. I admire witty people, because I’m not one of them, and I’m fine with that. I’m infinitely better–more successful–at being who I am than pretending to be someone else.
- Foster an informal, comfortable atmosphere. You want people to feel at ease when they come to your blog. Basic common sense–not to mention human decency–means you don’t attack people in your posts. Use language you know won’t put people on edge. Don’t respond viciously to comments that respectfully present an opposing point of view. And if someone posts comments attacking you or others, you trash and block said comment. (Thankfully, I have never had to do this. Yea for a respectful readership! I appreciate that, y’all.)
- Listen to your readers. Especially when they suggest an idea for a post. You know you’ve arrived when people start asking you, “Can you write about this? I wondered what your thoughts were.” My very first social media post came because someone asked me what my thoughts about Twitter were, and if I had suggestions about how to use it. Now, some of my most viewed, shared, and commented posts have been the ones about how to use social media as an author.
- Blog regularly. You don’t need a new post daily, but you should publish posts on a regular basis. When you have a moment to do it, try to get a queue of posts written and scheduled to go live, so that if things get hectic, your regular blog schedule won’t be interrupted.