Scott Marlowe
Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

How Much Time Should Writers Spend Blogging?

From time to time I like to put on the ol' hazmat suit and delve into the dusty archives of this blog. There's some gems hidden deep inside its bowels, but with so much dust covering them they don't get the attention they crave. Here then is a post from my archive. I've only touched it up a little, just to keep the facts straight. Or maybe I've touched it up a lot because my voice has changed over time. In any case, here it is.

IMG20002There was a pretty good take on the Vigorous Writing blog (which apparently, as of 11/28/08, has disappeared) concerning the question of how much time one should spend blogging.

Of note:

"Newer writers still trying to build their credibility and client list might protest that they have much more free time than Bly has and they need to find a way to market themselves so blogging is a great, forward-thinking way of doing it. There's something to that, but honestly, I think it's an easy way out, the path of least resistance--what new writers should probably be doing, instead of blogging and reading other blogs and commenting on other blogs and brain-storming ideas for their latest blog post, is what many writers hate doing--cold-calling for leads non-stop."

This guy's talking like a freelancer, which is all well and fine if that's what you do. But I like to look at things from my own perspective, and I'm not a freelancer. However, his point—that writers need to have a pipeline—is very relevant for all writers. What I really don't agree with is his take on blogging. Despite social media, blogging remains relevant as a marketing tool, a way of increasing exposure, and as a way to connect with like-minded individuals. However, unless you're really stupid and trying to blog every day like I am, it can really become a time sink.

According to one referenced blogger in the article, one shouldn't spend more than 10 minutes/day or an hour/week blogging. How in the world are you supposed to have any quality posts with such time constraints? Geez.

Another blogger says to blog in moderation--only post every 4-6 days. That way each post has time to stew, be read, and garner comments.

Robin Hobb weighed in on the issue in a decidedly negative (but productive) way. Her reasoning is that time spent blogging is time NOT spent writing. (2013-02-13 - Unfortunately I couldn't find the post where she said that, but it's funny as I look at her blog that it appears she's now blogging quite regularly. Guess she changed her mind). In a way, blogging is a distraction, and we all know that distraction is the enemy. Another way to look at is this: ask yourself if you are a creator or a consumer? Or, are you a writer or a reader? Writers write, including blog posts.

What it really boils down to is finding a happy medium between the two. For some that medium might be more of one and less of the other, or it might be both in equal portions. It's up to the individual and, ultimately, one's goals.

BlogEngine.NET 1.4 released

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If you're using BlogEngine (like me), then you'll be pleased to know that version 1.4 has been released.

Al Nyveldt has come up with an upgrade guide to ease the transition.

Last, if you need a few reasons to upgrade, here's a taste of what's new:

  • Universal database provider (MySQL, SQL Server, VistaDB, Oracle etc.)
  • Drag ‘n drop widget framework (prototype video)
  • Author profiles using ASP.NET profile provider
  • Subcategories
  • Password encryption
  • Better performance
  • Tag selector in control panel
  • Semantic formats (FOAF, SIOC and APML)

I'm planning my migration strategy, the first step of which entails finding time to do it. Remember to backup EVERYTHING before you get started. Better safe than sorry.

Stay on target... stay on target!

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Whenever I’m reminded of the need to remain focused I’m in turn reminded of a famous line from Star Wars:

“Stay on target… stay on target!”

Of course, this line was spoken by a character known only as “Gold Five” during the final assault on the Death Star shortly before he’s blown to pieces. Gold Five was too focused, and didn’t see those Tie fighters coming.

Staying focused is important. Not only that, but fulfilling your end of the deal is important also. In blogging, we have a sort of contract with our readers. Sometimes, bloggers get off-topic. That’s OK sometimes. But then they do it again. Unless your blog is truly about whatever, I firmly believe in more or less sticking to the focus of the blog. I certainly don’t want to read about football on a fantasy mag editor’s blog or politics on a fantasy author’s. I get plenty of both from other sources.

Not only that, but certain topics (like politics) can get pretty heated. About a week ago I was reading about a publishing dinner party (I wish I could dig up the link) in which two of the guests started talking about Obama and McCain. Next thing you know the two are jumping over the table and engaging in a not-so-sporting match of fisticuffs. We’re entering the silly season of politics, so expect more of that.

But I, for one, refuse to waste my time reading blogs that promise one topic then deliver another.

I’m using my own attitude as a reminder to myself to “stay on target… stay on target!”

With that, this rant is concluded.

Popular Posts

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Thanks to Al Nyveldt for providing a most useful extension/widget to track my most popular posts.

You can see what it looks like to the right. I had started with just the "Top 5". That quickly changed to the "Top 7" just because I figured why not show a couple more than just 5? Of course, 7 is kind of an odd number. You don't see Letterman doing a "Top 7", after all. So, I bumped it up to the current number that it is now, 10.

The widget is great. It allows me to showcase posts beyond those that show up on my home page while also giving me and my readers a quick look at how many views each post has gotten.

The interesting thing about displaying my popular posts is seeing how they almost jockey for position. Just days after I bumped the display count to 10, one of the posts fell off as newer entries (here and here) overtook it. It seems to be staying fairly consistent now, with several of my various posts about Tor's Free E-book Giveaway scoring the most views. I expect it to continue to change, though, as fresh posts overtake the "stale" ones.

If you have such a feature available via your blogging software, I highly recommend making use of it

Unpublished Writers: Web Sites and Blogs Recommended

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Agent Kristin of PubRants fame talked yesterday about web sites and blogs, and if unpublished writers should have either or both.

Something I've often wondered about is whether or not an agent or publisher bothers to look at a writer's site. I know I've read in the past about specific ones who do not; Agent Kristin lays this question to rest (inasmuch as she's concerned, anyway):

"When reviewing sample pages where we like the writing, we’ll often give the writer website a glance and see what’s there. I don’t bother if the sample pages haven’t caught my interest."

She goes on to offer a few tips:

"Don’t have a website/blog unless it can be a professional one. The homemade sites look it and just make me cringe. It won’t keep me from asking for your full (or if I like the novel, offering representation) but it’s not putting your best foot forward and that’s never a benefit."

This is a given. We're not aspiring to become professionals--we already are professionals; we want our web site or blog to reflect that. Choose colors that are easy on the eyes. Use a layout that makes sense. There are a ton of resources available on the web that discuss how to choose color schemes or even ones that generate one for you. If you're using WordPress or Blogger or, if you've chosen to be a little more adventurous like me and opted to use BlogEngine.NET, choose a theme that both complements your message while maintaining a professional look.

Content? Agent Kristin says:

"...the standard. About you, what you are working on, any cool interests you have that might inspire your writing, workshops you are doing, critique partners or anything about the writing process."

And the most important aspect of our blogs and web sites:

"...remember that the writing you have there needs to be representative of you and your good work. It doesn’t have to be perfect but you shouldn’t blog if the writing doesn’t represent your “usual” quality."

We've all read about the job candidate whose prospective employer decided to take a look at their blog... keep the content professional and relevant but, more importantly, put your best quality out there. If you're still learning the craft (we all are), think of your blog as a way to hone your writing skills. Use the same attention to detail when writing blog entries as you do when writing your "stuff". Do a rough draft, revise, proofread. If you happen to be looking through an old post and notice a typo or some other oddity, fix it. Our blog entries remain forever, indexed by Google and other search engines, so who knows when someone is going to access that post you wrote 2 years ago. Make sure that first impression is as good a one as if that person landed on your current home page or latest blog entry.

Now I need to practice what I preach and do some proofreading of my own on this post.

Good luck with your writing.