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.

Backup Your Stuff... Please?

I'm interrupting the regularly scheduled blog post, which would have been Part 2 of my Smashwords: All Function and No Form series, for this brief public service announcement about backing up your data.

First thing yesterday morning I discovered my web site was not behaving well. Long story short, my web hosting provider had somehow switched the version of .NET out from underneath my site. If that makes no sense, suffice to say they rendered the site unreachable. We only discovered this and got the site back up and running after speaking to three different customer support reps and wasting an hour and a half of my morning. I then spent a couple more hours throughout the day and last night fixing the last lingering problems. But the site was up and, most importantly, I didn't lose any data.

This little episode reminded me that it's been a while since I'd copied over the data folder off my server onto my local hard drive. I use GoDaddy to host this and other sites, and I've no idea if they perform backups of my content. I know they have something called Managed Backups, but that's an extra service you have to pay for. Besides, I don't want to have to rely on them. I need to know where my backup is and that I can do a restore at a moment's notice.

Here's how I do backups and restores of my web content. Restoring is so important a lot of IT people call it a "Restore Plan" rather than a backup plan. It makes sense. If you can't restore, what's the point of having the backup in the first place?

Backup Plan

  1. FTP files from web service down to local disk. This doesn't happen as often as it should and really is the weak link in my plan.
  2. Each blog post is emailed to me at the end of the day. This email goes in a special folder.
  3. Windows Backup runs weekly on my laptop, rolling up a backup to my home server.
  4. On my home server I have Carbonite running. Carbonite is a great, cheap service that allows you to have continuous backups running to their cloud storage with no limit on the amount of data. This means that as any file changes on the server, including my Windows backup files, those changes are uploaded to the cloud.

Restore Plan

I have two options: restore from my Windows backup files or restore from Carbonite. I've tested both approaches, so I know they work.

Conclusion

This is by no means a sophisticated backup/restore plan. My worst fear is I lose the hard drive on my laptop before Windows backup has had a chance to run. That's a distinct possibility. But then at least I already have everything on the web server. If that were to then go down, I'd lose a week of posts. That's not really that big of a deal.

As for my novels, works-in-progress, etc., I store those in my Dropbox folder. Dropbox provides continuous backup to the cloud and even keeps a version history. Their versioning actually bailed me out about a month ago when I accidentally deleted the draft for a post which for some reason I thought I'd already posted.

So, there you have it. Hopefully this will serve as a reminder to all to make sure your data is backed up. You just never know what's going to happen.

Blogging Every Day Redux

I've been blogging every day since October 26, 2012. Not a very long time in the grand scheme of things but one that has made a difference in a lot of varying areas in just the short amount of time I've been doing it. What are some of those ways? It's made me more disciplined as a writer and has allowed me to continue writing even when the creative well has run dry for the day. I'd like to take a look at some other metrics, namely traffic to this site, but in a future post and once I've been doing this for a longer period of time. While I've definitely seen traffic increase every month since October, I know some of that is seasonal as people tend to not go out as much during the winter months.

It is kind of interesting how a lot of people say blogging is on the out as it's been replaced by more concise mediums such as Twitter. I don't know. Twitter works for a lot of people as the only outlet they now need. But I don't think it satisfies all agendas. I think it's all about how you approach it. Blogging every day doesn't produce books (unless you meld the posts into a book, of course, which some have done). But, as a fiction writer, most of my blog entries aren't going into one of my stories. I do want to steer some topics more towards the content of my writing, though. I've been doing that on Friday's, doing map reveals, chapter breakdowns, and other info specific to one book or another. I'd like to continue with that, discussing my magic system, some of the races and people that populate my world, and other things.

But, for now, I just want to call out the three part series on blogging every day. Here it is.

  1. Why Blog Every Day
  2. How to Blog Every Day
  3. What to Blog Every Day

A new post, Part 4, will deal with some of my thoughts now that I've been doing this for about 4 months as well as taking a look at traffic, book sales, etc. I might post that one as early as next week though I might wait a bit longer to accumulate some more data. Until tomorrow.

Blogging Every Day, Part 3: What to Blog Every Day

I'm blogging every day. Here's a short series on the why, how, and what's of it.

  1. Why Blog Every Day
  2. How to Blog Every Day
  3. What to Blog Every Day (this post)

So far I've talked about the reasons I've started blogging every day as well as how I'm going about doing it. Now I want to dive into what I intend to blog about every day.

Coming up with content—ideas, really—isn't easy. But there are some general rules I'm setting up for structuring those ideas.

1. Sometimes write long, sometimes write short

I'm not holding myself to writing lengthy posts every day. Hopefully the shorter ones will still have some relevance, but there is a realistic limit to how much I can blog about as well as how much time I have to spend on it. My first priority remains my current novel-in-progress.

2. I won't shy away from reusing my own content

I have 2 novels, 2 short stories, and nearly 500 blog posts out there. That's a lot of content that I'm not going to shy away from re-using to fit my needs. I might take an excerpt out of my novels and post that. Or a favorite quote by a character. Or make a list highlighting posts on a particular topic which I feel might deserve a shout-out.

3. Take advantage of guest posts

I see this a lot on the blogs of others. Having someone else do the heavy lifting is a great way to keep the streak alive, get some fresh content, and build community spirit. In fact, I recently posted my very first featured guest post.

4. Break long posts into multi-part series

I don't like reading overly long blog posts. However, sometimes a topic requires such length. Those times I'll break the really long post into several smaller ones. Just like I'm doing with this one.

5. Make use of simple content

My Word of the Day posts are a good example of this. I find them relevant because I'm picking words I like or think are interesting or even pertinent to the fantasy genre and, let's face it, I'm not doing a whole lot of work. Wordnik picks the words and provides the definitions. I use their content and always credit them. I'd like to expand on this idea, though, and break into maybe a fantasy term or definition of the week sort of thing. This is something I need to explore some more.

My Weekly Schedule

I'm going to consistantly blog on a Mon-Sat schedule. For each day, I'll be focusing on the following:

  1. Monday: Word of the Day
  2. Tuesday: Substantial post of some sort
  3. Wednesday: Shout-out, either of one of my posts or series or maybe someone else's. This might alternate with author interviews or guest posts.
  4. Thursday: Substantial post of some sort
  5. Friday: Focus on some aspect of the World of Uhl where my novels are set or something else from the content of my writing. For ex., character profiles, info on places or races, maybe even some writing samples.
  6. Saturday: Writing progress for the week

Conclusion

Those are just some of the ways I intend to keep coming up with something to post. The danger is that it becomes wholly about the posting itself and not about the content. As soon as the content begins to suffer then I need to back away from blogging every day or make some serious adjustments if I intend to keep doing it. To tell you the truth, I don't know how long I'll keep this up. I imagine I'll get tired of it eventually. But if you stick around you'll get to see how far I go and where it takes me.

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Blogging Every Day, Part 2: How to Blog Every Day

I'm blogging every day. Here's a short series on the why, how, and what's of it.

  1. Why Blog Every Day
  2. How to Blog Every Day (this post)
  3. What to Blog Every Day

I'm blogging every day. Or trying to, anyway.

Blogging—writing, really—on a regular schedule isn't easy. There are always outside influences throwing a wrench into the best laid plans. In order to minimize these disruptions from impacting my blogging schedule I'm not only planning out my posts at least a week in advance but also writing them that far in advance as well.

Here's how I've been organizing this:

1. Add post topics to a calendar

By having my posts listed out on a calendar I have a clear picture of what gets posted when, and I know how much content I need to produce in order to stay ahead of the posting schedule. I use Yahoo Calendar because I'm still a My Yahoo user and the calendar is right there. I like that I can easily see my entries on my phone or tablet, also.

2. Use Windows Live Writer in conjunction with Dropbox

The ability to save drafts in Windows Live Writer is great. I've found that by changing the default drafts location to point to a folder I created in Dropbox that I can then have my drafts synchronized amongst multiple computers. Because I have separate laptops for personal (writing) and business (day job) use, whenever I can carve out a little time it doesn't matter which computer I have in front of me since the drafts are always there in their latest form and I can get right to work.

So how do I plan to keep this going for the long term?

That's a good question and one which I'm not entirely sure how to answer right now. Taking inspiration from those who have come before me, though, I have these tips:

1. Stay focused

Writing isn't easy. But if you treat it like a job it will get done.

2. Keep ideas flowing

Places like Alltop are a great way to see what's buzzing. Find inspiration from what others are writing about. Take notes. Save links. Keep an ongoing journal of possible topics. Whatever works.

3. Allow for some breaks

I'm taking Sundays off without question. Holidays are another time to reset and recharge. I know some writers write every day. I don't. I need some time to do other things and let my mind rest. I think with guest posts I'll let them stay front and center for more than a single day as a courtesy.

4. Maintain realistic expectations

No one's going to die if I miss a day of blogging. Neither am I going to lose any followers. Fact is, most people won't even notice given the sheer noise out there in the blogging and social media world. My goals will therefore remain realistic. Other things come up, so missing 1 or 2 days out of 365 isn't the end of the world or the end of this experiment.

5. Don't get discouraged

If I do miss a day I'm going to do my best to get back on the saddle and make it right the next day.

Next post in the series I'll talk about what I intend to blog about moving forward.

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