The third post in the Writing IRL series. You might remember, if you read my blog regularly (hi mum!), that in September last yea...

Writing IRL - Proper Blogging (An Update)

The third post in the Writing IRL series.

You might remember, if you read my blog regularly (hi mum!), that in September last year I wrote a piece on blogging properly, in which I set out a fairly vague plan to do so.

That would have made a nice Writing IRL post, actually. Except, without that, Writing IRL wouldn't exist, since it's a product of that plan. So I can't really rebrand it now. What a pickle. Anyway, enough about that. What was I saying?

Oh yeah. It's been 5 months since I published that post, so I thought I'd give an update on how it's all been going.

First, a recap

The post, in case you can't be arsed to go and read it yourself, was pretty much split into two sections. The first was aimed at new bloggers, and partly at myself, and gave advice on how to blog successfully. The main points were:
  • Post regularly. Even if it's not perfect. If you want people to feel engaged, you need to be there often and be interesting.
  • Make it colourful, visually stimulating, easy to read. People are going to turn away if all you can offer them is stock-font text on a plain old standard-issue Blogger template. Or worse, bright flashing colours and hideous Flash effects.
  • Be present on social media. No one ever sat there flicking through Blogger or Wordpress to see what blogs they might be interested in that day. The only way people are going to get there to read your blog is if they see it on their social network of choice.
The second section detailed my plan, which I've shortened for you right here:
  1. Write for an hour every night.
  2. Publish a blog post once a week.
  3. Start reviewing books.
  4. Post more to my social media accounts.
  5. Post updates on the implementation of this plan.
So, with that in mind, let's go through the plan and see how it's going.

Write for an hour every night

Not a good start. I barely get half an hour done on average. It seems I can dish out advice on making time for writing (see my previous Writing IRL post "Finding Time to Write"), but I can't follow it myself. But I will.

I have to, if only to fight off the frustrating idea that my dreams are getting away from me.

Publish a blog post once a week

I did succeed in this. Not a single week has gone by since Mid-September in which I did not publish a post. The vast majority have been WWWW posts, in which I simply summarise interesting articles and links from the literary world, across which I've stumbled that week; but still, that's good enough for me. As I said, I have enough trouble finding time to write, so I can't be expected to write a new novella every week.

The problem I have is engagement. I can see, thanks to Blogger's dashboard, that people (more people than ever; but more on that later) are visiting and reading my posts (and thanks for that, it's nice to have you here). But I have no idea if they liked what they saw, if any of them were repeat customers, if they have any suggestions or feedback. Perhaps they don't, because none of them have commented. But it would be nice to have an inkling of these things.

Ah well.

Start reviewing books

Check. This has been useful, looking at things critically and picking them apart to see what it is that made them enjoyable, so I can imitate that in my own stories. Definitely a good thing.

I did come unstuck, however, when the only negative review I wrote was found by its author, who left me a comment that had me shitting my pants, til I read it and found that he was actually incredibly classy and kind about it. It could have gone a lot worse for me, and since I'm the paranoid, confrontation-averse type, I'm considering not writing reviews for books I really don't like anymore. Maybe just the ones I do, so I can always be positive.

I've always been something of a believer in the saying "those who can, do; those who can't, review".

Be louder on social media

My social networking muscles need gym time. Major gym time - they're scrawny as hell.

Twitter  (@destroyordamage) makes me anxious, because people are always posting about hideous world events and death and politics, so I avoid it. I left Facebook a couple of years ago, and only maintain the Destroyed or Damaged page via a ghost account, because I find the whole place to be pretty toxic. Certain parts of Reddit, I like; but self-promotion is a minefield on there and once they think you're evil there might never be any coming back, so I just haven't tried.

The only network on which I feel safe and warm and comfortable, then, is Instagram (@destroyedordamaged). I've been posting with vigour onto Instagram, and because I've linked my accounts, those posts have found their way to Twitter and Facebook too, so I don't have to visit all 3 to have a presence.

And to be honest, I think this is probably the most impactful change I've made to my habits. By using the right hashtags, I get a good handful of likes on every post, and I see my site visits spike during particularly busy times. It's a noticeable difference. So this is something I'll definitely carry on. If I can just face Twitter and Facebook, and one day crack Reddit, the only way is up.

One thing though. I need to get my head around #bookstagram. Some of the people who post regularly on that hashtag have thousands of followers. People love them. But they have monthly themes and challenges they seem to pull from thin air, and they're all girls who wear long socks and post pictures of themselves reading in bed and stuff, and it all just seems like a world that has no place for me, a hairy adult male who doesn't read much YA. Maybe I should do a giveaway, buy myself some new friends...

An update

So, that was my first update. The bulk of it, anyway. All that's left is to give some hard figures on that improvement I've alluded to a few times.

Readership has increased by a huge margin. You might remember that as of September, I got an average of 377 page views every month. Well, in the 5 months since I made that first post and started to implement my plan, I've had an average of 1301 visitors per month, an increase of 245%!

This was partly due to a bit of a spike in December 2016 which I can't really explain, since I didn't do anything unusual that month, but which I am grateful for. But even if we pretend December never happened and strike it from the record, my average visitor count per month for the last 5 months was still more than double that of the 5 months before I started blogging properly and the same period in the previous year. I'm really pleased, and I think I'm on the right track to being a real blogger, instead of a pretend, half-arsed one.

Summary / next steps

So, what am I going to do next? Mainly, I'm going to stick to the plan I set out above, since it is working. But in addition, I'm going to:
  1. Get my head around #bookstagram, and try to worm my way into that community. I just want to be included!
  2. Try harder at Twitter and Facebook. And, yes, see if I can get onto Reddit somehow.
  3. Write more interesting content. Stuff like this Writing IRL series, which I really enjoy, and which definitely gets readers. I just hope it's actually useful to someone out there.
  4. Begin at least one serial this year. I want to publish a novel-type story, as I write it, chapter by chapter, on here. It wouldn't be perfect, but it wouldn't have to be. It's for entertainment, not the Booker prize. I can even go back and edit chapters if I want to - that's the nice thing about screens instead of print. I've had a few ideas and I've even begun a couple of them a couple of times, so I just have to write more and more until the idea and the execution is good enough to put up.
And that's it. I'll post another update probably on the one year anniversary of that first post. And if you're a blogger who's looking for advice, I'd say you should follow the modified plan, just like I am. Obviously. But personalise it - I'm not spoon feeding you, here; you have to do some of the work yourself.

Peace out readers, writers, everyone.

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