Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Blogging Madness

© Marta Stephens 2010 all rights reserved

Think back. Do you remember what your day was like before you started to blog? I do. I joined my first writers’ forum in 2004 and started my first blog, Prose & Musings in 2006. Before the online social networks, before e-mail, before the demands of online communication, I vividly remember having time to write. I also had time to do a sundry list of other must-do tasks that I have since shoved to the back burner and now only once in a while glance at.

Today, with two books published and two in the works, I blog in order to keep my name in front of readers and those I hope to attract with my next novel, if it ever gets to the finish line. Right now, I’m blogging about my writing progress on Prose & Musing. The logic behind it is that making the commitment to blog every day about my progress forces me to actually do something in my writing life. So far it seems to be working.

Blogging has certainly also increased my online networks and given me a chance to meet interesting and talented people along the way. At the same time, it's eaten away at my time when I wasn’t looking. Add to this, being a part of two blogs in which I/we promote other writers, Murder By 4 and my new blog (crazy me) Novel Works and time becomes a real precious commodity. I love these blogs because 1) I like book promotions/helping other writers, 2) They keep me in touch with other writers, but I find I’m constantly struggling to regain balance in my life.

Anyway, I thought I’d share something I read in a newsletter I receive from a group called Funds For Writers  earlier this year. The title of this piece is, “Blogging No-Nos.” Here it is in its entirety. By the way, writing and posting this little piece just took 55 minutes not counting planning time. Multiply those 55 minutes by the number of blogs I own/visit/post to and before I know it, my day is shot.

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I'm borrowing a few of these rules from Sonia Simone, the senior editor of . Some of these lessons are common sense, others should be. But most of us have blogs these days, and those who don't are pondering whether they need one. Know what makes a meaningful blog. You don't want a blog just to have one. It needs a theme, purpose and take-away value. Who cares what you had for dinner? Do people really want to know what your children did lately, unless your blog is strictly a family communication tool? Sure your daughter's Halloween costume is adorable, but is that snippet of writing worth other people's minutes in a day filled with many other stops and obligations, online and off?

In a way, a blog is a window to you. Some use it like a memoir. The truth is, a memoir is a hard work to sell. Unless you have a remarkable, uncanny ability to project your life in a way that takes away someone's breath, the bottom line is...who cares?

Know these common blogging mistakes:

1. Taking more than you give. Don't sell instead of filling your customers' needs. Even if you have a product to sell, make sure your readers leave with more than they paid for.

2. Not updating regularly. This lack of effort reflects on your respect for the readership. At least two times a week is decent.

3. Fast writing without much thought, just to make a post. You know what I'm talking about. No one knows better than the writer himself when his writing is lame, and he writes just to fill up space.

4. Copy-catting. Be unique, don't copy someone else's blog. You want to be known for you, not the shadow of someone else. If you're serious about your blog, also consider a different background that isn't a standard template offered to millions of other bloggers.

5. Don't write about a topic that isn't appealing to the masses. If a thousand people wouldn't be interested, don't blog about it. A good sign of this flaw is lack of comments.

6. Over writing. Keep it to the point. I try to keep blog posts under 300 words. From personal experience, I know that a long post won't be read. I usually stop around 100 words.

I'll stop at 300 words if it's interesting. I'll read the entire post if it's short or if it's phenomenal. Few fall into the latter category . . . very few. Tweeters often retweet great blog posts. And great bloggers often tweet. Blogs can contain fantastic writing, trigger wonderful writing ideas, and educate with an entertaining twist. Always be on the lookout for a few good blogs. Reading blogs equates to reading the paper, if you take the time to find those of quality. Once you recognize what you like, note the strengths of the author's work - that magic that keeps bringing you back.

Marta Stephens writes crime mystery/suspense. Her books are available online at familiar shops such as all the Amazons, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, and Powells. Other locations include, but are not limited to those listed on her website.
THE DEVIL CAN WAIT (2008), Bronze Medal Finalist, 2009 IPPY Awards, Top Ten, 2008 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery).SILENCED CRY (2007) Honorable Mention, 2008 New York Book Festival, Top Ten, 2007 Preditors and Editors Reader Poll (mystery),
Personal site:
Personal blog:  
Character Blog:


Kim Smith said...

Excellent post! I have Mb4, Writingspace, Book Madness, Kaycee Conners, Shannon Wallace, and my website which is also a blog. It takes an ENORMOUS amount of time to keep up with all of them, but infinitely worth it.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Excellent posts. Thanks, Marta.

Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Marta, what a wonderful piece, chock full of good advice. I love to think back on the days before all the Internet and promotion madness. I wrote for five full years, and that's all I did before I realized I really had to do something about getting published. I'd put it off for as long as I could when it finally hit me over the head. But those five years were heavenly... damn it was nice! Thanks again!

s.w. vaughn said...

Ah, those were the days... wait, maybe they weren't. I can't remember them!

Such is the life, I guess. Great post, Marta!