Consistency

Saturday, November 28, 2020

I didn’t write a blog last week, and I really had to push myself to write a blog this week because, to be honest, I’m running out of things to say. At the beginning of this year, I vowed to blog each and every Friday. There were a few reasons for this.


One is that I was hoping my readers would respond to at least some of my posts, become more engaged with my content, so that when I did announce a new book or a sale, they’d see that, too.


Another is that posting new content on a regular basis gets more notice from Google. It can put you higher in the search results, so when someone types in, oh, “historical mysteries” you’ll show up on the first page of results rather than on the one-hundredth.


I also wanted to be consistent with my newsletter, and the easiest way to write a newsletter is to have previously written content all ready to go. If I wrote four blogs a month, it would be easy to select content from those and copy it over to my newsletter. Of course, I was counting on people who read the blog not necessarily subscribing to the newsletter and vice versa.


The easiest way to do regular blogging is to come up with what type of content you’re going to post each week in advance. With that in mind, I set up a schedule.


The first week of the month would be on the topic of Behind the Books. This would include where I got the idea for the plot of the book I was currently writing or an interesting character or location. It could also include some obscure research topic that I’d come across in reading or searching the internet for the answer to a question on, say, a typical supper in 1894 or modern day poisons you can buy on Amazon.


The topic for the second week of the month I called What I’ve Been Enjoying. This was fairly broad and could include a movie I’d seen or a trip to the zoo or botanical gardens or maybe Colossal Cave.


Week three would be Novel Status, which is what it sounds like. I’d write a monthly update on my writing progress or do a cover reveal or share the description I was planning on putting up on Amazon when the book would be published.


The last week of the month I called What I’ve Been Reading, which is what it sounds like. I’d write brief reviews of the books I’d read during the month.


This worked in the beginning, but 2020 has been a tough year, what with the pandemic and the election. What I’ve Been Enjoying was the first topic to bite the dust. In March, all the places I’d usually go to closed down and remained closed for months. Although the zoo and the botanical garden have reopened recently, you have to make an appointment to go to them because they’re limiting the number of people who can be there at one time. My trips to local attractions tend to be spontaneous rather than planned. I wake up on a Saturday or come home from church on Sunday and say to myself something like “Today would be a good day to go to the zoo.” Other events that do take planning to attend, like the Tucson Festival of Books and the Tucson Rodeo, were canceled this year and are canceled next year as well.


Behind the Books was next. I had no idea how to make the hundreds of pages of the Lizzie Borden preliminary hearing interesting for the average reader. Writing historical fiction takes a lot of wading through things that aren’t very interesting to find the nuggets you can use in a novel. I love following rabbit trails of random information, but very little of it winds up in my books.


Novel Status also became difficult to blog about. I keep a spreadsheet of my writing progress, but I don’t think anyone wants to read my daily entries of number of words written and how long it took to do that. And I can’t talk about the details much because that would be giving the plot twists away.


What lasted longest was What I’ve Been Reading, because I’m always reading. But again, this year a lot of my reading has been of books comparative to my current series to see what other authors have done and if I’m hitting the tropes that readers expect. Because I’m trying out lots of new authors, there are a lot of books where I only read a couple of chapters before stopping and returning them to Kindle Unlimited. The books may be poorly written, or they may not have been the kind of book I was looking for when I borrowed them, or I have to switch to another book because of time pressures. I used to read every book I bought or borrowed from start to finish, but that’s no longer true. Even books that I enjoyed enough to finish often got pushed aside this year. I think I have a dozen in my “Currently Reading” category on my Kindle.


So that’s why I’ve been skipping blogs in the past couple of months. I had been beating myself up about that, but I’ve noticed I’m not alone.


I subscribe to a lot of podcasts and YouTube video channels. Most of these have to do with writing, and I’ve learned a ton of information from listening and/or watching these over the years. But I’ve noticed a lot of my old standbys don’t have any new content this year. Some people made an announcement that they’d decided to discontinue their podcast or go on hiatus or something similar. Others just stopped posting new episodes.


YouTubers don’t tend to make those kinds of announcements. You just notice that, after a while, they post less frequently, then even less frequently, then not at all.


I think what happens is that people start out full of enthusiasm and with some content that they want to share with the world. This may be how to write a novel, how to advertise your books, what kind of planning tools an author uses, different plotting structures, how to publish your book, etc. The thing is, once they’ve finished that sequence, they have to come up with something else to talk about. Sometimes this comes easily, sometimes not. A blogger, podcaster, YouTuber may go on for a few years, periodically switching the focus of their channel. But eventually, most of them run out of steam.


I really admire those who are able to go on a lot longer. Joanna Penn has just released episode 517 of her podcast. At the rate of one per week, that’s almost 10 years of shows! Others, like Lindsay Buroker and her friends, who for years had a podcast called Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing, last year rebranded it as the Six Figure Author podcast and expanded it into all fiction and non-fiction.


What will I do? I’m not sure. I can’t imagine not blogging at all, but I’m going to spend some of my end-of-year planning time on how I can make this blog interesting to both myself and my readers. We’ll just have to see what happens.

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