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because you write

You see this one a lot in the blogsphere, and it’s always worth a glance. Of course there are no rules to blogging. You can write whatever and however you like, but there are certain things that attract readers. Readers turn into followers, and bloggers like to have followers – even the ones who say they don’t.

I’ve clearly some way to go before The Rivendale Review becomes one of the touchstones of the global online community, but I accept my material doesn’t have mass appeal. Nor am I about to start writing on “popular” or “controversial” or “trending” topics just to attract more traffic, and I recommend you don’t either. As bloggers our uniqueness is our appeal to readers, so don’t try to write like everyone else. Above all be yourself. The blog is you. Your blog is where readers come to find the unsanitised view of the world through your eyes.

All right,…

You’re a voice in the wilderness, your topic of conversation might not have mass appeal, so, without sacrificing your virtue, how do you best present yourself and start picking up an audience?

Here are ten guidelines – in no particular order of merit:

1) Keep it short. In the early days of this blog I wrote long pieces – several thousand words long. They were careful analyses on issues that interested me. Long, long essays on this and that. They’ve sunk without trace. No one reads them.

When I was writing for print I knew that however long my first draft was, I could always reduce it by at least a third without losing the essential meaning. Unlike print, in blogging we can blather as much as we want, but it’s a bad habit, so economise, economise, economise. Keep it short, or even your most loyal follower is wondering if they have time to do you justice. They move on, they get distracted, and they don’t come back.

How short? Currently I aim for between five hundred and a thousand words.

2) Tag. Us the tag function to tag your piece with key words or phrases. These things have a ranking. Hit upon a popular key phrase, one that’s currently “trending” and your blog starts popping up on the front page of Google searches. You can get clues to trending tags by using google’s auto complete function. “Writing a good blog” autocompletes after the third word, plus the b of blog – so I know it’s a fairly popular search term. But don’t sacrifice your ideals on a popular tag. Write what you want to write, then think how you might widen its appeal with the judicious use of appropriate tagging.

3) Answer your comments. Make conversation. Let your readers know you’re a human being, and not one of those horrible web-farming machines. If someone follows you then consider following them. If someone likes you, have look at their blog. You may have something in common. Blogging is interactive. It’s also a community.

4) Pictures. I like interesting pictures to accompany a blog. They attract the eye, they encourage your clicker to settle in and linger. But keep it relevant, and tasteful, and legal.

5) Keep going. Update regularly. Once or twice a week is okay. If you’re down to less than once every couple of months and it’s becoming a chore, then maybe blogging’s not for you. On the other hand don’t update too regularly. If you have followers they don’t want to be hearing from you several times a day. You’re asking to get unfollowed.

6) Don’t blog because someone’s paying you to endorse a particular view or a product. And don’t blog as part of a multi level marketing scam because that just annoys the hell out of everyone. You’ll get found out, and then your name is mud. You lose your virtue – and remember that’s the only thing you have going for you.

7) Don’t be afraid of sounding like a fool. Express yourself. Marylin Monroe, that most iconic of muses, once said: Imperfection is beauty. Madness is genius. It is better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring. She could have been talking about blogging.

8) Important one this: don’t blog when drunk, or within 24 hours of an emotionally upsetting incident, and especially not to get back at someone. I know you can always delete the nonsense you wrote next morning, but by then the damage might already have been done.

9) Normal rules of libel apply to blogs. Be careful what you say and how you say it.

10) Last of all, don’t listen to me. The best part of blogging is the journey, finding your own way, and your own audience.

So in the spirit of interaction, let me ask you: How would you write a good blog?

Graeme out

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because you writeRoll up, roll up! Put your novels and short stories on Feedbooks, Lulu, Createspace, Smashwords, Wattpad. Don’t charge for them, then others can scrape your content freely like stinking great estuary dredgers. Then Google yourself. Go on, don’t be shy,… you’ll be amazed where your work ends up: Rapidshare, Scribd, Filesflush, Getebooksfree, ebdb.net,… the list is endless. The pirates will love you too. They’ll cut and paste your work and sell it on The Kindle Marketplace, publish it as you, cutting and pasting even your pseudonym in to the vast nefarious money making machine that forms the unregulated realm of cyberspace. But try it yourself and you’ll run into the opaque and somewhat circular regulatory labyrinth regarding income tax on your occasional 50p downloads.

Not satisfied yet? Then set up a blog too, put something up there a couple of times a week so the spammers know you’re still alive and can continue attaching their odious marketing limpets to your work by way of “likes” and comments and “follows”. Yes, Josh, I’m talking about you!

“Hi there click my blog and see how I got rich and handsome and incredibly successful using WordPress blogging.”

Groan.

“No Josh. You are an MLM spammer.”

To be sure, it’s a weird business – one in which a small number of crazy people go about creating genuinely original content for others to exploit and farm and pirate at will. Be under no illusion, dear frustrated, friendless writer, if self publishing online is something that interests you, this will happen to your work. You will be adding your muse’s sincerest outpourings to that vast ocean of words the web savvy tech trawlers crawl for content to make their own vacuous machine generated pap look worth pausing over.

And it can be really annoying.

So why do it?

Well why not? It’s not half so bad as sending your hundred thousand word manuscript off to a publisher, waiting six months in hope and expectation, then getting it back torn and creased and the front cover blobbed with grease from someone’s lunch – but otherwise no real indication it’s been read past the first page. Do this year in year out with every single thing you’ve ever written and you start to get the picture. Need advice on how to narrow the odds a bit? Spend a fortune on those trite and useless “how to get your novel published” books, but in the main just keep going, refuse to admit defeat – five, ten, fifteen years,… or worse drop dead with a pile of work going rotten in your shed, for your unfortunate executors to finally throw away.

Now that’s mad! And worse, it’s pointless. But the alternative,… giving your work away for free online? Really? Well, speaking as an unknown writer of otherwise unmarketable material, I’d probably go mad if I didn’t.

BTTCoverMy novel “Between the tides” – the seventh I’ve given away – has been live on Feedbooks now since the end of February. It’s had 1600 downloads. The rate has tapered off somewhat in recent months, and is currently averaging about 4 per day – not massive, but it’s out there, it’s being read and some of those readers have said nice things about it. Oh, it would probably benefit from an editor’s know-how – probably benefit from a proofreading eye other than my own – but if I’d gone down that route, “Between the tides” would still be sitting in the first of many editors’ slush-piles waiting for a long line of underpaid office numpties to stick it in the return envelope, unread.

For me, reaching a bunch of people who seem interested in actually reading your stuff – you know – readers – and reaching them directly – is better than holding out for a few thousand pounds in royalties and never getting your story published in the first place. Nobody will ever know who you are of course – how great, how cool, how handsome, how indisputably “A list” your demeanour, and you will never be invited onto that TV chatshow to pontificate and shamelessly promote yourself . But if that’s the sort of thing that turns you on, you’ve a lot of growing up to do and maybe writing’s not the best course for you anyway.  As for the dead weight of all those webscrapers and pirates and other hangers on,…

Who cares?

What’s that you say? Who is this guy? Well, my name isn’t really Michael Graeme and I write stories, for the people who read them. And to the people who have read Between the Tides and all my other stories, as always, I say thank you.

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