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July 16, 2015

What 5 Years of Blogging Has Taught Me about Writing

Chalkboard with text: Lessons from 5 Years of Blogging

This past weekend, I passed five years of blogging. That’s about four years more than I ever thought possible way back when. *smile*

People tend to like nice round numbers like 5s and 10s, so reaching this five-year point feels like a major milestone. As I’m still deep into vacation and sickness-brain, I figured now might be a good time to look back at what I’ve learned over those five years, and share what those lessons might tell us about the rest of our writing career…

How Our Careers Grow

  • Everyone Starts as a Newbie

My blog didn’t start off with a million hits or a thousand-plus visitors a day. I started off at ground zero, just like anyone else.

For the first couple of months, I was lucky to get views in the double digits each day. If you’ve blogged and celebrated over getting one comment? Yeah, been there, got the T-shirt.

  • Slow and Steady Growth Adds Up

It took about 3 1/2 years to reach the point where my readership growth started accelerating, and I can’t point to a single factor that created the change. There wasn’t one post that went more viral than others. My worksheets had existed for over a year by that point. I wasn’t suddenly being recommended by a big name in the industry. Etc.

I think my blog just finally reached a tipping point. The more people know we exist, the more others will hear about us too.

  • Patience & Consistency Work

However, I doubt that tipping point would have occurred at all if I hadn’t been consistently writing posts that whole time. About two-thirds of my daily traffic comes from search engines.

In other words, much of my traffic comes here because I have content people want. It takes time—and obviously writing that content—to reach that point.

I have 525 published posts here. That’s 525 chances for someone to stumble over my blog via a search or social media share.

How Our Fiction-Writing Careers Grow

Obviously, those same lessons can apply to our fiction writing as well. We all start with zero knowledge, zero platform or community, and zero readers.

Yes, we might get a big splash with a release push from a publisher, a well-known reviewer, or a write-up in a Best Of list. But we might not.

Even if we don’t have that viral or buzz-worthy push, our career isn’t doomed. Slow and steady growth works for fiction writing too.

We need to create content, and that takes time. But each book we release is another chance that readers will stumble over our work. And when they discover us, they might read our other work or tell their friends, and that adds up to success.

How We Find Ourselves and Our Passion

  • It Takes Time to Discover Ourselves

One reason I couldn’t conceive of myself still blogging five years down the road back when I first started is because I hadn’t discovered how much I loved it yet. I didn’t go into blogging knowing that I’d love sharing knowledge or tips.

I started just because it seemed the thing to do. And I certainly didn’t think I had over 500 ideas for posts.

Even if someone had put a gun to my head at the beginning, I’d have had a hard time coming up with more than 20 ideas. Most weeks, I still have no ideas. *smile*

  • It Helps to Be Passionate about What We Do

It’s only been very gradually that I realized how much I love blogging for all of you. At first, I loved it for the ability to relate to other writers and form a community, but that’s grown into a passion for helping other writers reach their potential.

Sometimes that means I share my knowledge, and sometimes that means I share my struggles. Either way, we know we’re not alone, and that’s the feeling that drives me to write a post when I’m not in the mood.

  • Writing Consistently Is Hard

Even so, it would have been much easier to not write a blog post all those times. As I said, at least half the time, I have no ideas for a post when I force myself to sit down and write.

If I waited for inspiration to hit, I’d have about a quarter of that number of posts. Just because we love what we’re doing doesn’t mean it’s easy.

RockyWaters Quote

(Like this quote?  )

  • Practice Makes Better

The usual phrase, of course, is “practice makes perfect,” but this perfectionist knows all too well that perfect doesn’t exist. Instead, practice leads to improvement. (Hat tip to a toddler speak-o I once heard for the more accurate phrase in the heading.)

Have you ever heard the claim that it takes a million words before we’re good at writing? (That goes along with the idea that it takes so many hours to be skilled at something.) Blogging helps those words add up quickly. *smile*

How We Find Our Fiction-Writing Passion

Just as I didn’t know how much I would love blogging until I tried it (for a long while), we might not know the right fiction-writing fit for us until we experiment. We might struggle to find the right fit for our genre, point-of-view, themes, or voice.

Yet with enough experimenting, we’ll eventually find a style that we’re passionate about. Or maybe we’ll know the right approach because it feels comfortable. Or we’ll discover our voice as we learn more about ourselves.

The point is that it often takes time. And while we’re on that journey of discovery, we might not get a sense of when we’re close. It might only be after we’ve been doing something for a while that we even realize how well it’s been working for us.

Even so, writing will still be hard. There will still be days when nothing feels right or comfortable. The words will feel like they belong to a foreign language, or the story will feel forced, or our characters won’t talk to us.

We all know. We’ve all been there. We’re not alone.

But if we keep at it, if we push to learn more about ourselves and what does or doesn’t work for us or fit right, we’ll improve. We’ll always need editing. We’ll always struggle with some aspect of our work. But we will get better. *smile*

Do you blog? If so, what aspects do you struggle with? What lessons have you learned from blogging? Have you learned about yourself by writing? Do you have lessons or insights to share?

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35 Comments on "What 5 Years of Blogging Has Taught Me about Writing"

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Amy Keeley

Very encouraging! I had trouble finding a focus for my blog until I realized that scattering of topics was very much me. How did you decide on writing as a focus?

Kim

I blog, but don’t really have a focus (much like my life!), so I jump around. The posts about my Aikido practice generate the most comments, but I don’t want to limit myself that way, so I continue to include other stuff.

You’re right about needing to sit down and write without having something particular in mind. When I wait for inspiration to strike for my blog, I end up not writing for months!

Thanks for the reminders.

Mary Kate

Congrats on your anniversary! While I started my blog last year, it’s only recently I’ve decided I need to blog consistently, every day, so people know what to expect and hopefully once they find me, they’ll keep coming back. In the meantime all I can do is keep putting out quality content and sharing it where I can!

Crystal Thieringer

Congratulations on five years. I just checked my own stats, and my first blog post was in August of 2013, so I am just coming up on the second year mark. It’s encouraging to me, then, to see your traction picked up around the 3.5 year mark. It’s also encouraging to see your discussion with Amy about how having more than one focus can be the focus. It keeps it more interesting for me as a writer. Discipline aside, let’s face it– if I’m not interested in the activity of writing, the blog won’t go anywhere.

As much as I love to learn about how to make things better, when the day is done, I am most drawn to blogs that seem to have an authentic human being on the other side of the screen. If that’s true for me, it must be true for others as well. Thanks for being one of the real ones out there. Congratulations!

Celia Reaves

Congratulations on reaching the 5-year mark! My one-year anniversary is tomorrow, and your discussion of what it took and what you’ve learned is a real inspiration to a newbie like me. Thanks for sharing!

Elle Lee Love
Elle Lee Love

Hi Jami,
Congratulations on five years of blogging! I’m glad to know I’m not the only writer whose characters give them the “silent treatment”. It’s so frustrating when my characters stop talking to me. I always write dialogue first and then the action. But right now, I’m not writing anything. Do you have a post on how to get back on speaking terms with your characters? I would appreciate any wisdom/advice you have to offer. Thanks.

Denise Covey

Hi Jami!
I always read your posts but rarely comment as I tend to think blogs like yours don’t really post for comments. But I’ve enjoyed reading the comments and your replies here.
I’ll take this opportunity to say thank you for how you’ve helped me in crafting my novel. I love your beat sheets!

Thank you,

Denise 🙂

Stacey Campbell

Hi Jami,
What an inspirational post, I love hearing about how other people’s journey’s have gone for them, the ups and downs, the surprises and how sticking at something and consistently showing up builds a readership and your own knowledge of writing.

Thanks for your fantastic blog posts, I really enjoy them – so keep them coming.

Stacey

Paula Millhouse

Thanks for this post among all your others, Jami.

I think you’re right – consistency is key. And it is hard, but worth it. Some weeks I’ve sat watching the cursor blink, but once I get going the words start flowing.

How long on average do you spend composing a post?

Serena Yung
Serena Yung
Hey Jami! Yay, I started reading your blog even before it reached the tipping point! :D. Makes me feel privileged, lol. I remember it was the plot-driven vs. character-driven story post that was the first one I read; yeah I was for some reason searching for that topic, so yay discovery via Google! On that day or the day before, I remember commenting on another blog on the same character vs. plot-driven stories topic. The author of that blog replied to my comment as well, but the reason why I followed your blog instead of his, was that though he was friendly too, I felt that you were even friendlier! He sounded somewhat more formal, but you sounded more informal and therefore more warm and approachable! Actually I find that the vast majority of blog authors seem to reply in a more formal, though still friendly and polite, style. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’m personally more comfortable with informality, haha! :D. Yes, I agree that sharing your struggles with us is good. In fact, I think that when blog authors talk about their personal experiences and life, this makes them feel more like a flesh and blood, relatable human being, rather than just an expert you consult. It’s like how I like it when our uni professors talk about themselves and their lives, because this makes them sound human, so they aren’t just a prof, lol. As for myself, you know I don’t have a blog, but I… Read more »
Serena Yung
Serena Yung

(Yikes–sorry, my paragraph spacing got a bit messed up there. I actually wrote it all on my phone, then put it on MS Word so I could use Grammarly on it, lol. But the enter spaces all disappeared so I had to manually space it. Argh, that I for some reason missed several. >_< Eek I added the P.S.'s afterwards in this box, and didn't use Grammarly on it. Sigh, I read it over already but still didn't catch the double colon…Hopefully there aren't any more mistakes! BTW, I wish there was a Chinese version of Grammarly too; it would be a huge help, lol.)

Mary Jean Adams

My day job is creating content for businesses and more than half of what I do is executive blogging. I sometimes call myself an “executive impersonator”. I would just add that business bloggers have a lot to learn from fiction writers. So many of them do great ‘7 tips’ type posts and then clog the post up with a bunch of fluff at the beginning. Just as fiction writers need to hook their readers fast, so too do the non-fiction writers.

Serena Yung
Serena Yung

(I’ll have to reply here since there’s no more reply button for our very long convo, lol)


Using semicolons is definitely a voice thing. Some readers might be impressed by them, and some might think it’s pretentious or too formal sounding. And I know some editors love them, and others hate them, so as I was developing my voice, I avoided them “just in case.” I think I’d have to think a bit to add them back in now.

Yeah, disagreements about semicolons even among readers make editing a headache. Well for now, I will try to reduce the number of semicolons in my stories, but I probably won’t eliminate them completely.

Good point about some people disliking “And” or “But” sentences. 🙁 But LOL I use them all the time. Yet, I think the modern reader is more used to “And….” or “But…” than “… ; and…” or “… ; but…” , just like you said. In fact, is it just me, or has the society changed in this? I feel like when I was still in early middle school, “And…” sentences were highly discouraged, but nowadays when I see articles online, I think even formal articles, “And…” sentences are pretty common. Maybe the society has grown to accept “And…” and “But…” starters, yay!

FANBOYS! Now that is a mneumonic I’ll definitely remember! XD

Haha, non-writers would probably go, “Yikes, nerds!” LOL, just kidding.

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