Friday, January 20, 2012

Blogging: The WHAT Factor

Today is Part Two of a series on blogging.

See here for Part 1, on Why Did You Start Blogging?

When I started, I figured I would blog about writing. I was deep into my second novel, trying to get an agent, and I figured I needed it for platform. Also, to vent! (Carefully, mind you.)

Early on, I decided to tackle a huge paranoia I had. I feared that other writers would shun me because I had this whole other career as a doctor. I wanted my blog to focus on the writer part, but I felt like a sham. I thought, maybe embracing it would be a better idea.

And so, Medical Mondays was born, along with Mental Health Mondays with Laura Diamond, who uses her skills as psychiatrist for writerly questions too. Sarah Fine came on board later on, to add her knowledge of psychology (specifically, child psychology). It's been a trifecta of goodness.

I am so glad I took that shaky step! Not only do I get a chance to help others, I also learn something fact-checking and doing research for every single post. As for that paranoia of mine? Poof. It disappeared when I realized people embraced these different sides of me and were okay with it. The icing on the bloggy cake is that Medical Mondays garners the most page views and sends the most strangers to my blog from search engines.

The Wednesday blog chain started soon afterwards. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Blog has changed a few members, but every month we're challenged to answer our own question. Deb, Sarah, and Laura have been great sisters, and great supporters.

I added other themes, like Plot Devices. Deus Ex Machina (after I got the spelling right) was illuminating for me. I also found out what a MacGuffin was (not a slobbish, overweight MacGyver. Who knew?)

Then weird science-related things that caught my attention. The Zombie Ants post was a runaway hit. The Luna Moth one still takes my breath away.

In August, I started doing some Author Spotlights on Fridays. That has been fun, and it came at a time where I was running out of fun things to blog about. Lately it's died off a bit, mostly because I slacked off on finding authors, plus I wanted to blog on Fridays for myself again. BUT if you want to be spotlit for a Friday, email me. I'd be happy to have you. :)

I guess after doing this for two years, I figured out a lot.

  • Sometimes taking a chance on content can pay off big (personally, and in page views)
  • Be willing to change and experiment. It's your blog, after all.
  • Make your own rules, and stick to them. For me, I stay away from cussing, religion/spirituality, and politics. I do not do book reviews. I don't post my own fiction here, not even snippets. I don't show pictures or names of my family members, and obviously, I don't blog about specifics from my day job. (Can you say HIPAA violation???)
  • Be yourself. On my blog, I'm silly. I doodle cartoons. This is what I'm like, on a personal level. Yes, my patients and my boss can probably see this stuff, but people and patients I work with know I keep my work sphere very distinct from this one. I've decided I have different facets, and I choose when to show those facets. I am not all things at all times. I am complicated, and I'm okay with that.

One big upcoming question will be about self-promotion. I will have a book coming out on 2013. Yes, I will make announcements on exciting stuff. But no, I will not be shoving my book in my reader's faces on every post when the time comes. I don't like reading that on other's people's blogs, and I won't have it on mine.

My blog, myself, my decisions.

So. How did you decide what kind of content to have on your blog?


shelly said...

I guess we're all a little scared to put ourselves and our work out there. But blogging is fun. It helps to let our writing hairs down.

Em-Musing said...

I wanted to hone my humorous voice. I figured no one would EVer read my blog so I'd be safe.

Anonymous said...

I'm still figuring things out - right now it is mostly an eclectic writing blog, blogging about anything and everything writing-related that catches my fancy. And figure skating, though I try not to do too many posts on that, since few people share my passion for that sport! I think I might enjoy, in this coming year as I study more philosophy on my own time, to do some posts that blend philosophy and writing.

I have had the "Influences" series in the past, where I highlight authors who have been a huge influence on my writing and my life, but I kind of slacked off on that in the last several months. Hmm, maybe I should get back to that one, too!

Bidisha said...

It was my love for a book that made me decide to start a blog. I wanted everyone to read it and I thought - 'What better way than to get a blog out there?', so yeah, that made me start my blog.

I decided I wanted to talk about books. And I wanted to share bits of my writing. Knock around and see how many crackheads are there like me ;)

Sarah Tokeley said...

My Friday music posts are the only regular posts I do. I knew early on that I couldn't set topics for myself, and that I wanted to blog about whatever was on my mind at the time. So far, it's working :-)

April Plummer said...

Hmmm, at first it was all about writing, or I tried to dedicate it only to writing. I learned recently, however, that when I do release my book, which will be soon, I need more than just other writers following me. I need readers. I'm taking a Marketing Your Brand class as we speak and learning that it's okay to blog about, well, just about anything! I don't know if I have many rules for myself. Other than, like you, not shoving my books into the collective face of my followers!

Olittle said...

I love your blog--always have! And you sound so much like Sarah in those first few paragraphs I had to laugh. But BOTH of you are wonderful! And I'm glad both of you have found your niche in the wonderful world of blogging!

I blog to connect, entertain, inform, and be silly. Humor is my best friend. ;-)


Emily Rose said...

I'm so glad you started Medical Mondays - I've learned so much from them!
I just write what's on my mind. Sometimes I take a big step and do something different...sometimes it works, other times it doesn't. But the important thing is to try!:)

Laura Pauling said...

I've definitely been thinking about this. Now that I've dove into my own publishing career, like you, I don't want to blog about my books all the time. I enjoy being part of blog tours and reviewing books I love b/c that's half the reason I started blogging - to support my friends.

But I stopped reading some authors' blogs once their book came out b/c that's all they talked about. One or two posts is really all we need! So balance is definitely needed.

mooderino said...

I have a very single-minded blog, so it's pretty easy to know what to blog about. I think a lot of people like a more social, life-encomapassing vibe to their content, which is fine. Whatever you find interesting is what you should focus on, I think.

Moody Writing
The Funnily Enough

BECKY said...

You've done everything just perfectly! That's why we all love ya! :)

I can't imagine being paranoid about sharing your wonderful medical life with us, though. It's not like you're on America's Most Wanted List or something! You're a wonderful person!!

I started my blog because "they" told me I should. Get my platform out there, so when my book comes out, (yeah...someday!) people will know me. I've loved every minute of it. Meeting fabulous women like you. Blogging about different subjects, etc. Glad to have met you, Lydia! You're one of the best!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I struggled for months before deciding I should just blog about my passions. While so many writers offered tips and talked about their writing, I blogged about movies, music, and geek stuff. That became a big draw. Now that I have the IWSG and feature other writers and news, it's all come together. That is my focus and I'm happy with it!

B.E. Sanderson said...

I started out writing almost exclusively about writing. Now I write about whatever strikes my fancy. But yeah, I also made the promise to myself that I wouldn't talk about the big three - religion, sex and politics. And I also decided from day one that I wouldn't allow others to make nasty comments on my blog. It's my online home. I welcome visitors into it, but let's all be nice and respectful, shall we? =o)

Karen Lange said...

Good stuff, Lydia. It's always interesting to me to see how other writers process this kind of stuff. Still figuring out some things on my blog - it's a work in progress. :)

Happy Friday!

LAH said...

My range of content is a complete disaster. On one day I'll be moaning about my writerly woes, the next I'll be like "OMG LET ME FORCE YOU TO LISTEN TO THIS RANDOM THING THAT HAPPENED!" and then I'll cry about orphans, followed by a facetious campaign for Taylor Swift to be recognized as a creative inspiration.

I figure my blog is basically about as random and volatile as me, in a coffee shop, having conversations about whatever might pop into my mind at the time.

It just depends on when you catch me... and if I have access to wifi at the time, haha.

Luanne G. Smith said...

I just passed my one year blogaversary and I realized my blog turned out to be nothing like I thought it would when I started. I thought it would concentrate much more on writing, but it's turned out to be, um, I have no idea what it is. It's just me, I guess, and reflects on my journey to write something really good some day.

Jax said...

I love medical mondays! Glad to hear that it's a win/win for the reader and the writer. :)

Slamdunk said...

I agree with Jax. I think your Medical Mondays is the best--I think it has a wide appeal and is certainly appreciated.

Old Kitty said...

Charlie decides for me! LOL! Take care

♥●• İzdihër •●♥ said...

I wanted to find my self and blog is best therapy

Have a good day.

Follow each other.

Christie Wright Wild said...

I knew I wanted a writing blog. But I also knew I wanted it to be more focused. It took a few months to get in the groove. When I'm "on schedule" (which the holidays have thrown me off a bit), I like to blog about writing on Mondays, picture books on Wednesdays, and my life and/or other fun writing "events" on Saturdays (my misc. day).

Margo Kelly said...

great post.

Oh. Wait.

Was I supposed to decide what content to put on my blog?


Maybe I should rethink my whole blogging thing.

Nah! :) haha!

DL Hammons said...

My blog is a continual work in progress. After my hiatus I was determined to focus my topics more on things that at least had a slimmest of connections to writing. No more more more searching for blogging buddies in every state. Even the blogfest I promote are about writing something.

As far as you balancing your many do an excellent job. If I lived in Nebraska you'd be my doctor! :)

Meredith said...

I love that you have such a specific vision for your blog, but you're willing to take risks. That sounds like the right attitude to me! And I love your Medical Monday posts! I always learn something fascinating from those. :)

S.A. Larsenッ said...

As you know, I just revamped my schedule and have broadened my scope of topics. Here's to seeing more blogging/writing/publishing growth!

Matthew MacNish said...

Sometimes it's very strange and fascinating what ends up making a post popular. The one I did on Red Herrings has the most page views of all my posts, but I suspect it has more to do with the image I used than my actual post.

Rachna Chhabria said...

I prefer to stick to writing related topics with a touch of humour for my blog.

Love the Medical Mondays, Lydia.

1000th.monkey said...

Heh, I'm dyslexic, so having a blog in the first place was the biggest hurdle... letting other people SEE all the possible mistakes I could possibly make.

And it was the best thing I ever did :) I've even gotten to the point where I'll post first-draft material for critique, and I simply laugh when someone tells me a sentence makes absolutely no sense or I've used the wrong word.

It's like I washed away a lifetime of shame, fear and embarrassment. And I feel great :)

I often poke fun at my spelling mistakes, my inability to read or write when I get tired, all that stuff that I always tried to hide before.

And people laugh, and I can laugh right along with them.

It's a first for me :)

Laura Josephsen said...

It can be really scary to put ourselves out there--I think for me there can be a fear of "what if I do or say something wrong and the internet implodes?" Well, okay, that's pretty dramatic. Pushing past fears and insecurities is all part of writing, though, so it makes sense that it would be part of blogging, too.

Deborah Walker said...

You must be doing something right. Look at all these comments.

February Grace said...

You are made of awesome, and I cannot wait for your book to come out.

I think of all the bloggers I know- you are one of those few who really hit the balance right, and that will carry over and win you even more fans as you market the way I believe that you will.

Also I just have to say you're also very entertaining on Twitter! Your tweets are one of the reasons I stick around there.

Have a great weekend!

Coleen Patrick said...

Great advice Lydia and I think your blog is awesome.
I started mine without a clear plan of topics, but slowly a pattern has emerged. Work in progress! :)

Jessica R. Patch said...

I was told to write about writing, but I didn't feel comfortable doing that. There are too many great writers with great blogs who do it better(on occasion I will). That's when I found an article that said to find your niche. Write what you love. Be yourself. A big part of me, is my faith. So I write inspirational posts on Wednesdays (that's my biggest viewing day). I like people, so I'm usually interviewing someone on Mondays, not always writers/authors. And Fridays are my random days.

I love reading about medical issues. Find them fascinating.

Barbara Watson said...

I like the bullet list of things you've figured out, probably because I agree with them. :-) But I do review books (middle grade) because I want to promote them with love.

Jennifer Hillier said...

I think your Medical Mondays is one of the best things in the writing bloggy world! It's how I found you, and it's why (well, part of why) I keep coming back (the other part is that you're just awesome).

My blog started as a journey blog, with no readers, and certainly no followers. And it still is that. I'm always disappointed when an author gets an agent and/or a book deal, and then stops blogging about the journey. I was determined, should I get published, not to do that, because what happens after the book deal is quite interesting! Yes, I have to be more careful about what I say now, but there's still so much I can share, and I try not to hold back. Like you said, my blog, myself, my decisions. :)

Jennifer Shirk said...

I try to keep my blog content "light" basically because the books I write are light too. :)

Tamara Narayan said...

I started blogging as a potential part of my platform on the journey to publication--maybe not a great reason. Then I found out it was fun.

I try to keep my blog humorous, but that doesn't always happen. I review books because I spend so much time reading. I do blog about my kids, but not too much.

This week I got sucked into Gardasil horror stories on the web as an offshoot of 12 girls in Leroy, NY suddenly coming down with tourettes-like symtoms. Strange stuff indeed.

This leaves a lot of fodder for you perhaps. Have you covered conversion disorder or adverse vaccine reactions in Medical Mondays?

BBC said...

Great post! I definitely like to try different things out, see what kind of posts get the most hits, comments, etc. It's difficult when I post something that I think is AWESOME and full of writerly goodness and my stats drop and nobody comments. Then I'll blog about something random in a five minute post and it's a party on my site.

But that's blogging... you learn. It's good practice to be aware that just b/c I think something is awesome doesn't mean everyone else will too.

BBC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather said...

You're such a sweetheart, I can't ever imagine anyone shunning you! But I understand. I don't talk about my profession because I'm afraid of exactly that too. *hangs head in shame*

Belle said...

I wanted to have a humorous blog so that is what I focus on, but sometimes serious issues come up and I do blog about that once in awhile. I started blogging because my sister had a blog and I wanted to comment on hers. She didn't like blogging and quit, but I found I loved getting to know people and writing so I stayed.

Nancy said...

I enjoy your blog and am glad you write it. Mine started as a way to keep people updated after I moved back home to help take care of my parents. After they died, I decided I wanted to re-create it and am still working on that. I'd like to have some theme days but right now it is pretty sporadic.

E.D. said...

I am still struggling with one challenge you already passed (that whole other career thing - I am a full time lawyer) but I have so many interest and I am so much more than a "billing machine" that I started blogging about writing because I like to write and want to explore that whole other side of me, and meet other writers in the process...

Jenn said...

I love your Medical Mondays, in fact, that's how I stumbled across your blog.

I've lost my passion for blogging lately, and I think it's because I don't really know what I want to do with my blog. I think it's too eclectic, and it's lacking something awesome that I'm excited about, like your Medical Mondays. I've been brainstorming what to do, and this post has been helpful. Thanks for posting! :)

Krispy said...

I love the content on your blog. It's so useful and fun, and I get to know you!

We're still figuring out what exactly our blog is doing, but it's been interesting finding out what people like. Thanks for tolerating and indulging our randomness! :)

Elizabeth Varadan, Author said...

At first I thought I would just blog whatever was on my mind. It was like fun "journaling", only with a reader besides myself. Then I decided I was going to make it about only writing, since, like you, I wanted to start building a platform. But then, I started including book reviews and interviews with other authors, and when we traveled, insights about where we were. And I realized, this is my blog, after all. I'm back to writing about whatever interests me -- though mainly it's writer/reader centered. I'm just not so fixated about making it a "one thing only" blog.

Abby Minard said...

I started my blog because everyone kept saying to start one if you want to be an author. So I did, and I realized it was much more than just platform building. It is gaining friendships and allies, and like-minded people who know what its all about.

Like you, I kind of wanted to keep my personal life distinct from my writer life. I knew from the beginning I would not give names of my children or pictures of them (the husband is fair game ;p). I always want to relate a post back to writing if I can, but if not, I won't sweat it. I need to get back into aspiring author interviews- I really liked doing it, and I want to revamp my questions and start it up again.

Also, I want to write about my trial and errors as an aspiring author, and if I ever do get published, I'd like to continue with that.

Love your blog too, Lydia and I'm glad you kept with it!

Golden Eagle said...

And your blog is one of the best around. :)

I'm still trying to figure it out. I don't really have set topics, though I did do a little mini-revamp with the start of 2012. Certain days for certain kinds of posts and a loose schedule.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Yes you don't want to violate HIPPA says the attorney here.

It is important to find your niche. For me it's spotlighting authors, especially debut and middle grade ones. And having a niche and schedule like you do helps to figure out what to blog about.

alexia said...

I try to think of cool themes I think will be popular and entertaining, but mostly I just do whatever I feel like doing... I'm not a very organized blogger.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

I'm still discovering what works on my blog. I try to think of what I would want to see in a writer's blog and try to write it.

I taught creative writing using the ghosts of famous authors to teach lessons, using their voice and beliefs. It amused the students. It seems to amuse my blog friends, too.

I give away money ... just checking to see if you were paying attention!

Actually, in a way I do. Just 4 more people review VICTOR, and one out of those 15 people will win a Charles Schultz or Clint Eastwood autograph.

Not too shabby. Your creativity in your blog never fails to entertain and astound me, Roland

LD Masterson said...

I'm still trying to find my bloggy self. During my first blog year, we had a lot of family turmoil (we lost my dear mum-in-law and both our wonderful old dogs) so I wrote quite a bit about that. I love giving people a laugh so I've zeroed in on silly Wednesdays, but Monday and Friday I'm still figuring out as I go.

Carrie Butler said...

The awesome thing about our community is we share most of the same struggles. We learn from others, the things we've yet to experience. We pass on the things we've already been through. It's like this ever-evolving support system. When I decide what to blog about, I'm usually questioning or contributing to that system. :)

Shelley Munro said...

Good advice. I always enjoy your medical posts.
I'm experimenting a little myself this year.

Leslie S. Rose said...

I love "author's journey" blog posts. It's great to get a glimpse into the dream, so don't hold back too much on your publishing experience.

Emy Shin said...

I adore your blog, Lydia, and I agree with other commenters that I think you've done everything right. It's difficult to take a chance, but sometimes, those pay off hugely.

I'm taking a little blog hiatus right now (which I fail at every once in a while, because the Internet's terrifyingly addictive) -- but when I return, I do hope to develop my own blogging content and schedule.

Wendy Lu said...

Such a thoughtful post! I guess I didn't really focus on having a theme at my blog when I first started out, but as I blogged more and more, I noticed that my posts were geared most towards writing and lifestyle/wellness.

So, so excited about your book that's coming out in 2013! It's so great to see how far you have come, Lydia. :)

Hope you're having a great weekend!


The Red Angel Blog

Anonymous said...

I love your blog, too, Lydia. Especially loved the latest topic in the Sisterhood -- even though *blushing* I attributed content to you versus the author.

So. Here's the deal. I love your blog so much I DID include you in a tag. But, I'm a bit "unstructured" with my blog tags. The simple truth is I wanted to acknowledge and link to your site from mine.

Content is a moving target at the moment. I'm taking Kristen Lamb's Blogging-to-Build-Brand, so themes, tags and widgets (oh, my!) haunt my dreams.

Bryan Russell said...

I'mn not into self-promotion, either. If I get a book published, the sandwich-board I'll wear everywhere will be very discrete. Muted colours. Nice typography. Practically fade right into the background.

Katie Gates said...

Great post, Lydia. And it made me chuckle. In the case of my blog, "being myself" means occasional cussing, sometimes talking about religion and spirituality, and frequent forays into politics! I love the freedom of the internet and how it has enabled so many of us to get acquainted.

Also... BIG CONGRATS on your book deal. That is awesome, particularly in the YA field, where agents are undoubtedly deluged with queries!

Clara said...

Lydia, I cannot tell you how much I loved this post. If I published my book, I'd make the exact same choices. I love your philosophy on blogging and I will take some of it to myself.
Also, another reason you inspire me is that you have a career and you still manage to blog. I cannot emphasize how amazing that is. I have a career and I've slacked on blogging for so long because of it. But I'm hoping things will change : )

Cheers lady!

Ghenet Myrthil said...

Great tips! I've experimented with what to post about and so far it's been great. I realize it's fine for my blog topics to change and evolve. I went to a marketing session at the Writer's Digest conference and it got my mind buzzing on other ways I can attract readers to my blog. But mostly, I blog for myself and to connect with other writers.

Melissa Sugar said...

I love this post. I think we all struggle with putting ourself out there. I was so amazed and impressed however that this terrific group of bloggers has never made me feel awkward or insecure about doing it. I started my blog for the same reason many other aspiring authors did, (everyone told me I needed to). I was also told to "write about writing" and I suppose I do. Recently I have read some articles written by Kristen Lamb that caution writers NOT to write about writing or we will shoot ourselves in the foot. I don't think I am really qualified to give advice, but we can all share our personal journey toward publication.

Thanks. I enjoyed this and I always enjoy your blog (especially Medical Mondays).

Christa Desir said...

This is fantastic! I love that it's your blog, your rules. I don't think blogging would be as fun otherwise.

Nas said...

Thanks for sharing this about yourself Lydia! I started out by blogging about my 'R's! Then I decided to stop sharing about myself as it sounded too pitiful!

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