5 Years and 1000 Posts – What I’ve Learned from a Literary Blog

This isn’t exactly 5 years since my first post, that was in October of this year, and this isn’t my 1000th post, I believe it was this one. But I’m close enough. In general I’ve liked it and I’ve met some interesting people, especially authors whose work I’ve really enjoyed and when I set out to create the blog I had no idea even existed. When I first created the blog it was really to support my fiction writing, something it has yet to do. I really should have named it pauldoyle.something but I wasn’t wise enough about those things then (although having work on an SEO campaign before I should have, perhaps, known better). What ever the reason, the blog has yet actually do anything for my writing other than to force me to think about writing, which in many ways was one of the reasons I started writing about books. The problem is writing about books can become an end unto itself and becomes a time suck, distracting you from what’s really important. Lately I’ve found the gaps between posts stretching to several weeks on occasion as I spend more of my time on what really matters: fiction. Novels and short stories take time to write and for me are infinitely more interesting to spend hours working with. Still, the blog has served its purpose and will continue to, perhaps not in the same way it has.

Here are my top bullet points of what I’ve learned in no particular order.

  1. If you want traffic and you write about books, write about the classics. My greatest hits are books that are classics and are most likely taught in high schools and universities. Below are my top posts, removing the home page and about page which don’t really count. All of them, except the Keret, which I include here because I’m pleased to see something that doesn’t seem like university material, are what could easily be called classics. Every week during the school year Las batallas en el desierto is my most popular post.
    Las batallas en el desierto (sp)
    Miramar by Nagib Mahfouz – A Review
    Season of Migration to the North – A Review
    Sheppard Lee Written by Himself – by Robert Montgomery Bird – A Review of an American Satire
    Ten Days In A Madhouse by Nellie Bly – A Review
    La Semana De Colores, by Elena Garro – A Review
    The Best Short Stories of the 20th Century-the View from Spain
    Christina Fernandez Cubas – Reinvigorating the Spanish Short Story
    The 100 Best Arabic Books – According to the Arab Writers Union – via Arab Literature In English
    Juan Rulfo Reading His Stories Luvina And Tell Them Not to Kill Me
    The Bus Driver Who Wanted to Be God by Etgar Keret – a Review
  2. The posts I’ve put the most time into seldom get the most hits. While I don’t write for hits, hits do indicate people are reading what I think is important. Besides the Cubas and Keret in the list, two authors I’ve spent a lot of time writing about, many of my favorite pieces are in the low traffic world.
  3. The long tail is your friend. If you stick at bloging long enough old articles will slowly gain in traffic. This is a rather technical subject I don’t want to go into much, but Las batallas en el desierto was one of my first posts. Because of all the traffic over the years it has been one of my best. In other words, for a small blog it will take a while for you to get much traffic. Although, I’m not sure this is really traffic I care about.
  4. Blogging is a time suck. If your focus in writing is blogging, no problem, but if you are also working on a something else be careful. The notion you can serve two masters is a real problem. The only way I know how to survive this is let the blog languish.
  5. My worst article published in a journal, such as the Quarterly Conversation or Asymptote, will be better than my best article on the blog. This is all about time. I just don’t have enough time, or don’t feel I have time, to do multiple revisions like I do for other sites. This goes back to the time suck point. I’d just rather do thirty revisions of a short story than three of a blog post.
  6. There are just too many books out there and I don’t need to comment about all of them. There are two general types of bloging: the commentators and the creators. The commentators announce, clip, and otherwise point readers to content of interest, but that they didn’t create. The second group is self explanatory. In the context of this site, they are the book reviews and occasional articles.I used to do more of the former, now I like to keep the number of those entries down. Those kind of links are really what Twitter is for unless you have something really interesting to say about the article or it is just too important not note.
  7. When you write in English about things that are only available in a foreign language you are providing a great service, but you may feel as if there is no one listening out there occasionally. But that is always the way it goes so I don’t worry about this one too much.

3 thoughts on “5 Years and 1000 Posts – What I’ve Learned from a Literary Blog

  1. I’ve been blogging for about eighteen months and although I enjoy it and it’s essentially a hobby, I definitely have discovered that it is a bit of a time suck. I need to reevaluate and maybe change my priorities. Even though I haven’t been doing it as long, I have also noticed that it has taken time to build traffic and that the older posts bring more in. That’s interesting about classic novels getting more hits. I also try not to worry about traffic, but I do find it interesting. Cheers!

  2. Congrats on your achievement(s) and longevity, Paul! Although I can relate to almost everything you’ve learned (pro and con), points #2 and #7 are the ones I tend to think about whenever I get down about blogging. Having a tougher skin is always useful in many walks of life, but it’s never fun blogging into a commentless or nearly commentless void if you’ve put a lot of time into a post. Of course, not everybody’s going to want to share your joy, ha ha, so it’s good to enjoy the writing experience however you can I guess.

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