Writers’ blogs and op-ed…

Recently (Sat, 8/26), the N.Y. Times published an op-ed about how to write an op-ed. My definition of op-ed is a bit more general than theirs. (I wrote a previous post about op-eds. I swear, sometimes I think someone at the Times is reading my blog. The other day they used my Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde metaphor to describe Trump, which I’m sure I used a while ago—maybe on Facebook?).

I consider my posts commenting on current events op-eds; I also consider many of my posts on writing and the publishing business op-eds. Some of the Times’ op-ed about writing them applies to blog posts. Most of it doesn’t. For example, one of their columnist’s points was that the op-ed writer has to always bow to an editor’s wishes—the editor is always right. My blog is a personal blog, so there are no editors. Better said, I’m the editor, so I’m always right.

Another point was not to use long sentences. My sentences sometimes stretch on a bit. Unlike a journalist only reporting on facts, a blog writer has to pack a lot into a single sentence because a blog post has to be short yet much pithier than any op-ed column in a newspaper.

And that leads me to the main point (which the Times’ columnist, who obviously doesn’t believe in segues, says I should have already made): op-ed or blog writers differ from journalists. They wear different hats. While I try to verify the facts, my main purpose is to comment on them. (And that’s why the pundits at Fox News and MSNBC aren’t really journalists.)

While I recommend a journalism degree over an MFA if you think you need academic prep to be a novel writer, precisely because the former better prepares a person to be a minimalist writer, a collection of really short sentences in prose can be as boring as one with very long sentences. A mix between short and long maintains a more interesting pace.

There are many news websites that are really blogs and the posts are more newsy and written in a journalistic style. That’s fine, but it doesn’t work for writers’ blogs. So, dear author, let me give you my list of suggestions for writing your blog:

Don’t focus on writing per se. Most readers of your blog won’t care about POV, characterization, and so forth—the techniques of writing fiction. They care about writers and their stories—that means you and your stories too.

Don’t focus only on your stories. Your articles shouldn’t appear to be an ad orgy. Actually, this also holds true for discussion groups you contribute to. I’m reluctant to post a comment on Goodreads, for example, that mentions my books, although I know them well and they often provide good examples. There I use the subtopics allotted for marketing and promotion that almost every Goodreads discussion group has. Harping about your books can be tiring for readers who already experience a deluge of marketing every time they go online.

If you want to keep more focused on entertainment (book reading is entertainment, according to Kurt Vonnegut), consider posts on the other forms—movies, music, art, sports, and so forth. Or vary book-related topics: book and movie reviews and interviews of authors and other people in the book business.

Be prolific but choose quality over quantity. One or two posts per week keeps readers interested and the Google bots happy with new content. And nobody wants to know you burned your toast or forgot to brush your teeth that morning.

You can be opinionated, but keep it PG-13. Maybe you’re writing violent thrillers or steamy romances, but they don’t belong in a blog open to the entire internet. Neither does profanity.

Try to involve readers. Allow them to comment on your posts. A blog post followed by a chain of comments is really an interesting dialogue (but be careful—some comments are contrary to the goal of keeping your blog PG-13). While I use my own books a lot for examples because they’re the books I know best, I use someone else’s book if it helps me make a point. And talk about other author’s books as well as yours.

Don’t do product endorsements or allow ads. Some blogs are plastered with ads. Let’s face it: there’s money to be made doing that, but resist the temptation. While some readers will be inured to that (Facebook and Goodreads users, in particular), they’re distracting at best and offensive at worst.

This list doesn’t overlap much with the Times’ list, if at all, but between the two, you can be off and running with your author’s blog.

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Rembrandt’s Angel (a mystery/thriller from Penmore Press). To what lengths would you go to recover a stolen masterpiece? Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Inspector Esther Brookstone goes the extra mile. She and paramour/sidekick Bastiann van Coevorden, an Interpol agent, set out to outwit the dealers of stolen art and recover “An Angel with Titus’ Features,” a Rembrandt painting stolen by Nazis in World War Two. Their efforts lead to much more as they uncover an international conspiracy that threatens Europe. During their dangerous adventures, their relationship solidifies and becomes a full-blown romance. This book is available in ebook format at Amazon and Smashwords and the latter’s affiliate retailers (Apple, B&N, Kobo). It’s available as a print version at Amazon, B&N, or your favorite bookstore (if not there, ask for it). See the review and interview at Feathered Quill.

In libris libertas! 

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