Blog Cogs Or Blog Logs


Recently I read an insightful article about blogging entitled “Are You A Blogger Buddy Or A Blogger Bum?” In a succinct way, the author, John Sherry, pointed out ways bloggers can either make themselves appealing or odious.

It’s a sobering subject, or ought to be, for those of us who write regularly and/or who consider blogging a plank in our writer’s platform.

Just a short while ago, agent Rachelle Gardner wrote a series of posts on the difficult discussions agents sometimes have to have with clients. One of those had to do with a writer’s public image.

Has it occurred to you that as an author, you’ll be a “public figure” and people will form opinions about you based on every little thing? You want your public image to be inviting, so people will want to buy and read your books.

Now, if you’re unagented and uncontracted, and not trying to sell any self-pubbed books, then you don’t have to stress out about this quite yet. But keep in mind that when you’re out there trying to build a readership, everything matters [emphasis mine].

So I started thinking about blogging and what I appreciate or don’t. Mind you, I think Mr. Sherry’s lists are excellent. These are just my add-ons.

Blog Cogs
(or The Things Bloggers And Visitors Do That Make Blogs Better)

  • Give kind and encouraging feedback
  • Engage in discussions (and take part in polls 😉 )
  • Share articles on Facebook or Twitter
  • In their posts, link back to you and your articles
  • On their site, answer your comments so you know you’re not merely talking to yourself

Blog Logs
(or The Things Bloggers And Visitors Do That End Up Creating Rot)

  • Skim read posts but comment regardless
  • Nitpick posts
  • Critique posts line by line
  • Hijack post comments to discuss a favorite topic that has little or nothing to do with the subject at hand.
  • Refuse to admit an error or apologize for a mistake

Quite honestly, I find this an intimidating subject because I’m quite sure I’ve done all the Log things at one time or another and I’ve neglected the Cog things far too often. But writing about it makes me want to do better, and that’s a good thing.

What about you? What are some of the things you’ve observed as you bounce from blog to blog? Any blogger you want to give a special shout-out to for the excellence of their content or for the way they interact with visitors?

I think we’ll all be better Cogs if we limit the shout-outs to the blogs that are doing it right, don’t you think? 😀

Published in: on May 26, 2011 at 6:42 pm  Comments (8)  
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Writing Lone Wolves Or Inkling-like Writing Communities


At one of my first Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, I asked a particular writer I respected if that person was in a critique group. “No,” came the answer, “I really don’t have the time.”

On another occasion, because I had learned and grown so much through the on-line critique group I belonged to, I challenged an editing client to get involved with a group so that person could receive feedback other than mine. Again, the answer was, “I’d like to, but it just isn’t practical with my schedule.”

As I peruse recent fiction releases, I find it interesting to read the acknowledgments page. Some writers thank everyone from the teacher who taught them to read to their current editing team and every writing group they’ve belonged to in between.

Others include no acknowledgments page.

I think of these latter writers, like those who admit they aren’t part of a critique group, as writing lone wolves. They have minimal web presence, don’t show up in writing communities or at writing conferences, either as teachers or conferees. They may still sell books, though, and may be skilled writers.

The other group seems eager to engage fellow writers and industry professionals. They want to swap “how to” information, exchange prayer requests, answer questions, cheer even small victories, and offer that analytic eye that tells an author if he’s on the right track or not.

Is there a right way or a wrong way to go about this writing business?

I’m thinking about this for several reasons. First, years ago when I heard of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Oxford group of writers that came to be known as the Inklings, I wanted the same thing. How great to sit around a pub, reading your work and getting feedback from some of the great minds of your era. It sounded so magical. How could they miss becoming great writers in that environment?

More recently, however, two very different sources have me thinking about the subject again. One came via Fred Warren’s Spec Faith article “Scouting The Competition.” In that post Fred discusses what Mormon writers are doing that has vaulted many of them into the ranks of published science fiction or fantasy writers.

As required reading for anyone who wanted to comment, Fred linked to “The Class That Would Not Die,” an article that gives the history of a movement started at BYU that brought a number of Mormon sci fi and fantasy writers into community.

A couple days later, in response to articles by Jeffrey Overstreet and Jonathan Rogers, Sally Apokedak wrote an excellent post about self-promotion versus loving your neighbor.

Obviously self-promoters are still in community (they have to have someone to whom they are promoting), so they wouldn’t exactly fall into the lone wolf category. Or would they?

Some lone wolves, it would seem, are predatory. They are more interested in their work, their progress, their successes, with little interest in “giving back.” They begin most comments, “In my article (book, blog post, interview, podcast, trailer, tour, book blurb, Tweet, etc.) …”

Other lone wolves really are alone. They resemble writers of old, tucked away in a patron’s loft, where they worked day and night to eke out subsistence wages. And they like it that way — except for the subsistence wages part.

Some of these writers take the stand that they are artists, not promoters. Others believe God has called them to write books not Facebook updates.

On the other side of the planet there is the gregarious bunch — those who have to force themselves away from social media to get back to the task at hand, because if truth comes out, they are perfectly happy talking about writing whether or not they ever publish a thing. These writers have no problem joining critique groups or writing associations. They love to attend conferences and join in writing discussions with frequency.

As I look at this, I see admirable qualities in the lone wolf who sticks by conviction and works with diligence despite minimal feedback. I also see wonderful qualities in those who freely give to other writers with no return expectations. They are generous with their time because they love helping. They are the ones who love their neighbor without thinking they have come upon a good promotional strategy.

But then there are those predatory wolves — not so admirable. Sometimes they don’t operate alone, either; they work in packs. Which makes me realize gregarious writers are just as susceptible to becoming one of them as the lone wolf is.

Honestly, the writing life seems filled with traps. I see only one way through:

Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God (Phil. 4:6).

Responding To Criticism


Writers in particular seem to be interested in criticism, but the truth is, no matter what our profession we all are apt to face criticism in one form or another.

When I was a new teacher, I was so fearful of parent/teacher conferences — until I learned that most of the parents were just as fearful. Of what? I, that these parents would criticize the job I was doing as a teacher; they, that I would criticize their job as parents.

Of course there were also professional evaluations when an administrator would come into the classroom, observe, then meet with me later and give his assessment (read, critique) of my lesson. And there were the standardized tests we gave too. Ostensibly these measured the students’ progress from one year to the next, but guess who was responsible for their growth or lack thereof? 🙄

Other jobs have similar ways of measuring job performance, so why do some writers (see comments) have such a hard time taking criticism?

The topic came up recently on Mike Duran’s blog, not once but twice. And the author meltdown on Books and Pals ignited additional posts about bad reviews and author responses.

I suspect that part of the issue is how public author criticism is. I mean, when my administrator gave me a job performance evaluation, it was confidential. I got a copy and one went into my file, but from there, no one needed to know if I got a “five star” rating or a “one star.” 😉

Writers have no such confidentiality clause with reviewers. In fact, the point of the review is to publicize an opinion about a writer’s performance.

A reviewers opinion, of course, is not accurately equated with a supervisor’s assessment. In my situation, reviewers would be more closely aligned to my students’ opinions. Imagine if each of them posted on my classroom window what they thought of my lessons that day. Hmmm. 🙄

But a writer’s reviews serve a greater purpose than writer evaluation. They benefit readers because they inform. And they benefit writers because they promote in ways a writer can’t. Reviews on the Internet aren’t paid advertisement. They are one reader’s opinion (or in the case of a blog tour, one group of readers varying opinions).

Consequently, it seems a little baffling to me that a writer would respond in any way but with gratitude. Someone read their book. That in itself is something to be thankful for.

Lambasting the critiquer? I don’t see how that’s a good move under any circumstance.

Some writers answer that the right response is to ignore all reviews, even good ones. I don’t know what I think about commenting on Amazon, but on blogs and particularly in blog tours, I think an author that doesn’t comment is missing out on an opportunity to make a positive connection with a reader.

One author, definitely old school, said to comment on favorable reviews might illicit syrupy suck-up reviews in the future. Well, maybe that’s a risk worth taking. Because no comment could earn an author no review in the future.

I know it’s not always possible, but it seems to me, if a person has taken the time to read a book, write and post a blog review, the least the author can do is drop by with a simple thank you.

I actually learned that from Andy Sernovitz who wrote Word of Mouth Marketing. A couple years ago I won a free copy of his book and blogged about something I learned from it. True to the advice he gave in the book, he stopped by my site to say thank you for the mention. And that wasn’t even a full review.

In my opinion, authors would do well to take advantage of reviews by responding kindly and professionally. I’ve seen more than one blogger won over by such an approach.

Published in: on March 29, 2011 at 6:30 pm  Comments (6)  
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Mount Hermon in a Nutshell


I don’t think I can ever do justice in a blog post to a writer’s conference like the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. Much of the value comes from the interaction with the people, and most of these are unplanned. Well … by me, anyway. I’m pretty sure God planned them from before the beginning of time! 😉

Some years, I’ve learned practical writing technique information or had especially helpful critiques. Other years the Keynote speaker has had wonderful, humorous, helpful things to say. Then there have been years when I learned more about the business side of things, especially how books are actually acquired.

This year’s conference was different. Yes, I had a great Major Morning Track with Rebeca Seitz of Glass Road Public Relations, LLC. But I think the over all value for me was two-fold.

One came in the people I encountered. From unexpected sources I received ideas, encouragement, support. There were unlikely connections, such as learning that Deb Raney calls home the little town my family moved to the one year we lived in Kansas, or meeting Doug Wolven, a new writer and first-time Mount Hermon attender who lives a mile or so from my place.

Other folks seemed divinely placed in my path to give me a piece of information I needed at a timely moment. Carol was one such person, Wendy another, and Kim, a third.

In a fiction class, I was most surprised by what became, from my perspective, the second great aspect of Mount Hermon this year. Author Marlo Schalesky started the workshop by getting on what she called her soapbox.

She said, to write because we want to isn’t good enough. Christians are called by God to affect lives. If we as writers can show readers God, from wherever we stand, they will know Him better. Story can be the vehicle because it is powerful; it can move and change people.

I love that focus.

What’s What with Social Networking?


So here’s my question. What do you think about social networks? I mean, first MySpace was all the rage, then Facebook, and now Twitter.

Once upon a time, I was involved in a growing online community, Faith in Fiction. We discussed books and writing and faith. It was a happening place where mostly wannabe authors congregated. A good number of those authors are now published and have blossoming writing careers.

But along the way, some of the regulars weren’t so regular any more. As it turned out, they had moved to the suburbs—they’d started their own blogs and were building their own communities. Consequently, they no longer had time to visit the old neighborhood.

Obviously I eventually followed suit. But now come the social (and business, a la LinkedIn) networks. Are these the new ‘burbs? Are people leaving Blogland for Twitterville? And why would they?

Is it time? Perhaps no one wants to take the time to read 400-800 word articles when you can touch bases with a scant 140 characters. But touching bases at what level? Can a person communicate anything meaningful in a Tweet?

As near as I can determine, Twitter was never intended to be a place for meaningful connection. Facebook gives many more options, but still, the format seems to encourage shorter bursts of thought or fun and games.

I had envisioned that my presence on Facebook might bring more visitors here to A Christian Worldview of Fiction, but so far I don’t have the numbers to back up that premise (although it’s a little hard to tell since I’ve been involved in two blog tours in the short amount of time I’ve been on Facebook).

So I’m wondering. Is our culture creating a sound-bite mentality? If it can’t be said in an easily repeated catch phrase, it isn’t worth saying … or reading?

Honestly, I feel privileged. I mean, Facebook has put me back in touch with many, many people I thought I’d lost track of.

But I’m wondering if the post-Facebook crowd, who no longer drives or walks or sits without an iPod playing or a cell phone implant hanging from their ear, will have people with whom to reconnect. I mean, what are friendships made of these days? Virtual coffee or St. Patrick Day shamrocks, a one line “sorry you’re having a bad day” bit of encouragement? How real are the connections?

This inquiring mind wants to know.

Published in: on April 30, 2009 at 10:50 am  Comments (11)  
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Community, Community, Community


When I began working as a full time writer, I realized I needed to connect with others in the profession. I went online hoping to find information about live writing groups in my area. Instead I found a budding online community of Christian writers.

First it was an email group, then a blog. A discussion board followed, and there I stayed for a long, long time—until more and more of the participants deserted to start their own blogs. At long last, I caved and started A Christian Worldview of Fiction. Only to discover an excellent community growing up here. And at another writer’s forum, which led to the formation of the CSFF Blog Tour (and Spec Faith) and a greater community.

Why this little trot down Memory Trail? I mentioned in my last promotion post, Going to the Dogs Again, that an author’s best bet in promoting through online sources is through “organic discussion.” This kind of communication is in contrast to a “mass market blogging” approach.

But who do you “discuss” with? Not strangers. You discuss with people you know or people who are interested in the same things you are. You discuss with your friends, those you work with, those you sit next to in church.

And online? You discuss with those in community: group blogs, bloggers you meet on tours, email groups, discussion forums, online book clubs. There are probably other options, too. The point is, the chance to connect with others in a meaningful way has expanded beyond the furtherest reaches of my imagination.

But with so many voices clamoring for attention, does anyone listen?

We’re back to the many dogs yammering analogy. People listen if they care.

One way to make people care is to speak about something vital. When my dog would bark in the middle of the night, he got my attention. No stranger should have been within his “danger range” to cause him to bark that deep-throated warning bark of his, so if he woof-woofed his loudest, it was vital that I listen.

People also care if they are engaged with others. The first writer’s forum I went to was by invitation—someone I already knew told me about it and suggested I stop by. One of the email loops I’m on came about because of people I met at a writer’s conference. Later, I joined a writing group, and became involved in their forums, because of a blogger/writer I met at a conference.

Of course, the reverse happens, too. As I enter into discussions, I make friends with those I’ve never actually met. But their ideas influence me. I respect their opinions. What they say matters.

The drawback to all this community involvement, of course, is that it is time consuming. But aren’t booksignings and speaking engagements time consuming as well?

And now I realize, my time today is half past up, so I’ll continue this another day.

Mount Hermon Report, Part 3


Carrie Padgett, a member of my Mount Hermon mentoring group, asked Jim Bell to take a picture of us during a special session. We were running a little behind and in order to give everyone feedback without rushing the last people, we met in The Fountain during an afternoon workshop when major morning tracks weren’t scheduled.

It turns out that Carrie was Katie Cushman’s roommate, the woman who drove out little carpool up the coast from Santa Barbara. That sort of “small world” connection was typical at Mount Hermon. Not because we were such a small group—there were 450 conferees and about 70 faculty. I can’t really explain it other than God putting people in place. Mathematical probability and all just doesn’t seem to allow for the “coincidences” of connection.

One such was a woman I sat beside early Friday before the conference began. Turns out she’s on a reality show and ended up being one of the people Dave Talbott, Conference Director, interviewed later in the week during the announcement period at one of the meals. She and I talked a bit about writing—seems she’d had advice to turn her story into a novel. I was able to point out that on the CBA best seller list, 43 of the 50 titles are non-fiction, something I “just happened” to look up a few days before leaving for Mount Hermon.

Later in the week, I sat by Kent Whitaker who told of the tragic true story of his wife and son’s murder … by arrangement of his other son. Dave interviewed him later, too, and I learned that his very powerful story of forgiveness will appear on 48 Hours some time in the fall.

For some reason I haven’t figured out, in those quiet, unscheduled moments, I seem to talk with more non-fiction writers than fiction. What a surprise, but God works that way—making connections when we least expect, touching us with the power He gives to others, taking us in unexpected directions.

I’m reminded of Philip whose successful ministry was interrupted so he could meet with a single man, an Ethiopian eunuch who needed someone to explain Scripture to him. The side trip was not on Philip’s itinerary, but God surprised him—not for Philip’s benefit but for the eunuch’s.

So here’s the point—part of writing conferences is “networking.” It has the capacity to become a very selfish “how to advance my standing by using people” kind of dog-besting-dog experience. I rarely see that at Mount Hermon.

God is able to override that human tendency and make the writer-connecting-with-writer more about helping one another. Kent, for example, was more excited to tell me about the fantasies he loved than he was to tell me about the TV program he was going to be on or the tragedy he had endured. Yes, he mentioned the latter, but it came up because I asked him what he was writing. And the TV program? He told the conference he’d agreed on the condition that 48 Hours keeps in everything about his jailed son’s turn to Christ and about Kent’s own turn to forgiveness. Now there’s a program I plan to watch!

Published in: on April 10, 2007 at 11:03 am  Comments (1)  
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