Watching Other Writers’ Blogs

What makes a writing blog worth reading? Well, you’re here on this site, Dear Reader. Can you tell me? All right. Don’t worry about it. I’ll ask someone else. In fact, the week before last, I sent a questionnaire to three writing bloggers, and the post that follows is based upon their responses.

Overall their reasons for reading and following other writers’ blogs were very positive. They are looking for writing tips, market and competition news, friendship and networking and reassurance and encouragement. When they make comments, it is to congratulate or commiserate writer-bloggers, to discuss a market or technical writing point or to offer their advice. One of them looked at blogs to compare styles of writing and to see how each blogger’s style compared with her own. None of them were surfing absently, seeking any distraction from the day job or from their own writing – which is what I feared.

Surprisingly, they didn’t devour writing magazines (either printed or online) in huge quantities. Two respondents recommended other sites, ‘The Write Practice’ and ‘CommuniCATE Resources for Writers’ – both of which are new to me – for their useful articles and tips. I will look into these.

They weren’t too worried about if blogs written by writers included posts about their everyday lives. However, a distinction was made between general blogs which happened to be hosted by writers and specific ‘writing blogs’; the latter they would dRich Picture About Bloggingefinitely expect to keep to topic. More importantly, what they were seeking was, not just useful and interesting information, but humour or ‘a fun read’ and someone who had ‘a real passion for writing’. The big turn off was bloggers who took themselves too seriously or – even worse – did nothing but self-promote (or promoted someone else), although a little self-advertisement was tolerated.

They all liked the interactive-ness of blogging and liked to leave comments to show that they had ‘dropped by’. One respondent reported that she was drawn to blogs where the author was receptive and enters into dialogue, and – most telling of all – is prepared to take the time to visit her site and comment. Following back should feel like it is ‘part of a relationship’.

Although all three respondents watch many writers’ blogs, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they read every word of every sentence of every post of every blog. Like me, they wouldn’t even click on the email alerts if a particular post doesn’t look interesting. We’ve all read, I’m sure, about how important headings are in blogs and on websites generally and this reinforces that point, as most blogging applications include the post heading in the heading of the email alert.

Thank you very much, Julie, Mishka and Patsy. If anyone else reading this, would like to answer my questionnaire, please contact me. I’d be very interested to hear from you.

(Image by  jonny goldstein  available from Flickr)

Review of ‘The Good Knight’ by Sarah Woodbury

Available from Feedbook’s website. 

‘The Good Night’ is a historical detective story set in medieval Wales.  It follows a straightforward recipe: two detectives, one male and one female,  in love with one another and working together to resolve a murder, against the backdrop of north Wales, which the author clearly knows like the back if her hand. The action takes place in the twelfth century, when the Danes were a constant threat, especially the Dublin Danes across the Irish Sea, plus the more sophisticated Normans to the East in England. Owain Gwynedd was King of Wales, but suffering frequent bad-tempered challenges from his brother, Cadwalladr. This period and setting will be familiar in part to readers of Ellis Peters’ Cadfael stories (although Cadfael was based in Shrewsbury Abbey).

Even though the word count only totalled 37,000, the plot was long and complicated, with many twists and sub-plots, especially at the end. The book might have finished in Dublin at 80%, but continued in the same vein, obliging the protagonists to rescue the damsel-in-distress a second time. The storyline was enhanced by Sarah’s intense and wide-ranging knowledge of the machinations of Welsh princes, mind sets and world views, and of how everyday life was lived during this period. The author’s excellent historical perspective led her to include several scenes where the ‘goodies’, as well as the ‘baddies’, murdered people without a second thought, but this is what you did in medieval times, especially if your little kingdom was squeezed between the Vikings and the Normans. There weren’t many concerned and hand-wringing liberals around in those days!

As Sarah included many real-life historical figures into the story, every character (apart from the Danes) had an authentic Welsh name, which made working out who was who awkward, despite the prologue telling us how Welsh names are pronounced, and especially as the author took it for granted that the reader would remember everyone at first mention. This problem might have been alleviated if more of the fictional personages had had more familiar Welsh names like ‘Gareth’ and ‘Gwen’, the two main detectives. Also, in my opinion, there were too many characters generally, and as a result it was difficult to develop all of them properly. Hot tempered and touchy Owain Gwynedd came out well, as did his sons, Rhun and Hywell, but I really didn’t get what was driving the villain, Cadwalladr; nor did Owain Gwynedd, methinks. Also some potentially interesting females – like Cristina (Owain’s mistress) and Alice (Cadwalladr’s wife) – needed developing further.

The Webster English in which this was written was at first disconcerting, and seemed out of keeping with the twelfth century, but I then learned that the author lived in the United States – so she is forgiven! Sarah wrote – refreshingly – outside ‘The Rules’, using brackets and adverbs frequently and many, many reps. However, one incorrect use of it’s stuck out like a sore thumb. Self-published authors do not get the benefit of non experienced, professional proofreader!

Although it read as a complete story in itself, ‘The Good Knight’ is the second of five ‘Gareth and Gwen’ novels – for more details, visit Sarah’s website at http://www.sarahwoodbury.com. Sarah has also written twelve other historical novels, with two touching upon the paranormal (none of which I have read). Would it recommend this? Yes, for a good read, based upon sound historical research.

A footnote: very sad to hear of the untimely death of my fellow Leicester-ian Sue Townsend. No one could write about the mundane as she did and make you laugh as loudly. She will be sadly missed.

Another footnote: as I’m currently on holiday in Sicily at the moment and I don’t have a travel blog (although I keep thinking of building one), I thought I would end with a photo.

Agrigento, Southern Sicily.
Agrigento, Southern Sicily.