Let's talk turkey about being a writer with a blog, shall we?
What is the purpose of your blog -- to promote your name and work, to post personal anecdotes, to build a community of your supporters, etc.?
Marian Allen: All of the above. I use my blog (http://marianallen.com/) to showcase my work, but I also share information and recommendations with fellow writers, fellow readers, and fellow foodies.
Mark Bousquet: I guess I'm a bit different in that my blog and my writing are separate - that is, the main point of the blog (https://atomicanxiety.wordpress.com/) is to review movies and TV shows while the main point of my fiction writing is, well, fiction writing. I certainly promote my fiction on the blog and will, every so often, talk about it, but people come for the reviews. I might get one or two clicks leaving the blog to go look at a book at Amazon or something for every 500 people who visit the site.
Jack Mackenzie: All three. I blog as Jack Mackenzie (jackmackenziewriter.wordpress.com/) and the main purpose of the blog is promotion, but people won't keep visiting a blog that is only used for advertising. You have to offer something to keep people's interest, on a regular basis, to keep them coming ba ck. Odd as it may seem, nothing keeps people interested more than personal stories. People love to hear about other people's every day existence. You don't have to be the most interesting person in the world. It seems that in a blog format what people are looking for is something that connects you to them and vice versa. If you give that to readers you also have to give them the opportunity to connect and have their say and thus your blog become part of a social network.
Don Thomas: Originally I would have to say the main focus of my blog (http://donthomas6.wordpress.com/) was to share personal anecdotes written primarily in a stream of consciousness, somewhat informal manner. Mainly about whatever subject I felt inspired enough to whip up and complete an individual blog article for. Essentially the writing equivalent of a professional poker player occasionally playing a couple of games of solitaire when they're bored. Then later on I started using it more and more for promotion of not only my work, but the people I was currently working creatively with or at the very least would one day would like an opportunity to work with. I guess you could say by that time I was working towards building up a community of supporters, although it had far less to do with the people who took the time to read my blog and much more about the individuals that I took the time and effort to feature in one of my blog posts.
To me blogging was something for a long time that was outside the sphere of directly helping my career as a writer. Yes I could see the potential was there for it to play a more major role, and I even did some research into the series of how-to steps involved in transitioning my informal blog into a force to be reckoned with on its own. But I refrained from putting forth the full effort with my blogging, as honestly I had never set out for it to be anything writing wise that I wasn't doing occasionally on the side whenever the mood significantly struck me.
Yet still cared enough to map out a strategy in case I ever wanted to put any real effort into it. I guess in the end the proof is in the pudding, because the one person I ever took the time to share the information and strategy on blogging I had come up with was originally just looking to build up interest on a comic book project they had come up with. Now seven months later with 40,000 + blog views under their belt they've come to the decision their primary focus should be their blog.
That's the way it goes sometimes, and they certainly weren't the first person I've taken the time to freely give out some informative advice. Done the same with Sean in regards to a completely different matter, and both times I genuinely wanted both to take what they could from the information I freely provided and run with it as far as they could, snatching up just as much success as they could.
But with that said, whatever I've already mapped out a strategy for, I'm just as capable of putting to good use for myself. So let's just leave it at in December my blog is going to go through a bit of a transition. Going to be something that's probably going to take a lot of people by complete surprise. Then they just might sit back and ponder the possibilities of what I could accomplish with a blog, if I ever decided to put any real effort into it.
The irony for me is that, as Jack Mackenzie is a pseudonym, I have to make the blog personal while maintaining what is essentially a facade. That is a challenge.
Derrick Ferguson: All three, I suppose. To be brutally honest about it, I started the three blogs I have as a way of keeping stuff separate: there's my movie reviews (https://derricklferguson.wordpress.com/), my Dillon stories (http://dillon-dlferguson.blogspot.com/) and everything else (http://dlferguson-bloodandink.blogspot.com/). Previously I was using my Live Journal for that but I soon found out that nobody really was interested. Unless it was the movie reviews. Those always got responses and started lively discussions.
And then I was constantly being told by other writers that I should have a blog/website/whatever as readers like to feel that they're connected to writers.
How do you balance your time between writing for your blog and writing your stories and articles?
Marian Allen: Writing daily for my blog has made me more productive in writing fiction. Even if I don't get any fiction writing done, I've kept the juices flowing by writing a little blog post. When I DO sit down to work on a story or novel, the words flow more easily than before I took up blogging.
Mark Bousquet: I try to use the blog and the fiction to balance each other out. While I was working on the Marvel Comics on Film reviews (https://atomicanxiety.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/atomic-reactions-marvel-comics-on-film-now-available-on-kindle/), I did little creative writing, but now that that's finished, I'm doing very little reviewing. I find that it helps keep me always writing.
Don Thomas: Blog article writing is primarily something I have always done on the side. I guess if I hadn't given up watching television altogether a little over half a decade ago, finding the time might every once in a while might be something of an issue.
Derrick Ferguson: I only post stuff on my blogs when I have something to say. I really don't see the reason to post stuff just to be posting stuff or to constantly promise readers that "There's some really BIG STUFF in the works!" I know that for me, as a reader, the fourth or fifth time you tell me that there's BIG STUFF in the works I yawn and go away. Wait until you can tell me what the BIG STUFF is and then post it.
Most writers I know how a set day that they post every week but I'm just not that organized. Maybe if I were I'd have more books written.
How important is your blog to your success as a writer?
Marian Allen: My blog is very important to my success, if only for the answer I gave in #2. Besides that, though, posting on my blog and being involved in social networking in order to promote my blog has put me into contact with some super people, both writerly and readerly. I've begun to be invited to submit to anthologies due to contacts I've made through blogging and social media.
Mark Bousquet: Financially? Very little. But I believe more writers should do criticism and more critics should do writing, so I try to practice what I preach. I think investigating other stories makes my own work much better.
Jack Mackenzie: I'm not sure how important it is to my success, but it does keep my name out there. It's not going to make a splash right away but if it is out there consistently then when someone sees my book for sale elsewhere, I'm hoping they remember my blog and maybe something funny or silly th at I wrote their and they may say; "Hey, I've heard of that guy! Let's give his book a try!"
Don Thomas: I certainly never considered blogging to be a make or break thing as far as how successful of a writer I could become. I knew it could enhance the possibilities, but truth is I put about as much stock in focusing on becoming a true professional blogger as I've put into becoming a professional karaoke singer.
Derrick Ferguson: See, that's a hard question to answer because I have zero knowledge of how my blog is influencing readers. Most of the feedback I get is from other writers, which I appreciate...don't get me wrong. But it's extremely rare for a reader to email me or leave a comment.
What advice would you give a writer who is contemplating begin of regular blog of his or her own?
Mark Bousquet: Don't let the blog overwhelm you, but don't treat it like a placeholder, either. Give people a reason to come visit.
Jack Mackenzie: Do it. Don't be a slave to it but do update regularly. Don't be afraid to promote but don't overdo it. Offer readers something of yourself. You don't have to strive to be exciting or controversial, just be yourself. Above all, be honest.
Don Thomas: In this case I'll keep my blogging advice to two primary points. One, I'd say the best thing to do is to work up a couple of blog articles at first and before you publish them on some newly created blogging account, go out and request feedback from those you know who have a decent amount of blogging experience under their belt. Two, if you're planning on using Google's Blogger.com, then right off the back you are settling ... unless that is you are already some sort of blogging savant and just didn't know it.
Of course there's more to having a successful blog than just those two bits of information, and I certainly don't know it all. But I figure that should be sufficient helpful advice for someone who is looking to get started.
Derrick Ferguson: Be sure you have something of importance to say. Don't waste the reader's time. Be sure you convey information of what you are going to do and when you're going to do it and not just of what you plan to do five miles down the road. Be concise. Be entertaining. Relax and have fun. If you look upon it as a chore, that's exactly what it's going to be.