Is Blogging Worthwhile for Thriller and Mystery Writers?

To blog or not to blog? That is the question. (For thriller and mystery writers, that is.) Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous troll comments or bravely take pens against a sea of **crickets**.

If Shakespeare were alive in this internet day, my bet’s the Bard would blog—despite the extraordinary effort required to consistently publish and the resounding risk of no return. He, himself, said so: “The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to, ’tis a consummation.”

We writers on the Kill Zone, and we followers of our blog, are not Shakespeare. We’re resilient mortals, albeit with self-doubt and insecurities, and consumed with pursuing the written word. Including weakly weekly words pounded out on WordPress.

Is blogging worthwhile for thriller and mystery writers? My take? Absolutely!

I hit the blog publish button on June 30, 2012, and I have no regrets. I’ve put out 400+ pieces on DyingWords.net, and it’s returned more satisfaction than I can count. Money? No, not directly. But there’s a much bigger picture to author blogging than direct monetary reward.

Let me count the ways. Blogging has helped build my writing and technical skills, it’s allowed me considerable craft experimentation, it’s educated me in so many ways, it’s forced discipline and motivated me to meet deadlines, and blogging has let me network with like-minded writers on an international scale. I’ve built a brand through blogging, I’ve met influencers or force-multipliers, and I’ve been humbly invited to guest post on prominent sites.

Looking back, I see blogging has done one overall and invaluable thing for my writing adventure. It’s given me discoverability. Being discovered on a global scale loops back to indirect commercialization—making money by having readers buy my books. Blogging has been so, so worthwhile, and I will not lose momentum.

“And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought
And enterprises of great pitch and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action”
~William Shakespeare / Hamlet

Running a regular blog isn’t for every thriller and mystery writer. Quite frankly, it’s a lot of bloody work. Many writers see blogging as a time suck with a low entry barrier where they compete with hacks who pollute the blogisphere with, well… shite.

I don’t worry about that. I’ve learned to do my own thing, and it’s slowly paid off. I look at blogging as a long-term venture—not some sort of a get-rich-quick scheme. (Spoiler Alert — nothing quick about getting rich with writing, and even Wild Bill Shakespeare made little money during his world-changing career.)

However, none of us are Bards, yet there’s never been a better time to be a writer. I sincerely mean this. We have amazing tools and resources to build our skills, cull our craft, network, and get discovered. Let’s look at why thriller and mystery writers should blog.

Improving Skills

Practice makes perfect. Although there’s no such thing as perfection—as far as I know—writing is a skill to be learned. It’s not Shakespearean-God-given talent for almost all of us. Whether you aspire to quill the next great American novel, outsell Rowling and King, or stack readers to your mail list, serious writers strive to improve. It’s a daily slog through other blogs and seeing what currently works.

What currently works for others may not work for you. “Current,” in blog terms, is as recent as a whale sighting. Blog things change fast. They surface and dive, but writing basics really don’t. Many times, blogging is about making old things seem new.

My experience in improving skills? Practice by publishing. Polish Erase the purple prose. Edit with efficiency. And keep on learning.

Experimentation

What’s writing without experimenting with your voice? “What’s voice?” my cow’s milk cheese, white bread, and raw leek sandwich once asked. Until I started blogging, I had no concept of “voice.”

Blogging taught me to free my voice. No, it’s not like free as in clothes-dropping and whirling-around-the-stripper-pole that my new neighbor Pamela Anderson performed in her video with Elton John. And yes… seriously… I’m not messing with you. Pam Anderson is my new neighbor, and that’s for a blog at another time.

See. I just experimented with my writing and my voice, and I know you’re going to read it when I post What I See With My Cabala’s Tripod-Mounted Bushnell Telescope When Pam’s Bedroom Blinds Slightly Crack.

Education

My blog has a tagline. It’s “Provoking Thoughts on Life, Death, and Writing.” Life. Death. Writing.

The blog–trogs of yesterday and the top-bloggers of today say, “Stick to your niche.” I didn’t know what a niche was when I started blogging. Till then, I thought a niche was my sister’s daughter.

But I learned what a niche was, and I found it. Education is a good thing. Education is something you’ll learn in spades when you blog. Continual education has let me learn to blog a lot about life, death, and writing. From that, I’ve learned a ton.

Discipline, Motivation & Deadlines

This is where my cop training came in—long before I was a writer. I was humiliated and soul-crushed in basic training—never mind physically worked to the mat—but I learned mental toughness and the power of teamwork.

Teamwork, motivation, deadlines, and discipline invoke mental toughness. It’s the underscore or underline of personal achievement. To put out blogs or articles, writing pieces day after day, and believe in yourself as a professional scribe, you have to psychologically put yourself in a winner mentality.

Discipline is putting your butt in your chair and your fingers on the keys. Motivation is personal—motivation is believing in your purpose and knowing you have deadlines. Deadlines are having this post up on the Kill Zone every second Thursday morning.

Blogging does this.

Networking

That’s why we’re all here at the Kill Zone. Not just the regular contributors who always have to constantly improve, experiment, educate, discipline/motivate, and meet deadlines. We network. And we critique each other. Often silently.

Blogging—and in my opinion—no better media lets you network more than blogging. I don’t mean just following my blogsite, or TKZ, or the hoards of SM-listed blog sites. There’s a whole wide world of blogging out there, and there’s a secret. That’s to tap into the blog community you want to be recognized by.

It’s by commenting.

Everyone in this TKZ thriller and writing community wants to network. Bloggers and followers inclusive. Sure, some contributors are prominent names and some commentators are new. Putting your comment on a TKZ post is a powerful networking move. Be assured prominent people are reading your comment, and they’re influencers who’ll help lift you.

Influencers/Force Multipliers

Writing. Blogging. Publishing. Marketing. This is a cooperative community. Not a competitive one. We help others to help themselves.

Influencers are folks who have gone before. They may be writers who’ve “made-it” as traditional publishing names. They may be teachers who go above and beyond to help other up-comers in indie publishing. And they may be peers who share what currently works, and what doesn’t for all of us in this crazy biz called writing, regardless of how you’re published.

Force-multipliers are big hitters. They have the success, credibility, and presence to endorse new-comers and guys like me. That might be an encouraging return comment on a blog post comment, or a SM shout-out reaching thousands.

Discoverability

Your return—your magic reward—from thriller and mystery writing blogging is discoverability. Yes, there’s a learning curve and a lot of work, but it’s so, so worth it.

I’ve blogged for over nine years. My followers aren’t huge by some scales, but I’ve amassed 2,100 qualified email list followers. My website clicks are around 800 a day. And when I send a DyingWords.net post out every second Saturday morning at 8:00 PST precisely, I get about 350 faithful readers clicking through.

These faithful readers discovered me through my blog. I look at it this way—if I called a town hall meeting every second Saturday morning and 350 showed up—with my bookselling table at the back of the room—I’d be happy with my blogging audience.

I don’t have a town hall, but my table is virtual, and my venue is open 24/7/365—internationally. It keeps growing as my blog keeps feeding it, and the spin-offs from my blog help discover me.

My secret sales sauce? Discoverability. It used to be called, “Word of Mouth.” Now it’s, “Word of Mouse.”

To me, as a Thriller and Mystery writer, “To blog or not to blog” isn’t the question. It’s the answer.

What about you Kill Zoners? Is blogging worthwhile?

——

Garry Rodgers is a retired homicide detective with a second career as a coroner responsible for investigating unexpected and unexplained human deaths. Now, Garry has reinvented himself as a crime writer and indie publisher.

An avid and active blogger at DyingWords.net, Garry Rodgers has also guest written for many sites including commissioned articles for the HuffPost. Garry lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia at Canada’s southwest coast.

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44 thoughts on “Is Blogging Worthwhile for Thriller and Mystery Writers?

  1. I agree. My Journal is for writers, often includes a topic for writers, and has been running almost every day for 5+ years now. It almost always includes links to others’ articles in an “Of Interest” section, including TKZ, Sue Colletta’s always valuable Murder Blog, and DyingWords.net among others.

    • ‘Mornin’, Harvey. Do you make a blog/journal entry nearly every day? That’s a huge commitment, and to keep on for 5+years is even bigger. Thanks for the reference to DyingWords.net, and I agree that Sue’s MurderBlog is a must-read for CT writers. Now there’s someone who’s got voice 🙂

  2. When my first work (a short story) was going to be published, the publisher said, “You need a website and a blog.” I was clueless, but obedient. That was in July of 2006. It’s primarily a writing blog, but I venture outside that box from time to time. And, when people come up to me at gatherings (hasn’t happened in a while!), and say, “You’re Terry Odell. I love your blog,” that’s all the incentive I need to keep it up.
    Of course, I keep hoping they’ll say, “I love your books,” but that’s another story.

    • Hi Terry – It’s sure uplifting to hear the occasional “I love your books” or “I couldn’t put them down.” They’re few and far between on this writer’s end, but my blog has pretty good reception. I gauge it by getting more subscribers than unsubscribers. Keep on blogging!

  3. Fantastic post, Garry. Great thoughts, great ideas, and very motivational. Being new at this blogging thing, I find this post very helpful. I’ve read it, and will reread it, very carefully. I’ve started a list of “Things that Work” as I begin to find my voice and niche. I’ve added a couple things to that list this morning. Here’s to continued success with your blogging. And thanks for helping educate the rest of us.

    • Hey, thanks, Steve. I never know what the response is going to be when I hit the publish button, so I appreciate the feedback – good, bad, or otherwise. I missed one point about regular blogging, and that’s confidence. It takes a bit of boldness to put stuff out, especially when I use the tagline “Provoking Thoughts.”

  4. Your passion bled through this piece, Garry. Loved this post. Yes, I agree. Starting a blog was the best move I ever made, too, for all the reasons you outlined. If it weren’t for my blog, I don’t know where I’d be. Hard to imagine, isn’t it? Plus, I never would’ve met you! And so many others. Our new podcasting venture should be the perfect compliment to our blogs. Looking forward to it! BTW, as soon as I’m off deadline (editing I Am Mayhem, due 2/12), we need to video chat. I bolted upright in bed the other night with a fantastic idea. Wanna run it by you.

    For new bloggers, here’s a tip: Slow blogging, like Garry’s bi-monthly schedule, is better for SEO than daily blogging for an individual author. Bot crawlers reward longer articles (1500-2500 words) with a higher rank and more traffic. The same is not true for group author blogs like TKZ.

  5. Great post, Garry, and very entertaining as always!

    I started my blog three years ago and found the experience to be very fulfilling, but wasn’t sure how I could keep it fresh. Then I hit on the idea of dedicating the blog to The Craft of Writing since that was where my interest was. The goal of the blog would be to encourage and equip all writers, but especially new authors.

    I figured I’d invite some craft experts as interviewees since what they had to say would be interesting to that audience. But what expert in the field of writing would agree to be interviewed by an author whose first book had just been published? Well, you know what they say — if you don’t ask …

    I asked the craft expert who had had the greatest influence on my writing with his book “Plot and Structure.” I sent James Scott Bell an email and he completely surprised me by graciously accepting my invitation for the interview and agreeing to respond to questions and comments on the day the interview posted. JSB has appeared three times on my blog. Other experts like Randy Ingermanson, Renni Browne, Dave King and others have offered advice and provided an environment for new and not-so-new authors to ask them questions and comment on their works.

    This year I’m alternating monthly blog posts between craft experts (JSB was my January guest) and award-winning authors (James L. Rubart is my February guest.) I love the opportunity to interact with these masters of the craft, and I think it’s a service to the writing community as well. https://kaydibianca.com

    • Hey there, Kay. You nailed it! The key to getting guests is simply to ask. What’s the worst that can happen? Either they say no, but thanks, or they ignore you. You haven’t lost anything that you never had.

      I think JSB is an exemplary role model for all writers. Not just up & comers. He’s genuinely dedicated to his craft and passing on his experience, knowledge, and encouragement for the benefit of others. Jim – if you’re reading this, which I’m sure you will, many thanks from me and a whole lot of writers who appreciate your words.

      And keep on blogging, Kay!

  6. Thank you, Sue. I truly appreciate your constant support though the years. Ah, passion. Like Hemming said, “All there is to writing is to sit down at the typewriter and bleed.” He also said, “Write drunk. Edit sober.”

    You’re right about blog post length and frequency. There was a day when blogs worked at rapid-fire, 500-word pieces (shortform), but that’s not the best strategy today. Who knows what it’ll be tomorrow. I got a good feel for blogging when I spent 2 years writing commercial web content. The sweet spot for SEO recognition was 2200 – 2900 (longform) words. Many of my posts on DyingWords run 4-5K, and I don’t worry about word count as much as content value. For anyone who’s interested in writing web (blog) content, here’s a link to a piece I did titled “How Writing Web Content Will Make You A Far Better Writer” – http://dyingwords.net/how-web-content-writing-will-make-you-a-far-better-writer/

    Podcasting is going to be a whole new world for us. Great quote from Seth Godin is, “Podcasting is the new blogging.” I hope he’s right like he always is. Catch ya in a bit when your d/l is done.

  7. Good post, as always, Garry. Blogging is worthwhile for all the reasons you mentioned, plus because I like to keep in touch with my readers. When I write a novel, the feedback comes a year or more after I’ve written the book. But blogging is instant gratification.

    • Thank you, Elaine. It’s always a “gulp” when I hit the schedule button as I have no idea how posts resonate on readers – especially readers who have way more publishing experience than me. I follow Stephen Kings advice, “Don’t come lightly to the page.” I’ll never be a Chuck Wendig (Terrible Minds), though. Instant gratification. Like that 🙂

  8. Hey, Garry…great post! Compared to most of you, I’m just putting my toes in the blogging waters, but I truly enjoy it. Your post brought home to me that I am discovering a new side to my “voice”…I’m not just a mezzo soprano, like I was in my vocal performance days. There’s a whole new range out there that I’m exploring.

    And BTW, your second Saturday crowd just advanced to 351 as a result of this excellent post. 🙂

    Second BTW: Sue, looking forward to following your website/blogs. 🙂

  9. I so agree that blogs are worthwhile. I do two a week, but they’re not your normal how-to or even my random thoughts. On Tuesdays, I have four crimes or something similar–this week it’s about mass hysteria–and I have three true instances and one that I made up.

    Then on Fridays, I review a book I’ve read. My reach is growing…from less than a hundred a week to almost a thousand views, and usually 10-20 comments.

    What I most enjoy is interacting with my readers. Over time, I get to know them.
    Patricia Bradley
    http://www.ptbradley.com/blog

    • Two posts per week is ambitious, Patricia. Good for you. That’s perseverance to stick with it and watch your steady growth. Sounds like you’re getting good traction!

      I think you just did two networking things right here. You made a comment, which I see you regularly do, and you put a link to your blog site. I clicked over there, had a quick look, and subscribed. Can’t tell me the comment trick doesn’t work, and I don’t see anything wrong with tasteful self-promotion.

      • Thank you, Gary! I hesitated to leave my signature because I don’t want to be pushy, but I think those who read the Killzone will like my blogs. And I’ve reviewed several of TKZers books on Friday. 🙂 I get almost as many views for my reviews as I do my Mystery Questions. 🙂

    • Patricia, your blog rocks. I love the photos and verses and the Tuesday mystery quiz. Because of your blog, I am right now reading one of your books. (Review forthcoming!)

  10. Great post, Garry! And I’m with you on your main points.

    I started my blog site—I consider it more of a “site”—even before I published my first novella. It was—and is—a key part of my fiction-writing plan. For me, it’s my home base, or as I subtitle it: “stories, history, and more…” (I started in Historical Fiction) It keeps me centered and, as you say, also allows me to experiment with written and visual forms. For example, I wanted to figure out how to create an animated GIF, so I devoted one post to the subject of “bobbing” (in a swimming pool), which ties into one of my identities and a source of some of my writing (swimming). So my GIF shows how to do it. Turns out that that post is one of my site’s most viewed. (if you’re curious: http://haraldjohnson.com/bobbing/ )

    P.S Can’t wait to read your post about Van Gogh! (I’ve spent a lot of time in the Arles environs and have always been curious about his death)

    • Thanks, Harald! I never know what the reaction will be when I post something. I made the mistake once of venturing outside my niche and had like 21 unsubscribers. Okay, that hurt.

      I clicked on you bobbing blog. Good stuff, although I much prefer to be in my boat on top of the water rather than under it. When I was a kid, the swimming program taught a thing called “Drownproofing” which, looking back was bobbing. Now I see it’s a meditation form, as well. Thanks for the link and commenting. You’re doing it right!

  11. I just checked my blog, and my first post was on January 22, 2008 so twelve years! 1190 posts! Its content has been strictly about craft, the business of writing, and legal aspects like copyright. It’s never been about slogging my books, but it has attracted a few writing students over the years. According to my tracking software, Statcounter, people almost never go to my domain site to check out my books.

    In recent years as my careers as a writer and writing teacher have begun to shut down, I’ve found it a good outlet to be a grumpy old writer and teacher to fuss about the rampant incompetence in craft and marketing I’m seeing and how not to be this writer. For example, if you want your eyes to bleed and your brain to short out, click on “book blurbs” to see my alien autopsies of horrible back cover copy. I also answer craft questions so my inner teacher stays happy.

    • 12+ years and 1190 posts, Marilynn? I bow to you, my dear. Now that’s commitment!

      This might be strange or backwards, but I think my books “sell” my blog. I have blog and mail list links in the back matter of each book, and my Mailchimp stats show a sign-up strength that I think is coming via ebook reads. Anyway, I’m happy to get traffic from whatever works, and I appreciate each and every reader. I also appreciate your regular, thoughtful, and constructive comments on TKZ!

  12. Garry, a few weeks ago, I gave a talk to a writing group on this very subject and hit many of the same points you did–commenting, networking, honing skills, discipline, deadlines, and discoverability.

    As Elaine said, the instant gratification from reader comments is a terrific high that I rarely experienced during all the years I wrote for print magazines.

    Since joining TKZ, I’ve gotten to know amazing people from around the world whom I would never have met w/o this blog. Pure gold.

    One more lesson: blogging made me focus on the READER. As writers, what value can we offer readers? What would inform, educate, or entertain them?

    If you’re writing primarily for yourself, that’s probably a journal. If you’re writing for readers, that’s where blogging yields the greatest rewards.

    • I zoomed in to Debbie’s talk a few weeks ago. Since I had “met” her on TKZ, I expected her presentation would be informative and helpful. It was. Thank you Debbie!

    • We’re in the same thought zone, Debbie. I gotta admit something. I took a gamble with this piece by kinda laying my blog soul out to tease the devil. At first, when there was crickets for comments, I thought, “Man, I’ve finally blown it. I just posted before hundreds of readers, and I look like a schmuck. What a way to get discovered…”

      Writing to readers. Exactly. I learned to write to your ideal reader, as in kind of a personal letter. Unfortunately, my ideal reader is Sue Coletta, and I have to vet a bunch of stuff before it can be posted on a G-Rated site like TKZ. Sue – you’re getting lots of discoverability this morning 🙂

  13. Another great post, Garry! I began blogging back in 2012 like you. But unlike you, I didn’t have a good angle to work. I blogged about writing, about science fiction and fantasy, later, my own works, but it was a heavy lift. I also had inadequate security at my WordPress site and had to delete and reinstall it after a malware attack in 2013. The same thing happened in 2016, right before I began actively building a mailing list. The third time’s the charm–I haven’t had an issue since moving web hosts in 2016 and being very picking about which plug-ins I install.

    I tried to pick up blogging again later that year and into 2017, when I finally began self-publishing my novels, but still struggled.

    Your post today has inspired me to look again at blogging. I think the key is voice–it’s something I self-consciously struggled with back in 2012, and which I’m much more comfortable with now, both in my fiction and in my newsletters.

    Thank you!

    • Thanks for the nice compliment, Dale. Were you using a WordPress.com site when you had problems? I was warned about having a non-paid host when I started, so I went right to WordPress.org and signed on with HostGator. Not a lick of tech problems have I had.

      I’m with you on voice. I had to dig for this quote that I saved early in the game, but I’d like to share it with you and other KZers:

      “Your writing voice is the deepest possible reflection of who you are. The job of your voice is not to seduce or flatter or make well-shaped sentences. In your voice, your readers should be able to hear the contents of your mind, your heart, your soul.”
      -Meg Rosoff

      • I was using GoDaddy. Inadequate security did me in the first time. The second, it was a dicey plug-in. Now, I’m with SiteGround which features regular site checks and all around better security.

        That’s a wonderful quote. Thanks for sharing it!

  14. I started my blog mainly to hush up my nagging writer friends and my daughter, who were upset with me for not writing and thought I shouldn’t have quit. My blog “Escape From Chaos: Because Stress Is Fattening and Life Is Just Too Short” served its purpose. It got me writing again. It chronicled adventures with my daughter and a response from Charlie Daniels (on Twitter) in response to finding my violin in a thrift shop.

    Since life is short and I can juggle working full time and one other thing (and theatres are closed right now) I decided to try my hand at longer form writing again.

    Thank you for all you do. It’s much appreciated.

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