It’s now been almost a year and a half since I started blogging my book on discernment. Recently, I took a six-week hiatus from both this blog and that one so that I could finish the rough draft of the book. I have the last chapter of the book still to post up on the blog, and I plan to continue posting after I’ve finished the book, but on a less frequent basis. Actually, I’ve already moved from posting three times a week to once a week.
In developing the content, I initially followed How To Blog a Book by Nina Amir, which offered excellent ideas and suggestions for getting started. However, as I continued blogging, I realized that some adjustments to her method would serve the blog, the book, and my readers better. But the biggest question is: Would I blog a book again?
The answer: Yes, I would, but I’d do it differently. I’ll share a bit here what I’ve learned up till now, as several people have requested hearing about my experience. Keep in mind that I’m only half-way through the process–I still have to revise the manuscript from blog to print, and the book still has to be released!
WHAT I LOVE ABOUT BLOGGING A BOOK:
* Immediate interaction with readers, through receiving and answering questions and taking polls. I feel like I have a much better understanding of readers’ concerns—of both core audiences of the blog/book. Feedback from readers helped me see when I was being unclear or unhelpful, and also shifted the focus of some of my chapters.
* The rough draft of the book was written on schedule, even through the travels of a book tour and various other circumstances that normally would have derailed the book being written.
* The book, even in its infancy stage, has already reached hundreds of readers, some of whom told me how helpful it’s been.
* Connecting to current events (such as the broadcast of a cable TV show about young women discerning religious life) enabled me to reach a broader audience than my book might usually do. For example, a Muslim mother and her daughter wrote in to comment on a blogpost about discerning religious life. How cool is that!
WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY (& WHAT I’VE LEARNED SO FAR):
* To build an audience, I committed to a new blog post three times a week. Because of the subject matter, short blog posts weren’t always helpful for readers, some of whom requested that I write longer blog posts and completely cover a topic in one post, rather than breaking it up. This was incredibly helpful in getting the book written, but ultimately it became very stressful and hard to maintain for 16 straight months.
* The rough draft of the book is much longer than the final draft will be, in part because of the need to repeat key information or give the proper context in every blogpost. (Lots of people will just read one or two blogposts, and thus will miss earlier explanations or contexts.) This means the initial revision process for the book is going to take up to twice as long as it usually does. Not that it’s not so hard to cut out repetition, but I foresee that the structure of the book may need to change significantly from the blog.
* In the future, what I would do is blog about a topic, rather than trying to blog the book chapter by chapter. And, in all likelihood, the revision process on my rough (blogged) draft may actually change the content enough that many topics and paragraphs are similar, but the book “hangs together” in a whole different (and more cohesive) way, while the blog has more “in the moment” information that is easily searchable.
* I began using Twitter and Facebook and even Google+ to publicize my blogposts. But because it was so time-consuming to blog three times a week, I didn’t give the attention really needed to the social media I started using. In addition, I didn’t publicize the blog nor build the blog’s audience very well. I’m hoping that, once I revise the book, I can put some energy into publicizing the blog so that people who would appreciate it can find it, and perhaps decide to read the book as well! I also hope that a better known blog will help Catholics unfamiliar with discernment, so that they discover how helpful the spiritual art of discernment is to the spiritual life.