A year (and a bit) in the life of Writerly Goodness

This post is one in a series of Anniversary posts for Wordsmith Studio (WSS).

What is WSS, you ask?

It’s a group of people who originally bonded through Robert Lee Brewer’s April Platform Challenge last year and who have gone on to create a community online, not only through our blogs, but also through social media (Facebook, Twitter (#WSchat), LinkedIn, G+, Goodreads, Pinterest (sorry, not a pinner, so no link for the group there), and probably a few other places that I don’t know about yet).

Originally the MNINB Challengers, or Not-Bobbers, we slowly evolved into our own collective.

Part way through the year, a group of fabulous people got together to create the Wordsmith Studio site on WordPress.org.  Since December of last year, a number of members have been blogging regularly on the site as well as on their own blogs.

Others have been attracted to WSS who had nothing to do with the original challenge, and others who participated in the challenge have moved on to other projects.

So now you know, and knowing is half the battle Go Joes! 🙂

Prelude to a kiss challenge

One thing that amazed me was the diversity of people who participated in the challenge.  Some of them had been blogging for years already, or had several blogs.  Others, like myself, were new bloggers.  Others still didn’t start blogging and platform building until Robert’s challenge prompted them to.

I actually started my platform building in September of 2011.  I tried Joomla! first, but found it to be less intuitive than I wanted.  Plus, I was posting a blog more than anything else, and couldn’t figure out the proper way to set a blog up on a Joomla! site.  I wasn’t interested in bothering my techie husband, or in paying someone to sort this out for me, so I looked at other options.

In short order, I found WordPress, and gleefully uploaded the software to my self-hosted domain, labbydog.ca, converting all of my content into proper posts for my blog.

I learned as I went, relying heavily on experts such as Robert, Jane Friedman, and Michael Hyatt and the resources to which they referred me.

Then in February of 2012, disaster struck.  My blog was hacked, and our hosting company insisted in a complete wipe.  RIP labbydog.ca.

After playing around further, I decided, gun-shy and tender creative person that I was, to move to WordPress.com.  On Robert’s advice, I’d purchased my domain name, mapped it to WordPress.com and www.melaniemarttila.ca, A.K.A. Writerly Goodness was born.

At first I was merely attempting to recreate my content and was posting 5-6 days a week.

Enter the dragon challenge

I was already following Robert at the time, and when he announced his April Platform Challenge, I jumped onboard.

For a month, I eagerly awaited my daily dose of platform.  I’d been on Facebook since 2007, and had, as part of my amateur platform building program, already joined Twitter, LinkedIn, and G+, so the days in which the challenge task was to set up accounts on these services I had things a little easier.

It’s a good thing too; otherwise, I’d have fallen waaaay behind.

I learned about having a mission statement for my blog, about using a blogging schedule (doesn’t blogging in this sense sound like a colourful euphemism?  What the blog?  Blogging work!), about calls to action, guest blogs (hosting them and proposing them), interviews, tools like Tweetdeck and Hootsuite, hashtags and Twitter chats, mailing list, business cards, newsletters, Goodreads and other kinds of social media.

By the end of the month, I verged on the overwhelmed.


I cut down on the frequency of my posts.  A new position at work meant that I had even less time and energy to spare for my blog if I wanted to keep up with my novel and other creative writing.

Something I’ve learned is that, as a writer, the writing comes first.  Blogging is a part of that, but if I don’t get my stories, poems, and novels written, submitted, and published, the blog is tantamount to an online journal and practically useless for the purpose of promotion or true platform building.

Now I blog on weekends only, and it’s been working for me, which is the most important thing.  I’ve been getting the writing done and have achieved a greater balance between my professional, creative, and personal lives.

I have several new pages, with links to those of my books that are still available for purchase from the publisher, my blogging schedule (such as it is), an invitation for guest bloggers, awards, and so forth.

I’ve started doing interviews with a number of friends, online and in real life, and was surprised but ultimately pleased when a fantasy writer right here in town contacted me out of the blue on my blog to be interviewed.  It speaks to the unexpected impact that blogging has had on my creative life and the community that I am, however back-asswardly, building 🙂

This post will be my 190th, I have 118 followers through WordPress, and publish my posts to 243 friends on Facebook, 412 followers on Twitter, 112 connections on LinkedIn, and 90 people have included me in their G+ circles.

I’ve participated in a few challenges (October submit-o-rama, I ❤ my blog, and the Just write 2013 short story challenge) and a couple of the Goodreads group craft book discussions.

I’ve posted a grand total of once on the WSS site and am currently waiting to hear from Robert regarding a guest blog on My Name is Not Bob.  **Hint: Look in your spam folder, Robert 🙂

It’s a humble beginning, but I remind myself that platforms take years to build and that until I have something more than a couple of old poetry anthologies to shill, that I’m not likely to have a massive following.  Even then, unless I turn out to be the next big thing for real, I’ll probably only see modest growth.


I’ve been threatening to move to WordPress.org for a while now.  I still haven’t found the time to parse my archives and clean up some of my old posts.  I have to rework some of my images too, since in the early days of my blog, I just did a Google search for my images.  I have to find creative commons equivalents, use my own, or remove them entirely.

Nor have I settled on a new hosting company.  The fear of hack still lives in me and I’m admittedly dragging my feet on this one.

I’m also considering a greater involvement in WSS.  The site is still in evolution and I’m not sure what I can commit to.  Want and need are two entirely different things.  Keeping that distinction in mind will help me stay sane.

What I will do is encourage all of you to visit the Wordsmith Studio site, peruse the wonderful diversity of our members’ sites and blogs (photo bloggers, pet bloggers, health bloggers, poets, fiction writers of all genres, non-fiction writers, publishers, and so much more).  A weekly round up of our anniversary blogs will be posted on the Veranda, so please read on.

Also visit My Name is Not Bob to see some of the lessons learned posts from several of the original challengers.

Many of my online friends have had amazing years, some good, some bad, some demoralizing, and some downright inspiring.  Most of them are far more eloquent than I am.

Consider liking, commenting, sharing or subscribing.  They are teh awesome, with a little awesomesauce on the side 🙂

Happy anniversary WSSers!  Love you all, even if I don’t show it often enough.

38 thoughts on “A year (and a bit) in the life of Writerly Goodness

  1. I enjoyed your essay, Melanie. It allowed me to know you a little better and to know again that we are a wonderfully diverse group at WSS. I’m so glad we met there.


    • Thank you for stopping by and commenting, Sabra 🙂 We’re kind of lucky to be part of such a bunch of creative people, aren’t we? Plus they’re all so supportive and understanding 😉


  2. So interesting to hear how people came to participate in the challenge, what their goals for it were and where it actually led them. Congratulations on your accomplishments of the past year and Happy Anniversary.


  3. Wonderful Melanie! It’s nice to see where everyone stood before the challenge as well as how far they’ve come! I agree with Sarah…the future goals was a nice touch and a great lead-in for the 2nd anniversary post! 😉


  4. Melanie, what a great post. These words really stood out for me: “Want and need are two entirely different things. Keeping that distinction in mind will help me stay sane.” What a take-away! Happy Anniversary!


    • I’ve been involved with volunteer and not-for-profits before and I know how much work it can be. I remember that a few of you lovely ladies were having a rough time of things for a while. I’m all for helping out but balance is a precious commodity I can’t afford to squander. Thanks for your comment, Gerry!


  5. NIce post, Melanie – I’m currently trying to decide whether to stay with WP.com or pay for WP.org. I want a PayPal widget and it can only happen on .org. You know, last fall during Dan’s class I naively felt that building a following wouldn’t be that difficult. OMG! You are so right – it takes years to build up connections. I hope I live long enough!


    • Marilyn, thanks for stopping by and commenting 🙂 Blogging is as much about managing our expectations as anything else. Good luck with the move if you decide to go through with it. Let me know how it goes!


    • Thanks, Janice:) It is a good practice to recognize our accomplishments. It’s a continuum. Started here … currently here … an there’s where I want to go. Once the goal is achieved, the process repeats.


  6. Great post! I love how you documented the changes you’ve been through. I also think it’s important that you ended up focusing more on your writing/publishing, so that your blog could serve as part of your platform. Happy anniversary!


  7. Look how far you’ve come Melanie! I’m so proud of you and of all of us. I can’t believe you’ve lost your original blog to a hacker. How terrible. But you’re back stronger and better than before. Isn’t it great when we find our rhythm? I know it took me the better part of the year to find out what I’m comfortable with, my voice, the frequency and to simply forgive myself if I don’t feel like blogging for a while. Happy anniversary and much love and success from me to you. 🙂


    • Forgiveness is a big part of the equation. You really have to consider whether the task is a want or a need, a should or a must. Everything else is just your monkey mind making noise. Thanks, Veronica 🙂


  8. Really great post, Melanie. Like Sarah, I like that you named your stats and what you’ve accomplished and then outlined some new goals. I have been so grateful to be on this journey with my WSS writerly friends!


  9. Sorry to hear about the hacking issue (I’m always really afraid of that!), but it sounds like you made a remarkable blogging recovery. I really appreciate your point that the writing has to come first. I’ve been putting my blog first for months, and am now trying to decide if blogging is going to be my form of writing, or if I am ready to go back to creative writing.


    • It can be a big decision, but I think things often do happen for a reason. Maybe your blog could turn into a book! The possibilities could be exciting 😉
      Oh, and about the hacking: as devastating as it was (lost 4 months of posts) it was actually a good thing. I was able to put some of my learning to work and do a better job the second time around. Who knows? If/when I move to WordPress.org, I might decide to make a clean break and start over again. It’s kind of liberating.


  10. Great post, Melanie! I’m sorry you were hacked, but it sounds like good things came from it. It sounds like you have made great progress having so many WP followers! Congrats! Here’s to another successful year of blogging/writing!


    • Thanks, Linda 🙂 So many of you have done so much! It’s been a fabulous year for everyone it seems. Regardless the challenges we’ve faced I think we’ve all developed a certain resilience. Reason to celebrate in itself!


  11. If I may offer some humble advice, I followed all my friends advice and swapped to WordPress.org after only a few months of blogging. What I didn’t realise is that you are no longer promoted across WordPress reader so you gain no new WordPress followers (or likes!). I also lost several followers in the swapping process. In the long term it is probably better if you want to fund your site in anyway, but if you are just enjoying the process of blogging and gaining a following, my advice would be to stick with WordPress.com ;). You are doing so well with your platform – well done!


    • Thank you, Gemma. I think that’s one of the many reasons I’m hesitating. I am also considering starting from scratch. It’s an exciting thought in some ways, doing for myself what the hack did for me last year, but then I think I’m crazy to voluntarily lose everything! I’d like to chat with you further about the process, if I may? Let me know.


  12. Melanie:

    I love how you’ve taken the time to explain in great detail the many things you did and your changes. The part I love the most is how, after experimenting with blogging frequently, yu’ve settledon a weekend schedule. I think that’s the evolution part of blogging that Robert was talking about.

    You’ve done really well for yourself, Melanie. Thank you for your support and friendship!


    • I really think it’s the community we’ve developed that makes all the difference. When we share our journeys, we help each other out. I noticed several of our crew experiencing difficulty with Blogging schedules and staying consistent. I decided to take action rather than feel guilty about it 🙂 Thanks, Amanda!


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