Blogging Part I–Meet the Bright Idea Fairy, then Shoot Her
Welcome to WANA Wednesday, the day based off my best-selling book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. I dedicate every Wednesday to teaching you guys how to rock it hard when it comes to social media. Today we are going to discuss blogging. In fact this will be the first in a series that will run at least through the beginning of the year. Heck we will stay here as long as necessary because you guys need to blog. Not only do you need to blog, but you need to blog effectively…in ways that will build your platform.
Stop whining. Don’t think I can’t hear you. This is for your own good, and you will thank me later. Yes, you must blog. No one will take you to writer jail if you don’t, but any writer who wants to succeed in the new paradigm of publishing needs to blog. Why? Here are my Top Five Reasons Why You Should Blog (and then we will meet the Bright Idea Fairy):
Blogging helps you develop skills necessary to be successful in our writing career. Blogging can help us transition from hobbyist to professional author. If we are blogging the way we should, we must post regularly so that we can gain/grow a readership. If we only blog 6 times a year and only when we feel inspired, our blog is worthless for our career. When we are held accountable for posting blogs regularly, we begin to work those self-discipline muscles that are so critical to a successful career. Blogging strengthens your skills as a writer and gets you into great habits.
Blogging can help you understand your subject matter better. What to blog about? We will talk more about that later, but I generally say blog what you are passionate about and blog on topic. Your enthusiasm will shine through and blogging on topic will help you grow as an expert.
Topic you are passionate about + Topic potential readers are passionate about = Hit blog!
If you write paranormal romance, then I assume you are passionate about the paranormal world and even human relationships. So are your readers/potential readers. Blog about what readers of paranormal romance like…um, the paranormal! If you blog on topic, then it is less likely you will run out of topics to talk about. This also allows you to make double-use of your research. Not only can it help your books, but you can use that material for your blogs.
Someone who writes paranormal romance can blog on legends, myths, vampires, vampires in literature, ghosts, UFOs, possession, demons, angels. She can make fun of Ghost Hunters or compare thoughts about last night’s Mystery Quest. Basically, tap into what you are passionate about, then think if your readers are passionate about that topic too.
Less talking about you. No one cares. No one really cares about me either. Nothing personal. I am passionate about what I did on summer vacation. You, however, could give a flying rat’s behind what I did for summer vacation unless it involves terrorists, Great White Sharks or a wet t-shirt contest….or terrorist Great Whites in a wet t-shirt contest.
Can you blog about writing? Sure….the craft of writing. No one cares about our writer’s block or our quest for an agent. Really. Our friends care, but we want our blogs to have a following in the thousands. This means we need to tap into what thousands of people care about. Truth is, thousands of people want to be writers, so feel free to blog on the craft. Read the best books and then write blogs about what you learned. Not only will you grasp the material better, but other writers will gladly follow and even send other writers to your blog. Some of the best blogs about writing are written by writers (other than mine :D): Jody Hedlund, Chuck Wendig, Jami Gold, and Terrell Mims.
Blogging gives validation. Many of us became writers because we had/have something to prove. Heck, I did. My family laughed at me when I said I was going to become a writer. Here is the blunt truth. Do not expect your family to throw you a parade when you decide to become a writer. Expect criticism and rolled eyes…then get over it and blog. When you blog regularly, you get almost instant feedback on your writing. Unless you are just horrible and should be banned from Microsoft Word, people are nice and won’t tell you that you suck, unless you have broken my rule about controversy. No blogging on sex, politics or religion unless that is your platform. But so long as you blog on non-controversial topics, most of the time, if you get a genuine comment, it will be words of reassurance. The spam-bots are even pretty nice too.
It is also very encouraging to watch the hits on your blog steadily increase. By blogging we have tangible evidence that people are reading our writing, and that they like what we have to say.
Blogging makes us look professional. Walks like a duck. Quacks like a duck. Must be a duck. When we finally make the mental shift to I am a professional writer it helps to have the habits that are congruent with the identity. Nowadays being published doesn’t mean what it used to. Hell, I could publish an entire book of exclamation points and claim to be a published author.
It would be a dumb investment, but I could do it :D. I would call my book,
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!…okay, I’ll stop.
You don’t have to be paid or even published to claim you are a professional writer. You just have to take on new habits and attitudes. Trust me, if you tell others you are an author and send them to your blog and you post great stuff three times a week and it is clear you have a following, people will take your work seriously. Why? You are quacking like a duck. You are acting like a writer. We cannot blog a few times a year and write only when inspiration strikes and then get sulky when people don’t take us seriously. You don’t have to wait the four or five or ten years to be taken seriously by having a book at a B&N. Blog. Build a readership and connect to your future audience.
Agents and editors will take on a writer with a platform before the writer with no platform any day of the week. Therese Walsh posted an interview with Writer’s Digest contributing editor Jane Friedman (which I highly recommend you read in its entirety). When asked about social media, Friedman states, “All other things being equal, publishers will choose the author with the platform.”
Read last Wednesday’s blog if you haven’t already. Blogging is the best way to gain a following of people who know you, like you and support you and who will help your book be a success.
Okay, so at this point, hopefully I have sold you on the idea of blogging. It is a lot of fun, by the way. Yet, there is this vacuum. Everyone is telling writers to blog, but no one seems to be offering instruction on what to blog about. Expect a visit from the Bright Idea Fairy. She visited me too. So before we rally next Wednesday, I am going to just stop you before you do something…uh, dumb. It doesn’t look dumb at first. I know. Been there. But I am here to explain why these “bright ideas” are time-wasters.
Bright Idea Fairy Unmasked
When we begin to ponder the idea of blogging, many of us will consider writing:
A blog about ourselves. No one cares about us unless we are a celebrity. Sorry. Just reality. Blogs should always be for the reader. If we are telling a personal story it must either have a larger message the reader can take away or be inspiring or funny. Tawna Fenske and Piper Bayard are two great examples. Both these ladies blog a lot of observational humor. So if you are funny, use it! These two ladies are very entertaining and I don’t care what their books are about, I know I will buy them because I love their blogs and they serve ME…by making me laugh.
So unless you happen to be a socialite, grew up in the circus, were raised by wolves, or have recently escaped from a sex cult smuggling Chia pets stuffed with methamphetamine Pop Rocks, no one will really care about your daily life. On-line journals are self-serving. They are okay to have, but use them for what they are…a journal. Not a substitute for a genuine blogging platform.
If you are a socialite-circus midget raised by wolves, you are excused.
A blog from our character’s POV. This is a gimmick. If strangers don’t even care about us and what we are doing, why would they care about imaginary people we made up? Seriously. Why would some random person who doesn’t know us care about life observations from a fictitious character in a book that isn’t finished or published? I was visited by the Bright Idea Fairy on this one too.
There is no mistake I haven’t made, no gimmicky idea that I haven’t tried….and then found myself stuck in a tar baby. I am here to tell you to stay away from the tar baby with the cute button eyes and nose. Bad juju!
It isn’t to say your characters and story aren’t lovely or the next best-seller, but we have to look at WHY people love characters.
Why do we care so much about characters? Because we have been their partners in a journey against all odds. We love Frodo and Samwise not because they are particularly interesting in and of themselves. We love them because we were there when the Ring of Power surfaced, and we followed their journey and setbacks and heartbreaks and triumph all the way to Mount Doom. We were afraid when they were afraid, broken when they were broken, and elated when they triumphed. Assuming Tolkien lived in a time of the Internet, having “Frodo” blog ahead of time about life in the Shire and his longing for adventure would just be….weird and kind of creepy. Definitely boring. It’s like a stranger in the grocery store telling you her life story. Back away slowly. Don’t make any sudden moves.
Stay away from gimmick. People are looking for authenticity. Give it to them and you will benefit greatly. No hiding behind your characters. If you are a new author, it is likely your first novel will never get published. It is likely your novel will be like my first novel and banned by the Geneva Convention as torture. So what is the point of putting all this effort into getting people attached to characters that may never be part of your published works?
But, say you are an anomaly and you do get that first novel published. An editor may love your story but hate your protagonist and insist she be rewritten…and then you are buggered because you have been blogging from her POV for the past year.
Or, say your editor LOVES that protagonist and the people following the blog from the character POV love your character. Now, every book from this point forward, you will have to start from scratch building a following. I am here to save you time.
How many books did Michael Crichton write before (God bless him) he passed away? We were attached to Crichton, not the countless characters over the span of his long writing career. I know no one will find you interesting in the beginning. Sorry. I am not interesting either. We will be one day, though. So until we become interesting, we must blog on other topics that are interesting.
A blog where we post sections of our novel. Yes, I did this too. And I wrote a WHOLE BLOG about why this is a bad idea. So for the sake of brevity, just read my blog on the topic. Even if you are a good writer, posting any kind of fiction is just not good content. Why? Well, for a number of reasons. First, you need enough material to post regularly. Fiction is going to be tough to generate enough content to make a regular blog.
Also, if you read my blog on how search engines work, you will see how fiction does not rate well on an Internet search. This means no one can find your blog. There is just better material out there to blog about that will help you grow a fan following for YOU.
So I hope I have convinced you guys that blogging can be fun and that is a great step toward being taken seriously. I know I probably shot some Bright Idea Fairies out there. OxyClean gets the blood out. Again, you will thank me later. What are some concerns you guys have about blogging? What do you find to be the most challenging aspect? What are you excited about? Please share. I love to hear from you.
Now, before I give you This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness …a word from our sponsor.
My book We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media lays out a step-by-step plan that is:
- FREE—I appreciate that most writers are BROKE. Aside from the cost of the book, your home computer and Internet connection, every tactic in my book is completely FREE
- FAST—If you are super motivated, it will take you a day to build your platform’s foundation. This foundation will give you roots on the top social media sites and link them together to where they feed each other.
- EASY—I tested this book on my 60 year-old mother who was afraid she would delete the Internet if she hit the wrong button. She now rules Facebook. Befriend her at your peril.
- LOW MAINTENANCE—Aside from writing blogs, which I highly recommend that you blog, you can build and maintain a platform in less than a half hour a day. The way I teach you makes you work smarter, not harder. You have blogs and best-selling books to write!
- RECOMMENDED–I have built many successful platforms using the methods I teach in this book. My book is recommended by literary agents.
The Mash-Up of Awesomeness
Interview with editor Jane Friedman on the future of publishing on the super-awesome must-read blog Writer Unboxed.
Matthew Schultz has a fantastic blog on the Writers’ League of Texas site with tips to find more time to write.
Leah McClellan has a wonderful blog about proofreading.
Shennandoah Diaz has an excellent blog about showing and not telling.
What to do when you hate your book, by literary agent Rachelle Gardner.
For the self-published authors out there, here is a great blog about how to take a negative review.