Welcome to Part II of my blogging series. Blogging is one of those endeavors that separates the real writers from the dabblers, hobbyists and dreamers. Why? Blogging is regular proof of what we are…writers. How is that? Um, we are writing. Duh. When you finish and publish your novel, then feel free to call yourself a novelist. Until that day, though (which likely will be a couple years in the future) you are a professional writer. What do professionals do?
Professional writers write. They don’t make excuses. But I am here to give you fair warning. When you take on the task of writing a blog, just go ahead and expect that the Crappy Excuse Troll will rear his ugly little head…and it is up to you to kick him in the face. If you aren’t hard-core enough to stomp him like a Florida waterbug, then for the love of God, at least don’t feed him. Then he shows up with his friends and starts adding crap to your grocery list.
- Saran Wrap
- Peanut Butter
- 60 jars of Marshmallow Fluff and 10 pounds of chocolate
- Jumbo Bag of Rubberbands and Jumper Cables….. WTH?
I don’t know if you know this, but there are supernatural creatures whose sole purpose is to steal or sabotage your dreams. Last week, we met the Bright Idea Fairy. She is the creature who comes fluttering down with what seem like really cool ideas that are actually time-wasters in disguise. If you don’t spot her and shoot her immediately, she can have you off a primrose path of procrastination in six seconds flat. And if you’re not tied off to a safety line–which most of us don’t run around with a bright orange nylon belt strapped to the plumbing–your blog or novel might not see you for months.
Like the Bright Idea Fairy, the Crappy Excuse Troll is on a mission to tempt you away from your desk with the promise of candy, a movie, or any shiny object that can gut-hook you like a trout. But, here is some good news. The Crappy Excuse Troll, though, is fairly predictable. He is like that weird guy in the Wal Mart parking lot who manages to “run out of gas” every other day and yet people STILL give him money. Crappy Excuse Troll knows that his excuses suck, but suckers keep falling for them so he’ll keep using them. Crappy Excuse Troll makes 12% commission off of your shattered dreams, btw.
How do you spot Crappy Excuse Troll? Easy. He gives the same lies to every author. Whether you fall for them or not is up to you.
Oh, you just don’t have time. With the kids and the house and the baby and husband and yodeling class, you are lucky to get sleep you poor dear. Writing a novel has already been hard enough and NOW they expect you to blog too? Why you just can’t FIND the time.
Okay, Crappy Excuse Troll wants you to believe that time is laying around like loose change in the couch cushions. It isn’t. We have to grab hold of Time by the scruff of the neck and wrestle her down and let her know who is boss. In fact, just picture an episode of The Dog Whisperer and Time is that pain in the ass Chihuahua who pees on your rugs and bites your kids. You have to be calm, assertive pack leaders and wrestle the pack of feral Chihuahua Minutes under your control. Time is not in control of us. We are in control of Time. Now pop Time on the snoot and tell it sit and stay and mean it.
Now, when you do wrestle enough time to write, expect Crappy Excuse Troll to come from a different angle.
Oh, that is great that you are taking time to write, but 30 minutes is just not enough. If only you had all day to write.
Here is the deal, no matter how much time you dedicate to your writing, Crappy Excuse Troll will tell you that you aren’t doing enough. Just expect it and then ignore it. You will be shocked how much you can accomplish if you will just dedicate even a half hour a day to your writing.
Crappy Excuse Troll, when he doesn’t get his way, often will call in the Procrastination Pixies to give one last ditch to lure you away from your computer and crush your dreams. Procrastination Pixies, like the Bright Idea Fairy, are all sparkly and pink and sound like a good use of time.
Oh, I can’t possibly write until the house is clean.
When I get an agent, then I will start blogging.
When I get a book deal, then I’ll do social media.
Why does the Crappy Excuse Troll call in the Procrastination Pixies? Because they have the ability to take on human form. They can morph into our mother, husband, wife, children, neighbors or friends and lure us away with movies, errands, shoe sales and Happy Meals.
We can’t let them win. Every time the Crappy Excuse Troll convinces us we can’t possibly write for whatever good reason…a kitten dies. Kidding! The kittens are safe, but your dreams and goals will be eaten away one excuse at a time. We always have to be mindful that these supernatural creatures call out to all of us, like sirens from the rocks. We have to stuff cotton in our ears and refuse to give them audience or that is where our dream of being a full-time best-selling author will crash…on the rocks of Gave it a Good Try. By the way, those rocks are a giant graveyard for the aspiring writers. That’s why I say screw aspiring. Aspiring is for pansies.
Okay, so why did I take the time to go through all of that? Because blogging for platform separates the writers who are trying and the writers who are doing. Be a doer. No one will take us to writer jail if we do not blog, but we must appreciate that other writers are blogging and are gaining a large following and that is the competition. This is like Rocky IV and the big freaking Russian is training in the lab with all that high-tech science stuff, and we know that we are going to be a red paste if we don’t get in serious shape…fast. Grab a log and a harness. We’re going snow-running.
It’s the eyeeeeeee…of the tiger. Okay, where was I? Right.
Before we go any further, I want to clarify. I don’t care what you blog about. There is no right or wrong for blogging in general. But, when it comes to blogging for platform, with the goal of creating a large following, then there is right and wrong. I don’t make the rules. I tell it how it is.
You can blog from the perspective of the fairy queen protagonist in your book. I will not stop you. Feel free to blog about your life and the tortured struggle to be taken seriously. You can even post your fiction. Again, I won’t stop you. I will, however, tell you that it will be next to impossible to gain a large regular following in the thousands with those topics.
I am here to help you guys plan for the long-haul. If you desire to be a career author, then you need to put those roots in deep and plan on being around for a few decades. What I am teaching here is how to connect to a large audience to support you as an author. Are there super mega bloggers who use a moniker? Yes. But their goal is not to build a platform to sell a book with their given name on the cover. Ours is.
So are you guys ready to be real writers? Then grab your gear and keep reading. We’re gonna talk blogging. Many of you, when I shot your bright idea-fairies to show you how it’s done, promptly had a panic attack and curled into the fetal position. So much…blooood. Okay, I’ll stop *snicker.* Anyway, I promised to hook you up in this week’s blog. What do you blog about as a fiction author trying to build a platform?
There are two ways to go about this.
#1 You can blog on topic (which we discussed last week).
If you are writing a period piece, then blog about that time period—the politics, daily life, the conflicts of the time. Many people who read period romances and mysteries LOVE history. I imagine you do too, or you wouldn’t spend time writing a novel set somewhere back in history. Duh. So if you love history, why is this so hard? Talk shop! Finally people who love to talk about the same crap you do. When you start talking about Elizabeth I or Bull Run, your followers will totally dig what you have to say…unlike your family whose eyes glaze over and drool begins to run down their chins. Take advantage. Odds are you will even meet people geekier than you who can add to your flypaper of random seemingly useless facts. I can hear your leg thumping like a dog getting a belly scratch ;).
If you write thrillers? Again blog on topic. Blog about the CIA or FBI or Manchurian Candidates or current security threats. Talk movies. Write scientific thrillers? Blog on the latest trends in science. Read Discover Magazine or Popular Science and then tell us about what you learned in your own words. Blog on Jurassic Park or The Fly. Science or peek into the future? Write suspense? Blog on serial killers if that is what your book involves. Blog on forensics. Put all that research to good use. This will help connect you to readers who enjoy the same stuff. Trust me, the people picking up Tess Gerritsen’s books are the same people who DVR Criminal Minds and Las Vegas CSI.
There are tremendous advantages to blogging on topic. First, you are less likely to run out of ideas and stall a month into writing your blog. Second, blogs on topic naturally lend themselves to discussion. People want to be involved and they gravitate to blogs that generate a dialogue. If we are just blogging about how tough it is being a writer, then we risk our blog devolving into weekly bitch session, not a thought-provoking dialogue. That is unproductive.
As I said last week, the secret to blog success is simple:
Topic you are passionate about + Topic readers are passionate about = Hit Blog!
We are passionate about ourselves and our works. But we have to be careful blogging solely about ourselves. Do we like people who do nothing but talk about themselves? No. So why would that be a good plan for a blog? Common sense.
Serve the reader FIRST. Find the common passion.
#2 We can also blog by demographic.
I wrote a book about social media for writers. What is my target demographic? Writers. Ergo, I blog on all things writing.
Writers do tend to be avid readers. Thus, they will be part of your demographic, too. So, if you want to blog on writing, go for it. Just make sure you are blogging about the craft of writing. Write blogs that serve those reading. You don’t have to know everything. Heck, you can be brand spanking new. Even better. Get readers involved in a conversation. Tell people what you learned, then ask for opinions, comments and feedback. People love to be helpful.
No one expects you to be an expert right away and that is fine, so long as you are deferring to experts. Now you have my permission to write about your struggles.
Today’s blog is about POV. I have always found it hard to understand. Yesterday I read Bob Mayer’s The Novel Writer’s Toolkit and he explained it like this. Blah blah blah. Do you guys have trouble with POV? Why? Any advice?
Writers looooove offering advice. We are a very helpful group. And if you write good blogs, we will happily send our peeps your way. Don’t believe me? Look at my blog roll and the Mash-Up of Awesomeness at the end.
We love finding good blogs to help us improve our craft. If you love all things writing, then blog on writing. If you have 15,000 followers when your book comes out, they will buy the book because they like YOU and want to support YOU. That is the goal…for followers to like YOU. Not your characters, not your world, not even your novel. News flash. Your novel will do that. Your blog is to get people to know and like YOU. Your blog cannot do something only your novel can accomplish. That is about as productive as trying to get your plumber to put in new kitchen cabinets for you.
I buy way more books than I ever read. I buy from people I know and LIKE because they have served me on their blog, and I feel it is my little way of giving back for all the hours they dedicated for FREE to help me. We need followers to like YOU if you plan on being around for a career…because I assume you have more than one book in you. Put your efforts behind YOU.
Whatever you choose to blog about, make sure it fits in the formula. You are passionate and readers are passionate as well. This formula creates a conversation between you and your readers. Conversations lead to friendships and that is the goal. Serve your readers and they will like you and will grow to be your biggest cheerleaders. Some of my greatest allies/promoters are peeps who follow my blog.
Okay, now the hard questions.
How often do I blog?
You need to blog (minimum) once a week. If you are blogging once a month or when the fancy strikes you, that’s just wasted effort toward building a platform. Readers need to be able to count on you/your blog.
Me? I was a lazy sloth with zero self-discipline when I began blogging. I started with once a week then upped it to three times a week. In retrospect? Three times a week is WAY easier. You gain a following much faster and it is easier to stay encouraged. I blog on three different topics, so I always have plenty to talk about.
I, personally, think blogging every day is too overwhelming for most writers and readers. I won’t stop you, but my experience is three times a week is enough to keep you top of mind with readers, and not wear them out.
What if I started a blog about my characters, book, writing journey?
Keep doing it. Just pick a day for that stuff, then blog on topic the other two days. Originally I came up with Free for All Friday where I would talk about me and my book, but I just don’t think I am all that interesting. I love being silly too much, and Fridays are normally my time to cut loose and poke fun at writers, writing, and the world in general. I am not saying you can’t blog on that stuff, I am just saying it is a garnish and not the main dish. People want to chew on steak, not parsley.
Personally? I believe you could blog on Monday about writing, your topic (serial killers) Wednesday, then talk about you/your book on Friday, and that would be just dandy.
What if I can’t find anything good to post?
Try harder. If you want to be a career author, then finding something interesting to say once a week should not be that big of a chore. If it is, might want to reconsider career choice. We all get stuck. In that case? Read other blogs and get some inspiration. Heck, write a blog about their blog. We love it when people do that!
I do want to say that I advise you STRONGLY not to post sections of your novel. All it will take is some jerk posting something mean to crater your self-confidence. And DO NOT blog from the POV of your characters. That’s gimmick. Steer clear.
Next week we will start talking about how you prepare a successful blog. Any questions? Comments? Why does blogging intimidate you? Why do you love it? Any resources or advice to share? Put it in the comments!
Until next time….
Dying to meet me in person? Stop laughing. I will be presenting at this years DFW Writing Conference. Not only can you meet me, but Sandra Brown will be there too. Okay…remember me? *sniff*
Give yourself the gift of success for the coming year. My best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books! Enter to win a FREE copy. Check out Author Susan Bischoff’s blog.
The Mash-Up of Awesomeness
10-Minute Fixes to Common Plot Problems by Writers Digest’s Elizabeth Sims
How to Get Your Short Stories Published & Even Get Paid by @Bubblecow
When (or Why) Social Media Fails to Sell Books by Jane Friedman (I LOVE this blog!)
Want to learn a lot and laugh until Diet Coke comes out your nose? Read Chuck Wendig’s:
Author Piper Bayard has a whole string of blogs guaranteed to make you laugh your a$$ off (Can you tell I like a good laugh?) Seriously, only Piper could make the Donner Party tragedy tasteful… boooooooo! Read Snow is Relative & Relatives Might be Handy in Snow.
Author Jami Gold has a really interesting post about how readers access blogs. She took a survey and even uses pie charts. Oooooooh.