Welcome to WANA Wednesday, based off my best-selling book, We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media. This is the day I dedicate to help you guys rock it hard when it comes to social media. For over two months, we have been discussing blogging. If you are new to the blog, I recommend going back and reading the previous lessons. It will save you a lot of time and heartbreak. I am going to assume all of you are clever enough to look to the sidebar to take you there ;).
Sorry for the delay. Texas is literally frozen, and I just now got power. I was blogging by candlelight, shaking in the cold, suffering for you :D.
I actually had intended on stopping after last week’s installment, but alas here we are on Part NINE. There is more to do. Feels like my laundry pile. I just washed all the clothes!
But I digress…
I want to take some time to talk about how we are portraying our blogs to others. Let’s think of it as…advertisement. What are we really telling others about our blogs (us)?
Writing is an emotional business. In the creative fields, we pour our hearts and souls into our work, then thrust it out for display, and hope people like it, even though, deep down, we default to expecting a barrage of rotten vegetables to come hurdling through the screen.
So what do we do to protect ourselves? We emotionally distance, which is bad, bad, bad. We think our comments will get us gratis, but, instead, all they do is alert others to our faults. For instance, “Oh this is just something I threw together.” This (we think) is a cushion in case other people don’t like our content. Yet, all it does (in truth) is draw attention to mistakes that they might not have noticed had we not inserted the emotional bumper.
My goal is for you guys to use blogging to build a platform to support and grow a successful career. We need to think of our blogs as the storefront of our operation. Our blog is the hub where people interact with us and our writing. It is the place where potential supporters/readers form their opinions.
Our blogs influence opinions, positively or negatively. So what message are we sending to others?
If we blog when we feel like it, this is akin to opening the store when we need some cash or because we feel particularly inspired to work that day. I won’t dwell in this too long because it has already been discussed in detail in earlier lessons. Suffice it to say that the better the blogs and the more consistent and dependable, the better opinion others will have of our blog…and of us.
We’ve also discussed content. Focused content builds a brand. It helps form an opinion of who we are as a writer. Content is like the ingredients on the back of a label.
If I hid a certain product from you and merely read off the ingredients:
Organic Tomato Puree (Water, Organic Tomato Paste), Organic Diced Tomatoes in Juice, Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Organic Onions, Organic Sugar, Sea Salt, Organic Oregano, Organic Garlic, Organic Basil, and Organic Black Pepper.
From this list of ingredients, would you feel pretty confident guessing what the product was?
Pasta sauce, right? And likely a high end pasta sauce since everything had “organic” in front of it.
Our blog content tells others who we are as authors (product). We don’t have to post chapters of our book for readers to get a taste of our writing voice, even if we are shifting over from NF (blog) to fiction.
Chuck Wendig is brash and viscerally descriptive, whether it is his awesome blog (which usually talks about writing) or his novels or short stories. When I read Irregular Creatures, I was not thoroughly shocked that Chuck wrote it. His razor-sharp wit, authentic voice and amazing use of imagery made his fiction just as enjoyable as his blog (his blog actually is what sold me to read his fiction in the first place).
If our blog is our storefront operation, then what can customers (readers) expect to be out for display? Important question to ask before launching any blog. If your blog is up and running, does it need more focus? Is it too broad? If you are blogging on broad topics, can you link them with a theme?
But, you guys are smart and know content is important. All of this brings me my most important point, the single largest way people judge us and our blogs…
We tell others how to judge our blog.
What are we saying about our blog? There is one word that I wish I could eradicate from the vocabulary of all bloggers. What word is this? Ramblings. I HATE that word, and when I was new and insecure, I used it too. And, yes, Chuck uses it, but it fits Chuck’s image of a Genius Word Pirate with Tourette’s (and his blogs are actually highly focused).
For the rest of us mere mortals, “ramblings” is a negative word. This is like opening a company that jars homemade sauces and naming the product, “Crap We Threw in a Jar—Hope You Like It.” Words like ramblings and musings tell potential readers that there was little to no forethought put into our content (which might not even be true). No need to argue with me…this is all my opinion.
Back to ramblings *makes sign of the cross*…
Let’s just think about this for a second. Do we like being in conversations with people who ramble? No! We check our watch and hope a friend passes and rescues us. We search our mind frantically for a way to politely disengage from people who ramble. We hide our head in the freezer case when we see them in the grocery store and hope they pass before frostbite sets in.
Yet, I see too many writers tweet about, “Oh, posted some ramblings on my blog.” Why do we think that will make people want to drop everything to come read our blog? We aren’t offering anything of substance. Well, we might be, but we just told everyone that we put no planning or thought into our content. I see too many writers using these kinds of adjectives, and I have to say that there are generally only two reasons to use the words ramble, musing, random, or any variation thereof.
1). We are wanting to emotionally distance from rejection. I started a blog years ago that was “Kristen’s Random Musings.” Gee, I wonder why people weren’t lining up to read my blog. But it was such a huge step to put myself out there, and I was terrified of the digital cabbages I just knew would be lobbed at me any moment. The problem is that the words we use to cushion us from failure are often responsible for the failure. We are being self-defeating.
We are like the person who goes on a date and says, “I don’t know why I have never been married. Most of my dates go great the first time, but then the guy never calls back.” Um, the guy probably isn’t calling back because he figures the dudes before him might have been on to something that he missed. He will be watching every move and paying attention to every mistake made during dinner. Why? Because we TOLD him to.
2) We have no idea what our content is, but rather than commit to something (and risk failure) and make a plan, we cover our lack of preparation with adjectives that sound pretty—ramblings—but, in reality are very negative.
When we tweet about our blog or announce it on FB, we must always be mindful that we are putting our best foot forward. If our blogs aren’t serving others, then this is harder to do. This is one of the reasons that using our blog for an on-line journal or putting up sections of fiction make it hard to advertise a blog. It’s like trying to operate a business that has nothing for sale, nothing to offer a customer. That’s a museum, not a storefront.
Blogs that gain large followings serve our readers; they aren’t monuments to us. By the time our writing is worthy of a monument, we won’t have time to blog, and our fan clubs can erect monuments to our awesomeness. Then it’s less weird.
And, if you are insecure? My best advice is to “act as if.” Often we are our harshest critics, and we think people are actively looking for when we screw up. Really, they aren’t. At least not the majority of people. Just keep writing and keep focusing and as your following grows, your confidence will too. So no sabotaging.
What are some of your bad blogging habits (past or present)? I’ve already confessed to being guilty of all of the above, so no shame here. What instantly turns you off to a blog? What piques your interest? We want to know!
Until next time…
In the meantime, if you don’t already own a copy, 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.
Also, I highly recommend the Write It Forward Workshops. Learn all about plotting, how to write great characters, and even how to self-publish successfully…all from the best in the industry. I will be teaching on social media and building a brand in March. For $20 a workshop, you can change your destiny….all from the comfort of home.
This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness
Depth of Character by literary agent Donald Maass on Writer Unboxed
A Dialogue On Publishing between Randy Ingermanson and Bob Mayer on Write It Forward
Why Bother with Writing Contests by Jody Hedlund
Storytelling: The Foremost Fundamentals and Elemental Essentials by Chuck Wendig
Get Your Geek on with Peter St Clair’s, Jim Jones and the People’s Temple Part 5 It’s cults! Come on, THAT is interesting!
My History with Perverts by the hilarious Tawna Fenske