Blogging and Maintaining Our Sanity–Part One
Last Wednesday I talked about the two things we authors can control–Product and Platform. Our main concern is to write a book that consumers will want to buy. No matter how great our social media platform, we can’t wrap a bow around dog poo and call it a rainbow.
But, to be blunt, writers have ALWAYS had control over writing a really great book…and still 93% of novels sold less than 1,000 copies (per BEA statistics). Novelists have always had a staggering failure rate. Why? My opinion? I feel it was because fiction authors (until very recently) had little to no control over platform. Well, here is our chance to beat the odds, but it’s gonna require work. How much work, depends on our approach.
Blogging is a totally different form of writing, and today is just the introduction for my new series to teach you guys how to create blogs that generate a large loyal following for you (and your books).
What exactly is a blog anyway?
Many people make the mistake of thinking that blogs are on-line journals. No. That is an on-line journal. Blogs serve the readers FIRST. But, many people also believe that blogs are on-line articles. Not necessarily.
Blogging in the form of articles is great if you are a NF author. I use my blogs to get the information wandering through my gray matter down on the page. I then harvest the blogs for my books and workshops. Providing consistent, excellent information can help build your reputation as an expert, which is essential for selling NF. No one cares about our book in the beginning. Platform can make them care.
But, if you are a fiction author, writing three articles a week might wear you out, so today I am going to let you in on a really cool secret that will help you be more creative with your blog and will also save time.
Feed the need.
First, we need to look at WHY people are on social media.
Why are people gravitating by the millions to social media?
Information and entertainment.
Noooooo. Why are they really on social media?
Nooooo. Why are they really, really on social media?
Most people when they start a blog stop at that first tier of wants/needs. Hey, I did. The problem with this approach is that it isn’t primal. It isn’t resonating at the deepest emotional level. A blog that is essentially a journal does nothing to serve the reader, so we’ll just ignore that. But, our blogs can be more than just article after article.
One of the funniest things I have witnessed in fiction authors, is that we have the imagination to create entirely new worlds and civilizations, but then we seem to lose all creativity when we try to start a blog.
So today we are going to pry apart the blog like a cheap pinata and go for the gooey candy guts inside. Blogging, aside from your actual novel, should be the highlight of your day. It should be FUN. If we aren’t about fun, then we need to forget this writing thing and stay working in Corporate America, the place where meetings and metrics steal our will to live little by little.
Blogging needs to work with your personality.
When it comes to blogging, a lot is going to depend on your writing personality. I have members of my critique group who can bust out three thousands words, and that is just a warm up. I happen to be a talker. I talk through things. So when I write these blogs I am not writing so much as taking dictation from the voices in my head.
Boy that just made you guys feel reeeeaal secure, :D. The voices haven’t told me to kill anyone…yet.
I know my subject matter so well that the words just pour onto the page. That’s how I can be so prolific. Maybe you aren’t this prolific. Maybe you struggle and have to research and outline and write and rewrite. Perhaps blogging is making you hate me, your dog, and every fluffy kitten you see you want to punch in the face. It happens. Guess what? Change tactics. It is permitted. Blogging police will not take you to jail.
We control our blogs. Our blogs don’t control us.
News flash. You can change topics…and our head WON’T explode. Seriously. It will not rip the fabric of my reality if you are blogging about writing now, but since it is making you crazy you decide to blog about history or gardening. We are smart. We’ll catch up. This is why your blog’s title should always be your brand–YOUR NAME. Then we are following and supporting YOU, not your topic. We are loyal to YOU first.
If I have a blog called Fairy Rainbow Glitter Dreams I, first of all, give every one of you permission to slap me. My NAME is most important. But aside from diluting my brand by using Fairy Rainbow Glitter Dreams…I am also pidgeon-holing my content. I’m severely limiting my topics.
If I blog on all things fantasy and fairy and it doesn’t do well, how do I change tactics? I really can’t. Also, I could get so sick of fairies I want to punch them in the face…with a fluffy kitten. Again, I have painted myself in a corner on content by naming my blog Fairy Rainbow Glitter Dreams. When we use our NAME, then our blog posts have more freedom to be dynamic and change as we change and as our audience grows.
If I change topics, do I need to start an entirely new blog?
It is a total time suck to start a new blog if we want to talk on a different subject. It is a formula to be spread so thinly that you want to scream. My goal is to have you funneling all your work into one place…YOU. If our blog is under our name and we want to change topics, just ease readers into the change. Gradually shift topics. OR just blog another day on the different topic.
Our psyche will not fracture if you blog on writing on Monday and then add in history on Wednesday. If we don’t care about history, we will just read Monday. We won’t need therapy. Honest. Also, if you find that your history blog is far more easy and enjoyable to write AND it is gaining a following, you can eventually either stop blogging on writing, or make both days history. By building everything under your NAME, you now have a freedom to be flexible.
But what if I named my blog something specific like Fairy Rainbow Glitter Dreams?
Um…change it. This blog started out as Warrior Writers and it is in the URL. In the beginning I didn’t know as much. I learned a lot through trial and error. Just change the blog’s title to your name and make sure your name is in the tags every post. Most people won’t pay a lot of attention to the URL name. As long as your name is in all of your tags, your blog will show up on a google search for your name.
But Kristen, I am afraid I just don’t have TIME to blog and write.
Last week, some of you expressed concern that you just didn’t have time to write blogs AND a novel. I feel your pain. I have a curtain-climber who actively pursues death every waking moment. Trust me when I say that it does affect my writing time.
If you have a hard time getting out word count without it seriously cutting into the time you have for writing your novel, does it mean blogging isn’t for you?
No. You just have to do things a bit differently. First, I want you to embed this in your brain:
No matter how much we try, our blog cannot do what only our book can. Only our book can make readers fall in love with our characters and our plot. You must keep this in mind for this entire series to come, because I think I am the only one teaching this stuff.
Our brand is US, not our books. Books and topics just make up the larger brand…YOU.
I am about to say something shocking. Great bloggers are not necessarily great writers. Great bloggers are master community-builders. I have actually been saying this for almost two years, but in this upcoming series, I am going to break this down to bare bones.
We can be excellent writers and our blog can be failing. Go look at my first blogs on this site if you want a great example of a one-way dialogue. I was writing “articles.” I was only getting to that first layer of wants…entertainment and information. What I didn’t yet understand was that a blog isn’t just about information and entertainment. It was about creating a community. How did I learn this? I read a lot of other blogs. I watched what successful bloggers were doing that I wasn’t.
Blogging is to make followers fall in love with US. Part of defining our brand is figuring out what kind of community-builders we long to be. Blogging, if done correctly, becomes kind of a community watering hole for our followers, and we are the Host with the Most who throws the best parties. Great bloggers get people sharing opinions and feedback and they actively encourage a two-way dialogue. Our blog not only is popular because of content, but it is also a place we like to go on an emotional level, because the blogger is filling our deeper needs–community and purpose.
We will talk more about this in the weeks to come. There are a lot of ways to grow a popular blog other than writing article after article. We are going to explore some creative approaches to blogging that hopefully will make writing your blog FUN. I will warn you now that my approach is unorthodox. This approach is to make you guys community-builders FIRST. Our blogs are useless for building our platform if we don’t blog often and consistently. I would rather you guys be unconventional, than absent.
What have been your biggest challenges with blogging? What is your attitude toward blogging? Do you have any tips or tactics to help others balance their time? Hey, I don’t know everything. I like hearing your ideas and opinions. What do you love about your favorite blogs? What makes them different from blogs that don’t capture your attention? What makes you loyal to a blogger?
I love hearing from you! And to prove it and show my love, for the month of March, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end on March I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
Note: I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced). For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.
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.
This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness
NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer has a fantastic blog over at Genreality about Author Platform. Go READ!
Fact vs Truth in Writing Fiction by Susan Cushman. For all of you out there worried about being sued for libel.
Brave New Whatever by Anne Aguirre.
4 Tricks for Getting to Know New Characters by the talented and amazing Tawna Fenske.
Lies Writers Tell by the hysterically funny genius word pirate Chuck Wendig.
Does a Blog Make You Buy a Writer’s Book? Roni Loren.
An Interview with…YOU! Cute and fun and worth a look.
Confused what the heck is going on with Lybia and Ghadhafi’s crazy cross-dresser-esque outfits? Are you like me and too lazy to keep up with the news? Look no further. Pop by Piper Bayard’s blog for her special series on Lybia written by that man of mystery we only know as Holmes.
So You Want to Be A Writer is an amazing mash-up of resources for those who want to kick ass and take names when it comes to their writing career. Great job Peter Saint-Clair!
World Building: What Came Before? GREAT World Building series by Cid Tyer.
How We Write–No Conflict? No Story by the talented Jennifer Holbrook-Talty. Great blog and a MUST-READ.
Did I miss any blogs you think deserve to be on the Mash-Up of Awesomeness? Or MUA as I like to call it. Put their link in the comments. Hey, I can’t be everywhere. We always want to know about great blogs.