A while back I was asked by a couple of my fellow writers in my writing group to share some thoughts on blogging. So, I invited a few close friends to share their blogging stories. We all blog for different, yet similar, reasons which I hope will showcase the diversity of blogging. Their thoughts will be featured here over the next few weeks , and then I’ll share my own blogging story.
First up, Heather FitzGerald from the Tethered Together Blog:
Thank you, Abby, for sharing some of your personal cyber-space with me today! I’m grateful that you would like to hear a little about why I blog, because it also makes me stop and take inventory of my commitment.
There are a lot of experts out there in Writing Land that weigh in on how to effectively reach a potential audience. These are people with more notches in their belts—or rather—more ISBN numbers registered to their name, than me. Although I had a blog for five years prior to my new one, I never considered that blog a serious endeavor as a writer. That was a mistake which I’m learning to correct after listening to many podcasts and webinars from said experts. Blogs should be the heartbeat of a writer’s life.
You’d think I could have put two and two together. My old blog was an eclectic mix of curriculum and book reviews, personal experiences with autism, and even politics. By God’s grace—haphazard experiment that it was—a certain author who’s book I reviewed contacted me and asked if I was a writer. Author Susan Marlow saw something in me and took time to connect and encourage me.
That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship that allowed me to be mentored by an amazing writer and professional editor who would cheer me on, point out my writing pitfalls (I had no idea how much I liked the word “just”), and even edit a draft of my novel, The Tethered World, that will be published soon.
All of these wonderful repercussions happened because I fumbled around on the internet with a blog. Somehow I still failed to see the importance of maintaining it and cultivating a relationship with my readers and/or other bloggers.
Part of the reason that regular blogging activity fell by the wayside was that, with four busy, homeschooled kids, I only had so much time to squeeze my creative juices. I chose to use that time working on my book. But in hindsight, it would have been wise to recognize that opportunities only come along when you put yourself out there where the opportunities exist.
Fast forward four years and about seven drafts of my novel and it’s time to look for a publisher and how to go about marketing this YA fantasy of mine. Another writer pointed me to The Best Seller Society and I paid for a months worth of book marketing seminars and listened to everything that I could. It became painfully obvious (and rather comforting) to learn that major or minor publishing houses all expect you to be the major marketer of your book. (Comforting because—since I was not going the agent route, and therefore would not be considered by a big publishing house—I’d have the same amount of legwork to do for my book. A bigger publisher would not be the key to finding my audience).
Through webinars on The Best Seller Society I was introduced to other successful authors and what worked for them. I started to hear about creating a “tribe” and learning that, for a new author, an internet presence is NOT an option. And I didn’t just need a blog . . . I needed a platform.
These revelations made me rethink my old blog that only occasionally gasped for air and floundered about the internet. It was the antithesis of “platform.” It became clear that if I was to be serious about writing novels, I needed to be as serious about maintaining a blog.
Another important component for marketing, that these experts stressed, was a website for my upcoming book. (And let me add, for any of you that may be a few steps behind me in this process: ‘they’ say it is important to get a website and a blog in place BEFORE your book is published—nay, before you even land a publisher! A publisher will actually look to see what kind of following you have in place). I found myself in the throes of a huge learning curve . . . centered around technology.
Not exactly one of my strengths.
So….how do I turn this thing on?
But I dove in and embraced the nuts and bolts of building a marketing presence because I don’t want to merely publish my book, I’d like for more than a few people to read it! So, I set about building my website through Wix. I found it to be the most user-intuitive for a visual person like myself.
The next step was to get my blog running. Per instructions from those in the know, the blog would be a part, or page, of my book’s website (because the book would naturally be the crux of my platform). This is where I hit a wall. How long can I blog about an imaginary land full of dragons and Nephilim? In theory I could blog about fantasy, but the Talking Heads all agreed that it was best to connect the blog to one’s book and its unique audience. They are the ones that will love what you write . . . right?
Hmmm. I was in a quandary. My audience: teens. Their interests: social media . . . not following blogs. Besides the obvious lack of subject matter if I based my blog on my book (remember, this is an indefinite blog . . . how many years can I write about a land that will be summed up in a trilogy?), I asked around and felt like I wouldn’t have an audience that would pay much attention to my book’s blog due to the age group.
It all sounded too limiting. (Though I did begin a fun, fake blog that one of the minor characters in my book writes. I think readers will get a kick out of connecting to this character in such a way. The main character, Sadie Larcen, also has a Pinterest that readers may follow). <—–These ideas are a way to get the social-media-driven teens to interact with my story. At least, that is my hope, once the book arrives.
It hit me that all of the experts from these podcasts and webinars were non-fiction authors that had some sort of first-hand experience to share. Connecting their book on, let’s say, ‘domestic violence’, to a blog that continually offered support and stories about this subject, could go on as long as fallen man continued to act like the unredeemed sinners that they are. Having a blog as an extension of a non-fiction subject was a natural flow. Their platform is built-in by virtue of their expertise.
What’s a fantasy writer to do? After praying and considering all the angles, I felt like I should begin a new blog with a platform that was unique but less specific than “homeschoolers, trolls, leprechauns, and gnomes,” or something along those lines.
At this time, by divine grace, someone loaned me Madeleine L’Engle’s book Walking on Water. It was poignant, thought-provoking, and made me want to hone my gift to display God’s glory and be a glistening thread in the creative tapestry woven by the Creator. I bought my own copy so I could properly mark it up. It held such beautiful truths (though I didn’t always agree with her theology) that I felt compelled to share what I was reading with others that loved to create as well.
That’s when the main thrust of my new tetheredtogetherblog began to take on flesh. The “platform” I landed on would be a way to connect with other lovers of words. Beginning with Walking on Water, and moving on to other inspiring works from those that have gone before me in the writing world, my blog would be a sort of writer’s devotional that would keep me learning at the feet of great authors and allow me to share things that inspire or challenge me with others.
This premise denotes longevity. I hope to be an author with longevity. To garner the trust of an audience takes time. There are so many blogs out there, it must be a patient person’s undertaking. A serious writer needs to be a tortoise, not a hare. I love the verse in Five for Fighting’s song, “Slice.” It says:
“Have you read my blog today?
Three hundred million little USAs.
Your doorstep is just a click away.
We’ll get together one of these days.”
That is a perfect word snapshot of the blogosphere, isn’t it? There are a multitude of voices vying for attention and it’s our job as writers to give readers something worth reading. Repeatedly.
It’s not always polished, not always witty, not always timely, but if my posts are consistent and born out of a desire to serve, to inspire, and to glorify the Giver of all good gifts then I feel my blog will, God willing, make it in the long run. After a few months of being up and running, I’m seeing new followers pop up. I’ve enjoyed the interaction of readers and getting acquainted with other bloggers. I look forward to seeing how maintaining this blog will keep me challenged and pressing onward and upward in my creative endeavors.
Thank you, Abby, for allowing me to share my blog experience with your followers today! I must say that having a friend like you, oh Prolific One, is an inspiration and a challenge. You are always posting such edifying, fun, or thoughtful blogs that I love to read. Thankfully, I’m not very competitive and do not feel compelled to try to keep up with your rate of frequency!
I hope you found some good insight and information on why writers blog. I also hope you go visit, follow, and comment on Heather’s blog. It seems like I might have gained a new nickname–Oh Prolific One–which I shall endeavor to live up to! Heather’s thoughts have made me think about a website for my own books once I get a little further down the publishing path. Thank you, Heather, for the heads up!
You can also check out my Guest Post for Heather about writing darker themed stories.