Sunday, I had the pleasure of speaking with the members of the Los Angeles chapter of RWA (LARA) about what makes a blog an effective piece of the fiction writer’s platform and what writers really need to be concerned about when struggling with the writing/life/blogging balance.
I know you’ve read that fiction writers don’t really need a platform, and that’s true, for the most part. Mostly, a fiction writer’s energies should be spent on the WIP (work in progress) and submitting work when appropriate to lit journals, e zines, contests, etc. Nevertheless, adding a blog to the mix certainly helps fiction writers raise their platform or visibility, if even just a little bit, and it allows readers to get to know the author in a more personal way.
The goal of any blogger should be to connect with their audience in the most authentic way possible, not to “sell” to them or to collect followers for the sake of showing prospective agents and publishing teams strong numbers. You earn eventual book sales and a following by providing something valuable to your audience. The trick is, allowing yourself the time it takes to get to that point.
I shared with the group the Five Pillars of Effective Blogging.
First and foremost, write content YOU would want to read. Remember, readers are selfish – we want an experience from you. We want to be educated, informed, enlightened and most of all, entertained. How will you answer those needs? You don’t have to do it ALL, but aim to fulfill at least one of those needs.
How much content do you plan to have? Will you be rotating your content? Will you have several areas of content? Develop content anchors – areas of interest that you plan to rotate. Consider this – some of your favorite magazines have regular features that are updated every month. Will you? It’s not required, but it’s something to think about.
Ideal post length is said to be anywhere from 500-800 words, but I’ve read great posts that break this rule (and likely this post will too). Do what works for you just don’t ramble. When you re-read your posts before you push publish (and you always should), make sure your attention is always attached to the page. If your mind wanders chances are ours will too.
How often do you plan on updating your blog? What’s reasonable for you and your busy life? I’ve worked with writers who update on a daily basis and others just on a weekly basis. I think for truly busy writers with bustling professional lives and a family, updating a blog once a week is ideal.
To help you manage your time well, develop a monthly schedule for your blog. What days will you post? What will you write? How long will it take you to write and edit your posts? How long will it take you to find appropriate photos (legal use) for your post? Staying ahead of the schedule this way will keep you organized and moving forward in all your work.
The first year of blogging will be a dream – a flurry of great ideas. After the first year you may be left wondering what else there is left to say that hasn’t been said a million times before. Isn’t that the story of publishing? Hasn’t everything already been said? Of course. It’s our PERSPECTIVE that keeps ideas fresh! The good news is, your perspective is yours and yours alone.
Collaborating with other writers/authors, inviting guest contributors, adding dialog or other imaginary scenes, adding photos you’ve taken with a few lines about what it is/means, asking your readers questions, giving writing prompts, having contests…there are myriad ways to keep your blog content fresh. There are no ideas too creative. You’re writers! Storytellers. You probably got in trouble for your wild imagination at some point in your life. Well, now you have permission to let it rip.
You’d never host a party and ignore your guests. The same is true for your blog. If you have readers, you have guests to consider. When people take precious time out of their day to leave you a comment, respond back to them as soon as you can. Do you need to babysit your blog? No. You have a life. But check in several times a day to see what’s going on at your party. Make sure your guests feel welcome and most of all, appreciated.
Also, don’t forget to be a guest on other blogs. If you guest post, make sure you respond to comments. If you’re not a guest blogger, just posting a comment, engage the best you can in the conversation. This is about community and making friends, not “selling.” Cultivate your tribe, yes, but also be a part of others. Authentic connection is the goal.
The glory of social media is that people are happy to share compelling and interesting content. Remember, readers want to be informed, enlightened, educated and/or entertained. If you answer one of those needs, chances are your blog post will be shared via the many social media channels available today. I absolutely love Twitter. I was reluctant to join but I’m so glad I did. I’ve met some great people by sharing their content and from them sharing mine – yet another way we form our tribes. Again, the focus is on authentic connections, not selling or collecting followers.
Later this week I’ll quickly highlight several awesome blogs I shared with the LARA group. Stay tuned.