For Writers: How to Blog Without Really Trying but Still Managing Not to Be Half-Assed about It
From Cat Rambo, President of Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America.
One of the things I try to teach my students is how to use online time efficiently, because writing and editing time is precious and time spent doing other things is time you’re not writing or editing. So here’s some things about blogging to help you use that time more wisely.
Is a Blog Mandatory?
No. But it’s advisable. You do want readers to be able to find you online and, more importantly, to find your work. You do want a website (and a mailing list, but that’s another post), but your website can be a static presence, something you put up and don’t update very often. In fact, if you have very minimal time to invest or otherwise want to limit your online presence to the bare bones, don’t include a blog. Few things look sadder than a blog with a single entry from five years ago, usually about trying to make oneself blog.
Something You Can Always Blog About
One reason to blog on your website is that it means the website is being updated frequently, which makes the site more likely to turn up on search engine results. So here’s two ways you can generate a weekly post. The first depends on having a social media presence; the second does not.
- Social Media version: If you’re posting links and observations on social media, you can collect the best of those into a post. They don’t have to be related to writing; you’re allowed to have other interests. Five to ten links with one or two sentence explanations as to why you picked them. There you go. Shazam, you have a post.
- Non Social Media version: Every week, pick an interesting chunk (I suggest 300-700 words) from what you’ve worked on the past week and post it.
If you want to be thorough with that second approach, you can place it in context for readers. Here’s some possible questions to answer.
- What is the project, the genre, the inspiration?
- Are those the final character/setting names or placeholders?
- What’s the title and how does it relate to the story?
- What’s the setting based on? What are you trying to accomplish in this bit?
- What are you particularly fond of?
- What do you definitely plan to go back and fix in the revision?
- What aren’t you sure about?
- What do you intend to do with the piece when you finish?
- What would you compare the piece to, either in your own work or that of others?
- What do you want readers to get out of the piece?
Certainly there are ways to get the most bang for the effort out of these posts: include an image, have a good tagging system, make the most of keywords. But those are advanced techniques, and unnecessary to this basic effort.
If You Only Hate Writing about Writing
As I mentioned above, you do not have to blog about writing. In fact, the world is full of posts about avoiding adverbs, and you probably do not have anything to say on the subject that has not already been said. So blog about something else.
Blog about your adventures in learning how to pickle vegetables or speak Mandarin. Document some longterm project like your garden remodel or the bookstore your partner is opening. In a pinch, you can always fall back on writing about the books you’re reading. The most interesting and effective blogs out there don’t just show you the writer’s writing, but something about them as a person.
Always Be Closing is NOT a Good Axiom for Writers
While all writers need to think about how to help readers find their work, if they are too pushy about forcing them to it, those readers will balk and go no further. Don’t make your website all about sell sell sell. Don’t make it your social media focus nor what you blog about over and over again. You will be wasting your time and driving away fans.
That’s why showing readers scraps from your writing is effective. You are giving them something that is (hopefully) genuinely interesting here and now. If they like it, they may look for it later on when it comes out. Let your writing and its quality do the work of selling for you and don’t worry about winning the set of steak knives for your stellar salesmanship. Just write.