Blogging More vs. Blogging Less

When I first got into social media, everyone said to blog at least three times a week.  This was, according to the mass indie movement, the best way to find readers to read your books.  I never believed that, because as a reader, I don’t run across someone’s blog and go “Oh!  I want to buy a book.”  Marketing to readers has always been a challenge for the big name publishers, because it doesn’t work like other marketing.  Yet, everyone treats it as if it does.

I used to cowrite with a marketer, so I keep seeing that over and over again.  If you need a computer, the marketing’s easy.  Things like size, weight, what software it has, how fast it is.  Fiction defies marketing in the traditional way.  If I write fantasy, how am I supposed to market?  Blog about unicorns?

Despite that, everyone kept saying everywhere that fiction writers had to find a platform and market it.  No one talked about the writing part.

Now the writers are shifting to writing fewer posts, like once a week and turning back their writing.  

The reason I’m not is that I’ve always found it a way to train for the time management side of things.  Like writing, some things have dual purposes.  But I’ve also gone away from the “formulas” all the social media people said I was supposed to do like list posts.

Do you think people have gotten tired or blogging, or just tired of subjects that keep repeating?

When Internet Lists Strike Back

I’ve spent the week in baby steps trying to fix some of my time management habits.  I’d like to write fiction full time in the future, and one of the things I need to get my act together on is time management. The time to figure it out is NOT when I’m greeted with a huge change my own business.

My work has suffered from too many diverse demands.  We’ve had people leave, so manager looks around for a place to plop what they did.  Guess who gets it?  A lot of the new things don’t fit in with anything else, so grouping like things together doesn’t fit together real well. I figure if I can tame this beast of chaos, it can only help me in the long run.

I’ve spent a lot of time wandering the internet in search of time management tips and whatnot.  The Internet is very good at lists because they’re easy to read and write.  But they’ve morphed into this terrible monster.  They lecture.  There’s several sites I’ve run into where it feels like the author gets out the soapbox and proceeds to inform us that we’re doing everything wrong.  All you need to do is follow his steps, and everything will start working properly.

Except that it doesn’t.  How do you work with something when the whole process around you is dysfunctional to start with and your stuck at the mercy of it?

The lists look nice because it feels like you can check them off or that they can be scanned easily.  They started in magazines, and exploded on the internet.  Truthfully, I blame marketing.  Two years ago I was hunting around trying to find things that would help me market to potential readers, and I went the list route.  Every reputable blog on social media talked about using lists.  The result is that we’re getting reduced to the bullet point.

Bring back real substance!

Reflections on A to Z Challenge

Everyone says fiction writers have to build their brand, but it’s an area I’m horrible at because I can’t figure out how to do it.  I don’t connect to “brand” in my head, so I’ve felt like I’m trying to map posts to what I think people will read.  The A to Z Challenge really forced me to move away from that and to do something that was just plain fun.


I think the hardest thing was making time to visit a few of the other participants blogs in additional to responding to comments.  Blogger participants were often harder to deal with, because some still had capchas, plus Blogger doesn’t have a like button.  Sometimes a post doesn’t elicit comments, but a like will do.  Towards the end, I started to get overwhelmed, so that’s an area where I need a little more balance.

Things that didn’t work for me

Frankly, the blog titles.  “A is for Apples.”  What the heck does tell me about the post?  Is is farming, healthy eating, Snow White, or Twilight? I looked at some links in Twitter, and some were not what I expected.  From my own experience, I did last year’s challenge, and I get almost no one coming to my blog for those posts.  The titles aren’t giving them much visibility.  I tried to be creative this year (and was a little afraid I broke the guidelines), but I’m still not sure these posts will have any search engine visibility.

Future Plans

I’m going to work on keeping my posts shorter, because that does make them faster to write.  I’m also going to have more diverse posts.  I have some planned on:

  • My military experience, since those are popular,
  • Omniscient viewpoint (also popular)
  • More photos
  • Things about Washington, DC
  • Things about writing

Here’s a complete list of the posts:

  1. Rule A: Fiction, freelancing, poetry? All writing isn’t the same
  2. Rule B: take regular Breaks from writing fiction
  3. Rule C: Celebrate your writing successes
  4. Rule D – Discipline yourself to write
  5. Rule E: publication is Earned, not rewarded
  6. Rule F: writing has to come First
  7. Rule G: know your Genre before you start writing
  8. Rule H: treat line editing like Housekeeping not revision
  9. Rule I – Ideas shouldn’t be intimidating
  10. Rule J: Don’t sweat the hard stuff — Just write!
  11. Rule K: Keep a style sheet for your novel
  12. Rule L: never stop Learning about writing
  13. Rule M: Make checklists for your story
  14. Rule O: Own your story
  15. Rule P: make writing a Priority
  16. Rule Q – Always ask Questions when you critique
  17. Rule R: writing Rules are not set in stone
  18. Rule S: don’t beat a dead Story
  19. Rule T: always make sure your story is dressed up in a Tuxedo
  20. Rule U: have fUn when you write
  21. Rule V: reViews are to never be used as critiques
  22. Rule W: Write what you know and write only the stories you can write
  23. Rule X: eXperiment with new writing techniques
  24. Rule Y: You can’t avoid offending someone with your writing
  25. Z – One SiZe doesn’t fit all in the writing world

Rule F: writing has to come First

Linda’s Rules of Writing

Four Asian children play tug of war.
Sometimes social media feels like a tug of war with other priorities.  But I made my priorities by writing 75% of these posts over several months.

We’re onto the letter F in Linda’s Rules of Writing of the A to Z Challenge, and on making sure writing gets done First.

There are so many things now that are in a tug of war for our attention: Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Pintrest, you name it.  Writers have been told they need to build their audience, even before they’ve finished the first book.

I took the We Are Not Alone blog course with Kristen Lamb.  One of the striking things was that all these writers got online and started blogging three times a week.  I immediately stopped the recommendation to find link lists and videos because, frankly, it took too much time, and I wanted to hold onto my writing time.  It’s hard enough working around the job.

About 6 months later, I started seeing my fellow WANAs posting that they had to take time off blogging so they could get back to writing.

Writing the book has to come first.  Without the book, all the social media in the world isn’t going to matter.

How have you taken back your time from social media?

Writerly Adventuring

I wrote on this same topic for Vision: A Resource for Writers.  Check out my article Balancing Writing and Blogging in issue 69.

Thinking smarter and managing writing time

So much is being asked out of writers today.  We not only have to research and write a book, but publishers expect us to blog and use Twitter to help promote it.  But no one talks about how to manage the time for all of these, and the last place you want to be in is figuring out how to manage it with a deadline looming.

When I worked with a cowriter, an agent requested a full.  It was exciting.  I was envisioning that we would be taking the next step in our writing career.  But I told cowriter we needed to come up with methods to finish the book faster because of the publisher’s year deadlines.  Maybe he meant to be supportive, but he dismissed it, saying deadlines could be negotiated.  I had this immediate image in my head:  Him blowing off the deadline and me in a panic .. Read the rest on Unleaded – Fuel for Writers.

Went to Intervention — No, It’s a Con, Not What You Just Thought

It’s a science fiction con.  It stands for Inter(net) (Con)vention.  This one was within driving distance for me along the George Washington Parkway. If you’re not familiar with Washington, DC, that’s a very scenic road that follows the Potomac River.  This is is a photo:

Tree on the right frames a scenic view of the Potomac River below.

It should be gorgeous once the trees begin to change color.  No pics from the con this time though.  The con simply didn’t have much in the way of photo ops.  No action workshops (darn!  I was looking for another action demo), and very little cosplay.  I saw only one person in full costume, though horns were popular.  Do you think I ought to get horns since Halloween is coming up?  Ooh, ooh — maybe alien antennas.

I did raid the dealer’s room for a few more t-shirts …

A t-shirt that says, "We are the Book.  You will Be assimilated" and showing a book and a Kindle.  A t-shirt showing a spaghetti monster and saying "My God can Beat Up Your God," and a t-shirt of Mr. Peanut Steampunked.

Overall, I was not impressed with the con.  It was sparsely attended and seemed poorly organized. The first workshop I went to did not bode well.  “Writing a Fantasy Novel” was a given about the subject matter. Four comic book artists showed up for the panel.  Two of them didn’t even know the name of the workshop and spent time complaining about being there.  One lost interest midway through and started sketching a picture for an auction in a hour that he should have done before he got to the con.  I spent $40 for this?

The other two workshops I attended were much more interesting, but they were also the only ones I found of any interest.  One was “Blogging for Fun and Profit” with Mark Blum and Mike Fenn.  I wasn’t too sure what I was going to get since on the last one I attended it was apparent none of the writers knew what they were talking about.  As it turned out, there was a lot of good information.  The message that resonated for me was on how to market you blog.  Some of the things they mentioned:

  • Put out cards with the blog name and site address at cons.  I had a “Do-oh!” moment on this one.  I have Moo cards and haven’t been doing that at any of the cons.  I did have some with me, but I realized there was a small problem — I’d left off that I was a writer.  So I’ll get that fixed in time for the next con.
  • Write your blog name on your con badge.  Yup, we all hauled off our badges and added the name right there.
  • And the final note, which is that you can’t be afraid to promote yourself.  The hardest thing about being an introvert is that it’s very difficult for me to even think of stuff like that.  With the Moo cards, I was always thinking that I needed a book published.

Despite this great workshop, I couldn’t help noticing that almost none of the panelists really promoted themselves.  They mentioned they had an online comic strip, but didn’t provide paper samples or even a card with a link on it.  Maybe that was a symptom of the entire problem with the con?

The best workshop was “It’s About the Villain.”  The panelists were Michael Terracciano (did villain imitations), Eric Kimball, A.J. Rosa, and Elaine Corvidae (the only person in costume).  They had a blast and had the audience really laughing.  Yes, we do enjoy our villains.  Some highlights, since villains are always fun:

  • Good guys are defined as much by their villains as they are by their deeds.  Or, by any other name, make the villain a strong character.
  • A villain can be terrifying if you can’t reason with them (given we recently had a tiger attack on the news, I thought about a tiger.  You can’t reason with a tiger.  He just thinks you’re lunch, or whatever meal he’s missing).
  • If readers love a villain, give him a moment to be awesome before he’s defeated.  The example given was Boba Fett from Star Wars.  A lot of fans really liked the character, but he went out without much fanfare.

But Michael Terracciano was adamant that hero-villain team ups were a really bad idea.  So what do you think?  Should villains and heroes ever work together?

Linda Adams, Soldier, Storyteller

Starting November 4, I will doing a month-long session on Forward Motion on “Basic Training of Military Culture.”  The lesson plan for the course is posted here.  I promise that I will promote myself for this!

Why Don’t Writers’ Blogs Work?

Blogging is often recommended as a way for authors to build their brand, but it’s a special challenge for novelists to find topics.  I’d see posts on platform from non-fiction authors who didn’t know what they were talking about in relation to novelists, and it left me even more confused about this branding thing.  And I’m clearly not alone, because what ends up being a common topic is writing about writing — usually how-tos.  That created quite a bit of discussion in the comments over here, so it made me think about why writers blogs don’t work.

Writing blogs sound the same.  How many times can anyone discuss “Butt in chair” without sounding like everyone else?  I’ve searched for articles on pantsers for my posts, and it’s a challenge finding anything not “plotter vs. pantser.”  These writing posts may sound new to the writer, but they’re in the same uniform and don’t stand out.

Soldiers standing in formation in a gym.

Can you spot the five women?

Writing how-tos.  Not every reader is a writer, so all this will do is get other writers — and not necessarily writers who would be interested in reading future books.  Yet, it’s also the first person every writer zooms in and starts marketing to.

Limited subjects:  After a while, there isn’t much to say about writing when it comes to how-tos.  I’ve been blogging since 2007, and every 2 years or so, I’d stop because I’d run dry of ideas. It also made it more difficult to simply come up with ideas that were fresh and different.

Then what?

Mike Hyatt suggested novelists do interviews with their characters and excerpts.  He’s has great information on blogging and non-fiction.  But fiction?  Not so much.  It assumes the author already has a contract in place and is promoting a book readers are waiting for.  I don’t have a book out.  Exactly how will blogging about my story and characters draw potential readers to the blog?  Plus, it puts the focus on the individual book, and not the brand itself.

Others have suggested posting about your research.  Weeellll … Miasma’s setting is based on Hawaii, and my next book is set in Washington, DC.  If I did posts about Hawaii, I would get tourists planning to go to Hawaii, not potential readers.  If I did posts about Washington, DC — we’re getting into election season … bad, bad idea.

I don’t think we can’t fully escape from doing blogs about writing because writing is so much a part of our time.  Yet, I don’t think it’s a complete ban on writing topics.  Readers are interested in books, so it’s reasonable to assume that there are topics that would bring them in.

Your turn: Let’s pretend there’s a ban on writing how-to topics, but you still want to write about writing.  What would you write on?

Top 10 Blog Posts for May

In case you missed any, here are the top 10 posts for May.

1. Moleskine Hacks for Fiction Writers:  I never go anywhere without my Moleskine to take notes.

2. Is There a Strong Woman Character or Are We Being Fooled?:  We have tons of books with women protagonists.  But do we have strong women characters?

3. Engaging Readers with Social Media:  Check out the discussion in the comments on whether writers should do writer blogs.

4. 5 Lessons I Learned on Finding Time to Write:  “How do you find time to write?” is one of the most common things writers ask.  Find out what I do.

5. 5 Links on Time Management for Writers:  Check out what other writers are doing to manage their time.  There are some great links in here.

6. Writing with the Jellyfish:  On my journey to embracing being a pantser and working with my unique writing process.

Jellyfish floats aimlessly, moving upwards.

7. Technology Hacks for Dealing with Twitter Spammers:  Check out some of the great tools that are available to keep spam out of your Twitter feed.

8. Should You Write with a Cowriter?  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:  It sounds like a great idea, but is it?  Check out what I did wrong.

9. Triberr Review: Useful Tool or Shiny Toy:   The Triberr owner dropped in for a few comments, so check it out what he says!

10. Balancing Writing and Social Media [UNLEADED]: It’s easy to get locked into “promote, promote, promote” and forget to write the book.

For you:  What subjects would you like to see?  Post in the comments below.

What Writing Blogs Do You Subscribe To?

Blogs are a tough topic for writers. We all know that how-to blog posts about writing are an extremely niche topic.  Telling people “Don’t use adverbs” is not going to draw potential readers in, and it’s too easy to sound like everyone else.  Yet, many of the writers telling us we shouldn’t blog about writing are blogging about writing.  Which lead to this comment from Reetta Raitanen:

Btw, I’d love to hear which blogs you’re following, Linda. Maybe you could do a mashup about that, like your favourite posts from your regular reads.

I do subscribe to some writing-related blogs, though I’ve steered clear of the ones doing how-tos for beginning writers.  I want to read about writing topics that have a broader appeal, not be told what rules I have to follow.

Two astronauts on a moon-like planet approach a giant computer.

Here’s a list of what I subscribe to:

Writer Unboxed:   Though this blog is more directly about writing, it has such a wide variety of topics that I’m not getting a bunch of how-tos about writing.  There has been some recent discussions on when you should use social media to promote your book, as well as self-publishing vs. traditional publishing (and refreshingly free of fights).

The Book Deal: An Insiders Look at Book Publishing:  I found this one after I was blasted on a critique for using omniscient viewpoint, having been told publishers hate the viewpoint.  Alan Rintzer had a post on how viewpoint was whatever was the best for the story.  He posts about once a month, but his posts are such high quality that I stick with him.

SF Signal: Though this is more focused on broad science fiction topics like movies and books, I subscribe for the SF Tidbits that are published every day.  These are a collection of various links, including many of writing topics and on the role of women in the industry.  I like the list because they generally avoid typical how-to links, and I can scan to pick the ones I want to read.

Unleaded Fuel for Writers: This is a blog I contribute to, and features members of my critique group.  Videos of interviews with writers are posted every Saturday.

For you:  What writing blogs do you subscribe to?  Post the link here, and tell us about them.