Every month, usually on the last day, I open up WordPress on my internet browser, and click on the ‘Add New Post’ button, but not before I open up my WordPress feed, Twitter, Facebook, maybe watch an episode (or five) of the current DVD box set I’m interested in, eBay, the crappy fanfiction on Wattpad and a few select websites I regularly peruse that have nothing to do with writing. I stare at the unfinished manuscripts and the novella I’m currently submitting to publishers—waiting for that funny little thing called inspiration to strike.
I have no problem once I’ve started writing—like I am right now—but it’s when the page is blank, and I’m just twiddling my thumbs, that is the worst part of writing. No, I’m not just talking about writer’s block. Every writer who has started a blog has written about writer’s block at some point. It’s been so overdone, even I’ve written a post about it (back in September 2013), and there are over 540 Google search results on it. No, this week I’m talking about blogging.
I first remember deciding I wanted to be a full-time writer when I was in the third grade. Back then, my stories were rambling shambles; the two kids who fight off dragon-eating children in the aptly titled The Adventure, a female mad scientist called Albertina Fossil-Jones, a James Bond-inspired piece about a boy touching down in a plane on a mysterious island to stop three evil terrorists. Not long after that big decision, I learnt the hard truth: you probably won’t make a living out of writing. I was about 10 years old at the time, but it didn’t stop me. I just decided I’d become a journalist instead. Now, just over a decade later, I’m in my early twenties and I know there’s a lot more to being a writer than opening up Microsoft Word, belting out a manuscript, and magically sending it off to The Publishers who will transform your books into fame and money.
If you want to traditionally publish, you have to write out query letters, you definitely have to follow the guidelines of the agent or publisher you’re querying, you need to have a publishing history if you want to stand out from the rest of the crowd, and you most definitely have to advertise yourself through social media and the like (especially if you’re published through a small press). Conversely, if you want to self-publish, you have to advertise yourself doubly hard but not too hard you look like a try hard, you have to pay for good quality covers and proofreaders because readers can tell when you haven’t put in the effort, you need to learn how services like Kindle Direct and CreateSpace work. And, if you want to go to a vanity press, well then…just please don’t. It’s a waste of time and effort. If you have to pay a ‘publisher’ to get your manuscript out there, then that’s a big warning sign!
But there’s one thing traditional and self-published authors and aspiring authors (no “aspiring writers” here) will have to do: advertise themselves.
And there’s where I come back to blogging. If you want to be a writer, you’re gonna have to have a blog. You can use WordPress like me, but there’s also Blogger/Blogspot, Webs, Weebly, Wix and the like. Tumblr’s probably not a good idea though, unless you’re a Doctor Who/Harry Potter fanfic writer.
I know a few writers who don’t blog, but these are usually the “eBooks spell the death of the written word!” type of people. These people are in the minority. Nowadays, even if you’re not a fan of blogging, or fear it spells the end of the news world, you’ll still have to do it if you want to grow a fan base. Readers don’t come out of nowhere unless you have signed a contract with the Devil or you’re really, really lucky. Sadly, most of us won’t end up like J.K Rowling, Stephen King, et al, right at the start. So we blog.
For some people, blogging is a chore and for others, it’s the most exciting part of their week/month. Blogging is very different to writing a novel, novella or short story. In some ways, it’s like writing an essay or a news article. People write in different ways. You can be very visually inclined or text-heavy. Without photos, the blog post become too heavy-handed, and readers will get bored and distracted easily. Imagine if this post had no pictures. Even the biggest fan of reading chunky, meaningless text will get bored or distracted after a while. There’s a fine balance between being funny and being Dad-jokey. Between being interesting and posting meaningless dribble. Between shameless self-promotion and an interesting blurb of your latest novel.
- If I’m reading your blog and a huge pop-up telling me your book is selling for mega-low prices, I’ll immediately close the tab and never return.
- If you’re constantly, shamelessly self-promoting your work and asking for Kickstarter funding or asking readers to buy your most awesome, greatest piece of literature since Pride and Prejudice/Harry Potter/The Bible, I’m going to close the tab unless your grovelling is so desperate it’s amusing.
There’s a fine line between average blogging and great blogging, and sometimes it feels like a hell of a chore. But if you want to get yourself out there, you can’t avoid it. Blogging links you with a network of other authors. I’ve discovered some great new writers since I started up this site in September 2012.
Just don’t stop, and don’t cross the line. Otherwise, keep writing and good luck!