Somehow my author blog turned nine and I missed it. When I started writing here, the blog was called Life In A Pink Fibro and it was a mish-mash of thoughts and parenting and writing and reading and…
Hmmm, looks like not that much has changed, only I don’t blog DAILY like I used to.
Daily. Excellent for downloading the brain and building a blog, but not so brilliant for putting actual words in actual novels.
But I digress.
To celebrate entering my 10th year of blogging – which makes me pretty much a centenarian in blog years – I thought I’d rustle up my top three tips specifically for author bloggers.
- Work out why you’re blogging
It took me about five years to get to the bottom of this. I started out with the blog because a wise friend suggested I should. I blogged daily because a) I liked it and b) that’s what all the blogging experts said you should do to build a blog.I realised that I’d written 350,000 words on my blog one year and cut back to three times a week because – well, 350,000 words is about three adult fiction manuscripts.Lots and lots of people visited my blog. People approached me about taking advertising, raising the word ‘monetise’. I said no*.
One day, I put up a chicken soup recipe (in my defence, it’s a really good one). My dear friend Kerri Sackville emailed to ask, politely, WTF I thought I was doing. “You are not a food blogger,” she said. “You are an author.”
She was right. I looked at all the things I was doing on my blog. I mean, really looked at it for the first time in five years. And I made some changes.
I blog to share my thoughts, an insight into my author life, and news about my books. I try to share useful information and insights about writing and publishing because I know that’s what my community wants (how do I know? I asked them). I offer space on my blog to other authors because I strongly believe in sharing the love and the insight, and I keep lists of recommended children’s books because I know, as a parent, how difficult it can be to keep kids reading.
This blog is not about traffic, it’s about community.
As I wrote in my fifth year of blogging, I blog because it’s worth it.
Why do you blog?
- Don’t overthink it
There’s an awful lot of information out there about blogging – from optimal word lengths for posts to how many sub-heads you should have to which latest tech improvement you should be making the most of. My advice for author bloggers? Don’t overthink it.You are an author. You are a writer. So, write things.When I’m wondering what to blog about, as I wrote in this post last year, I ask myself three questions:
• what am I thinking about?
• what am I feeling?
• what can I do that’s useful?
And then I write about one of those things. I don’t ignore SEO, but neither do I obsess over it. I try to think about what I would search to find that particular post and I go with that.
- Blogging is more than platform building
Every year when I write my annual ‘what I’ve learnt in X years of blogging’ post I come back to one thing: blogging has been so very good for my writing.When I began the blog, I was a fulltime freelance journalist (or as fulltime as one could be with a three year old in tow) and I had been writing for magazines and newspapers for nearly two decades. I had a very well-defined, most excellent broadcast voice. An outside voice, if you like.
What blogging every day gave me was my own voice. My inside voice.
Good blogging requires you to look closely, to reveal what you think, how you feel. It shows you that a whole story can be found in a tiny moment in your day. As an example, compare my first ever blog post with this one, where I was starting to get the hang of it all.
Blogging was a great tool for helping me to find my voice as an author. Obviously, you don’t need to go public on a blog to do this, but if you’re struggling to really find ‘you’ in your writing, look at a daily journal of some kind. But there is something about ‘putting it out there’ that helps to focus the mind – and, of course, bring readers to your website.
And now… here’s to another 12 months!
You’ll find more thoughts on authors and blogging here:
Blogging: Inviting Readers Home
Social Media For Writers #1: Blogging (featuring Jane Friedman)
Let’s talk about blogging and authors
Why blogging is not writing
My #1 tip for bloggers
How to write a better blog
Or take a look at my online course at the Australian Writers’ Centre on How To Build Your Author Platform.
*For the record, I did introduce bookseller affiliate links on the blog around 18 months ago, as per the disclosure here.
One of my favourite people to visit in the blogging world is Pip Lincolne at Meet Me At Mike’s. Her’s is a feel-good space, full of things that make you go Mmmmmm.
She’s also terribly clever, what with the crafting and the styling and the writing (I interviewed her for the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast here and visited her lovely blog last year with my 5 secrets of being creative when you have no time).
Anyhoo, today Pip popped up a post about taking stock, inviting other bloggers to do the same. I’ve decided to take up the invitation because, as she says:
“I think we need to help each other find interesting things to read about, away from social media, as much as possible. WHICH IS WHY BLOGS ARE GREAT. What we see on social media – Instagram AND Facebook – is controlled by the powers-that-be. We shouldn’t be letting corporations decide what is worthy of our hearts and minds. Please read blogs more – or start your own – to buck the trend.”
So, in the interests of sharing the good stuff, here’s what I’m doing in January. Settle in, there’s a lot to talk about.
Making: A mess. I’m not a maker, unless you count manuscripts in the equation, and have written before about my lack of crafting ability. But it’s school holidays and I am trying to fit in parenting and working, which means that something has to give – and that thing would be housework.
Cooking: As little as possible. It has been so very hot here this month that even thinking about food feels like too much effort. We are eating an awful lot of salad.
Drinking: Lots of water, the occasional beer (I do love a chilled beer on a hot day) and gin and tonic. My current favourite is Four Pillars gin with tonic and a slice of orange. Yum.
Reading: All of the things. No, really. One thing I do in January is to read. If I can’t write, then reading is the next closest thing to working.
I’ve read a lot of YA fiction lately (I think I have an idea brewing), including Words In Deep Blue by Cath Crowley (LOVED), One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus (very enjoyable), and A Study In Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (very good – would read book #2 in the trilogy).
All of these are definitely 14+ reads (despite some 12+ age recommendations I’ve seen) and have been handed to Book Boy so watch out for kid reviews soon.
Next read: While I’m waiting for The Ruin by Dervla McTiernan to come out in February, I’m lining up a pile of books including Working Class Man by Jimmy Barnes (I loved Working Class Boy, for the record) and The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor.
Wanting: Five minutes to myself.
Looking: At Mr11’s drawings. He’s such a busy kid and I love it when he sits down to draw.
Playing: Book Boy’s first EP. I’m so incredibly proud of what he’s achieved and I simply love listening to him sing. The six original songs were recorded over several months last year and I can almost hear his voice changing with each one (for the record, the last song on the EP was the first one recorded and you can hear it here).
Deciding: We are planning a trip overseas later this year and are in that delicious phase of deciding all the things we might do while we’re there.
Wishing: It was autumn already. It’s. Just. Too. Hot.
Enjoying: Being part of the Your Kid’s Next Read Facebook group. It really is one of the friendliest and most useful places on the internet.
Waiting: Just like Pip, I’m waiting for a package because one of my boys is having a birthday next week. Here’s hoping it gets here in time!
Liking: The wonderful, sharing spirit of the Australian writing community. Being an author can be so lonely, but I have to say that Aussie writers are a great bunch. There’s always someone who’s been there before you and is happy to walk you through your next steps.
Wondering: How best to celebrate my blogging anniversary – I’m up to nine years next week, which is insane! If you have any thoughts on what kind of parade I should have, please share them in the comments!
Loving: Zonin Prosecco. My brother put me on to this stuff about three years ago when it was $8.50 a bottle. It’s now $11.50 or so (gasp!) but, as a budget-friendly, easy-drinking sparkling wine, I’m pretty sure this Italian lovely can’t be beaten.
Pondering: What to write next. I’ve just finished a first draft and I’m editing away, but my mind is always ticking over. I have two other manuscripts that are underway and I’m just deciding which one to concentrate on next.
Considering: How to best manage my diary. As regular readers will know, I’m a paper girl and like to see things written down, but keeping track of school stuff, writing stuff, family stuff, and Book Boy’s music stuff is becoming increasingly complicated. If you have any recommendations for me, please tell me!
Buying: Groceries. Seriously, how can two kids eat so much food?
Watching: The Builder and I are currently hopping between two series on Netflix: The Crown, which I am curiously obsessed with, and Fauda, an Israeli series, which is high on tension (but features some very strange dubbing in places).
Next watch: I’m really not sure. I have to confess that while the world of on-demand television is beguiling, actually deciding what is worth watching is not easy. I will be taking all recommendations.
Hoping: That 2018 is an altogether calmer year than 2017.
Marvelling: At all the possibilities a new year can bring.
Cringing: At the fact that I made a complete dill of myself at my local petrol station this week. I won’t go into details, but suffice to say that it involved a 5-litre petrol can and an absolute debacle.
Do you relive those cringey moments over and over again in your mind? I remember reading something years ago, maybe by Wendy Harmer, where she was talking about sitting on a bus and the woman beside her suddenly let out a groan and the writer (Wendy?) just knew she was reliving some embarrassing moment or other. That’s me right now.
Needing: A dishwasher. Yes, I know, this is probably more a want than a need, but really, five years without one is just long enough, don’t you think?
Questioning: Everything. When new parents write about all the things that nobody told them about being a parent, it usually involves a list of sleepless nights and dirty nappies. For me, though, it’s the endless worrying that goes with parenting that nobody COULD ever warn you about. That constant voice in your head asking ‘really, is this the right thing to do?’ is very, very tiring.
Smelling: Murraya. My neighbours have a huge Murraya shrub and my own is rapidly catching up. When I go out into the garden at night, the scent nearly knocks me over and I love it.
Wearing: My sneakers. Seriously, I have become one of those women who just puts on my sneakers in the morning to walk the dog and never takes them off. I am more comfortable in socks and sneakers than barefoot and I don’t know when this happened.
Following: JodiWileyArt on Instagram. I’ve just discovered her wonderful images of stacks of books and I am enamoured.
Worrying: See Questioning (above)
Noticing: What makes me happy and making a note to do more of it, even if it’s surprising.
Knowing: I need to detach from my phone. Doing the social media work I do makes it way too easy to just ‘check in’ and not leave for an hour. I’m trying to be much more rigorous in my use of time.
Thinking: I need to tidy my desk. But I’m always thinking this…
Admiring: I’m writing a feature for a magazine at the moment about young creative people in my local area, and I’m just in awe of what they’re achieving.
Sorting: My pantry. It’s got to the point where I can’t put anything in or get anything out without something falling on me.
Getting: Excited about the fact that The Book Of Answers is out this year! March 27 might seem like a little way off, but in book launch terms it’s only micro-seconds. I’m already thinking about some of the things I can do to get the word out about the book and putting plans in place.
Bookmarking: So many things. I’m constantly saving links all over the place to share them across my various social media channels, for me and for my clients.
Coveting: The sparkly gold jacket that my friend Elizabeth Rae wears here in her very first music video for her new single ‘Golden Hour’.
Disliking: A lot of things. But I’m not going to list them here because I stand by my rule about the internet: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. I get it, you have an opinion. Great. So do I. But the two of us shouting at each other about it online won’t make a jot of difference. If you really don’t like something, DO something about it.
Opening: The fridge door far more often than I should.
Giggling: At my boys, with my boys.
Feeling: Tired. I know, already. But I’m kind of thinking this is just a state of being for women these days.
Snacking: Yes. See Opening above.
Hearing: My boys. Bickering. Again. The long, hot days of January can be very long and very hot. So, enough of the taking stock – we’re off for a swim!
Well, that was quite a list! If you made it this far, I applaud you! I’d love to see your own Taking Stock post – if you write one, pop it in the comments.
Back in the early days of this blog, when I was still faffing about, thinking that blogging was writing on the internet, I happened to win a book in a giveaway. It was called ‘Problogger: Secrets for blogging your way to a six-figure income’. “Yeah, right,” I thought, tossing the book on the dining table (repository for all things Fibro) when it arrived and thinking no more of it. A few days later, on a slow news day, I picked up the book and read it from start to finish. By the end of it, I was not making a six-figure income, but I had some very good ideas about what I wanted to do with my blog – and what I didn’t.
Darren Rowse is Problogger (@problogger on Twitter to be exact). He started his first blog in 2002. He now has several blogs, several books (if you’re a new blogger, do not miss his 31 Days to Build A Better Blog Workbook), and a brilliant career extolling the virtues of blogging to the wider world. If you want to know how to make money on your blog, or off your blog, he’s your man. He’s also the go-to guy for tips on creating blog communities, using social media, and building your blog into a force to be reckoned with.
But I didn’t want to talk to him about any of that. Oh no. I wanted to ask him all about the art of writing for blogs. So I invited him to the Fibro and, oh joy, he popped in for a (virtual) cuppa and a chat.
Settle back, this is good.
Do you believe that writing for blogs is different from writing for other forms of media? Why/why not?
Darren Rowse: “Tough question. I’ll say yes… but with a small disclaimer! In general, I think blogs can do well with a more personal and playful voice than perhaps writers in other forms of media could get away with. This informal and personal style is something that blogs had a lot of success with in the early days and, from what I can see, is still often important in building an audience and relationship with readers.
“Having said that, my disclaimer – it does depend a little upon the style of the blogger and the goals of the blog. Some blogs do really well being written in a more formal and less personal voice. I am also increasingly seeing the more personal style appearing in other forms of media.”
I’ve seen the line ‘content is king’ over and over – do you think that comes down to what you say or how you say it?
DR: “I think it’s both. What you say is of vital importance – it needs to be useful to people in some way. I find that the best content is content that solves a need that somebody has. That need might be a big or important one like ‘I need to know how to raise my child’. Or it could be something a little more frivolous, like ‘I’m bored – entertain me’.
“How you say it is just as important though – in some ways, I think it is often what lifts good content to being great content. Your style or voice as a blogger is something that for most people comes over time and is hard to teach. Some bloggers just seem to be born with it (Mojo), while for others it develops as they experiment with different approaches to writing and see how others respond to it.”
Do personal bloggers need to worry about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)? How can they incorporate it without losing the rhythm of their writing?
DR: “My philosophy with SEO is pretty simple:
“1. Search engines are some of the biggest referrers of traffic going around. When someone wants to find information, it is more often than not a search engine that they head to.
“2. So if you want people to read your content (whether that content be ‘personal’ or something else), it makes a lot of sense to me to pay some attention to SEO and maximising your chances of being found in search engine results.
“3. So I advise learning the basics of SEO. Having a good understanding of how search engines rank sites and what you can do to optimise your blog is something that can be the difference between having a blog that is read – or not.
“4. However – I don’t personally obsess about SEO. I know the basics and find that knowing them and practising them a little will, in time, bring changes to the way that you blog, that will lead to a natural SEO as you blog. For example – knowing that the keywords you use in the title of your post is important in SEO means you start to think about keywords more and, in time, develop better-optimised titles.
“5. Google is in the business of ranking the best and most authoritative content highest. So one of the best things you can do with SEO is to write high-quality content and build trust, credibility and authority in your niche through networking. While there are things you can tweak in your content to improve your SEO, the best thing you can do is write quality content that people share around.
So, learn the basics, implement them, don’t obsess about SEO and build something of high quality.”
For me, blogging is about voice. Stand-out bloggers have stand-out voices. Would you agree? Any tips to help bloggers develop their voices?
DR: “Voice is one of those elusive things that I wish I could bottle and hand out to bloggers. It’s difficult to teach – some bloggers seem to be born with it, others find it develops in time and for others, it just seems to elude them.
“The main tips I could give:
*Practise – it takes time to develop your voice. The first 5000 posts are the hardest!
*Experiment – part of practising is experimenting with writing in different styles and voices. Set yourself tasks to write different types of posts. Experiment with different lengths, with formal and informal writing, with humour, with writing in the third person, with writing lists posts, case studies, question/discussion-based posts.
*Pay particular attention to how your posts are received – watch for sparks of energy and resonance from your readers. As you experiment, you’ll find that some posts just seem to click with others, while others flop. This gives you hints as to what types of posts to keep experimenting with.”
If you were a writer trying to build a community and a profile through a blog, what would you focus on? Is it enough to just write good stuff?
DR: “There are other factors that I think are important in building a good blog. Content is part of it, but I always try to add two other elements:
*Community: Engagement from readers (and among readers) is where the magic often happens. Ask readers questions, get them interacting with you and each other, give them homework, make them know that they’re valued, build a culture of inclusivity. All of this helps make your blog more useful, but it also builds social proof and makes it easier to grow, because when new visitors come they will be more attracted to a site that is obviously active and inclusive – rather than one that simply has good content.
*Get off your blog: A ‘build it and they will come’ mentality doesn’t really work with blogging. Just focusing all your energy on building a great blog is part of what you need to be doing, but also important is getting off your blog and interacting with other people’s spaces. Identify who you want to read your blog and where they are already hanging out online – then go and interact (and be useful) in those spaces. In doing so, you’ll start to build yourself a profile, credibility and, hopefully, in doing so, find readers for your own blog.”
For everything you ever wanted to know about blogging, visit Darren at the Problogger website, or go say hello on Facebook. If nothing else, tell him how much you like his glasses.