Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How blogging can help your novel-writing

In my last post, I talked about how short-story writing can improve your long fiction.

Today I'd like to discuss another form of writing that will help your career as a novelist: blogging.

Maybe you already do it. Maybe you've considered starting. Or perhaps it's not on your radar at all.

Here's why it should be.

1. Blogging will help you relax your voice
Us novelists tend to take ourselves a bit seriously at times. After all, writing a novel is a big undertaking. It's challenging and important and... and... kind of lofty. Right?

As a novelist shut away in our writing cave for months and years on end, it's easy to get wrapped up in the grandeur of the story we're spinning, and forget all about that little thing called the reader. And the problem is, if our storytelling voice becomes all lofty and self-important, we've lost most of those said readers from the get-go.

Blogging is different. There's a matter of hours between writing something and having it go live before a real-life audience: an audience who gives us immediate feedback on our work. Therefore, it's easier to write with said audience front and center in our writing brain. The result? A tone that is conversational, friendly, down-to-earth, and relatable.

Once you've been blogging long enough, you'll find that more natural, conversational voice finding its way into your longer fiction as well. And that's a good thing.

Blogging will help you strip affectation from your voice, simplify, relax, and keep things real.

Image by Ambro,
2. Blogging builds self-discipline
Blogging is like the stomach-crunches of the writing world.

Maybe it's not as exciting or glamorous as signing that big book deal, watching your novel climb the bestseller ranks, or any of the other delightful things we like to daydream about.

But it gives you a solid foundation as a writer. It requires you to be consistent and meet small, regular deadlines. That is great practice for one day down the track when you have deadlines set by a publisher.

3. Blogging will improve your productivity
Sometimes the best thing for a story block is to switch writing gears and hammer out a blog post. It's an easy and immediate style of writing, and it'll give you the satisfaction of completing something - which is a great antidote to frustration.

Besides, the more you write, across all genres and platforms, the quicker you get. Wanna be a prolific writer? Start blogging. Your output will increase overall, because it has to.

Before you know it, ideas start flowing faster from brain to fingertips, and you're all limbered up and ready to dive back into your story-world.

4. Blogging will help you find and connect with your audience
This flows on from the first point. Blogging puts you in touch with readers - right now, without having to wait for some "maybe day" in the distant future.

Publishers want to see that you have a platform. We all know how essential that is in today's marketing climate. There is no better time to start building a platform than before the book deal.

Wait till afterward, and you've probably left it too late.

When you blog consistently and strategically, you are building a tribe of people who are interested in what you have to say.

And after all, that's what every writer wants, isn't it?

To have a voice, and someone to listen.

Do you blog? If so, why do you do it, and how do you find it helps you as a writer? 

If not, what are your reasons for not blogging? Is it something you'd consider?

I'm a novelist, not a blogger! Why novelists should have a blog, & how it'll help your writing: Tweet this

Karen Schravemade lives in Australia, where she mothers by day and transforms into a fearless blogger by night. She's a Genesis finalist for women's fiction and is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such. Find her on Twitter, Google+and getting creative on her home-making blog, A house full of sunshine.


Julia M. Reffner said...

O Karen, I don't blog anymore, but I've been thinking about it more and more. I think this summer when we take a break from school may be a good starting point for me as I know when you first start it up its takes longer than later on. I never thought about the idea of relaxing your voice through your blog. What a great point! I definitely think it increases my idea flow. Great thoughts!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Yes, that increased flow of ideas is so true, Julia! It definitely is a big commitment- probably why it took me so long to jump in. But worthwhile, I think. And yes, I'm sure that initial stage is the hardest.

Terri Picone said...

Your title caught my eye immediately. I've been blogging, but as a fiction writer, I struggle to find my focus there so the past few months, I've been neglecting my blog.

I have done book and movie reviews and have a "character" of mine show up for a guest post, but usually the post is on a nonfiction topic that I feel passionate about (and which often are themes in my fiction). I would like to write fiction there but can't figure out exactly how to do it.

I've wondered what other fiction writers blog about. And have found that others must feel confused, too, because not many fiction writers blog and if they do it's often about their books or speaking events. I think this is fine unless that's all they blog about.

I agree that blogging is a great way to find our voice; I also find my daily journaling helps me with that probably for the same reasons you mentioned.

Any ideas about what a fiction writer can blog about? I look forward to checking out YOUR blog. Thanks!

H.R. Sinclair said...

I blog, but not during April. The reason I stared blogging is different from what they are now.

Now, it's about connecting and learning and getting better at producing something readable quickly. :)

Funny thing is, I think my "blog voice" is kind of formal. My "comment voice" is a lot more relaxed.

H.R. Sinclair said...

I'm getting a "could not find" message when I click the website link.:(

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Karen, what a great post! I put off starting a blog for a long time because: 1) I knew it would take a time commitment, 2) I wasn't sure I had anything worth saying that people would want to read and 3) it intimidated me!

I began my blog in Feb of last year. I started at two days a week, but it took too much time away from writing. So, I blog one day a week. And, I enjoy it. I blog, in small part to begin finding an audience for my one-day books, but in much bigger part to be an encouragement to others who might read my blog. I have found myself being greatly encouraged by those who comment.

I love what you said about getting in the practice of meeting deadlines. It definitely does that! I know that this will help when I finally get a the future. :)

Great post, Karen!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

TERRI, I'm going to step out on a limb and share a couple thoughts about your questions. I hope you (and the Alley Cats) don't mind. :)

I write fiction, and a couple friends further on the writing journey than I am shared some great insights with me before I began blogging. One thing I do as a blogger is write about things my readers would be interested in, along with those things that touch my heart.

So the focus of my blog is writing about "Life, Relationships and Passions of the Heart." I make sure that the things I write about fit into one of these three categories. You might consider figuring out what your passions are and what your readers' passions are and focus a blog on those sorts of topics. Because part of our desire is to build a platform, right? :) Since a lot of your passions end up in your books, this might be a good thing to blog about. :)

Anyway, I hope this helps.

Ashley Clark said...

Great suggestions, Jeanne! :)

Very helpful post, Karen! I enjoy blogging but have such a hard time sticking to a schedule with it! It seems to be the first thing to go when things get hectic and I don't want to sacrifice writing time or teaching time. I need to do better about sticking to a routine with it.

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

TERRI, I think you're doing a fantastic job with the three things you mentioned - book reviews, character posts, and themes. Really, you've hit the nail on the head with what fiction writers can blog about! I think you're on exactly the right track!

Bottom line is that you're trying to reach your ideal readership, and only you can figure out exactly who they are and what they like to read.

Book reviews are a brilliant way in, as they speak directly to people who read - plus you're promoting others' work, and what goes around comes around. Character posts are creative and enticing. Themes is going to be a big staple in your week-by-week blogging - finding the central themes that run through your work, and expanding on those. If you're passionate about it, that's half the battle! Your passions will show through.

I think a lot of fiction writers struggle with this very question, and the answer will look different depending on your genre. Historical writers have a mother lode of material to blog about, as often historical-fiction readers are history buffs themselves, and are fascinated by details and anecdotes of time and place.

Contemporary fiction writers can flounder a bit more, but to me it comes back to identifying your readership.

For me - I write inspirational women's fiction, so my readership is women, particularly Christian women. I've started a home-making blog, which may seem like a departure from what most authors do, as I don't talk about writing at all, and my only link-back to reading is a monthly book-club. But for me it's about identifying my passions (I'm an interior decorator and ex-teacher of Creative Arts) and blogging about something I'm excited about, because that's what makes the hard work sustainable. It's also about reaching a potential reader base within my target demographic, rather than reaching out to the already-saturated market of other writers.

Phew... long answer. I can feel another blog post in this. :) I hope that helps.

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

JEANNE - thank you!! So glad you jumped in. I love the answer you gave. Blogging your passions is so essential! If you're passionate about your subject, it shows! If you're not, it becomes a hard slog that no-one enjoys - neither you nor your reader - and there's just no point in that. So glad you're enjoying your blogging journey!

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

SOUTHPAW, thanks for drawing the broken link to my attention! I've taken it down for now. My active site is at a house full of sunshine. That's where you can find my blog.

So true that our reasons for blogging can change and evolve along the way! And yes - the ability to produce something readable quickly is a very big advantage gifted to us by blogging. :)

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Oh, and JEANNE - going back to your first comment - I can totally relate to those three reasons you mentioned for feeling hesitant to plunge into blogging! I felt the exact same way, and as a result, put off starting for years. I feel like I've finally find my niche, and that has made all the difference. So glad you've found a passion and love for blogging.

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

ASHLEY - yes, finding the balance is hard. Especially when you're working full-time and trying to fit in a full writing schedule as well. That's something we all struggle with, for sure!