By Gina Burgess
Last May we talked a little bit about authors blogging, why and what to blog. Something missing is how an author should maintain the blog. Where to get inspiration for blog posts?
I’ve been writing blog posts since 2005 when my professor challenged us to create a blog for a class project. I’d never read a blog post, and didn’t like the examples she steered us to copy or get inspiration. Since then, I’ve written more than 2,000 blog posts, book reviews, and weekly columns. Since my posts run an average of 850 words, that means I’ve written online almost two million words in thirteen years. That’s 850 words every other day except Sundays not counting the six books written and published in that time. I tell you this because I’ve got a deep commitment to writing. James said, “Show me a man who says he has faith, and I’ll show you my faith by my works. Faith and works fit together like a hands in gloves.” (My paraphrase, but the last part is from The Message.)
Motivation and writing, writing and motivation fit together like a burning candle. Without wax, oxygen, and a catalyst, the candle won’t burn. Just wax and oxygen won’t produce light and heat alone, and the catalyst just lays in a match box until it is lit and brought to the wick. You can’t produce a chemical change without putting two or three elements together in one place at the same time.
Most bloggers don’t last three months. I’ve lasted thirteen years. Yes, I got tired. Yes, I was uninspired sometimes. Yes, I got fed up with people not responding. Yes, I wanted to quit several times. The single thing that overcame all those hurdles was my motivation and my God-given talent to write–not always perfect, not always pertinent, but always poked and prodded and motivated to produce because I have a burning desire to write.
You won’t produce unless you understand your desire to write.
Understand your motive to blog
Figuring out what motivates you to blog will help you in more ways than you can count. Is it because your publisher requires it? That doesn’t bode well for continual blogging. Is it to help build your writing skills? Is it to help organize your memoir? Is it because you want to connect with your readers, build a community? Is it because you want to sell books? Is it because you want ________?
One thing I learned while studying blogger motivations is a major motivation underpins most bloggers. They want to help others. This is one of the things that motivates me: helping others.
A lot of writers could say, “Yes. I want to help readers find my books and buy them.” Is that a good motivation? I’d have to say, “No.”
Another thing I found out is that it is important for a blogger to know how their post has helped another person. The only way to know this is if the blogger gets a response or a comment.
In my experience of blogging since 2005 and column writing since 2006, a blogger will have a lot of consumers of their written word, but few responses to any post. One reason is because most bloggers don’t frame their posts in an information exchange style (give a little ask a question, give a little more ask another question). Encouraging responses is a major key to building community. But mostly there will be few responses compared to the numerous readers. It’s a fact of internet life. It doesn’t mean great benefit hasn’t been felt. It just means that most consumers do not feel compelled to offer a response.
Another thing that motivates me is creating community and connecting with like-minded people who are interested in the same things I am. Since so many different things interest me, it isn’t hard to find something to talk about to almost everyone.
What about you? Is your only interest in such a small niche there are too few interested in purchasing your book? Of course not! Just because you like to study mating habits of flies doesn’t mean your interests aren’t broader than that. You’ve got a work of blinding brilliance and lots of people will be interested in all aspects of that story or that memoir or that creative non-fiction.
But what to write about in blog posts?
Here’s a better question. Why do you write the kinds of stories you write? Or non-fiction that you write? Take a minute and visit Debbie Macomber’s blog. Quite a successful author. Many of her stories have been made into movies. She has posts about her new book, about lifestyles, and about recipes. Reading her books, all these things have a place in her writing. These are her passions, and you can tell she enjoys them because she takes the time to write about them.
Ted Dekker connects with his fans on Facebook. That is a rather dangerous thing to do since Facebook has the power to disconnect your page or group for whatever reason. With a blog, that can’t happen. However, you still see on his Facebook what he’s passionate about. You see his picture, you see his family, and you can enter to win a free book plus a lot more. And you can interact with him, comment on photos, and it’s convenient. You’ve already looked at what your next door neighbor had for lunch and where Aunt Minnie went on vacation. Why not check in on Ted?
I searched for other writers’ blogs and found that most of the ones I’m very familiar with connect with readers on Facebook and with newsletters. So how did they get email addresses without a blog? Ted Dekker got more than 1,600 email addresses by giving away five of his recent book. That’s okay when you are a famous author. But most likely won’t happen if you are just starting out. What do you do?
You can do everything Ted does with a blog plus you can gather email addresses and send out a newsletter that features your blog post. Ask people to share your newsletter, get more email addresses. With these email addresses you can hype your new book, ask people to purchase and review it, and get more email addresses. Give them links to your book on Goodreads and Amazon and get more email addresses. So much more that won’t be lost unless you let your web host bill go unpaid. Plus you can auto connect your blog posts to Facebook and get the best of both worlds.
On your blog, you can talk about what peeves you, what excites you, what makes your engine run smooth, what takes your breath away. Travel, research, ask for feedback when a paragraph or chapter stumps you. Readers love it when they are involved in the process. Give away background files on your characters in exchange for an email address. How can you send it without an email address?
Don’t just ask for first name and email. Ask a quirky question that will be fun (and doesn’t take a lot of thought) to answer. Things that pertain to your genre: favorite food, favorite dragon name, favorite sci-fi sub-genre (space opera or military sci-fi, what is your child or grandchild’s favorite book, etc. The answers will give you feedback on your reader base.
Don’t let lack of technical knowledge hold you back!
There are dozens of blog hosting places out there. WordPress.com and Blogger are the two most used. They aren’t going anywhere. They have built in themes, and all you have to do is plug in information, find a few beautiful images on Pixabay.com or Unsplash where the images are copyright/royalty free. Our own Julianne Rigali can help you set up your blog.
There is a vast ocean of information at your fingertips. Use it. Search engines will find answers to your full blown questions. Don’t know how to do something? Ask the question in your browser and your preferred search engine will list dozens of sites that can answer your question. YouTube has millions of how-to videos. Why sit there with a doe-in-the-headlights expression, crying woe is me? You can do it.
Need inspiration for a post? What is the most recent question you asked yourself? Was it a recipe? A technical point for your last WIP? Today authors have the equivalent of millions of libraries at their fingertips. Of course you use the internet. But, use the internet! It will take you places you can’t imagine.
Working on my own WIP today, I needed to know what the strongest material on Earth was. I found out that God created it. It wasn’t manmade, but a discovery of something very intriguing. It’s one atom thick, and it’s carbon atoms in a honeycomb pattern. It can stop a bullet, and most gases and liquids cannot penetrate it except water easily flows through it. It’s graphene and it’s not sci-fi anymore!