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Friday, January 30, 2009

The first page, part 2 - Figure out where to start your story

This is continuing my series on things to look for in your first page.
Click here for part one.

Figure out where to start your story

You don’t need cars blowing up or gunfights or a grotesque witch dying a horrible death to open your story (although if you do have those things, that’s a good thing, too).

All you need is something different.

You need something unusual happening that will perk your reader’s attention.

You need something disrupting the character’s normal life.

You need just the intimation of some type of change or upheaval.

This means you don’t start with backstory or telling or explanations about who the character is and why they’re there and what has happened to him before this scene.

You start with the action spurred on by Change in the character’s life.

I’ve seen too many manuscripts that started in the wrong place. The character’s “ordinary world” is introduced, but it’s not an active, engaging opening for the story.

You need to start with the change to the character’s ordinary world. If you start within the ordinary world, you run the risk of starting the story too slowly.

Try to avoid the “happy person in a happy world” type of opening. Instead, start with something disturbing your character.

James Scott Bell teaches a “Chapter two switcheroo” technique that works well for most of his students. Basically, you toss out chapter one and make chapter two your first chapter, revising and tweaking chapter two so that it makes sense, but still starting the story with the action there.

Just as an experiment, why not try the switcheroo and see how that works for you? Ask critique partners or ask for volunteer readers—find a few who have not seen the original version of the story—and collect feedback on the new opening. You might be surprised at how much better it might make your story.

Click here for part three.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mount Hermon HeadStart Mentoring Clinic

I'm a mentor for the Mount Hermon HeadStart mentoring clinic this year! The HeadStart clinic is a couple days before Mount Hermon Writers Conference, April 1-3, 2009.

HeadStart is mostly for beginning writers (intermediate writers can take the regular Mentoring Clinic given during Mount Hermon Writer's Conference).

I hope that those of you who can will come and take my mentoring class!

Mary DeMuth, who's also a mentor for HeadStart, made this really cute video that gives a little more info about who the HeadStart clinic is for and what you can get out of it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The first page, part 1 - Craft a great opening line

I’m going to be doing a series on things to look for in your first page.

Why just the first page?

Realistically, that first page is all you have. That’s what will either grab an editor or make him/her put the manuscript in the reject pile.

Editors have very little time, and they get thousands of manuscripts a year. If they’re not hooked by that first page, most will not bother to read on to the second page.

Editors just don’t have time anymore to “grow” an author and help them improve his/her writing. In past decades in publishing, an editor might contract an author with incredible potential and help them to become a better writer with successive books.

That doesn’t happen anymore. A debut author that’s contracted these days has to have very strong writing skills right off the bat—an editor will not contract a writer who’s “good but not quite there.”

It’s the same with a reader. Think of yourself in a bookstore. There are thousands of books on the shelves. How do you decide which book to spend your hard-earned money on?

Usually you’ll:

1) look at the cover, even if it’s only for a moment

2) read the back cover blurb

3) read the first page or so

If that first page doesn’t grab you, how likely are you to read to page 2?

Craft a great opening line

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. A great opening line will hook your reader by the throat.

Every reader will at least read the first line. This is an opportunity handed to you on a plate for hooking your reader.

A reader intrigued by a great opening line is more likely to read the second page even if the rest of the first page is absolutely dreck, because they’ve been tantalized by that great opening line.

An opening line is a fast, quick way to make sure you’ve got them. If your hook is at the end of the paragraph or the end of the page rather than the first line, you run the risk of the reader not making it that far and closing the book before they hit your hook.

You don’t want to run that risk. The odds are against you, and your mission is to make that editor or reader buy your book.

So spend time on crafting a fantastic opening line. Spend LOTS of time. Brainstorm lots of ideas, run ideas by your critique partners, fill up pages of possible opening lines, read good opening lines and get ideas.

Here are some examples of good opening lines:
Scene transitions – opening hooks

Do not leave your book to open with a blah opening line. Take advantage of the fact your reader will at least read that first line.

Click here for part two.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Setting writing goals for 2009

I'm over at Seekerville talking about how writers can set goals for 2009 to challenge themselves to write faster and/or more efficiently.

Camy here, talking about Writing Goals for 2009!

Pam Hillman recently shared her writing goals with us, and I was totally impressed how she broke things down into quarters.

What that mostly did was to help her target herself in terms of writing efficiency. She challenged herself to write a certain amount—or at a certain speed—by a certain date.


Click here to read the rest of the post.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Credentials in Query Letters For Novels An Example From Real Life

Here is an example from my own query letter, written for one of my old Asian chick lit novels when I was still unpublished. This was originally published on Suite101.

An Example From Real Life

Here is a bio paragraph from a real query letter from an author who was unpublished at the time.

The credential or bio section of a query letter is important because it lists why the writer is qualified to write the novel being proposed in the query. It also shows the agent or editor the writer’s experience in the publishing industry and in the writing craft.

The best way to learn is by example, so here is an example bio paragraphs from a real query letter from the author, who was unpublished at the time she sent this query. There are also comments about each section of the bio paragraph at the end of the example.

Example One

Here is an example from a query letter this author submitted when still unpublished. The novel was an Asian American chick lit novel.

This novel explores the fast pace and urban lifestyle of the Silicon Valley professional, as well as the northern California Asian culture I have been immersed in for the past fourteen years. I belong to several writers' groups and critique groups including American Christian Romance Writers and Christian Writers' Group. My short stories have won various Writing.com contests, and I am also an editor for RubyZine, a Christian ezine for teenaged girls. I have been published in Write To Inspire newsletter, WordPraize multicultural e-zine, and Universal Personality e-zine. I have a feature article that will appear in the fall edition of Nikkei Heritage journal, published by the National Japanese American Historical Society, and a short story appearing next year in Arabella Magazine.

Breakdown Explanations of the Credential Paragraph

“the northern California Asian culture I have been immersed in for the past fourteen years”: this is telling why the author’s living situation helps qualify her to write this novel.

“American Christian Romance Writers and Christian Writers' Group”: both online writing communities. ACFW costs $50 a year, CWG was free, so you can see that online writing communities can be inexpensive.

“Writing.com contests”: a free writing community. The author entered many stories in a variety of user-hosted contests, and won a couple.

“an editor for RubyZine, a Christian ezine for teenaged girls”: an online blog started by a friend of the author. She had a monthly column which gave her the title of “editor”.

“Write To Inspire newsletter” and “Universal Personality e-zine: for each ezine, the author persisted and submitted a large number of article topics and stories. The editors finally liked one and published it. Payment was very small, but the publishing credit was worth much more.

“WordPraize multicultural e-zine”: the author wrote for free.

“Nikkei Heritage journal, published by the National Japanese American Historical Society”: this credit shows the author’s writing in a field related to the novel. The author wrote for free for this one.

“Arabella Magazine”: this publication folded soon after the query letter was sent, but it didn’t matter because it was a legitimate writing credit.

Gain Credentials

Hopefully this example will help you brainstorm ideas for how you can attain writing credentials for your own query letter.

Look at online writing communities like free forum boards and free communities like Writing.com.

Explore ezines that don’t pay for articles, but which would give a legitimate writing credit.

Be persistent in submitting a variety of different article ideas or short stories to ezines, journals, and websites—one article idea or short story is sure to stick.

Look for local writing opportunities in local newsletters, church newsletters, and local journals. They often don’t pay, but the writing credit is valuable.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Query Letters - Listing Credentials: Make Your Bio Powerful and Informative

I just critiqued a query letter and answered a few questions about the credentials paragraph. So I wrote this article, which originally was published on Suite 101.

Make Your Bio Powerful and Informative

Here are a few tips to make the bio section of a query letter as good as it can be.

An important part of query letters is the credential or bio paragraph. It should do two things:

1) Let the editor or agent know why you are qualified to write the novel and its topics

2) Let the editor or agent know that you have publishing credits and writing connections to show you’re not inexperienced in the publishing industry.

Show You Are Qualified

A writer should show that they are qualified to write a novel’s settings, issues, themes, or character professions.

If the novel is about firefighters, a bio should mention the writer is the son of a firefighter or married to one, or is a firefighter himself.

If the novel is set in the Michigan upper peninsula, the writer should mention his/her connection to the area or the extensive research done for the novel.

If the novel is about a couple dealing with miscarriage, the writer should mention his/her own experience with miscarriage (personal or through a friend/relative) or their involvement in a support group for couples who have had miscarriages.

List Writing Credits, Even If Unpaid

Writing for free online or for local print productions is one of the best ways to gain easy, legitimate writing credits. Make sure you list all the writing you’ve done, whether for ezines, websites, blogs (not your own), your church newsletter, a local paper, or local journals.

If you can write articles that pertain to the novel’s themes, settings, issues, etc., even better. For example, if your novel is about miscarriage, maybe you can write a short encouraging blog post on a website offering support and information for couples who have had miscarriages—that’s a legitimate writing credit, since the website is not just about you (like a blog would be) and/or is not your own website.

Even if your publishing credits don’t pertain to your novel (like writing a column for your church newsletter), they are still publishing credits you should list in your query letter because it shows you are used to working with others in a writing capacity, you are used to meeting deadlines, used to proofing your work, etc.

List Organizations and Online Communities

A writer’s involvement in a writing organization or online community shows that the writer has resources to familiarize them with the publishing industry. Writing organizations can be found for any genre, and many are inexpensive or free. Some are a bit pricey (like Romance Writers of America) but are typically worth the cost of membership because of the wide variety of online classes and email loops available.

A writer can also be involved in an organization or community that relates to the subject of the novel. For example, a writer who writes Regency-era novels can list that she belongs to several Regency historical organizations or forum board communities.

Get Credentials

If you don’t belong to organizations, or have writing credits, then it’s easy to acquire them. Look for opportunities to write for free online, and research appropriate organizations you can join.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Writing Career on a Budget

We're all feeling the financial crunch, but what's an unpublished writer to do when there are so many things you need to buy to develop your craft? I wrote this article, which originally appeared on Suite101.

A Writing Career on a Budget

Money-Saving Tips for Novelists

Here are tips for developing writing skills, improving craft, and taking advantage of resources inexpensively.

An unpublished novelist is stuck in a catch-22. He can’t make money until he sells a novel, but he can’t sell a novel until he develops his craft, which usually requires money.

Here are some tips for developing your writing craft while limited by a budget.

Take Advantage of Free Stuff

These days, there are tons of writing articles online that teach the basics of writing. Google is your best friend.

There are many websites that have lists of links to free articles. One of my favorites is Resources for Romance Writers. While many of the articles do pertain to romance, much of the information is applicable to any genre—issues like point of view, grammar, characterization, story structure, and dialogue.

And don’t forget your library. Most libraries have an inter-library loan system where you can “order” a book from a different library branch if your local library doesn’t have it.

Get Recommendations Before Buying Books

Be judicious about which writing books you buy. You want to make sure you spend your hard-earned money on the ones that are right for you.

If you can, borrow the book from the library and read it first to determine if it’s a resource you want to own rather than just read once and return.

Check out author websites—they will usually have a list of writing books that they recommend. A book mentioned by several different authors is usually a good choice.

Read online reviews so that you understand each book’s strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, take reviews with a grain of salt—anyone can write a review.

Join a Writers Organization

Writers usually love giving advice and helping others, and joining an online or in person writing group is a great way to develop writing craft.

There are writers’ organizations for different genres like the Romance Writers of America, the Mystery Writers of America, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Often writers’ organizations will also have online critique groups. A writer will often find that their writing improves just from the exercise of critiquing a manuscript not their own.

Writers’ organizations will also often have online courses that are very inexpensive ($15-$30 for a 4-6 week course) and tailored to specific topics.

Only Hire a Freelance Editor When Your Craft Is Stellar

Many writers make the mistake of sending their writing to a freelance editor before they’ve learned the writing craft on their own. The freelance editor flags issues that the writer could have learned from a book and fixed him/herself. It’s a waste of money.

Make sure your writing is its absolute best before paying for a freelance editor. Take advantage of articles, books, online classes, and critique groups first. Write a second novel.

Write More Novels

Writers learn to refine their craft just from the process of writing a second novel or a third. Writers who limit themselves to just their first novel are cheating themselves of the many things they could learn just by writing another story.

Don’t focus all your energy on a single manuscript. Writing another manuscript will give you new experience in crafting different types of characters, thinking up new types of conflict, refining your story structure skills, and polishing your dialogue techniques.

Reality Check

Realize that there is only one Stephen King, but there are thousands of published novelists who will not make even 1% of his income.

Fiction writing is not for the faint of heart, and writers shouldn’t be setting their financial expectations too high.

Basically, don’t quit your day job quite yet.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Books and Such Literary Agency blog

I am agented by Books and Such, and they've just started a blog!

http://www.booksandsuch.biz/blog/

They'll be posting 5 days a week, and they'll also have a Newsflash feature where they'll be posting every new and juicy tidbit from the world of publishing.

Friday, January 09, 2009

How to write a great query letter by Noah Lukeman

Noah Lukeman now has his article, "How to write a great query letter" available as a free download! Way cool!

How to write a great query letter

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Increase Character Conflict

Feedback can sometimes be vague, can't it? I wrote an article that might help you improve your story when the feedback is not so helpful. This article originally appeared on Suite101.

Increase Character Conflict

Make Characters and the Story More Interesting By Increasing Conflict

Here are some tips for making a bland or episodic story more interesting by introducing deep character conflicts.

Sometimes, a writer will get feedback that the characters are unlikable or uninteresting, or the story is only “okay.” This is usually a good indication that the story needs more conflict.

For popular fiction, the best type of conflict involves personal character conflict. Some writers refer to this as “throwing rocks” at your character.

This type of internal conflict can also directly impact the external storyline, so you get maximum bang for your writing buck.

Conflict will automatically create more interest for readers because they want to see how the protagonist responds under pressure—giving an indication of what the character is truly like. Conflict also raises the emotional stakes of a story, and emotion always ensures reader interest.

Here are a few tips for increasing character conflict in a story:

Make the Character Face His/Her Greatest Fear

This involves going deep into your character development to determine what your character fears the most.

It could be something external, like an object or a place, or it could be a person.

It could also be something more abstract, like a concept, an issue, or a certain type of situation or circumstance that puts the character in a difficult place emotionally.

Once you’ve determined the character’s fear, then hit him/her with it with all the strength you’ve got in your pen. Be ruthless. This is not the time to be squeamish. This will guarantee an exciting movement to your story, and your readers will be anxious to find out how the character handles the stress.

Force the Character to Do What He/She Would Otherwise Never Do

Figure out what your character would profess never to do, even at gunpoint. What would totally go against his/her moral code or inner value? What would complete abhor your character to be forced to do? “I’ll do anything but don’t make me do …”

Once you’ve figured that out, create a situation that boxes the character in until he/she is forced to do exactly what they otherwise would never do.

Make sure the character’s motivation for doing it is strong—a good motivation is as important as the despicable action itself. If your readers don’t understand why the character is acting this way or does buy the reason, then you’ve lost them.

Boxing the character into this impossible situation will create rising tension and suspense as well as intense personal conflict.

Make the Character Fail at the External Goal

Consider what would happen if the character didn’t achieve their goal at the end of the story. If they completely failed. Imagine the emotional and physical consequences of this failure.

Then write it.

Write, intending things to end tragically and disastrously for the character. No hope, no redemption, nothing positive.

This will force you to write the most conflict for your character that you can. It will force you to heap problems upon the character and story, because you are aiming for a tragic ending—you are writing the story into the ground.

Then, give yourself an extra 30-40 pages and write a turnaround. Help can come from outside sources (although don’t make it too unbelievable) but turn the tide from utter desolation to something hopeful.

Practice and Rewrite

This might take a few revisions of your story. You might decide on one sort of conflict, then change your mind or want to try a different type of conflict. That’s okay. Practice make perfect. And the more you work on conflict in revisions, the stronger the conflict will become.

Just don’t give up.

Monday, January 05, 2009

For Love and Money Week in Seekerville

For Love and Money Week in Seekerville (www.seekerville.blogspot.com)

Monday Jan 5: Deb Ng on professional blogging. Deborah Ng is the
genius behind Freelance Writing Jobs.

Tuesday Jan 6: Cindi Myers on the working writer. If you don't know
Cindi, check out her Market News Yahoo Group or her website for news
on her latest release A Man To Rely On, from Super Romance.

Wednesday Jan 7: Michael Bracken on writing for the Confessions.
Michael is a phenom in the confession world and we are thrilled to
have him stop by and share.

Thursday Jan 8: Abingdon Press Senior Acquisitions Editor for
Fiction, Barbara Scott, is back for an Encore, Encore!!

Friday Jan 9: Myra L. Johnson on the Christian nonfiction market. In
addition to her multiple fiction sales in 2008 (Heartsong and
Abingdon), Myra is also a nonfiction writer.

Saturday Jan 10: Tina Russo shares on writing romantic fiction for
Woman's World Magazine. Keep an eye out for her latest Woman's World
story, Letting Go, which is on newsstands RIGHT NOW!!

We are starting 2009 with a bang in Seekerville. Anyone who comments
all six days will be entered into a drawing for a $25.00 Amazon Gift
Card.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Building a blog

This article originally appeared as a series of blog posts in November and December 2008. Here are all the posts collected together.

Building a blog

These days, blogging is a great way to express yourself and/or to market a product you might have. Blogging is cheap, easy, and can be a lot of fun.

But while anyone can blog, how do you create an effective blog? Here are a few tips, broken down into Blogging Logistics and Blog Content.

(Before I begin, I also want to mention that blogging isn’t for everyone. Not everyone likes to blog, and that’s perfectly fine. I think that no one should feel forced to blog—if you don’t like blogging, then don’t blog. But if you do enjoy blogging, this is a series of articles to help you make a better blog.)

Blogging Logistics:

Blog consistently.

Good blogs have bloggers who post consistently and often. Most of these bloggers post five days a week, taking Saturday and Sunday off since blogs usually have lower traffic on weekends.

Ideally, a blogger who wants to improve their blog traffic and effectiveness should post five days a week.

If that gives you a heart attack, try to commit to posting three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday), and you can build to five days a week in a few months.

Some statistics show that bloggers who post two or more posts a day collect more traffic than bloggers who only post once a day, but don’t panic—once a day is fine, too.

If it helps, set an alarm on your computer to remind you to blog. But there’s also a trick for blogging that I’ll talk about later.

Utilize lots of white space.

Studies have shown that because words on a computer screen are harder to read than words on a printed page, people tend to skim when they read blogs.

Also, because it’s harder to read a computer screen, people tend to skim even more when a paragraph is long.

Therefore, keep your paragraphs short. No more than two or three sentences. Ideally, the paragraph shouldn’t be longer than an inch or an inch and a quarter long on your computer screen.

Also, make sure you separate your paragraphs with a double carriage return (enter key). Blogs that don’t have that extra blank line between paragraphs don’t have enough white space and are harder to read.

Also, try to have a blog template (or alter your blog template) to have the paragraphs be narrow rather than long. This enables your reader to read your posts more easily than with paragraphs running the length of their entire browser screen.



Keep your blog posts short.

Blog readers tend to skim when the blog posts are very long.

The ideal length for a blog post is 250-400 words.

Yes, you read that right.

The longest a blog post should be is 750 words, although if a blog post is a short fiction story, they can be as long as 1000 words.

Short blog posts also enable you to blog more—a long blog post can instead be broken up into several parts, making two or three days’ posts out of one long post.

Utilize boldface to draw the readers’ eyes down the page.

This is a technique from business writers who want to make sure the reader hits the pertinent points. Boldface also helps the reader keep track of the main points as they read the blog post.

However, italics are harder to read than boldface or regular font, so use italics lightly.

Choose eye-friendly colors.

In general, white typeface on a black background is hard for a person to read on a computer screen. It messes with the eye and blog readers will not often return to a blog with this inverted color scheme.

Go for simple: black text on white background.

Also, make sure the colors you choose for links or other text on your blog are pleasant, easy to read colors. No pastels that can be difficult to pick up from a white background. Other than being easy to read, any color is fine.

As for the design of the rest of your blog, feel free to choose your favorite colors.

Make any pictures low resolution.

Pictures or clip art are good since blogs are very visual, but make sure they’re low resolution pictures.

Any readers still on dialup will be able to read your blog easily if you have low resolution pictures, and the blog will load faster for those of us on high speed internet connections.

If you don’t know how to make a picture low resolution, ask a teen or twenty-something you know who is computer savvy.

An easy way for me is to use the free Kodak Easyshare software. It lets you save a copy of your picture as “web” quality, which is lower resolution.

Once you save a picture copy in lower resolution, upload that copy to your blog. People will be able to view your page faster and easier.



Give your blog a unique design.

Make your blog design uniquely “you.” It will serve as a visual cue to readers to know they are entering your happy place and can expect a fun read.

A cheap way to alter your blog template is to ask a computer savvy teen or twentysomething to help you “pimp” your blog. Many teens know html b/c of their experience personalizing their myspace pages.

An expensive way is to hire a blog designer. Check out several of your favorite blog designs and figure out who the designer was. Then email them to ask for prices.

Keep the visual distractions to a minimum.

A blog with too many little ads or too many widgets on both sidebars can be distracting to a reader.

Aim for clean lines and good visual cohesiveness. Incorporate lots of white space.

Overall, make sure your nice unique blog design isn’t overshadowed by ads or widgets or flashing bling.

Turn off the music.

Blogs with music playing tend to be distracting. Turn the music off.

This will keep the reader focused on your blog post, not the music.

Also, any readers on dialup will have a hard time visiting your blog if it has music streaming. You want to make sure your blog is easily accessible to all readers.

Save time—blog for the entire week at once.

This is the “secret to my success,” in a sense. I take one day a week and write all the blog posts for the coming week all at once.

It usually takes only a couple hours at most, because each blog post is only 250-400 words. If your post is going long, break it up into two days’ posts.

This is much more time efficient than taking 20-30 minutes each day to blog. Take it from someone who writes for a living.

Don’t waste precious time you could spend on other things. Be efficient with your blogging time.


Blog Content

If your blog logistics are all correct (see above), it’s the content on your blog that keeps people coming back.

Return visitors are very good.

Here are some tips for creating great content for your blog.

Be personal.

Blog readers like to hear about personal stuff about you. Anything you’re comfortable sharing.

A blog that’s purely theme or product related can be boring. Successful blogs have both information and some personal touches.

For example, in Stephanie Quilao’s Back in Skinny Jeans blog, she blogs mostly about health issues, body image encouragement, and comments on health and fashion related news on the web.

However, Steph also blogs about her own personal struggles with weight loss and body image, making her posts personal as well as informative. Her writing style is also funny and entertaining.

Be safe.

The flip side of including personal information on your blog is to also be very careful about what you post. Do not post things that are too personal, and always be aware that there are some weird/dangerous people out there.

Don’t post personal financial information, obviously. Also don’t post your home address or anything that would enable a stalker to come visit you.

Some bloggers don’t post their children or spouse’s name, either. I think this is wise.

Some bloggers don’t post their children or spouse’s picture. I think you could go either way with this—whatever makes you most comfortable. I don’t post my husband’s name, but I do post his picture on my blog. It’s up to you what you decide to do.

So while it’s good to include some personal things about yourself in your blog posts, also be smart and safe. Don’t post information that you wouldn’t want a perfect stranger to have about you.



Post about your hobbies.

Most of us pursue hobbies that lots of other people around the world pursue also. So post about it on your blog.

This is a great way to add some personal touches to your blog posts, and it also draws people to your blog who have the same interests as you do.

Pull in all the things you’re interested in. Anything can make a blog post—your current knitting project, your garden’s first tomato, your spin class’s new instructor, etc.

This adds points of interest to your blog and also helps create a community between yourself and your blog readers.

Post about current events.

Blogs that post about talked-about items tend to get lots of traffic from people Googling those items. If you have something to say about some news or popular item, then blog about it.

It doesn’t have to be current news events—it can be anything people are talking about. World events or fashion, politics or cooking. Anything.

For example, when the seventh Harry Potter book was about to hit the shelves, people who blogged about it got a jump in hits because everyone wanted to read up on the new book.

Be aware that blogging about popular topics can also attract trolls—people who like to leave argumentative, denigrating, and/or downright nasty comments on blogs just for the fun of hurting someone or riling someone up.

However, blogging about popular topics can also boost your blog stats and might gain you some readers you otherwise wouldn’t have had.

And if you’re not comfortable blogging about certain events or news, don’t feel pressured to do so. Blog about what you’re comfortable blogging about.



Blog about personal themes.

Think about any personal themes you might have. They can be deep or shallow—but everyone has personal themes.

So blog about them.

For example, my personal themes are:

(a) Asiana because I grew up with a lot of things that are new and different to my blog readers
(b) humor because I’m naturally rather irreverent and like funny stuff
(c) Christian fiction because I’m an avid reader
(d) knitting because I’ve gone gaga over my new hobby
(e) my dog because I don’t have children

Cheryl Wyatt has themes of both military related things and also funny embarrassing moments for herself (her “Blush and Cringe” posts are hilarious!). Sharon Hinck has a theme of encouragement, so she blogs short encouraging devotionals rather frequently. ChristianFictionQueen blogs not only about Christian fiction but also on BBC movies and miniseries, and also on musicals and other CDs.

Look at your own personal themes and build on them. Go with them. Develop them.

Discover your personal themes.

Look at the kinds of blog posts you like to read on other people’s blogs—and write them.

Devotionals, funny stories, recipes, patterns, pictures, travel, poetry, etc. The sky’s the limit.

Visit lots of blogs and pay attention to the types of things people blog about. Pay attention to the blog posts you especially enjoy. What kinds of blog posts are they? Could you do something similar with your own spin to it?

Be observant. And then be creative.

Ask your friends and/or blog readers.

Often other people will notice trends and themes in your blogging that you might not even realize. So go ahead and ask people who regularly read your blog.

Feedback is always a good resource for someone trying to become more professional and more unique as a blogger. Feedback will help you refine your blog and make it more interesting and targeted.



Focus on your blog readers.

Your blog might be about you, but to build a blog readership, you have to think about what you can give to your blog readers.

People visit a blog because of what they get out of it. What do people get out of your blog?

Hopefully you’re entertaining. Get some feedback.

Figure out which are your most popular posts—and why they’re popular. Can you write more like them?

What are your more unpopular posts? Why were they unpopular?

Are your blog posts all about you, or do you have things that might be interesting or informative to your readers? Remember to post things that your readers would want to read.

Are your blog posts mostly information with very little about yourself? Add some personality to your blog posts.

Building a blog readership will take time.

Don’t be discouraged and don’t have expectations too high for your blog traffic. All blogs take time to build.

Just keep blogging consistently, and also do a few things to help yourself get noticed:

(a) Participate in Blog Carnivals and Memes (you can do a Google search to find some)
(b) Comment on other blogs.
(c) Comment on email loops and forum boards with your blog in the signature line
(d) Comment in groups and forums with people who might enjoy your blog themes

However, DON’T BE AN AD FOR YOUR BLOG. It’s discourteous and slimy.

Here’s examples of what NOT to do:

“That’s interesting you mentioned putting down your dog, Lois. By the way, I talk about the pink bow I put on my dog the other day on my blog: http://myboringblog.com/.”

“That sounds like a great online writing class. By the way, I talk about my latest poem, which I wrote during my last poetry writing online class, on my blog: http://myboringblog.com/.”

Post on blogs, email loops, and forum boards as yourself and people will find your blog because they like you.

Go forth and blog!

Just do it. Don’t wait for the planets to be aligned or for your web designer to free up or for your family to finally leave you alone. Just blog.

You’ll make mistakes—who cares? The world isn’t going to end if your blog isn’t perfect.

Just do it—and enjoy it.
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