We authors, whether indie or traditionally published, are responsible for building our own brand. I have found most of this aspect of my career to be difficult. However, I have managed to succeed at one of the foundations of building my brand–I have a working author website and blog.
When I began, I used the free sites offered by both WordPress and Blogger, so cost should not hold anyone back. And the dashboards of both platforms are easy to learn with a little trial and error. If I can learn them, anyone can.
I often hear writers complain that they don’t update their author blog regularly because they have nothing to say. I disagree—they’re writers for heaven’s sake. Writers can wax poetic out the ends of their fingers, ranting for hours on the oddest subjects.
The trick is rambling on for 500 words or so and sticking to a schedule of sorts. Writers like to rant, but deadlines cause us to go into procrastination mode.
Still, although many will claim they aren’t able to write under pressure, that is when I do my best work.
NaNoWriMo has proven to me that nothing improves your writing chops more than writing every day.
Blogging offers me a mix of self-imposed goals and gives me the chance to riff on my favorite subject—the craft of writing. Much of what I have learned as a writer over the past decade has come about through researching topics for this blog.
I wasn’t always a confirmed blogger. In 2011, I signed up for a free Blogger (Google’s platform) website, taking that plunge only because my former publisher forced me to. He swore it would help get my name out there and give me a regular platform for my opinions.
The posts I wrote for that first attempt at blogging were pathetic attempts to write about current affairs and politics as a journalist, which is something that has never interested me. I was lucky if I managed to post one piece a month and had no readers or followers.
I soon realized I could not write on the subjects my publisher wanted and quit altogether.
After talking to some friends who were successful in marketing their work, it occurred to me there was one subject I could talk about for hours on end:
I went back to that old site and scrapped the awkward, unloved posts. I changed the site’s name and shifted to writing about something I loved—books. I wrote one book review post a week for the next five years.
While I haven’t had a lot of time lately to keep it updated, the site is the home of Best in Fantasy, my book review blog.
I hate to say this because we parted ways rather messily: despite my resistance, my former publisher was right about the importance of having an author’s website and writing the occasional blog post.
During the time I was first writing for Best in Fantasy, I began to realize that I was marketing everyone else’s work, but no one was promoting mine.
I needed a place to showcase my work.
That’s how this site came into existence.
It wasn’t until I stopped trying to fit into the mold someone else had designed for me that I discovered how much I love writing, and blogging is writing in its purest form.
You really are writing on the wing.
I write my posts, proofread them, and schedule them to publish on regular specific days.
That in itself is an adventure, opening you up to all sorts of embarrassing literary moments. As many of you know, despite my best efforts, my work sometimes posts “warts and all.”
Writing for this site has made me a thinking author, as well as a pantser, and has proven that I can write to a deadline. I can write using the “stream of consciousness” method, or I can write several days in advance by putting together a quick outline about whatever aspect of the craft occupies my thoughts at the time.
Usually, I do the research, and the post begins to write itself.
I’ve made many friends through blogging, people all over the world who I may never meet in person, but who I am fond of, nevertheless. This place, Life in the Realm of Fantasy, is where I develop seminars on the craft of writing. I find that talking about my obsession helps me organize my thoughts.
Blogging is only successful if you are passionate about what you are discussing. Usually, I talk about writing craft because I’m an obsessive nerd, but sometimes real life gets in the way of creativity.
When I need to, I talk about the difficulties of traveling while vegan. I’ve written about the challenges of having two children with epilepsy, the dysfunctionality of growing up with a father suffering battle-related PTSD and many other aspects of just trying to live a happy life in the real world.
Having a blog on your website and updating it at least twice a month is a way to connect with your readers on a human level. Fans will enjoy hearing what your writing goals are. They want to know where you will be signing books.
Also, they love to hear about the books you are reading.
Readers enjoy seeing little off-the-cuff pieces once in a while. Articles of less than 1000 words are fun to write and often find their way into your other work, as they are a great way to brainstorm ideas.
To my knowledge, I have never been plagiarized. I have a notice clearly in the sidebar on my website that the content is copyrighted. I also make sure all quoted material is credited to the original authors with links back to their websites.
- Keep it down to about 500 – 1000 words more or less.
- Use the spellchecker tool to look for glaring errors.
- Write in draft form and don’t publish it right away–come back and read it over again, and make corrections.
- If you use information that you found elsewhere, quote it and credit the author
- Use images that are either public domain or that you have the legal right to use
- Put links to other informative sites in the text
Life in the Realm of Fantasy has evolved over the years because I have changed and matured as an author.
If you are wondering how to get started, please check out my post, Creating your Author Blog. There, you can find detailed, step by step instructions for getting a free website, and getting started on either WordPress or Blogger. I use both platforms, and they are not too hard once you learn the ropes.
In the meantime, stay safe. One last thought: if you are finding writing difficult because of stress we all feel via the pandemic, riffing on a completely random subject might rest your mind and free your creativity. Give it a shot, and let us all know how it goes!