by Lisa Norman
Writers ask me what to blog about all the time.
Recently, I was brainstorming story background (world-building) ideas with a writer. We were having a lot of fun just playing with the story. She stopped and stared at her screen full of ideas. “These are all great blogging ideas!” Her gasp of surprise was delightful.
“But ... why didn’t I see this before?”
The answer is in that pesky word — blog — and in our subconscious understanding of what that means.
We imagine the movie Julie and Julia playing in our heads. Or maybe we think about a writer rambling on in a self-indulgent manner, and we self-sabotage our creative process.
Here’s the trick: each author’s blog should be as unique as the writer and their story.
1 computers: a website that contains online personal reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks, videos, and photographs provided by the writer
also: the contents of such a site
2:a regular feature appearing as part of an online publication that typically relates to a particular topic and consists of articles and personal commentary by one or more authors
//a technology blog— Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, s.v. “blog,” accessed August 2, 2022, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/blog.
Blog is short for weblog.
Let’s focus on the second definition:
a regular feature appearing as part of an online publication that typically relates to a particular topic and consists of articles and personal commentary by one or more authors
Sounds a little like a magazine or newspaper column, right?
Think “Dear Abby” or any other feature article that you’ve loved to read over your lifetime. Yes, cartoons absolutely count. Why? Because cartoons tell a story. Like a serial radio drama, cartoons unveil a story slowly over time. Blogs can do the same thing.
My favorite how-to article for blogging is “10 Tips on Writing the Living Web” by Mark Bernstein. Any quasi-tech article that is still relevant, even though Mark wrote it in 2002, is worth a read!
The #1 qualification for being a stellar blogger is that you need to have skill as a writer. If you are reading WITS, you qualify!
Some people think this means weekly or even twice a week. I’ve seen elaborate schedules for these. Note: they designed most of those schedules for technology authors. Fiction authors and their fans are a unique bunch. There is an advantage to writing something at least once a month, and the more often the better. BUT — if you write something uninteresting, you will destroy any frequency bonus you get.
I define regular to mean “when you have something worth saying.”
Now, for those of you who have just said, “Ah! I’m off the hook! I have nothing interesting to say” — not so!
If you don’t have anything worth saying, why are you writing a book? Hmmm?
Yep, this is where your website comes in. You can also guest post for other folks or for a site like Wattpad or Medium, but you’ll get the most return when you post on your own website.
Online sites are always looking for contributors!
Your book is your topic, or the ideas and inspiration for your book.
Your topic can also be anything that interests you.
Why? Because these are the same thing, if you go way down deep into your subconscious. What interests you finds its way into your writing, therefore ... they connect!
Share bits of story, bits of backstory, funny things that happened to you today. You can even share fun things that happened to your characters!
You can share pictures of your cats with funny anecdotes. Don’t get hung up on staying on topic. Have fun.
You can have people guest blog for you! Interview your friends. They must be interesting people, right? I mean, you think they are worth spending time with, right? Your readers will, too. You can even interview your characters.
Brainstorming time. Give me 10 minutes and you’ll have a list of blog topics to keep you going for at least 6 months, if not a year.
Get out a piece of paper or a blank document in whatever note-taking software you use. I do it in Evernote.
Set a timer for 10 minutes.
One rule: this is not the time to try out new software. If you are comfortable with mind-mapping software, you can absolutely use it during this exercise. But we don’t want any conscious thoughts to interrupt this process. Pen and paper will work fine.
I’m going to ask a bunch of questions. If one sparks an idea, write it down. Completely unrelated idea? Write it down.
If you suddenly remember you need to buy milk, write that down off to the side and keep going.
Don’t judge your ideas. Just write them down as fast as your fingers can go.
Keep going from here.
How many ideas did you get?
* * * * * *
Lisa Norman's passion has been writing since she could hold a pencil. While that is a cliché, she is unique in that her first novel was written on gum wrappers. As a young woman, she learned to program and discovered she has a talent for helping people and computers learn to work together and play nice. When she's not playing with her daughter, writing, or designing for the web, she can be found wandering the local beaches.
Lisa writes as Deleyna Marr and is the owner of Deleyna's Dynamic Designs, a web development company focused on helping writers, and Heart Ally Books, an indie publishing firm. She teaches for Lawson Writer's Academy.
Interested in learning more from Lisa? See her teaching schedule below.
Top Image by Deleyna using MidJourney.
Copyright © 2023 Writers In The Storm - All Rights Reserved
I've been trying to get back into a schedule for updating my blog. I've jotted down a few ideas but this has helped me to think of more. Thank you 🙂
Excellent! Keep a running list of ideas so that whenever you want to write, you have the idea part already done! Have fun! Updating your blog is the most powerful thing you can do to help your website succeed. We don't always see the results unless we're watching statistics long term, but every post counts!
I use the sticky note app on my PC to jot down ideas.
That works fantastically. They're right there and you can always add to it. Good thinking.
That was a fun exercise!
Yay! Glad you liked it. If it is fun, it makes it easier.
Great post! I can use this now that I'm contributing to WITS on a somewhat regular basis.
My ideas usually come from one of two questions: what have a learned, and what do I want to learn?
Those are fantastic prompts to work from. Another good one is: what do my readers want to learn?
I'm always looking for blogging material. Now I have a different direction to go.
Thank you, Lisa!
You're welcome, Ellen! I look forward to reading all of the wonderful things you come up with.
Very helpful article, Lisa! Thank you for writing it. I love the exercise and your seed questions. Last month I returned to blogging, but I'd like to be more focused, while still having fun. This will help a lot!
Dale - what I love most about your comment was that you mentioned having fun. There's a principle in sales: people are attracted to people who are having fun. That's very attractive in a blog. AND... it is a bonus because if we ARE truly having fun, then it is easier to do! A win on many levels. Enjoy!
Brilliant as always, Lisa! I loved your 10-minute exercise. So good. And so many fun things I'd like to write. Now, if I could just get my kids to let me alone long enough to write some of these ideas.
IMO you are clearly the blog guru. So, here's my quandary...
I obsess over making every blog I write pretty, getting every word just right, editing and re-editing, making sure I promote it properly, and then on the day it goes up I hover over it like a helicopter mom over every comment or lack thereof.
How do I do that and make my deadlines? It's fatal, isn't it? LOL
Is there any hope doctor?
Or are my blog writing days over?
Ha, Kathleen! I actually have a note to write a future blog post about something similar to this. The thing about websites is that nothing happens quickly. Obsessing over comments is like reading the reviews on your book - something you probably don't want to do. Set your blog to send you notifications when you have a comment, and then just post it and go. In the article on writing for the living web, he gives a sense that this is a living document. You can go back and fix typos. You can even update a post if you realize you want to add to it! Look away, my friend. Look away! Create a bunch of posts, schedule them, and then forget about them until someone finds them and comments. I see so many people who blog once or twice and then say, "Nope. Doesn't work for me..." A blog can take months or even years to be seen! One of my most successful clients, his most successful post was a year old before it went viral.
My extra grandma used to say, "you can't see it from a galloping horse." She meant that small imperfections in our art would never be seen by those looking at it, because (even more now than then!) people don't look that close.
Be you. Be fun. Don't sweat every detail. Make sure the system tells you when people comment, and then go back to writing your amazing stories! Your fans are waiting!
Great post as always Lisa, and a really great exercise to generate ideas. I also love the idea you suggested to Kathleen - to create a bunch of posts, schedule them and then forget them. I have trouble switching between tasks so this seems like an excellent plan.
Becky, I've seen sites do that and it works very well. As long as you are still in touch with your readers when they comment, you're golden. OKAY... there is ONE more caution. If you've prescheduled your posts and the world changes (ie COVID), do check your posts to make sure they aren't suddenly really off-putting. For example, travel agents who had their posts pre-scheduled looked pretty silly if they didn't stop them after covid lockdowns hit.
Hi, Becky! Glad you liked it. Think about the power of having a bunch of fun articles about your story world to share... and then we dribble those out over time. So much fun!
AMEN on getting the kids back to school so the moms can write!! This summer has been a tough one on the writing front.
You can doooooooo it!
I love this! I've had a writing-interrupting amount of home remodeling and improvements going on for the last few months with another one to go. Blogging was too much to keep doing, but I could do a once a month. Thanks for the permission to choose my own schedule and the reminder to have fun.
Watching readers, I've noticed that they seldom notice if we DON'T post anything. They do notice if we post something boring or something just to fill the space. And since content is ideally to please them (and make search engine spiders happy!), there's no reason to post "filler" content. You are a brilliant blogger, Lynette. Take the time you need. Your readers will be delighted when you are back!
That's interesting about the readers not noticing. I totally hear you on the noticing if you're creating boring content or "filler" content. It's stressful falling off a "regular" schedule especially when you're trying to figure it all out (me, not anyone else here 😬).
Actually, we all fall off our schedule. It is interesting how we see "life" as an unacceptable interruption. Parents die. Kids go to college. We get sick. These are all normal things. Just the title of "Writing for the Living Web" makes me feel less stress. Because this is a living document. A blog is a story that is still being written, and it will have actions and reactions, plot twists, and power moments. That's life. The schedule itself is fake. The interruptions are the real story!
Yes! 🤯 I keep thinking that I need to adhere to some arbitrary schedule, forgetting that life happens and with writing I'm accountable to myself. What an excellent reminder. I've spent so much time beating myself up for things outside my control that I forget about the beauty of the natural ebbs and flows. It all has a purpose. Forced "white space."
That's it exactly! We all need margins in our lives the same way books need margins - otherwise you can't hold onto them!
I love everything about this post, Lisa! Blogging is my superpower, and it is the writing medium I love the most. It just comes easily and naturally to me.
Sometimes when I'm struggling to write a non-fiction conversational chapter in the high-risk pregnancy memoir, I start it as a blog. And this post reminds me that I really really need to get my own personal writer website in order and start putting all these short snippets up there. *sigh*
Blogs can be great places to work out the early dynamics for books and stories. You can see what resonates with readers and pull in their feedback. Then you know going into the book if there's interest or not. Of course, that only works after you have a blog to the level where you are getting interaction. So much fun!
Thanks for another awesome blog, Lisa! You've given me permission slip to write about the novel ideas floating around in my head. I've been resisting and resisting, for a variety of reasons. Can you hear my feet dragging clear up there? 🤨😂🤦🏻♀️
Pick up those feet and start dancing! (Hm... now I suddenly have images of a western with someone with a revolver saying, "Dance!")