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.
Let’s re-define blog for writers
Definition of blog
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!
Let’s break it down
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!
Relates to a Particular Topic
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!
Articles and Personal Commentary
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.
One or more authors
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.
Notes for after the exercise:
- Set aside your list for 24 hours. Add to it whenever an idea comes to mind.
- When you are ready to write a blog post, pull out that list and pick one treasure off it. Develop and write that article. Cross it off on the list.
- Every few months, or whenever the list looks thin, do the exercise again.
- My list is on my phone. When I have an unexpected downtime, I pull it out and draft something up.
- You can even schedule your blog posts out in advance, so they auto-post on that regular basis.
- The idea here is to have fun.
Enough chatter — Let’s do this!
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.
Here are some seed questions to get you started:
- What motivates you to write?
- What is the most delightful aha moment you’ve had as a writer?
- Do any of your characters have fun bits of backstory?
- Got any flash fiction lying around that you can share?
- Have a topic idea for flash fiction?
- What freaks out your main character?
- What is the best part of being a writer?
- What’s the worst part?
- What gets you up in the morning?
- What keeps you up at night?
- Think about the motivations for your characters. Any fun stories there?
- What about your story world? Is there something fun? Beautiful? Shocking?
- What is the scariest thing in your story world? The most unique?
- Which is your favorite minor character?
- Do you have a character that doesn’t have a story yet?
- Need to flesh out backstory for your main character?
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.
- September: Maximize your Crazy Easy Author’s Website
- November: How to Write a Novel in World Anvil
- Desember: It's a Wonderful Writer's Life
Top Image by Deleyna using MidJourney.