Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Authors Gone Wild! 5 Ways to Get Your Blog on Track.

You may not believe me, but blogging is very much like writing a novel. Some people know what they want to write and they just dig right into it. Others see a stretch of blank page and feel overwhelmed or don’t know where to start. In either case, blogging eventually gets out of control. It becomes like the middle section of a novel. You know that area where you just want to give up because the plot no longer makes sense and it seems easier to just start over.

We've all been there.

Unfortunately, most bloggers live there permanently. Probably because bloggers don't treat blogs like a novel, but as a weekly regurgitation of their thoughts and experiences. That is perfectly understandable, since blogs started out as online diaries.

Unfortunately, these unfocused ramblings do little to inspire fiction fans. If we want to turn readers into fans then our blogs need to be less self-absorbed and more thoughtful, planned and reader-driven.

So let's look at how the tools of novel writing can help get your blog back on track.

#1 Identify your reader - Stop for a moment and think about who your readers are. If you are already published, you should have a good sense of who likes your work. If you are not published, then look at similar authors and see who their readers are. Are they primarily male or female? Do they like humor or serious work? Optimists or pessimists?

A great way to really know your reader is to turn them into a character in your mind. They are the main character in the novel that is your blog. Your blog is the adventure. A clearly defined character will drive the adventure.

#2 Determine what your reader wants - Now that you know who your readers are, next you’ll want to determine what they want. If they are reading your work, or similar books, then they are getting a need met by this type of writing. What is that need? Is it escape? Adrenaline rush? Intrigue?

If you are not sure what they are getting out of it, then here’s a hint: ask yourself why you write it. What do you get out of it? What jazzed you about writing this particular story? Think about ways you can give your reader a taste of that experience. For example, many fantasy lovers are into swords and costumes. Blogging about swords is fine, but what the reader really wants is the experience of being the dashing hero. So when you blog about swords, make them feel like they are holding it in their hand. Tell them what they can do with it and how much power they'd have wielding it. Put them in the experience.

#3 Re-evaluate your posts - Now that you know who your reader is and what they want, take a look at your blog. Are you giving them that experience? For example, if your books are filled with suspense and intrigue but your posts are about your frustration with the publishing industry, then there is a disconnect for your readers. If your novel is a romance and you review romance novels, that is helpful but see if you can bring your type of romance directly into their lives. When readers go to your blog, it's because they are thrilled by something in your writing. They want that feeling to continue. Find a way to keep that going for them. Get creative.

#4 Take a stand - Even the most frivolous novel has stance. It looks at the world through a certain set of goggles. Anyone who likes your work will have similar goggles. So don't be afraid to take a stand on your views. Be controversial. For example, I write vampire books. But my female characters will never date vampires. Is it because I’m a vampire racist? Hell, yes! Vampires are predators. I don’t want to encourage women to lust after predators. That’s my stance. The sparkly-romance vampire people will disagree. Fine. They are not my readers. Taking a stance will ensure that your blog readers are true fans.

#5 Build Tension - Once you have all four of the above, you can create a plan that grows your readership, rewards your fans and keeps them coming back. How? If we go back to the idea that a blog is like a novel, then remember that building tension, suspense or intrigue should be your primary goal. Create tension between posts. Give them a taste of what is coming next. Get your readers (aka your character) involved. Stir up controversy. Build your blog like a novel with peaks and lulls and comic relief, and when your reach your climactic ending.... start over on the next line of topics and do it all again.

Next week -- Blogs That Have Seen The Light

We will look at authors who get it right. You’ll get concrete examples of how fiction writers create successful blogs.

See you then!

Posted by: Tamela Buhrke


Patricia Stoltey said...

Excellent post, Tamela. My favorite blogs are those where the bloggers personalize their posts, even if the blog is very focused on one genre or one mission. If an author is too businesslike, the posts are not as much fun to read.

Margaret Yang said...

This post makes me see blogs in a new way. It also shows me why I prefer some blogs over others. Thanks for the insights.

Anonymous said...

I try not to sound desperate or desperate to sell something but you're right about taking a stance. REaders get out off by wishy-washiness.

Tamela Buhrke said...

Thanks Pat! You are so right! Readers want to know that there is a person in all that writing. The trick is to be personable but still focus the majority of the blog on the readers needs.

Thanks Margaret & Eeleenlee! I hope that the tips help you in your own blogging.