Jeffe’s #1 Tip for Being a Good Blogger

Bluebird 2 cropI love seeing the mountain bluebirds come around this time of year. They’re skittish birds though, so it’s hard to get a good shot. I’ve been leaving the tripod up with telephoto lens trained on their usual perches. Even so, this is about the best pic I’ve gotten. Mostly they’re a whirl of bright blue and rose amidst the snowflakes. 

I wrote a blog post early this week that was a bit meta – on how to write a bad blog post. Maybe that was a good example of a bad blog post because only one person commented! 

At any rate, I’ve had a note for a while to share one of my blogging tricks. Not that I claim to be a great blogger or anything, but sometimes people ask me how I come up with topics. My secret? I keep a list. I have an ongoing list in Word of various topics, and I add to it as things occur to me. Sometimes I make notes in my phone or tablet and transfer them to the main list.

The most important thing I (try to) do, and this is really key for writers, is I note topics that apply to the book as I’m writing it. You will love your past self for doing this when it comes time to write those promo blog posts. If you’ve been there, you know. It can get really difficult to think up interesting things to say about your published book. Having this list of things you researched, what gave you images or ideas, problems you encountered, people that offered needed obscure information – and so forth. 

All of these things will make great blog topics in the future, all that you would likely never remember months or a year later, depending on your publishing schedule. 

Short and easy tip there, but one I’d had on my list for a while. 😀

Happy weekend, everyone!

I’m Starting a Blog That…

This is my partner cat, Teddy. Lately she’s taken to snoozing just next to me while I read at night. She also stares, but I think that’s love and not necessarily plotting my demise.

I hope.

Sometimes the world of social media gets pretty amusing. Amusing in that “I have to laugh or I’ll claw my eyes out” kind of way. A lot of people offer advice. Usually the same advice, over and over. xkcd, one of my very favorite comics these days, had a strip recently along these lines.

This is more true than I think many people want to believe. There’s a nagging sense that most of the people who offer advice on maximizing social media don’t do much else with their days.

And a lot of their advice just isn’t very good.

For example, there is someone out there somewhere telling people that they should DM (direct message) new followers on Twitter and say hello or what have you. No no no! This is akin to being introduced to someone at a cocktail party, shaking their hand and having them yank you into an embrace, kiss you on the cheek and whisper about their website in your ear.

Yes – really creepy.

Few things on Twitter are ickier than following someone new – okay, give them a whirl, see what they have to say – and boom! getting a private message from them. Whoever out there is saying this is a good idea? It’s just…not.

The other bit of advice floating around is that a blog should be specific, focused and informative. Okay, this is not such a bad thing in and of itself. But we’re living in the Billion-Blog Ear. Yes, I made that up – snazzy, yes? No? Ah, well. It’s nearly impossible to start a blog with a new concept. Really the only thing a new blogger has to offer that isn’t already out there is themselves. But no, the Advice-Givers say that you must trumpet your new blog as filling some unmet need.

Thus, those of us on email loops, etc., are forever receiving posts that say “I’m starting a new blog that brings you the latest news in amphibian cancers!” Or “I’m starting a blog that chronicles my journey through retail hell.”

Actually, those two sound kind of interesting. Most of the notices I see involve writing and there’s just only so much you can say there.

So, in a fit of aggravation, rather than claw my eyes out, I threw this out on Twitter. I asked people how they would finish the sentence. Some of the best responses:

I’m starting a blog that…

…chronicles the minute-by-minute reactions of my cat to the royal wedding…and bacon. @theAntiM
…talks about the political ramifications of bacon. @Allison_Pang
…is nothing but randomness. @MichelleMiles
…celebrates bearded men everywhere. @pennyromance
…should have more zombies! @SullivanMcPig

Poor Sullivan has only cloven hooves and so his owner must blog for him. She tends to edit the zombie bits. So, for a bit of Friday Fun – any to add? What is the blog that Must Be Done?

(If my blog comment function hates you, email me at Jeffe at JeffeKennedy dot com and I’ll paste it in for you.)

My Number One Pal

I’m working on being kinder to myself.

I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s not for me. I get in these modes where I find I’m flogging myself for more work, faster, better. This is exacerbated by my community of writers who focus heavily on word count, some doing 4,000 words per day, another doing 20 pages per day.

I’ve found that I can reliably produce 1,000 words per day. I can do more than that sometimes, but not for more than, say, a week or do. But 1K works for me, what with the full-time career and other commitments.

Also, for the past year or so, I’ve been writing this blog. I started out trying to post every day. I didn’t make that goal. I posted 247 times in 2009. That’s 67.7% for those keeping score at home. Almost spot-on 2/3. And you know how the song goes, two out of three ain’t bad, right?

Fairly early on, I began taking Sundays off from the blog. Day of rest and all that. I’d like to tell you I spend the time studying philosophy or reflecting on my spiritual journey, but really it’s more about obtaining fancy coffee drinks and lolling. When I figure out how to make a religion out of this, you all can sign up.

Most days, I post to the blog first. I exercise, then try to keep the blog post to 1/2 hr. I started out trying to keep it to 300-350 words, but I find normally I write about 500-600. That seems to be where I end up. Then I switch to my book or WIP.

Work in Progress, doncha know.

I never called it that before I hooked up with the romanceys. The lit types always refer to their book or their collection, whether it’s done or not. It’s an interesting distinction. For the lit types, it’s always a book, pubbed or not. For the romanceys, it’s a WIP until it’s pubbed. Or maybe contracted.

Anyway, until just recently, I only counted my 1K for working on my book. And then I realized that, not unlike calling a book a WIP, I was devaluing what I write here. As if this is not part of my writing life, not part of keeping the writing juices flowing and honing my skills. Which it absolutely is.

Otherwise, it’s not worth doing.

So I revamped my Progress Count spreadsheet to include my blog word count at the beginning of this week. What? Of course, I have a spreadsheet, in which I track progress on everything I’m working on. Yes, it has formulas and calculates completion dates from today’s date. I celebrate this slice of Virgo in me and let her do these things to keep her happy.

This is why I know my blog tends to be 500-600 words. Which, when I get to count it, means I’m already more than halfway to my daily goal by the time I finish posting.

Which makes me feel good.

Then, when I turn to my book — right now it’s a novella — I’m already halfway there. And interestingly, I put in 1K words on that every day except for one, when I stopped at 891 because work called and I never it made it back. Right now I’m only 135 words shy of making 7,000 words for the week. I’ll likely do more than that, since I’ll work on the novella today.

People often refer to the carrot and the stick method of motivating themselves, usually meaning a combination of treat and punishment. This is actually a misinterpretation of the original saying, which referred to the practice of tying a carrot to the end of a stick and dangling it before a donkey’s nose to keep him moving forward. In that scenario, the carrot is forever out of reach.

With this approach, I gave myself credit, and carrots, early on in the process. And, son of a gun, it worked!

And the writing? It’s good, too.