Tag Archives: blogging

Why don’t I focus?

Some who’ve stopped by here have suggested I write more about writing. And I can appreciate that. I know that it can be frustrating to those of you who don’t know me that well to see me posting about my daughter’s tennis and college trials or my son’s band and baseball achievements. But I thought I’d take one of my blogs to explain my thinking…ya ain’t gotta like it, but at least I’ll try to make some sense for you.

When I first started blogging, my intentions were pretty simple: I wanted a way to keep my friends and family posted on the goings-on of me and mine. It seemed we were moving quite a bit, making some dear friends in each place. Keep in mind, too, that this was in the days before facebook became what it is today. I also wanted to use the blog as an outlet to continue to keep my writing muscles exercised and to feel like I had to do something. I’d enjoyed the weekly columns I’d gotten into the habit of writing for the Piggott paper (now the Rector paper) and the feedback I’d gotten from the community was favorable so it seemed like a good idea.

After some time I found myself without a job and in graduate school. It became a good opportunity to share some writing thoughts as well as some reviews of the books I’d read. I’m not big on reviews, but because I read a lot of superhero fiction, I thought those who had an interest in sci-fi and/or superhero books might get a little something out of the reviews.

Then, I had new work hitting the stands with Huckleberry Finn and Wizard of Oz graphic novels…and of course, my first novel. The blog became an opportunity to promote those things. I hate that idea on my blog, though, because I sometimes feel like I’m “pushing” my work to my friends and family…who would probably be interested in it anyway…but still. I know it’s one of those things that I have to do and I try to think that things like the recent blog hop is a necessity to get more people familiar with my work.

As I started finding myself speaking at writer’s conferences and leading writing workshops more and more, the blog became a way to talk about those experiences, too. Then I was fortunate to land myself back in the classroom…even if it was virtual…where I talk about writing all the time. SO, hopefully you see where this is headed…I find that I spend a lot of time talking about writing so much that I don’t feel like blogging about it too much. Yeah, I’ll do it some when something really calls out to me that needs sayin’, but I spend so much of my time talking about writing that I’m not motivated to blog about it. I know that’ll irk some of you who come here for pearls of writing wisdom…but I’ll apologize to both of you profusely!

So…there it is. And see, I’ve broken yet another rule in that this blog is 521 words.

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Filed under family, General, writing

So you wanna blog?

I’ve had several folks ask me about blogging…as if I was some sort of authority on blogging! Ha. Admittedly, I have done a ton of reading on blogging, what makes them popular, successful, etc. So, I’ll take some time today and share what I’ve learned. I wish I could acknowledge the places I learned this stuff and provide you links…but I didn’t take notes and therefore can’t give proper attribution. I apologize to anyone who thinks I may have learned this stuff from you and don’t give you credits. Claim it in the comments below if you must.

First thing you have to decide is exactly what is the point of your blog? Doesn’t matter what it is, that’s up to you. IF your goal is to get millions of readers, you should decide what it is and stay on task (and don’t pick a small niche subject that doesn’t have millions of fans!). One of the first things you might say is, “but Roland, your blog is all over the board.” You are correct. Mostly because my own personal goal of blogging is to help keep me writing. I’m not blogging with the goal of getting lots of hits. Obviously, as with any writer, I want to be read, but mostly I want people to go buy my books and read that stuff! J I blog in an effort to keep exercising my writing muscles. You should blog about something you care about and something you know a little something about—so that you can share that knowledge with others (they gotta have a reason to want to read, right?). You can even blog about you process of learning about something.

So now you have your subject, you want to decide frequency. There are many opinions out there, but I feel (and having had a couple years worth of experimenting to look at the numbers) you absolutely do not want to blog too often…nor too infrequently. Ultimately, it’s up to you, but two-three times a week is probably optimal. Part of it is you don’t want to overwhelm your potential readers. If they feel like they are missing too much, they’ll simply stop visiting. And that is not what you want.

One of the most important things is to keep it short! Optimally, you want a maximum of 500 words. People just don’t have the patience—for the most part—to read long blogs. There are blogs that I visit written by friends that I feel obligated to visit. I mean, I want to visit it because they are my friends. I would assume there are folks like that who visit and read my blog. But sometimes I got there and read a paragraph or two and find it is a topic I care nothing about and then I see how long it is…if it isn’t much longer, I’ll finish. If it’s too long, I move on.

There are exceptions, but generally those are written by famous people/personalities and readers hang on their every word. I don’t read a lot of blogs as a rule, but I read Jim Shooter’s blog regardless of how long it is because it is loaded with information that I’m interested in. In fact, I often find his blog too short.

For those paying attention, you’ll see I’ve already broken that rule (I try hard not to every time) as my current word count is 580!

So, those are the basics: now, get blogging!

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Filed under General

Where do those wacky ideas come from?

Okay, in my attempt to blog a little more about writing, I reckon I’ll start at the beginning, which is where all writing starts, right? Even if not all stories start that way, the writing does. It all begins with an idea.

Truthfully, this is probably the single most asked question of writers. I’ve been attending writer’s conferences and speaking on assorted panels since the late 1980s, and I’ve heard “where do you get your ideas” more than any other question. The problem is, there is no easy answer for it. Sometimes when that question is asked, I think the askers assume the response will be “oh, I use the idea-chest I picked up at Wal-Mart for a buck ninety-nine. I just reached in and grabbed the first idea I came to.”

There is no idea-chest: Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. But, because I’d be doing those genuinely interested in an answer a disservice if I left it at that, I’ll cover some of the possibilities.

First, ideas come from reading. Writers should read. A lot! They should read good stuff and they should read bad stuff (though more of the former, if possible). Writers can be inspired by good writing. When you read something done well, you’re inspired to go and also do well. I’m not meaning mimicry, but writing something that makes the reader feel like you felt when reading the good thing.

Believe it or not, writers can also be inspired by bad writing, and in more than one way. The first thought is that you can do better than what you’ve just read—and it was published! On a smaller level, you can easily see all of the mistakes and commit them to memory while vowing never to make those mistakes. Doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes, but you will diligently work to not make those same mistakes.

Writers can get ideas from other entertainment: movies, cartoons, television, music, you name it. Something clicks and an idea is hatched. I’ve talked about writing to music before, but never really mentioned how I can get ideas from songs. Maybe sometime later I’ll go more in-depth. Often, though, we see a show and think how cool it would be if something different had happened…and thus is birthed a new idea.

For the most part, though, ideas come from simply living life! Everyday things: mowing the lawn, doing laundry, worrying about kids who’ve just gotten their driver’s license, listening to annoying folks on talk radio! There is so much material to be mined in our day to day existence that if you were to write it all, you’d be blogging several times a day, if not more. The problem comes in that we live our lives, but fail to write the ideas down as they occur. How many times have you been driving and an idea strike you? That evening, you can’t remember what it was.

The solution? Carry around a small notepad with you everywhere you go. Write down the ideas as they come to you. Before long, you’ll have too many ideas and not enough blog!

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Filed under writing