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October 14, 2014

OnDemand Workshops & Blogging Basics

Starting line of a race with text: Blogging: How Do We Start?

Before I get into today’s post about blogging, I want to share a couple of announcements about my workshops. Last spring, I mentioned that I would be transitioning most of my workshops to “OnDemand” availability. Six months later, I finally set up my OnDemand store. *sigh* Deadlines, schmedlines…

Unfortunately, I don’t have time to present live workshops as frequently as I’d like, but the good news is that all but one of my workshops are now available as recorded webinars and detailed handouts. This reorganization also means that my most popular workshop, fondly known as “plotting for pantsers,” is now open for registration too. Woo hoo!

Registration Is Now Open for “Lost Your Pants?”

“Lost Your Pants? The Impatient Writer’s Guide to Plotting a Story” teaches a minimalist approach to story development to accommodate “pantsers” (those who write by the seat of their pants) while still establishing the big picture for the plot and character arc.

“Lost Your Pants?” also offers Gold Level and Platinum Level admissions. Gold Level includes a phone consultation to discuss your story plan. Platinum Level includes a phone consultation and editorial analysis and feedback for your story plan.

This workshop consists of two live sessions:

  • Tues., October 28th, 9 p.m. Eastern (New York) time/6 p.m. Pacific time
  • Thurs., October 30th, 9 p.m. Eastern (New York) time/6 p.m. Pacific time

By the end of this class, students will have enough direction to make “Fast Drafting” techniques work for them, and the workshop happens just in time for NaNoWriMo in November. (Almost seems like I planned it that way, doesn’t it? *smile*) I’ll also be doing NaNo this year (buddy me—I’m Jami Gold), and I’ll be using this class to get my story ready as well.

The “Lost Your Pants?” workshop is an intensive class that includes oodles of exclusive materials and always goes over on time because I make an effort to answer every question and help people with their stories. Because of that, I don’t plan on turning this into an OnDemand class in the future.

In other words, while this class will be recorded for registrants, the recordings won’t later be made available for others. I hope to offer this workshop twice a year, spring and fall, so if you want to catch it before next spring, now’s your chance.

Announcing My OnDemand Workshops

The rest of my workshops are now all available OnDemand:

Beat Sheet Basics: Know Your Story’s Structure

OnDemand Workshop: Don't know what beat sheets are or how to use them? Don't want to plan your story in advance? Never fear—learn the terminology, uses, and ways to adapt beat sheets to our writing methods. More Info »

An Introvert's Guide to Twitter

OnDemand Workshop: How can we make Twitter work for us if we're an introvert? Learn proven techniques to join Twitter conversations and make friends. More Info »

A Newbie's Guide to Building a Self-Hosted Blog or Website

OnDemand Workshop: Are you ready to invest in a website (or blog) but don't know where to start? Never fear—learn everything about creating a website using WordPress and other Internet resources. More Info »

Develop a Free Author Website in 60 Minutes (or Less!)

OnDemand Workshop: Need a website (or blog) but don't know where to start? Never fear—learn everything about creating a free website using WordPress and other free Internet resources. More Info »

Every listing already reflects my usual “Jami’s friends and readers” discount too. No discount code required.

Okay, enough announcement promo. Let’s get to the post… *smile*

Blogging Basics

On social media, I often encourage people to ask me questions. That’s not a superficial platitude. I am pathologically helpful, so I enjoy supporting others in their writing journey, but I have a selfish reason as well. When people ask me questions, they often give me ideas for future blog posts. *smile*

So it is with today’s post. Dhun Machaya asked me on Facebook for my advice about blogging, specifically how we would start and when we should get started.

I already have several posts about blogging, but not one that addresses this specific question. So I’m going to combine several of my tips from previous posts into this Guide to Blogging and include lots of links to my other posts on this topic. Lets start first with…

Do We Need to Blog?

As with many things I discuss, the answer is: It depends. *grin* My goals are not your goals, and depending on our goals, a blog might be crucial for our success or just a distraction, That said, I do say we need at least a website.

The main difference between a website and a blog is that a website has several “static” (rarely changing) pages and a blog has a single page with the most recent post on top. If we simply want to be Google-able in case someone searches for our author name, a website is enough. If we want potential readers to find us when they search for things related to us, a blog will show up in wider search results.

The best way to make our website—and thus our author name—show up higher in search results is either to have a unique name or to attach a blog to our website. Like the proverbial squeaky wheel, Google pays attention to sites that change more frequently, such as those updated with regular blog posts. Check this post for more about how to decide whether you need a blog.

A side benefit of blogging is learning to wake up our muse on a regular schedule and how to stick to deadlines. But if our goals don’t require us to have a blog, we can stick with just a website too.

When Should We Start Building Our Platform?

Plagiarists and pirates do an insane amount of work to look legitimate, from fake personas to sock-puppet fans. That twisted level of dedication creates an issue for reviewers because their reputation is on the line if an author turns out to be a plagiarist.

Reviewers have every right to want some sort of proof to trust us. What will provide that proof? We need a platform built with real people (not purchased) and our real persona that can interact with others on a long-term basis. So we should start building our platform far enough in advance to have time to form real connections with people who can vouch for us or make introductions.

Agents and editors sometimes want to see that we have a platform too. I don’t like the inaccurate idea that certain numbers are necessary to be successful, but some kind of platform is definitely helpful. And the earlier we get started in building our online presence, the less we’ll feel the pressure to fake any of our numbers.

What Should We Blog About?

That’s a really good question. Four years into my blog, I still feel like I’m making up a plan as I go along (i.e., there is no plan). *smile*

I share things I’m excited about, from writing tips I’ve learned to life lessons that speak to me. And that general guideline of writing about our passions works for many of us, but the specifics again come back to knowing our goals for our blog.

So the first step might be to decide on our brand and decide who we are. Our author brand might not be exactly who we are in real life (after all, in real life I’m an introvert who would freak out about talking to all of you *grin*), but we should still be authentic and consistent.

In many ways, our brand is all about choosing which “facets” of the real us we want to make public. Our brand is us, but it’s also about showing the best and most interesting parts of us to give others a certain impression.

Once we know who we are and want to be, we’ll better know our goals. From there we can figure out our blogging priorities, as well as develop our author bio and a tagline.

How Should We Start?

Knowing our priorities will also help us with the next step: figuring out how much we want to invest in our website or blog. We can accomplish a lot with a free site, but any time we rely on others for pieces of our platform, we’re at risk.

On the other hand, if we decide to pay a hosting company for our own site, we have to be careful with our choice of a hosting company, or else we’ll face risk there too. Again, knowing our goals will help us make the decision of what kind of investment is worthwhile for us.

Once we’re ready, we want to pay attention to blogging best practices. All our work will be wasted if we include elements that make people want to avoid our blog, or if we don’t keep different access methods or readers who are disabled in mind.

Also, we might want to come up with policies for commenting and guest posters. We might want to decide if we’re going to use a commenting system. We might want to set up Google Authorship and learn how to use images to bring attention to our blog.

In short, there is a lot to do and figure out. So I don’t blame anyone for deciding against blogging or for delaying the inevitable.

Then again, all those links and posts for my blog here were developed over years, and that gives us a clue that we don’t have figure out every aspect right now. As I said, I still feel like I’m making things up as I go along. As long as we avoid major scandals that can cause big problems, we’ll usually be okay if we learn, grow, and make tweaks as we go. *smile*

If you don’t have a blog yet, what’s behind that decision for you? Have you decided against blogging, are you delaying it, or are you unsure how to start? Is a big “link central” post like this helpful for you? If so, is there another topic you’d like me to put together? Do you have any questions about my live or OnDemand workshops?

Join Jami in her Upcoming Workshop:
Become an Expert in Story Planning with “Lost Your Pants?” on 10/28.

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21 Comments on "OnDemand Workshops & Blogging Basics"

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Tamara LeBlanc
Tamara LeBlanc

I don’t have a blog right now. I’m so crazy busy, I just started a second job a month ago and I have little time to write much less blog, so I’m going to take a rain check on the blog for now. Hopefully I’ll be able to transition back to one job soon and I’ll have more time.
I love all the info in this post!!!!
Thank you!!
Have a great week 🙂
Tamara

Kim

Thanks for all the links to your workshops! They look great.

I have a blog, but my biggest problem with it is finding my voice. I don’t want to limit myself to blogging about one thing, but I feel like I jump all over the place from Norse mythology to the Japanese martial art I practice. Lately I’ve been working on keeping my posts shorter. I tend to write a thesis when I get going and I know no one wants to read a super long blog post. I’ve gotten better!

I have a question: should you post your blog to your personal FB page? I link a new blog post to my FB page every time, but it seems like that takes away from anyone needing to subscribe to my blog. I don’t get many comments to the blog, but my FB friends tell me all the time that they like my posts. It’s frustrating, but I don’t want to lose readers no matter how I get them.

Robin
Robin
This is a great post… and I’ve been diving down most of the links you provided (Thanks!!). I haven’t started to build an author platform yet – although I have started thinking about it – I’m starting to imagine having an author website, pinterest, a good reads account, and adding information about writing fiction to my existing Linked In account – which is currently all about my engineering day job. I hope that would be enough to make me “real.” How critical do you think Facebook is to the overall social media package? I was never comfortable on facebook under my real name, but several years ago I gave in to pressure from family to get an account (I used my dog’s name). But with recent information coming out about FB conducting experiments to see how easily they can emotionally manipulate people by altering what appears in their newsfeed including the FB CEO making a statement that this is allowed under their terms of service) was chilling to me. I closed my account and don’t intend to ever revisit the site. Do you think it’s essential to have a FB account? Do you think that Linked in has the same legitimacy in the world of writing and publishing that it does in other industries. Even if the engineering connections don’t know about my writing, they know me. They have met me in person and can vouch that I’m real – so I would think that connecting my writing to that… Read more »
Ava Louise

Another great post, Jami. I thought I would share my experience with blogging. After reading over and over in various places that a blog was necessary, I finally gave in and started one. My experience has been enlightening on a personal level. It’s been worth the extra time it takes to do a weekly posting.

Loni Townsend

I keep thinking niche bloggers do better than others, but I don’t think I could ever be a niche blogger. I’ve got the attention span of a squirrel, and I’m not an authority on any particular topic. So content is usually all over the place for me. I’m probably not doing myself any favors, but at least I’m not a faker (plagiarist), right?

I’m torn about content. I don’t want to give away any spoilers on my stories, but I also want to generate interest in my books. In those cases, is it better to be personable and talk about non-writing topics?

Onita

Hi Jami! I’ve downloaded your Basic Beatsheet, I originally came across it when I had a functioning tablet, but no printer. Now, I’ve got a laptop, and a printer!! Up until recently, my reasoning for blogging was only to give the general public “teases” of what I was writing. NOW, after reading this post of yous, you have me in “re-evaluate” mode! Thanks, so much!

Julie Musil

Excellent advice, Jami! I absolutely love blogging. I don’t think of it as some sort of way to gain readers or attention. I just think of it as a fun way to chat about writing and reading with like minded folks. I’ve met amazing people through blogging (like you!) and think of it as a no-stress thing to do.

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[…] I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, this “from scratch” aspect is why I’m eager to explore my story idea through the […]

Lara Gallin
Lara Gallin
I’ve not started a blog as yet, I don’t really have anything much to say at the moment! In theory I shall get one in order once I’ve finished the first draft. I have started to get involved with Twitter as I figured I should get my name out there, but I often hesitate in commenting as I don’t feel anything I have to say is worthwhile. Maybe it’ll just take practice. I’m not going to bother with a writer page for FB simply because of the way that it’s run. The biggest thing I have a problem with is how FB decides what should and shouldn’t appear on someone’s news feed. You could have 10,000 plus followers but when only a percentage of them get to see your posts it begins to seem like a waste of time. I’ve seen some shares v re-tweets figures and the re-tweets outstrip the shares by a long way even though the number of followers on Twitter is less (or should it be fewer!). I would put at least some of that down to FB’s policy on what posts do and don’t appear in a newsfeed. I already have enough drama with a personal FB account, don’t think I could handle another one! Even on Twitter where my followers are few, I’m always conscious of what areas I shouldn’t stray into and it’s hard. Sometimes something comes up and you really want to vent your frustration but you know you can’t, or at… Read more »
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