I love linking to people, and I love getting linked to. Pageviews are cool, comments are awesome, but what really makes me feel validated is when other bloggers link to the Chimney. Not just because it drives tons of traffic to my blog, but because someone else who feels the need to speak about something feels the need to point other people to my site. They found it useful, useful enough that they want others to see it, too. And, aside from inflating my ego and pretending I am more important than I really am, the main reason I started this blog was because I wanted to help people improve their writing. There’s so much variety of good writing out there, but we can always use more. I do have a big ego, but I don’t assume that anything I say will automatically be useful to someone, and so when a link comes in, saying “Your stuff was useful to me and I think it will be useful to others”, that really improves my mood. As you may have guessed from the last post, I’ve been ina pretty bad mood lately, and so when I popped in to check my stats and saw I was getting linkage from a blog I have never heard of before–and round-up linkage, at that–it really perked me up. Thanks, Fuzzy Mango. You really made my day.
Category Archives: Blogging
One of the more popular blog posts recently has been the round-up. There are all these great articles out there, so why not link to them on our blogs, for our readers reading pleasure?
There are in fact sites and blogs entirely devoted to this sort of passing on of value. And they’re very useful.
But when I see this kind of post on a blog I’ve been following, which used to be 100% original content, it makes me rage. Like, that sneaky, cheating bastard in a cloak head-shitted me while I was grabbing a soda rage. If you’ve ever played an fps, you’ll know what I mean.
But why do I rage? Because, I am terminally behind on my blog reading. I’m always distracted or having to switch between email accounts (thanks Uni) to get to my reader. In fact, yesterday, I had 444 blogs posts from 30-odd sites waiting for me. And I went to one of my favorite blogs, and half the posts were round-ups, with another 20 or so links for me to read.
And because I am a little bit OCD that way, I spent five hours reading all of them. And I found some great posts, and added some awesome new blogs to my reader. But I was still raging.
And so, as turn-about is fair play, I will attempt, despite my terrible organozational skills, to begin my own Round-up posts every Friday–which seems to be the most popular day. And I will find such awesome, under-the-radar material, that you will never be able to skip them. Because I love you, and I want you to feel the way I do.
And also because it’s a really easy way to fill up a post with content, and I am lazy and over-worked.
Happy Raging, Readers.
Your Bestest Pal,
One of the most common pieces of advice that I hear from writers is to read outside of your genre. In fact, some writers go so far as not reading anything inside their genre while they are writing. Which I think is taking things a bit far, but… The point is, it’s very good advice.
Why? Here’s another piece of advice I hear all the time: “Even if your story is has almost exactly the same topic/characters/theme/plot as someone else’s, it will still be different. Put your own spin on it.” Again, a fantastic piece of advice. But how do you do it? One way to get ideas is by following our first piece of advice. Every genre has its own tropes and conventions, things that are common amongst the majority of stories in that genre. But some of the best work in any genre involves tropes and conventions that aren’t normally a part of it. And you won’t know what those are if you only read inside your own genre.
Blogging is a lot like writing. There are tons of blogs out there, about almost every topic you can think of. So how do you make your own blog stand out? Here’s My 5 Step Plan to Writing a Rocking Blog:
1. Identify the goals of your blog. Who is your target audience? What are you trying to tell them? What methods will you use? What style will you write in? What is your blog’s genre?
2. Look at other blogs in the same genre. How do they approach their readers? What tips and tricks do they use? What formatting do they employ? What are the most common templates for blog posts? How-tos? In-depth analysis? Anecdotes? What style do they adopt?
3. Decide how to satsify your target readers. How can you use what you’ve learned reading other blogs to create a blog that people will want to read? What have those other blogs done right? What have they done wrong? Which of their techniques can you make work for you?
4. Now read blogs that aren’t in your genre. What kinds of things don’t your genre’s blogs talk about? What else do you find interesting besides the standard fare of your genre? What blogs grabbed your attention? What techniques did those other bloggers use that made you want to keep reading? How could these bloggers maintain your interest in topics you had never been interested in before?
5. Apply what you’ve learned. What do you see on blogs in other genres that could be adapted to your own blog? What things in those other blogs could apply to blogs in general? What topics did you come across that were relevant to your own genre, but rarely addressed? What did you find that could make your blog stand out? What will be your twist?
Of course, digging through hundreds and thousands of off-topic blogs is tough. There has to be a way to narrow down your search.
And you can find it right here on the Chimney. As a special service just for my readers, I’m going to point you to some of the out-genre blogs that I use to keep my perspective wide.
Tune in every Saturday, when I will write a post featuring a blog outside of my own genre, and why I read it. I will explore what makes it such a fantastic blog in its own right, and why it is relevant to those of you who may be reading my blog, even if you don’t share a genre with me.
Keep in mind that I am first a spec fic writer and reader, then a fiction reader. I will be looking at blogs that mostly apply first and foremost to writers, because that’s what I am, and its also my target audience.
So the chances that I will be high-lighting sports blogs; or that if you run a site on how to buy and use a gas grill the blogs I feature will give added value to your site are slim.
But they could! The whole point of me writing this post was that you never know what could attract readers.
Hopefully, this feature series will kick off Saturday, July 23. I’ll be plugging it wherever I reasonably can. Please feel free to mention it to your friends, fellow bloggers, and also your readers. If you have a blog you think should be featured, or if you like to submit your own blog, don’t hesitate to e-mail me. You’ll find my contact details on my Contact Me page, in the menu at the top of the page.
I’m also going to put this out on my Twitter, so feel free to Re-Tweet (and follow me if you aren’t already) if the mood strikes you. There are tons of awesome blogs out there that you should be reading, and I’m going to do my best to introduce as many of them to you as I can.
Because I’m curious about how well people police their identities on the internet, I’m going to wait until six hours before the each post go online to notify the bloggers in question.
(Pro Tip: Setting up Google Alerts and other services to keep track of how your name is mentioned on the internet is not egotistical. It is good social net-working practice and it can not only improve your relationship with others by making you aware of their interest in you, it can help nip problems in the bud.)
Now, she doesn’t know it yet, but I’ve already selected Romantic Comedy author Tawna Fenske at Don’t pet me, I’m writing to be the first featured blog. It was in fact one of her posts that inspired this series, because she is just that awesome. Don’t wait for the post, go follow her immediately! And feel free to tell her who sent you.
I have recently subscribed to a new blog, Invincible Summer from lovely YA writer Hannah Moskowitz. This may not seem like a big deal, but it’s actually the first new blog I’ve subscribed to in a year.
So why did I subscribe to it? Did I stumble upon it on Google? Find a link on a bookmarking site like reddit or delicio.us? No. I kept running into links on other sites and blogs. Took part in some conversations on Absolute Write. After about the fiftieth link on blogs to which I am already subscribed, I stopped by and read the first ten posts on the blog. Several of them were exactly the sort of thing Ilook for on a writing blog, and so I copied the url into my googlereader. Now, I’ve done similar things with other blogs, but I ended up not subscribing. Here are the five most common reasons I subscribe to a blog, and the five most common reasons why I do not:
Why? (In no particular order:)
1. Links from blogs I already follow. The more the better. They tell me that there is a consistent pattern of valued and valuable content. These can be posts about the link only, or they can be round-ups. If I start to recognize your name on a round-up post, I am very likely to give your blog itself a look.
2. Meeting the blogger in a community setting, such as a forum for writers. My top forum for finding good blogs? Absolute Write.
3. I buy one of the bloggers books and like it. if I like your book, then I have a reason as a reader to look you up. If I like your blog, it’s because I enjoy it as a writer, as well.
4. I see one of your books on Amazon or Wikipedia. These are the places I go when someone recs a book to me.
5. Guest posts on blogs I read. These are fantastic advertisements for your own blog. They mean someone I trust likes what you have to say, and they are a good sample of what I expect to find on your blog.
1. I go to your blog and I see advertisements. If I get to the point where I’m reading through your recent posts to see if there’s a pattern of value, I don’t want to see adverts for your books. I don’t want to see contests, or giveaways. All of these things are fine. But they are not what attracts people to a good blog. A good blog gives something to the reader, it does not only solicit money for the writer.
2. I go to your blog and all I see is pictures of your cats, covered in bacon or otherwise. I am not looking for cat blogs. I am looking for writer and/or writing blogs. If you want to occasionally post pictures of your cats or of sunsets, or of your cute little kid, that’s fine. But it’s a grace note, something you can foist off on me as content once I am engaged and interested. John Scalzi likes to post amateur photos of sunsets, and they are very pretty. I like them. But they are not why I read his blog.
3. If there have not been any posts for over two months. I don’t think I need to explain.
4. If the posting schedule is inconsistent. This is not a big loser. It’s why people invented blog readers, so I don’t have to check every day to see if a bloggers has dug up and displayed some nugget of wisdom for me. It’s a small issue, but consistent posting does tell me that this blog is likely to survive long enough to be worth my inital investment. (I am also a hypocrite for saying this, since I have updated irregularly of late.)
5. Boring stuff/stuff I have seen before. This is tougher. These sort of posts will attract blogging newbies, because they have not seen all the other examples out there. But the best blogs provide something new, something you can’t get elsewhere easily. After the thirtieth generic query advice post, they all start to seem the same. If they are well-written, I will forgive you.
So, here is the conclusion. I want good content on a consistent basis. I understand that promotional posts will pick up when a book release is imminent. I understand tha real life gets in the way. But if your entire blog morphs into promotion when a book is coming out, or you suddenly veer into all extras about your cats and kids, then I am likely to not subscribe, or else to drop my subscription if I already have one.
People are always trying to convince me to switch from IE to Firefox, and I’ve always decided not to. And so have a significant portion of other people. So when you’re building or switching templates for you blog, you might want to make sure they work in both IE and FF.
I’ve had several frustrating experiences lately where folks have decided to use fancy image files as blog backgrounds. But they’ve chosen images where the test doesn’t show up against them.
But wait! They can just put a solid color <div> tag on top, so the text will show up. Unfortunately, in my IE8 browser, these divs do not display properly, which means I have to highlight the text to read.
Not surprisingly, this makes me less likely to come back. If you want to have a writer blog, you have to hold up the blogging side of that, not just the writing one. So check your divs!
I just finished reading a fantastic post on how the Internet is affecting YA literature. It was written by the wonderful Hannah Moskowitz over on her blog “Invincible Summer”—which I have only read about two posts on. And that has clearly been my mistake.
The gist of the post is that we writers, or at least those of us with a significant investment in the authosphere, have moved away from writing for readers, and fallen into the trap of writing for writers. As someone whose first significant strides in writing came from the poet’s perspective, I can tell you that one of the greatest criticisms I have ever heard about the poetry community is that poetry is no longer written for everyone, but only for other poets, who have the knowledge, background, and exposure to appreciate the currently popular poems.
We do not want this happening to fiction. We do not want to become a community of people writing only for each other, having lost track of the true purpose of our craft. It’s all good and well to learn and discuss trends, and clichés, and how “proper” books should be written. But we can’t lose site of who we’re writing these books for.
I’m going to ask you now to follow the above link, so that I don’t have to repeat everything Hannah has already so elegantly articulated…
Okay, here goes. I completely agree with Hannah that the YA writing community has moved in the direction she describes. It has not completely lost itself, but it hasn’t stayed completely true to its mission either. And the horrible, terrible, throw up a little in your mouth truth is… The entire authosphere, the entire online writing community, is falling into this trap. I see signs of it everywhere. Writers blog for other writers, sink their valuable writing time into maintaining their status among online peers.
Part of this can be laid at the feet of the aspiring writers who have infiltrated and conquered the author community. Everywhere, we are encouraged to start blogging, to build platforms, to make connections on Facebook and Twitter, and other blogs. But we haven’t published anything. What can we say to readers, who haven’t read us because we’ve given them nothing to read?
And so we build a community amongst ourselves, aimed towards our goals. We share info, support each other, and work to build up everyone’s careers. And it’s wonderful! But it doesn’t really have much to do with our initial reason for joining this community: to create things for other to enjoy. Others who do not write, do not know the difference between submitting to an agent or submitting to a publisher, may not be fast friends with every aspiring and published writer on the web. They do not go to every writing con they can afford, or buy six copies of a book because they want to support their best friend who wrote it. When we take advice, and suggestions, and encouragement from those just like us, we can easily forget who we’re trying to please.
Readers matter. Readers have a voice. Readers may even use that voice. In fact, there are innumerable readers taking part in the authosphere as a whole. But many have neither access to nor interest in the authorial, writerly community with it’s focus on mechanics and mutual support. They want to hear about new books, win ARCs, make recommendations, and read reviews. To those of us who are unpublished, these are not relevant to our main goal. And so we listen more to each other, and less to the readers. And that’s a dangerous road to take.
I hate ‘em. I do not want to see the three most fascinating sentences in the entire blogosphere in my reader and then see:
“[[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more! ]]”
Because then I will hate your guts. I got a feedreader for a reason, and seeing those words was not it. I might go to your blog anyway, because those were the three most awesome sentences in the entire blogosphere. But I will still hate your guts.
Every little thing you do to make it less convenient for me to read your blog is filed away in the back of my mind, and when it comes time to clean out my blog reader, guess whose blog will be first on the “drop” list? No prizes for the correct answer.
Please, please, please format your blog posts properly, people. I’m sick and tired of having to copy posts into Microsoft word because the left inch is covered up by widgets and menus.
Please set the width and height of your media embeds so that the entire video, or audio control bar, or image, or whatever is on the page where I can see it.
It’s not hard, it doesn’t take long to check, and it will greatly increase the chances of me coming back to your blog.
Woohoo! I am all caught up on my blog reading. All 700 posts of it. It was wonderful. But…
If you’re wondering why I didn’t leave a comment on some post of yours or other, try reading 700 blog posts in 2 days, and see if you have enough brain cells left to leave intelligent relevant comments on each one. Actually don’t. Save your brain for something more important. I love your blog, I really do. But I figure a late comment or two now is not as good as many, many punctual comments in the future.
Now, my thanks to all those folks who have turned my brain to moosh:
And a few more I visit on an irregular basis.
If you’ve spent any time in the authosphere, you know that the number one commandment to writers is : “Write!” It’s not “Tweet!” or “Youtube!” or “Eat cupcakes!”
But reading blogs is okay, right? There’s all this knowledge and information, and interaction with other writers and readers. What could be better?
The truth is, blogs are the most insidious, conniving, malicious plague to ever be unleashed upon unsuspecting authors.
“Wait,” you say. “You’re exaggerating. It’s just fifteen minutes a day or so.”
Well, I have story for you. Over the past few months, I’ve been working on other projects besides writing, and that means I confined what writing time I did have, I confined to actually putting words on the page. That means a whole bunch of blog posts to get caught up on. And here’s the problem: If it was just me going to various addresses in my favorites bar, I wouldn’t have an issue. I’d just have given up on most of the old posts. But I have this wonderful little thing called Google Reader, which keeps track of my blog subscriptions. When I opened it this morning, it listed 432 unread blog posts. 432. I decided to take Anne Lamott’s advice and get through them post by post. Instead of doing any writing today whatsoever, I read around 300 blogs posts in 4 hours. And tomorrow, thanks to links and “round-up” posts, I have about 300 more.
And most of them have been very interesting. I’m glad I read them. But it did take up 4 hours I could have used for actual writing. Things like this have happened before, and I know they’ll happen again.
Maybe I’m just obsessive. I didn’t have to read all those posts, right? But Google made it so easy. Just point and click. That 432 just sitting there, taunting me. “You can’t read all these. No way. As if. You’re weak. You can read a 600 page novel in a few hours, but you’ll never be able to catch up on your blogroll. You’ll just have to look at me every day and know what a failure you are. Go eat some chocolate cheesecake. Come back in a few hours. I’ll be here. I’ll always be here.