When Blogging Becomes A Struggle…

Confession time. I’ve been having trouble blogging for a while now. There are many reasons why, which I will go on to explain, not really in the hope of offering advice to anyone who may be experiencing the same struggles, but more to help myself make sense of them. As always in my life, I work things out better when I write them down! So…

In The Beginning…

When I first started this blog, I did so with great trepidation. I used it to post extracts from my works in progress, which at the time were my novels The Boy With The Thorn In His Side and The Mess Of Me.At that time, they were both unpublished and I had no social media pages or profiles set up. It was all very much the beginning!

I recall how nerve-wracking it was when I first published a post on this blog. I shared it on my personal Facebook page and couldn’t decide what would be worse; having no one read it at all, or having people read it and not like it! It was the start of me sharing my work and it had taken decades for me to gather the courage to do it.

Luckily, it went well. It was a positive experience, as a number of Facebook friends started to read the extracts and enjoyed them so much, they asked for more. And for a long time, that’s all this blog was used for. Extracts of work in progress, read by a very small amount of people who already knew me. Ahh, easy. Not much to worry about back in those days!

And then came the books…

But things progressed. Eventually, I self-published both of those books and decided to set up my Facebook author page, Twitter and Goodreads accounts. I was reluctantly embracing the realities of the indie life and the cross to bear that is self-promotion. By this point, the tone of the blog had changed a little too. Now that some of the books were available, I no longer shared extracts from my work. Instead, I started writing about everyday life. Thoughts and feelings and memories. Anything that sprang to mind. The reason for this was quite glorious. I had been bitten again by the writing bug, and the result of that was that the more I wrote, the more I wanted to write, and the more I had to say until I began to feel like I was bursting with it. This felt like a very good thing.

I didn’t have many followers, but those who did read those first honest essay style posts, left lovely, encouraging comments. I had no urge to blog regularly. I had not even designed the blog site or customised it in any way. It was all still rather basic, but I was actually having fun. Every now and then, I would feel the urge to share something, and I would spew it out onto the blog, refine it, redraft it a few times and then hit publish. Again, fun times. Now that I had the hang of ‘blogging’ I was really enjoying it.

blog all the things!

I began to feel like a real writer…

As time went on, I published more books, as well as articles for Author’s Publish and a local parenting magazine. I began to feel like a real writer and described myself as one. Tentatively, I began also blogging about writing. Writing tips, writing problems, that kind of thing. Nothing too heavy-handed, after all, I was hardly in a position to advise anyone, but I did feel I had enough knowledge under my belt to share a few things and I enjoyed doing it. My blog was growing and evolving. It was becoming more confident and so was I.

realwriter.jpg

Around this time, a friend of mine also gave me some much-needed advice on how to make the blog more user-friendly. I customised it a bit, added the various share buttons and started using images and tags, and generally, became a tad more savvy about it all. I was still having fun. No pressure. I blogged when I wanted to. Sometimes once a month, sometimes more often if there was a lot to talk about.

I rebranded…

And then over a year ago, I rebranded the blog, again taking valuable advice from another friend. I thought about what one thing my books all had in common and realised that it was that all of my characters were outsiders. Proud ones. I renamed my blog The Glorious Outsiders, I thought more about who my audience was, what kind of people would like my books, and focused on drawing them in and talking to them. I decided to blog weekly from then on, having read lots of articles about how important it was to blog at least once a week.

It was easier than I thought to begin with. I found that the more I blogged, the more ideas for posts I got. I had undoubtedly put pressure on myself though. I decided to release posts on Wednesdays, which meant I really needed to have another idea decided on by Thursday, and a rough draft of it completed by Monday. I was now aiming to be a lot more smooth and professional about things, which meant I started putting much more effort into my posts, crafting them with more care, that sort of thing. Basically, they took longer to write and perfect. Or was I just getting picky?

Which brings us to now…

This routine has worked very well up until very recently, but now I have to admit I am struggling. I am struggling for a number of reasons. First, is time. Being an indie author means you do everything yourself. I go through phases of quite enjoying promotion, and phases of actually hating it and backing off from it entirely. I have so much I want to write, and like a lot of indies, I cling to that thin hope that the next thing I write will be snapped up by a big publisher, or will hit the big time, make me famous, bring me success and end my money worries. We all dream! But it’s not just a dream, it’s something you actively work at, day in, day out. Because I’m trying so hard to write better books, I’m getting fussier, and it’s taking longer each time to get them finished.This means, the many, many other books planned and plotted and waiting to be written, have to wait even longer. I just sometimes feel I do not have time to devote to weekly blogs if I am ever going to get these books written! And then other times, I know I have to blog and promote and be seen, in order to try and sell my others.

Decisions, decisions! Do I spend time on this or that? Crafting a blog takes time! It’s not just the wording and the structure and the focus, it’s the images and the tags! I am rubbish at finding images and making memes. Sometimes I will ditch a blog post just because I can’t be arsed to find images for it!

nogoodmemes

And because I am getting fussier about my books I am also getting fussier about my blog posts. I go over them again and again. Have I lost confidence? I don’t know. I can’t say what it is. But I must have about fifteen unpublished blog posts now. I keep writing them and not publishing them. They just don’t feel ready. They just don’t seem to have a focus. Am I running out of things to blog about? No. definitely not. I have a list and the list grows weekly, so maybe that is the problem? Another case of too much to write and not enough time to write it?

Maybe I am having a crisis of confidence? I’m pretty sure we all do from time to time. Being a writer is a delicate business and we all have fragile egos. I’m lucky that I have never had unpleasant feedback or criticism, not on my books or on my blog, but that could just be a reflection of the small number of people reading them. Still, I think blogging was easier when I didn’t think anyone at all was reading it!

Over the last few months, my weekly blog posts have diminished to fortnightly ones. I’m not going to be hard on myself for this. I would rather post nothing, than post something I am not happy with. My personal life is a bit fraught, and I can honestly say I have never known what emotional exhaustion is, until now. There is just only so much a brain can deal with, I guess.

So, you might ask, why bother blogging at all? Why not have a big break from it? Why put the pressure on myself at all? I don’t know. I suppose pressure is part and parcel of the indie life. I want to sell books because I wrote them to reach people. I know how much effort is needed to be seen, and I don’t want to go backwards or be forgotten. And also, I enjoy blogging. I love this little blog of mine and the journey it has been on. I’m quite proud of it really, and a bit like writing a diary when I was a kid, it gives me an outlet. A chance to express my views on just about anything. I’m not the best talker, but writing a blog post gives me the opportunity to argue back, to make a case, to ask questions, to reminisce or just be silly.

So, in conclusion…

I’m still here. And I have every intention of always being here. Thank you if you’ve been following me from the beginning and are still with me today. And thank you to anyone who is a new follower of this blog. I suppose my advice to anyone about blogging would be this. Yes, it is important and yes, it should be fun. Lots of fun. But if life gets in the way, and other issues suck up all your time and emotions, then don’t be hard on yourself. Your blog will still be there waiting when things calm down again.

 

Should You Have More Than One Blog?

Last week at the writing group I run as part of my Chasing Driftwood Writing Group business, we ended up having a discussion about blogs. One of the members had announced his decision to have more than one blog, due to the fact he wanted to keep his writing related blog separate from his other passions in life. This was an interesting and very timely discussion, as I had just been thinking myself about another blog I started and soon neglected roughly a year ago. (I do technically have two blogs, as I have the Chasing Driftwood one, but I basically use this like a website, where all I really do is update the workshops I run every now and then.)

Last year, however, I started a third blog. My Self-Sufficient Challenge started for two main reasons. One, as a family we were making conscious efforts to change the way we lived. From raising ducks and chickens to composting, growing our own fruit and vegetables, reusing, recycling and reducing our waste output wherever possible. It seemed like a good idea to blog about something I was becoming very passionate about, which wasn’t necessarily related to writing. (Oh, how this has changed! But more on that later…) I thought writing a weekly blog about my efforts to become more environmentally friendly and more self-sufficient would actually encourage me to keep at it. If I felt like people were reading the posts and rooting for my efforts, then I’d be more likely to get better and better. The second reason was perhaps more altruistic, or business savvy, shall we say?

I had read somewhere (don’t ask me where as I have absolutely no idea!) that creating other blogs apart from your main, author related one, was a very good marketing idea. The idea being that if you had other interests you were passionate and/or knowledgeable about, you would inevitably draw in other followers, who would then soon realise you also write books, and would perhaps be interested in them, due to the fact they had enjoyed your posts and writing style. This made great sense to me at the time. Why not reach out to more people? Why not write about a subject you are passionate about? It seemed like a win-win situation to me.

If you’re also thinking about multiple blogs, here are some reasons it could be a good idea for you;

  • It can be hard to create a following for your blog if it is multi-niche, or in other words, if you talk about anything and everything
  • People tend to subscribe to certain blogs because they are interested in the subject matter. They might lose interest if you flit from subject to subject
  • If you wish to monetize your blog (and many people make a living from doing just this) you will need it to have a single focus. Your SEO (search engine optimization) will be pretty poor if you cover too many subjects for people to find you
  • If you wish to have paid ads on your blog, again it is going to have to have a narrower focus
  • If the other blog you have in mind is work based, ie you’re a dog trainer and the blog is about dog behaviour and so on, then you’re going to need it to be a single focus in order to look professional
  • If one of your blogs is for work/business and one is for fun, it may be better to keep them separate. Writing about what you enjoy could provide a welcome relief from working on your money orientated blog

And of course, there is no reason why you can’t share and cross-post your blogs so that both audiences (or more) get the opportunity to see what else you are up to.

So, what happened to my self-sufficiency blog? Well, like many things in life, the good intentions were all there but it soon faded fast. I think I managed about four posts. The aim was to post once a week, but back then I wasn’t even managing to post once a week on this blog. This wasn’t for lack of content at all. There were plenty of things to talk about, and I took loads of photos of the things we were doing and growing. I just never quite found the time to upload them to the blog!

Once a few months had drifted by, it got harder and harder to return to it. I had in that time revamped and renamed this blog, with the aim of ‘branding’ it, so to speak, and making sure people knew what they were getting.

This is a blog that talks about writing. A lot. This is a blog that talks about being proud to be an outsider. My books and my character all have this theme in common. I welcome guest posts along the same theme, and I read books that also fit the criteria.

The other day, (just before writing group) this got me thinking. I miss my self-sufficient blog but know I don’t have the time for it. I just do not have the time to run two blogs. It’s just not ever going to happen. So I started to think about how I could possibly post things that might have gone on the self-sufficient blog here. I’m still thinking about it.

What led me back to this thought the most, was the direction my writing has taken in the last year or so. The Tree Of Rebels is waiting for a final edit. The book is set in the future where nature is banned, owned and controlled. The connection with nature and growing your own food has been totally severed. Elliot Pie’s Guide To Human Nature is also awaiting its final edit. This is a book about a young boy who attempts to prove to his mother that people are not all bad, by befriending perfect strangers. His mother believes that the world has never been as corrupt, cruel and doomed as it is right now. Several of the other characters in the story share her beliefs to varying degrees. They feel helpless and afraid and like the end of the world is very near. And finally, in the four book series I have plotted and planned, (but cannot possibly start for at least another year!) the end of the world has happened. But the cause was not humans, it was nature itself. Only the children have been spared the cull, but how will they survive in this hostile new world where all the rules have changed? All of these upcoming books have a common theme. Environmentalism. Mother nature. Human nature. The state we are all in! In other words, the things I think about constantly.

Now, every now and then I write a piece on here that is not at all related to writing. Every now and then I just feel the urge, start writing and see what happens. Sometimes it is related to my family, sometimes to society or politics. I suppose what I am trying to say is that as long as the theme remains in adherence to glorious outsiders, then perhaps it is okay to post about things that are not writing related? Especially if you find your writing is being shaped more and more by the frightening world we live in?

You might have noticed, I haven’t quite convinced myself yet!

What do you all think? Do you already have more than one blog? If so, why? And how do you find the time to manage more than one? Perhaps your blog is multi-niche or quite personal. Do you ever think about creating other blogs and dividing the subjects up? I would love to know your thoughts on this, and so would my writing group! So please feel free to comment!

 

Guest Post: Shalaena Medford on why your blog is not about YOU!

Last Friday I introduced you to my new look blog and explained why I had renamed it and focused it on a theme that connects my writing and reading habits. I promised you a guest post from the indie author Shalaena Medford who inspired and helped me with these changes, so here it is! Over to you, Shalaena…

Hello readers and fans of Chantelle Atkins! Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day to read my guest post to this very lovely author’s blog.

You read in her previous blog post about changes she has been making to her website. I also have been making changes to mine according to the things I’ve learned in my New Media course at Southern New Hampshire University. (Yep, you read that right, I’m a darned Yank from the States! Don’t worry, I will not be tossing any tea. I love tea.)

Right off the bat we learned one major thing, which is that this is not about us. Yes, our selfish little scribbler’s hearts, with its ego-centric blinders focused on arguing “But it’s MY book, and MY website about ME!!” Yes, this is true. But when we treat it that way it’s like sitting down with that one friend we all have that somehow makes everything about them.

“Oh, I just bought this lovely book and—”

“Well I saw the movie twice and I don’t think the book is worth picking up.”

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to hit speaker number two for three reasons. One: don’t interrupt, you egocentric prat! Two: Who cares that you’ve seen it twice? No one asked for your opinion, anyway. Now sit down and let the other person finish telling you about this book! Three: You’re not going to read the book because you saw the movie? That’s the point where I (in the words of Ryan Reynolds) “have trouble listening to the rest of our relationship.” Seriously, you’re going to judge the book by what you saw in the movie? Excuse me. I have to go do…something else.

So reading that MY website isn’t about me was jarring. Then I realized, it’s not that it isn’t about the author, it’s that it isn’t FOR the author. My website isn’t for me. It’s for my fans. It’s for you guys! You fabulous readers who pick up bound sheaves of tree skin with tattoos on them (most wonderfully colorful description of a book I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading) and get lost in the worlds that we, the authors, have created for you. So why wouldn’t our sites be for you? A place where you can sit down and explore all the nooks and crannies and feel right at home.

So then I had to stop and think about not just my steampunk series, but all of my works. What they’re about, who the main characters are and who they speak to. Who are my readers? Chantelle writes about outsiders. I realized my main characters, and my readers, are misfits, or what I call the “socially abstract.” But my characters are at that point where they’re looking for the place where they fit in, or at least still trying to accept that they will always be on the outskirts of most social circles. My characters, like my readers, are still growing and learning to become comfortable in their own skin.

Once the reader type had been established, it was only a matter of finding out what they would like to see and what would engage them. I’ve set up a “share your story” page for those who have triumphed in their own small way (i.e. coming out, standing up to a bully, etc.), and I share their stories in my blog. In their own words. Because we all deserve a voice, no matter how insignificant we feel.

When I had a good grasp on what I was doing for my website, I decided to pass along the information to Chantelle. I’d been reading her articles for ages, which led me to follow her on Facebook, and eventually message her (mostly to ask who does her fantastic covers! I’ve since hired the same artist for one of my upcoming novels) and try to connect. It’s only recently we began talking more, and I am so glad we have. Chantelle is a genuinely wonderful person. While I haven’t had the pleasure of reading more than a page of her works, I think her writing is absolutely wonderful. But I’m sure you already know that!

So, here’s to Chantelle, for gracing us with her words.

And here’s to you, the readers of the world, who give authors like us a purpose. Enjoy Chantelle’s page (or mine if you really want to pop in and see what sort of crazy is going on in there). Because it was made for you.

Thank you for reading!

Remember to always stay abstract!

~Shalaena Medford: Author, Editor, Designer, Weirdo~

(Blushing! Thank you so much to Shalaena for writing this guest post for my blog and for helping me so much lately! I know she would love to connect with you also on her blog Socially Abstract. You can also follow her page on Facebook and link up on Twitter. And if you’d like to check out her work, here is her page on Pronoun.

This is the first guest post I’ve published to my blog and thanks to the wonderful writers I have connected with over the years, there will be many more to come! If you would like to submit something to post on my blog then do get in touch. If writing related, then any topic is fine. If it’s fiction or non fiction then something along the outsiders theme would be brilliantly received. See you on Friday!) Please feel free to comment below! 

Indie Survival Kit

Indie Survival Kit

When I first started out as an independently published author in 2013, I had no idea what was going to happen. I had no idea what I was doing, and it took me a long time to figure out what I needed to know. There is a lot of help and support out there for indies, if you know where to look, but it’s very difficult to find the time to research, when you are already spending a lot of time writing. With this in mind, here is an Indie Survival Kit. A list of things you will need! Imagine you are about to pack a bag and start a long, unknown journey. These are the things you might need to pack.

The Right Attitude.

You need grit, determination and self-belief. You need to believe your story is worth telling, and that you have the skills to tell it. You will need to grow a thick skin, and become good at self-promotion. You might wish you could just sit at home writing and not have to bother with the rest of it, but you can’t. Not if you want to succeed. So roll up your sleeves, open up your mind and get working.

Community.

Surround yourself with like-minded people. Become part of the author community. Read other authors and reach out to them, connect, support and join forces, as together you are stronger. It’s not all about you, and if you think it is, you won’t get very far. It’s amazing how supportive and helpful other author’s can be, so make sure you are involved. Invite authors to post on your social media pages, or on your blog or website, and offer to do the same for you. Interviews are always very popular and interesting to both writers and readers!

Social Media Checklist

Have you signed up to at least three social media sites? One of these should be your blog/website. Do you blog regularly? At least twice a month, although ideally more? Are you visible on social media? Do people know who you are, or have they forgotten about you because you haven’t posted anything interesting lately? Has Facebook assumed your fans are bored, and has unliked the page on their behalf? Keep things fresh and fun, start debates, run contests, let people know about your struggles and successes, link up your sites to save time, share articles of interest and so on! Do this daily, as much as you can and don’t neglect it.

Reviews

Seek them out. Go after them. Don’t just rely on friends and family, or on the assumption that readers will remember to review. They rarely do. Go to review sites, and be prepared to pay for some and to be put on waiting lists for the ones that are free. The same applies for bloggers. Research them, make lists and do this weekly to build up those reviews. Remember that reviews help your book move forward; they encourage readers to buy and they convince Amazon to take your book more seriously.

Courses

Keep your skills up to date. Join writing groups online and in real life. Take courses. Udemy and FutureLearn are great sites that often have deals and freebies, so grab the offers when you can. Keep your skills sharpened and work to constantly improve your craft.

Audience

Be patient, but work on growing your fanbase at all times. Use your blog, Wattpad, Street Teams and social media sites to interact and connect with readers. Ask their opinions, share sneak peeks, freebies and competitions, share your ups and downs, your decision making processes and so on. Stay positive and upbeat. They will feel like they are on the journey with you. Offer free samples and short stories at the back of your books, or on your blog.

Resources

Look for free or cheap to help keep costs down. Canva.com is a great site for graphics and posters. You can create social media graphics, memes, posters, leaflets and even ebook covers on there. iAuthor is free, and is a great way to find the readers who are looking for your type of book. You simply add your books to the extremely diverse ‘themes’, or even make up your own. Wattpad is free, and is a great way to find readers and get feedback. Fiverr is a site where you can pay people as little as $5 for file conversions, artwork and more.

Follow the right people

There are so many great sites and pages out there for writers, it’s hard to know where to start. But do start. Follow organisations that will provide you with the information you need, so that you do’t have to go looking for it. The Alliance of Independent Authors, Author Unlimited, Writer’s Digest, The Writer’s Circle and Positive Writer are just some of the many pages/groups I follow to pick up tips and up to date information on the writing world.

Income streams

Find other ways to make money out of writing. Ads on your blog, sending articles to sites who pay, short story submissions and competitions are all great options. You can also get paid work as a book reviewer. There are so many sites  popping up now to provide reviews for indies and these sites also need reviewers! Offer editing and/or formatting to other indies, or even front cover design, graphics and art work if you are up to it. Many writers also make additional money by going into schools to run workshops, or by offering workshops to other writers. You can also do this online and sell the content. Copy writing, ghost writing, ad writing, all are other ways to pick up income through writing.

Promotion

As an indie, you will more than likely have a love/hate relationship with the promotion of your books. You know you need to do it, but you don’t know how. You know you must figure it out in order for readers to know you exist, but all you really want to do is write. I think the sooner you get to grips with promotion and accept it as part of the deal, the better. It can even become fun. Your blog for instance, should be fun. After all, it should be your little stage, your platform to talk about anything you want to talk about. Again, social media should be fun, and it can be if you engage with it and make time for it. Set aside one day a week when you concentrate on promoting your books. I advise setting up a website/blog early on and making sure it is as professional as possible, after all it may be the main landing point for readers interested in your books. Everything else can come from here; your links to social media, links to your books and your style of writing itself. Set up a subscribe by email button, and another button that collects emails for a fan newsletter. Do this as soon as possible so that you can start building an email list of people who are genuinely interested in your writing. You can then treat them to freebies, sneak peeks and special events and you are on the way to building an audience.

These suggestions are all simple and relatively cheap, and they are all things I wish I had known before I started.