Writing on the Stage: Blog Training

Previously I wrote about the nightmare auditorium for writers. Today I’ll tell you what I’ve been doing to not just overcome my own nervousness, but to overcome and write better and faster, and also for the long haul–not just for a mere 8,000 words and then petering out.

I haven’t yet pulled an entire novel this way, but I am capable of writing novel-length works (140,000 words in NaNoWriMo 2007). I plan to work to that before November 2008. And then I’LL SHOW THEM ALL!

Ahem. Getting on with what I’ve done and what I’ve learned….

Step 1: Blogging. Seriously.

I used to treat my blog–this one, and various blogs in the past–as a dumping ground for random thoughts. Sometimes I’d create an entry that was a link, or just a list of links without any extra text. I didn’t think much of my blog, and didn’t take it seriously. I thought blogs were just shouting grounds.

Then I read Wil Wheaton’s Just a Geek. His book consists of illustrative entries from his blog, with much in the way of additional commentary that ties them all together into a self-biography of a man who sought to re-image himself–and succeeded. And his blog was one of the central points, because it was through blogging that he realized that he could write–and, indeed, write very good story memoirs.

Reading Wil’s book drove my epiphany: even a personal blog can be taken seriously, as much as the professional blogs are (just with a lower hit rate). And perhaps if I take my personal blog seriously enough, then I can use it as a jumping point into getting to know an audience, and getting to know my own writing.

So I set some goals for myself in December 2007. (Not so long ago, but it feels like a long time ago.)

  • Figure out my specific audience and write to them.
  • Write at least three “pillar articles” a week.
  • Write a post every day, for the discipline.
  • Write well every time, under the time constraints.

Since then I’ve gone sort of crazy on reading all kinds of blog improvement articles, some of which focus on getting good content out there quickly and at the right time. Currently I have my RSS reader trained on

All of them have been very helpful.

So how am I doing on my goals so far?

Figuring out my audience.

Determining your audience is a matter of finding the appropriate combination of passionate pursuit(s) and voice. (Trying to derive pursuit/voice from an audience doesn’t work quite so well for me.)

Passionate pursuit: writing. That isn’t very unique on the web, these days, and as I’m yet unpublished, it’s really not unique. So I decided to combine writing with Sherlock Holmes from time to time, although that’s becoming more often. But it is, relatively speaking, unique, and something I embrace now.

My voice took longer: I have far too much fun not being objective; me trying to be objective is like a whale trying to walk on the beach. It’s not pretty. At first I was disappointed in myself; then I realized that “objective” does not necessarily translate to “better”, not by itself, and I accepted my non-objectivity.

Ah well; I’m a Leo and a blogger, and obviously hopeless.

The result of the equation (passion + voice = audience) has made it far easier to turn out content.

Writing pillar articles, lots of.

This is the definitive guide to writing pillar articles.

Still working it, and will be doing so for the next six months to fill this blog with content-rich posts for people to find. This aspect certainly adds a newspaper-like time constraint and production requirement, which I think is the best part.

That, plus it builds up my blog and makes it more useful for others. And perhaps more entertaining.

And good enough pillar articles can be submitted to Ezine Articles and perhaps even accepted, in which case you can garner new readers since your bio will be posted along with your article on their site.

Write a post every day.

There has been some discussion in the blogosphere that the common advice “write a post every day” may be misguided; there’s a difference between posting content of varying lengths every day, and then there’s posting junk between good content. Taking things down a notch may be beneficial to a blog.

I don’t know; I’d think it would be beneficial to a large blog, full of content already. To a smaller blog without that content, and thus without a large enough index for each category, this is less beneficial.

And a post a day doesn’t seem to hurt Whatever any.

Maybe when I have six months of worthy content I’ll consider it.

Write well every time.

I don’t know about that. I write decently, at least, though blogging a lot hasn’t taught me much about cutting down unnecessary words. That’s for the one of the next steps to follow.

I’ll know I write well–assuming that my content is interesting–

  • as the number of repeat visits increase. Which they have been, which I thank my current readers for.
  • as the number of positive comments increase. Which they have been; thank you again.

-o-

Next time, I will serenade to you about taking my performance writing training to the fiction-o-sphere: Flash Fiction and Twitter Fic.

-o-

Articles in the “Writing on the Stage” series:

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