Thursday, June 13, 2013

Should Teen Writers Blog?

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the newly released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.



A writer emailed me to ask, "When do you think a writing blog should be started? Before you publish so people have someplace to go if they're interested, right away? After you publish so there's already interest, hopefully, and something to talk about? And how do you get attention once you have one?"

I see this question asked fairly often, and it always knot me up inside because I'm fearful of saying the wrong thing. Every writer's path is different. Every blog and blog readership is different. With blogs:

There are no absolutes or guarantees

Some published authors have very popular blogs. Other very successful authors have blogs that don't seem to have much traffic. And then Jill and I, who aren't racing up any best sellers lists, have seen success with Go Teen Writers. You can do things to help your blog be successful - like posting consistently and promoting on social media sites - but sometimes even that doesn't get you traffic.

Why are you starting a blog?

This is the first question you should ask, in my opinion. Who is the blog for? Who do you want to reach? What are your goals? Because if your goal is to sell books...that won't keep readers coming around. I don't like being sold to all the time, do you?

I've blogged unsuccessfully and successfully. And you can see the difference in these answers:

Who is this blog for?
My original blog that was on my author website: Uh, the publisher told me I should have one, and I want to do what they ask.... Teens, I guess.
Go Teen Writers: Teens who love writing and who hope to be published someday.

Who do you want to reach?
Original blog: Whoever is already on my website and wants to connect with me.
Go Teen Writers: Teen writers.

What are your goals?
Original blog: To promote my books and to be able to connect with readers.
Go Teen Writers: To encourage teen writers along their journey and to build a community for them.

When you look at those answers, it's clear why my author blog never grew to more than ten or so faithful readers. I had no idea what I was doing or who I was doing it for.

Why a blog?

Another question you should ask is if a blog is the right thing for you. When a blog is done well, it takes up a lot of time. A lot of time that you could be using to write or read. When you think about your goals, is a blog the best way to achieve those goals? Or would it be better to use a YouTube, Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, or other sites that I'm not savvy enough to know about?

I've seen writers have success with starting email loops for their genre or with Facebook groups for people who are in the same season of life as them. I've been a part of YA lit email loops and was briefly in a Stay At Home Writers Facebook group for moms who write with little kids underfoot. Maybe you don't need or want a blog, maybe another format would serve you better.

How is this different than what's already out there?

This one requires a bit of research. When I first started Go Teen Writers, I did an internet search to see what else was out there for teen writers. Because I knew if teens were already happily plugged into a community, that meant they probably weren't looking for a new one. Figure out what would make your blog unique. 

When should you start? Before or after you're published?

I have no idea. Some people create wildly successful blogs and land book contracts and TV shows because of it, like The Pioneer Woman. Other people limp around in the blogosphere but still manage to get book contracts.

I don't talk to publishing committees on a regular basis, but it seems to me that a great blog can help you, but a so-so blog won't hurt too much because there are so many ghost town blogs out there. (Unless on your blog you regularly roast editors and publishing houses - that will hurt you.)

If you start the blog after you're published, you'll have something to promote (your book) but it doesn't necessarily mean you'll have more to talk about. The average writer's life isn't full of blog fodder.

Should you talk about writing?

This wasn't in the question, but I'll address it anyway. Writing is a natural thing for us to want to talk about. We are, after all, writers. And other than my kids and trips to Costco, there really isn't much that's consistent in my life that I could talk about outside of writing.

Amanda Luedeke is an agent with MacGregor Literary (Jill's agent, actually) and she wrote a
View Amanda's book on Amazon
wonderful post called "Blogging as a Fiction Writer." In it she says:
Blogging as a fiction writer is difficult. So difficult, that if I were in your shoes, I’d probably choose something else to build my platform. Maybe Facebook or Twitter. Something easier. Because unlike nonfiction authors, fiction authors aren’t really experts at things. They don’t have people coming to them, looking for answers or solutions or world peace. They don’t have that clear topic to drive their blog. They just have themselves and their imagination. And that doesn’t always make for an interesting blog experience.
But she does offer 6 great ideas for blogging as a fiction writer in her article, and you can read her great suggestions for blogging and growing your blog here.

I don't consider myself an expert in blogging or anything, but if you have questions, you can leave them below and I'll do my best to answer them.

Next week Jill and I will be teaching at the One Year Adventure Novel conference in lovely Olathe, Kansas. This means we won't be blogging BUT Jill had a fabulous idea. Next week we're going to host a massive word war here on the blog.

Not sure what a word war is? It's where a group of writers compete to see who can write the most words in a set amount of time. Details will go live on the blog Monday morning, so make sure you check it out!

40 comments:

  1. I LOVE blogging...but I often get nervous not knowing if my posts are "good" enough. Sometimes they get great hits, sometimes they don't. Ack. The life of a blogger I guess! :P I really struggle with networking. Do you have any tips for networking?

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    1. Agreed, Cait. I've had that same experience.

      What are your goals with networking? Is it to drive more traffic to your blog? Or is it to network with people who might want to be guests on your blog?

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    2. Drive traffic, I guess. After reading this post and thinking about it, I think our blog isn't very specifically targeted, so I'll need to work on that first! Super helpful post, Stephanie! Thanks! :)

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  2. Currently I feel like I'm hopping around my blog all the time trying to figure out what it is I really like blogging about, cause currently it is all over the place. But for now I guess that's fine. This way I might at least figure WHAT I want to blog about :)

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    1. There's definitely a learning curve to blogging, Arlette. Kinda like with novels. Sometimes you have to write a few chapters before you figure out what kind of story you're trying to tell :)

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  3. Hey hey hey! Just what I was wondering! For like the fifth time in the past two weeks! xD I started a blog in January, and I'm still trying to figure out what I will blog about and how often. I need some more regularity, I guess.

    One thing I think was really helpful to me was, before I started blogging, I'd already followed about a dozen blogs for months. I commented regularly. So when I did start a blog, people already knew who I was! :) I'll be reading that article, too.

    And a word war?!?! Oh my gracious, I'm excited!!! :D

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    1. Amanda, I think that's one of the best ways to drive traffic to your own blog, is to leave comments on others and make your own blog accessible somehow. Like when I click on your name here, it automatically takes me to your charming blog - perfect!

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  4. I might just need that massive Word War . . . I want to finish my April Camp NaNo novel before I start my July one.

    Thanks for the informative post!

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  5. Great post! I've started a blog for teen writers over at:

    http://youngwriterscafe.wordpress.com/

    I'm really excited about it so if any of you guys want to check it out, I'd be thrilled.

    I'm still building up my readership so any comments would be appreciated.

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    1. Oh, I love your banner! So cute and colorful, Samantha.

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  6. My first blog had no theme and consequently, all the posts (apart from the ones where I was interviewing authors -- nope, make that one author) sucked. My new one actually has structure: every other Monday I post a song which is good to write to, the week with no Music Monday, on Wednesday I do a writing post, and every Friday I write about a book I liked. The last Sunday of the month I also post a recipe. It's sort of a mash-up of all my hobbies, but based mostly around books/writing. The recipe thing is really just for fun.

    So far, I don't have a huge readership, but it's doing phenomenally better than my old blog, so that's something at least. It's called (the new one) "Perfect Companions Have Pages and Prose", if anyone was interested :)

    And I started it for two reasons: 1) I wanted to start building a platform, and 2) my friends and family were sick of me obsessing about books, so now I can ramble on about how much I love a certain character on the blog instead, lol.

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    1. I like that idea of posting a song to write to!

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    2. You should post stuff on your blog more often... (hint hint) :D

      -Abby

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    3. Thanks Bookishqueen! It's a pretty fast thing to do for when I don't have much time (thank god for YouTube, right?) but I still feel like I've blogged for that day ;)

      And Abby, I PROMISE I'm starting again tomorrow! I abandoned my blog while I was in hospital (apart from the stuff I promised someone I'd do for her blog tour, because I couldn't really let her down) but I will most definitely get back into my routine now. Thanks for checking it out, by the way :)

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    4. Hannah, recipes are a huge draw for blogs! That's why there's zillions of food blogs I guess, because people are constantly trying to figure out what to make next.

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    5. What to make next? The answer is cake pops. Seriously, if you haven't made them, DO! It's the one thing cuter than a cupcake :)

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  7. I like to blog, but it takes me a while to write and I don't have much time lately so it's been kind of put on the back burner.

    I could have used the massive word war last week : ) I hate editing ...
    (I am starting to feel like all I do on here is complain)

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    1. I'm so scared of editing. D: I should be editing...but...but...I don't know where to even start. *facepalm*

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    2. Editing is an acquired taste, I think, but a lot of writers come to love it more than the writing itself :)

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    3. I like editing the story and paragraphs, but not the nit picky grammar. I can do it, but I just don't enjoy it. Best part is my mom loves to edit grammar! Yeepee for me : )

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  8. Word War? Yes!

    I have a book review blog that I post on about three times a week. I knew from seeing other amateur blogs that I needed to have a definite thing to write about. It had to be something I would enjoy writing even if few people read it. I chose to post reviews and then during the summer I am posting Writing Tips. It is working for me.

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    1. That's wonderful! I'm so glad you've found something that works for you.

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  9. I actually just started blogging about a month ago. I haven't been very consistent about it, but I still think that it's fun. I don't really write about writing on it, though. I really just write about all the random adventures that I have (since I live in Africa) I might start doing book reviews too. :)

    A word war! Yes! I've never done one before, but I can't wait to try it! Maybe it'll help me to get more words on the page than I normally do. :)

    Great post, Stephanie!

    -Abby

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    1. A unique story like yours (living in Africa) can be a big draw. Pioneer Woman started out just talking about her life as an "accidental country girl" and I've heard it estimated that she makes a million dollars off her blog now. So...keep it up :)

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  10. I'm going to launch a new blog in the next couple of weeks. It's a little bit different from what I'm used to, but I think it's worth a chance.

    http://inspirationalshortfiction.blogspot.com/?m=1

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  11. I love word wars.

    As for blogging, for me, it's a way to get my thoughts out, whether it's book reviews, posts about writing, or excerpts from my writing. I don't anticipate a huge fan base, but then again, I'm not really looking for one. It has provided me a way to connect with some fellow teen writers, though, which is cool.

    And it gives my grandpa something to read, apparently. (What can I say? I'm pretty popular.) I think he's my biggest fan.

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    1. I think that's great, Katia! And yay for supportive grandpas :)

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  12. Thanks for the thoughtful post! So far, I just feel very bleh about most blogging, but see people constantly talking about a blog like it's a Thing You Need To Have, so... yeah.
    Looking forward to the Word War! I'm in the same position as Sarah - need to finish my April novel sometime before July. :p

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  13. Sweet Jalapeno chili peppers! These posts always come in the nick of time! I started a blog two weeks ago called escaping normal and I had a lot of worries about it. The purpose is to reach out to other young readers and writers and people who fit in better in fictional worlds like myself. Ofcourse my biggest concern is what if noone cares what I have to say? What if they check out one post and immediately write me off and that's why I'd been holding off creating one for so long. I checked my stats yesterday though and noticed that though there were no comments, i'd had 14 views! And one of them were from germany!(or some country like that. Oh and ermm I guess I should add the fact that maybe four of the views were mostly me checking up on it. But still, I was sooo excited and decided I would continue blogging. I just hope as time progresesses I will gain many more readers and have a great platform by the time I get published. Fingers crossed :)

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    1. Hey, just read your post on Escaping Normal and loved it. Your name is pretty cool, too, coming from Rumpelstiltskin and all.
      I think you'll do great, keep it up and God bless! : )

      (MJ)

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    2. First of all, have to say I adore the name "Escaping Normal." Second, I'll be reading it now. ;)

      What, is this post like an awesome blog-promoter or something?!

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  14. Ok, the word war sounds fun, not sure I can wait all the way till Monday for details, though. Patience is not my best attribute. ; )

    (MJ)

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  15. Hey, good timing! I just opened my blog about all things fiction. I basically did it because I keep coming up with things to write about, and TV shows and such I think more people should watch, stuff like that. I have an art tumblr and a webcomic too. I think they're good ways to get people interested in the characters I put forth. :>

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  16. I also love to blog--REALLY love it, like I post almost every day. I include pretty much anything I'm interested in, but most of it is book reviews. Unfortunately, lately I haven't liked a lot of the books I've read . . . will publishing houses be turned off by my criticism of THEIR books, especially if I wanted to publish with them? Agh, I hope not. I'm not sure who I want to publish with at the moment though.

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  17. I really enjoy blogging!! When I started I didn't even really know what a blog was, but my mom recommended it because she said I'd enjoy it and it was a great thing to do if you liked writting!! I blog about my life at the momment because I have a crazy life. Not normal. I also just started a movie review blog!! I'll probobly start a blog about my passion when I ever have the time to really write.lol. I really like the idea of a word war!! Unfortunatly it's the week of exams for me so I probobly won't win. Still, I'll see how much I can do between exams and home chores!!!

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  18. Can't wait for the word war! I have finals next week, but I'll try to find a way to write between studying :)

    I'm considering possibly starting a blog for book reviews, so this is a helpful post.


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  19. I started my book blog a year ago this week and it has a couple of thousand views and about forty comments xD it's not huge traffic but it makes me happy and the books I get from netgalley are always a bonus!

    I post about twice a week with long book reviews an then the occasional article about writing and reading in general, and I've hosted a book tour and done stuff like that so it's really enjoyable! Plus I've made friends in the blogosphere from all around the world!

    It's www.darquessedreams.blogspot.ie although my name will probably take you there. As you can say I didn't choose the best URL but I like my header - Rebel Reading, and it doesn't seem to have done my blog any harm.

    So it's a great pastime and good for bashing writer's block!

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  20. I've been considering starting a writing blog, because I have a lot of things to say regarding books and writing in general and I'm honestly not sure if I want to fill up my Tumblr with those, when I've established myself as a fandom "blogger" who also happens to write. (And I can discuss the authors whose blogs I follow and books I obsessively love without driving my family insane.)

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