Three Different Ways to Approach Blogging as a Novelist [With Examples]

If you’re a novelist, should you have a blog?

Opinions differ! You might have been told that you should blog, because you need to build a platform, or because it’s a good way to get people onto your site and then onto your mailing list, or because publishers / readers / the media will want it … or for almost any number of reasons.

My take on it is this: You don’t need to blog. It might well be helpful to have a blog, but it might also end up taking time that could be better spent on other novel-marketing activities.

If you do decide to blog, there are a few different ways in which you might approach it. Here are three quite different examples from three different authors:

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Could Firmer Boundaries Help You Dramatically Increase How Much You Write?

Back when I was a student, I had long vacations. Sometimes, I’d attend my previous writing group, back in my home town, where members would bring about 1,000 words of their work-in-progress to read each Monday evening.

Guess how many words I wrote each week?

About 1,000. It took me the whole of a Monday, sometimes, in fits and starts.

These days, with two kids and housework (on top of freelancing commitments), I can easily hit 1,000 words in an hour.

What’s the difference? Stronger boundaries.

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Seven Ways to Market Your Self-Published Novel

Congratulations! You’ve published your first novel (or maybe your second or your third) and now you’re ready to market it.

This can be a daunting moment. I think all of us secretly hope that our novel will be miraculously discovered and recognised as the masterpiece it truly is … but we know that isn’t going to happen without some sort of marketing.

The good news – especially if the very idea of marketing makes you shudder – is that there’s no single “right” way to let the world know about your book.  There are lots of different techniques you might try, depending on the type of book you’ve written, and the type of author you are.

I’m focusing on self-published novelists in this post. Many of these suggestions will work just fine for traditionally published authors too, but as a self-publisher, you have full control over things like the price of your book – and carte blanche to market in any way you see fit.

I’ve also kept this list short: seven ideas rather than the 50+ you might find on some sites.  I’ve come across some huge lists of marketing ideas for novelists … but often I end up feeling that most of the ideas aren’t necessarily all that workable or impactful.

While there are an almost unlimited number of things you could do to promote your novel, in this post, I’m going to focus on seven very common ones:

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Your Website is Always a Work in Progress

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of authors, bloggers and freelancers launch their websites.

They rarely start out with a massively, gorgeous site. They normally begin with something simple but workable: perhaps it’s a free blog on WordPress.com, for instance, or a single page on About.me.

The wonderful (and sometimes frustrating) thing about websites is that they’re always a work in progress.

You never truly “finish” a website. Even if you don’t have a blog or “news” section that needs new material on a regular basis, you’ll still want to make updates.

You’ll publish a new book. You’ll start – or stop – offering a particular service. You’ll change direction (perhaps quite radically). And your website will need to evolve with you.

Whatever stage you’re at with your own website, this is good news! You don’t need to get it “perfect” from day one.

But … you also don’t want to become so used to your current website that you never change a thing.

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When Can You Call Yourself a “Writer”?

This is a question that comes up a lot for newer writers.

When can I call myself a “writer”?

Well, there’s no rule about it. Being a writer isn’t like being a doctor or a lawyer – you don’t need any special qualifications.

That can be very helpful, but it can also be tricky. When exactly do you turn from a not-writer into a writer?

Some transitions in life are stark. When my daughter was born, I became – instantly and irrevocably – a mother. (She was born the day before Mothering Sunday, which was a lovely moment to enter motherhood.)

When I was a nervous 18 year old starting at university, I became – for the next three years – an undergraduate student.

But the state of being a writer can feel like a bit of a quantum state. You don’t suddenly “become” a writer; equally, it’s not clear what might stop you from being a writer.

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Three Ridiculous Moans from New Writers … and How I’d Respond

Most writers are reasonably pragmatic about the realities of writing. While they might daydream (secretly or not-so-secretly) about their talent being “discovered” by someone prominent in the writing industry … they know that’s not really going to happen.

Occasionally, though, I come across fairly new writers whose expectations are so far removed from reality that they’re genuinely unreasonable. I’ve seen these views expressed on blogs, on social media, and letters to magazines.

Three moans that I’ve seen come up again and again relate to:

  • Agents and unsolicited manuscripts
  • Friends and family
  • Professional writers

Here they are … and here’s why I think they’re (at least somewhat) ridiculous.

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2017 Roundup: Did You Miss Any of These Aliventures Posts?

I’m going to be taking some time off over the Christmas and New Year period – so I won’t be blogging again until mid-January.

In the meantime, if you want a bit of holiday reading, here are some posts from 2017 you might like to catch up with … or re-read. (And if this isn’t enough for you, don’t forget that you can find all past posts here in the Archive.)

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Twelve Wise and Inspiring Quotes About Writing

December is always a big month for me: I love celebrating Christmas and the New Year, of course, but it’s also when my birthday falls (on December 12th).

For me, this time of year always involves some reflection on how the past eleven and a bit months have gone … and some thoughts about what I want to accomplish in the year ahead.

All year, I’ve been sharing some of my favourite quotes about writing on Twitter … and I wanted to repost some of the best here, in the hopes that you’ll find them encouraging and motivating too:

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Can You Freelance Just on the Weekends?

I had a great question in from a reader last week. He explained that he was in a full-time job and asked if it was possible to freelance just on the weekends.

I’ll give you the good news first:

Yes, it absolutely is.

Many freelancers start out working around a regular day job (or working around other commitments, like caring for kids). This often means they’re freelancing at unusual hours. When I began freelancing, I used to work on my clients’ blog posts from 6 – 7am, for instance.

Of course, there are some freelance roles that do require you to be at a desk during standard office hours. If you do the sort of freelancing where you need to have meetings (phone or face-to-face), obviously it’ll be tricky if you can’t ever take a weekday off.

A small number of freelancers also work “in house” – they go into a client’s workplace to do the actual work on site. That’s the exception rather than the norm, though: most freelancers can and do work from anywhere, and usually at any time.

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How to Be a More Disciplined Writer

In this month’s newsletter, I’ve been writing a short weekly article about procrastination and resistance, and I wanted to carry on this theme in today’s blog post. If you’re missing out on the newsletter, click here to find out about it – the link will open in a new tab so you don’t lose your place here!

Over the years – particularly since I started working for myself – I’ve done a lot of reading and thinking about procrastination and resistance. There’s no denying that they’re very real forces, and that they can be particularly destructive for writers.

(Before I get too far into this post, I should make it clear that I’m definitely not perfect! I have days when I spend far too much time reading Buzzfeed or TV Tropes when I should be writing…)

While some people like to imagine writers working in bursts of frenzied inspiration, the reality doesn’t generally look like that.

There might be wonderful moments of flow – I’ve certainly had writing sessions where I lost track of time because I was so focused on putting words on the page – but a lot of the time, being a writer is about sitting down and getting on with it. Even when you don’t feel “inspired”.

Whether you’re a freelancer, a novelist, a poet, or a student, you’ll be a more successful writer if you’re more disciplined about your writing.

What does that mean in practice?

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