Happy One Year Blogiversary To Me!

Actually it was this past Saturday that I posted my first blog post, but things have been PRETTY CRAZY this last week in Query Land (IN A FREAKING AWESOME WAY) and I can’t wait to be able to tell you.

Anyway, yeah, it’s been one year! I honestly didn’t know if I could last past two months blogging, but I’m so glad I faced my fear and ventured into this wacky world. I’ve met so many amazing people online (and then in person at conferences) that I shudder to think where I’d not be today if I hadn’t started blogging and tweeting. (Did that sentence make sense? Hey, it’s morning. You know what I mean.)

I was kind of surprised to read what I thought I’d be blogging about since I was just taking a stab in the dark: “writing tips, book reviews, musings, questions about my work in progress, the occasional rant.” I don’t think I’ve done a rant, but I was most surprised about the book reviews, because early on I decided not to do them at all as I didn’t want to delve into that quagmire. However, I surprised myself recently by doing a review of recent geeky romances and enjoyed that.

This milestone is a nice kick in the pants though, because lately I’ve been remiss in posting regularly. I had two conferences exactly a month apart and another next week (!) and then the craziness of querying in earnest, which started on 9/13. So this post is me recommitting to a regular schedule, which will be (except when away on vacation or at conferences):

  • Mondays: First Monday of the Month–Monday Hunk Who Reads, rest of them reader-focused posts.
  • Wednesdays: Writing Craft or Writer’s Life posts
  • Saturdays: Weekend Grab Bag
  • Sundays: Six Sentence Sunday

Here’s my blog stats:

  • 47,479 all time views
  • Highest views in one day: 648
  • 150 blog followers (115 via WP, 26 via email, 9 via feedburner)
  • The most popular page of all time? Monday Hunk Who Reads – Dan Stevens (3,283 views since it posted on 1/9/12)

So happy to be among you all and thank you so much for your support this past year! Do you blog? If so, are you happy you’re doing it? Did you think it would be difficult too?

Yes, You Should Blog and Tweet Before You’re Published

funny pictures of cats with captions

Are you an unpublished writer without a blog? Not tweeting? Well, you should! And here’s why.

Today’s post was inspired by the guest post by Heather Kopp last week at agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog, 7 Reasons to Quit Balking & Start Blogging. She makes some very good points and I’d like to add some more to them from my own experience.

I’d meant to do this post months ago when I ran across a blog post from a writer who posted that tweeting and blogging, she discovered, was not beneficial. The problem was her reasons for doing it and her methodology. See, she’d just published her first book and wanted to get the word out and heard that blogging and tweeting helped. So she set up a blog and a twitter account and went at it, and got no results. The problem was not only her timing, but the way she went about it. We all know those tweeters, who only send out auto-tweets promoting their book and you’ve never heard of them and they don’t engage you on twitter. I think at her stage, her audience was readers, and only readers who’ve found her book through other means would seek her out and follow her. But would a reader only be interested in Buy My Book tweets? No. Anyway, let’s move from that example, as I think enough has been blogged about the perils of this type of approach by others more articulate than me.

Let’s just use the above example as Reason #8 (picking up from Gardner’s post)…

8. You need to build your audience BEFORE you’re published. True, at this stage you’re not targeting readers because they have nothing to buy and read, but there are plenty of examples of folks who did this who benefited when her book came out. I think Jody Hedlund is one, am I remembering right? She’d built up a tribe of supporters who then wanted to help promote her when she published.

9. You are missing out on a whole passel of contacts that can help you. I started blogging and tweeting in September and felt really, really self-conscious, since I hadn’t published anything. It felt very strange and I really thought I wouldn’t last past two months, because who would want to visit my blog?? And for what reason?? I forged ahead anyway, and boy, I can’t tell you how much I don’t regret it. I’ve made SCORES of friends who have helped me learn so much more about my craft, who have given me encouragement, you name it. I’ve also found my Beta readers this way. I can’t honestly imagine where I’d be right now if I hadn’t started in September, but I can tell you, I’d be a whole lot further behind on my learning curve.

One of them, Jami Gold, I connected with back around Thanksgiving when she needed some quick Betas. I stepped up and we struck up an email correspondence, helping each other with pitches and queries. I then Beta’d her full and she recently Beta’d mine and really truly helped me see just what I needed to do to make my piece stronger. She’s been so helpful and supportive she even let me call her to hash out some writerly stuff and we’re going to be roommates for RWA.

I also wouldn’t have met Stephanie Lawton (via Twitter) and learned about the Mobile Writer’s Guild, which I’m now Vice President of and have met other wonderful writers in my local area. I also can’t always attend my local RWA chapter meetings because of my day-job work schedule, but tweeting helps me keep up with my fellow members.

And where would I be without my Six Sentence Sunday buddies? I’ve made wonderful friends through it, and discovered some new fave authors whose books I’ve bought.

None of this, none of the knowledge I’ve gained, none of the friends I’ve made, would have happened if I hadn’t started. Plus, I’d be a month away from going to my first national writers conference (RWA) and not know a soul. I can just picture myself (cuz I’ve been there) wandering around, watching others greet people they know. But now I’m a month away from not only learning a bunch of stuff, but a month away from meeting all the people I only know by name and their profile pic!

10. It CAN help in your actual writing output. I know it can be a time sucker, constantly checking Twitter, but once you get over that need to stay on top of EVERYTHING (because you finally realize you can’t), it’s wonderful for not only making new friends and learning about writing, but it can also help you with your output. Just hop onto the #1k1hr thread and you’ll see. You’ll meet other writers who are wanting to sit down for an hour and just write. You agree on a start time and you don’t come up for air until the end of the hour, when you report your output. This has helped me tremendously in meeting my daily goals and to stop me from obsessively checking all my online stuff.

11. Potential agents can find you. I personally haven’t had agents find me this way, but I have heard of it happening. I have had an agent who requested a full who commented in her email that she loved my Monday Hunk Who Reads. They ended up passing, but still, that was cool :) By having a blog, you are showing your brand, what you are like as a writer and person, and it can help them decide.

12. You’ll be stronger when you do publish. This is rehashing #8 somewhat, but I think it’s important enough to circle back to after showing all the other benefits. Now, when you do publish a year, two years, three years later, you’ll not be one of THOSE on Twitter who is only me, me, me and no one’s ever heard of you. No, instead you’ll have writer friends who support you and want to see you succeed. THEY’LL promote you. I know, because I help promote those that I’ve met since September whose work I’ve read and liked. Writers read, and they have family and friends who ask for recommendations all the time.

What do you think? Are you a writer worried about jumping in before you’ve published? Are you already blogging and tweeting like me? Do you have any other reasons why it’s a good idea? Please share!

Can You Hear Me Now? Has the hashtag outlived its usefulness?

funny pictures of cats with captions

Lately there have been posts cropping up from veteran bloggers about blogger fatigue. This week, it continued in a way that brought to light some specific problems and solutions. On Tuesday of this week, Kait Nolan sent out a cry for mercy in her post Social Media Ennui in which she talks about how much the world of blogging and Twitter has changed for her since she started. It’s now harder for her and other veterans to find interesting posts and generally have a good chat on Twitter. Wednesday, Roni Loren followed up with The Life Cycle of a Blogger – Ten Stages in which she plots out in a humorous way the various stages bloggers pass through (I think I’m still at Stage 1) and helps to put things in perspective for old hats like her and complete n00bs, like me.

Today, Jami Gold brought her take to the discussion with The Blogging Cycle: How Do You Stay Sane? and detailed how she was going to try to keep us n00bs in mind when tweeting, which I was thankful for. I had a long comment typed out on my phone to her post and the dang thing rebooted. Argh! I didn’t have a chance to recreate it before I got home, though. But, I got to thinking in the car about this week’s discussion and decided to write this post instead.

Kait commented on Roni and Jami’s posts about what was really at the heart of her post, and that is the misuse and overcrowding of hashtags she follows.

Since this whole world of blogging and Twitter is new to me, I didn’t know any different. Reading Kait’s post made me a tad envious of the good old days, when the writing community sounded pretty tight and supportive. I felt like the late comer to the cool party that’s now not so cool.

It got me to thinking, though, that hashtags are like real life parties. Some parties are intimate cocktail or dinner parties where great discussions take place and new friends are made. Where people can be heard. Others are the kind where the band is blaring in your ear and it’s so crowded you can’t move.

Both kinds of parties can be fun if you know in advance which it is. The intimate parties are perfect when you want to discuss the latest geo-political ramifications or deconstruct Star Wars from a feminist standpoint. But if you go there thinking it’s going to be a balls-to-the-wall-wooo!-another-shot-guys! kind of party, you’d be mighty disappointed.

funny pictures - Henry couldn't remember much about his birthday party, but from the taste in his mouth, he was sure he'd had a good time.

Likewise the big ones can be annoying as all get out if you’re not in the right mood, or you can join the fray and end up taping colored napkins to everyone’s butts and/or boobies.

Perhaps what Kait is bemoaning is that she and others like her have been enjoying a nice intimate cocktail party that has now devolved into THE hottest night club where everyone’s shouting to be heard above the pulsing beat. I know I’ve seen some great Twitter etiquette posted before that you should behave like you’re at a cocktail party (i.e. would you go up to someone at a party and just start self-promoting?) But maybe the problem is, it’s now no longer a cocktail party. We can post etiquette advice, but I think the nature of the party has changed. What might be the answer is not to look at social networking or blogging as being overcrowded but that the places you’ve enjoyed in the past have now become too crowded: certain hashtags.

Maybe instead of trying to weed through the crowd and trying to find the others who aren’t bumping and grinding, a new way to use Twitter needs to be found?

Or maybe creating more finite hashtags, and ditching the overcrowded ones, so that those who do want to hang in a more quiet setting can do so? I also have started using lists more, so that I curate who shows up in that stream. So instead of just anyone showing up with a lamp shade on their head and their latest book in hand, only the ones I want to see show up.

What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on how we can let the crazy partiers get their groove on but have a quiet room off to the side? What new hashtags can we use? Maybe #querylettertips #vetwritingtips #newbiewritingtips #writerwatercooler?