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John M. Wills

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How To Be A Successful Blogger

 

blogging
blogging (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I recently returned from a writers’ conference where I learned a great many valuable tips from fellow writers. One of the ways by which writers can get their work “out there,” is to use social media and blogs. That said, my friend and fellow author, Marilyn Meredith*, shared her insights on blogging.

  • Keep it short, use keywords and photos
  • Add links (particularly those that direct readers to buy your books)
  • If you’re a guest on another’s blog, follow their directions, and include your bio, book blurb and links in the post, rather than sending them separately
  • If you are a guest blogger, invite the host to be a guest on your blog
  • If you have a blog, follow some type of schedule for posting, e.g., every Tuesday. That way your followers know when to expect a post from you
  • If you have a book coming out soon, set up a blog tour. Find authors who write what you write
  • Captcha codes are a hindrance and keep people from commenting
  • Remind the host blog they can post ahead of time, and email them the day before
  • Promote each blog frequently on social media on the day your post appears
  • Thank the host in the comment box and check periodically for readers’ comments and respond to them

*Marylyn Meredith, is the author of the Rocky Bluff P.D. series under the name F.M. Meredith, and the Deputy Tempe Crabtree series. Visit her at: http://fictionforyou.com/ 

PSWA Results

John's yet to be released novel.
John’s yet to be released novel.

What a wonderful conference I just attended! My writing network continues to expand, as I met several new members to our organization: the Public Safety Writers Association. One couldn’t help but improve their writing after all of the excellent presentations and panels. Truly a worthwhile event.

I was blessed to have won multiple awards for my submissions to the writing competition. However, what pleases me most is that my next book, The Year Without Christmas: A Novel, won an award. It is set to be released in October, and tells the story of a family’s struggle to recover from a tragic accident. Two prevalent problems surfacing in our society today–PTSD and homelessness–themselves become characters in this compelling read. Watch my blog for further details.

The Conference

Casino logo
Casino logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is the first day of the Public Safety Writers Association Conference. We’re at the Orleans Hotel and Casino, where we’ve held the conference for the last several years. I am looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.

Try A Novella

Nightstand Cover low resI’ve had conversations with fellow writers who tell me they dream of writing a book. However, some of these aspiring novelists always seem to have a reason why they have yet to realize their dream. They insist their wonderful, unique storyline is sure to be widely accepted,  but then moan that the task of writing a book is just too demanding. Is that a valid excuse? I guess it might be. On the other hand, writing a book might also be a wonderful cathartic exercise.

In lieu of writing a 300 – 400 page novel, might I suggest writing a novella? It has many of the characteristics of a novel, yet lacks some of the structure and requirements. A novella is basically a long short story. If you research novellas, you will find varying opinions regarding what length they should be. The most common answer is probably somewhere around 20,000 words.

The novella is an interesting piece of literature because it doesn’t seem to fit well in conventional publishing mediums—magazines and books. It’s too long to be included in some online publications, yet it’s too short to be deemed appropriate for print.

Nevertheless, a novella is a great way for a writer to develop characters and plots. It’s also a good way to flesh out a writing portfolio. While there are no chapters in novellas, there can be distinct breaks to divide sections. Novellas contain protagonists and antagonists, conflicts, and more than enough space to fully develop settings.

So, where is the market for this type of writing? Some publishers may consider a novella as a print piece or ebook. However, Amazon recently introduced “Kindle singles” in their online store that specializes in standalone works like novellas. Writers follow simple instructions to upload their work and, voila, a best seller may be born.

I took a test drive at the Amazon Kindle store and created my own anthology, “The Nightstand Collection.” It’s a collection of my short stories and poetry. The process of self-publishing was straightforward and easy to understand. Amazon even provides a video demonstrating the steps involved in an easy to understand tutorial.

My recommendation? Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you’re reluctant to commit to a novel, try the novella. If you have success with writing a novella, you may have discovered your writing niche. Or . . . the novella may just be the springboard that launches your book career.

 

Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

"Writing", 22 November 2008
“Writing”, 22 November 2008 (Photo credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle)

I’m a member of the PSWA (Public Safety Writers Association), which means all of the members share a connection with public safety. As a result, we write about things we know, things we’re comfortable with, e.g., police work, firefighting, dispatching, etc. And while it’s not easy to write a novel, an article, or short story,being intimately familiar with the topic about which you are writing is certainly a plus.

There’s an old axiom advising writers to “Write what you know.” Good advice? Maybe. While writing about things you are familiar with makes the task less arduous, it also makes your writing more predictable. I think a better piece of advice to writers might be, “Write what you feel.”

In the past couple of years, I’ve been travelling that path. Having written several thrillers and dozens of training articles, I began to realize my writing was becoming too pre-packaged. It all seemed to reflect the same theme. Therefore, I started to experiment. I discovered a genre called flash fiction. This particular short story template limits the word count to a paltry sum of less than 1,000 words. Some formats, I found, were even more stringent, allowing less than 500 words.

Daunting as it seemed, I nonetheless accepted the challenge. To my surprise, the words flowed quickly and easily on to the page. Being constrained to a word count made my writing much tighter. My prose was crisp, my characters and scenery fresh and vivid. I wrote about love and hate, about loss and renewal. My endings were sometimes happy and other times sad and unpredictable.

In short, if you find yourself in a writing slump and everything begins to look the same, try something different. Write a love story, a poem, or a piece of science fiction. Tackle a topic you never thought you’d ever write about. This past year I even wrote several technical manuals—boring, but challenging nevertheless, and the exercise took me out of my comfort zone.

Writing is a gift we should never take for granted. This unique craft gives rise to emotion and passion, not only in those who write, but also in those who read. As with any living thing, writing needs nurturing. Don’t ignore your muse. Tend to it; baby it. Don’t ever let the writer in you become apathetic or comfortable. Challenge yourself, you won’t be sorry.

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