Grammar

Tips For Gaining New Followers on Your Blog

If bloggers all share one common conceit, it’s that we’re hungry for followers. We like the idea that people are reading what we post on the Internet, and we’re always looking for ways to make sure that plenty of people discover our work and that they keep coming back. And while there’s no correlation between the number of followers and book sales (I wish there was, though), having followers can lead to some book sales on occasion.

Here are some tips I’ve found useful at one time or another for gaining followers on my own personal blog. Now, there’s no guarantee that any of these tips will be helpful for your blog. At best, a combination of these might be helpful, but that’s for you to find out. Like any technique in this business we try to increase sales and readers, it’s all trial, error, and learning from the past so we can learn from the future.

DO NOT ask for people to follow you! I know some people really want followers, but asking for other bloggers to follow you, especially in a comment on a blog post, sounds a little desperate, which can be a major turn off to some bloggers. There’s a better solution to get a blogger to check out your blog, especially if it’s a blogger you really would like to follow you.

Converse. If you read a post by a blogger or really like their blog and you would like them to follow you as well, then talk to them. Have a lengthy comment conversation where you go over issues or points made in the blog post. Engage them, and let the comments you leave speak for themselves. I’ve been drawn to certain loggers just by a single conversation we’ve had over comments on their or my blogs, and vice versa (I think. Maybe once or twice). If your comments really resonate with a blogger, then they may be drawn to look over your blog (if they’re not already reading your blog at the moment) and maybe then they’ll click the Follow button.

Also…

Blog often. I think a lot of us at first only blog when we feel we have something important to say. But that only increases the pressure to have something relevant to say, and may contribute to us blogging less, which may lead to readers not finding us because we have a small body of work. So instead try blogging more often. It doesn’t have to be big or groundbreaking or important. It can be a small revelation you had about a character, or how a day with your kids inspired you to write a story, or even the frustrations you have with your old computer and how you can’t wait to get a new one. I have a couple of friends who blog once a day every day, and they have a lot of followers, blogging on things going on in their lives, sharing excerpts from their WIPs, and the latest in STEM accomplishments and science fiction, to name but a few. You don’t have to write a post every day if you don’t want to, but writing often, even on the little things, can help people find you.

Blogging often also makes us better bloggers. We get a feel for it, like how we get a feel for fiction writing by reading and writing a lot. We learn how to write a compelling blog post from blogging often and from reading other blogs. And that brings me to my next point.

Always be on the lookout for an interesting blog. I love Freshly Pressed on WordPress, because I’ve read really interesting articles and bloggers through it (I actually discovered this blog through Freshly Pressed, by the way). One should always be on the lookout for an interesting blog or blog post, not just on Freshly Pressed but anywhere else you may run into them. And if a post really catches your attention, don’t just Like it, comment on it. Likes are nice, but comments really engage.

Tags! Tags help readers find your blog articles just as much as keywords do. So make sure you have a tag for most or all of the points covered in your blog post and maybe it’ll help people find your blog, or even get Freshly Pressed (in which case, I might become jealous of you).

Stay consistent to the main theme of your blog. Most of our blogs revolve around our writing careers, so we should keep our posts revolving around writing, our respective genres, the latest updates of our books, etc. Sure, it’s okay to maybe talk about something interesting in your life or maybe a political issue you feel passionate about, but don’t do it so much that you deviate from the main theme of your blog more often than you actually write about it. Otherwise you might lose followers who signed up to hear about you and your writing, rather than twenty posts about your job or church and then maybe one about your book, over and over again.

Use pictures. A WordPress administrator actually wrote a post a few years back and published it on Freshly Pressed. One of the tips he or she (I can’t remember which) gave was that one should try to use pictures, as they can spice up some blog posts, especially ones where it might seem to the reader as just one long list of text without end and they might lose focus.

Maybe I should use a picture in this article…

Remember your grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Just like readers hate horrible grammatical errors, typos, and things of that nature in the books they read, they get really annoyed with that in blog posts. So try and keep grammatical rules in mind, make sure you’re spelling that word correctly, and don’t use a semi-colon when a period or comma would do just fine.

Have fun with it. The main thing with blogging is that you have to enjoy it somewhat. If you treat it as a chore, it’ll come off that way in your blog posts and people might not want to read your work. But if you like it and get into it, that feeling might reveal itself in your blog posts.

 

Like I said, these techniques don’t always work for everyone. These are just ones I’ve felt have helped me. But in our line of work, where we experiment as we write and publish and market, you never know. These tips, as well as those from other writers, could prove extremely helpful in building your audience.

What sort of tips can you give other authors on building audiences and gaining followers?

Categories: Blogs & Websites, General Writing, Grammar, Marketing & Promoting, Social Networking, The Writer & Author, Writing as a Business | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

Comparing Yourself with Others

Comparing your writing to another author can be positive or negative, depending upon how you use it.

A few authors out there slam a fellow author’s book with one and two star reviews. Some of these reviews were honest evaluations while others were not.

Base your critique on such criteria as readability, storyline, plot durability, realistic dialogue, grammar and more. If you do not believe you can do this, then do not write a review. There is nothing wrong with that.

Authors need time to write their own stories, engage in social media and do whatever else to promote their work and if this leaves little time to read others’ materials and write reviews then do not do it.

I write reviews because it keeps my followers informed on what else I am doing besides my work in progress. However, you need to do what works for you.

Reading, though, does help you with your own work. I gleam a lot from reading (when I have time to do so) in the way of word choices, character names, plot ideas and descriptions.

Currently, I am reading Mary Connealy’s Calico Canyon. The villain is Parrish. I like the way Connealy describes him. “But his temper goaded him. He hungered to make her sorry for what she’d done. The image of her cowering under his fists kept him awake at night and rode him like a spur [my italics] all day.”

Playing off one another is great as long as we are not taking their words and ideas verbatim. There really are only so many story concepts out there, but the bends and turns we add make the difference. Take, for example, the Twilight series. The gut of the story is romance with a werewolf twist.

Remember to write your way, however. If you try to write like another author, you will fail. After all God gave you your own gifts not another’s. In my work, I try to set a scene with the five senses.

I also like to include historical details, such as I did in Ruth Ann Nordin’s and my anthology, Bride by Arrangement, set in Lincoln, Neb., in 1876. The book includes two novellas. Ruth’s story is The Purchased Bride and mine is She Came by Train. Below is an excerpt from my novella highlighting an old hymn:

“As the afternoon sun rays glimmered on the pearly keys, Opal settled herself on the piano stool. Opening one of the hymnals, she turned the page to ‘When the Roll is Called up Yonder.’ Stroking the keys, her fingers graced the notes. She sang as she played the tune.

“‘When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound and time shall be no more, And the morning breaks, eternal, bright, …’ Footsteps approached. ‘When the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there. … When the roll is called up yonder., I’ll be there.’ Finished with the chorus, she turned to Mr. Crowley, who stood in front of her. ‘Yes?’

“‘Miss Preston, you have two visitors. One is named Ada Wilcox.’”

My brother loved reading an author who added Native American details into his work. Doing this helps set your writing apart. However, if you are one who does not care for research (which takes time) then write what fits you. I enjoy learning about time periods and how people lived. By the way, one of the best ways to gather information is to visit historical homes.

I also read a variety of genres, including romance, mystery, suspense and non-fiction. I read Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln. It gave you a wonderful feel for the time period which helps me with my own writing. Even heartwarming, spiritual true stories, such as Heaven is for Real, enables me to capture emotions and to be able to use these in my own work.

In conclusion, it can be good to compare yourself to others if you do this with the right intent but also stay true to yourself. Write your own story. Garner methods and styles from others, but as you do so remember to fashion your own storyline and descriptions according to your own heart and dictates. God created you as you are so devise your writing as such. The Lord’s blessings to you.

Categories: Characters & Viewpoints, General Writing, Genres, Grammar, Social Networking, The Writer & Author | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Do a Flashback

Flashbacks appear in many novels, comic books, television shows, and movies, yet they are some of the most difficult sequences to write in all of fiction. After all, how does one take a reader from the present point in the story to a former point in the story and then back again without a visual dissolve and a strange tint or border to the scene followed by another dissolve like they do on TV? It’s not easy, and it requires some practice to get any good at it. And even with practice it can still be a lot of work writing a flashback sequence. I’ve done some flashback scenes myself, sometimes several in a single novel, and I always wonder how to go about doing it.

I’m not sure if these tips will work for everyone, but here are some I’ve picked up over the years, and I’ve found each and every one of them helpful in writing flashback scenes. Some I’ve learned from other authors, others I’ve learned on my own, and a few I cannot remember where I picked up, but wherever they came from I’m grateful for them. And if you have any tips for doing flashbacks, please leave us a comment. I’ll add it in at a later date.

1. Is a flashback necessary? I know it seems silly to add this one in, but it’s one I learned the hard way. In the first draft of my novel Reborn City, I had a character flashback to a romantic encounter she had six months prior to the events of the novel. I nixed it from the second draft though for two reasons: one was that I already had enough flashbacks in that novel, so it seemed like I was spending too much time in the past, and the second was that this one scene really didn’t add anything to the characters or to the story. So asking if a flashback is necessary isn’t always a bad idea. It can actually save you some time.

2. What does the flashback do? You may be thinking at home, “It tells us a past event in the story or in the character’s life”. That is correct. So my next question is, if the flashback is the event in the past that needs to be told, why does it need to be told? Does it explain something vital about the character? Does it explain why the world of the character is the way it is? These are important questions, and every time I do a flashback, I always consider this question so that I know one-hundred percent whether or not I should use the flashback.

And now for actually implementing the flashback after deciding it’s necessary. Here’s some ways to start and end one:

3. Start a new chapter. This is the method that usually works for me. In the previous chapter I say that the character has just realized something that relates to a past event or that they’ve been knocked out and are dreaming of the past, or their thoughts have wandered and they found themselves looking to the past. Then I’ll start the flashback in the next chapter. By the next chapter I’ve gotten them back to the current events to connect the flashback to what’s happening now, or they’ve woken up with a terrible headache, or they’ve come out of their thoughts and they’re wondering how they got into the hospital’s ICU and no idea where the exit is (I’ve actually written that last scenario).

4. Use a transition mid-scene. I’ve seen this method in a few novels, but the one that always sticks in my mind is the many flashbacks in Stephen King’s IT. His flashbacks usually went something like this:

“…Beverly bent down next to Eddie. She couldn’t believe this was happening. Eddie was one of them, he was their navigator, he was the first one…

…he was the first one to come to her. He was shorter than her, nervous, but he was ready.”

The important thing with these sort of transitions is not to jar the reader too much. It takes a real expert at flashbacks to do a flashback mid-scene that goes “Bob was running while bullets flew around him and it reminded him of his time working for the CIA when he became embedded in a terrorist cell” without making the reader go “What the heck just happened here?”

If you do decide to do a mid-scene flashback, a change in font or using italics to differentiate between the present and flashback, or a series of identical symbol before and after the flashback (popular symbols include *** or ~~~) can help readers transition more easily into the flashback and help the story flow more easily.

5. Have your character tell the event to someone. This isn’t always considered a form of flashback, but I consider it one. It’s useful for books where the idea is a fictional person writing down his/her memoirs or telling someone their life story, like in a psychologist’s office. And in my opinion, it’s a method for those memories that a character is uncomfortable with. For example, in my novel Snake, the titular character relates his first kill to another character this way because he’s not proud of the way that event went down and tries not to think about it. Telling it this way offers a unique chance for a character to tell the events in his/her own voice, rather than the voice of a third-person narrator. The only difficult part is, if you’re not using this method for the whole book, then for the brief time you’re using it, keeping the flashback in the voice of the character rather than in the voice of the third-person narrator.

6. Use a video or a diary or something along those lines. I didn’t think much of the novel Catching Fire, but I did find it ingenious that the way Katniss and Peeta found out about their mentor Haymitch’s Hunger Games and the traumatic experiences he suffered was through a video. It was very well written, and it explained a number of things about Haymitch that had been left up to the imagination at that point. Using a recorded medium like a video, diary, poetry, or other means is a great way to do a flashback without directly involving the character the flashback may be about, such as the case with Haymitch.

7. What tense and POV? My final point is on questions some writers have on tense and point of view. People often worry about tenses in flashbacks, if it should be changed or different just for that particular scene. Sometimes they’ll even change the point of view for a flashback. I think the best way to do it is not to worry about the tense too much while writing the flashback and just use the same tense you’ve been using the whole novel. If you have been using past tense third-person omniscient narrator, continue in past tense third-person omniscient narrator. If you use present tense, second-person point of view, continue with second-person point of view. If you really have to change the tense though, then do so, but consult with another writer, an editor, or a beta reader on what tense would be best before doing so.

 

I hope you enjoyed these tips and found some of them useful. Flashbacks are great ways to tell back-story, develop characters or plot, and use exposition in a novel. Some flashbacks can even become the most memorable scenes in a novel, if well written and executed correctly. They’re difficult to do, but with enough practice, an author can incorporate them into most novels and enhance the story greatly through their presence.

Categories: General Writing, Grammar | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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