Blog Business

I almost forgot to post! Thank you, Life Means Books, for reminding me!

Congratulations to those of you who raced with NaNoWriMo! How did it go? Please tell us your challenges and triumphs and what you learned along the way.

On November 20, 2020, Christie wrote, I recently picked up your book, Writer to Writer, for my daughter during the pandemic home time. I recently realized I could use a little inspiration as well. I started a business last year that has now moved completely online. With that comes the blog….for me…the dreaded blog. I was wondering if you may have some suggestions for a person new to blog writing?

I wrote back and asked Christie what kind of business hers is, and she hasn’t answered, but I moved her question up in the queue anyway because it seems urgent when so many enterprises are struggling. I hope the post will interest others, too, and I hope those of you who write a blog will offer your ideas.

I also hope Christie isn’t relying only on me for information. I’m sure there are more knowledgeable sources. I’d suggest googling and searching online bookstores. I’ll bet there are books on successful blogging.

This blog was sparked by an email from my publisher to all its authors, urging us to become more active on social media. I considered the options and decided a blog would suit me best, although since then, I’ve posted as well on Facebook and Instagram. I have eschewed (a word I rarely have a chance to use!) Twitter, because I’ve heard things about it that make me shudder.

So the impulse to blog came from the marketing side. I figure that the blog does have a small positive effect on sales of my books, and I hope that, as well as the blog, blog readers read my books, which I sometimes mention while I’m writing them. (As an aside, if you are more of a library-book reader than a book buyer, you can encourage your library to acquire my books, and I will be grateful.)

However, as the blog accumulated readers and writers started commenting, and because writing has my heart, creating it became a joy. And continues to be. As I’ve written many times, I love the helpful exchanges that take place here.

The blog has a voice, which is my voice at its most positive–but it is genuinely mine. If you met me in person, I think you wouldn’t be surprised at what I say and how I say it.

So that’s one strategy: we want to be ourselves on our blog. To achieve this, it may be helpful to look not only at my posts but also at the comments, because the comments are also written in a natural style that reflects the writer. I haven’t tested this, but I suspect I’d recognize the voices of several of you if I closed my eyes and someone read to me.

Write a page or two. Your blog posts don’t have to be long! As you write, imagine that you’re telling whatever you’re saying to a friend. Then show what you’ve written to a few supportive people. Ask them if you sound like yourself or if you’ve gone all formal. If you sound like a technical manual rather than yourself, edit for shorter words and shorter sentences. Include your own opinions about the topic, especially your enthusiasm.

I’m assuming that Christie is passionate about her business. We should make sure our readers know we care, which we can say head on. We can say, I love toenail clippers! Imagine life without them! I have devoted myself to them in all their variety, which I bring to you in my shop and now in these posts.

If you can, incorporate a little story in your post, because people are drawn to the shape of a story. Above, I gave this blog’s origin story. You can do the same. You can begin the blog with its origin story or with the origin story of your business.

As the blog continues, don’t worry about repeating yourself. I think of this blog as the writing analog of a wedding magazine. The topics are limited, but there’s always something new to say. Wedding dresses, for instance, are endlessly fascinating. Likewise, in writing: villains, plot, character development, and so on–but there are only so many.

Some people read all the posts in the blog, which is an undertaking by now. But others read just the latest one. I’m happy with either way of experiencing it.

Think about the audience you want. What will interest them? If you want to promote something in particular, consider why your audience will enjoy reading about it. I’d suggest not marketing constantly. You might give readers an insight into why you chose a certain item as something you wanted to sell. Is there a story behind it? What adventures has the business brought you to?

If you can persuade people to ask you questions, everything will be easier. (Thank you, everyone!) You’ll be certain that at least one person, and probably many more, wants an answer.

I don’t use images, but you may want to. Feel free!

My blog readers found me, with the help of NaNoWriMo. You may have an email list of customers. Let them know you’ve started a blog. Let family and friends know. Put a sign in your window. There must be other ways too that I don’t know.

Here are three prompts:

• Write a post from Rapunzel’s blog, which she writes in her tower.

• Your MC’s enemy writes a gossip blog, which is widely read. He posts viciously about your MC. Write his post. If you like, continue and write what follows.

• Your MC is a spy behind enemy lines. She writes a well-known cooking blog in which she conceals info for the intelligence service at home. When she realizes that her cover has been blown, she writes a final post, knowing she can’t use the usual code. Write the story and the blog posts. If you can, make the recipes part of it all.

Have fun, and save what you write!

  1. Hi Gail Carson Levine.
    I know that Ella enchanted was made into a movie a few years ago, it’s what first introduced me to your works.
    Can you please write about what it was like to be made into a movie? Did you have a say in the script or actors? How long did it take from you okaying it to when it was released?

  2. I love hearing about the business side of other authors’ lives. Thank you for sharing this, Gail.

    Christie, my friend recently took the Sticky Blogging course and has been raving about it. You might find it helpful too.

    As for marketing, I’ve heard two things that have stuck with me. The first is, instead of saying, “Look at me! Please buy this,” one should take the stance of, “There you are. Here, I made this for you.”

    The second is that good marketing isn’t selling stuff. Good marketing is making connections (friendships) and being relentlessly helpful. People naturally want to support their friends or people they trust. I think Gail has done a marvelous job of this with her blog.

  3. NaNoWriMo update: This was my seventh year both participating and winning, so it wasn’t really a question of if I would complete it or not. I had two different story ideas, so I ended up having a “main” one and one that I worked on when I was stuck on the first one. The first story was one where the first few chapters were hardest, when I was still figuring things out, while I had the first few chapters of the second already visualized in my mind, but wasn’t 100% sure what was going to come after. I ended up completing the first story (sorta—there are some summarized “to fill in later” parts) and the first quarter of the second.

    Things I’ve learned:
    It’s okay to brainstorm right in the middle of your story and count it towards your words. Editing is not allowed, but you can go back and write down what you would want to change if you could. If I only have a short time to write (or have a lot of distractions), I might write a brief summary of what I want the next scene to cover before I write it. The first draft is an unholy mess, but there’s plenty of material to work with when I get to editing.

  4. On a different subject, any advice on which books about plotting to get? I’m a die-hard pantster who vaguely understands the theory of plotting but has a hard time putting it into practice. So not necessarily books about how plotting works, although I’d take recommendations on that, too, but books about how to turn “these events happened in chronological order” into an actual plot.

    • My favorite is KM Weiland’s, starting with “Story Structure” and then “Character Arcs”. You can buy the books, but all of the information comes from her blog, helpingwritersbecomeauthors.
      Similar books include Save the Cat Writes a Novel and Story Genius by Lisa Cron. All three of them provide an outline that teaches you the parts of a story (inciting incident, major turning points, pinch points, etc).

      • I also really enjoyed “The Seven Basic Plots”, which gives a brief outline for each type, describes archetypes, uses tons of examples from both books and movies, and discusses modern trends… but it’s extremely long. It took me weeks to read, and I rarely take more than a day to read a book.

    • SluggishWriter says:

      The best book on plotting I’ve ever read is Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. It’s been recommended to me by a surprising variety of writers. It’s aimed toward screenwriting, which at first seems weird to read when you want to write a novel, but for the most part it actually isn’t much different at all. It also takes some time to think through and figure out what each of the plot points he describes really means, but it’s been amazingly helpful. I’m also a pantser, and it’s good to keep plot structure in the back of my head so I can start a new section of my book and think “Ah, this is beginning the B plot!” It helps me keep a big picture.
      (Note: I haven’t read Save the Cat Writes a Novel, but I’d still suggest picking up the original screenwriting version.)
      I even once did a bit of math to see if the screenplay page numbers used in Save the Cat matched up with the amount of page numbers in a book. Remarkably, the plot points of my story matched up almost exactly, and I hadn’t even tried to follow the Save the Cat plot method at all. I think Mr. Snyder’s on to something.

  5. This was my first year participating in NaNoWriMo. I set my word goal to 30,000, and I won! I don’t know if that completely counts since I didn’t write 50,000 words, but I’m very excited and have already started another novel!
    Also, I’ve been seeing rumors about a new Ella Enchanted movie, or a Two Princesses of Bamarre one. Are either of those really going to be made? Thanks!

  6. I have had a book review blog for several years. Voice is important as Gail says. My problem is that sometimes I get behind sharing books for readers and sometimes I don’t want to give up the great MG books and write about them on BESTBOOKSBYBETH. If you would like to read a variety of MG literary blogs, I recommend ALWAYS IN THE MIDDLE started by Greg Pattridge. Marvelous Middle Grade Monday features 5 -7 bloggers with reviews and good advice! Beth

  7. Pleasure Writer says:

    Amazing timing with this post!! I’m hoping to get a blog started by the end of the year, and I’m super grateful for this advice!

  8. I did NaNoWriMo for the first time and reached the 50000 word mark. I’m not quite done with the story yet, though. It was my first time drafting a novel, so there was a lot of floundering.
    Probably my biggest challenge was letting myself go with the flow of the story. I didn’t really have a plot, just a premise and an ending, so there were some really boring parts where I wasn’t letting anything happen. Once I realized that I needed to be spontaneous, things got a lot more interesting.
    It needs a lot of rewriting, so I must have done something right, 😉

  9. For my NaNoWriMo the last three years, I’ve been working on the same book. I started and finished editing the third draft this month with 80,000 words. Next year I might go back to the more traditional NaNo and start an entirely brand-new novel. My main take away: don’t let yourself get intimidated. More often than not, your problems are just in your own head. If you actually start writing, you’ll find that most of them disappear.

  10. Life Means Books says:

    I never heard of NaNoWriMo until I read Ms. Gail’s books on writing, so I couldn’t join this year. Luckily, I am planning on participating next year. I’m writing a trilogy, and I’m almost ready to move on to book #2. maybe I can work on book #3 next year. I congratulate anyone who had fun during November. I wish I had known it existed.

  11. I’d forgotten how fun writing can be! I hadn’t written anything in several months, and today I did a 2,000 word piece of fan fiction in about 2 hours. I was smiling nearly the whole time, and I’m really proud of what I came up with. I’ll probably still edit it some, though.

  12. Any tips on writing from an omniscient POV? It’s supposed to be a short story, so I’m just going from one perspective to another when I feel like it. (Those of you familiar with John Flannagan’s Brotherband Chronicles, something like that.) The problem is, the story is mostly being told by two people (so far, I might include more later), and the other POV’s are only for a paragraph or two. I really enjoy writing the other POV’s, so I don’t want to cut them completely. What should I look for (and look out for) when I’m editing it?

    • The main difference between omniscient and head-hopping is that omniscient has a narrator, whether implied or directly stated. So instead of hopping between POV’s, you’re telling it from the point of view of a narrator who for some reason knows the whole story, including people’s thoughts and feelings. The narrator can be God, or you as the author, or perhaps a character who is now older and knows everything that they didn’t know then. The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe is a great example for middle grade, or The Series of Unfortunate Events. If your narrator feels like using only two people, great. If they want to hope over into others for a little while, that’s fine too. It just needs to be all told in the narrator’s voice, whatever it is.
      Hope that helps.

  13. Dear Gail Carson Levine,
    I just want to say before anything else, I LOVE your books. I’ve read just about all of them and you’re my favorite author.
    I’m a really young author, in middle school. I started NaNoWriMo this year and I had the best time of my life. I was one of five people in my school to complete my goal. I saw your blog and thought that it was such a great idea!
    I have a question. I’m writing this book and I’m having a great time. But I guess the base of my question is: how do you get an editor? I’d really like to see what people other than my family members think of my book.

    • Gail Carson Levine says:

      Thank you!

      I’m delighted you’re having so much fun with your writing, and congratulations on completing NaNoWriMo!

      When I wrote my first book (as an adult), an art appreciation picture book, I asked a few librarians to read it. It never got published, but they liked it and encouraged me. A librarian or two might be interested in your writing.

  14. Life Means Books says:

    I’m having trouble with my character’s romance scenes. I’ve never done one before, but I just tried one. I’ll put it here, and any help would be great.

    The first thing she saw were his eyes. Silver. Clear as the jewels on the Emperor’s palace, deep as the ocean. Invigorating. Calming. Frightening. Entrancing. Warm.
    Looking into those eyes, Sora knew she wanted to be with this creature forever. The strength of his gaze was almost painful, but Sora endured it. She relished it. She hoped it would last forever.

    • Sounds good, as far as I can tell without context.

      I really liked “Writing the Christian Romance” (found it at my local library). I don’t write Christian, but I knew that a book like that would be appropriate for my younger audience.

    • The one thing I would say is that “creature” is a strange word to use. Unless you’re actually talking about an animal, I think “man” would probably be a better choice. And the description of his eyes seems a bit much, but that might just be my personal preference. But it sounds like a lot of YA “MC meets love interest” scenes, so I’d say you have a pretty good grasp of what a romance scene should sound like.

  15. Oh, I’m so late to the party– I was browsing your GR answered questions again, and I thought to myself, I’ve read both her books on writing (and most of her books NOT on writing)… why don’t I visit the blog. And here I am and I’m reading a little bit behind to see what’s happened this year and I did in fact do and ‘win’ NaNoWriMo! I am editing a novel draft. It’s my first novel– not short story, not even book of short stories, but NOVEL– and I’m, of course, absolutely terrified. I admit I am stealing a response of yours re:editing to talk about on my Patreon!

    Which brings me to my helpful advice, if Christie is still out there and looking at the comments. I have a Patreon, where I post long-form things for money. I am currently making $24 a month, which is not Stephen King levels of worldwide fame and success, but also not nothing, either– and it’s very comforting to know I make any money at all, and that the amount is slowly rising. I also post shorter long-form things on my Tumblr.

    I was very nervous about starting a Patreon, and I often asked people what precisely they wanted to read there. I got a lot of varying answers, but what I found was this– the people who liked my work absolutely did not care. I’d pitch ideas and they’d say “sure, whatever, any of those.” If I randomly invented a post idea nobody had ever heard of, they went along happily because it was something I, yves., wrote. And it made me realize that even for writers, it’s all about the persona…

    The people I see most successful on Patreon, consistently, are People. They have some kind of persona, and they sell it to you as much as possible– you’re not just paying for Christie’s product, you’re also *supporting Christie.* This means you’re selling yourself as much as everything else– your quirks, your hobbies, your Life Story, as Gail said. It helps to post selfies and talk about your dog and whatnot, but many quite private people are successful online. That would be my tip ^__^ Best of luck!

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