Saturday, November 19, 2011

Avoiding Blogger Burnout: Tips and Tricks to Stay Motivated

When I first started blogging, I was nervous. I remember the excitement and worry of each new post. I remember wondering if anyone would even read my posts, and being insecure about what they would think. I wondered if I might be brave enough to use my real name someday or --gasp-- my real picture. Then people started commenting. And following. And I wondered who the people were who commented and followed. I wondered what their blogs were like and what they wrote.

Eventually I made friends and saw them use real names... real pictures... before I knew it, so did I. Then along came Twitter and my world grew even larger. Thanks to Blogger and Twitter, I've made some of the closest friendships of my life. I've also found community in an otherwise rather lonely writing world.

But as time went on, blogging became less of a joy and more of a burden. I could easily go days or weeks without even thinking about it.

Is that such a bad thing? My blog is mine, a pseudo-personal space for me to be wholly and completely a writer. Non-online life takes precedent, and there are a multitude of other distractions online to keep a writer from his or her blog. Not to mention, well... the writing of the novel itself. Is the blog really even necessary?

Maybe not, but writing in any form exercises the mind. There is something to be said for the discipline of maintaining a blog and the ability to hold an audience. So, how do you stay motivated? Here are a few tips and tricks to try:

1. Create a Schedule

By setting a specific day and time when you sit down with your blog, you'll be less likely to accidentally go long periods without an update. Readers may also find it useful to know that you have a given day when fresh content will be up.

2. Slow Down

Some bloggers can write a daily blog post. I admit that I started this way during my first few months of blogging. But sustaining that kind of content long-term may not be realistic. Try setting a goal of weekly updates, and if anything extra comes up you can always add it in or schedule the post so you're ahead.

3. Drop the Guilt

There are so many fantastic blogs written by amazing people. It's not possible to visit them all, much less comment on all of them. When you do find a moment to read a blog, sometimes clicking the Share button is faster than commenting, and you can still show the author that you enjoyed their content. And the bottom line is, if you don't have time to get to other people's blogs, that's okay. They'll understand, just as you do.

4. Take a Break

Taking a step away from blogging can leave you feeling refreshed and ready to come back. If you know when you'll be back, leave a message on your page letting your readers know. If after some time you see that you're still not motivated to come back, you can always set your blog to "subscribed readers only" until you return. Your blog and all of its content will be right where you left them whenever you come back.

5. Redesign

Giving your blog a new look or adding a themes to posts ("Friday Faves", "Music Monday") can make your blog feel fun and new again.

6. Out of Ideas?

This might be the biggest hurdle to overcome. In most cases, people find websites in order to get something out of them.... specific information. But with most writer blogs I've seen, blogs are places to share about oneself; a mix between a living resume and a reflection of what's going on in that writer's life. The times I'm drawn into someone's blog voice, I tend to remember them and return. I want to be entertained. Think about why you visit someone's blog. Did you click a link on Twitter because the blog post sounded interesting? Did you want to hear opinions, or find out what a new follower was like? Did you just want to find another writer to relate to? Use these questions as jumping off points for your own blog posts because your blog is being treated similarly by other writers-- let's face it, our audience for our blog is the writing community. Take a look at your stats and see which pages have gotten the most traffic. It might surprise you.

7. Ask Yourself Why You Blog

Do you blog because you feel you have to? You may want to read this post by agent Mary Kole:Do Unpublished Writers Have to Blog? I've read other agents who differ in opinion, but the truth ultimately is, your novel matters more than you do in fiction. Blog about your cats or knitting or a day at the beach if it brings you joy, but not if it's because you feel it's the only way you'll get a book deal. Writing a great book is the only way any of us will get a book deal.

In case you're wondering, here's why I blog (pulled from my blog's sidebar):
I'm reclusive in the non-online world. I have to force myself to interact with others, though I can fake it convincingly in social settings. The truth is, I'm always drawn more to the world in my mind than the world around me... I prefer it here. I'm comfortable. But I do still want to share. I do enjoy community. I like the understanding that comes from talking to other writers. I want to find others like myself and commiserate, offer companionship, experience camaraderie and ultimately feel like I'm not all alone. So that's why I blog. And tweet. :P

~ ~ ~
Diana Paz is a web content writer and aspiring YA author. She was born in Costa Rica, grew up on Miami Beach, moved to Los Angeles in high school, and went to college in San Diego. Basically, she's a beach bum, but she did graduate from California State University, San Marcos with a Bachelor's Degree in Liberal Arts. She loves old movies, epic fantasy, all kinds of music, and heading to the beach with a good book. Preferably sipping a caramel frappuccino. Find her at her or on Twitter @dianapazwrites

Thursday, November 17, 2011

NaNoWriMo ... getting stuffed on filler and filter words

It's day fourteen of NaNoWriMo and I'm a bit behind. I'm working hard to get the word count back up to goal. I lost a couple of days due to family time. What I'm noticing after I write, and look back at what I've put on the page, is the use of filler and filter words. So many. I'm not worrying about them right now, I'll remove them during revisions.

Here's a few examples of the filler words I'm seeing in my work...
  • uh
  • you know
  • well
  • um
  • so
  • like
  • to look
  • to walk
Filter words--words that show us how the world is filtered through the character's view--look like this...
  • to be
  • to hear
  • to see
  • to smell
  • to touch
  • to know
  • to think
Here's an example from my NaNoWriMo project ...
With filter: I heard a gasp slip from Hudson. "What's happening?"
Without filter: Hudson gasped. "What's happening?"

If your character is seeing or hearing the action first and then the action happens, the action is being filtered through your character. This is show instead of tell. Of course, I'll be editing those out during revisions too. I try not to use them in the first draft, but writing a draft in a month, things are going to go bad. Very bad. Not to mention, my verbs are being supported by adverbs because they're so weak they need a crutch.

The magic happens during revision. Plus, using filter words certainly does add to my word count. Not only that, but they are there so that when I revise, I know what I was trying to describe. It's during the revision, when I'm not as rushed, that I'll find the perfect, magical word that can replace my bad writing. It's called a verb.

So what habits do you notice you do while writing your first drafts?