I illustrated my first ever blog post with a photograph of a chicken. Do I remember what the post was about? No. Did I have any inkling at the time of where this blog would take me? Not in the slightest. If I'd known that my blog would lead to a book publishing deal, a taster for a sitcom and a number of magazine articles, well, I might not have suffered quite so much along the way. And by suffered, I just mean the usual feelings of wretchedness and introspection we writers tend to experience between the highs. You know, those times when you think it would be easier to climb Mount Everest in flip flops than grab the attention of the publishing industry.
Well maybe it's time to try a different tactic. Maybe, instead of worrying about the publishing industry, you should be focusing on building a readership. Readers are what matter to them anyway. If you have readers, then you gain credibility.
My own blog was born out of a pressing desire to write and an impatience to be read. I didn't want to waste any more time waiting for editors and publishers to tell me whether I was good enough, I wanted to get my writing career moving. And not long after starting my blog, move it did.
My weekly blog was about my Mum's eccentric chandelier shop. The curious thing about my Mum's shop is that no one ever came in to simply buy something. Instead 'customers' came in to chat, barter, sell us seats in heaven, bring us doughnuts, shoplift, perform blessings or sometimes try to sell us things. Every day brought a new barmy situation, which meant I was rarely short of material for my blog. Salt Publishing discovered my blog six months later via Facebook and commissioned the book Shop Girl Diaries. If my blog hadn't had such a clear theme it's unlikely it would have caught their attention so its worth taking time to think about your topic.
There's a tendency for writers to blog about the writing process, but why limit yourself? Have fun with your idea. What do you love? What topics do you get excited about? You can even set a time limit for your blog like Speak to Strangers written by Gemma Seltzer, which consists of 100 micro stories written over 100 days. The point is to show that you can write, not tell everyone that you're writing.
Having something to say is one of the big challenges of having a blog and the lack of it is why most blogs are abandoned after six months. A blog takes time and dedication and will rarely make you a penny. But there are important benefits, the main one being that having a regular blog increases your chances of visibility in the industry and makes you accessible to those who might be interested in your work. You also become part of a huge interactive community which can enrich your writing life.
A successful blog doesn't happen overnight but takes perseverance. I've been blogging for over 4 years and yes, there's been frustration and wallowing self-pity and cries of 'why do I bother?' but in the end the work has paid off.
I think the days of waiting for years on end for a publisher to accept your work is over. It's time to be pro-active and open up to new ways of moving your writing career forward!
Emily Benet's next Blogging for Beginners Workshop is on Saturday 9th February.