In Part One and Two of this series, we covered the basics: Write incessantly and Read voraciously. Now you're ready for a HUGE step. For me, this was the most difficult step of all. Let me stray for a minute to make this point:
Yesterday I went to a rock-climbing gym. Since I'm a bit of a thrill seeker and an athlete (well, I was, before I started spending 12 hours a day on my tush in front of my MacBook-but hey, maybe that's why my fingers aren't sore this morning!), there was nothing intimidating about scaling a vertical wall with only tiny protrusions for gripping and footing.
You want to know what the hardest part was? Letting go. Listening to the voice 35 feet below me saying, "I gotcha, just let go of the wall and lean back." Wow. Talk about hesitation.
Here's where I come back to writing. At some point, you will have to let go and share your writing with the public. That little voice saying I gotcha is not your audience, though. It has to be your own voice. You may not trust it for sure, just like I didn't trust that voice below me at the rock gym, I mean maybe she didn't tie the knot correctly, maybe the clasp was faulty, maybe the rope was frayed...but the truth is, you can't live up at the top of your ecstasy alone. When you complete a written work, you have mastered the wall. But you can't live up there alone, you must come back down to earth and stand among the mortals, in order to complete your journey. Your own voice, telling you I gotcha, is the voice you're going to have to trust when you embark on your third step:
Start a blog. Now you are here on my blog, so chances are you are already writing on your own blog, or have at least started one. But maybe you haven't completely dedicated yourself to it yet. Maybe you put up a couple posts, didn't get comments and now feel like you don't know what to say. Again, this goes back to step #1. Just write. But to make it easier on yourself, ask yourself a few questions:
What do I want to write about? Where is my focus? Do I dream of writing Children's Books? YA? Horror, Nonfiction, Historical Fiction, Poetry?
The readers and writers of such material will make up the largest part of your audience. Write to them. Use your blog to learn about the craft. So, you don't even know where to start? Find the professional websites and blogs and learn from them. Most are very eager to share information about the business because frankly, the better educated you are when you approach publishers, agents, and others in the industry, the less nonsense they'll have to sort through. This is your education.
Now that you've gained some knowledge, post about what you've learned! Provide links to those useful sources.
Your blog is also a networking tool. No matter what it may seem like on the outside, no one succeeds at anything all by themselves. The most successful people are those who have surrounded themselves with a group of peers and mentors who eventually start to call out: Go for it, I gotcha! The safer you feel, the less inhibited your writing will be, the more you will write, the more you will read, the better your posts will get, the stronger those voices of support, including your own, will be.
These steps are all cyclical, and as I stated on Part One of this series, this information does not only apply to beginning, unpublished writers. Writers are continually starting over. After each successful publication, a writer's support is reinforced, yet each new novel or book is a whole new game.
If you have not started a blog yet, you may want to check out other blogs out there, and see what lay-outs and features appeal to you which you can then incorporate into your own blog. Searching blogs is easier than ever now with google's blog search: http://blogsearch.google.com/ where you can search by keywords and even posting times.
Remember, blogs are not static, you can always change the layout and colors of your blog as your taste and knowledge evolves. Be careful not to change the layout too often or drastically as you may end up confusing and frustrating your readers. However if the change makes your blog easier to navigate, by all means adjust until it works.
One important thing to remember about blogging is that the point is not to have a one way conversation, but rather to encourage people to discuss your topics. It takes a while for you to build an audience large enough and loyal enough to consistently spark discussions, but it's a great goal to aim for.
End your posts by asking your readers a question. Like:
What did you think about Part Three?
Have you started a blog yet? If not, what is holding you back? If so, what's working for you, what's not?
What about rock-climbing, would it be hard for you to let go? I never thought it would be. I was surprised at how hard it actually was.
What's the hardest part about sharing your writing with the public?
Good luck with your blog - and remember now, like always, Inhale love, exhale fear, and Write!
photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/blindsociety/2968215874/