Need some guidance on either (a) the best blogs to read period for LITERARY novelists (including marketing issues) or (b) guidance o how to choose the best blogs for myself. Reason? BLOG AVALANCHE. There is so much out there, I can't finish my book -- too busy reading 80 million blogs.Since I'm a genre writer, I thought some of you might have some suggestions for great literary blogs. If you do, please post your suggestions in the Comments!
In the meantime, let's look at what to do with all those blogs you simply have to read. As always, I believe in a practical approach that includes understanding what you're doing and why you're doing it so you can make an educated decision on how to handle things going forward.
Just How Much Time Are You Spending, Anyhow?
If you don't already know, spend a few days (up to a week) recording just how much time you spend on other people's blogs. Are you spending the same amount of time each day, or are you just sort of wandering through blogs to keep yourself busy? Also try to write down exactly what you're doing while you're visiting. Are you just reading, or are you commenting, too?
Now that you know just how much time you're spending and what you're doing in that time, let's talk about why you're really reading all of those blogs. Here are some different reasons and what you can do about them.
You're reading and commenting like a madman/madwoman because that's "what you have to do these days" to build a platform and get published.
The reality is that there are thousands of blogs out there that you can be reading in your quest to build a network of connections. If that approach isn't exhausting you or taking away from your writing time, it can be a great way to meet and learn from other writers.
Over time, though, some people realize they're spreading themselves too thin. In psychology we talk about 3 stages of stress, and the final stage is exhaustion. When you hit that point (or even are just struggling to keep everything in the air), you can't make quality connections, which are the ones that are going to help you most. What to do? Try choosing three to five blogs you will read and comment on regularly.
Now, I'm not saying you need to dump all your blogging friends, or that you shouldn't comment on other blogs. I'm suggesting you triage. In other words, pick three to five blogs that you a) really enjoy reading and b) believe can open doors for you if you "get in" with the blogger. They become your focus. The other blogs are bonuses, icing on the cake. Maybe you watch them in your feedreader but you don't read every post. Or maybe you skim most posts but only comment every couple of weeks, when something really stands out to you.
In his book The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell argues that there are three rare types of people who do the most work in spreading a "social epidemic" (like, hopefully, news about your fab book). These are the people you want to be connecting with in your three to five main blogs. They include "connectors," who have enormous social networks of people who will listen to them; "mavens," who are expert communicators who are sought-after because they share helpful information; and "salesmen," who are the persuaders.
Again, I'm not saying you shouldn't have ten or even twenty blogs you like in your feedreader, blogs you comment on here and there; maybe you even have more. But I'm a huge advocate of quality over quantity. It's hard to pick out what's important when you're overwhelmed by background noise. So try picking your primary targets and work hard to become a valuable resource to those bloggers.
Also -- you will probably want to set a finite amount of time you spend on the blogs each day. Remember, you are looking for a Return on Investment [ROI], and if you're investing way more than you're getting back, you're wasting resources. An hour a day might be reasonable when you're just starting out, or when you're really ramping things up because your book is about to come out, but I'd suggest something like half an hour a day other times. Part of the reason I suggest this is that there are other ways for you to build a platform and you should also be spending time on those.
If a formula would be helpful, try spending no more than a quarter of your writing time on reading and commenting on others' blogs. So if you have an hour of writing time a day, you should be spending no more than ten to fifteen minutes of it on others' blogs.
If you're spending outrageous amounts of time on blogs and not getting anything written, you may just be avoiding your writing time. We have a tendency to fill empty space with "things" to entertain us. Writing, especially first drafts, is all about empty space -- the empty page, the empty screen. It's much easier to go out and passively consume other people's material than it is to produce your own. But sometimes you really do need to sit there with a blank screen and sweat blood until you're compelled to write something...anything. (And by golly, you may even write something good!)
A big part of networking is socializing. That's why we call it "social networking." But our brains can literally only handle so many stable social connections -- psychologists usually suggest a number around 150. If you're trying to maintain strong connections with more people through blogging, blog-commenting, Facebooking, or Twitter, you may feel overloaded because you are. Your neocortex (the most highly-evolved part of your brain) can only do so much!
Some relationships are going to be stronger than others, and that's okay. Remember, triage. Prioritize. Focus on people who really get you and your work, and people who can help you in your quest to build platform, or learn the craft, or provide great support when you feel like throwing in the towel, or whatever you need most. The others will probably be there when you go back later -- in the world of internet social networking, they have to prioritize too -- remember, it's literally a limitation of the human brain!
You're afraid you'll miss something you should know.
I'm going to argue that the most important information you can glean from other writers is information on your craft. How to write well, how to edit, how to approach agents, and so on. But if you're trying to learn all of that from blogs, you're probably learning it in a piecemeal way. So try investing in a few good books. Which ones? Well, it depends on where you're weakest.
Here are a few quick suggestions. If you have others, please feel free to include them in the Comments!
|If you need help with:||Try:|
|Platform and Marketing||Guerilla Marketing for Writers|
|Editing||Make Your Words Work, Self Editing for Fiction Writers, or Writing the Breakout Novel (which also has a workbook)|
|Writing a (NF) Book Proposal||Write the Perfect Book Proposal (probably the definitive guide), or How to Write a Book Proposal|
|Writing Queries||The Sell Your Novel Toolkit, The Writer's Guide to Queries, Pitches, and Proposals|
|Ideas||The Writer's Idea Book, The Writer's Partner|
|The Craft||On Writing (probably the most-recommended book on writing out there), Bird by Bird (a classic), The Artist's Way (another classic; also has a workbook), The Forest for the Trees|
Use blogs to build on the foundation of knowledge you glean from books like this.
What To Do With the Time You Free Up
The most obvious answer to this is -- write!
Another suggestion is that you spend some of your time in critique groups, giving others feedback and getting feedback on your own writing.
Because it doesn't matter how much time you spend networking if you don't have a quality product when it's time to produce.
Beyond that, I also want to talk a little more about my remark that you can build a platform in ways other than reading and commenting on others' blogs. You can:
- Build a website
- Tweet (ie use Twitter) -- you can make connections quickly because you have to keep your side of the conversation to spurts of 140 characters or less!
- Meet other writers on Facebook
- Blog yourself (make sure you have something to say and can keep it up!)
- Share your expertise by speaking, teaching classes, creating YouTube videos, etc.
Do you have any additional advice on how to handle the blog avalanche? Let us know in the comments below!
Carolyn Kaufman, PsyD is thrilled that her first book, THE WRITER'S GUIDE TO PSYCHOLOGY: How to Write Accurately About Psychological Disorders, Clinical Treatment, and Human Behavior is now available. Learn more at the WGTP website.