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Anne R. Allen's Blog


My Photo

Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, December 19, 2010

How to Blog Part IV—What the #%*! Should I Blog About?

OK, sez you. I’ve finally finished my novel/memoir and I’m about to send out my first round of queries. People say I need a blog. But now you tell me not to post excerpts from my WIP or focus on my personal life. I’ve only written one book (if you don’t count that one I’ve stuffed in a drawer for now.) I’m not famous or an expert on anything special.

…so what DO I blog about!!?

To get your ideas flowing, start by surfing around the writing blogosphere. Click on some of the names of commenters on popular agent blogs—or right here—and read their blogs. Analyze the ones that draw you in and find the elements that make them interesting. Then borrow a few ideas and put them together in your own way.

(And don’t forget to leave comments. That’s how the blogging community gets to know you. Reading and commenting on other blogs is essential to generating readership. Factor that into your blogging time.)

Or you may find yourself making long comments on some subject that gets your hackles up/juices flowing. That’s the stuff you should be putting in your own blog.

The most successful blogs reveal the writer’s personality and provide useful information at the same time. They usually focus on one particular niche, although the occasional foray off topic is OK when the content is fresh and interesting.

Here are a few ideas for finding a focus for your blog:

  • Concentrate on your genre or subgenre. You don’t have to limit yourself to books. You can discuss movies, videogames, TV shows, even jewelry and costumes—as long as they relate to your niche. SciFi writer Alex J. Cavanaugh has a great blog that specializes in all things SciFi. He won this year’s Movie411 award for best SciFi blog, for good reason. 
  • Focus on your novel’s setting. Recently a country singer/songwriter who’s working on a mystery novel asked me for help with his blog. He’d been posting mostly lyrics from his songs (not a good idea because music copyright laws differ from written word copyright laws, and he might have been giving away his songs forever.) I suggested he concentrate on some aspect of his novel instead. He renamed it “Southern Life” and he’s going to blog on the setting of his planned series—the rural south. Bingo.
  • Your character’s hobbies can make a great subject for a blog, too. Write cozies about a sleuth who collects dolls? Start a blog about dolls and the history of dollmaking, and maybe review sites that sell doll-making materials. You’ll draw in a whole demographic that might not usually read mysteries, but will loyally read yours because they’re interested in the subject matter.
  • Write historicals? You’re sure to have tons of research notes you couldn’t fit in the book. A blog is a great place for them. Provide information about a specific time period aimed at history buffs, costumers, Creative Anachronists and other historical novelists and you'll draw a variety of readers.
  • Do you write for a particular demographic—single urban women, Boomers, stay-at-home moms, or the just-out-of-college dazed and confused? Focus on aspects of life of special interest to that demographic.
  • Have some great recipes that relate to your character, time period, or whatever? Write about the food in your books, or food in fiction generally.
  • Is your historical based on a real person or your own family history? You could target readers from the genealogy blogosphere and provide how-to-study genealogy info and links to historical research sites.
  • Have you written a memoir that involves caretaking or surviving a particular disease or disaster? Or does your novel have a protagonist with a disability? Reach out to others in the same situation and provide information and pep talks for others dealing with the same issues. They’ll provide a ready-made audience when your book comes out.
  • And you CAN write personal stuff—as long as you make it entertaining and funny. Think stand-up comedy rather than confessional personal diary. Romantic comedy writer Tawna Fenske somehow manages to do this in post after post.
If you want to build a readership quickly, and you have time to do some research, consider a service blog.

  • Profile agents who represent your genre. Casey McCormick does this for agents who rep YA. She takes the info. from agency websites, interviews, articles and blogs and compiles them into easy-to read form. Basically she does your research for you. (Thanks Casey!) Other genres sure could use somebody like this.
  • Review books in your genre. If you write thoughtful reviews, you’ll immediately become everybody’s best friend. Every published novelist is dying for reviews. Danielle “First Daughter” Smith has a great review site for children’s books.
  • Review books about writing. There are a ton of them out there. You could start with the ones you’ve got on your shelf right now. How helpful are they to a writer in your genre? What classics are no longer helpful in today's marketplace?
Or you can be uncreative like me and write about writing. Mostly. A huge number of writers at various stages of our careers blog about our creative process and all aspects of the writing life. Join us. Writers are book readers (or we should be) so you have a ready-made reading audience.

Ending your posts with a question is a good way to generate comments. Anybody out there have more suggestions for subject matter for new bloggers? 

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Blogger LM Preston said...

I love blogging and will use some of the tips above to improve my blog. Thanks for posting :-D

December 19, 2010 at 2:43 PM  
Blogger Donna Hole said...

Awesome advice. Thanks.


December 19, 2010 at 4:06 PM  
Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent tips! And thanks so much for the mention.
A couple months after starting my blog, I finally decided to just blog about my passions - movies, music, books, writing, games, and tech stuff. (With a sci-fi angle!) Every since then, I've not lacked for topics.

December 19, 2010 at 4:08 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

My novel takes place in Sedona and one of the protagonists experiences infertility. Very different approaches. Either or both could be interesting. Just gotta get past my initial shyness about getting out there. I think the whole process takes some level of bravery. But then, doesn't writing?

December 19, 2010 at 4:11 PM  
Blogger Adventures in Children's Publishing said...

Thanks for the great list of links and for the sweet gesture of including us! *squee*


December 19, 2010 at 4:30 PM  
Blogger Florence said...

Thanks Anne, great post and helpful hints as always.

At one time I put different parts of short stories on the blog. I don't like to post any part of my novels.

Dozens of blogs like yours, are more adept at writing advice. My blog is basically fun or funny. Like to use humor or satire for my pet rants. A little tickle and a smile go a long way.

When the "day" comes, I'll use my planned web page to talk about my writing.

December 19, 2010 at 7:06 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Thanks LM and Donna!

Alex, you are a great role model for new bloggers. Like anything else, I guess a good blog is about following your bliss.

Christine, I think your answer is in Alex's comment. What is most exciting to YOU about your book? About all your books? You don't necessarily want to limit yourself to one book or character. If you're writing a series, that's great, but if you've got several women's fiction books with different types of characters, maybe your real subject is women's friendships? Or women's fiction in general? Maybe women of a particular age group?

Aventures--your round-up is the BEST! Not just for Kidlit, either.

December 19, 2010 at 7:10 PM  
Blogger Sierra Godfrey said...

I think you covered a wonderful selection of topics here Anne (and thanks for the shout out! very cool!! I always think of my Roundups as my "lazy post" of the week because I basically don't have to write it--I just collect the links I read and like during the week in a document, then slap them into a post Thursday night).

I would just remind people that anytime you commit to a topic for a blog, that you put the time in--and it will take time. If you don't have followers or commenters, no worries. You will, if you keep at it consistently. Promise!

Also, I would remind writers that a blog is your hub for social media--all your other social media activities should stem from your blog. I think you covered this in Part III Anne, but just wanted to reiterate because it's such an important point. It's why some of us put such effort into keeping our blogs up.

December 20, 2010 at 11:43 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Florence, you have a great niche--you blog about one of the most exciting cities in the world. With humor, too!

Sierra, that's all fantastic advice. Take your time; don't stress about followers.

I lost a follower today. No idea why this happens. Maybe somebody just had too many blogs to follow, or they first thought this was a social networking site and then found out it was mostly for creative writers. Silly how I started to stress about it, though. I was hoping for 300 followers for Christmas. How silly is that? I'm so incredibly grateful for the followers I've got!

You guys are awesome!

December 20, 2010 at 11:53 AM  
Blogger Rob Crompton said...

Some very useful tips here, Anne. And a timely kick in the pants as I try to get more organised about blogging regularly focussing on story-telling and the setting for my current novel.

December 20, 2010 at 12:51 PM  
Blogger Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Anne....I really love this post. You have given solid advice and literally taught us the rudiments of blogging. I liked each and every tip; though I write MG fiction, you have given me lots of food for thought; especially blogging about a character's hobby or disease.

I blog about everything related to writing and publishing, and sometimes throw in posts about marketing and other related topics.

Have a wonderful Christmas and great New Year!!

December 20, 2010 at 11:25 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Anne, I wonder if I'm the follower you lost. My blog reader (or whatever they're officially called) was sold/transferred/under new management. In the process a number of my blogs were lost -- yours among them. It took me a while to find you again but here I am. I always look forward to your Sunday posts and was bereft until I found you.

I'm ditzing around trying to come up with a good blog idea & title. Your posts are pointing the direction & I'm soooo glad to be back.

What I'm wondering is: What ever happened to women's fiction? By that I mean serious but entertaining (or entertaining but serious) fiction about women's lives. Did women's fiction go away? Morph into chick lit? Get subsumed into romance? What do you think? And what do your other readers think?

Ruth Harris
NYTimes bestselling author
Husbands And Lovers

December 21, 2010 at 7:17 AM  
Blogger Joy said...

I'm glad I came across this post. Having lost my main blog to a phishing operation, I was thinking about my next move. You've given me some ideas.

December 21, 2010 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger Bryan Russell (Ink) said...

I'm gonna start blogging about clowns. Everyone loves clowns, right? Except for the scary ones. But scary is good, right? Everyone loves that jolly chap from IT. I think I'm in the clear.

December 21, 2010 at 9:28 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rob--I just checked out your blog and you've got a nice niche (I don't know that many Welsh bloggers) --and a book just out! So if I did some pants-kicking to get you to blog more often, it's all to the good.

Rachna--Glad my tips are useful. And remember that as an Indian blogger you have a ready-made niche. I'm always interested in your take on things.

Ruth--Women's Fiction is alive, if not in the best of health. Oprah was very good for Women's Fic--but only of a particular suffering/sentimental type. And the over-saturation of bad chick lit killed the glitzy, fun kind of fiction I love to read. Eric at Pimp my Novel had some things to say about the stats of Women's Fiction last week.

Joy--Thanks for the follow. Yikes. I didn't know you could lose a blog to phishers!

Ink--Thank you for the follow, too. I saw that the Germans decided to deal with the airport mess by sending in clowns to entertain the stressed and stranded passengers (cue the Sondheim soundtrack.) The Brits sent in the police. I wonder what that means...

299 followers. Maybe I will make 300 by Christmas after all! Thanks everybody.

December 21, 2010 at 10:31 AM  
Blogger Casey McCormick said...

Hey Anne, you have 300 followers again! Thank you for including me in this awesome blog series. There are some great ideas and blogs in this list I've never seen! I do picture book through YA with my spotlights but several people have mentioned they wish someone would do it for adult genres. I could see someone focusing on just one genre, too, like romance/women's fiction.

December 21, 2010 at 10:51 AM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Casey McCormick is my 300th follower!

Casey, you're one of my blogger role model/heroes. Your blog is a must-read for anybody looking for an agent. Congrats on 1000 followers!

December 21, 2010 at 11:55 AM  
Blogger Sonya Thomas said...

This is really excellent advice. Thanks for taking the time.

December 21, 2010 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Sierra Gardner said...

Great advice! I've started jotting down ideas any time I have a question or thought about writing so I can go back later and write a blog post on them. It's surprising how many of those come along that I've been ignoring up to now!

December 21, 2010 at 5:45 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

And now I have 301! :-) Thanks everybody!

Sonya, thanks for taking the time to comment.

Sierra--that's a great tip: jot down ideas and questions as they come to you instead of facing that blank blog page on days you want to post. I have a "blog ideas" folder I'm always adding to.

December 22, 2010 at 10:11 AM  
Blogger Holly Ruggiero said...

You had some great suggestion in there I hadn’t heard before. Thanks.

December 23, 2010 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger Meghan Ward said...

Anne, this is a wonderful post and I will link to it! One question, though. You suggest someone who writes about doll making to start a blog about doll making, but in her guest post on Sierra's blog, Roni Loren advises against starting a blog specific to a particular character or book because then what do you do when you start the next book? She suggests instead to make your brand yourSELF. This is a dilemma that intrigues me. Would love to hear your feedback!

January 4, 2011 at 10:19 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Meghan--You asked a great question. I loved Roni's post and it made me rethink some things.

In the end I think it all depends on genre. If you're writing a series of mysteries or thrillers with a recurring protagonist, then blogging about her hobby or day job is a great way to reach readers potential readers.

But you're marketing a stand-alone title, no--that would limit you too much. Unless the hobby is also yours and it relates to your writing persona.

January 5, 2011 at 9:43 AM  
Anonymous shop for books said...

Maybe somebody just had too many blogs to follow, or they first thought this was a social networking site and then found out it was mostly for creative writers.

January 10, 2011 at 10:41 AM  

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