It’s been quite a week. Let’s hope we’re done with disasters for a while. To my neighbors who got evacuated at on Friday—and to the tens of thousands affected by the horrors in Japan—my heart goes out to you.
I started this blog exactly two years ago today: March 13, 2009. I probably shouldn’t use the word “started.” It was more like I oozed into it.
My expectations weren’t so much low as non-existent.
It was a pretty abysmal time in my life. My publisher had gone under, leaving me out of print, unpaid, and stuck with an unpublishable third book in a series. Soon after, the popular ezine where I was a columnist ceased publication. Most of the magazines that were my bread and butter were going belly-up or no longer paying. I wrote another novel and rewrote the others for the US market, but couldn’t even get a partial request.
I feared nobody would ever read my words again.
I started surfing publishing blogs to find out why my queries weren’t getting nibbles. (They sucked. Seriously.) I haunted agent blogs, especially Nathan Bransford’s. But commenting was difficult without a Blogger profile, and the easiest way to get one was—start a blog. Voilà.
Then I started reading about how even fiction writers need a platform and Web presence. So I Googled around, found my blog and posted an article I’d written for a local paper about six months before.
And forgot it again.
Then I had one of those life-is-short medical wake-up calls and decided it was time to do something—anything—to get my writing going again. So I posted a couple of updated versions of my old columns. I started getting comments. And an invitation from Emily Cross to join the Writers Chronicle forums, which brought some followers. I was amazed.
I was even more amazed when the third or fourth post got a visit from agent Janet Reid—the Query Shark! She even said the post was “nicely written.” OMG, how I basked.
So every Sunday, I’d write a post. I’d never blog more than once a week, since I was concentrating on a new novel now my confidence was beginning to come back.
Sometimes people would read my posts; sometimes they wouldn’t. I was completely clueless about reading and following other blogs, or responding to comments in the thread. Or anything like using Twitter to drive traffic. I thought if I just sat here, people like Janet Reid would continue to stop by. But I soon learned that lightning doesn’t strike the same blog twice.
But a few months later, I got a rare Google alert. A blogger named Sierra Godfrey had included one of my posts in her “Google Roundup.” I went over to her blog and made friends.
On her blog I met the Literary Lab triumvirate and one sleepless night decided to submit a story to their first anthology, Genre Wars. They accepted it. My fiction was in print again. That felt great—so great that I submitted a post to a contest Nathan Bransford was running for a guest blog spot.
Less than a year after I’d written my first dismal post, I was guest blogging for the most popular blogger in the publishing industry. I got other invitations to guest blog and a couple of mentions in Jane Friedman’s Best Tweets.
I even got the attention of one of my long-time idols, Pay it Forward author Catherine Ryan Hyde. She commented on a post and asked if I’d be willing to mention a workshop she was giving on a similar subject.
Nearly everybody who signed up for the workshop came through this blog.
Catherine was impressed. She asked if I’d like to collaborate on a book for writers—a combination of the kind of advice I give here and the stuff she teaches in her workshops: equal parts instruction and inspiration.
She didn’t have time to work on it right away, because she had two new books coming out, but I knew she’d follow through. We both saw my blog as a key component of our book proposal, so I started doing more research on how to have a more professional blog.
I found most “how to blog” advice came from professional marketers and full time bloggers with a “boot camp” approach. So I spent months visiting hundreds of blogs—to see what worked best for creative writers. In November, I wrote a four part “how to start a blog” series. (Part I here. Links to the others in the sidebar.)
It went viral. Two internet marketing gurus pronounced my series the best place to learn basic blogging. I was tweeted and retweeted. I was getting 1000 hits a day.
In December I got a Google alert saying blogsbusiness.net had valued my blog at $25,000. (Right—who’s going to buy it? But it was kind of nice to hear.) Offers from advertisers started appearing in my inbox. (Not that I’m going there.) But when I was asked to join the staff of the Best Damn Creative Writing Blog and invited to teach at the Central Coast Writers Conference, I realized I what a difference my blog was making in my writing career.
For the past couple of months, Catherine and I have been working on our book. I’m happy to announce we’ve now finished our proposal. Working title: HOW TO BE A WRITER—and survive with your spirit intact. (Watch this space for more info.)
I still can’t sell my novels, but I have a couple of pieces of an old one in the latest Literary Lab anthology, Notes From Underground. And I’m getting ready to query my new one, which I feel really good about.
And most of all, I have you, my fantastic blogging friends. I feel I’ve connected with people of my own tribe here—all those other writers I used to have to go to a conference to meet. Blogging hasn’t just improved my chances of restarting my career, it’s enhanced my life. (I’m going to write more about this in a guest blog over at Sierra’s next month, while she’s ushering another whippersnapper onto the planet.)
And on this blogiversary, I’d like thank you all: Emily, Lee, The Literary Labsters, Sierra—and Catherine, of course—plus every single one of you who has followed or commented or even just lurked here for a quick read.
THANK YOU! YOU’RE THE BEST!!
You’ve helped me prove that a “slow” once-a-week blog can succeed.
I’d love to hear your stories. Bloggers out there—what got you started? Non-bloggers, would you consider starting one, knowing you only have to post once a week?