The Dirty Truth about Blogging

The article below was originally written for the author newsletter at Discovery House, the publishing house where I am employed. Though the audience for the piece was originally published authors, other writers may be interested in it too. So I’m putting it here.

dirty_truth

As a marketing manager, I know what I’m supposed to say about author blogs. I’m supposed to tell you that blogging is a great, easy way to hook new readers and convince them to buy your book. But here’s the dirty truth: Blogging is hard.

It is hard to juggle writing books (which are meant to last forever on someone’s bookshelf) with writing blog posts (which are old as soon as they are published). It is hard to think of a new topic or fresh angle for each post. It is hard to be consistent when the schedules of our non-writing lives refuse to stay the same. Blogging is just hard to do.

Here’s what two Discovery House authors have to say on the topic:

“When I first started blogging, I tried to keep up with devotionals on a semi-deep level every single day. It drained me of words. It’s hard to exactly explain, but I found it hard to even talk/chat in my everyday life because I had spent myself keeping up with the blogging.” –Heather King, author of Ask Me Anything, Lord

“Blogging is draining and sucks what little writing time I have right down the tubes. And it makes me cranky. I think a lot of people are over-blogged. How much information can we really keep up with these days?” –Jessie Clemence, author of If I Plug My Ears, God Can’t Tell Me What to Do

And yet…

Blogging can be rewarding too. After all, hard things are often those most worth doing. Blogging reinforces the habit of writing. It can breed community. It can stimulate creativity. It can tell us what issues hit home with readers.

Per Heather and Jessie:

“Since I blog along the same vein as what I write book-wise, I had to find a balance. I blog 3 times a week now, with the heavier devotionals 2 of those days and that content helps me find thoughts/content/words for the books. I take those blog posts as jumping-off points for book content.

“I also think if I can find the posts that connect with readers in a big way, it helps keep my book-writing more relevant (at least that’s the hope!).” –Heather King, author of Ask Me Anything, Lord

“I keep blogging because it does give me consistent practice at writing. It also keeps the website fresh and then gives people a reason to check in and remember I’m alive. When my posts are shared it can bring in brand new readers, who then see a picture of the latest cover as they peruse.

“It makes me less cranky to think of the blog as a way to connect with readers.” –Jessie Clemence, author of If I Plug My Ears, God Can’t Tell Me What to Do

Blogging is hard, but when approached in a balanced way, it can work with your writing instead of against it. Do you think you might be ready for the challenge?

If so, remember the 3 Rules of Blogging:

  1. Be Consistent – It doesn’t matter whether you post new content every day, three times a week, or twice a month, as long as your readers know when they can expect new content from you (and you can deliver it).
  2. Be Brief (or Epic) – People usually read posts that are 400 words or less. Also, people read posts that are over 1,000 words. Avoid the middle ground. Go for short and sweet or give them a full meal.
  3. Be Yourself – People are coming to your blog to read your writing. Maybe they have read one of your books and care about the same things that you do. Maybe they stumbled onto you blog accidentally. Either way, you have an opportunity to show them that you are a writer worth investing in.

Happy Blogging!

Advertisement

I may be prolific, but you don’t have to be.

This is a follow-up post to yesterday’s post on how to post everyday. Post. Sorry, I just wanted to get one more mention of post in there, but it didn’t quite fit. Yesterday, I gave a few tips on how to get content regularly onto a blog, but today I’m going to ask you to forget about what I said. Well, forget about it if it isn’t helpful for you.

9780849964800I attended a speaking & book signing event tonight with Sheridan Voysey, author of Resurrection Year (Thomas Nelson, 2013) and the forthcoming book, Resilient (Discovery House, 2015). After speaking through his experiences that were laid out in his books, Sheridan opened up the floor for questions.

As great of a writer as I think Sheridan is, he may even be better at asking and answering questions. It probably has something to do with his years as one of Australia’s top radio program hosts. One of the questions that he was asked related to his practice of journal writing. In order to capture his experiences over the span of life covered in Resurrection Year, Sheridan relied heavily upon his journals. The question asked was on how to keep writing in a journal when you hit a dry spell in your writing life.

529090_21140214Sheridan responded by saying that journals should serve the writer, not the other way around. He uses journals to capture the highs and the lows, the questions and the discoveries. If there isn’t anything to talk about relating to these things, don’t write in them.

He said that he may go for a few weeks between writing in his journal, but he is still a big advocate for keeping one.

I would like to draw some parallels between Sheridan’s journal advice and what could be a healthy approach to blogging. If your blog is your online journal, if its audience is made up of you and the people with whom you choose to share it, then by no means should you feel compelled to write everyday or even all that regularly. But if you are blogging in order to hone your writing or to gather an audience, then don’t treat it like a journal.

As with any project worth doing, you are going to have to ask yourself why you are doing it. I don’t think it is possible to write for no purpose (you’ll either write something worthwhile or learn something by writing), but I do think you should know your goals.

Why do you write? And how often? I’d love to hear your answers!

An Appeal to the Residents of Greenland

I finally saw The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with my wife over the weekend. I really liked it, even though it had very little in common with the source material.

Anyway, there’s a part in the movie where the titular character has to go to Greenland. That part of the movie got me thinking about the things that I know about Greenland:

  • It was home (briefly) to Erik the Red and his world-traveling son, Leif, after they were exiled from their homeland for being too good at being vikings.
  • The name is public relations deception to trick people into visiting since it most ice and snow and not green.
  • It was featured in the movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
  • And no one in Greenland has ever read my blog.

It’s that last point that makes me sad. It isn’t that I feel personally snubbed by the fact that none of the countries’ eight residents have found me. The sadness comes from the fact that my lifetime world map of blog readership would seem so much more filled in if someone, even just one person, from Greenland clicked on my blog. Due to the nature of spreading a round globe onto a rectangular map, Greenland looks huge!

Coat_of_arms_of_Greenland_svgSo, here’s my plea:

Residents of Greenland,

You have a cool country, at least from what I’ve seen in the movies. And your Coat of Arms is honestly one of the most awesome things in existence. I know that you don’t need to read my blog in order to feel fulfilled. You have your ice and snow and lies of green landscapes and cool viking history for that. But I believe that I can offer you something that other blogs don’t: the rambling thoughts of a would-be author based in a Midwestern US town where you can escape from the mental tortures of constant polar bear and northern light-related attacks. Sounds good, right?

And for the non-English speakers among you: (translated by Google)

Beboere i Grønland,

Du har en cool land, i hvert fald fra hvad jeg har set i film. Og din Coat of Arms er ærligt en af ​​de mest awesome ting i eksistens. Jeg ved, at du ikke behøver at læse min blog for at føle sig opfyldt. Du har din is og sne og løgne af grønne landskaber og kølig viking historie for det. Men jeg tror, ​​at jeg kan tilbyde dig noget, som andre blogs ikke: vidtløftige tanker om en vordende forfatter baseret en midtvestlige USA by, hvor du kan slippe væk fra de mentale tortur af konstant isbjørn og nordlige lys-relaterede angreb. Lyder godt, ikke?

Let’s all hope this works. If you have friends in Greenland, let them know that I would love their readership.

I humbly accept…

Jodi Picoult

There’s that unwritten schism that literary writers get all the awards and commercial writers get all the success.

– Jodi Picoult, Author of 18 novels

According to this quote by Jodi Picoult, I have become a literary blogger as of late. In the last few weeks, I’ve been nominated for a few blogging awards, which I think is just wonderful, because I’m a person who appreciates appreciation.

Also, it is nice to know that I’m not simply writing into the void.

My thanks go to the people who nominated me:

According to the rules of these awards, I’m supposed to say 7 things about myself and then nominate 15 other people for each award. I’ll give you the 7 things, but the 15 other blogs seems a bit chain-letter-y, so I’ll just list some awesome blogs without keeping too close a track on numbers. For the people who do find their links here, take your pick of these awards and tell your friends that you got it here.

7 Things about Josh Mosey

  1. I am happily married (sorry ladies!)to the most beautiful, smart, and hardworking woman in the world (sorry men!).
  2. I took a class in college where I learned how to tie knots and juggle.
  3. I am the founding president of the Valhalla Norwegian Society.
  4. I have more hair on the underside of my arms than most people.
  5. In high school, I helped a non-existent student run for class office, and though he did not win, he beat one of the more popular girls from school.
  6. I have never been afraid to make a fool of myself.
  7. I am afraid of fish.

There you go. The dirty truths come out.

Here are some links.

Some are writers, others are religiously themed. Be sure to visit them all, because they are all quite good.

As it turns out, I came up with 15 links after all, but that was only by happenstance. These are the blogs that I make it a point to read as often as they put new content up.

Thanks again to the folks who nominated me, and thanks to everyone who reads my blog. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to keep it going for this long.

The Writing Processes of Vonnegut, Pratchett, Gorey, and Tolkien in Links

In an interview this week with a fellow blogger, I was asked who inspires me. I answered with four different authors, each chosen for a different reason (in order to find out what those reasons are, you’ll have to read the interview). This week, I decided to seek out any wisdom that my four favorites might have to share on the topic of writing.

I was introduced to the writing of Kurt Vonnegut in an ethics course offered by the Lee Honors College at Western Michigan University in my freshman year. We read Slaughterhouse Five and explored the morality represented within its pages. I’ve always enjoyed books, but I haven’t always enjoyed them when they were required reading for school. When I first read Slaughterhouse Five though, I couldn’t put it down. I think I read it twice before the due date and then again before the end of the semester. “Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time…” Even just talking about Vonnegut’s work now makes me want to pick up a copy and read it over again. The link here features Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules for Writing. If you are a writer, I hope you click through.

It was sometime in my first year of working at Baker Book House when a coworker exposed me to the genius of Terry Pratchett. I think we were talking about sci-fi and fantasy stories when she told me that she was doing a paper for one of her literature classes on the topic of rule consistency when creating a fantasy world. “It doesn’t need to be just like it is in the real world, but it needs to be consistent within itself,” she said. She went on to tell me that she was using the works of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series as an example of consistency. When no flicker of recognition flashed on my face, she insisted that I read some. The next day, she brought me three books. “When you finish one of these, you are going to want another to start on right away,” she said. She was right. This link is for an interview that Pratchett did a few years back, and the relevant portion for writers begins about midway down the page.

I ran across Edward Gorey in college on a random excursion with my roommate, friend, and sometime muse, Adam. Together, we would visit Barnes and Noble and search through the bargain racks for anything that looked interesting. I picked up one of the Amphigorey books and was instantly in love with the mixture of dark humor, brilliant illustrations, and tales that forced the reader to fill in the blanks with their own imaginations. Alas, I could not find any advice to authors from Edward Gorey, but this link is for his book The Unstrung Harp or Mr. Earbrass Writes a Novel, in which Gorey illustrates the creative process of novel-writing though at the time he wrote this story, he himself had never written a novel. Still, it isn’t far from the truth.

My last author for this list is actually the one that I read earliest in my life. My dad handed me a copy of The Hobbit when I was in 7th or 8th grade and told me that I might enjoy it. I devoured it. Tolkien’s style, characters, and voice drew me in (as they do for anyone who dares to read The Hobbit). After that, my dad gave me a copy of The Fellowship of the Rings which I breezed through as well. And then I hit The Two Towers and got bogged down along with Frodo and Sam in the Dead Marshes. Sadly, I set the series down for a full year before attempting another go. But by that time, I had forgotten half of the details of the story, so I decided to start the whole thing again from the beginning. The Hobbit, check. The Fellowship of the Ring, check. The Two Towers, I powered through it this time, check. After I finished The Return of the King, I was sad the journey was over. LOTR was all I could talk about with my dad for weeks. And then he asked if I knew about the Silmarillion, which I hadn’t. So I decided to start again with The Hobbit, plowed through LOTR, and picked up the Silmarillion. Oh man, I was in nerd heaven. So many things in LOTR were explained, origins of the races, where the wizards came from, what a Balrog is, tales from the first and second ages of the world before the third age (when LOTR is set)! I am helplessly a Tolkien fan, so when I saw this post on Tolkien’s 10 Tips for Writers by the wonderful blogger, Roger Colby, I knew that it was going to be good. Colby culled through Tolkien’s writings and interviews where he discussed his craft and came up with a solid list for writers to use as a reference. Be sure to check it out, as well as the rest of his site.

How I did this week. Also, fun links!Last, for my writing report card, I’m going to give myself a B+ for the week.

I got the most hits in one day to date on Wednesday, I did a blog swap with another blogger, and I had fresh content everyday. The only thing was that I didn’t get a chance to write much on my novel, but I’m not going to let that get me down. Good job, me!

Book Review | The Mistmantle Chronicles Book One: Urchin of the Riding Stars

You've found the short version of this review. "It's really good."After posting my last review, I asked my co-worker, Chris Jager, to look it over and give me her thoughts. Chris is the fiction buyer for the store and does tons of book reviews on her blog, so I value her opinion as I hone my craft. She read it and said, “It was a very clinical review. You didn’t say anything bad, but you stated facts without letting people hear your voice.”

So, my main goal for this review is to infuse a little more of myself into my impressions of the book. My secondary goal for this review is to point out the things that the writer did which worked well and are worth emulating. That way, we can all become better writers (by including some of the elements in our own stories) and better readers (by thinking critically about what and how we read).

My book this week is The Mistmantle Chronicles Book One: Urchin of the Riding Stars by M. I. McAllister.

Urchin the squirrel was born on a night of riding stars. It was the same night he arrived on the island of Mistmantle, and the same night that his mother died and was washed back out to sea. Discovered by Crispin the squirrel and Brother Fir, Urchin was sent home with kindly but simple Apple to be raised by the community in Anemone Wood. Once Urchin was old enough to enter the island’s work parties, he is asked to become Captain Crispin’s page, a dream come true. But his dreams turn to nightmares when the King’s only son is murdered and the blame falls on Crispin. Tragedy and adventure walk hand-in-hand with Urchin as he tries to protect his captain, himself, and his whole community from a creeping evil that has come into the kingdom.

I knew nothing about this book when I picked it up from the shelf, but it didn’t take long before I fell in love with it. There are five things that stood out to me about McAllister’s writing that puts it above most other children’s books.

The author isn’t afraid of a body count. The book opens with the death of the main character’s mother. In the first chapter, the animals are discussing the new and horrible practice of culling (killing off the weak and misformed) that is now practiced in the kingdom. By chapter three, the prince is dead. Death happens and I respect an author who isn’t afraid to show how it affects characters differently. Urchin’s mother was willing to die in order to rescue her unborn baby. The king is willing to kill because the of the grief of losing his son. Children are just as much affected by the death of loved ones as we are and McAllister gives us a reference to be able to talk to kids about how to feel and how to act.

The evil is EVIL. When bad things happen in the book, they are very bad. The bad characters are not just mean, but manipulative, sneaky, and murderous. The author helps us hate the evil that exists in the story, and gives us something to root against. Urchin has so much to overcome that when the evil is dealt with, we are not just pleased but elated.

The good is not without flaws. Urchin is likeable because he is flawed. He cares deeply about the people around him, but he cares just as much about what they think of him. I can relate to this because I know that I am a people pleaser. If put in a situation between doing what is right and doing whatever will make me liked, I have a dilemma. By giving Urchin a flaw, he is relateable. We root for him all the more because he is like us.

Suspense, foreshadowing, and misdirection are skillfully applied. By having a dire evil to overcome and showing that she isn’t afraid to kill off a character or two, McAllister creates real suspense for the story. And she weaves in enough details that when we finally figure out what is happening, we hit ourselves for not seeing it sooner. I love it when an author surprises me with a twist.

The tension escalates throughout. Like all good fiction, the main character finds himself in increasingly horrible predicaments. Just when you think, “well, at least it can’t get worse,” you find out that you are wrong.

Like I said, I loved this book. In fact, the whole series is great. I can’t wait until my kids are old enough for me to read it to them. I’d start now, but my oldest doesn’t have the attention span for chapter books yet and I’d end up just reading it out loud to myself. Then again, it was such a good story that I may just read it anyway. I can always read it again to them later.