I love Donald Maass. Not in a creepy, stalkerish way of course. Just in a the-man-is-brilliant sort of way. Not only is he a top agent, he's written several books on how to write well. One of my favorites by him is Writing the Breakout Novel. In it, he looks at what it takes to catapult writing into something that doesn't just stand out but breakout to become a best-seller. His targeted breakdown of what makes a novel a success is excellent. And it got me thinking: Could the same qualifiers apply to blogging?
Guest blogger Angela Ackerman is a kidlit writer
represented by Jill Corcoran of the Herman Agency.
Her blog, The Bookshelf Muse, is home to several
Descriptive Thesaurus Collections for writers,
including an Emotion Thesaurus, which lists the
physical actions for over 40 different emotions.
Let's face it—there are a bazillion blogs out there targeting writers, and why? Writers need a platform; we need to get our name out there and building an audience for our work for when we do have a book in hand. So what does a Breakout Blog need?
A BREAKOUT PREMISE
Unless you're famous or well connected, you need a premise that will help you stand apart from every other writer's blog. This means one thing really—knowing who your audience is, and what they want. Just like the book business, you should be looking at what's out there and working, and what isn't. Where are the gaps in the writer’s blog market? Find a new idea, slant or need. Be original or creative (but hopefully both).
A SENSE OF TIME AND PLACE
Blog posts should be unified by context. Create an environment that your audience will want to return to time and time again. Not only should it be easy on the eyes, it should contain resources (links to writing aids and industry professionals) and have regular postings. Put up a Follower sign-up widget and a RSS feed, minimize the flashy sidebar stuff and don’t over-spam readers with ads.
PROVIDING GOOD CHARACTER
Show your personality in posts! Humor and wit always stands out. Your posts should contain good advice and information, but also a piece of who you are as well. And when you’re discussing the industry, be professional. Blasting editor or agent X for daring to reject you will not win friends or influence people. And guess what? They read blogs, too.
PLOTS, SUBPLOTS AND VIEWPOINTS
Variety is the spice of life, right? Well, it’s also key in keeping a following strong. Offer posts that look at different viewpoints of your unified theme. Explore topics that haven't been done to death or find a new angle on familiar ones. Shake things up by offering contests, guest posts and relevant linking. Soften posts with pictures, humor, 'Top 5/10' lists and ask questions that invite discussion and participation. Be aware of the pacing—long, cumbersome posts can be a turn-off.
HOW TO BREAK OUT: 5 WAYS
1. Build a following by being seen. Link your blog in the signature of forum posts and be active in writing communities. Give your knowledge to others freely when it is wanted and you will learn and grow as a writer in return.
2. Embrace social media. Twitter, Facebook and other social & sharing sites are all opportunities to let people know what you're up to.
3. Reach out to other blogs and bloggers. If you comment, they will come. And don’t forget to acknowledge those who do stop by and comment.
4. Ask for (and give) links. Contest promotion and cross-linking in sidebars and posts can be a quick route into getting traffic to your blog.
5. Enjoy what you do. If blogging feels like a job, reading it will become a job, too. Have fun with it!