Tag Archives: blogging

Nothing to see here….

I'm thinking....I'm thinking...Aren't I?

I find this more than a little ironic. Last year I put a lot of time and energy into blogging. I tried to blog at least twice a week, and tried to find subjects that were connected to my business interests (writing, plays, theatre) and would also catch the attention of people surfing the web.

I was waving a big sign saying “Come read my stuff! Find out how interesting I am and then buy my plays/books/t-shirts!”*

After six months I had radically improved my readership stats. It was hellishly impressive. On the other hand, I hadn’t written any new plays. Or anything else. Sales of the plays already published were slack. I hadn’t improved my situation at all. I had lots of readers who enjoyed my blog, which was nice, but….not a lot of use in terms of my business model.

Since February began I’ve been running this new system, and it’s working. I have produced a full length play, and a one act play that I’ve been MEANING to write since August last year. I’ve also moved on with other writing projects and gained significant confidence about taking on new challenges.

What I haven’t been doing, is blogging. I realised this the other day when I was updating my “Books I read in March” list, and found that I had only blogged once since posting the list from February.

This is my apology, if you’re a regular reader. I enjoy having a blog, and I like the fact that some people have found it a useful conduit. I love being able to talk directly with people about writing, or discussing points raised in the posts. But I’m not a blogger who writes plays, I’m a playwright who blogs. I know it’s important to have an author platform, and be approachable, and interact synergistically with your readership, but hey, I’m on G+ and Facebook and Twitter too.

I’m not going to feel guilty about intermittent blogging when the alternative is reviewing the recipes I’ve used for lunch, or how I prefer Tim Horton’s to Starbucks. I hope you’ll still read what I post, when I post, but if not, I’ll understand.

 

 

 

*Nobody EVER bought the t-shirts.

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#endofblog

Ever get the feeling you took a wrong turn?

 

It’s possibly a little over dramatic, but today is the day I stop blogging. Maybe forever, maybe just for a while. Sme friends have been kind enough to ask why, so here goes.

 

A couple of years ago, I was blogging under the banner “The Great Canadian Adventure.” Here was me and my family doing something brave and unusual, throwing all our possessions into a container and moving to a different continent. We were leaving behind family and friends, and blogging seemed a good way to keep everyone updated on our progress and news.

But after a year or more, it wasn’t so important. We were skyping, we were on Facebook, and folks had adjusted to us not turning up to visit. Some had even been out to visit us. I went to a seminar on blogging and how it was an essential tool for the modern writer and took a long look at my own blog. Did it do the job? I bought Kristen Lamb’s book, “We Are Not Alone” and put some of her ideas into proctice. I took her online course, making a bunch of great friends along the way, and yes, I raised the visitor stats on my blog too.

And over the last year I have checked those stats with an obsessive fervour, worrying about making my daily, weekly and monthly quota, trying to find the mystic subject that would ignite the net and get me Freshly Pressed. Should I add video clips? Should I link more per page? Am I mentioning my e-book enough?

On the other side of the Atlantic, one of my writing partners was being just as obsessive about our sales. He sends me regular updates on a spreadsheet, which showed that, while they were still healthy, in most cases sales were falling. We were selling less, despite my impressive readership. The fabled “Word of mouth” recommendation I had been chasing has not materialised.

 

That’s not to say I don’t believe what Kristen has been teaching. I KNOW that her methods work, that a platform is essential for an author, certainly more so now than ever. It may be entirely my fault, but the blog has not improved my situation. In fact, it may have made it worse.

 

Since we hooked up with our publisher all those years ago, TLC Creative have maintained a healthy market share. We produce a new panto each year, and I added to the stock of one act plays on a semi-regular basis. Sketches appeared more often than not, and we’ve even come up with a couple of full-length pieces. But not this year.

This year the only writing I have managed has been the scenes I was tasked with for our pantomime. They were late, the latest I’ve ever produced work for TLC, and far from writing more than I was asked, I scraped the bare minimum.

 

Since I finished my full length play “Merely Players” over a year ago, I have not written a single thing. Other than my blog.

 

Some of you may be sitting at your computers saying “Well, that’s just writer’s block, everyone gets that.”

I would agree, except it’s not that I haven’t had ideas. I have. I’ve had quite a few ideas trot through my brain, but I have not given them the time that I have dedicated to chasing another ten views on my blog, and that has to be wrong. The blog is supposed to be a way of connecting with people so they can be interested in what I write. It’s not supposed to BE all I write.

So the logical thing, the obvious thing, the right thing to do is stop blogging. Stop pouring my available writing time into building castles online and go back to building worlds on other people’s stages. People still find me, and the people who have been in touch most recently did not come to me via my blog. They found the TLC website and contacted me through that.

I’ll still follow with interest the blogs of my friends, and I’ll still use my wordpress id to comment and encourage. But perhaps some time away from staring at the visitor stats will allow me to make some new, imaginary friends and write about their adventures.

 

After all, it’s what I get paid for.

The Inconstant Gardener

Removing another barrow-load of weasels from the garden....

Everybody’s blogging. There’s hardly any room left in the blogosphere. Whatever subject you can think of, someone’s already doing a blog on it. There’s probably a blog on that and how it affects several other subjects you’ve been considering too. You want to blog about Underwater strip mining? There’s probably one out there already.*

The point is, if you want to succeed with your blog, it’s not going to be as easy you thought. Everybody wants to start a blog, set down their words of wisdom and have crowds flock to them. Surely, just the right tags and my genius will be passed organically person to person around the entire international-world-wide-multiweb? Unfortunately, the true secret of blogging is that it’s just as much work as any other bloody thing you want to try.

Take the other day. Time, circumstance and exploding computers had reduced my regular blogging to once in a fortnight. Thus the stats for the day were at six. Only six visitors? The shame! Devoting an hour to reading my subscriptions (the blogs I follow, if you like) I commented (and commented relevantly – very important!) and followed the trail of other commentors. If they read the same blogs as me, they share some of the same tastes. I read THEIR blogs and commented there too.

Just an hour, and hardly an hour’s work…If I had tried to explain to someone else that reading and commenting was work, they’d have laughed in my face. But over the next few hours, as I checked (yes, I’m that obsessive) I saw my visitor stats rise. That solitary hour, engaging with other people, taking an interest in what they had to say, had brought more people back to read my words than all the tags I had posted previously. It WAS work, reading, writing, thinking, revising, trying desperately to spellcheck each comment even though you KNOW there’s going to be one error you only spot as you press “send”.

Blogging is like gardening, in that you have to put things in to get things out. Sometimes what you put in is the regular effort of composition, setting out the thoughts in your head on the computer screen in a way that will engage the interest of others. The rest of the time what you put in is your own interest. Find other blogs that touch you, and tell their authors so. You’ll be amazed how quickly a comment you leave can become a dialogue, then a conversation, and sometimes a friendship.

For more information on improving the greenness of your blogging fingers, take a look at Kristen Lamb’s blog. Read back through her previous posts, and be brave enough to comment. Then follow the trail through Kristen’s commenters. She attracts a good crowd, and there are many interesting blogs out there. But one word of warning : Set a timer, or you could lose yourself in the blogosphere all day….

Each week I blog and forget to mention that I’m actually a playwright. I write plays, pantomimes and sketches and they are published by Lazy Bee Scripts. I have also written a neat little book in PDF form about writing plays for Community Theatre and you can buy and download it here.

*Ok, there isn’t, I checked. But you get some really weird stuff if you type ‘Underwater strip mining blog” into Google. Some people have waaaay too much time on their hands.

Don’t tell me about it….

Firstly, an apology. This entry will sound arrogant and dismissive. Sorry.

Nearly two years ago I started writing this blog because I wanted to have a record of the emigration I was making with my family. Don’t tell me I should’ve kept a diary, because I know I wouldn’t have. Tried that, didn’t work. Blogging involves the computer (score!) and the chance to regularly appeal for other people’s attention (score!) as well as the opportunity to check statistics and combine endless hope with depressing reality (score!).

Along the way, it’s naturally evolved to take into account my writing efforts. I’ve talked about the production of my e-book, my occasional frustration with projects that haven’t worked out well, and of course, having to give up full-time writing to go and get a proper job. I like to think that these are as much part of the emigration process as buying a house and learning about the school system – a change of life we’ve made as a result of coming to Canada. But, because I blog about writing, I’ve been reading OTHER blogs about writing. Many, like the previously mentioned Mr James Moran, or Jane Espenson, or Lucy V Hay, are fantastically good. Not just because they are ‘proper’ writers, but because they write their blogs well. They are interesting. The ones that make me groan are the ones that say “I am writing my first novel, and am going to use this blog to chronicle my progress.”

Now, by all means, write your first novel. Please. Writing is wonderful, and your first novel may turn out to be THE book of the decade. By all means, write a blog. It’s useful to have a place to vent your feelings, and an idea is never fully realised until it is expressed. But before you combine the two, please think carefully. What is it, exactly, that you will be chronicling? If you are not careful, you’ll end up sounding like Ernie Macmillan from “Harry Potter and the Order of The Phoenix”, boring everyone with his recitation of how many hours of revision he has done each day. When you’re writing a novel, word count per day is important to you, obviously. You want to feel you’re making progress, that the number of pages to go are getting fewer. But would you want to read a blog that goes “Wrote another fifteen thousand words today! Started just after breakfast, had a break around ten thirty when I walked the dog, but then got straight back into it and reached a real cliffhanger moment just as I broke off for lunch!” Who, honestly, will care?

What your readers would like to know is what’s going on in the story. Yes, if you’re writing your novel, it would be more interesting to tell us about the developments in the plot as you go along, but you know what? No one ever will because then by the time the blog is complete, who needs to read the novel? We’ve been spoon-fed the whole thing! And what about re-writes? Assuming you get someone reading your blog, aren’t they going to use the comments section to tell you exactly where you’re going wrong?

I think these are the reasons that the blogs I’ve read seem to peter out shortly after they begin. Writing doesn’t seem to be something you can blog about. A writer’s life may be, but only if you have something to say about that: Being a single mum who’s working on a novel – if you have time to blog about that and still be writing the novel then I not only take off my hat to you, but I’ll comb my hair and bow too.

Why should I blog about the failures of other blogs? Well, because this week has seen me wrestling with my rock musical screenplay again, and I’m conscious that the writing projects I talk about tend to be the ones that work, or the ones that fall flat. I don’t, as Felicia Day says so sweetly in “Commentary”, discuss my process. The reason I don’t is that it would be at best dull, at worst, incomprehensible. I talked about the mechanics of writing in the entry on collaboration, and even I struggled to stay awake during that one. So, today’s moral is this: Forge ahead with your writing, but forge a more interesting subject for your blog.

Blogtrotting

Use your computer with caution

I didn't have a relevent photo for this one.....

That was a title that made me laugh, then I realised it would have no significance for 90% of the people who stumble across this blog. Never mind, I’m not explaining.

I’ve noticed that my blog entries over the past month have fractured into two distinct streams – the real life commentaries, talking about the riveting renovations and my lack of progress in taking the writing world by storm, and the more Meta pieces about issues that I think might be of interest to folks who don’t know me. When I found myself sitting down to write an entry solely because I thought it might turn up on google searches, I had to stop and think about why I was writing in the first place.

 Yes, I check my readership stats obsessively and I’m unreasonably jealous of those lucky bloggers who make the front page of Freshly Pressed and get thousands of hits but there should be a more pressing reason to blog than getting the big numbers, right? I call myself a writer, and that’s because when I need to express something, or explore an idea, I reach for a pen or a keyboard, not a camera or a paintbrush. This is who I am, it’s what I do.

I’ve been involved in some discussions over on LinkedIn, the business networking site, with colleagues from “PWAC” about the importance of Social Networking and using it to boost your business. That’s why I moved my posts over here to WordPress, as you’ll know if you’ve read them all. I used to have a blog on Yahoo 360, which moved to another place (Multiply) when 360 closed. Let me go off on a tangent for a minute here…I’ll get back to Linked In, I promise.

360 was an online community thing, a bit like Facebook. I had a group of virtual friends, we all blogged and commented and had online talks.  Some of my friends I only knew through their avatars.

Bowzer, for example, will always be a small dog to me, because that’s how he presented himself and he never broke character.

 Kate was a real person, and although she preferred to use Gil Elvegren pictures for her avatar, she appeared in person a couple of times, so I knew what she looked like. This was back in the days when there were fewer weasels and I was just beginning on my great writing adventure. I had more time to waste in front of the PC and these people filled that time and probably a gap in my life too – I had moved far from home and missed having friends to talk to. The important thing for this entry was that my blog back then was a personal joke. I wrote what I wanted to write, I wrote things that were deliberately silly, took joy in including photos that made me laugh and had no relevence to the subject. I was not motivated by anything but the urge to write. Yes, I wanted my friends to read and comment, but their approval and laughter was the only goal I had, not increased business success.

Back to Linked In. Someone posed the question “Why do we have a Linked In group?”  and I used it to whine about my lack of success through social networking – not enough people have bought my book, I’m not getting calls from agents etc etc. I got a gentle slap down from others in the group pointing out how I should be doing the social network thing. It comes down to using social networking as a business tool, and that’s when I pull up short. There are days when I’m out walking the dog and a dialogue is running in my head. I would get rid of it by writing it down, but I can’t use it in my blog because that’s not the wisest business course. I worry about who’s going to read it and what they’ll think. I’m self-censoring. That’s a good thing if I’m whining again, but does that mean I should be running two blogs, one for me and one for business? What happens if more people read the fun one than the business one? What happens if no one reads either one?

Mrs Dim says the posts I put up are interesting enough but too pedestrian and I guess I agree with that. This one certainly is, but unless I’m laying the ideas out, I can’t get my head around them. I intended to talk about the blogs that I follow, the ones that I read on a daily/weekly basis, but I guess that can wait until next time. Meanwhile, in the spirit of capitalising on the power of Social Networking: BUY MY BOOK! (www.tiny.cc/ghfo9) VISIT MY WEBSITE: www.tlc-creative.co.uk  Follow me on Twitter! Send me MONEY!

Busy, busy, busy…. (originally posted Jun 11/09)

I’m blogging when I should be childminding, because Tiny Weasel has decided that today’s activity is staying in her bedroom, listening to audio books. The reason she can get away with this is that Mrs Dim has been called away to another interview *Pause for general celebration* What’s nice about this interview is that it’s for a part time job, so we don’t lose Mrs Dim all day every day, but it’s in the HR dept of a major University, so she’s well-placed to hear about other jobs coming up. Also, if she gets the job she’ll be an internal candidate for one of those other jobs (like the people who’ve beaten her to the other jobs she’s been interviewed for) and best of all, she checked our accounts the other day and announced that we could survive at least another twelve months on the money we have saved (plus my meagre earnings, of course..)

I am not, of course, standing still on the job front myself. I’ve lined up a series of articles on Real Estate questions, which would be great if I knew or cared about Real Estate. I don’t, but I care about money and I WILL DO THIS! Probably. Unless there are cartoons on somewhere. I’ve sent out my application to the Professional Writer’s Association of Canada, which will allow me to pay them $250 membership fees every year, and in return they’ll…well, they’ll…I dunno, but you have to be a member of SOMETHING these days, and their membership wasn’t too high or too low…It was just right. They’ve suggested that I also join the Playwright’s Guild of Canada. That’s another $150, so I’ve said I’ll wait for a bit on that one. I’ve also renewed my appeals to the University and schools fraternity, asking them why they haven’t paid me to come and talk to the children about becoming playwrights. A sort of cautionary tale, perhaps “Look kids, this is your wallet when you’ve got a regular job…this is your wallet when you’re a freelance writer…” *Gasps of horror* Yeah, I could tell them my sad tale of deprivation. We don’t even have a Wii. And only one tv. And basic cable. Yeah, I know, shocking, isn’t it?

The funniest thing about my application to PWAC (What a catchy acronym! I wish it was the Creative Writer’s Association of Canada….) was that I had to send them copies of my latest plays. Well, all the ones that have been published in the last two years. So, I trawled through the great database my friend and writing partner Steve carefully maintains, and discovered that, for one thing, I haven’t written very much in the last two years. Very much a resting on my laurels sort of situation. For another, I don’t have copies of all the plays I’ve written. Now that’s weird, because you’d think I would have at least a rough draft, wouldn’t you? But no. I write them and send them off to Steve and David for approval and general proof-reading. They come back with comments and I make whatever changes are neccessary, and then, apparently, I delete the only copy on my computer. Since I wanted to send off my application good and early today, and Steve could only lay his hands on one of the two files I needed, I paid to download one of my own plays from my publisher (www.lazybeescripts.co.uk), which is the first time I’ve visited the site as a customer. I have to say, it was easy and cheap to get hold of the play, so I’m very impressed with the whole organisation.

On the local scene, there’s a big fire raging somewhere nearby. There were sirens going for most of the morning, and helicopters overhead. I know that somewhere in my cable listings will be a channel that should have local news, and there’d probably be a live feed from one of those choppers showing me the fire, like when you get a car on the run from the cops, right? But I can’t be bothered with flicking through the hundreds of channels. It’s funny, of all the things I was used to in the UK, I didn’t think the one I would actually miss would be the Radio Times. (Note for Americans and others of a non-UK persuasion: The Radio Times is a TV listings magazine produced by the BBC. It lists, in an easy-to-read and follow format, the programmes shown throughout the week by the five major channels on the UK digital service, plus programme times for another twenty or so interesting digital channels each day. It has weekly film reviews showing when each film is on, and which channel. By contrast, the only listing magazine I have found here is gibberish. The numbers listed seem to bear no relation to the channel numbers available on my digital cable service, and by the time I’ve found the channel and programme I was looking for, it’s usually the next day.) I have resorted to A: not watching as much tv as I used to and B: watching more dvds than before and C: complaining about it a lot.

Right, I’m going to go an drag Tiny Weasel out of her room and go out to get lunch at Subway. There’s one within walking distance (though Steven Wright says everywhere’s walking distance if you’ve got the time..) and at least I’ll be able to tell Mrs Dim we went out. That’s if she can get home past the raging fire. I still hear helicopters. Unless that’s another ‘Nam flashback….