This week marks the start of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, as it has come to be known. Whether you are embarking on writing a novel in one month, or you’re just using all of this talk of writing as inspiration, it’s a great time to get going on the writing projects you’ve been mulling over in your head. After all, we’re heading into fall and winter, where cold temperatures, snow, and rain will keep us indoors more than other times of the year.
Sometimes, all it takes is something like people talking about writing and NaNoWriMo to help get our creative juices flowing. But there are some other good ways to get started writing, or maybe help yourself over a writer’s block. Here are a few tips to get your fingers moving along the keyboard:
- Take a walk. Sure, it might seem counterproductive to leave your computer when you’re trying to write more, but research has shown that exercise actually boosts brain activity. It helps you focus and gives you the energy you need to come up with new ideas. Another plus, you never know what might inspire you while you’re out there walking!
- Try your hand at writing prompts. Sometimes coming up with an idea can be the hard part. Let someone else do that for you, and use your time practicing your writing! Here are a couple of websites I like:
Language is a Virus
The Write Prompts
- Keep a journal. Yes, it’s just more writing, but it’s a different sort of writing. Rather than trying to develop characters or come up with dialogue, in a journal you just write your feelings. Many times, those journal entries are great fodder for future stories. And if not, they’re at least a way to get you in the writing practice more regularly.
- Read. Most of us don’t need permission to do this. If you’re a writer, most likely you’re also an avid reader. And reading other people’s writing is always a great form of inspiration.
- Turn off the phone and log off Facebook. Don’t you hate it when you’re in the middle of a great sentence and your text message alert beeps? Do you answer? Do you stop to read it? It’s like the bell for Pavlov’s dog, it’s hard to ignore it. After all, we’ve trained ourselves to think if someone is trying to contact us it’s important. And our phones aren’t our only distractions. When you’re writing and your mind starts to wander, it’s so easy to click over to Facebook and see what’s going on, or browse a few of your favorite blogs. If you really want to do yourself a favor, turn off all your distractions and focus just on your writing. You’ll feel so much better in the end.
Now that you’re inspired, check out our video on how to win NaNoWriMo. We want to see some great novels at the end of the month!
Facebook can be a great marketing tool. It’s a good way to build a network with other writers, to build relationships with people who are or will be reading your work, and to promote things like book signings and events. It can even help sell books, but don’t depend on it for a lot of direct sales. Using Facebook for marketing is all about building relationships and drawing traffic to your website, and that’s where you sell the books.
It’s highly likely that you’re already on Facebook. According to Facebook’s stats, in December 2015 there were 1.04 billion daily active users. Something I find even more interesting is that 24 percent of non-adapters use someone else’s account. So even people who say they aren’t on Facebook are on Facebook!
The question for writers is, how do I set up my Facebook presence? Do I want a personal profile page, where people can “friend” me and feel like we’re having personal, private, friendly conversations? Or do I want what Facebook calls a Business page, something separate from my personal profile?
For writers, you have a choice. Some choose the profile for their “author” page, mostly because they don’t really want to have a private presence on Facebook anyway, and that way they only have to worry about one page. But I recommend using a business page for your author site and your writing presence on Facebook. Here are the reasons I feel a business page is better than a personal profile for writers.
- Keeping personal separate. Having a business page helps delineate your personal life from your work life. Even though as writers we do share some personal things with our writing network/base, like where we are in our writing, how we’re suffering from writer’s block, or the interminable search for an agent, it’s not really the appropriate place to post things like your kid losing his first tooth or your favorite crockpot recipe. It’s nice to have a personal profile page for those family posts, and a business page for your other posts.
- Analytics. Facebook’s business pages are equipped with analytics so you can see, in real time, how many views each posts gets. It also tracks the likes, shares, and comments of each post, so you can see which ones garner more interaction.
- Unlimited number of likes. A personal profile page only lets you have 5,000 friends. There is no limit to how many likes you can have on a business page. So hopefully someday we’ll all be as successful as Diana Gabaldon, who has over 571,000 followers.
- The Facebook Scheduler app. I’m not a huge fan of scheduling Facebook posts, because I think they need to be in the moment and relevant, but there are times when it comes in handy to schedule a few posts ahead of time. With a business page, you can use the Facebook app, which allows you to schedule posts ahead of time without sacrificing the number of views that post might get.
It’s really a personal preference for writers whether you want to launch a business page or not. But if you’re hoping to really build your brand and reach out to a lot of people, a business page is the way to go.
As a writer, whether you are published or aspiring to be a published author, it is important to have a blog of your own. It’s a great way to build credibility within the publishing world, practice marketing yourself, and also practice your writing!
Thanks to many great tools on the Internet, creating a professional looking blog is relatively easy. Both Blogspot and WordPress have nice looking templates available for use, and the website pretty much walk you through signing up and setting up.
Once you have created a place to blog, there are a few things to keep in mind to help it be successful.
- Set a schedule and stick to it. Your followers will appreciate knowing when to be on the lookout for fresh content, and it also shows editors that you are able to stick to a deadline.
- Publish good content. This isn’t a journal, where you write stream of conscious on whatever pops into your head. Try to make posts interesting and about something people will enjoy reading. It might be helpful to have a theme for your blog, to tie things together. Just don’t make your theme too narrow, or you’ll run out of things to write about in a few months.
- Keep it short and sweet. People reading on their computers or tablets don’t like to have to scroll down a lot to read a blog. Entries of 400-800 words are optimal. Some successful blogs even have entries that are only a few sentences!
- Add pictures to your entries. Not only does this break up the content, it helps with marketing your blog on social media. Research shows people are more likely to click through to a shared link on Facebook if there was a picture with the link.
- Network! Once you have your blog up and running, you want people to read it. Get out there and share it. Use the tools on your blog host to have automatic updates on LinkedIn and Twitter. You can also setup automatic updates on Facebook, but I prefer to post those manually, which gives me more control over what is said. That way you can ask questions or write statements that provoke a conversation or shares, and get people involved in your blog in an interactive way. And of course, use email and word of mouth to let people know you’ve entered the blogging world!
For more tips and information on starting a blog, check out my video “Blogging 101 for Writers” in our Author Resource Center.