Blogger: Michelle Ule
Filling in for Janet Grant who is traveling this week.
I’m not only the editorial assistant at Books & Such Literary Management who occasionally writes a blog, but I’m also a published novelist with my own website.
I’ve been writing blogs since 2009 when Books & Such began blogging and have blogged twice a week for four years now on my own site.
I like to blog.
Some of that has to do with my past. I trained as a newspaper reporter in the dark ages at UCLA and spent a year there as a city editor. I always wanted to write a weekly column. Blogging allows me to fulfill that old ambition.
But lately I’ve run across confusion about blog writing, in particular what novelists should blog about. Here are four suggestions.
1. Blog about your subject matter.
You don’t want to give away the plot of your novel or novella, but you can write about the subject matter.
For my Navy SEAL novel, Bridging Two Hearts, I wrote a series of blog posts discussing
*My personal experiences with Navy SEALS
*The skullduggery involved in writing about Navy SEALs
*Surprising stories I read while researching Navy SEALS
2. Blog about historic events associated with your stories.
This is easier if you’re writing historical fiction, but can be pertinent to even contemporary projects if you provide background information–such as why Southerners hated President Abraham Lincoln.
*I’ve just completed a World War I novel. The blogging subjects were limitless–which can be a problem, so I focused on subject matter pertinent to my story line. To that end, among other things, I wrote about
*My grandfather’s experience as a doughboy during WWI.
3. Blog about interesting things you learned while researching your subject matter.
I like to call the extraordinary experiences I’ve had doing research “Research Serendipity.” For example:
*While researching at the Wheaton College Special Collections Library, I befriended the archivist. He found the very letter I wrote to Madeleine L’Engle (since her papers are there as well as my subject matter’s), the week after I graduated from college. It included a copy of her response–I had lost the original long ago!
*While poking into a pseudo-museum shop in McMinnville, Tennessee, I struck up a conversation with the proprietor. We were both stunned to discover I had been inspecting his paintings on-line three days before! (He turned out to be an excellent resource for other events related to my novel!)
*While investigating what types of characters I could have a protagonist carve on a totem pole at Christmastime, I found an actual Christmas-themed totem pole!
4. Blog about where investigating your story has taken you–whether you’ve actually gone somewhere or not!
*My husband and I had a sobering day in the Somme River Valley in France investigating WWI trenches. That trip produced three blog posts.
* Researching a pioneer novel caused me to reflect on the how courageous my ancestors were crossing through hostile territory two hundred years ago.
* I had a riotous afternoon trying to play the bagpipes while writing The Yuletide Bride! (Bonus video in the post!)
Blogging is fun for me–an opportunity to explore a subject, tell a story or provide information.
Have you got any unusual ideas of what to blog about?
Four ideas for novelists to blog about.Click to Tweet
Blog about subjects in your novel, not just characters. Click to Tweet
Using research fun to grow readership on your blog.Click to Tweet
What a fun post, Michelle. I love seeing where your stories take you blog-wise. You’ve offered some great suggestions here.
One thing I do, rather inconsistently, is blog about current events, movies, happenings that move me. Last year, two movies spoke to my heart and I blogged about them. Those posts still get hits. 🙂
As far as blogging on related topics to my book, I sometimes blog about the themes of my books. Exploring them and encouraging feedback about them.
Your post has me thinking on topics I can blog about in the coming months. Thanks!
Themes are another excellent choice for blogging, along with putting together a series of posts. I’ve just finished three weeks worth of Advent posts–based on the season, of course, but the result of teaching on Advent for six weeks.
It’s curious to me how often my life experiences end up in the blog, but I assume if events happen in my life, they’re probably happening in other people’s as well.
For that reason, it’s a good idea to pay attention to Google Trends–google it–or Twitter trends, to tell you what people are talking about at a given time and write a post linking to that. I wrote a Groundhog’s day post, once, that got more attention just because it was posted on February 2, on that theme.
I also got a lot out of hits when the final Harry Potter movie came out:http://michelleule.com/2011/07/14/harry-potter-and-the-end-of-my-daughters-childhood/
My website: http://www.michelleule.com (or you can click on the link above)
Great suggestions, Michelle. I’m going to keep this post handy. 🙂
Glad they work for you, Micky.
I love your blog, Michelle. One of the most substantive one’s I’ve ever read.
I ended up writing two blogs on marriage mostly by accident; I was kind of all over the map, and then wrote a short series on marriage issues. It sort of went viral, so I continued, and realized that I had found a theme for my blogging.
It fits my fiction writing, because I write about relationships; to me, courtship and marriage are the greatest adventures in life.
More fraught, sometimes, than being shot at.
Given the choice to make again, I’d probably go in the same direction, because the research required has taught me a lot about character motivation and behaviour.
Besides, it’s a hoot when I meet people and they say “YOU write a blof about MARRIAGE?!”
Well, my writing career’s over.
“One of the most substantive one’s…”
The Demonic Apostrophe of Death.
Thank you, Andrew, and I’m always so interested to read your intelligent comments.
Your in depth explanation about ordinance in relation to one of my Somme blog posts, has been discussed many times in the last 18 months!
And your point is well taken about “falling into” what works for your readers. I follow your blog, of course, and enjoy getting a peak into what the male half of my marriage may be thinking from time to time! 🙂
And look! I even put in an error in solidarity with you! 🙂
These are great ideas! I like them so much I’m going to try them out. 🙂
You’ll be surprised how the types of things you can write about expands if you just “turn the prism,” to look at your writing from a slightly different angle. Best wishes!
I’ll admit I hadn’t considered writing about my research, though I have written a bit about my writing process, status, and inspirations. These ideas prompted the opening of a whole new idea lane, and I’m excited about it (I love blogging, too). Thanks! 🙂
To the Books and Such Blog community – it would be fun if those commenting would add links to their personal blogs. I already feel like I know many of you, and would enjoy reading more!
There you will see that I am a total novice (and not too consistent) blogger!
Sheila, great point. If I click on your name it takes me right to your website. 🙂
If you click on the writer’s name, the link will take you to their website.
Thank you, Michelle. Blog topics are not easy to come by. Sometimes I find myself down to the last minute. But I had the sweetest encouragement lately. My daughter’s best friend when they were babies just, who lives far away now, followed my blog. She’s 16, and she has her own blog, too. Then at church on Sunday, one of our 5th graders said, “Ms. Shelli, I didn’t know you had a blog.” He and his mother had been doing some research. Made my heart happy. Who would have thought he would have cared? 5th grader? Really?
And I loved your post on Harry Potter! I think we could talk hours over that! 🙂
That was taking advantage of the trend that day.
Valentine’s day is trending today (why???), so, I might consider writing a blog about it (hey, I’ve got an idea!), except I’ve already committed to a new series starting tomorrow.
But, since I know you write for kids, if you were writing a blog today you might consider a valentines theme and kids–or ask questions, what’s your favorite valentine’s memory from grade school? What can you do to make valentine’s day better for your kids? Is there a point to valentine’s day when you’re only seven? That type of thing. 🙂
Over the years I given my boys lots of advice. Last night I had the opportunity to give my son blogging advice (in all things computer-related, usually he gives me advice). And now I have even more ideas to pass on. The question is, will I give you the credit, Michelle, or will I pass on your wisdom as my own?
If it’s kingdom work, I don’t care who gets the credit, Shirlee! 🙂
Not kingdom work, Michelle, but my ego–it’s so fun when I know something about social media that my kids don’t–a rare event!
Michelle, I’m so glad you broached this topic today.
Did you find it more challenging to blog before you were published? Since I’m pre-pubbed I wonder if I need to be sensitive about how much I’m revealing about my novels. Does that make sense?
After publication, does your publisher create boundaries regarding what you’re allowed to include on your blog (in relation to the released book)?
I appreciate your mention earlier today about blogging around a theme. This is the direction I’m leaning toward. I’ve seen a lot of engagement on my FB page over a certain topic that I post regularly about. Mulling over how to expand this on my blog.
What a wonderful blog post, Michelle! Thank you so much. I’ve wondered the same types of questions as Jenni poses here (sorry for the clunky sentence!)…would be interested in any particular tips for blogging pre-published novelists. 🙂 I’ve blogged a fair amount about Native American history and issues, since that’s a theme in all my stories so far, but sometimes I wonder if I should save some of that for later…
An excellent point, Kiersti and great question, Jenni–ones I’ve wrestled with myself.
Part of the reason to have a blog is to build readership for your novel or book. To do that, you need to provide meaningful content. To gain the readership most likely to purchase your work, you need to give them a reason to do so.
If they’ve never heard of you and your insight and expertise into XYZ, how will they
1. hear about your novel
2. know they can trust you to write a good book
3. want to spread the word about you and your project?
That being said, you have need to be careful. You don’t want to give away the whole project–to undercut your novel–but you need to whet the appetite.
It’s important to remember you can repurpose blog posts later–add twists, additional information, answers to questions you’ve been asked and so forth.
Also, if your project’s themes are broad enough, you can write around the subject matter.
The other item to keep in mind pre-published, is your website is among the first things agents and publishers visit when they’re interested in you. Your blog demonstrates your writing ability and gives folks insight into both who you are and whether you’re writing interesting material.
Thanks for those questions, Jenni. I’ve wondered these myself. Fearful of putting out too much information.
Kristen Joy Wilks
Those are all great ideas. I also like blogs that have a set subject for each day of the week. I like the order of it. Ooooh, and I love agent blogs where the agent will post the successful query letters and say what she liked about them. You guys should do that, I always find it fun and inspiring to see how exactly others have succeeded.
Kristen, I have a set topic for each day of the week on my Facebook page. I’ve been at it since September. It keeps me on my toes to curate relevant content. I hope the consistency incites anticipation in the reader.
I’ll pass that request on to my colleagues . . .
Kristen Joy Wilks
Thanks so much Michelle. Kristin Nelson used to do this and I always loved those blog posts.
Yes, I love seeing successful queries, as well … the “RIGHT” way to do things. I want to see the RIGHT way.
As to what is “right” and what is “wrong,” it’s important to remember that publishing doesn’t operate in a vacuum of right and wrong. It works more in the timely.
Sometimes an agent won’t respond positively to your query because they already have a project like yours or the market has turned elsewhere based on what they know.
That’s why it’s important not to take rejection personally. YOU are not being rejected and the quality of your work may not being rejected–but the timing and the market will influence whether a project is viable at this time or not.
So, a blogging agent can give you an example of a terrific query that whetted their appetite, but that project may not lead to a sale. It’s important to follow what is going on in the market and to pay attention to what God and your heart are saying to you–rather than whether a positively received query is right or wrong.
We’ve seen many queries we loved that we just had no room for at that time.
Great ideas! Thanks.
Kathy Sheldon Davis
This is such good information, Michelle, and practical. I put all your Twitter links in my buffer.
I’d like to hear your thoughts about an unpublished author blogging nonfiction devotionals and historical fiction on different days of the week (Mon./Weds). I know it’s not preferable but I love them both.
Kathy, Check out Judith Ingram’s blog http://judithingram.com/. She writes fiction with a supernatural twist for a mainstream audience, but she has an entire devotional section on her blog. She segmented her blog’s categories on her website so the blog displays as one page and devotionals display as another page. That helps Judith keep the two themes she writes about separated. Her devotions are amazing, by the way.
This is a good example of how to separate the two interests by dividing the spiritual insights into “devotional” and the fiction into “blogging.”
I think it would be challenging to maintain the two sides, but if you stick to a schedule, say write about each category once a week on different days, it could work well.
I love Sarah Sundin’s “Today in WW II History” feature on her blog: http://www.sarahsundin.com/blog/. It’s short and interesting. It connects with her history buff readers and it relates 100% to the time period in which she sets her novels.
One of our fiction author clients gets a ton of fan mail. He has a Q&A feature on his blog in which he responds to letters from readers. It gives him the opportunity to address questions about his books, his research, his own life, and his life as a writer.
Love Sarah’s work and she uses those blogs and similar postings on FB to reinforce her brand and keep her readers interested.
Part of the point of a blog is to keep your readers coming back–which is why some experts argue it’s more important to write less frequently but deeply, than to post every day if the work isn’t meaningful.
I also love what historical fiction (pre-published) author, Amy Nowak, does on her blog http://www.amynowak.com/blog/.
She puts the most intriguing spin on her visits to mission ruins (her stories take place in the era of Spanish missions in the southwest). She’s a brilliant writer — I hope to read her novels someday.
Excellent example, Laura, and a beautiful website for Amy Nowak.
I like how (in the blog post I just read), she wove historical information into current situations and gave you a spiritual truth at the end. Wonderful.
Do that. 🙂
Many thanks for such an informative and timely post, for me anyway. My first novel is due out this year from a small publisher and, though I’ve been freelance writing for many years, novels are new to me. I’m always on the lookout for valuable info. Thanks for such valuable info.
Happy to be of service, S.J. Francis! Best wishes with your release.
Great ideas, Michelle. I find it fun to blog about youth ministry resources since I write Christian children’s books and have also been a Sunday School teacher for more than 20 years.
don and rascal
“Last friday I had nothing to say ( I was speechless) . . . so I blogged about it.
It was my most popular Blog posting to date. Seems like a lot of people have nothing to say.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
GREAT post today, and awesome discussion.
And yes, I’m going to take the instruction given here and focus more on the history around my work.
Thank you, Michelle.
That’s exciting! 🙂
Great post, Michelle. Ideas are popping!
That’s what we’re here for, Davalynn! 🙂
Michele L Mathews
I have been struggling with ideas for my blog. Today was perfect timing. Another writer shared the link to this blog post. Thanks so much for your ideas! I now have some ideas for my own blog.
Great! Happy to help. I hope this makes your blogging more personally satisfying as well!
Michelle, your ideas for blogging are perfect for what I’m working on. You’ve given me inspiration for more research travel, both for story details and for blogging topics. Thank you!
Michelle, thank you for sharing these ideas. As an unpublished writer (and Bible study leader at my church) my blog focuses on scripture and spiritual encouragement. As I look ahead to being published, I imagine a once a week fiction emphasis and these are perfect ideas. I won’t even be able to lay aside my passion for expounding the truth and grace of scripture, but I know I’ll need to add an element to my blog that draws readers to my fiction work. On the other hand, my fiction has such strong spiritual threads that I feel the spiritual emphasis of my blog fits right in.
Great post, Michelle. Most helpful. Thanks.