Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Blogging - It's About Incremental Achievement

To blog or not to blog is a decision faced by most writers, and the approach they take is as varied as the genres in which they write.  Established authors with large dedicated followings may not bother with a blog.  That’s not me.  I’m a self-published author with a narrow following, a description that defines the plurality of writers.  The past four years, I’ve maintained a blog at, which also serves as my website.  I’m still learning about what works and what doesn’t.
I aim to have my blog reflect my writing style and my personality. A majority of postings are about my current projects, but not all.  Pets, nature, and travel are among my other favorite subjects.  I think it’s important for readers to know what to expect when they return, so I don’t stray far from these topics.  Two areas I avoid are family and politics.  Except for my wife, who’s also my editor, I rarely mention other family members.  I also find there’s little to gain with political posts unless that’s your thing.  Taking a position on controversial issues has the potential for losing 50% of your readers.  Whatever I blog about, one rule I have is to keep it short, targeting 500 words or less.  
Blogging competes with other writing projects, but for me, the more I write, the more I blog. Blogging gives me a chance to step back from larger projects and keeps me fresh.  I produced three novels 2013-2014.  During this two-year period, I posted an average of three times a month to my blog.  My goal for 2016 is one post per week.  This is a major commitment, but challenges me to write regularly--a good thing.
I’m far from declaring my blog a success.  Still, I believe its quality and consistency continue to improve. I periodically check the number of visits to my site and to specific posts.  I consider 50 views to any given post as acceptable, but hope for 100 or more.  Focus on the Tree, Not the ForestandMeet Miles Stevens have been my most-viewed posts, with over 250 views.  Please check them out.  
Attracting readers to my blog gives me a feeling of achievement, and with novels taking twelve months or more to complete, incremental achievements are a good thing.         

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Great Writers – Born not Built

I’ve been writing my whole life.  Most of us have.  The first time we spelled our name in block letters on grainy, wide-lined paper, writing became a part of our daily communication. What middle schooler isn’t required to write an essay on what I did over my summer vacation?  Universities have added compositions to their application processes.  Most jobs require the ability to write.  It’s hard to succeed without the ability to communicate in writing. 
So, am I and other self-published authors qualified to be writers?  It’s a hot topic, and my answer may not be what you’d expect.  I believe anyone who has a desire to write should write, but to be a great writer, like other art forms, requires a talent that comes from within.  Great writers are born, not built.  
As an example, my father is a gifted carver, one of the best.  He can visualize shape, texture, and color and transform a block of wood into a thing of beauty.  It’s amazing to see what he can create.  I could take woodworking and carving classes for years and not come close to doing what he finds natural.  Dad has improved his craft over many years, studying other carvers and learning new techniques, but he started with skills that can’t be taught.
Just like my father, great writers need to envision what they write before they put it on paper.  They must feel the emotions, visualize scenes from the point of view of their characters, and then transpose what they see and feel into words so their readers experience the same.   Writing is truly an art, but it’s also complex and technical.   Being able to visualize characters, scenes and plots is only half the challenge; you also must be able to choose the precise composition of grammatically correct words to convey what is visualized.  I can visualize a duck, but no one would want to display what I carve on their mantel.
I’m not claiming I was born with the inner skills to be a top writer.  I wasn’t.  My definition of a great writer is someone capable of producing best sellers or whose works stand the test of time.  It’s a broad definition, and not everyone would agree every best seller was produced by a great author.  Today, good marketing plays as much of a role in achieving success as great writing.  Nevertheless, we can agree that Hemingway was a great writer, and there are few Hemingways.
Most of my friends and family are supportive of my writing.  Several have read all my books, and I’ve received sufficient recognition and sales to keep me motivated.  Still, there are doubters.  I sometimes see eyes glaze over when the subject of my writing surfaces.  I’m sure they wonder why I spend so much of my time on something seemingly frivolous.  Surely he doesn’t think he’ll make a go of this, they must think.
What they don’t know is that I have already made of go of it.  While I accept that great writers are born with unique talents and that I’m not in this class, I know I can become a better writer, maybe even a good one.  I expect most self-published authors feel the same.  To them I say, keep on writing.