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Two questions to ask before you start a blog

In this highly digital world, authors are often pressured to have an online presence. One question new writers frequently ask is: do I need to start a blog?

Our answer: it depends.

Ask yourself these two questions before you start yours.

Two questions to ask before you start a blog

1. What is the purpose of my blog?

A blog can be about anything you want it to be. It can be full of random musings about your life, your family, and your cats. You may decide to write about your writing projects or make it a technical(ish) blog, like this one. It could be about books you’ve read, short fiction, or just pictures. The Internet is full of blogs, so what will make people want to read yours?

Tips:

 

  • If you’re planning to keep it mainly for friends and family, posts about your cat or dog or random musings about your life may be enough.
  • For fiction writers, snippets of your book, some short fiction and flash fiction, or updates on your writing projects may be the calling card you need to engage new and existing readership.
  • If you’re writing a non-fiction book, posting about your expertise could help increase your credibility and visibility. People who read your blog and find your posts useful may very well go on to buy your book!

You need to know why you want a blog before you start one. Otherwise, it will just be a lot of work for no reason. As a writer, your blog is a place that can help you promote your work but if your blog is only filled with “buy my book” posts, what’s the point?

Ultimately, your blog should be about whatever you want your readers to know about you.

 

 

2. How often am I able post?

Blogging is a very time-consuming task. As you can see from the (in)consistency of this blog, it’s a lot of work! (We’re trying to do better, promise!) Writing a post can take anywhere from 5 minutes to four hours, depending on what you decide to write about. Obviously, if you’re just posting cat pictures, that should take about 5 minutes… except that you need to take the perfect picture of your cat, and then you get distracted by cat memes and oh look at the time! You’ve been writing that one cat picture post for two hours.

You don’t need to blog every day. To help you decide how often you should post, estimate:

  • how much time you normally take to write a post, and
  • how much time you can spare to write posts.

You can then set a posting schedule that works for you, whether it’s once a day, once a week, once a month, or anything in between. Consistency is key, even if we’re not the best examples of that. Regular posts help readers know when to check your blog for your latest updates.

 

So should I blog or what?

If you’ve got answers for both questions, you should have a good feel of whether starting a blog is right for you. Don’t worry if it isn’t. Not everyone likes blogging and it’s best to not have one if you’re just going to hate doing it and then end up abandoning it anyway.

If you need help getting started, the upcoming Blogging from A to Z Challenge in April is a brilliant way to get organised. Whilst the schedule is gruelling at first, it’s a great way to fill your new blog with content and then ease down into a schedule that works for you once you’ve gotten into the habit of blogging. It also comes with an inbuilt community of supportive bloggers with whom you can network and find great support!

I’ve written a novel… now what?

The question most people ask after NaNoWriMo is: Now What? Sometimes that question means ‘what do I do with this 50K novel I’ve written?’ Sometimes it’s ‘I didn’t finish my novel, what do I do now?’

The answer to both is: keep writing.

I've written a novel... now what?

Just because you’ve finished one month of writing doesn’t mean that you just stop there. Because whilst the point of NaNoWriMo is to have written a novel, if you’re serious about writing, you can’t just only write for one month of the year. You’ve got to make it consistent—and that’s the real point.

You can think of it this way:

Isi Tersurat: write 50K in a month… win!

Isi Tersirat: create a writing schedule (daily/weekly/monthly) that works for you so that you’re on track to be a serious full-time novelist… win! Remember what we said in this post?

But practically…

  • If you haven’t finished your novel yet (whether or not you hit 50K), keep going. You’ve already started your novel, you might as well finish it.
  • If you’ve already finished your novel (whether or not it was 50K), now’s the time to take a step back and look at it with a critical editing eye.

The Easy Yes/No Questions:

  1. Does the story have a solid beginning, middle and ending?
  2. Does the plot make sense?
  3. Is this story worth telling/something you really want to share?
  4. Are you satisfied with it as it stands?

If you answered yes to all four, then you can start working on editing and polishing it into something for others to see.

If you answered no to ANY of the above, then it’s time for rewrites!

What’s rewriting?

Rewriting is when you pull your novel to pieces and then put it together again to make it better.

You’re addressing all the questions above, making sure that your story has a good plot that makes sense and is complete in itself. It may also mean you need to restructure the whole thing if you write anything like we do, haphazardly jumping from scene to scene, up and down the timeline.

When you’ve finally come to the point where you’re satisfied with your story, or where you don’t know how else you can make it better, that’s when you workshop it or bring it to a critique group.

And will be the next post.

For now, here’s a short article on rewriting:

MYWriters: The Writing Community for Malaysians

Our last post talked about NaNoWriMo and how having a group of writing friends can help spur on your writing—and make you a better writer. But if you’ve just started on your writing journey, how do you find such friends?

Introducing MYWriters

MYWriters banner

One resource you can look at is the Malaysian Writers Society, fondly known as MYWriters, which was established in September 2016. An inclusive and non-profit initiative, MYWriters facilitates activities and programmes related to Malaysian writing and publishing that transcends genre, language, function, medium, and experience levels.

MYWriters runs on two levels:

The online community

The Facebook group, founded by Tina Isaacs in October 2014, provides a place for interaction amongst writers of all stripes in Malaysia. This is a closed group, with posts only visible to approved members, so that writers can have a safe place to discuss writing and publishing matters in private. The only criteria to be a member of the online group is an interest in writing!

Members regularly post calls for submissions, writing and publishing articles, and have discussions about their work. Write-in sessions and chit chat sessions are also organised on a regular basis.

Join the MYWriters Community here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/malaysianwriters/

Members located in Penang also have a MYWriters Penang group to discuss Penang-related matters. Join here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/MyWritersPenang/

The Society

Official membership in the society provides benefits that aren’t available to the members of the facebook group. This includes discounts on society events, book sales and publication opportunities.

Some of the additional benefits to come include publishing advice, mentorship programmes, an industry rate card, and representation at international book fairs. See the full list here: http://malaysianwriterssociety.org/member-application/members-benefits/

Did you know that as a member of the Malaysian Writers Society, you get 10% off all services and publishing hub packages here at Teaspoon Publishing?

Sign up for Malaysian Writers Society here: http://malaysianwriterssociety.org/member-application/

And follow them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/malaysianwriterssociety/

Write-ins

If you’re looking for company as you write, check out the following venues:

KL:

CBTL NuSentral: Saturdays, 8.30am to 1pm (weekly; check Facebook for updates).

Old Town Bandar Kinrara, Puchong: Sundays, 3pm – 5pm (check Facebook for updates).

Penang:

LUMA, Hin Bus Depot, George Town: Mondays, 7pm – 11pm (weekly).

 

MYWriters AGM

The Malaysian Writers Society is holding their second AGM on 10 November 2018 (Saturday) at the GerakBudaya Hall, Petaling Jaya. If you’re already a member and are interested to find out more about the society or would like to get involved in this young vibrant society, do attend the AGM.

For more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/695054964201548/permalink/695056687534709/

Malaysian writers, are you geared up for NaNoWriMo?

It’s the middle of October and we’re gearing up for NaNoWriMo. Are you?

What’s NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo logo
Image courtesy of National Novel Writing Month

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Participants are challenged to finish a 50,000-word novel in the 30 days of November, writing 1,667 words a day. Founded in 1999 by Chris Baty, it started off as a tiny group of writers in the San Francisco Bay Area who challenged themselves to write a novel in a month. 19 years later, NaNoWriMo now boasts more than 400,000 participants worldwide and hosts a Young Writers Programme in November to encourage creative writing in schools.

Whilst it may sound like ridiculous hype, great things have come out of NaNoWriMo, including Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, Hugh Howey’s Wool, Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, Jason Hough’s The Darwin Elevator, Marissa Meyer’s Cinder and Anna Tan’s Dongeng. Why not add your novel to that list?

 

50,000 words? In one month? That’s crazy!

Sometimes the problem with writing is… actually writing. Life gets in the way. School gets in the way. Work gets in the way. And then a new year rolls around and you’re still on page one of your novel. (At least, we hope you’ve started page one.) What NaNoWriMo does is add a little bit of challenge (and discipline) to your writing life.

Setting yourself an achievable goal of 1,667 words a day helps you to pace yourself—and before you know it, you’ll have completed the first draft of your novel! This kind of sustained, target-based writing exercise doesn’t work for everyone, so if you don’t hit the target, don’t worry. What you’ll have gained from attempting it is an achievement in itself, including:

  • Discovering that you are capable of writing more than you think.
  • Building more confidence in your writing and your writing process.
  • Gaining a new community of supportive writing friends.
  • Finding out if you’re a plotter (you need detailed outlines before writing) or a pantster (you write as the story comes to you without outlines or plots).
  • Working out if you prefer to word-vomit and edit later or if you need to scrutinise every word, sentence and paragraph as you write.
  • Writing more words than you had at the beginning of the month.

It’s a win-win situation!

3 Do’s for November:

  • DO enjoy yourself! Whilst it’s a competition (sorta?) the most you’ll win is a certificate, discounts, and bragging rights. If your participation is affecting your mental health, relationships, or life/work/school, take a step back and chill.
  • DO attempt to write every day. The point of NaNoWriMo is to help you get into a habit of writing regularly.
  • DO get involved in community. Writing is usually a very lonely endeavour. With a bunch of other crazy writers working towards the same goal in November, it’s the perfect time to find new writing friends (online and offline) for encouragement and solace.

How do I sign up?

Sign up at the website here: https://nanowrimo.org

If you’re looking for a community of Malaysian writers to join you on this crazy writing journey, join the NaNo Malaysia facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/257264007651665/ or join the regional forum: https://nanowrimo.org/regions/asia-malaysia. More participants are active on the FB group than on the forum, but you never know. Things may change year by year, depending on who’s signed up for the year.

Also look out for the occasional write-in posts—the KL group normally meets on Saturday evenings at various malls. If you’re based in Penang, the MYWriters Penang group has a weekly write-in at Luma every Monday evening from 7pm – 11pm. It’s not directly related to NaNoWriMo, but you’ll be in writing company!

Now I’ve signed up, how can I prepare?

  • Join a writing group in your area (whether face-to-face or virtual) for encouragement, writing tips, and to convince at least one of them to join you on this crazy journey!
  • Look out for any pre-NaNoWriMo meetups in your area (see above) or create one!
  • Prep your friends, writerly or not, to cheer you on (and provide tea, chocolate, and tissue paper).
  • If you’re a plotter, start outlining and collecting miscellaneous information so you’re ready to dive right in on Nov 1!
  • If you’re a pantster, clear up your writing space and remove distractions from your desk so you’re ready to dive right in on Nov 1!
  • Check out the NaNo Prep page for webcasts, tweet chats, events, and all the other stuff we’ve missed out.

See you in November!