What I Learned from 52 Weeks of Blogging

Today marks a year since I created Slumdog Soldier – the anniversary of my first post on blogging advice, when I started publishing on a consistent weekly schedule. This was my first go at being an active giver to this online community rather than just a passive consumer; over 20 short stories and 31 chapters later, here are some key things I’ve learned:

You don’t have to write literally every single day. Just write consistently.

Since I’ve noticed everyone’s Number 1 Writing Tip on writing forums is “write every day”, I wanted to offer a counter-perspective.

Writing every day doesn’t work for me. It never has. You hit a running stride for a few good days, then you run out of steam and it’s like beating your head against a brick wall trying to keep that momentum going. Once I hit a writing slump, I won’t recover until I take a day or two off. Doing too much can be exhausting, paralysing and creatively draining.

In my opinion, the far better (and easier) method is keeping to a set schedule. Take breaks to recharge yourself but always get back to consistently improving your writing.

I try to ‘work’ on my stories every day. Note: Background research & getting outside inspiration is just as important as writing. In a given week I’m only really writing stories for a couple of hours. The rest of that time is exploring, researching, playing with ideas, outlining, trimming down old stuff. Reading old favourite books is a great way to get new inspiration too! That happens almost every day, and is just as important as typing the words on the page.

However, sometimes the ‘work’ behind my writing can take 3+ hours of my day (usually across multiple stories) and sometimes that’s just 15 minutes. My ideal schedule is publishing on Mondays, at least one story a week. To some bloggers that’ll sound ridiculously small but that’s exactly the point. I always meet (and often surpass) my personal goal, write more than expected and feel great. On bad days it’s a manageable goal to hit and I can edit more rough drafts during the rest of the week.

I’ve noticed much better feedback since trying this weekly schedule. People respond to my characters better, feel a stronger forward momentum in the story plots and I’ve even gotten a few really heartfelt messages regarding a flash fiction or two. When I’ve spent time polishing up each story, they really resonate with people.

Just because I’m not physically ‘writing’ a particular story every day, doesn’t mean I’m not consuming other inspirations to improve my work, whether watching film and TV, reading old favourite books, or going for a breath of fresh air and change of pace. Jotting ideas down. Playing around with scenes and characters in my head. Tweaking a section of dialogue over a few days to get it just right. Fixing this plot hole here. Altering that illogical action there. Always keep your creative brain humming – it’s not just about padding out the word count every day.

For example, I’m polishing up my next fantasy story right now (ahoy Philip Pullman fans!) and in my spare time I’ve been re-reading His Dark Materials trilogy. It’s taught me a lot about how to naturally map out a set piece around sympathetic characters, build emotional stakes for your audience, and how to craft believable exposition that pulls the reader into a vivid fantasy world. By absorbing other content, you’re constantly learning new ways to enhance your writing skills and improve your own stories.

And that’s just as important as staring at a blank screen trying to coax words out onto the page.

Don’t be afraid to push yourself

I’ve spent plenty of times staring at a blank draft late at night, worrying why I was doing this to myself for a few hundred meagre words that would be lucky to get maybe ten people to read it. However, there were even more times where I sat down to a blank page and wrote something in a few hours which I was genuinely proud of. I knew last September that if I didn’t have a regular schedule, I wouldn’t be able to convince myself to post something consistently when I didn’t feel up to it. By giving myself a set weekly deadline and a fixed posting hour, I had the small push I needed to keep writing. And after that…the blank page wasn’t quite so intimidating.

Stat counts don’t really matter

Worrying about increasing your follower count, your likes, or the peaks and valleys of your viewing figures…will only increase your immediate stress and can be really disheartening, particularly when you’re first starting out. I know: I went through that phase. I got low, I reassessed what truly mattered, I pushed the stats worries out of my mind, I got over them.

And I got better.

Everyone goes through that initial self-doubt. Don’t get hung up about building your audience with every site or blogger that shows a passing vague interest in your work – if they truly enjoy your content, they will revisit your site and leave constructive comments on your work time and time again.

Put it this way: which would you rather have, a nameless faceless mass of over 5,000 indistinct followers with no real personalities behind them…

…or a much smaller close-knit community of fellow writers, artists and bloggers who enjoy what you write, look forward to new content, prop you up on your bad days, and take time to leave genuine positive feedback on your work?

Because of my particular niche and the spaced-out nature of my weekly blogging, I know my audience is naturally small and I won’t build a large following anytime soon. That’s completely fine. I don’t want to strive towards an unrealistic end goal. I like it this way. Rather than being overwhelmed with spam comments from token viewers or a flood of advertising, I’ve deliberately kept my audience trimmed to a small crew of supremely talented people – it’s much more manageable and enjoyable when you know there’s an actual person behind the screen. There’s maybe…thirty people (if that) whom I can confidently rely on to keep up with my new content and regularly leave genuine supportive feedback for my novel and flash fictions. We all keep up to date with each other’s latest works, so it’s great to have that close community of talented writers and poets spurring each other on.

And I think that’s wonderful 😀

Engage with other bloggers

Your online family is one of the first big audiences you’ll have for your creative work – so take the time to connect with them. People can spend their time doing a million things under the sun, so the fact that they’re spending time reading your blog does and should mean a lot to you. If they leave you a comment, respond to it. If they send you an email, let them know that it came through. If they ask you to check out their page, check out their page. Let them know that you’re actively listening and that you’re grateful they took time out of their day to view your blog. I’ve learnt so much from interacting with talented bloggers who’ve been kind enough to return the favour.

Networking isn’t just about growing your stats page – it’s about connecting and learning from other bloggers and reading some fantastic new blogs! So reach out to others who interest you and whose work resonates with you – it’s so worthwhile in the long run. You’ll gain new knowledge in a particular niche, new ideas on how to build your blog, and expertise from other writers.

I’ve definitely improved as a writer by connecting with other bloggers here – having them critique my stories definitely helped me polish them up to be the best work I can make, as well as noticing any faults I might have initially missed. Don’t underestimate how useful beta feedback can be – it changed my blogging for the better 🙂

I love returning to my old favourite blogs, but I would absolutely recommend any new blogger to go read other blogs – explore, read, share, learn and enjoy; the payoff is totally worth it. Having that fantastic WP community here has really encouraged me to continue creating such varied stories for my faithful readers. I’ve found some truly wonderful, creative, talented, hilarious, amazing and supportive friends here who love what I publish and found value in my stories, motivating me to keep writing new material every week. Every encouraging comment from a fellow blogger is a positive fist-bump that keeps me going and reminds me why I’m doing this.

Thank you wonderful readers for supporting me by reading my scattered ramblings, commenting on my stories and consistently enjoying the content I publish. It means the world!

Tom 😀 ❤

Blogger Recognition Award 2

To all my blogging friends:

I’m deeply humbled to be nominated by Mathew of Blog of the Wolf Boy for a second Blogger Recognition Award! Thank you ever so much for considering me! Please visit his website; Mathew’s an amazing blogger who writes vivid poetry from the heart and is passionate about the stories he crafts. Be sure to check his fantastic work out! 🙂

Blogger Recognition Award:

This Award is given in recognition of all the hard work that goes into creating a blog. It’s a great chance for bloggers to support, motivate and promote other bloggers who have clearly put in huge amounts of time and effort to produce valuable content for others. It’s an excellent way to promote bloggers who encourage, motivate, interact and engage with others to help build this online community. Whether shy and reticent or loud and outgoing, they’ve worked hard to build their blogs, creating a welcome escape for other readers to read, learn, be entertained and have fun.

Award Rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link back to their blog.
  • Tell the story of why you started your blog.
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.

21579ca9f592b38 - Copy

Why I started Slumdog Soldier:

Whether Max Rockatansky from Mad Max, Lisbeth Salander from Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy or James Delaney from the BBC series Taboo, I’ve always had a soft spot for lone-wolf antiheroes. Asocial outcasts who prefer to be left alone and prickly towards strangers they mistrust, they’re reluctant to emotionally invest in others and often gruff, blunt and tactless even to close friends.

Yet all three characters have a deep-seated protective instinct to assist people in need, always willing to intervene on behalf of struggling innocents. Whether for their family, close trusted friends or strangers they’ve taking a liking to, their underlying decency and compassion shines through when helping others. Following their own primal code of righteous violent justice, these characters are ruthless avenging angels against the three-headed dragon of greed, corruption and cruelty. By targeting the rotten dregs of society outside the law – abusers, sadists, bullies and tyrants – these visceral revenge fantasies have resonated with millions of people worldwide, fulfilling that universal cathartic desire for good to triumph over evil and fix a broken world.

Morally grey characters with an inner core of gold – that really struck a chord with me. I had this niggling idea buzzing around my head like a gnat: a tale of soldierly brotherhood among the gutter rats of London; righteous vengeance against cruelty; the plight of fallen soldiers in a country that cast them aside, and standing up for the smallfolk on the grimy margins of society. And my brain whispered:

Start writing. Now.

Publishing on a consistent weekly basis has really helped my writing blossom and improve in a huge way – I’ve been continuously humbled at the overwhelmingly positive reception this story’s received & how it resonates with so many people from all over the world. Having my stories read and commented on by fellow writers has been invaluable for improving my creative writing and gaining confidence to share my stories with a wider audience.

21579ca9f592b38 - Copy

Two tips for new bloggers:

  1. Use plenty of visuals. While long posts of just block text can save a whole lot of time, effort and formatting stress…it can look very boring to read. Pictures draw the eye. They break up long paragraphs and enhance what’s being said. Your blog posts will look way much more professional when they include pictures – whether header photos, GIFs or graphic art, weaving them throughout your content adds a ton of flair and colour to your posts, and makes them far more appealing for readers.
  2. Take your time. Save your drafts for future use. If you’re running short of fresh inspiration, they’ll give you backup ideas for new content. If a weekly, fortnightly or monthly schedule works best for you, space out your blogging and let your drafts marinade for a while! You’ll return to them with fresh eyes, see mistakes you’ve originally missed, and notice what works and what doesn’t. Content you’ve spend time polishing up will be far better written than if you panic-publish on the day. Spend time perfecting it, and it’ll really pay off!

My Terrific Ten Bloggers:

These are some brilliant bloggers I’ve had the privilege to get to know better. Please check their websites out; they’re fantastic bloggers who’ve been incredibly kind and uplifting throughout my blogging journey!

Fictive Finesse – Rashi is a talented young writer who’s been a huge encouragement throughout my blogging journey; her supportive comments always make me smile! 😀 She has an innate talent for expressing herself through powerful imagery. Two of her brilliant poems are Open and Falcon; please show her some love by visiting her fantastic blog!

Foxes And Poems – April is a brilliant poet who crafts such evocative and mysterious imagery with her powerful poetry. Three of her fabulous pieces are Ode to SeleneLeones et Agnos (Lions and Lambs) and Mon Miroir D’Hiver (My Winter’s Mirror). If you love visceral poems that touch your soul, please visit her website – you’re in for a treat!

Matthew Richardson is one of the best storytellers I know; his fantastically vivid stories crackle with vitality, filled with brilliantly memorable characters and surprise twist endings! Three of his excellent short stories are Urban Creep, Capturing the Mountain and Street ServicePlease show him some appreciation by checking them out!

Chris Hall is a fantastic published author who’s been such a supportive reader throughout my story. She’s already released her first novel through Amazon – You’ll Never Walk Aloneand is currently working on her next YA novel:  A Nick in Time. Please visit her website for more gripping flash fiction such as The (Un)Dutiful Daughter and Trading Places. She’s well worth your time!

Tara Caribou paints incredibly heartfelt scenes through her elegant prose, powerful imagery and deeply emotional rollercoasters. Some fantastically moving poems of hers are Lover’s TrailHesperus, and Little Red. If you’re looking for some wonderfully raw poetry, she’s the ideal blogger for you!

Fresh Hell – Sarah is an inspiring writer and poet who weaves powerful stories that carry the reader into magical new worlds. Three of her brilliant evocative stories are Wood ChildFeral Muse and Still There. Her words will definitely stay with you!

Earthly Brain – Em writes beautiful poetry from the heart, and her passion shines through her terrific content that sweeps the reader into rich sensual scenes. Two great poems of hers are Smell of Summer Rain and Cherry Blossoms – she’s a brilliant writer!

Yari Garcia Writes – whether you’re a fledgling blogger just starting out or a veteran writer searching for fresh inspiration, Yari is a fantastic writing sage with valuable lessons about the writing journey – the benefits of self-publishing, adding diversity to your story, finding your intended audience and much more! Please show her some appreciation by visiting her website!

Mark Ryan paints such incredible emotions in his stunning poetry, crafting beautiful tributes to tender lost love and the wistful inevitability of ageing. Three excellent poems of his that I’d highly recommend are Wandering StarTurbulent Cosmic Swells and Death in Neutral. He’s well worth your time!

L. K. Middlebrook – Liv is an excellent writer with an exceptional talent for both poetry and flash fiction. Her brilliant work such as Sent From My iPhone, The Flagpoles of Summer and The Pen And The Flower really pulls the reader into stunning evocative scenes that leap off the page; please show her some love by visiting her website!

I appreciate how writing Award posts can be very time-consuming, and that many bloggers aren’t always comfortable doing them or sharing personal details about themselves; that is completely okay. If you would prefer not to take part, no problem at all. If you would like to accept this Award and pay it forward to new bloggers whom you feel deserve wider appreciation, that’s great too!

Spread the love and pay it forward!

And finally: Thank you, each and every one of you fantastic readers, for taking the time to read my stories and enjoy my blog. Your support keeps me going and your kindness, encouragement and inspiration has helped me blossom into a better writer. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to meet such great new friends and continue growing my blogging family. It’s so lovely getting to know you all!

Tom 😀