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.

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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.

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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 😀

Why I Blog Once A Week

Some of you are probably thinking: hey Tom, where’s all this exciting new content you’ve been promising us? All the delicious short stories, the rip-roaring novel progress, the useful blogging tips? Don’t keep us waiting! *grab torches and pitchforks*

SPOILER ALERT: It’s all coming right on schedule, each and every Monday.

Why?

Because this weekly schedule works best for me. And for you, the precious readers enjoying my stories and looking forward to the new content I publish. ❤

Posting at random

When I started my blogging journey (wayyyy back in the mists of time at the start of 2018), I panicked. I was still learning the ropes of being a first-time blogger, so there was literally no structure or consistency in the rhythm of my first blog posts. During those early days, I was worrying all about the numbers and blogging for the sake of being noticed and validated by my peers. Other people were doing it well, and tons of readers seemed interested in those blogs that posted daily. So I splurge-published my first attempt at the historical thriller that kickstarted this blog off. Four chapter posts one day a week, two another day, one the next week, three the next.

Exhibit A: How NOT to blog

I thought that posting different days of the week would bring in new bloggers, people whose different life commitments meant they could read my content whenever they chose best.

It didn’t.

What happened was bloggers were visiting my blog, seeing no consistency in the posts I published, and soon losing interest in keeping up with new material. My views initially skyrocketed before immediately plummeting within a day because they were mostly viewers who were vaguely curious, but not enough to stick around. Readers didn’t know what to expect or when to expect it, so after an initial spike in interest, my readership soon dropped like a stone and languished in the pits.

Eventually the crazy panic posting (sometimes multiple times a day) was burning me out, and it started to bleed into my writing. People stopped reading and visiting, and the first nine months really dragged. I began worrying ‘I can’t do this.’ ‘I’m not good enough.’ ‘My writing’s getting worse.’

‘What’s the point anymore?’

I’d forgotten the one basis rule: quality shouldn’t be rushed.

Posting once a week means: better blogging

From September last year, I restarted my blog and began practicing weekly blogging. One decent post each week, covering different blogging tips that I’d found helpful. Then another the next week. (Disney gifs helped a LOT in this case) 😀 My first lucky break was How to Handle Writer’s Block. Then the following week – How to Be a Better Blogger, some key self-help tips that I felt useful about what worked and what didn’t.

And…it took off. It really resonated with people. So I published more ‘How to…’ posts every week, and those snowballed as well. Here’s the thing: since I’ve started scheduling regular posts every single Monday (and stuck to it), my readership’s taken off in a big way. Not a huge audience, true, but it’s regular & reliable.

Exhibit B: Less is more

Why 1pm every Monday?

I felt Monday was as good a time to publish as any. There’s dozens of advice sites around telling you that ‘THE ABSOLUTE BEST TIME TO PUBLISH IS (-blegh-) AND ANY OTHER TIME IS STUPID’. Honestly? I just felt 1pm on a Monday would be okay for some readers heading into work on the US Eastern Seaboard, plus casual readers chilling over lunch in the UK / mid-afternoon in Europe, plus people on their evening commute in India and Pakistan, or any late-night readers over in Australia and Japan. So yeah…just a random time I chose for consistency that sometimes pays off, sometimes doesn’t.

Since late January, I began republishing my historical action thriller Slumdog Soldier once a week. Publishing on a consistent weekly basis has really helped my writing blossom and improve in a huge way – five months on, and I’ve been floored at the overwhelmingly positive reception it’s received. I love building an engaging story that resonates with so many people & I’m truly grateful for everyone who’s taken time to read it and leave such great constructive feedback. ❤ Always encouraging when people love an underdog story! (Especially with an actual dog sidekick. And cat. So that’s great 😀 )

 

Thanks to trying this serialised format, I’ve found the rhythm of my own song. I now know that blogging weekly has made me a much better blogger and writer in general. I don’t feel the need to write in a panicked urgency to keep up with daily posting; instead I’m free to pick and choose from any one situation I experience, and build a solid, engaging story for readers to enjoy on a regular weekly basis. Some might say: it’s easy for people to forget about your blog if you decide to post less frequently, BUT I believe that if people truly enjoy what you have to say and write about, then it shouldn’t matter if you decide to share your art less frequently. It’s like your favourite TV shows – they’re not aired every day, we have to wait in anticipation on a specific day to fully enjoy them, right? Keeping my blogging to a consistent weekly schedule: 1) makes me accountable to my waiting readers and stops me procrastinating; 2) lets followers know when to anticipate brand new content; and 3) gives me a self-imposed challenge to keep regularly producing quality posts for readers every week.

I mean, don’t get me wrong…I love crafting my stories and I’m a firm believer of ‘do what you love’, but ultimately it’s the fantastic WP community here that’s encouraged me to continue creating such varied stories for my faithful readers. No man is an island, right? I’ve found some truly wonderful, creative, talented, hilarious, amazing and supportive friends here who love what I publish and motivate me to keep writing. Every positive encouraging comment from a fellow blogger is a little fist-bump that keeps me going, special rays of thoughtfulness from my readers who appreciate what I’m offering them. The overflowing support from this beautiful worldwide network of bloggers has truly inspired me to continue contributing to this global family – the least I can do is make sure my blogging is regular and consistent for all you wonderful people to enjoy. Sound good?

No Burnout

The best part about this whole thing is longevity. If you posted every single day for one hundred days, you might risk running out of interesting new things to say, but if you posted one hundred posts in just as many weeks…well, that’s two whole years covered! Wow!

Like this writing blog, for example. Spacing each fresh chapter out in weekly instalments means I’ve got over five months of future chapters scheduled and ready (right up to December! 😀 ), which means less pressure to panic-publish new stuff in a rush. I could release more of them each week if I liked…but I don’t want to. I’d rather not overload readers with too much too often, but hope they can look forward to new content every week. This regular schedule works well for me. And that’s not including the short stories I’ve got ready to publish on the back-burner; I’m deliberately keeping the rest in reserve in case I’m short of ideas in the future. That way, I can comfortably stretch them out to another six months’ worth of blogging. Serialising my stories this way has been great for me and my readers – nothing wrong with delayed gratification, right? 😀

(I know, I know – I could publish more of them each week & get way more exposure from readers sooner, but that’s not why I’m doing this. Weekly works for me. I’m comfortable doing it this way & I’d much rather have a smaller but more faithful audience than just skim ‘n’ skip readers who won’t revisit a second time round.)

When you publish once a week, it gives you much more time to correct errors, to tweak and polish with minimal fuss, to make each and every post the absolute best it can be. And when you’ve taken time to make your content shine, it really makes your post stand out among all the others – and I personally believe that you will enjoy writing it a whole lot more each week. I certainly have. I really feel I’ve become a better writer since restarting this on a weekly basis.

This in turn helps build a solid core following, people who genuinely enjoy that high quality foundation of your blog and take something positive away from it. Visitors are curious, but true friends are dedicated. They might not be a particularly large audience, but they’re your core readers and will revisit time and time again because of the high quality of your posts. It’s a long, hard lesson I should’ve know from the beginning…

…but I’m so glad I learned it late than never 😀

Final Thoughts

I’m a firm believer that if you do post daily, you will build a larger audience far quicker than any other method. When you publish daily, your audience will learn to revisit each and every day, therefore building more traffic through your daily posts. When you blog once a week, that won’t happen.

However.

Blogging weekly is like the gift that keeps on giving (And it’s not even Christmas yet!) because you’ll have to focus on actively promoting each blog post. Building awareness of one particular blog post over the week helps build more engagement in it, as there’ll be greater awareness over the following days, more comments and more readers versus if you posted daily. Then comes the snowball effect: a higher level of overall engagement means more people will be curious in something that’s doing well. And voila: another surprise weapon up your sleeve to become a better blogger! (y’know, besides the normal help of witchcraft, voodoo magic and CrossFit)

Moral of this story: Don’t rush your posts. When it comes to something you love…Take. Your. Time. When you write high-quality, informative content that resonates with people, readers will appreciate it for its own sake, no matter how often or infrequent it appears. They will come back again and again, and if you’re really lucky…they might even share it. These are just a few reasons why I’ve dialled back my blogging to once a week. It’s worked well for me, and who knows…it might work well for you too 😀

I’ll be releasing a couple of short story favourites for my anthology over the next few months, on certain Fridays. As it bucks the trend of weekly blogging, I’ll add a footnote to every relevant Monday chapter letting readers anticipate extra content on the following Friday.

Thanks ever so much for reading this! Hope you enjoyed it. Have a lovely week!

Tom ❤

Blogger Recognition Award

I’m thrilled to have my blog nominated by Sadje of Keep It Alive for the Blogger Recognition Award! Thank you ever so much for your kind shoutout! Please visit her website; she’s an incredible blogger who writes from the heart and is passionate about encouraging new bloggers to embrace their inner creativity. Her boundless talent for stories and poetry is sure to thrive! 🙂

Award Rules:

  • Thank your nominator and provide a link back to their blog in your post.
  • Give a brief story of how your blog started.
  • Give two pieces of advice to new bloggers.
  • Nominate 10-15 other bloggers for this award, and inform them of their nomination.

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How I started Slumdog Soldier:

I had this niggling idea bouncing around in my head, like a fly aimlessly bumping against a window. A story of brotherhood among the rats and gutters of London, of righteous vengeance against cruelty; the plight of fallen soldiers in a country that no longer valued them; of trust-building, violent justice against the wicked and standing up for the little guys on the grimy margins of society. And my brain just whispered:

Start writing. Now.

The alliteration of it sounded neat (deep down I’m very shallow and easily pleased 😀 ), plus the story features a war veteran adapting to an unfamiliar city, rats, grime and all, so: Slumdog Soldier. Since late January, I began republishing my historical action thriller once a week. I was definitely inspired by the Mad Max movies and the Jack Reacher series – these gruff loners who are reluctant about emotionally investing in others, yet nonetheless have a soft spot for people in need and won’t betray their better nature to turn down a plea for help. Publishing on a consistent weekly basis has really helped my writing blossom and improve in a huge way – I’ve been continuously floored at the overwhelmingly positive reception it’s received & deeply humbled that it resonates with so many people from all walks of life. I’m truly grateful for everyone who’s taken time to read through it and leave such great constructive feedback. ❤ Having my stories read and commented on by fellow writers has truly been invaluable for improving my creative writing and gaining confidence to share my stories with a wider audience.

After a nine-month slog brief hiccup of erratic blogging, from September last year I began practicing consistent weekly blogging. One decent post each and every week, covering different blogging tips that I’d found helpful. Then another the next week. (Disney gifs helped a TON: people like pretty images. Don’t be afraid to use them.) My first lucky break was How to Handle Writer’s Block. Then the following week – How to Be a Better Blogger, some key self-help tips that I felt useful about what worked and what didn’t.

And…it took off. It really resonated with people. So I published more ‘How to…’ posts every week, and those snowballed as well. Here’s the thing: since I’ve started scheduling regular posts every single Monday (and stuck to it), my readership’s taken off in a big way. Not a huge audience, true, but it’s regular & reliable. I hope you enjoy my stories, anyhow.

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Two tips for new bloggers:

  1. Trust in yourself and your own abilities. You have something unique to offer, that you should be proud to share. Being your own cheerleader and sales rep is a massive undertaking, but it’s totally worth it – if you blog about something you truly love and are passionate about, that shines through in the content of your writing, which readers will love for its genuine honesty and sincere enthusiasm!
  2.  Choose a schedule that suits you best, stick to it, and keep going. The more you write, the better it will get. Be consistent, be regular – if it means scaling back your blogging to once a week, once a fortnight, once a month, do it. But let your readers know. Keep your promises to your readers to blog regularly, and they will know when to revisit your blog to enjoy brand new content. So that’s awesome 🙂

My Nominees:

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

Cynical Souls – Ket Cage has written some deeply insightful posts on relationships, childhood memories, and timeless life advice. His astute observations of human nature are very thought-provoking, finishing with uplifting messages of hope that are lovely to read! Two of his excellent articles are Love is just that and Don’t Give Up.

Fictive Finesse – Rashi is a lyrical wordsmith who’s been a huge encouragement throughout my blogging journey; her supportive comments keep me going! 😀 She has an innate talent for expressing herself through powerful imagery. Two of her lovely poems are Open and Falcon; she has also written some captivating short stories too, such as The Truth. Please show her some love by visiting her fantastic blog!

Foxes And Poems – April is a brilliant poet who crafts such evocative, mysterious and thought-provoking imagery through her memorable poetry. Three of her fabulous pieces that I loved reading are Ode to SeleneInvictus, and Retrofit. Please visit her website – if you love raw visceral poetry that touches your soul, you’re in for a treat!

Matthew Richardson is an exceptional storyteller, with fantastically vivid short stories that pull the reader in and surprise twist endings that are very entertaining! Three of his excellent flash fiction collection are Alone Amongst The Beasts, In Bad Taste and Customer Disservice – they’re really worth checking out!

Chris Hall is a fantastic author who’s already released her first novel through Amazon – You’ll Never Walk Alone. Like me, she’s currently working on publishing her next project:  A Nick in Time. Please visit her website for more gripping short stories such as The (Un)Dutiful Daughter and Trading Places. You’re in for a treat!

Tara Caribou paints incredibly heartfelt scenes through her elegant prose, powerful imagery and deeply emotional rollercoasters. Some fantastically moving poems of hers are Sunshine in my Pocket, Tide Pools, and Little Reminders. If you’re looking for some wonderfully soul-stirring poetry, she’s the ideal blogger for you!

Ellie Scott is one of the best storytellers I know. Her fabulous short stories immerse the reader in scenes that crackle with life and hilariously vivid characters, including Part of Something and An Ode to Sausages. Her latest anthology of short stories, Come What May Day, is now available from Amazon. Please show her some appreciation by checking her stories out!

Cadie’s Corner – Cadie has such a bubbly personality, and it’s been so fun getting to know her better. Her blog is a wonderful mix of delicious simple recipes, book reviews (both classics and newly published novels), and brilliant life advice for being a parent. A particular favourite of mine has been her 28 Things I’ve Learned in 28 Years.

H. L. Sailer is an inspiring wordsmith whose blend of horror, fantasy and real-world characters are a joy to read! Yet it’s her skill at portraying internal emotions and personal struggles that truly make her characters come to life on the page. Three excellent short stories of hers are Dark HorseNo Fool and Lone Wolf.

Fresh Hell – Sarah is a brilliant upcoming writer and poet who weaves powerful stories that sweep the reader along. Three of her stories you should definitely check out are Pancakes OnlyDefenders and Still There. Her words will definitely stay with you!

Mark Ryan paints such incredible emotions in his beautifully-penned poetry. His poems are deeply inspiring, exploring such universal human experiences as wistful love, tenderness and grief, as well as the magical and supernatural through his vivid imagery. Three excellent poems of his are Wandering StarCold Murmur and Roam.

Echo Edition – Elizabeth has a deep-rooted passion for writing that shines through in her blog. One of my all-time favourite stories of hers is And Everyone is Necessary – it’s such an evocative depiction of a crumbling seaside town, with rich character imprints that make the scene feel alive and lived-in; a rare feat in storytelling. I’d highly recommend reading it!

Stella Bailey has a boundless talent for poetry, crafting beautifully poignant tributes to lost love, heartbreak, and hope for the future. Three fantastically vivid poems of her are Longing, Maroon and Picking Blades of GrassShe’s well worth your time!

Uzma is an inspirational blogger who writes from the heart; her passion for blogging shines through her terrific content, from beautiful poetry to inventive Word Prompts and some fascinating short stories! Two great uplifting posts of hers are All Friends On Board and one of her earliest pieces, My Broken Shell.

My Random Ramblings – Shweta is an excellent writer with an exceptional talent for short stories; her Tiny Tales series are brilliant microfiction well worth checking out!

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 who deserve wider appreciation, that’s great too!

And finally: Thank you. Each and every one of you lovely 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 pulled me out of some truly rough patches. You all create such a fantastic online community here that means so much to a budding writer – I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to meet such great new friends and grow my blogging family. It’s so lovely getting to know you all!

Tom 😀

5 Ways To Beat Burnout

To all my blogger friends:

It’s a brand new week, folks! I’ve got a plan, I’m all topped up on coffee, I can do this! I am going to WRITE! 🙂

And then…yikes! Burnout strikes again!

You know that awful sinking feeling you get? The excitement dries up. Your energy drifts off. You stare listlessly at a blank sheet. Your pen hovers uselessly above the paper. You’ve hit a wall. Everything is terrible.

‘I can’t do this right…’

‘The words aren’t coming…’

‘This is hopeless…’

‘I’ve never got enough time…’

‘I can’t do it anymore…’

‘What’s the point…’

‘I’ve had enough of this…’

Let’s be honest: some days, nothing seems to work. You can’t bring yourself to write, you’re searching desperately for that spark of inspiration, but where’s it gone? Burnout will happen, and you shouldn’t let it hurt your blog (or yourself). Here are five things I’ve learned about how to deal with (and prevent) blogging burnout, how to cut down on writing stress and keep it at a minimum:

1. Give Yourself a Break

I can’t stress just how important this is. I’m guessing the vast majority of online blogs – mine included – are not a primary source of income, so don’t treat it like a regular job. You’re allowed to give yourself a break, whether it’s scheduled or unscheduled. I’ve gotten so much better at not forcing myself to write something on days I’m feeling unmotivated, and it’s made the other days a whole lot easier and blogging much less stressful overall.

Don’t be afraid to say no if you already have a full plate, especially when recovering from burnout or writer’s block. A one- or two- week break, even with deadlines looming, is way better than burning out and being unproductive for far longer. This one took me far too long to learn. If you don’t feel like blogging on a particular day, just don’t do it. Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself to blog every single day or have a certain number of posts up each week. Your writing WILL suffer for it, and so will you.

If things aren’t going well and your workload getting too much, switch off, unplug, and get away from your computer screen. Breaking your normal routine works wonders; take a walk outside, breathe in the fresh air, take a shower (singing helps! 😀 ), or maybe meet friends for lunch. Your well-being is always more important than your blog, and trying something different can really shake things up, recharge your batteries and make you feel refreshed for your next writing session. ❤

2. Plan Ahead

Managing to schedule posts weeks in advance has massively improved my blogging quality. When I don’t feel up to writing a post, I can polish up others in reserve during the week, making each story the best it can be. The pressure is gone, the posts are much better, and blogging feels more like a fun hobby than an unpaid second job. When you have a day off, try brainstorming a few new posts for the future. That way, when burnout strikes, you don’t have to stress even more since you’ve got backup material in reserve.

This also applies to all the preparation for posts. Don’t plan to panic-publish five different posts on the same day if you know they’re not going to be a high standard. Give yourself time to prep so you’re not rushing posts just for the sake of it. Quality beats quantity ever time.

3. Don’t Feel Guilty

I used to fall prey to the nagging guilt from not posting something every single day. But I’ve since realised that’s pretty dumb. It might feel like a big deal, but it really isn’t. If you have a blog, it’s YOUR blog, and you can do whatever you want with it. Including spacing your posts out every week. Something that took me a while to realise: keep your posts regular and consistent, but take time off whenever you need to. I love sharing useful advice with you and publishing new posts, but I shouldn’t feel forced to. So by all means, take a week (or a month) off if you have to recharge, but don’t feel guilty about it afterwards. You’ve worked hard! You’ve earned that break! 🙂

4. Accept That Things Take Time

Don’t work yourself ragged trying to make your blog the best it can be right this second. You’ll get there, but it takes time and practice. Don’t feel like you have to trash a whole bunch of posts if they don’t look right. You put time and effort into them, so keep them safely in reserve as drafts. If you constantly change the look of your blog, you risk losing sight of what your blog was originally meant to be in the first place. Nothing’s perfect! Instead, focus on improving little things in small manageable ways. They’ll soon become second nature, and you won’t sacrifice your core motivation in the process.

Think of it as the finishing touches; you’ve got the cake all sorted, now just work on the icing. You got this! ❤

5. Have Another Hobby

Blogging is such a strange hobby in that – whether or not you’re making money from it – it often feels like regular work. It might be fun, but it takes time, commitment and persistence, so in a way, it’s still work. And it can be a LOT of work depending on what you’re blogging about and how often you post! So don’t treat it like it’s that one fun thing you do after work to chill out. Make sure you have something that is actually relaxing (yes, reading counts 🙂 ), so you’re not piling on the stress and overworking yourself. Cooking’s always been a great stress-reliever for me, and volunteering for a local cause also helps spice things up; I’ve recently begun helping out at a local charity shop, displaying, sorting and pricing dozens of second-hand donations (it’s amazing just how many pristine or first-edition books we receive once they’ve been read once!).

Why not try out a new sport, or listen to some new music? You’ll feel way more relaxed and ready with new ideas for your next blogging session.

 


Thank you ever so much for reading this! I hope you found this post helpful. These things might seem like basic common sense, but they took me a long time to learn. Really, take care not to make blogging so stressful that you risk burning yourself out in the first place. Trust me on this. Hopefully these five tips will help someone going through a rough patch.

Have you experienced blogging burnout? Do you have any personal tricks you’ve found useful in dealing with a lack of motivation? Let me know in the comments below! Hope you have a great week! ❤

© 2017 Tom Burton

How to Build Your Blogging Brand

So you’ve set up your first blog! 😀 Woo-hoo! It can be really daunting to dive into a whole new world, but well done you! You made the leap!

You’ve got the world at your fingertips, you’re poised ready to write, when…yikes! Anxiety!

‘I can’t think of anything interesting to say…’

‘I don’t know what people want to read about…’

‘I don’t have time to write, I’m far too busy…’

Believe me, I worry. A LOT. Balancing serious blogging with a full-time job and a nonexistent social life can be SO frustrating.

For me, here are a few simple tricks that have helped me get back on track:

Be Yourself

I can’t stress how important this is. It’s your blog. YOURS. Nobody else’s. Write for yourself first and foremost. Ignore the fact that anyone else will read what you publish, just focus on your own thoughts, ideas and opinions, and figure out how to put those into words. When I started out blogging, one of the best lessons I’ve learned is simply be ME. No need to appear too ‘professional’ or use ‘big words’ to impress others. If you’re totally comfortable with whatever niche your blog fits into and what YOU yourself want from it, then it makes things a whole lot easier and less stressful to worry about. Either people will like what you publish and enjoy reading new posts, or they don’t and won’t. Since I’ve been writing for myself, I’ve found that I write more and publish much more often – I enjoyed the writing process way more, which had me writing far more than I usually would.

Above all, stay true to yourself and your own voice. People don’t care to follow sites so much as they care to follow people. Writing isn’t about picking the right topic; it’s about finding the right voice. If you publish something for yourself, you won’t feel anxious about what reception your newest post will receive within your audience. Be real, be honest, be interesting, and be helpful. Whatever you publish, if you’re truly passionate about it then it shines through in the content, which will resonate with so many readers who appreciate that genuine enthusiasm for a subject you love! ❤

Be Consistent

This, this, this! When your blog has been inactive for months it looks like you might not be in business anymore. It can be really difficult for readers to engage with your blog if you drop off the radar for weeks at a time only to suddenly pop up again.

If you blog ‘whenever you get the chance’, the takeoff you hoped for will never happen. It’s far easier to lose your traffic than it is to build it up again. Instead, publicly pick a schedule, publicly state it, and STICK TO IT – even if it’s infrequent. Commit to consistently blogging once a week, once a month – whatever YOU decide – but treat this commitment to your readers the same way you treat a serious commitment to anything else. Writing every other Monday and actually making it happen is much better than writing three times a week then falling off the wagon in exhaustion a few weeks in. If you keep your blog consistent and regularly updated, it’ll help maintain that core group of readers who will appreciate your content and look forward to new stuff. Plus, a well-planned schedule will give you clear deadlines you can focus towards, helping avoid that icy panic of missing a post!

Which leads onto…

Go Big or Go Home

Let’s be real: we’ve all had times where we half-assed a project, right? Did maybe 10% of the required reading for a seminar we didn’t enjoy? (I did none. Oops). So how did that make me feel? ROTTEN. I felt bad at myself for not trying, for not committing to it, because I knew I could have done better with the time I had. It’s the same with blogging: half-hearted blogging wastes all of the time you spend on it and provides no value to yourself or your potential readers. Better not to do it at all. So if you decide to do it, COMMIT to it. *Spoiler Alert*: If you think you don’t have enough time, we all actually have the same amount of time each day – no one actually has any more time for blogging than you do. ‘I don’t have time’ really means ‘Well I could do it, but blogging isn’t more important than everything else I’m already doing with my time.’ Fine. Great. Blogging is right for many people, but not everyone. If you really want to build a blog presence online, put in the time, and the results will follow!

Love Your Existing Readers

Okay, this is a BIG deal. Love the readers you already have! A lot of bloggers can often get quite obsessed with finding new readers – to the point that they ignore the core ones they already have. Yes – do try to reach out to new readers every week, but spend time each day showing your current readers that you value them too and appreciate their feedback. You’ll find that they will help you grow your blog in turn, from reblogging new posts to sharing your blog website with their friends and making your audience bigger!

There are many different ways to find a following. You could comment on someone’s blog, like their latest post, maybe follow them first. Show genuine enthusiasm for their blog and be interested in what they have to say. This kind of community following is a fantastic way to find new and exciting people, and probably the nicest thing to do for any blogger. I’ve made many blogging friends this way and it does NOT disappoint. 🙂

Sometimes even just liking a comment in the Community Pool *cries softly in the distance* a Swimmers party will get you a new follower, but still, try to be sincere when you like a comment or post. People really appreciate honest and meaningful feedback for their work, and giving a dishonest reply can often do more harm than good.

Keep It Short

Biggest lesson I’ve learned in my past year of blogging: keep it in the 1-3 minutes reading length. I aim to keep posts around the 1,000 word limit – long enough to be interesting, short enough to be easily readable.

When I’ve written articles that were way too long or had far too many ideas, they didn’t get much of a reaction. When I read books, I often feel bad for the brilliant plot twist buried on page 238. It’s a great idea, but…who will hear it by then?

Stop the orchestra. Solo the motif. Let it stand out!

Repeat it. Let the other instruments build on it.

Same as blogging: present a single idea, one at a time, and let others build upon it.


Whether you’re a brand-new or experienced blogger, I hope you found this post helpful. These things might seem like common sense, but they took me a long time to learn.

How have you found building your own blogs? What different tips and tricks have you used to broaden your online audience? Let me know in the comments below. Have a lovely week! ❤

How to Handle Writer’s Block

The salt breeze hissed over the crashing waves, gulls crying as they swirled and dived high above. The setting sun gleamed gold in the west. Pebbles crunched under his feet, worn smooth from their journey to the shore.                           

Today’s the day, folks! I’m stoked, I can’t wait! This is it, the big day! I am going to WRITE. This is going to be so awesome. I am on FIRE!

cat shaq

My biggest passion is about to unfold. The cursor blinks waiting for all this genius inside my head. Aaand then it hits me. Writer’s block! I stare blankly at the screen and think, ‘What just happened?’

I have a vast world both outside and inside my head and yet NOTHING is coming to mind. The cursor is blinking at me, yet the words are stuck inside my clunky little brain. It sucks!

But fear not! If you have ever felt these niggling doubts and this paralysing brain freeze, then you are normal. Yes, writer’s block is completely normal! ALL of us at one point or another suffer from it. That’s why I was inspired to create Tom’s Top Eight! The top eight ways to tame this beast and turn it into something new and exciting!

Here I will put in my own top eight ways to bust through writer’s block. Remember: this is a guide, not a rulebook. Not all of them will work. But they sure helped me get the ball rolling again:

Tom’s Top Eight Tips for Writer’s Block:

1. Go back to your favourite location: Whenever I struggle with that blinking cursor I begin to brainstorm places. My favourite memories come from nature and dramatic scenery. I begin to write what I see around me in my mind’s eye. Is the day sunny? Is it drizzling pathetically? Is it hanging in mist? Are there trees? How do they look and smell? After a few paragraphs of describing that place, I can begin to go more in-depth. I will drop in a character who is also enjoying (or hating) the location I built around them.

2. Read a book: Yes, you heard me right. Sounds obvious, but…GO. READ. A. BOOK.

tangled-rapunzel-singing-reading-books-animated-gif

Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, inspiration is all around us. Sometimes I have to read the whole book, sometimes not. It’s as if I’m getting a snapshot glimpse into another world for a short time, giving my mind a break from my own cluttered thoughts. New perspectives, new ideas. Or maybe I’ll enjoy the well written journey from one of my favourite writers. Besides, books are awesome!

3. Phone a friend: This one comes in real handy if you have someone who is supportive of your dream to be an author. It comes in handy if you have someone supportive of you. Sometimes, it just plain comes in handy. I have a core group of folks I probably send ridiculous messages to ask for help from. That’s alright because in the end, we can all lament about fictional stories, misbehaving characters and the dreaded ‘Block Beast’. 

4. Do something else: Sometimes we all just need to walk away from our screens. I find a chore that I deliberately put off while in my last writing hole.  I might go unpack a box or two, telling myself I WILL move faster than three hours this time. I might go outside and find an offensive weed to pull, water the plants that are nearly dead, or even *drumroll* fold the laundry. (Gasp! I know! A guy folding his own laundry? What is this world coming to) 🙂

5. Have an adventure: I DON’T mean go impulse-book a flight to South America and bungee jump off a tall bridge. I mean go for a walk, ride a bike, take a drive. Change your scene! Try that new coffee shop you’ve driven by but never stopped at. Stomp down that muddy track through the woods with the birds singing all around you. Walk along that beach with the waves crashing in your ears and the salt in the air and the breeze blowing in your face. It helps! An adventure is as easy as a new experience right in your home town.

6. Work on character development: I sometimes have that pesky new character hiding in the shadows. They don’t want to come forward, or let me know too much about them at first. Sometimes to beat out writer’s block, just start writing the biography of a character or two. What do they like? Do they have a favorite colour? On a scale of one to ten, how insecure are they? What are their childhood dreams, their deepest fears, their wildest hopes? All of this will bring about a richer and fuller character when that block finally lifts.

7. Write a bunch of stuff: This! Write a bunch of stuff! This is my current tactic. Sometimes I have to get all the crap and junk out of the way to really hone in on what story I am trying to tell. Just word-vomit if that’s what it takes! It may look rubbish, but once the word vomit is over and your ideas more solidified, the story will emerge triumphant. It will be one you finish, tuck away, and work towards publishing once you feel it’s good enough. Keep up the writing! 
8. Take a nap: I know, I know, sounds lazy and boring. But it sure helps. Sometimes you just need some shut-eye away from all the THINKING and PLANNING and WRITING. Get all the breaks you need, take some time out, and you’ll return refreshed and ready to tackle whatever challenge life will throw at you next.

I hope you enjoyed Tom’s Top Eight Tips to busting through writer’s block. If you try any of these, I would love to hear how that goes for you. Or if you have any other ideas, I would love to hear them, as we all suffer from this from time to time. Until then: read, write, and keep being awesome. Have a great week! 💕

Speaking of which: are Mondays good posting days for you guys? I’d just chosen this particular day to publish because it seemed as good a day as any, but would it be better to release future things on Friday / Saturday instead? Do you folks prefer blogging / reading over the weekend, or does posting it on Monday give you a few days space to catch up with things plus work, life commitments and everything else? Let me know what suits best!