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 😀

Why I wrote Slumdog Soldier

Everyone loves a great underdog story. In Rocky, a down-on-his-luck everyman fights for the chance of his lifetime. In Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy we have Lisbeth Salander, the damaged outcast yet skilled hacker confronting society’s powerful abusive men who repeatedly target her (and other women) with impunity. In Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series, our hero outsider stands up for the smallfolk against rich corrupt villains, armed with only a folding toothbrush and the clothes on his back.

I love these stories. There’s something so profoundly universal about the appeal of plucky outsiders taking on the establishment with grit and dogged determination, one lone hero against the world. Now…how to bring a fresh new perspective?

Why Historical Fiction?

I’ve always loved history from an early age. It’s fascinating to have that unique viewpoint into the living, breathing world of our grandparents and ancestors. Historical fiction’s made a triumphant comeback in recent years; Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way and Antony Horowitz’s The House of Silk have all garnered universal praise for their stories transporting the reader into rich evocative worlds that capture the imagination. Plenty more novels cover the Victorian Era, the legacy of colonial empire, the dawn of a new century and the onset of the First World War. Yet comparatively few have explored the Boer War and Edwardian Era. Those that do usually portray this period as an idyllic golden summer of peace, with leisurely afternoons on the river, tranquil garden parties and inter-class romances (classics such as Howards End, Wind in the Willows, The Forsyte Saga, Cavendon Hall, The Summer Before the War or the TV series Downton Abbey).

Which are great, sure. But rather unrealistic. They tend to be portrayed in an affluent setting, heavily featuring the wealthy aristocracy. As a result, they’re a bit too idealised, too…clean.

History: from the ground up

I hoped to portray an alternative view from the gutters in rich earthbound detail, a time of immense struggle and grinding poverty for the industrial working man. Robert Tressell’s classic The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists was a withering damnation of this; it condemns the rich and powerful institutions of society preying on the working man, from hypocritical Christians and exploitative capitalists to corrupt town councillors. If you get the chance to read it, please do – it’s truly an eye-opening book!

Two of my favourite TV series also feature this grimy past of Britain’s industrial empire; Taboo follows James Delaney as he gathers a crew of underworld rogues and thieves to oppose the mighty East India Trading Company – the ruthless leviathan ‘with a million eyes and a million ears’ whose atrocities include slave trafficking, colonial plunder, and contract killings. Peaky Blinders explores Brummie gangster Tommy Shelby’s rise to power, from a street-level bookmaker to family leader of a criminal empire across Birmingham and London. Along the way, he faces other sharks in the underworld’s murky waters; local police, rival kingpins, the IRA, Jewish gangsters, Russian aristocrats, Italian mobsters, secret government organisations, and even the Crown.

Like Rob Wilson in Slumdog Soldier, both these protagonists also have deadly underworld sidekicks happy to help with wetwork; Taboo features Atticus and French Bill, two cutthroat rogues who regularly dump bodies into the Thames. Peaky Blinders has Johnny Dogs, a Romani gypsy fond of horses and playing the fiddle, who won’t bat an eye at burning a body in the woods.

21579ca9f592b38 - Copy

Universal Themes in Slumdog Soldier

The Unscrupulous Antihero

We’re on the side of the angels. Doesn’t mean we’re one of them.

Max Rockatansky. Lisbeth Salander. James Delaney. Jack Reacher. All four protagonists are lone wolves. Antisocial outcasts who prefer solitude. Often gruff and tactless towards their friends.

And utterly merciless warriors against the abusers of power, wealth and privilege; the timeless knight-errant archetypes of mythical Arthurian legend who right wrongs, slay dragons and defend the helpless. Whether with a shotgun, a golf club, a karambit or bare fists, all four antiheroes enact righteous vigilante justice, intervening as protective avenging angels on behalf of beleaguered innocents. For Max Rockatansky, it’s the community struggling to survive in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, a tribe of feral kids seeking a better world, and the downtrodden wives of a tyrannical warlord. For Lisbeth Salander, it’s women victimised by abusive men, or her few closest friends and supportive journalists harassed by the state. For James Delaney, it’s his stepmother and partners in crime, especially those imprisoned and mistreated by the East India Company and the Crown. For Jack Reacher, his wards include Mexican migrants, small-town Coloradans, Nebraskan farmers, an elderly librarian, a single mum working as a cocktail waitress, and a quadruple-amputee war veteran.

All four are vicious towards abusers and sadists who prey on the weak, displaying unrestrained primitive savagery when delivering righteous comeuppance to society’s predators. All four fight back against the three-headed dragon (of greed, cruelty and corruption) that feeds off society & preys on so many real people in today’s world. These are classic hardboiled revenge fantasies that resonate with millions of people worldwide; all four protagonists strike back against evil oppressive forces on behalf of others, fulfilling that universal appeal of setting things right with violent retribution. Yes, they reduce their enemies to a quivering mess of broken bones, but it’s progressive vigilantism – the scumbag is killed, but always for noble reasons.

Hurt his friends and family or terrorise innocent settlers, and Max the Road Warrior will happily blast you with a shotgun or leave you cuffed to burn alive unless you saw off your own ankle. With Salander, anything goes: she will cripple you with a golf club, taser, axe or nail gun if you dare abuse women or harm her trusted friends. Target him or his allies, and Delaney will tear your throat out with his teeth, slash your tendons or impale you with baling hooks before disembowelling you. Profit from wartime or threaten the little guy, and Reacher will break your legs, slit your throat or just shoot you dead, then sleep like a baby (when asked how he feels about murdering five thugs, he replies ‘How do you feel when you put roach powder down?’). Such bullies include a Texas district attorney, a crooked general, Al-Qaeda agents, a Mexican drug lord, and a Russian mob boss.

Don Quixote said it best: all four are ‘willing to march into Hell, for a heavenly cause.’

And yet…despite seeking reclusive solitude and displaying utterly shocking violence, all of them have soft spots for the few decent people in their lives. Although gruff loners reluctant to emotionally invest in others, all four are nonetheless drawn to people in need, and won’t betray their innate better nature to turn down a plea for help. Their underlying kindness shines through when they act as guardian angels, regaining their humanity by helping others in need. Having such diverse characters defend the innocent against rapacious bullies, they give readers the visceral satisfaction that there’s someone just like them – Robin Hood figures for our troubled times who can fix a broken world. Yes, you could argue that it’s merely cathartic wish-fulfilling escapism…

But isn’t that the whole point?

In the real world, of course, we know the good guys don’t always win. So there’ll always be that huge appetite among readers for fiction that features proper cathartic punishment for villains.

I loved tapping into that universal appeal for my own protagonist’s journey, mirroring that Arthurian knight-errant archetype for a war veteran in an unfamiliar city. Sergeant Craig Harper is an ethical hero who avenges wrongdoing with his own feral code of righteous violence, but also this innate kindness; ultimately he’s trying to do the right thing and will always help innocent people struggling on the grimy margins of society. It’s his underlying decency and compassion that makes stories like his so elementally compelling. By escalating the greed, cruelty and corruption of the villains and establishing their victims’ innocence, hopefully the audience is fully invested when Craig avenges his friends with his own brand of violent justice against the wicked.

The bully: a universally relatable villain

Ultimately, this is a story about bullying. I’m hoping to illustrate its numerous layers throughout this story, from Vince the domineering landlord getting his kicks from intimidating defenceless people (see Chapter 12) right up to Starrick’s men; the wealthy powerful gangsters who relish humiliating and terrifying the weak, just because they can (see Chapter 18).

Why bullying? Well, because it’s such a relatable experience for so many people worldwide. We can’t truly empathise with Voldemort or Sauron, the stereotypical genocidal maniac out to rule the world. We can’t identify with Ramsay Bolton or Gregor Clegane, the sadistic psychopaths who delight in bloodshed. Most people haven’t had their parents murdered by a xenophobic cult leader, fought for their lives against giant snakes, been kidnapped and tortured for dark rituals, or watch numerous friends die in front of them. These monsters’ crimes are horrifying and numerous, but they’re distant, unfamiliar and fantastical. Like hearing about a serial killer on the news.

Hats off to Imelda Staunton and Jack Gleeson for portraying such memorable villains!

But everyone’s had a Dolores Umbridge or a King Joffrey in their lives. That one bully who made their life a living hell, the ones who were needlessly sadistic and condescending, and delighted in making others’ lives miserable. That one teacher who inflicts extra punishments just because they disliked you. You’ve complained to parents and authorities only to be ignored. You’ve sat through pointless classes and been silenced whenever you criticise. Umbridge is that teacher we all hated because she made our lives a misery and we were powerless to stop her. Joffrey is that teenage bully who lorded it over others and dominated the playground. Whenever someone was brave enough to push back, he would hide behind his mother’s skirts and his father’s reputation so he wouldn’t get punished.

Yet even as we grow out of school, there are still people in positions of power who act just like them. The manager who denies your schedule requests and penalises you for invented infractions. That customer who complains to corporate because their scam didn’t work on you, yet still persuade corporate management to side with their story. Cops performing illegal searches because they know you don’t have proof and can safely hide behind a badge as they harass you. Those who take callous pleasure in dominating others, abuse their positions of power to inflict pain, fear and suffering…and smile as they do it. The universal archetype we despise and can all root against.

Supervillains are bad guys in distant fairy tales, nightmare figures we hope never to face.

When they’re defeated, we breathe a sigh of relief.

But bullies are the villains we face every day. Bullies are personal.

When they’re defeated, we cheer.

*drops mic*

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 ❤

321 Quote Me – Knowledge

The wonderful Sadje of Keep It Alive has kindly nominated me for a 321 Quote Me Challenge! Originally created by Rory of A Guy Called Bloke, today’s special topic is ‘knowledge’. Sadje is a fantastic blogger who shares such vivid stories for readers to appreciate. I’m deeply grateful for her for considering me, and for getting me thinking about such a fascinating topic!

Guidelines:

• Thank the Selector.

• Post 2 quotes for the dedicated Topic of the Day.

• Select 3 other bloggers to take part in ‘3.2.1 Quote Me!’

Note: There’s no specific deadline to this challenge, so you can answer whenever you choose.

Quote 1:

This resonated a lot with me as a budding writer. I can’t claim to know what content my audience will enjoy, or try to anticipate what their reaction to each new story will be. In all honesty, when I started blogging for real, it was scary. I’d never tried this before, I didn’t know how to do it well.

So I asked around.

I swallowed my pride, asked experienced bloggers what they’d enjoyed most about blogging, what lessons they wished they’d known from the beginning, and slowly built up my own confidence in finding my own writing niche. I shared my work, found other writers, encouraged them and asked for their help. By doing that, I was able to discover a whole new talent I hadn’t cultivated before – writing stories.

Find the special thing you enjoy writing about the most, and stick with it. Whatever you choose your site to be, there will be an audience for it somewhere. Whatever comes easiest to you will be your biggest strength; if you enjoy writing, it’ll be an enjoyable read, likeminded kindred spirits will appreciate your site, and that genuine passion in your blog will interest them further.

But never be afraid of acknowledging you don’t know something – once you recognise the gaps in your own knowledge, it’s much easier to remedy them and improve yourself.

After all: nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? 😀

Quote 2:

Don’t ever grow stagnant with the knowledge you have. Gaining new knowledge always pays off over the long term. Put time aside to learn and help yourself grow, absorb new knowledge from the experts, and you’ll have a much richer life from it.

I’ve learned so much about becoming a better writer by reading such different novels over the years, from fantasy bestsellers and YA fiction to historical dramas and action thrillers. Getting swept up into the authors’ living breathing worlds and enjoying their vivid imaginations has really expanded my horizons for my own writing. In their fantastic variety, all these stories have helped inspire me to channel my thoughts and emotions onto the page. The more you read, the easier you become a better writer with new ideas, new plots, and new characters to draw inspiration from.

Books can comfort us in the darkest times, drive us to climb higher for our dreams, confront our inner demons and view the world from a new perspective. They give us the experience of a hundred lifetimes, introduce us to a thousand characters on vivid adventures in brave new worlds. Their stories touch our minds, stir our hearts and search our souls. So if you’re going to read anything…read a book!

It’s the same on WordPress; I’ve learned so much brilliant knowledge from fellow bloggers. Six ladies in particular are experts in their amazing advice for aspiring bloggers. Whether you’re a fledgling writer, a new blogger just starting out or a veteran wordsmith looking for some fresh inspiration, these writing sages are fantastic fountains of knowledge with valuable lessons about the writing journey. Please show them some appreciation by checking their blogs out!

M. L. Davies – Uninspired Writers

Eva – Brimming

Lorraine Ambers

Yari Garcia

K. M. Allan

Madeline Bartson

To continue the Knowledge theme onward, I’d like to give a special mention to:

Mel – Crushed Caramel

Ket – Cynical Souls

Saania – Fun with Philosophy

Winnie – Musings

Dr Tanya – Salted Caramel

Emily – Raising Vibrations

I’d love to read some of your favourite quotes about knowledge, but if you’d prefer not to participate in this Challenge, that’s perfectly fine too. Hope you have a lovely weekend! Best of luck with your blogging adventures!

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.

21579ca9f592b38 - Copy

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.

21579ca9f592b38 - Copy

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 😀

How I Stay Creative

The wonderful Mel Finch of Crushed Caramel kindly nominated me for a 3.2.1 Quote Challenge! Originally created by Rory over at A Guy Called Bloke, today’s particular topic is ‘creativity’. Mel is a fantastic blogger with a sparkling personality who shares such heartfelt life experiences for readers to appreciate. I’m truly grateful for her for considering me, and for getting me thinking about such a fascinating topic!

Rules:

• Thank the Selector.

• Post 2 quotes for the dedicated Topic of the Day.

• Select 3 other bloggers for an honorary mention in ‘3.2.1 Quote Me!’

Note: Although this is the topic for today there’s no specific deadline to it, meaning you can answer whenever you choose.

Quote 1:

This was one of my favourite inspirational quotes when putting my thoughts onto paper: believing that the stories I thought of were truly worth writing because I had real genuine faith that they would work. I could have thrown in the towel, trashed my drafts, taken the easy option & quit early.

But I didn’t.

Writing (for me, anyway) has always been a big way I explore the world and express my inner emotions onto a blank canvas and…I sort of write the stories I wish I’d had when I was younger, so in writing them I hope one day they’ll reach other people who might need them. Or enjoy reading them. Or maybe just want more stories like them. Or whatever.

(Aww that’s super cheesy I’m gonna be quiet now 😀 )

Quote 2:

This motto was a huge inspiration to me when writing my first draft. There are literally thousands upon thousands of advice books and articles and websites dedicated to telling you – the aspiring blogger – how to write properly. I’ve found it deeply encouraging to stay creative, by not getting shackled down with rules and learning to do it your own way.

So, er…I have a confession to make…

*deep breath*

I LOVE dialogue as an opening line. I adore it. Whenever I flip open a book and the first line is snappy dialogue I’m like hell YEAH this is my JAM. 😀 😀 😀

There’s lists and lists and lists of TOP TEN WAYS YOU SHOULD NEVER START YOUR NOVEL EVER and “opening with dialogue” is always on them. Somewhere.

The gist being that it’s bad because a) the reader doesn’t care about this character yet so why are they going to care about this dialogue, right? b) they don’t have any context for it, instead you should start with something that gets the reader fully invested & emotionally pulled into the story, so on and so forth…

(And I’m not here to argue or contradict that – 99% of the time, the listed reasons why you should Maybe Not Do The Thing are perfectly valid concerns that should be taken into consideration)

But yeah: for me, dialogue opening lines pull me right in emotionally. For real. Nine times out of ten they’ll yank me in and have me engaged instantly in the story, the conflict, the stakes. Always have, probably always will.

But ANYWAY, the moral is, basically…

Whatever Mortal Writing Sin you want to commit, there’s probably at least one blessed reader out there who digs it and loves you for it. Maybe two. Possibly even five, if you’re lucky. Who crave the stories you’re writing and think they’re worth celebrating, however godawful you think they might be.

This. Is. Important.

Three things:

  1. Always reblog the Two Cake Theory.
  2. This is 1000% more motivating for me than any ‘real writers write every day’ preach message.
  3. Also “this cake is slightly less impressive and fancy, but I absolutely LOVE the way it’s topped with a strawberry, not a circle of cherries.”

See what I mean? Just because someone else did The Thing you were thinking of doing, and did it way better than you could ever hope to do, DOESN’T mean it’s stupid or pointless to go ahead and still try to do the thing anyway.

When it comes to creativity? There really is no “better”.

Sure, someone might be more technically accomplished than you – you might not be able to colour as nicely or craft a sentence that rings as poetically – but art is only really secondarily about that. It’s firstly about what you, uniquely, have to express, and how the precise way you express it might be what others desperately need to relate to it – even if it’s less flashy, less “beautiful”, and gets far fewer notes.

I promise you this: there are obscure fanfics with only a handful of notes that are the passionately re-read favourites of someone too anxious to comment. There are drawings scrawled by 12-year-olds in poorly-blended markers that are someone’s favourite because they spoke to something in their soul that nothing else did. There are covers of songs where your voice cracks and you cringe every time you hear it but someone thinks the way it cracked just at that moment added beauty to the song. There are angsty three-line poems you scribbled at 4am that someone once called “pretentious emo trash” that are loved by someone else going through exactly the same thing as you.

And I guarantee you, there is something unique about your art. Even if you’re “saying something someone else has said”. Even if you’re the thousandth person to take on the subject. Even if you feel like you’re not at all unique. You’re bound to express something, however subtle, that didn’t exist until then.

To me, art is about connection. And the more you create, the more chance you have of finding other people who experience the world the way you do. Whatever you want to write about, your audience is out there. They are starved of the stuff you’re writing about and they will love you to bits for sharing your inner self through your creative art.

Which leads me onto…

Quote 3:

Do whatever the hell you want, honestly.

You can write an opening scene that does everything EVERY advice page tells you to do with an opening scene…

…and it can still be dull and limp and complete horseshit.

You can write an opening scene doing everything every advice page warns you NEVER to do with your opening scene and it can still be fabulous and engaging and wonderful and an utter joy to read. ❤

But seriously…every writer ever is just making it up. Whether a world-famous author, devoted fanfic writer or upcoming new poet, we’re all just making the rules up as we go. Cherry-picking what seems to work, and polishing up what doesn’t (yet) and making it the best you can be proud of. Don’t worry about writing it right, just write it – and then make it right later. The rules don’t actually matter, punching those damn keys does.

Just write your thing, dude. You’re fine. It’s your thing. Just do it.

Basically…

…if you can pull it off…

literally who cares

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Closing out with a truly magical Disney tribute by Lindsay McCutcheon because:

a) Disney is always a win. *Dothraki whisper* It is known.

b) They transformed the world of creative animation, you guys. 💐

c) I’m a simple lad who likes pretty vibrant colours, also A+ clean seamless transitions WOW

To continue the Creativity theme, I’d like to give a special shoutout to:

Sadje – Keep It Alive

Jenna – The Sunshine Artist

Di – Pensitivity101

They’ve written some fantastic insights on how creativity has inspired their own blogging journeys – please show them some love by checking their websites out. They’re well worth your time! 😀

Hope you have a lovely weekend! Good luck with your blogging adventures!

Tom ❤