Hey everyone! Blogging can be harder than it looks, and you can easily set yourself up for too much stress. I hope these tips will help keep you from going the wrong way on your journey! I know doing blog posts is mildly outside my wheelhouse, but I stumbled upon someone asking about it in a tweet, and decided to write up my wisdom from the 2ish years I’ve been doing this.
I would like to add the disclaimer that I am by no means a writing or social media star. I do this as a hobby and I reached my goal viewership (~5 people reading every entry) a while ago. My current wordpress follower count is about 60, not ~600 as indicated by the side bar which includes my twitter (@cjaworks). With that in mind, here are my tips.
Tip 1: Not a novel, a serial.
First let’s talk about what a serial is, and what a serial isn’t. A serial is just a story that has been formatted to be released in several small pieces. This hails originally from serialized detective stories from the 1800s, which were mailed out to readers individually or as parts of larger publications. A serial is not a story that got cut into a bunch of pieces haphazardly and released one by one. While you technically can chop up your full length novel into a bunch of pieces and upload them once a week to your blog, you really shouldn’t. You have to take at least a little effort to edit your story for a serialized format. You need to make sure you’re cutting off in appropriate places for long term pauses. This is a concern unique from novels, due to the time distance between the publishing of installments.
One way you can do this is to try to structure it so that each installment is something like an episode of a procedural TV show or an epic. An event occurs, which is the focus of the installment, and the event is wrapped up by the end of the part. It doesn’t have to be long. The event can be something like a hard conversation, one particular fight, or a question and an answer (for example, a character hears someone coming, and at the end of the installment, they figure out who it is). Additionally, this doesn’t have to be a hard and fast rule. I have, more than once, had an event span multiple installments, but even with that, you can usually work out a resolution to a single facet of the event, or utilize a cliffhanger.
Tip 2: Write before you upload.
You absolutely need to finish and edit your entire story before you start uploading. This is not to say you can’t do further edits, or realize your ending sucks, and change it, but you *need* to have your story finished before you start. When I started uploading Origins (known just as Earth 2 at the time), I had about half of the story written and edited every post as I went. This was mildly stressful, but I managed. That was until I hit a slump and stopped writing for a while. I kept editing and uploading, and eventually I nearly ran out of backlog. While this did inspire me to hurry up and finish the story, it was considerably more stressful than writing the thing first. This is in contrast to how I’m running this season, where I have it fully written, and simply have to copy and paste an installment. I could even go ahead and schedule every post, but I’d have to manually update navigation links anyways and don’t have the most faith in wordpress’s scheduling capabilities. If you just write the whole thing first, both you and your audience will thank you.
Additionally, if you look in my table of contents under season one, you’ll see that the 3rd installment is not just called Part 3, but “Part 3: Rewrite”. This is because I was new in my writing journey, and had part 3 uploaded before anyone besides me had read it. It was not great. I had some things I was very unhappy with, so I released an updated version. Below are the links to both, but I’ll give a disclaimer that I’ve improved as a writer since then, so even the revised version isn’t exactly my best work.
Tip 3: Networking
I’m sure this is the thing that I am least qualified to talk about, but I’m going to do it anyways. There are a few serial unique things with marketing, so I’ll focus on those.
First, there is the original question posed in the tweet: “What platform do I pick?” I’m sure you can work out what my answer to that is. I went with wordpress for mainly the reason of already being vaguely familiar with the platform, from having a blog that I didn’t do anything with a few years ago. Wattpad is another option which I know of, but wordpress seemed less intimidating to me. Another option would be to use Reddit. Many writers have their own personal subreddit, you can upload to your page, and there is even a serials subreddit where people are encouraged to upload their serials. There are other options mentioned in the original tweet that I am unfamiliar with. You could also opt to go with multiple platforms, but I think you’re better off sticking with having a primary platform, and perhaps regularly uploading links to your primary on other platforms.
Then, no matter what platform you’ve picked, you need to first network within that platform. On wordpress, there are two primary ways to do this. First, you can tag your posts. I came into this with a mildly self righteous bias against hashtags, but I now use them on every post. Hashtags do a LOT of my marketing these days, and all I have to do is copy a template post that has them in it already. It is nearly free publicity. I try to keep it to about 5 hashtags for posts, and only tag the specific ones which are relevant to the post. For example, I sometimes use the #writeLGBTQ tag, but I only do that when my LGBTQ characters are actually in the writing I’m tagging. Then you have something which I don’t do often anymore (which I am aware I should), but I did a lot during my earlier days: WordPress reader. This is one of the reasons I like wordpress. It is where your hashtags go. You can follow specific bloggers or search by tags. This allows you to meet other bloggers, who might decide to check out your blog if they see you’ve liked and or followed. Note that this shouldn’t really be your only reason to read other peoples stuff, since I took a lot of design ideas from a blog I stumbled upon (which was actually great and you should read it).
Bonus tip: Use featured images in all of your posts. It makes them more appealing according to wordpress at least. It also lets you show off your other work if you draw or do photography. Even if you have to really stretch the connection, go for it. Look at that first sentence in my post, added afterwards so I could show off an original photo.
Plug to the great blog I found and read https://retroactivityserial.wordpress.com/
Next, I’d like to shout out the Web Fiction Guide. I put my blog in there towards the start of my career, and I still get clicks from my page on there. The people that run it were really friendly and helped me out when I had an issue submitting.
Last, I’ll briefly cover all other social media. I mostly network on twitter, which is really easy to integrate with your wordpress blog (presumably others as well). I send out a scheduled tweet every time I upload a new post, and add appropriate hashtags. An important thing to remember though: Don’t only tweet (or post on any other platforms) links to your blog. You certainly *can* do that, and you’ll probably get some clicks, but I’m reluctant to follow people who just tweet links to their work. Additionally, interacting with the community helps me find new people, some of whom read my stuff, and some of whom I learn things from. I used to network on reddit as well. You can answer writing prompts, post in critique threads, and find other good work on there, all of which can help point people towards your serial.
Tip 4: Consistency
My last tip is in counter to all of my networking tips. In all likelihood, you’re not going to get a ton of clicks, so don’t feel obligated to do a bunch of networking. I hardly bother with it at all, beyond the easy stuff. The biggest boon to growing your blog is to set a regular upload schedule and keep it. I upload every Friday at noon, barring technical errors. It doesn’t have to be weekly, just set something and stick to it. Consistency helps you stay disciplined in your writing, and helps give your viewership a steady increase. This will also help you in the future if you decide to monetize your content. If you’ve shown that you can be regular with your content, people will have more faith in you, and thusly be more willing to subscribe to your patreon/kofi/whatever.
That’s more or less all I’ve got, and it’s pretty late where I am. Just remember you’re doing this for a hobby, so don’t stress about it and be okay with it not going anywhere. I am so unimaginably stoked to have 63 followers, and that’s what I’ve gained over 2ish years of doing this. If you don’t know who I am, I do a serial, check the about page for more details, I think it’s pretty good.
Thanks for reading, I hope you’re all well.
(Photo credit: Me, I took that. Look at it.)