A vast majority of people online do not sit down and strategize their online presence. They kind of jump in and splash around until they find a dog paddle stroke that works for them. So if you’re comfortable with that, that’s fine. Just like there are a thousand different approaches to writing books, so are there a thousand different approaches to your online presence.
But for some, an online persona will be a primary way for our readers to connect with us, we might want to put a little more thought into it. That doesn’t mean it is inauthentic—it merely means it is not 100% spontaneous. And that’s okay. Just like we can’t write a publishable book with our first attempt at a first draft, we should expect to have to spend some time thinking and planning how we want to come across online.
So. Content. It’s the core of your online presence. It’s not only how you communicate who you are, but it makes you relevant to others.
From your previous week’s exercises, you should have a pretty good idea of what tools are in your online persona toolbox: your passions, your general blog style, your unique interests, things you love, some places where those intersect with your writing self/themes/mission statement, the reasons you want to be online in the first place, and your writing strengths. Phew. I’m exhausted just listing all those!
Hopefully, some connections and ideas have begun to form in your brain. Some new angle or approach to a familiar topic, some passion that connects to your writing in a way you haven’t seen before. Some layer of yourself you haven’t been comfortable sharing until now.
You also probably have some idea of your communication style. (That doesn’t mean you need to limit yourself to that. In fact, I HIGHLY recommend you give yourself permission to experiment and take some risks, try on new blogging personalities. But I’ll talk a little more about that later.)
It’s also important to keep in mind that there are many different approaches to each of these communication styles.
Let’s take information. Think of how very many different ways there are to inform: compile, synthesize, report, develop an expertise niche. (I truly believe that there will be a bigger and bigger need for compilation and synthesis. With over 14 billion blogs out there, the sheer tidal wave of information moving in our direction is beyond daunting. How do we even know where to begin looking?)
Not to mention all those ways of informing can be applied to thousands of topics that pertain to writing and publishing. Craft, industry, publishers, editors, agents, rejection letters, query letters, genre, writing processes.
What we’re looking for is a unique facet of ourselves that intersect with one of those broad based categories.
Similarly, there are many ways to entertain. Some bloggers entertain us with their voice. Others’ entertain by having their blog presence become almost an extension of their books (Deanna Raybourn, Gail Carriger). Some post short fiction or blog in character (Gilda Joyce, girl detective).
And if all that fails to jiggle something loose, you can always fall back on brainstorming. (I’m going to pick a few random examples from our comments and play with them for brainstorming purposes.) The thing is, you want to be certain the topic will sustain you and offer enough for you to talk about for a long time. Ideally you should be able to come up with about twenty topics relating to your broader subject matter. Then we’re going to expand each individual topic into specific posts.
If I were going to start fresh today, I might focus my online presence around being a Writing Craft Junkie, because the writing process—and creativity in general—fascinate me.
Writing Craft Junkie (Broad Subject)
(list of topics related to that subject*)
- Different plotting methods (3 act structure, 4 act structure, GMC, Snowflake method, Hero's journey, etc.)
- Different writers writing processes (There are so many writers! Endless possibilities!)
- Different structural tools (charts, graphs, worksheets, templates)
- Different characterization techniques and worksheets
- Different schools of craft thought
- Definition of common craft terminology
- Nature vs nurture in building creativity
- Writing craft book reviews/discussion
- Writing craft website reviews/discussion
Now that’s only nine topics, BUT, each of those has an almost endless supply of things that can be discussed within each of those topics. For example, the number of writers to interview on process is huge, as are the number of books or websites to review.
So even if you can’t go deep on a given subject, if you can go wide, you might be okay. As long as there are a ton of possibilities due to an ongoing, replenishing source of material, then it works.
Happy Hermit (Broad Subject)
(list of topics related to that subject)
- Joys of being alone (quiet, no demands, in control of own destiny, getting to know oneself)
- Advantages of hermit lifestyle (use less energy, need less space, self sufficiency)
- How to be alone (dining, walking, traveling, entertaining oneself)
- Defining a hermit lifestyle
- Things to do when you’re alone
- Activities that are better alone
- How hermits navigate the holidays
Get the picture?
Another fun angle would be to take something like Melissa’s passions and interests, which were: Uninspiring Cook, Lackluster Housekeeper, Reluctant Laundress, Houseplant Murderer, and play with an online personality surrounding that. It could easily connect to writing and writers, since so many of us share those same qualities—usually they are the first things we ditch trying to make the time to write! That would be such an awesome support/connect/humor type of blog! I think there is a great seed/nugget for a dynamite, affirming community there.
So, this week's exercise is to comb through all the work you’ve done in the previous five weeks and see if you can find two or three broad subject areas that have an angle or perspective that is unique to you, then brainstorm and see if you think it can sustain a blog or online persona.
If you’re feeling brave, share your exercise in the comments and you will have a chance at winninga copy of MADE TO STICK. This book is great at defining what elements go into making ideas 'stick' with us, something that will come in most useful when writing your blog content!
Content is SUCH a huge topic, that I am going to talk more about it next week.
Also, if you have any specific questions about topic you want to make sure I cover, include those in the comments and I’ll be sure to address them.