In this episode, Belinda Pollard, Alison Young and Donita Bundy troubleshoot each other’s blogging plan and practice. Pick up useful ideas for your own blog from these three very different examples.
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In conversation in this episode:
- Belinda Pollard, author of mainstream crime novels, writing coach, accredited editor with qualifications in theology, and Gracewriters founder
- Alison Joy, romance author, former early childhood teacher and mother of 4 adult children
- Donita Bundy, writing teacher, preacher and author of young adult urban fantasy
Topics covered in this episode:
- We discuss each person’s current blogging, and what they’d like to be different
- Ideas for blogging consistent with each writer’s personal “brand”
Future possibilities for the Gracewriters blog
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Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the Gracewriters Podcast – Christian Writers Changing Popular Culture. Find us on your favourite podcast player and at Gracewriters.com.
Today on the podcast, Problem Solving our Blogging. I’m Belinda Pollard. I’m an author, editor and writing coach with a theology degree and 20 years in the publishing industry. Find links to my blogs, books, and courses at belindapollard.com.
Alison Joy: Hi, I’m Alison Young. I’m a romance writer under the pen name Alison Joy. I’m a former early childhood educator and I have four adult children and you can find all my information on alisonjoywriter.com.
Donita Bundy: Hi everybody, I’m Donita Bundy. For the past 20 years I’ve been using my theology degree to inform my preaching and teaching and more recently, my writing and my blogging. You can find out more about me at donitabundy.com.
Belinda Pollard: Our topic today is the next in our Author Platform series, Problem Solving our Blogging. Now, we talked previously about the benefit of blogging and whether we’re going to blog or not. The three of us have chosen to blog in our varied ways and so we’re going to walk through some of the issues that we’re confronting and see if we can help one another overcome some of the challenges. Hopefully you will be able to also pick up some ideas as we are picking up ideas as we go through this discussion.
How about we start with you, Alison. How are you going at the moment with your blogging? How are you using it or not using it and what would you like to be different about it?
Alison Joy: Okay. Well, I haven’t really decided whether I’m going full on for blogging or not. I’ve started it. It’s a bit stop and start. So, I think I need to come up with some sort of consistency if I’m going to do this, because I don’t want my site to look like it’s been a bit abandoned. Like, my last blog post was however long ago. Is this person still alive?! Is she still connecting on this website? So that’s one of the things I have to deal with.
I’ve just done a transfer of my website and my big thing was getting the blogs transferred over because I realised I didn’t actually have them saved anywhere else. So, they were only on my website so if I couldn’t transfer them over then I guess I could start over, but I didn’t want to do that. Not that I’ve done years and years worth of blogging but there were actually a dozen or so there that I wanted to shift over.
Belinda Pollard: Isn’t that a really good issue for us all to think about? Have I saved my blog posts anywhere else? That’s a really good point. Thank you, Alison.
Alison Joy: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: I haven’t been doing that either! I write the draft on my computer but then I change it on the website, and I don’t retrieve that finalised version and I must. Thank you.
Donita Bundy: I do that actually. I do the same as you. I draft on Word. Put it over and get it ready for publication and then the finished published product I copy and paste, as it is on the website, and put it back into Word because that’s happened to me too, Alison. When my website crashed I had the original drafts, like you said, Belinda, but I lost everything. So, I had a couple of years of blogging two to three times a week and I lost it. I lost it all. So well done you for actually transferring and finding out how to transfer from your old site to your new site.
Alison Joy: I actually was trying to migrate my whole website and it didn’t like that so then I went back, and I could actually pick what parts.
Donita Bundy: Okay. Yes.
Alison Joy: I thought I will try just the blog and they went through without too much trouble. There were a couple of other issues there but that was me not understanding.
Donita Bundy: It’s a nightmare.
Belinda Pollard: So, what topics have you been blogging on, Alison?
Alison Joy: It’s been really random. And that’s my other thing, I don’t have a plan. I need to set up some sort of plan for what I’ll be doing. I’ve been googling ideas for blogs and they’re saying you should do this number of personal blogs or write something about your writing. There’s quite a few different topics that you can pick from. And that’s probably why I’m not blogging as much as I should be because I haven’t got a plan. Therefore, I’m waiting for inspiration to hit and it’s not hitting so I’m not blogging. If I’ve got a plan …
Belinda Pollard: “Sometimes inspiration comes to me and sometimes I have to chase it down with a club!” Who said that? I think it was Jack London. Was that Jack London? Someone said that, anyway.
Donita Bundy: Somebody. I remember that. It’s a good one.
Alison Joy: Something like that. So, I have actually gone through and I have googled, What Do I Blog About, and come up with quite a lot of suggestions. I’ve got one list with 365 suggestions on it. I’ve got another one with 100 on it.
Donita Bundy: Crickey.
Alison Joy: So, from that I can go through and highlight some and then make up a list of, “Okay, this is what I think I might blog about.” Or it might even give me inspiration. Normally what I was blogging about, I’d see something – like I found a random sticker when I was out walking that said “fortitude”, so I ended up doing a blog post about fortitude. There’s a little steep pinch where I walk and I watch all the bike riders. Some of them go up without any problems, some of them struggle up but they make it to the top and some don’t even bother. They get halfway up and have to walk. Some don’t even go up. They turn around and go back. So, I turned that into a blog, as well.
Belinda Pollard: That’s sounds good.
Alison Joy: But I haven’t done a lot about writing, my actual writing process and where I’m at with my writing. So that’s something I should be doing as well.
Belinda Pollard: You don’t have to write about that, but you can. But one of the things that I’ve been really wrestling with is how to make your blogging consonant with your brand so that it’s kind of helping you build an audience who are likely to read your books.
Donita Bundy: It’s an extension of your voice, isn’t it? That’s what we’re aiming for. Yes.
Alison Joy: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: And I know I’ve mentioned to you before, your romance novels tend to be set in beautiful locations that you’ve travelled to. Even if they’re fictional they’re based on somewhere real. I think I would find it interesting to read about that. Maybe that’s just me but I would find it interesting. And you could write a whole swag of stories about some of the destinations you’ve been to. It doesn’t have to be just one story on that destination. Yes.
Donita Bundy: Were any of those other topics that you made a list out of, Alison, do any of those tie into your books, like the characters and the struggles? Like the character in your first book who has to recover from losing a fiancé and then recover from injury. Are any of the things on your list tied to those personal traumas or journeys that your characters go through?
Alison Joy: Yes, they could be. That’s one of the suggestions that they talk about, character back stories. They even suggested that you actually write a blog as that character.
Belinda Pollard: Could be interesting.
Alison Joy: I guess there’s just so much when you start looking it up online. There’s so many topics and you go, “Okay…”
Belinda Pollard: And then there’s the process of actually getting them written.
Donita Bundy: Yes!
Belinda Pollard: And deciding what frequency. What’s a sustainable schedule for you?
Alison Joy: Yes, that’s the other thing. I’ve got no idea.
Belinda Pollard: Yes.
Alison Joy: Yes, I need to up the frequency. I realise that. It’s just a matter of being disciplined and saying, “Okay, well, you’re going to be working on my blog at this time every week” – or whatever it is, to piece it together and see how it goes.
Belinda Pollard: I’m totally with you on that erratic blogging schedule thing. I’m not going to point and laugh. And I do agree. I’m working on greater consistency of schedule this year. One of the things of us working on this podcast together is that it has inspired me to get moving a bit on some of my online marketing and online communicating and thinking more deliberately and intentionally about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it and what it’s leading to.
Donita, how about your blog? How are you currently using or not using it and what would you like to be different?
Donita Bundy: Can I just add before I start wading through that mess of my blog! Alison, as you’re starting to work out your schedule, when I first started, I was told if I wanted to be a writer I needed to blog and if I wanted to be successful, I had to blog two to three times a week.
Alison Joy: Oh, my goodness!
Donita Bundy: And I had six months, as I’ve said before on the podcast, I had six months to start from scratch, build a website, start a blog, blog two to three times a week, get social media, get the huge coverage and then I would have been at a place where someone wanted to talk to me about my books. So, I did all of that and I had to admit, after, I worked hard and was blogging two to three times a week and I got to the point where I felt really guilty when I dropped one and I was only blogging twice a week.
And then after a while I thought this is ridiculous! I can’t do this. I can’t sustain this. I’m not writing anything but my blog. There is nothing going on in my life except blogging and it was always to serve the purpose of being part of my voice and my brand to reach people to read my books. But I couldn’t write a book because I was blogging and so then I dropped back to once a week and I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is incredible! I have so much time. I’m only blogging once a week.”
Belinda Pollard: It reminds me of Aesop’s fable about the house with no room. Read it if you haven’t. (ed: it wasn’t Aesop! It’s an old parable available in various versions)
Donita Bundy: Yes, it was like that and then after a while I presented all of this work to the agent and they didn’t get back to me and I thought, “Well, what is the point!” So, I went from that to nothing! And then I thought, “Oh yuck, this is terrible.” And then I picked back up again, and I thought, “No, I actually miss blogging.” It was something that sat well with me, and it was something that I could engage in even if I didn’t have a grand audience, I still felt that it was me processing. I was processing my own thoughts. I was coming to terms with my own theology, my own way of thinking, my poetry. It was just my answer to the question “why” and I could do that through my blog.
So, I came back to blogging once a week and I’ve pick up again. But, like I said before, my original website crashed and it was so full of malware I just had to burn the lot. And so, I thought when I start it up again, I have this great resource. I have all these old blogs – I can bring them out. And I never did because I had moved on so much. I had grown as a person and as a writer and I just decided to move away.
So, the beginning of last year when COVID hit I felt challenged by God to take my preaching and keep presenting a challenge and a message for my church family to my blog. So, I stated blogging once a week and I would start a message. My blogs last for 800 words. I have a limit and I stick to that. So, I would do a series of four or five pieces on a topic and it was replacing my preaching. And then when we joined back to church I thought, “Do I still need to do this?” and I felt God saying, “Yes, keep it up. You can do that.”
But I have four different areas on my website that I break my blogging up into. So, it’s a scriptural perspective. That’s me looking at scripture. My life and other conundrums which is my personal story about the things that are happening. I’ve got poetry and prose and I’ve also got smaller bits which are like snippets or humorous pieces. And so I write to each of those whenever I feel like it but that’s part of the bigger picture.
Currently, I’ve dropped back to actually only blogging once a fortnight and podcasting the alternative fortnight. But even still with my teaching and really trying to get back into a healthy vigorous writing my book habit, I’m actually considering dropping back even more. Whilst sharing the pod every fortnight, going back to doing my series once a month and in the alternate week having just a small challenge with some of my photography. Answering a question or challenging everyone to think about the question, “What if?” and then flipping what we take and presenting alternative perspectives.
So, it’ll only be maybe 50 words with images but as you said last week, Belinda, it would be content going up. It would be a lot less time and free up more time for me to invest in book writing. So, I’ve just come to the end when I post the end of this current series. I think I’m going to investigate that and see how that’s received or what that looks like. So, I don’t know yet.
Belinda Pollard: Sound like it could be really harmonious with your brand and with your other writing because, for the listeners who are not aware, you write Christian young adult urban fantasy and it’s got some quite strong spiritual challenges and themes in it. Yes, I think that could be quite interesting and it will tone well with your Instagramming of your photography. And also the other thing that I would say to you is, too, when you’re trying to figure out whether it’s working or not, you won’t know for ages.
Donita Bundy: No! It’s like writing a book.
Belinda Pollard: So, if you do it for two months and there’s very little response you actually then don’t know whether it’s worked or not because it takes ages.
Donita Bundy: As I do my morning walk and I pray and I get that inspiration for that, “What if,” and that question that comes to me and I nut over it. I’m gradually building up a library of those and my intention was to try it for about a year to have twelve and then put them out. And when I run out, I’ll try something else. I often do that. Just try something else because, why not?
Belinda Pollard: Yes, I like that.
Donita Bundy: So that’s where I’m at, at the moment. Yes, I’m just about to explore because I want to remember my first love is writing the bigger book, but I do love the blogging and I love my teaching. I love all the other stuff but I’m always putting aside the writing of the novels because the short-term deadline is always competing. Like I’ve just got to do this one. I’ve just got to do that. And when I’ve done that and done that and done that, I’ll get to the book whereas I want more space to be able to say, “No, I have time. Now I’ll fit in my writing.”
What about you, Belinda? How are you using your blogging and what are you struggling with because I know you’ve got a number of websites and I know you’re starting something new so how do you juggle blogging on your different websites coming from the same brand but the different heads, basically. How do you do that?
Belinda Pollard: How do I juggle them?
Donita Bundy: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: Awkwardly! Very awkwardly!
Donita Bundy: Like chainsaws!
Belinda Pollard: Yes! Yes. I’ve got the three main blogs that I’m managing at the moment. There’s the Gracewriters one, there’s my smallbluedog.com blog which is my writing and publishing and self-publishing tips blog which is my biggest and oldest blog. And there’s my name website, belindapollard.com, which I’m trying to build it into an online hub, and I stopped because once I made it a hub I stopped bothering with blogging on it and I think (a) I miss that blogging and (b) I think I do need it because that’s the only way that I can help raise my fiction writing because it doesn’t fit into either of the other two blogs. It’s the only way I can start building a bit of a community around my fiction writing.
So, it’s been a real juggle for me trying to figure out how to do all of these things and particularly because I run a business and when you run your own business, it means working any 80 hours of the week that you want to. So, trying to find the time – and look, everybody knows that problem. Everybody has trouble finding the time. Whatever our constraints are, we all have them. But I’ve been trying to be a little bit more strategic and to think about, “Okay, you’ve got a month and you can’t blog weekly on all of those sites because you would never do any work or eat.” So, what I’ve tried to figure out is how to schedule a month. So, at the moment on Gracewriters it’s really just the podcast going out every second week, and then once a month, one on the Small Blue Dog blog and then once a month, one on the Belinda Pollard blog. Because months have more than four weekends in them sometimes it throws it a bit off kilter but basically trying to get them evenly spaced as much of possible across the month to help with a little bit of the craziness.
So, I’m kind of excited about that. About trying to rehabilitate. Gracewriters has been going gangbusters since mid-2020 or that second quarter of 2020. So, it’s okay although I would like to develop some opportunities for Gracewriters’ writing to feature there. I really like that idea and I’m not quite sure how to make that happen. I don’t know if you guys have any thoughts about that. I’d like it to be a place that people could post a piece of creative writing that is in accord with the Gracewriters ethos and maybe twice a month we could feature a different Gracewriter to give them a voice and a platform and some links back to their own blogs.
Alison Joy: Pick a word or pick a theme.
Donita Bundy: Yes, yes.
Alison Joy: And say we want a blog on this subject, say, fortitude for example. What have you got? Can you do something on that? And you submit a piece or a verse or a thought or something so people have got some guidance so they’re not quite floundering round going, “What the heck am I going to write about.”
Donita Bundy: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: Yes, that’s really good.
Donita Bundy: Maybe this is something that could grow out of our Zoom meetings. Those people who would like to be part of that and be part of the Gracewriters Community. I know working with the writers’ group out here and working with my students that there could possibly be, within the community, if someone would like to have a go at that, possibly writing a piece, putting it out for feedback and then having different people feed into that.
Belinda Pollard: So, you mean in the private online community?
Donita Bundy: Yes.
Belinda Pollard: They put the piece up for feedback and then …
Donita Bundy: Receive that feedback. Take on board what they would like or things that they feel would strengthen their work. And obviously we’ve spoken about feedback before and just because someone says it, doesn’t mean we have to, but possibly receiving feedback. It would also help us grow as individual writers by submitting a piece and taking that on board. And then once it’s been fed into, the writer could take that back, edit and rework it and then present it. And then we could possibly then, after it’s been worked on, and we could then put it up on the Gracewriters website.
So, there’s a process of not only sharing peoples’ work and giving them a platform, we’re also being fed into and developed as writers because we are feeding back into each other’s work. And again, being the teacher, I have to acknowledge the strength of not only learning to receive feedback but to give it, so we learn that skill as well. So that might be something that we could work at.
Belinda Pollard: That’s a nice idea. I really like that. I like the aspects of that and how it gives an opportunity for a writer to be developing and growing at the same time. We have had a couple of guest posts on the Gracewriters blog and we’ve certainly had some of yours, Donita, over the past year. But also a couple of other Gracewriters have contributed posts but I have approached them and they’ve produced those and they’ve been really good quality. But, yes, that would be great.
So, if you’re a Gracewriter out there and you are having some ideas about this, please pray about it and let’s see what we can achieve.
Donita Bundy: And also, I know that within our community we have some great poets so I would love for people to feel encouraged to not only write a fictional piece but include in that poetry. We have a variety of different writers so not limit it to one style of writing or one piece of writing.
Belinda Pollard: Definitely. It doesn’t need to be fiction. It can be fiction. It can be creative non-fiction. It can be tips for writers. A personal story about something that you’ve learnt. It could be a spiritual piece. It can be poetry. And it can be things that you can then also post somewhere else later on as well. You would retain the copyright of your piece.
Donita Bundy: I would just suggest, too, that ultimately it needs to sit within the framework of the Gracewriters understanding but also possibly a word limit.
Belinda Pollard: Yes.
Donita Bundy: So, we give it a word limit.
Belinda Pollard: Yes, a great idea.
Donita Bundy: But maybe that’s something that we could share at our next Gracewriters get together. And again, anyone who’s listening and they would like to be part of that, you’re welcome to come on board and join the community to be part of that. That would be a really exciting thing to have happen.
Belinda Pollard: Yes. So go to gracewriters.com and you will find all the links there in terms of how to join our monthly Zoom and to join our online private community where no one else can see you talking about it.
So poor old Alison has got someone bashing around in the background there. That’s why she’s making funny faces for those of you watching the video. But all is well, and we are pretty much out of time. So, what I might do is pray for the Gracewriters as we finish up.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for the possibilities of blogging. We thank you that we live in a time where we can do that. Where we can share our writing and gradually grow in community and readership and sometimes influence and possibilities of other collaborations and other things in our lives because we are doing these things. I pray for all of the Gracewriters out there who are wrestling at the moment with how to blog and what to blog and whether to blog, that you will give them encouragement and peace and wisdom and inspiration. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Alison Joy: Amen
Donita Bundy: Amen
Belinda Pollard: Donita Bundy and Alison Joy, thank you very much for your contributions today. I’m Belinda Pollard and we will see you next time on the Gracewriters podcast.
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