To Blog … or not to Blog?

There are many reasons for maintaining a blog, but before I offer my view, this is a good time to be honest.

Why do you personally have a blog?
1. Do you like to be a part of an international community of like-minded folk?
2. Do you like being able to air your opinions or grievances and occasionally receive support from others?
3. Is it simply a pastime and a regular part of your social life?
4. Are you perhaps particularly good at something, or have an interest in something and like to write about it?
5. Do you use your blog as a sounding board for thoughts and ideas, but also as a platform?

As I suggested in my intro, there are many reasons to blog, but it doesn’t make any difference if you’re honest about your reasons. The only way anybody will ever know your true reasons is if you tell them … and they believe you.

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Why do I have a blog?
Before answering that question I’d like to say that I now have a blog for different reasons to those I had when I started.

For many years I haven’t been the social animal I was in my military career.

At about the time I took up writing I was advised to try writing a blog. I used it as a social connection, and as a means of learning about the internet and also aspects of writing.

It took me about a year to gain around 25 followers with my first attempt at blogging, so a couple of years ago I closed it down. I started again with a new theme, a fresh attitude … and a couple of books to my name.

My reasons for having a blog changed from social to business. I have a blog quite simply because it is one more way of promoting my books and my brand as a writer. The whole concept of ‘brand’ is a topic for another day, so I don’t want to get into it now.

This blog for me is a practicality. Since stepping down from my retail management role about three years ago, I only work three days per week to support my writing ambitions. I’m serious about my writing so I owe it to myself to conduct a strenuous and ongoing self-marketing campaign. I know there are many who don’t like the idea of ‘self-marketing’, and it may come as a surprise, but I count myself in that group.

Self-marketing for the indie author is a necessary evil. I’ve dealt with necessary evil in my life before so perhaps that’s why I can get over it and get on with the job in hand.

There is a nice side effect of having a blog, in that I have gained some social contact online now with a handful of other writers who blog. We don’t commit to checking each other out every week. We comment on each other’s words occasionally, which to me is more important. I’d rather have 10 genuine contacts than a few hundred names of folk who have registered their names purely so that they will attract attention for a mutual comment feed.

Along the way on this second attempt I’ve somehow managed to gain 140+ ‘followers’. Okay, maybe I have a figure displayed that suggests 140+, but I know I have an intermittent following. No, I don’t expect to be followed and not reciprocate, but there are only so many hours in a day for any of us.

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Does the intermittent following bother me?
No. The reason it doesn’t bother me is quite simple. No matter how hard I try, I know I’ll never manage to maintain my commitment to writing and checking out 140+ blogs every week, or even every month. I’ve tried catching posts by email, and I’ve tried checking so many per day and so many per week, but it’s all far too time-consuming. There are also many who click the follow button on my site, but they blog about topics that hold no interest for me.

I do make an effort to repay any visit from those who are kind enough to check out my thoughts, like this post.

Sometimes I’ll find a post that captures my imagination or I’ll find a post that I didn’t know had been made, so I write a comment.

I’m probably not using my blog the way the ‘User’s Guide to Blogging …’ would suggest, but that doesn’t bother me. I’m an author, so my main interest is creative writing. I drive a car but I’m not a car enthusiast. I eat, but I’m not a lover of fine foods – it’s a necessary part of life. There are many things that we all do that become a part of our lives – for me the maintenance of a blog is one such thing.

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Do I give anything back to my followers or occasional visitors?
1. I do try. Yes, in my main menu there are my book titles, but there are also topics which I hope will help to guide my peers. It took me a considerable time to learn many aspects of my writing craft so one of my personal aims is to help other writers in any way I can.
2. As I’ve said often before, I’m not an expert in the field of writing but I’ve gained masses of experience and read widely on the subject. When I see a fellow scribe whose writing is perhaps a little below par in one or two areas I respectfully offer some advice.
3. When I review a title I endeavour to get the word out there for the author, so apart from sharing the review as widely as possible elsewhere, I review on Goodreads so that it appears on the Homepage of my blog.
4. I may not write a post every week, but I make an effort to produce meaningful content. There are those that will consider this post an apology for not blogging ‘properly’, but I’m sure there will be others who find this a meaningful post – because like all I do, it is written with sincerity.

I’m presently working on a variety of projects, but I will get out there and visit a handful of blogs. If I cruise through my followers and find a topic I am in tune with, I’ll comment. On the other hand if the main subject matter is of little interest to me, I’ll move on.

As always, I am grateful for any visitors and comments.

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Resource ideas for Writers

Who might benefit from this post?

Anyone who writes poetry, flash fiction, short stories, novels, articles, letters … well, you get the idea. If fellow readers and writers respond, we will all benefit.

DSCN2950

Why am I initiating this now?

I haven’t done a writing course. I learned through experience how to build my collection of resource, or reference books, and I’d like to help other writers by suggesting a simple list of books. It may be that some writers don’t feel they need them all, but having a proposed selection is always a good thing. After reading this post, you might like to join the team; let’s work together and help each other to succeed.

What is it about?

It’s about resource, or reference. Yes, of course we can all use the Internet. How about that occasion when the link is down, or you want to be away from the screen for a while. There is nothing quite like having an actual book, complete with bookmarks or page indexes at certain places. I’m going to start us off with my favourite list of reference material. No, not yet; it will come later in the post.

What can you do?

Take part. Leave an opinion if you wish on any of the ideas, or better still, if you have an idea that isn’t listed; share it with us, the writing community.

When can you respond?

Please feel free to respond immediately with a comment on this post. The more information we can get out there from within our community, the better it will work for all of us.

Where will the information go?

On any social link you want to place it. Personally I use Facebook, Twitter and Google +, but there many more. It’s going to be a team effort.

Why should anyone take part?

We are a community of like-minded people, and it’s good to share. The ‘pooling’ of knowledge is a mutually beneficial thing to do.

How will it work?

That will depend on you; writer, reader, or blogger. This post will feature my own favourites, and then we’ll take it from there. My next posts will spell out why I find particular books so useful. Some reasons might not be obvious by looking at the book title. My links are different colours, to help distinguish the titles. The final three are not linked, because they depend on personal preference or locality.

What are my favourite reference books?

English Dictionary and Thesaurus, Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, The Writer’s abc Checklist, Zodiac Types, Baby Names, Love Writing, Body Language, Road Atlas (UK), World Atlas, Yellow Pages or equivalent phonebook.

Now, it’s your turn. Let me know your opinion, or suggest a book to add to our list. If you want to see how big we can make this thing – add a link to your own blog. If your idea is unique, or fits in with the theme, I’ll add it to my list on my website.

Thank you for reading and taking part!

Comic Relief 2013 – Buy an eBook to help raise funds!

och aye the noo What can I do that’s different from other fund-raising ideas?  How about donating the proceeds of all sales from my novel and series of poetry books?  Sound good?  Okay, it’s a deal – and for the cynical among you, no, I’m not joking!

“I pledge that for a limited period, the proceeds from sales of my novel ‘Ten Days’ and my series of ‘Rhyme Scenes’ poetry books will be donated to the Comic Relief 2013 fund.”

Now we need some parameters to work from.  1. The figures will be calculated from Monday 14th January 2013 up to and including Friday 15th March 2013.

2. All monies will be added to the funds raised by other Ryman Limited employees.  I now work for our local branch on a part-time basis.  The Ryman stationery company is owned by Theo Paphitis, entrepeneur, millionaire, philanthropist and all-round good bloke.

Theo Paphitis
Theo Paphitis

On alternate years the company sponsors Comic Relief or Sport Relief as appropriate.  Cash is raised by selling sponsored items like ‘Red Nose’ pens.  ‘Comic Relief’ T-shirts are bought by the employees to increase the funds.  Hundreds of thousands of pounds is raised by individual employees and groups within the Ryman company – some of whom do very strange things for sponsorship.

If anything particularly eye-popping comes up I’ll mention it here.  With the best will in the world I could put my hand in my pocket and make a moderate donation, but I would much prefer to give more and with the help of my e-Books and the generosity of lots of other people I can do that this year.  Sales of my e-Books would be nice, but it would be more gratifying for me to be able to build a sum of money to donate to Comic Relief 2013.

So, what do you, my prospective fund-raising buddy need to know?

1. In order to make it easy I intend to maintain the individual prices of the novel and three of the poetry books at only $1.99 each.  It seems fitting that the first poetry volume, ‘Humour’ is a mere $0.99Any cash payable to me (after the tax man gets his cut), will be donated to the fund.  At time of writing $1.99 is approximately £1.30, which to most of us, is not a lot …

2.  The novel, ‘Ten Days’ is a romantic thriller, but can be enjoyed equally by male or female readers (honestly, I know).

3.  The four books of poetry are: ‘Humour’‘Love and Romance’, ‘Natural History’ and the latest release, ‘Military Matters’.  There will be more books to come, but at the time of writing these are available immediately for download.

By using Smashwords to publish, my novel or poetry books, they can be downloaded as: .mobi (for Kindle), Epub (for Adobe, Nook, Sony, Kobo, iPad, iBook), PDF (for PC or Laptop), RTF (for wordprocessors), PDB (for Palm readers/apps).

Direct link to the eBooks on my Smashwords homepage: http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/TomBenson

We can reduce this ....
We can reduce this ….

No pressure, but please remember, all the money paid for my eBooks between Monday 14th January 2013 and Friday 15th March 2013 will be donated to Comic Relief 2013.

Thank you on behalf of those who survive to become the eventual grateful recipients of our fund-raising.  Tom