I started a blog back in October 2015 with the intention of posting to it daily, because
1) I had the idea that this would grab people’s attention and help to sell the books and courses I was putting together
2) I thought that, by writing about a range of topics so regularly, I would gradually accumulate a body of writing that could then be edited into books, courses and other material with relative ease. The attraction was that the discipline of having to post daily would force me to overcome all kinds of obstacles that daily life would throw up, and to sit myself in my writing chair and write, even when staring at a blank screen produced no immediate ideas.
I was not quite right on the first point: a daily blog post in itself will not particularly serve to attract a public. The public at large are not especially interested in the fact that you have worked hard to produce another article for them, or that you haven’t missed a day for months - they want what they want, and unless you can get in tune with that in some way, you will be like a 24 hour radio station that no one listens to. You’ll miss the mark. But I’ve written elsewhere about exactly how you get in tune and attract public. The main point here is that I was completely right about point 2.
As a result of writing a daily blog post, sitting myself regularly down in that writing chair and doing it no matter what (and I’ll explain exactly how I did that in a moment) I gathered material for a dozen books and several courses, many of which I am still putting together. I became a ‘material factory’, because every 1,000 or 2,000 word article I was hammering out for my blog became potentially another chapter or section of a book. Think about that: if you are churning out at least 1,000 words every day, you’re going to end up with 365,000 words at the end of a year - that’s enough for four or five decent-sized books, or a dozen smaller books, or a couple of major courses.
Now, not all of what you write is going to be of great quality, and there are some marketing people out there who tell you to focus on less blog posts and higher quality of material. They have a point. But my own observation of writers, working in the field as I do (I am a publisher, editor and writers’ mentor, and spent almost 20 years teaching English Literature to teenagers) is that any attempt to focus on quality first results in a ‘short circuit’ which blows out any hope of getting any actual writing done. Writers who go for ‘the very best piece they can write’ usually end up staring at a blank page or screen and/or tearing up every draft they manage to produce, wasting valuable hours internalising and invalidating themselves and their work and getting nothing done.
Whereas writers who focus on churning out writing, not worrying so much about how ‘good’ it is at first, end up with large bodies of material, raw, rich and ready to be edited into a higher form. Plus, most importantly, they are practising their art. If a violinist picked up a violin and expected to play a concert-quality piece straight away, they would probably give up in despair after a few hours; but tell the violinist to practice for several weeks, and he or she has a chance of getting real music out of that instrument.
Anyway, this is how I did (and do) it exactly. You can adjust this procedure to suit your lifestyle and routine, obviously, but this is what has worked for me so far for two years, without missing a single day:
1. Choose a topic for your blog - or preferably a range of topics - which will give you plenty of scope to write about. In my case, the general topic of ‘writing’ had within it other subjects like creative writing, what makes fiction work, individual pieces about particular books, plays, poems or films, the process of editing, how to self-publish and so on. I also branched off into running a writing career like a business, which led into other business-related topics, and have also written about education as I have some background in that area. This was a wide range of material and enabled me to avoid any kind of ‘writers’ block’ on one set of subjects by giving me the option of writing about something else.
2. Decide to punctuate every three articles written by you with a purely commercial post - an ad for a book you’ve written or a product you’ve made. This means that you have lightened the load considerably while not letting your audience down - a regular subscriber to your blog will not be overloaded with ‘ads’ and will generally tolerate that balance of genuine articles and a direct ‘plug’ for something.
3. Sit down each week (I usually did this on a Monday morning) and churn out as many articles as you can in a short space of time. Try to get this up to five or six items. Some can be longer, deep articles about a particular aspect of something, which requires concentration on your part; others can be shorter, light-hearted comments on an issue, or a quick overview of something. Every time you write, though, keep in mind that what you are putting together isn’t necessarily a ‘throwaway post’ but a brick in a wall of material that you are accumulating.
4. Later in the week, come up with two other items to carry you through to the following week. Try to get ahead if you can - this really helps when other commitments arise and demand your time: if you have written enough material to last you for a week into the future at least, that will see you through sudden, unexpected changes to your schedule.
5. Schedule your posts to appear throughout the week. You can get introverted on when is the ‘best time’ to post your stuff, but at first you need to remember that you have to have stuff to post. You can fine tune the scheduling once you have stacked up some material.
6. Here’s something that will be useful later: keep your posts in separate documents according to topic. For example, if I’m writing about Tolkien (and I do a lot), I put each item in my ‘Tolkien’ file before posting. An item on ‘teaching literature in schools’ goes in a different file. Gradually, week by week, these documents and files grow into the first drafts of books. See how this works? You didn’t think you were writing a book, but after, say, six months of writing a daily blog item, even when you wrote on a number of topics over that period, you check in your file and you have accumulated 30,000 words on a single subject! It’s a good feeling.
7. Later, once you have blogging under control like this, you can take each document file that you have and look them over. Which one could be turned into a book? Or maybe a course? Or - and this is where things get really out of control in a good way - which ones now need revising or adding to or developing into a whole series of new articles? Boom! You have inspirational material for your own blog - from your own blog!
In this way, provided that you can discipline yourself to write articles regularly like this, you will be able to put out a daily blog item every day of the year.
What if you just can’t think of what to write about? You sit staring at a screen, stumped? That’s my next article, so stick around.
You can connect up to find out more by joining the Inner Circle Writers’ Group on Facebook.