HOW I CAME TO KNOW WHAT I’M ABOUT TO TELL YOU
I used to have a job where I drove around a lot. My wife would get in my car and wonder why I never listened to music, and it was because you can only hear the same five songs so many times before you go crazy. Satellite radio changed that, but my habits had been etched into stone pretty well by then, and there were shows I liked better than the abundance of crappy songs they played on the radio anyway.
I listened to a lot of talk radio. (I know, yawn. Hear me out.) Some was sports, some was politics, and some was just a guy in the afternoon here in Tampa who was kind of a loveable curmudgeon. He was Glenn Beck’s predecessor here, before Glenn Beck moved here but wasn’t world famous yet, if that tells you anything. I’m not sure it does. Anyway, this guy was about as nonBeck as you could get. He told stories and all sorts of stuff. He was funny, but just as often he’d rip a caller to shreds. He was interesting, though, almost no matter what he did. I listened to him on and off for years.
One thing he said that I’ll never forget is some huge number of listeners will tune in every day but never call. Other talk radio guys have mentioned that over the years, and since they get data on how many callers they get to a show and how many listeners they have, they know it’s true. The same is true for readers of newspapers, and, to a lesser extent, readers of blogs.
I always knew that just because of how many ways it was reinforced over the years. It’s a really, really low percentage. So when you write your blog, don’t get discouraged by how few likes it gets or how fewer (?) replies and comments. It’s not like that. You can have lots of readers and not a lot of comments OR subscribers/followers OR likes. Don’t write your blog for that. Write for the reasons you want to or need to write your blog.
Another thing he said that resonated was a comment about honesty. Honesty connects. People sniff out a fake eventually. If you are talking five days a week for three hours LIVE on the radio, listeners will remember if you are inconsistent. That has been echoed time and time again in other media and it’s worth repeating here. Your blog is YOU, not your book. Readers come here to interact with you, and if you’re being phony, they will figure it out.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU
This applies a little differently to your books. Your book is you, but it’s not. You aren’t a murderer, or a sex maniac, or an alien from planet Zena, but you may have to play one in your book – and that stuff’s all made up. Hopefully. Especially the murderer stuff. (If not, feel free to unsubscribe now. Best wishes! Happy travels! Hope I didn’t piss you off! I live in Seattle.)
Conversely, your book is you. It’s a visualization of your thoughts and ideas, what you thought was interesting, sure, but also things you think are compelling enough to tell others about. One of the most commented-on characters in my romantic comedy – which has a LOT of hilarious and bawdy scenes – is the role of the MC’s child, a five-year-old. She’s not in any of the sexy scenes, of course, but she says and does cute things that a large number of readers connect with because they have or have had children that age. They know how kids react to things, and what kinds of things kids that age say. I find her interesting, so readers do. (I write her well. That helps.)
WHAT TO DO WITH THIS AMAZING NEW KNOWLEDGE
Your truth, your reality, is your secret weapon. I have a five year old kid. I may use a line she says – or one I’d imagine her to say in a certain circumstance – in my story. Readers connect with her, and end up connecting with other characters as a result. And that’s just one example. They like the secondary characters because the MC likes them, and they came to like the MC first. See?
That’s part of being true and real. The MC has a kid and the kid is affected by what the MC does, but they are also a loving family, and that affects the story when we’re introducing them to the reader.
(Read two sample chapters of Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure HERE)
Do not deny yourself to your reader. That’s a mistake.
You’re an interesting person who had the guts to write down your heart and put it out there for people to step on and laugh at – or to applaud. With blogs, there can be lots of readers and little or no applause for loooooong spans of time. Don’t worry about that.
There will be more applause if you’re honest and truthful. Remember that.
But there can’t be any if you aren’t in the arena at all.
Keep after it. It’s a slow process, but you’ll get there. Write and blog about what interests you and what’s happening to you, so that one day when a reader finds you, he or she has lots and lots of interesting stuff to read about you, just like you’d like to have when you discover somebody. Then they’ll feel as though they know you. That’s connecting. They’ll like your posts and then occasionally comment on them, and maybe even one day buy your books. And that’s all nice. But the farmer who plants a seed today with the intention of picking crops tomorrow and taking them to market is in for a big disappointment.
And things that are forced or fake aren’t going to bear much fruit anyway.
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