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Last time I wrote about why writers should blog and how to set up a blog.

Despite all the reasons given why a writer should blog, it probably wasn’t compelling.

Let’s say you call yourself a novelist and believe the only writing worth doing is epic stories of heroic struggles (nothing wrong with that, it’s the dream for most of us). That means you only write books that people have to pay a lot of money to read. Most people I know won’t spend R300 on an author’s work if they don’t know and trust the author. (R300 is about the going rate for a novel of 400 pages or more. But we won’t get into that right now – except that it’s twice what manual labourers earn a day. If not more…)

So how do you earn the trust of readers? And how do you get them to buy a book that could otherwise be spent on someone working in their garden for two or more days? Or, more importantly, how do you make your writing accessible to someone who earns minimum wage? (Not everyone lives in a country where they can walk into the library and have access to the newest books: in some countries new books only make their way to public libraries when people donate them.)

You blog. You share your writing, for free, with the world.

Not your novel, of course, but short stories and flash fiction. And because it’s a blog, you share your personal journey (things you learn about writing, your research, your highs and lows). Readers like to have a connection with their favourite authors.

But I’m a novelist! you whine indignantly. (We’ve all been there.)

Now is the time to learn how to write non-fiction.

You know what your interests are (mine are folklore and finding out new ways to better my online skills) so you can share those with your readers (I write articles about various folklore creatures I use in my writing and share them every other Thursday and publicise it on Twitter with #FolkloreThursday, I also write researched articles about things that will make my online author presence better and my writing skills too and I share these with the Author Toolbox Blog Hop and Insecure Writer Support Group every month – on the blog and, of course, Twitter #AuthorToolboxBlogHop #IWSG respectively).

I’ve already told you it’s a good idea to join Twitter to find your tribe – here’s how.

And when you’re confident in your non-fiction writing abilities, go ahead and pitch proposals for guest blogging. You can also interview writers and post those on your blog (I’ve done a few and they’re always fun). And there’s nothing wrong with having guest posts on your blog either.

And you also need to learn how to write flash fiction.

Why? Because there are so many avenues to share your flash fiction pieces which you can then reshare on your blog.

Huh? It means you have the opportunity to write a new flash fiction piece every week/month for different free competitions where you have the chance to be part of a community. And because those stories belong to you, you can publish them on your blog to share your fiction writing with those who read your blog. It’s a win-win situation.

Good reasons to write flash fiction:

  • It’s short so you can write it fairly quickly (most competitions give you 24 hours and a maximum of 300 words).
  • You learn the art of brevity.
  • You finally finish something and can press publish (you know how long it takes to complete the novel).
  • People get a feel for your style and can become fans who will buy your novel when it’s finally ready.
  • You can share links on Twitter with #FlashFiction and find more readers.

For a full how and why to write flash fiction, check out my article about the subject.

And you need the short story in your toolbox too.

I can hear you sighing. But here’s the good thing about a short story: it has multiple lives.

Let’s say you write a short story for a competition on Wattpad (yes, I’ve told you that you need to be on a writing platform and even how to use Wattpad), you publish it there and once the competition is over and judged you can publish it on your blog and you can share both platforms on Twitter and Google+ #ShortStory #FreeRead #Fantasy (or whatever genre you write in). And if you’re multilingual, you can translate your story and publish it again on Wattpad (or another writing platform that works in that language) and share it again (I’ll share it #ShortStory #Wattpad #Fantasy #Afrikaans).

Not on Google+ yet? Check out how I experienced setting it up and what works and what doesn’t.

Here’s the trick, though: people like longer reads, but they shouldn’t be too long. So if you have a short story of 5000 words, divide it into sensible parts (2-5) and publish consecutively on different days. Most readers enjoy a short story between 1000 and 2500 words (though, there are no hard and fast rules).

How to write a short story:

  • Keep it brief (1000-5000 words, though 2500 is the preferred length).
  • The reader must get a sense of completion from the story (no loose ends).
  • Concentration (no tangents, no flash backs, no time jumps: concentrate on the here-and-now).
  • Intensity (one main character with one big problem, can have secondary and minor characters, but the story is about the main character and their problem and only from their point of view).

Good reasons to write short stories:

  • You can try different genres, styles and other fun technical things that you won’t try on your novel (like writing first-person horror with only one character).
  • Readers get a sense of your style and voice.
  • You can publish it on several platforms – it belongs to you.
  • You can share it on different social media networks with appropriate hashtags including #ShortStory to find more readers.
  • You can win competitions and add them to your accolades page: readers have more faith in a story that won a competition and will be more likely to read it. (Check out my Stories on Scrolls book on Wattpad: the winning stories have far more reads than the others in the collection.)
  • You write a lot more, which means you become a better writer.

I hope this has inspired you to blog more. Blogging definitely teaches one different writing techniques and betters ones writing abilities. And I’m speaking from personal experience: before I started blogging, I didn’t write short pieces, only my novels. Now I’m a judge of a flash fiction competition after winning multiple competitions with my own flash fiction pieces and I’ve won competitions with my short stories and even won an award for my writing. I’ve also written guest posts on other blogs about my interests (folklore and writing stuff). You can check it all out on my Accolades page.

What about you fellow scriveners: what have you learned from blogging? Do you write guest posts/short stories/flash fiction?

Ps. If you’re looking to build your author platform or spruce it up, check out the Basics of Author Online Presence Challenge over on Writer to Writers this August. I’m sharing what I know and helping others to build the best author platform they can.

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