Weekend Edition – Writer in a Fish Bowl Plus Writing Tips and Good Reads

Of Fish and Stories and Living Life:

cinder benny

The younger of our two cats, Cinder, having a little chat with Benny the betta

Last year, my daughter gave me a fish as a birthday present. It’s a blue betta that is astonishingly like the one she’d asked for several hundred times. She acquired the fish with the help of her father (my ex-husband) who knew I did not want a fish, and I’m sure found the whole situation quite amusing. Part of me wanted to send the two of them packing to exchange the fish for a case of cat food; but then I thought about the depressing tower of small, plastic containers holding sad, wilted bettas, and my resolve wavered.

I named the fish Benedict, Benny for short. Though his arrival solicited from me only the most begrudging welcome, this little fish has managed to become a member of our family. Even the cats seem to enjoy communing with him through the Plexiglas walls of his house. (Though the pattern of feline teeth marks on the corner of the tank may indicate interest of a more gastronomical kind.)

Other than occasionally cleaning the tank, bettas require very little care. There are no daily litter box chores or demands for walks. There are no clawed chair backs or chewed shoes. A domestic betta’s life is contained, solitary, and painfully predictable.

I find this quite sad.

I watch Benny swimming around in his one-gallon world, and it makes me think about the ways our lives as writers can sometimes feel like life in a fish bowl.

On the one hand, each time we publish a story or idea, we put a little piece of ourselves on display. Anyone can stare through the transparent walls into our watery world, and – via reviews and blog comments – tap on the glass. We are naked and exposed, a curiosity. On the other hand, the nature of our work requires a certain amount of self-imposed solitude, leaving us feeling isolated. Like Benny, we must each spend time alone in our private universe, apart from the camaraderie of “normal” life. Observers.

The routine of a writer’s life can feel as monotonous (and pointless) as life in a fish bowl. Each day, we swim in the same circles, repeating the same routines and practices. We work on the stories, send out the queries, and try to keep up with all the “platform building” tasks. Around and around and around we go, and most of the time it looks pretty much the same. Though such an existence might be okay for the fish with no short-term memory, for a writer, it can become wearisome.

Luckily, unlike our finned friends, we do not have to stay in the fish bowl, swimming in those same circles. We can get out. Leap the barriers. Dive into the real world. Seek out new experiences. Sometimes, we forget this. We start to believe that there is no way out of the tank. Not true. Not true at all.

I hope that Benny is happy – as much as a fish can be happy – in his small, predictable world. And, I hope that you and I always remember that the walls of our fish bowls worlds are only an illusion. There is a whole, big, wide world out there. We don’t have to swim in the same circles day in and day out. With a little effort, we can break free from the same old-same old, and try something new. Write a different kind of story. Submit to a different kind of publication. Share a different side of yourself. Meet different people in different places and talk about different things. There is more than one plastic castle in the world. Go. Explore. Experience. Then, come back and tell us all about it.

 

What I’m {Learning About} Writing:

Part of the classwork for the flash fiction course I’m taking is responding to craft questions about the sample stories we read. Each week, the lesson materials include questions about how each writer did this or conveyed that, about how a certain theme was expressed, or about how a particular technique worked.

To be perfectly honest, I’m a little intimidated by this part of my homework. It’s been a long time since I’ve been in school, and I don’t have any relevant degrees in literature or writing or anything else that might help me properly analyze a story’s meaning or structure or style. I feel slightly out of  my depth. To make it even more challenging, the online format of this class means that I have to put my thoughts into coherent sentences and post them for everyone else to read. This is, in my opinion, way more stressful than engaging in a live conversation.

Despite my reservations, I have made it a point to participate in almost all of the craft conversations, and to read all the comments from the other students. While this isn’t my favorite part of class, I have come to realize that it’s an important part of learning how a story works. It’s not enough to simply read a story. You will learn more if you take the time to pull it apart and consider each choice the author made in putting it together. In a beautifully crafted story, there are no random choices. Especially with short fiction and flash, each word is selected with care, each sentence constructed with intent, each twist and turn placed for a very specific reason.

VW bug cutawayI’ve written about this idea before in a post called Break Your Story Down to Build It Up, but I think it’s an idea and a practice that’s worth mentioning again. We learn best by doing, but we can also learn a lot by watching how other people do a thing. Find great stories and ask good questions. See if you can get inside the writer’s head to better understand why the story is the way it is. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn.

What I’m Reading:

wattpadWhile I continue wading through a couple of novels, I took a little reading side trip to check out Wattpad, an “online community of readers and writers.”

I visited the site because of a comment Jane Friedman made in her post, The Age-Old Cynicism Surrounding the Dream of Book Writing:

I’ve had more than one conversation with adult writers who just don’t understand why anyone would take Wattpad seriously.

But it’s a mistake not to take it seriously. (If you’ve never heard of Wattpad, I encourage you to watch this video to begin to understand it.) It’s where young people are learning to write, in front of a “live” audience if you will, and going on to publish with traditional houses.

I was intrigued by the video, and decided to create an account. I’ve picked out a few stories to try, but haven’t yet read anything. I must admit that I’m already a little turned off by finding grammatical errors in the story descriptions. On the other hand, some well-known authors publish on Wattpad, Paulo Coelho, for instance.

I’m curious to know if any of you have experience reading or writing on the Wattpad platform. Anyone experimented as a reader or writer? What is the community like? Have you found quality stories and writing? Have you had any response to stories you’ve posted? 

 

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

 

Finally, a quote for the week:

vonnegut wings

Here’s to swimming outside your comfort zone, experiencing new things, and learning how things work so that you can make your own magic. 
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Friday Fun — Why did you start blogging?

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: Why did you start blogging? (Bonus Points: What was different than you expected? Why do you keep blogging?)

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: I got started several years ago when I heard blogging was “the thing to do” so I figured I’d give it a shot. My personal blog has sputtered and started and is currently lifeless, but I enjoy blogging here immensely and can’t believe how many years it’s been already. This is a great group of ladies and being part of the collaboration and having such great readers as yourselves keeps me inspired, motivated, and blogging.

 

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: I started blogging by accident. It was 2007, and I was “journaling” on a parenting site called Maya’s Mom. My posts about my in-process divorce earned a bit of a following, and the editors of the site invited me to be a paid contributor. Suddenly, I was not only “blogging,” (a term I’d only recently learned), but getting paid to do it. It seems a lifetime ago now, but I think I had been blogging at Maya’s Mom for a little less than a year when they were bought out by Johnson & Johnson. Our little indie site became part of J&J’s industry-leading BabyCenter brand, and – happily – after a brief pause in my blogging “career,” the editors at J&J invited me to join their team. I was a proud BabyCenter blogger until the end of 2011, at which point my copywriting and content marketing business had grown and needed to take priority.

So, to answer this week’s question more directly, I started blogging because I wanted to connect with other women over a shared experience. I didn’t have any expectations because I didn’t even really know what I was getting into. I was just sharing my thoughts and having conversations. Later, I launched my own blog as part of a content marketing strategy for my Suddenly Marketing business; collaborated with my five, fabulous “Savvy Sisters” on the Savvy B2B Marketing blog; and  joined the lovely and talented group of writers here at Live to Write – Write to Live.

I have continued blogging, usually on several blogs at once, since that first adventure in 2007 because I love the chance to practice my writing craft, explore new ideas, share what I’m learning, and connect with other people, be they prospective clients or fellow writers or just other curious seekers like me. Thanks to each of YOU for being part of this journey and never-ending experiment. I’m so grateful that you choose to spend some of your time here with us.

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: I started blogging on life coaching topics in 2011 as a way to get over my fear of showing other people my writing (see my blog post from yesterday) and also as a way to share my passion for the work I was doing. I’d been doing a lot of writing, but I hadn’t shown it to anyone. I also had an idea for a nonfiction book so I thought blogging would be a good way to expand on my thoughts for the book. I joined this blog at the end of 2011 also, which I didn’t realize until I just looked back at my drafts. I love writing for this blog because of the topic (all things writing!) and because there is such a collaboration between me, my fellow bloggers, and the amazing community of readers that we have here. I rarely get comments on my blog, so it’s nice to be able to interact with all the active readers here at Write to Live–Live to Write.

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin: I started blogging when my novel, Into the Wilderness, first came out. The deal I had with my publisher was that they’d do all the work to design and produce the physical book, including ISBN, Library of Congress and Ingram (the distributor) and I’d do all the marketing. So I started writing guest posts for a several different blogs. In January, 2011, Wendy invited me to write one here, and I did: A Reasonable Approach to Internet Marketing posted on for Live t0 Write – Write to Live. She also talked me through the actual posting of the piece, I was that clueless. And she invited me to join the gang; I’ve been posting every other week ever since.

I love being part of this group, both because it’s great to be able to spread the work, but also because my colleagues here are so generous about sharing what they know. I’ve put that knowledge to good use, finally starting two blogs of my own, Living In Place, about my rural life in Vermont, and The Middle Ages, about – well, middle age! I like the discipline of meeting my weekly Wednesday deadline – and how it keeps me thinking all the time, makes me more attentive to what I’m doing in my daily life and how it can translate into a 500-word post that will have meaning to my readers all over the world.

And really, that’s why I blog – to connect with my readers. It’s been five years since Into the Wilderness came out. I’ve finished another novel, now with my agent, and I’m rewriting another, one that I thought was finished but turns out to have been only a rough draft. Since novels take me so long, I use my blogs to keep and build audience. Hopefully, everyone will stay healthy and live long enough to see my books into print!

 

Writing Realities

I don’t know about you, but I still have a lot of fear about putting my writing out in the world.

I’m working on it, and I do put some of my writing out there, but there’s a lot of writing that I haven’t done, or haven’t shown anyone, because of my fears.

In the fall, my son will be starting school and I’ll have more time to write. So I feel a pressure to “deal with” these fears before then.

Let’s just say it’s been on my mind.

Recently, I had a conversation with a good friend of mine and I told her about the Student Showcase I performed in at ImprovBoston, in Cambridge, MA. I was talking about doing the show and all the public speaking I’d been doing and how it was scary, but putting my writing out in the world seemed scarier to me.

“Why is that?” I wondered as we sat outside at a cafe drinking coffee.

My friend, who is an artist and a scientist, said she thought it was because our writing seems so permanent—but no one reads our stuff over and over. She used the example of my life coaching blog.

“I read your posts and it’s always just enough and there’s always some ‘nugget’ I take away with me after reading it, but then I move on.”

Her words made me feel a lot better.

I realized I’d been thinking thoughts like, What if I make a mistake? What if someone doesn’t like it? What if it’s drivel?

(I could go on…and on—but I won’t!)

These thoughts are negative and not useful. And they aren’t even true.

The truth is I will make mistakes in my writing–and that’s okay. I’m a human being and we all make mistakes. If I make a mistake I can publish a correction if it’s that important, or just move on.

Someone who reads something I write may not like it, that’s their prerogative. The only way I can guarantee no one expresses dislike of my writing is to not write anything and publish it. And that does not work for me.

My writing may be drivel, but the more I write, the less likely it will be drivel.

Okay, that takes care of those thoughts! But really, the reminder from my friend that we’re here to make art and put it out there, and no one is examining it as minutely as we are (except hopefully our editors,) was very helpful.

What helps you get over your fears about your writing?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, family physician, and mother. I’m really looking forward to more writing time this fall (really!)

 

Short and Sweet Advice for Writers – Read Your Work Out Loud

victrola dog artYou have probably heard this advice before. It isn’t new. It isn’t rocket science.

But, do you actually read your work out loud?

Experts across all genres recommend reading your work out loud as part of your editing process. There’s something about hearing a piece spoken out loud that makes it easy to spot weak spots. I use this technique on everything from blog posts to essays to short stories to business correspondence. I’m never sorry I did it.

Jane Friedman wrote on the Writer’s Digest blog about how reading her work out loud helped her reveal filler, expose boring descriptions, and hone her voice. Joanna Penn produced a video about how reading her novel Pentecost out loud (start to finish) helped her improve consistency, dialog, pacing, and also spot typos. In an interview with Fast Company, David Sedaris said, “I used to hate it when a book came out or a story was published and I would be like ‘damn, how did I not catch that?’ But you pretty much always catch it when you’re reading out loud.” In addition to reading his pieces out loud to himself, Sedaris also vets new book material by reading out loud to an audience.

Do a quick Google search, and you’ll find plenty more writers and teachers who strongly recommend reading your work out loud as part of your editing process.

So, do it. You’ll be amazed.

And, if you feel silly, try reading to your dog, cat, or teddy bear. I do that all the time. It helps, and they seem to like it. Even the teddy bear.

 

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Join me each Saturday for the Weekend Edition (a fun post and great community of commenters on the writing life, random musings, writing tips, and good reads), or introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Photo Credit: -Jeffrey- via Compfight cc

Grammar Changes: The Singular They

The Elements of StyleLanguage changes with the times, even grammar.

I attended college during the second wave of feminism, when incorporating non-sexist terms into every day usage was an important demonstration of inclusiveness. In addition to Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style, we consulted Miller and Swift’s The Handbook of Nonsexist Writing, and we learned to replace the word man with the word human when we meant all people.

This was the era when the honorific Ms. entered the language. The thinking was that women should be able to be in the world without reference to their marital status. I didn’t see what business my marital status was back then, when I wasn’t married, and I still don’t now that I am. I use the name I was born with, and smoke comes out my ears when people who know better call me by my husband’s last name.

English is quite liberal in accepting neologisms, and new words enter the language all the time: localvore, texting and twerking are three examples. Grammar is harder to change.

Back in 1980, when The Handbook of Non-Sexist Language was first published, Miller and Swift confronted the pronoun problem in English, which offers only gendered singular pronouns: she/her/hers and he/him/his.

Handbook of Nonsexist WritingIn attempts to be inclusive, many writers used the awkward pronoun construction he/her – sometimes shortened to s/he – which is cumbersome, but works. Miller and Swift’s suggestion to use the non-gendered plural they/them/theirs instead of she/he, him/her, hers/his, has gradually been adopted. In both speech and writing, many people combine a singular noun with the plural pronoun, as in Everyone cheered when they saw the balloons.

I confess that the English teacher in me resisted this apparently ungrammatical usage at first. But as a woman who bristles at the male bias in our culture and language, I’m sensitive to inclusion. I’m dismayed when a white, straight, male professional, such as a physician, politician, professor or writer, for example, is referred to by their profession only, but all others are modified according to their otherness, be it gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or something else.

Resistance to change is human, especially when change threatens tradition, be it traditional power structures, religious beliefs, knowledge or accepted standards of behavior. But change still happens, just as knowledge expands.

During the second wave of feminism, we understood gender to be binary, and the feminist impulse was to create equality between men and women. A generation later, our understanding of gender has grown, making the change in pronoun usage even more pressing. With our new understanding of gender fluidity that includes men, women, transgender, transsexual and genderqueer, we need new pronouns in order to be inclusive and fair.

Trans*Ally WorkbookSeveral new pronouns have been introduced to achieve inclusiveness: ne/nir, ze/zir, per/pers are a few examples. You can learn about these and others in Davey Shlasko’s Trans* Ally Workbook: Getting Pronouns Right & What It Teaches Us about Gender. While one or more of the new constructions may eventually take hold, I think the adoption of the singular they is most likely to succeed now. After all, it’s already in use, and as the ancient Roman poet Horace observed millennia ago, Use is the judge, and rule, and law, of speech.

 

M. Shafer, Photo

M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin is a second generation American who was raised in the New York metropolitan area and emigrated to Vermont in 1984.

 

Weekend Edition – You Are Not Alone Plus Good Reads and Writing Tips

You Are Not Alone

Image by Luis Barros. Follow him on Instagram (@luishb) for wonderful images, each one brimming with story possibilities.

Image by Luis Barros. Follow him on Instagram (@luishb) for wonderful images, each one brimming with story possibilities.

Being a grown up can be lonely.

Being a writer can be lonely.

Being a grown-up writer can be seriously lonely, but it doesn’t have to be.

Last weekend I watched my daughter compete in a mountain bike race. It was my first time at this kind of event. Mountain biking is something she does on weekends with her dad. The wooded trails with their steep drops, tight turns, and obstacle course of mean rocks and wily roots are his territory.

There were more than four hundred riders, many with friends and family in tow, milling around the trampled corn field that served as a staging area for the organizers preparing to release the different classes of riders onto the course. We haven’t had any real rain here in weeks, so the movement of riders and spectators stirred up clouds of dust that dimmed the bright colors of the riders’ racing garb and gave the scene an air of festive chaos – like cowboys preparing to move an anxious herd across an arid plain, or young daredevils limbering up just before dashing out in front of Spanish bulls.

Though I finally spotted my daughter, and my beau was at my side, I felt like a stranger lost in some exotic land. The conversations that swirled around me with the dust and dirt may as well have been in a foreign language. Technical chatter about different kinds of bikes and gear sounded like gibberish, and then there were all the riding terms – endo, grinder, kick-out. Riders compared war stories and battle scars, referencing techniques and trails in a quick banter that left me curious but completely baffled.

And then, through all this noise and color and motion, I heard a voice ask, “Is that a Grub Street t-shirt?”

Grub Street is a writing center in Boston, and the shirt I was wearing was one I had picked up at their annual conference a couple of years ago. It’s hard to miss – a charcoal gray tee with a keyboard printed in white across the front.

The speaker, as it turned out, was not only a fellow writer and Grubbie, but also a Grub Street instructor and a friend of the woman who is teaching the flash fiction class I’m currently taking. Small world.

Our conversation was brief (we both had riders to cheer), but those few words exchanged made me feel at home. Even there, amidst all the unfamiliar sights and sounds, I was suddenly grounded in the fact that I am a writer in a community of writers. And, we are everywhere.

The trouble is, we’re not always easy to recognize. Mountain bikers, runners, boaters, even gardeners – these people are easy to identify by their garb, gear, and equipment. They congregate regularly for group events, display their badges of membership for all to see, and often practice their passion right out in the open.

We writers usually fly a bit farther under the radar. Though we do have our classes and conferences, these events rarely garner much attention from non-writers. A road race with hundreds of bicycles, driving club with dozens of antique cars, or garden club doing spring cleanup around town are likely to attract the attention of even the most unobservant. A group of writers meeting in a coffee shop or even attending a large conference in an urban center are likely to go completely unnoticed.

It’s almost like we’re members of a secret society. And, who knows? Maybe, unbeknownst to even ourselves, we’re actually a silent majority.

My point is this: keep your eyes open.

You never know when a fellow writer might be standing right next to you, or seated at the next table, or across the aisle on the subway. The barista at your local coffee shop might be a writer, or your bank teller, or your child’s teacher. Perhaps the woman who organized the school bake sale is working on a memoir, your mailman could be writing a cozy mystery, or the young lady who jogs by your house every morning might be working on collection of nature essays.

Look for clues. Listen carefully. Maybe you’ll notice someone writing in a notebook or reading a a book on story structure. Maybe you’ll hear someone mention a writing podcast or a reading. Sometimes, all it takes is a t-shirt.

We’re out there. Everywhere. You are never alone.

What I’m {Learning About} Writing: Flash Isn’t Just About Brevity

underwater icebergSo, I’m a week-and-a-half into the flash fiction course I’m taking via Grub Street, and the more I learn about this form, the more fascinated I become.

The first way people define flash fiction (aka short short stories, micro fiction, and a handful of other miniature monikers) is by word count. The jury is out on exactly how few words warrant the label “flash” – 300, 500, 1,000 – but the general gist is, of course, that flash is short.

Brevity, however is not the whole story by a long stretch.

Though the number of words appearing on the page is few, the world of a really great piece of flash fiction is as expansive as real life.

To write flash, you must know much more than what you reveal in your prose. A piece of flash fiction is like the proverbial tip of the iceberg, the brilliant bit that shows above the surface and reflects the light of the sun and moon, while the full bulk and weight of the story exists below the surface. That shining tip cannot exist without the rest of the iceberg to buoy it up.

Writing flash is, I’m learning, much like creating a poem or a work of visual art. Each word has a part to play. There is no excess, no dead weight. In order for a writer to craft the tip of the iceberg so that the reader feels the heft and gravity of the rest of the icy behemoth lurking in the depths, she must understand the whole. Only by understanding the whole can she find the right words to craft her flash story so that it reflects the entire reality that exists behind that handful of words.

Can you blame me for being fascinated?

What I’m Reading: 100wordstory.com

100 word storyI’m still in the middle of reading a couple of novels, but not yet through either one, so I’m not ready to share.

Meanwhile, one of my fellow students in the flash class turned me on to the site 100wordstory.org.

Talk about seriously short pieces.

It’s hard not to rip through this collection the way a child might rip through a bag of m&m’s, but if you were to do that, you’d be missing out. As short as they are, each of these stories deserves its own space. Part of the beauty of this super short form is that you can read a piece several times over, and each time have a slightly different experience.

If you’re curious about flash fiction, or just need a quick story fix in the middle of a busy day, I recommend 100wordstory.org. Just try not to get too addicted.

And let’s not forget the blogs. Here are a few of my favorite writerly posts from this week:

Finally, a quote for the week:

In lieu of a quote, I’d like to share this reality check/pep talk from one of the writers behind my favorite writing podcast, Writing Excuses. Hat-tip to the lovely Sharon Abra Hanen (aka @wellfedpoet) for this find. Loved it.

Here’s to recognizing each other out in the wilds of the real world. Happy writing. Happy reading.
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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Friday Fun — How to encourage blog comments

Friday Fun is a group post from the writers of the NHWN blog. Each week, we’ll pose and answer a different, get-to-know-us question. We hope you’ll join in by providing your answer in the comments.

QUESTION: How do you encourage comments on your blog posts?

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson: I take the direct route: I ask questions (and bold them) to open a dialogue that encourages readers to reply.

 

 

 

wendy-shotWendy Thomas: Ah, and I tend to take the indirect route. I try to create content that is thought provoking and that raises questions within context. I know that reader’s comments are the Holy Grail of blog posts, but it seems like such an artificial measurement of the post’s worth. People comment if they want to, I don’t get bent out of shape if they don’t.

 

JME5670V2smCROPJamie Wallace: I love to receive and respond to comments. It’s nice to feel like people have been inspired enough by what they’ve read to add their own two cents. That said, I can also see Wendy’s point about comments being an artificial measurement of a posts worth. In fact, many prominent blogs have turned comments off entirely.

Before you can figure out how to get people commenting, you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Why you want comments in the first place? How do comments support your writing/blogging goals?
  • What kinds of comments are you hoping for specifically? Do you want people to praise your work, add their personal experience to the conversation, debate your ideas, share related resources …?
  • Who would you like comments from – peers, fans, potential customers, potential readers …?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you should start to get a sense of what kinds of content and post structures will encourage the kinds of engagement you’d like with the audience you’re hoping to attract. You will also have some good information to help you determine how you can use social media to drive/invite people to your blog posts. For instance, if you are hoping to have your blog readers comment with their own resources on a particular topic, you might share your post in a social media group of peers and experts. Or, maybe you’re hoping to get potential readers to share their personal experiences, in which case you might try something like posting your question (and a link to your blog) in a Goodreads group.

Deborah Lee LuskinDeborah Lee Luskin: I have occasionally asked direct questions, as Lisa suggests, though mostly I go Wendy’s route, of writing with passion about what interests me. I’ve started sending out links to my posts on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, but I have limited patience for social media (unlike Jamie!). As a result, I don’t get many comments on my posts (nor did I know that number of comments was a scoring system of success). All that said, I’m thrilled when a reader does comment – whether to add information, tell their own story, or simply express appreciation. It’s all good!