Are Blogs on the Decline?

With influencers rapidly increasing their net worth, it begs the question – What’s happening to all the bloggers?

It was only recently that I started to discover that some bloggers – not all may I add – began to describe themselves in this way when their main source of traffic was via Instagram.

With #bookbloggers as one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram, it’s made me wonder… Are bloggers leaving their blogs for grid-style Insta?

I flicked straight to my WordPress account and began to scroll through all of the blogs I could find in relation to either writing or reading.

It was eye-opening.

I was showered with blogposts that showcased creative writing (short stories, prose, poetry, flash fiction…).

Although great to see, I wanted to find something that resembled the online article structure that I tried to use within my own blog.

I kept scrolling and came across bloggers who posted regularly. The catch?

The posts were really short.

After a good twenty minutes of searching the web, I managed to find some book blogs that resembled a larger showcase of their Instagram pages. They were filled with their monthly book goals, brief reviews and their views on plot, theme and narrative.

At last.

I’d found the book blogger that I used to love.

I clicked a like and follow on their blog straight away and felt instantly assured.

Looking through the blogosphere really reinforced why I love blogging so much. The blogs were clearly the writer’s own space within the digital world to ponder their thoughts.

It was refreshing to see; they reminded me of a digital diary that gave me an insight into the writer’s thoughts and beliefs.

I always used to think that a blog had to be long and focused around a key idea or theme.

Now I’m noticing that it’s great to add multiple visuals, whether that’s images or videos, and that size doesn’t really matter when it comes to word count.

In fact, they can come in all shapes and sizes and they’re all a joy to read.

And yes, that includes the short posts too!

But don’t take my word for it, have a look yourself.

Go to WordPress.com, Medium or Tumblr and search a topic you want to read about. I’m almost certain you’ll find a something of interest.

And If you don’t?…

Start your own blog.

The First Line

First lines matter. Whether they are in a blog post, a newsletter or a novel, the first line is crucial.

Whilst you’re in the editing phase of your writing, it can be easily forgotten to revise your first line. The first line will have different purposes in various texts but there is one thing it needs to be. Good.

Your first line, if writing for a newsletter or a blog, must intrigue your reader and invite them to read more. Your purpose here is to keep them reading right until the very end. A great way to revise your first line is to read your writing as a reader. Would you be interested? Would it stop you scrolling? What could you add to the line to make it more gripping? If you’re still unsure, it could be worth letting someone read the first line to give you another point of view. They may even see something that you didn’t.

If however you are revising a first line of a novel, the aim and purpose of your writing may be different. Your goal, as a writer, is to lose your readers in your novel. Allow your readers to become invested in your characters and don’t settle for anything less. Although you still need to grip the reader with your opening lines, you have a variety of techniques open to you. Here are a few that you may wish to try:

Surprise the reader

This type of hook causes the reader to raise questions or surprises them by catching them off guard. A great example of this is from Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit: ‘It was a pleasure to burn’. The concept that some would like the feeling of burning seems very unusual. The sentence itself could also suggest that someone likes the action of burning something. As your mind begins to question alternatives, it has sparked the interest of the reader to keep reading. 

Begin with dialogue

This can also have a similar effect on the reader as it can catch the reader off guard. An example of this can be seen in the opening lines of Rose Macauley’s, The Towers of Trezibond: ‘”Take my camel dear,” said my Aunt Dot, as she climbed down from this animal on her return from High Mass’. The animal itself may surprise the reader in this sentence, as well as Aunt Dot’s previous actions. Using dialogue in your first line brings your readers straight into the action and provides them with wanting to figure out what is happening and why.

Setting the Mood and Atmosphere

Although this technique may seem simple, it can be really effective when used correctly. Louise Erdrich does this beautifully in Tracks: ‘We started dying before the snow, and like the snow, we continued to fall.’ In this first sentence Louise Erdrich has managed to set the sombre mood perfectly by using the setting to help set the tone and atmosphere. This technique can work really well with the show don’t tell principle, as the sentence has given its readers an insight to what is to come.

Another suggestion could also be to revise what you like to read yourself. If you love a particular author like Lee Child or John Grisham, look at how they start their first lines. How did they interest you? Why did you want to read on? This technique also works if you are wanting to write a blog post or newsletter. If you follow several blogs, which article did you really enjoy and how did it start?

Once you have tried a few of these techniques, reflect on your work and see if any of them work for you. Remember the best way to get your writing noticed is to make your writing the best it can possibly be.

Follow me on Instagram @cbarkerwriting for writing tips on a daily basis.

My Top 5 Christmas Book Buys!

If this pandemic has taught us anything this year, its that we all love reading. This could be a psychological thriller, a goofy romance or even a self-help book. Whatever style or genre you are wanting to read, you will always find something. However as there are so many books to choose from, I have whittled my favourites down to a top 5 to help you find the perfect gift for someone this year. There is something so exciting about receiving a book. We all know the shape, yet with so many titles on our ‘to be read’ pile, we still don’t really know what we will get. Here are my top 5 to unwrap this year.

Thriller – One by One by Ruth Ware

What could be better than a psychological thriller located in a snowy setting at Christmas? Ruth Ware has brought a murder mystery concept into the 21st century by the use of realistic – and at times, relatable – settings with current motives. One by One takes place in a lodge that is extremely secluded. It could be perceived as tranquil. However with only a cable car to leave or escape the lodge, the characters begin to think it is anything but peaceful. As killings become more and more frequent, the serenity of the lodge begins to feel like a prison. Who will survive as the characters disappear one by one?

Romance – The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

If crime and murder isn’t your thing, then have a fling with The Flatshare. The Flatshare is about two young professionals that share a flat but never really see each other due to work commitments. This book was my favourite read in lockdown as it made me laugh and smile when times were hard. Please note that is not the type of book that I would normally read and yet, I am now anticipating the release of her latest novel, The Road Trip, out in 2021. A perfect book to lift your mood and to laugh when times are challenging.

Check out my full review of this book here

Classic – Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

How many times have you heard – but have you read the book?- when a film comes out? Yes, very often and why does this get asked? The book is better. Admittedly, the latest adaptation of Rebecca on Netflix is good but at times I found the film slow and it missed a few scenes that the book had solidified in my mind. Yes, readers, I wanted to see the garden at Manderley! The book on the other hand is not slow in the slightest. The novel is an exciting read and is filled with tension and suspense between the main characters, right up to the very end. If you are looking for a classic this Christmas, I would definitely recommend this novel. Who knew a young woman living in Cornwall could have such a dark mind that could write with such suspense! A much welcomed break from Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen.

See my full review here

Non-fiction – The Little book of Clarity by Jamie Smart

This is hands down, one of my favourite books that not only made me realise how people perceive the world, but how non-fiction can be engaging and impactful. Jamie explores clarity in this book in relation to all aspects of an individual’s life. The outward-in method that he discusses really makes you think about your own choices and your own happiness. This book is, as you may have guessed, short, clear and concise. A short but memorable read.

Read my full review here

Self-help – Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight

I too wish I was Sarah Knight, living in the Caribbean and writing books as my profession. Who knows, after reading this book, maybe I will. Get Your Sh*t Together, provides its readers with a little tough love, followed by fantastic strategies that can be applied to all aspects of your life – be it relationships, health or work. Sarah Knight has tried to make the subject comical as it does touch on some serious and quite scary topics. However after reflecting on this book and attempting to actually get your sh*t together, you will begin to realise that this book does exactly what it sets out do. A great gift and motivator to making your dreams become a reality.

Although I have so many other great books I wish I could include, the books above have to be my top 5. Feel free to read any additional reviews I have written on these books to help you make your mind up with which to put on your own ‘to be read’ list. If however you are still wanting some book inspiration, I have provided you with a few more noteworthy reads. Who knows, you may even want to gift one to yourself.

Recommended Reads

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

Write Yourself Happy by Megan Hayes

Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

Finding Inspiration at Home

Finding Inspiration at Home

With many of us working from home, it can sometimes be tricky to find inspiration in an area in which you have spent months living and working in. Some may even struggle facing their laptop, especially if they have been working on it all day. I have collated a few ideas that will provide you with a new insight into your home and how your daily routine can help you create new plots and develop characters.

Short on Time?

Many of us may be working full-time, home-schooling your children or have caring responsibilities, which can take a lot of time away from your writing. Whenever I am short on time (my teaching breaks are 15 minutes) I try to come up with a Haiku as a snapshot of how my day is going. A Haiku is a 3 line poem, with each line consisting of so many syllables. The structure is as follows:

Line 1 (5 syllables)

Line 2 ( 7 syllables)

Line 3 ( 5 syllables)

I don’t normally write poetry. However I do like puzzles and I feel like a Haiku poem is a mixture of puzzles and writing that fits really well into my short breaks. You may even prefer to write several Haikus to create a longer form of poetry.

Feeling Lonely?

Living on your own or being around the same type of people can be boring and will not be helping your creativity grow. Instead spark your creativity by inviting your characters over. Jot down every detail: How do they knock on the door/ring the bell? Their posture when you open the door – Do they barge past or ask politely to come in? Once they’re in the house/flat, consider which room they’ll go into. Will it be the study, the kitchen, or maybe even the bathroom? Consider all of their actions, from their fidgeting to their manners. This exercise can be a great way to get to know your characters, as their daily actions may impact their decisions within your story.

Writing tip

Looking for New Ideas?

Consider some of the sacrifices and changes you’ve had to make over the last few months. It could be only seeing your friends via an online chat forum, wearing a mask on public transport or only leaving the house once a day. Once you have a list of these, consider a genre of your choice. This could be any or a mixture of both. When you have decided on the genre/genres you wish to write about, have a look at your changes/sacrifices and try to write a scene in that genre. For example:

If you were writing a crime/thriller novel, your friend might think they’ve left the online chatroom when they haven’t and a crime is committed for the reader to witness?

Perhaps a man in a drive-thru has fallen for the barista who gives him his coffee on a daily commute? Maybe it was the look in their eyes, beyond the mask…

Remember, the possibilities here are endless!

Have a go yourself and see what you come up with.

How does reading benefit a writer?

How does reading benefit a writer?

We’ve all asked and heard the advice, haven’t we? How do I improve writing? Read more. The pure broadness of this answer really doesn’t sit well with me. I’m not saying it’s not correct but it’s not exactly useful either. This post will delve into this question with a little more focus on what type of reading to consider and how we will be able to use our reading to our writing advantage.

 

What do you like to write?

This is the first question you need to ask yourself. You might like to write a specific genre, ie. thriller, romance etc, or you may prefer to write for a particular audience. Are you writing for a male, female audience for example? Or do you perhaps like to write for a younger audience? Whatever your answer is to this question, this is the type of reading that will help you. If you would like to write romantic YA novel, then that is the genre you know you need to read more. By doing this, you will soon begin to acknowledge what you find gripping and therefore what your readers will find gripping. You might even discover a technique that you really despise and know definitely what NOT to do in your own work. 

 

Whether you like or dislike the book – learn from it.

Just because you did not enjoy reading a certain book, doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from it. I once read a book that was given to me as a gift. At first I thought I would enjoy it but the author kept going off track to explain the characters backgrounds. It was really annoying but I persevered and realised afterwards that my books need to be more concise and fast paced. Quick task: Have a look through your books on your bookshelf and consider what you didn’t like about them. Was it plot, the way the characters were presented to you, or was it unrealistic? Once you have done this, consider what would have made it a better read. Whatever you think the improvements should be, take that advice and include it within your own writing. Remember you have been a reader here and have been disappointed with the outcome – only you as a reader can put that right by doing so in your own writing.

person writing on notebook
Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

Learn from your heroes.

If you have a favourite author you jump to when you pick up a new book, consider what you like about them. You might like the author because of how they grab your attention within the first few paragraphs, or you may find their dialogue really engaging. Here is were you can learn from them. If you struggle with dialogue for example, pick a scene that your author has created the demonstrates a great conversation. Now begin to analyse what makes their writing so engaging. Is it the word choice, the action that is placed in-between the conversation or perhaps it just seems effortless? Keep this scene in front of you and then have a go at mimicking this style in a scene of your own writing. You may find that this really helps you with your dialogue, you may even think that it doesn’t sound like you – and that’s okay. That just shows that you already know your own writing style.

 

Write a book review

Writing a book review can really help you understand the main themes of a book and help you consider how these can impact your own work. Sometimes when writing it can be easy to get lost in the genre you’re writing. However if you read a book in the genre you are wanting to write, you will be able to acknowledge any underlying themes that occur in this genre. Writing a review also helps you analyse plot, pacing and characterisation in greater detail. Sometimes the author can even write in such a way that the characters take over and drive the rest of the plot forward. However it is only with writing a book review that all of the authors hard labour of writing the book can be acknowledged.

By doing all of the above, the concept of ‘read more’ seems more solidified to me. Ultimately you can interpret the answer to the original question whichever you like. However I stand by that the concept of reading more was to be subjective to a writer’s own interpretation to their chosen genre. Feel free to have a go at my suggestions and let me know if they work for you. 

Keep Going!

I just thought I’d dedicate this post to all those budding writers who are having a go at NaNoWriMo. I’ve always wanted to do this myself, yet never felt ready to do so.

So with this in mind, keep going, enjoy the process and feel free to share your journey. It would be great toreador some of these stories.

IMG_2634
a quick game to give you some writing inspiration 🙂

p.s. I do apologise for not writing a little more regularly on here. I’ve had a busy few month but I’ll be on here as much as I can; watch this space!

The Little Book of Clarity

The Little Book of Clarity by Jamie Smart

Capstone £9.99, USA $16.00, CAN $19.00

‘Imagine what you could achieve if you had a clear head.’

It is amazing how a very simple sentence can instantly get your mind running over the possibilities. Less stress, quicker results and better results for that matter. After reading this sentence on the blurb, I was instantly intrigued. I originally stumbled upon this book by accident at Waterstones. Although The Little Book of Clarity is considered as a self-help book, Jamie Smart explains how his book is different to other self-help books. ‘Most business and personal development books aim at giving you the things to think, change and do so you “act” in a certain way to get the results you want.’ Smart explains this concept to having a cold appose to acting like you have one. Acting like you have a cold is hard and at times, unconvincing.  However, ‘when you catch a cold, the symptoms emerge effortlessly because they’re real. This book is designed so that you can “catch” an understanding that results in the “symptoms” of increasing clarity, resilience and peace of mind.’ Therefore because everyone already has clarity, the results of the book will come naturally.

At first I was a little skeptical too. How can this book know my way of thinking? After reflecting onIMG_2543 my university grades, commenting that I lacked clarity, I decided to give it a go. I can honestly say that this was one of the best decisions I had made. As I read the book I could feel the ‘a-ha’ moments appearing more regularly. After reading the first part of the book I decided to edit some of my essays for university. When I looked back at them I was confused. How had I wrote such rubbish! I could not believe that I could not understand my previous trail of thought. The changes however didn’t stop there. I started to realise that I didn’t comfort eat anymore. I learnt the difference between association happiness with an object, in this circumstance, food.

Each chapter contains a thought exercise or experiment for the reader to partake in. This really helps with understanding the process of this book and I would recommend doing these exercises, before pursuing with the next chapter. Although The Little Book of Clarity, is as it suggests, little, it does not scrape on content. Each chapter also has a web link for additional material incase the reader may want a deeper understanding. Furthermore the book is also available as an e-book. It truly is as handy as it suggests. This is the first time that I have reviewed a non-fiction book and a self-help book at that, which suggests how useful I found this book. So to any students that may have been in my situation, or to anyone who wants to get better results and peace of mind. I urge you to read this book. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.