Balancing Blogging and Fiction Writing: The Work-Work Balance
The balancing act: My experience balancing blogging and fiction writing — and some tips and tricks for you.
Once upon a time, I was a writer.
By that I mean that I wrote fiction. (And nonfiction from time to time.) I wrote mainly in the novel space, and I planned to go down the traditional publishing route. That is, I planned to query, get an agent, and eventually become a published author.
I read somewhere, I don’t remember where, that prospective authors ought to create a website and build a social media presence. By “create a website,” I’m pretty sure the person who wrote the advice meant exactly that. Create a website. Maybe put up one or two writing samples, but not much more. Me being me, I decided to outdo the advice and start a full-blown writing blog, which was how I became a blogger.
Now, I’ve already talked plenty about how miserable I was during that first year of blogging about books and writing. You can catch a fair amount of it in my post about the numbers game.
But one main thing about that first year was that I always, always, always put my fiction writing first. I would write between 2,000 and 4,000 words on whatever project I was working on, and then if I had the time or energy left to churn out a blog post, I would. I got around the problem of balancing blogging and fiction writing by… not balancing. By simply prioritizing one over the other. Obviously, I got a lot of fiction writing done. Blogging, not so much.
I’ve talked a lot about how various factors contributed to the start of Voyage of the Mind.
But I haven’t yet discussed one of the most important, which is also one of the most simple. As a result of finishing a draft of my mystery novel Blue and White, and as a result of my college semester transitioning online, I ended up with a massive amount of free time in an unexpected part of the year. Generally speaking, at the end of spring semester, I’ve had about a month of truly free time before work starts up for the summer. That month, historically, was a month I spent scrambling to finish whatever draft of whatever novel-sized project I’d been working on. Yeah, I probably blogged a bit more during those windows, too. But I mostly spent my time feverishly writing fiction because, like I said, I prioritized fiction above blogging.
And I spent that time reading, after a semester of reading just for classes.
This time around, it was different. I suddenly had this massive amount of time. It felt like God’s gift from heaven. But at first, I didn’t use it wisely at all. I began playing a lot of computer games — massive time sink — and I began writing a lot of copy. If you want to read about how writing copy contributed to the beginning of Voyage of the Mind, check out this article.
At a certain point, I realized that I had the chance to start something — something bigger and broader than anything I’d yet attempted. And as soon as I began blogging at Voyage of the Mind, everything fell into place. I was blogging — blogging happily about the things I loved — while slogging away on revision on the side. I was happy and felt whole for the first time in, well, almost forever. I’d discovered a calling.
Not to be cliche, but it really was like the sun coming up — on me and my life. I began thinking, If I could do this every day, I’d be happy. I’d be happy for the rest of my life. And satisfied with myself and pleased about what I’d accomplished. As someone who’s pretty perpetually unhappy and unsatisfied and always looking for more, that’s a big deal. A really big deal. I jumped on the opportunity. I began blogging more and more. And discovered, little by little, that perhaps I’d begun to prioritize blogging above fiction writing.
Only this time, I didn’t want a set of static priorities. I wanted a balancing act. Because I want to write fiction, and I also want to blog. Both constitute writing. They’re very different types of writing, but they both appeal to me for different reasons. Fiction is the outlet for my imagination. When I stopped writing fiction for a while, I found myself having to write poetry, for the blog, in place of it. Poetry is great. It scratches the imaginative itch. But fiction tells long, elegant stories where poetry can’t. Fiction has deep, rounded characters that you spend a whole book getting to know. You can’t do that in poetry. And those are the things I missed about fiction when I took a brief hiatus from writing it.
Blogging, on the other hand, is about reaching people. Informing people. Helping people. Researching topics of interest and writing about them. There’s a wild range to what you can achieve through blogging. You can even blog fiction, as I do in The Speed of Love. You can chronicle your progress on novel projects.
This, actually, provides a good segue into the tips and tricks I want to share with you. Because I have picked up a few along the way! The goings were rough at first, but they’re getting smoother, and I want you to know what I’ve learned so that you can apply what you like to your own writing life.
Here are three tips and tricks for balancing blogging and fiction writing.
1. Make the conscious decision not to prioritize.
It all starts here. If you want to balance blogging and fiction writing, you need to start by making the choice to balance — instead of prioritizing. I was used to prioritizing, so that’s where I went first. And I found it didn’t quite work. So I made the choice to balance, and I’ve been happier since. Affirm to yourself that both blogging and fiction writing are important to you, and you’ll be on the right path. Once you have this initial step laid out in your mind, you’ll be able to figure out the things that go along with it — the goals, the times, everything else.
All that being said, you may be in a position where you want or need to prioritize. If this is the case, I’m going to have to create a different article for you — how to prioritize your writing goals! Let me know in the comments if this is what you need.
2. Set up specific times at which you’ll do each type of writing (and/or specific locations).
This is a big part of creating a writing routine. If you’re balancing blogging and fiction writing, you need a separate routine for each type of writing. For me, this looks like blogging in the mornings starting around 5:30 AM and working till around 11 AM, doing promotional type stuff in the midday, more blogging from around 1 PM till dinner, and hopefully starting in on my work-in-progress after dinner. Like I said, I’m still ironing out the wrinkles — it’s not a perfect system yet. But I do know that having somewhat set times at which I work on different types of writing has helped.
Similarly, a lot of my blogging happens out of the house, at the pool where I work, while most of my fiction writing happens in the house. Having a specific location where you work on a specific type of writing can be a really great “brain cue” for that writing. Which leads me into my last little trick, the thing I’ve found most effective…
3. Use music and silence to your advantage.
Granted, this trick only really works for writers who are used to writing to some kind of music. If you’re a writer who likes your silence… I’m sorry! But I’ll have a handy trick for you at the end of this one, so that you can get something out of this too.
I’ve always been the type of writer who can switch seamlessly between writing in silence and writing to music. And my music tastes are extremely varied, so by music I mean anything from heavy metal to Mozart. Yeah. I’ll listen to anything.
I’d heard before that music was another of those things that can serve as a mental cue. So I decided to put it to use. I found an artist whose music I thought inspired my fantasy writing, and listened to that music and only that music during my fantasy writing. I don’t actually normally listen to music while blogging, although I’ll put some on every now and then.
And this trick worked wonders. I found myself more focused on the writing. And as soon as those first beats of “Charms” spill out of the speaker, I know that it’s fantasy writing time. I highly, highly recommend that you use this to trick your mind into getting ready to write, regardless of whether you’re balancing two types of writing or just writing, period.
For those who don’t listen to music, you can do the same thing with your other senses. Maybe drink a specific type of tea during the time you work on one type of writing. Or light a specific candle that gives off a specific smell when you’re working on that writing. That might sound a little over the top, but it’s all about creating an atmosphere that clues your brain into the fact: It’s time to write. Or it’s time to blog. Program yourself to respond to certain stimuli, and you’ll see the results.
Speaking of stimuli, another great trick that I feel needs mentioning is the reward. Reward yourself for your hard work! When you feel you’re successfully balancing blogging and fiction writing, give yourself a little present. Present yourself a little gift. (See what I did there??)
If you’re someone balancing blogging and fiction writing just like me, I hope these tips will prove useful. Feel free to list more of your tricks in the comments for all of us — I’d love to hear your voice!
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As always, thank you for reading!
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