Laura Chapman talks about how blogging both helped and hindered her novel-writing career.
When I published my debut novel in December 2013, I had already built some connections in the chick lit/women’s fiction community as the founder of my blog, Change the Word. But while I am technically a blogger turned author, I always knew I wanted to write books well before I’d even heard of blogs.
I founded Change the Word in 2010 while I was living and working Houston. Feeling somewhat isolated from my friends and family in Nebraska (and desperate to finish writing one of the started but never completed novels wasting away on my computer’s hard drive), the blog seemed like a good way to share my life with the ones I loved while also hopefully motivating myself to follow through on my novel-writing schemes. I was a sporadic blogger at best during the first year. I tried to blog a few times a week, but it ended up being more like a couple of times a month. It wasn’t until after I finished writing the first draft of Hard Hats and Doormats in early 2011 that I looked at my then-fledgling blog and wanted to make something of it.
Beginning in July 2011, I set a goal for myself: I would post five new blog posts every week. I’d already proven to myself that I could write a full novel, so I wanted to prove to myself that I could create fresh content on a daily basis. I created a calendar where I’d plot out posts for months in advance. I wrote reviews of the books I read (something I’d done for my college’s newspaper my senior year). I shared the lessons I was learning as a writer and self-editor. I discussed the hardships and struggles I faced.
The big turning point for my blog came in September. For one, this was when I “met” Samantha March online, and she invited me to participate in her Chick Lit Plus Blog Tour promotions. I quickly started featuring one or two authors on my blog every week as guest bloggers or interview subjects. I also increased my book reviews from once in a while to once or twice a week. Through this, I expanded my network of authors and also had an opportunity to learn from them and their experiences going through the publishing process.
It was during this time I also started brainstorming series I could run on my blog. The longest running —cand probably my all-time favoritec—cwas “Reading in the Kitchen.” Through these posts, I recreated dishes from scenes in books. My first was the green pumpkin pie in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter. I made Ruby Tea Biscuits from L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. And I tackled more recent books, too. I made a dandelion salad, homemade bread, and cheese and apple tart from Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games franchise. But my most-read posts to-date came when I recreated several dishes from EL James’s Fifty Shades trilogy, which was at the top of the best-seller charts. While it was exciting to gain new readers, I’ll admit it didn’t really cross my mind at the time. Kind of like meeting Samantha, it was something that just happened and had results I never could have imagined.
The one downside of blogging during this time was that I let it be a way to procrastinate my own book-writing career. I’m a big believer in following through on the commitments you make to others. So when I had to choose between reading a book I promised to review or working on my own stories, I read and reviewed the book. I still managed to write the first draft of The Marrying Type during this time, but like Hard Hats, it sat on my hard drive waiting to be polished.
By Spring 2013, I realized I needed to shift my priorities. I was growing a little burnt out with keeping up such an aggressive blogging schedule, and I was frustrated with my lack of progress as an author. After doing a lot of soul-searching and talking to my closest advisors, I made the difficult decision to scale back my blogging responsibilities and commitments. While difficult, this gave me the push I needed to turn my focus onto my fiction writing.
And I owe my publishing career to my blog. All three of my novels are published with Marching Ink, Samantha March’s publishing company. I have a couple of novelettes published with other contacts I made during those busy years on the blog. And it’s how I met many of my beta readers and some of the biggest cheerleaders I have in the industry.
I still blog, though my schedule is much more sporadic. It’s still a way for me to share my reading and writing adventure with others. And it’s still a way for me to challenge myself as a writer. In a way, working on blog posts is kind of like warming up before a big race. Writing a blog post requires a lot of the same skills as writing a story, but on a smaller scale. And every time I hit “post” on a blog entry, it’s a way of practicing for when we hit “sell” on the full-length projects.
Thanks for having me as a guest. If any of you have any questions for me as a blogger or author — or a blogger-turned-author — please feel free to leave them in the comments below, and I’ll check back to answer them as best as I can.
When Harper Duquaine’s no-nonsense approach to work unintentionally ruffles the wrong feathers at her new job, she joins her co-workers’ fantasy football league to prove she can hang with the guys. Only problem: she doesn’t know a sleeper from a keeper (or any of the other lingo thrown her way).
Embroiled in a world of lineups, stats, and trades, Harper’s quest to make nice topples when her competitive streak emerges. And her promise to herself that she’ll be a strong, independent woman and leave the drama and heartache behind is seriously tested when she catches the attention of her two biggest competitors: J.J., a local celebrity determined to win a fantasy championship, and Brook, the mild-mannered coach who seems too good to be true. Both threaten her resolve to remain single… and, more importantly, her chances at winning the prize pool.
With a slew of conflicting advice in her real and fantasy worlds, Harper must figure out how to play the game and come out a winner.
Laura Chapman is the author of The Marrying Type, Hard Hats and Doormats and the Autumn and Tuck series, which appear in Merry & Bright and A Kind of Mad Courage. A native Nebraskan, she loves football, Netflix marathons, and her cats, Jane and Bingley. Until she fulfils her dream of landing a British husband or becoming a Disney princess, you can find her in a bar penning her next novel.