Updated: Sep 26, 2020
One thing I often receive comments on is how I’ve managed to build an online community around my writing.
To be honest, part of my success at doing that is because I just simply LOVE interacting with readers and other writers, and so it happened somewhat organically as I began to put my work out there and form relationships with others online. However, there was a plan in place, a certain method to the madness, and I think that is what enabled me to truly grow something solid and unified, something that gives me both a steady, supportive readership base as well as a network of fellow writers with whom I can discuss ideas and ways to improve my craft.
I’m not 100% where I want to be with this, by any means — my community is still relatively small, and I am always striving to grow and improve! But the community I do have is an amazing, motivating, loyal one, and so I consider myself incredibly blessed.
And it is NOT lost on me that just over a year ago, I had ZERO online presence for my writing and no community at all! Now I have a base of readers who cheer me on, get excited when I release new things, beta-read for me, participate in online chats with me, and more. What has happened in just a little more than a year is truly breathtaking, and something for which I’m deeply grateful.
Experts in this type of growth say that you really only need 1000 “true fans” to be successful… just 1000 people who truly love your work, follow you, support you, buy your books/products, and share your work with their friends. I’m not quite at 1000 yet, but I’m so much farther than I was a year ago, and it’s growing more every week. (I love getting “someone just subscribed to your site” notifications!)
I’m a teacher at heart (I can’t turn it off!), and so whenever someone asks me, “How did you do this? How can I build an online community around MY writing?” I do my best to provide some pointers. But truly, what growth I’ve made was made intentionally, and it was a process.
Today, I am sharing (most of) that process.
If you’re one of those who have been asking — or just found this post by chance — I hope that you find this helpful as a starting point for beginning to grow your own online writing platform/community that can support your future goals as a writer.
So, I am announcing my “SUPERCHARGE YOUR ONLINE WRITING PRESENCE” Challenge!
There is a chart below showing each month’s “challenge task,” followed by an explanation of each item.
The idea is to begin with just one small task or element at a time, do it consistently for a month, and then add the next one. In this way, the task doesn’t feel so overwhelming, but becomes the accumulation of 12 smaller habits that you add in one per month over the year. If you do this, you might just be astonished at how much growth can happen by the year’s end.
I know everyone’s goals differ, but the monthly habits below should apply to most any writer looking to start or enhance their online presence. Of course, I cannot guarantee that everyone will have the exact results I’ve had… but if you’re truly consistent with the below items, it would shock me if you didn’t experience at least some level of growth. Growth is growth! And truly, it would thrill me to know that this helped someone grow their writing career, even a little… and even more if you end up with some kind of super-amazing success that even surpasses mine!
A detailed explanation of each month’s “habit” follows beneath the chart.
If you have questions about anything, please feel free to comment or message me! I would love to help!
1. Commit To Writing Daily (Even Just a Paragraph!)
The best way to grow as a writer is to write. Commit to producing at least one paragraph of original writing a day. Not only will the habit of writing daily make writing come more smoothly, improve your writing skills, and help to prevent writer’s block, it will also ensure that you are producing some kind of content — as awesome as you may be, you can’t build a community around your writing if you aren’t actually writing anything. And even if you drop out of this challenge and don’t complete any other months, DO THIS ONE. You’ll thank me.
2. Brand Yourself
This might be the most complicated of the tasks, but stick with me, because it is soooo worth it. This month, the task is to figure out who you are as a writer, and what your writing “brand” is. Think of this as your promise to your readers, that whenever they open one of your books or blogs, they will receive X. This can be tied to your own personality, to what topic area or genre you focus on, or broader, more of a tone or thematic element that underpins all your work. I suggest coming up with a mantra, a short phrase that encapsulates a common thread that readers could expect to find in any work from you.
Mine, for example, is “meticulous creativity.” I chose this based on some personality/skill assessments I took, but essentially, it explains how I approach writing and what my readers can expect me to deliver. My stories (and blogs, if I can help it) are usually carefully planned and organized with multiple layers (that’s the meticulous part of my mantra), but there is also a bit of unconventionality in how I tend to approach things, and an element of creativity in what I write (especially my fiction, of course). I tend to bend genre rules, include layers of things (like email addresses for characters that will actually respond if a curious reader emails them) and the like. I do this because I find this amusing and stimulating, but it’s the element of the “creative” in my tagline and also what has earned me (on more than one occasion) being called “quirky” by visitors to my site (they meant it in the best way, they say 😉 ). Once you have your general brand concept and a mantra, then everything bends around that.
If you already have somewhat of an online presence, now’s the time to revamp — all your usernames/email addresses/everything on any existing social media or other sites should be changed to match your brand (I use CCrawfordWriting as my username on virtually everything, a name I chose because it is to-the-point, versatile, and fits my brand). You can create a logo for free on Canva.com or a similar site with a look that complements your brand and overall tone/image you’ve decided to present, and use this as your profile picture. Create cover images, as needed, that also represent your brand and mantra.
The key is to make sure you have a clear, specific persona/image you’re presenting as a writer, and that everything matches on anything you publicly present, across the board. The consistency in all these small things is what gives your online presence a unified feel, and makes people recognize you as something distinct, your very own “brand” as a writer. (If you don’t yet have any social media sites, blogs, etc., don’t worry — that will come in a later challenge. But be sure to go ahead and create all your branding this month so that you’re ready to go!)
3. Set & Implement Specific Daily/Weekly Writing Goals
The specifics of your goals will vary based on your end-game, of course, but the important thing is that you have them. Sit down and figure out what you want to accomplish as a writer this year, specifically, what you want to produce. This challenge is all about growing your online presence, but so many of the monthly tasks depend on you already having some works-in-progress as a writer. It’s hard to promote yourself as a writer if your actual writing is non-existent.
SO, what do you want to achieve this year? A short-story collection? A novel? 12 novels? Whatever it is, figure out this year’s goal, and then work backward to determine what you need to do each week and then each day to make that happen between this month and the end of the year. Set yourself a schedule, and then get going! You’ll continue this schedule throughout all the rest of the months, adding future monthly challenge tasks on top of it, so be sure to set yourself up for success by making your daily goals realistic, specific, and achievable.
I also recommend allowing some leeway for off-days, holidays, sick days, unexpected events, etc. Setting too rigorous a schedule can become overwhelming and demotivating, but the right balance of a daily schedule/daily habit with some flexibility/freedom can keep you on-track and motivated.
4. Read At Least 1 Craft/Industry Book By a Successful Author & Implement 1-2 Elements
Part of growing your career is growing yourself. This month, read at least 1 book on either the craft of writing, or on growing a writing career, and then select 1-2 elements of their advice to implement in your own routine. Because these monthly tasks are cumulative, you’ll continue to read 1 book/month (and implement 1-2 growth elements from each) from now on. You can find some of my favorites that have truly helped me grow here.