René Penn

Follow my journey to becoming a published author


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Why Aspiring Authors Should Start a Blog

A couple of years ago, I attended the amazingly awesome and motivating LaJolla Writer’s Conference. They provided tips of what to do as an aspiring author, like starting a blog.

corinne-kutz-211251.jpgIt’s taken me a while to put that into action, but I see why you should start blogging before being published.

  • It gets you writing

I’ve been working in communications/marketing/advertising for 15 years, so I write a heck of a lot every day. But if you’re crunching numbers at work, for instance, where you’d rather be chomping words, writing a blog can satisfy your inner word-nerd.

  • It makes you accountablefrank-mckenna-184340.jpg

My friends and family have heard me talk about writing book, short story or screenplay projects since the ’90s. But now, the whole world (wide web) knows. There’s no turning back. I must keep blogging and get published…or bust!

  • It gives you “street cred”

When I look at blogs, I’m usually going for informal advice on a topic. I admire their level of visibility and commitment. A blogger doesn’t have to be an expert; I don’t really expect that. But I do expect to learn or gain some insight from the article.

  • It puts you on a schedule

Speaking of commitment, blogging demands it, just like writing. There’s no magic formula for how many blog entries to post. I’m learning that consistency is key (for practice and Google Analytics). Sticking to a schedule and not over-committing myself are things I’ll have to watch out for.

  • It keeps you writing when you’re not, uh, writing

If I need a mental break from working on my novel, I can blog instead. I’m exercising the same muscles, just doing it a little differently. It’s still a win. It also gives me a sense of accomplishment in the short-term that I don’t get while working on a long-term novel project.

Are you an aspiring author who has a blog? What can you share about your experience? Does it make you better at Scrabble?

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash; photo by Corinne Kutz on Unsplash


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Marketing Before the Novel Is Finished

I am currently writing the first draft of a historical fiction novel—about 30,000 words in and a ways to go.

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I’ve been working on it since December, fitting it in during commutes to and from work, slipping in time on weekends and during plane rides tied to vacations. I know that writing this novel is only half the battle. No, it’s more like one-tenth.

“They say” that you should begin marketing before your novel is even complete. So here I am:

Purchasing a domain

I went to GoDaddy.com, because it’s easy to remember and those Danica Patrick commercials have been burned into my brain. I purchased the domain name “renepenn.com” for about $12, I believe. It’s the professional thing to do, and it only costs the price of a good lunch.

Getting on social media

I’ve been on Facebook for a while, but I quickly realized that it’s not a good starting place for increasing outreach beyond family and friends. I needed to enter the Twitterverse. I “re-routed” an old dormant Twitter account to my new handle @rene_penn and started tweeting a few times a week. I tweet about funny life-things that happen, writing-related or not; I highlight good articles that I’ve read about writing; I pepper it with some inspirational quotes; and I purposely keep my political views out of the feed. I’ve noticed that at least two hashtag references per tweet help increase engagement. Re-tweeting is actually okay and not considered a slacker move. And I don’t really miss looking at Facebook videos starring my friends’ cats.

Here are some reasons why social media is good for aspiring authors.

Creating a website

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But which site? There are so many to choose from. Cue the ice cream headache.

I toggled between Squarespace and WordPress, but chose the latter. WordPress seems to be Siamese twinning with Google Analytics, and about 25% of all websites are powered by them. (I think that means they know what they’re doing.) I’ve heard the learning curve description span from easy to steep. I’m at the beginning stages, and I find it rather intimidating. I’m still trying to figure out how to point this site to my purchased domain. Hey, don’t judge. I’m a writer, not a “techy.”

Blogging 

Yes, it rhymes with flogging, but let’s not think about that, shall we? The idea of blogging made me nervous at first. What will I blog about? Come to find out, there’s plenty. As I work on my first draft, I’m constantly coming up with questions and thoughts–and referencing information online to help. I can blog a review about a new book in my genre, and share the successes and snags of my novel-writing journey. I figured, someone else may benefit from some of the things I blog about, or from some of the things I reference, like this article about blogging or this other one.

Here are some other things to think about before your book is written. Do you have any ideas?