Happy Father’s Day, all you Dads, Grandpas & Great-grandfathers!
Today, I have with me a talented young man whose blog I follow faithfully because of the variety of things he posts and because he rarely fails to draw out a chuckle from me. He has a marvelous sense of humour and writes about some pretty awesome stuff.
Welcome to my blog, Matt! Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Perhaps the first thing I should tell you is that I am rarely brief. So much so, in fact, that my Dad once said, “Son, you don’t speak in words, you only speak in sentences and paragraphs.” If there was such a thing as “The International Rambling Award” it would already be sitting on my shelf, basking in the warmth of the…see, I’m doing it already.
Right, about me. I was born in England in 1986, a fantastic year for the whole world (mostly due to my birth). A few years later my family migrated to Australia. We moved around a fair amount, but I now currently reside on the Central Coast, about an hour north of Sydney, working as a high school teacher teaching mostly English and History, but also (increasingly) Maths. I am a lifelong writer and reader, drink far too much coffee, tea and wine, have watched Monty Python far too many times (or not enough), still watch cartoons, am an avid music collector (albums number in the thousands), and am also a collection collector (I just like collecting things). One of my long-term goals is to become a published novelist, but my day to day goal is just to make people smile, laugh, and hopefully help people learn, too.
OH THAT’S RIGHT THERE’S OTHER QUESTIONS – stop talking Matt!
(If you are interested in learning more about Matt, I’ve linked his picture to his post My Personal Timeline. Just click on his picture above)
You recently published your 100th post. What prompted you to begin blogging?
At the start of this year, I set myself a lot of outrageously difficult goals, including getting my health back on track (two months later my health dived to frightening lows), writing 12 novellas in 12 months (more on this in a later question), and, come to think of it, a whole lot of various writing goals. Among them I decided to try blogging, so I would actually be writing for an audience. It was difficult initially though, because I have tried blogging before only to give up after several entries. But by the time I finished the first month, I realised I was really enjoying it this time, and, more shockingly, people were reading the nonsense I was writing.
Would you please describe some of the topics one might expect to read about when they visit your site?
One of Matt’s mugs from his collection. Click on the picture if you want to see more of his coffee cup collection.
My blog mostly revolves around the fact that I’m a nerd, so the topics to be found on my page include books, poetry, writing, music, history, and the occasional posts on art, coffee, tea, and whatever else takes my fancy. For a while I felt a duty to stick to books, but I have found as time goes on I am branching out more and more. I just try to keep my blog honest and true to myself. And sometimes silly.
Some people prefer to write their blog posts ahead of time and some just sit down and write them on the spur of the moment or when a topic moves them. What is your preference?
I briefly tried writing posts ahead of time, but I felt they were either uninspired, or when I finished them I changed my mind and just posted them immediately anyway. So generally I write them on the spur of the moment, although sometimes I let ideas stew for a couple of days too, especially when it comes to reviews. From time to time I like to time travel, writing a post in the future and then publishing it before it was written…I once nearly caused the universe to not exist because of this.
Have you done anything to specifically draw in more followers?
I’ve been trying to figure this one out myself, because I am a little stunned with how many followers I have gathered in only a few months. I know in my first couple of months I spent a lot of time wandering around looking at other blogs, and commenting here and there. I ended up following a lot of these blogs, and a lot of these blogs followed me back. But recently I find myself so busy with the blogs I already follow, and, of course, my own blog, it’s hard to find time to just wander around the blogosphere like that.
Aside from this…I guess I just try to be consistent, and make an effort to respond to every comment and make people feel welcome at my blog, hopefully giving them a reason to return.
Have you learned any secrets to creating a successful blog? If so, would you please share them with other newbies?
As I say, being consistent in both the timing of your posts and in responding to comments is super important to making a blog work. I also think it’s important to be reasonable with yourself about how often you blog – you don’t want it to turn into a chore, because that shows. Blogging should be something you enjoy, and if it feels otherwise maybe give yourself a day or two off, and return when you’re feeling more inspired. Also, this might be stating the obvious, but make sure you proofread – readers can forgive the occasional typo or clumsily worded sentence, as no doubt we are all guilty of it from time to time, but I occasionally stumble across a blog that is just littered with mistakes, and it’s just really off-putting.
But most importantly – be yourself! I love a good blog where you can really see the blogger themself in their writing. So be honest, and write about what you know.
Good advice! 🙂
Of the many categories you have listed in the sidebar of your blog, one of them is ‘12 Novellas in 12 Months’. You referred to this earlier, so I know you like to write stuff other than your blog posts. Please tell us a little about this challenge that you have set for yourself.
Ah yes, that little challenge. About five years ago I found myself suddenly reinspired to write creatively, after a several year absence from crafting stories for fun. In 2009 I found out about NaNoWriMo, the worldwide novel-writing event in which hundreds of thousands of people write a fifty thousand word novel in a single month. I completed this in 2009, 2010, and then in 2011 I completed the sister event, Script Frenzy, as well as challenging myself to write seventy five thousand words for that year’s NaNo (which I managed to pull off courtesy of an eleven thousand word day towards the end of the month – don’t try that at home, please, whatever you do).
So what does all this have to do with 12 Novellas in 12 Months? The problem with NaNoWriMo is that it only inspires me for one month of the year, and then it leaves me feeling burnt out for a while, and I end up not writing much over the remainder of the year. So I devised a plan to write all year round, but under more manageable circumstances – write 12 novellas in 12 months! Why novellas? Because if the average novella is thirty thousand words, this comes out at a thousand words a day, which is quite manageable even around a full time job. Or so I thought…but there’s six months left in this year, and I’m determined to beat this challenge. So far I have one novella finished, and several part of the way through. By the end of this month I should have six finished…uh oh.
I completely understand how real life can interfere with the writing life!
Is there a specific genre you prefer to write or do you enjoy stretching your creativity to try different genres?
As part of my 12 Novellas challenge, I am trying to write in 12 different genres. I think I like to genre hop a little anyway, though I have been more comfortable when writing in historical fiction, fantasy, and humorous or comical fiction. But really I just write whatever I feel like at the time – genres should be places to explore in writing, not restrictions to limit yourself.
That is very true!
What is your approach to writing? Is it similar to the way you prepare your blog posts?
My approach to writing changes from story to story. Out of the three novels I have written in the past three years, two I wrote entirely on the spot, with no planning whatsoever. The novel I wrote in 2010 was my historical novel, and so I actually did plan it (a little), and researched a fair amount before writing it. After finishing the first draft, I realised it was terrible, and I am now slowly researching a lot more before I attempt to rewrite that story.
Most stories for me start with an image, or a quote, or something simple. I just sit down and start writing, squeeze my brain and force the words out, and see what happens and where it goes. As the story progresses, I try and determine the characters in as much detail in my mind as I can, so that they can drive the rest of the story forwards. Normally by about the halfway point, the end begins to form in my mind, at which point I purposely throw twists into the story, twists that surprise even me as the writer (if I can surprise myself, hopefully I can surprise my readers too), so that the real challenge becomes trying to find a way to get to the ending I foresee.
Basically my approach to creative writing is ridiculous.
You sound like a ‘pantser’, like me! 🙂
Do you have anything else to share with us, today?
My advice for anybody wanting to become good at anything – just keep practising! If you want to become a successful writer, I truly believe reading broadly and writing relentlessly is the ultimate key to reaching this goal. The same goes for just about everything in life – don’t ever let somebody tell you you’re no good at something, or you’re never going to be good at it, because when we really apply ourselves fully to the task at hand, humans are capable of incredible things.
Very inspiring, Matt, Thank you!
For those who wish to experience your blog, they can visit you by pressing here. Are there any other ways in which people can enjoy your words of wisdom?
Absolutely! You can find me on Twitter at @abritishperson, and on Goodreads I am listed as Matt Watson (they’ve been linked so just click on the underlined words).
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, Matt.
Thank you for the great questions (and sorry about the rambling).
That’s not a problem. I have a rambling problem, myself. When I write a letter or email to someone, my hubby says it looks like I’m writing a novel – which isn’t all that far from the truth! In conversations, if someone asks me about writing, I’ll talk their ear off! Maybe we should start a group called Ramblers Anonymous! 🙂
Thanks, again, Matt for joining us today. Good luck with your challenges. 🙂
I’m sure you all have enjoyed our little ‘chat’. Please follow the links to learn more about Matt and his blog. 🙂