Margaret Boone Rappaport, Ph.D. Science Fiction Writer- THE DREADED BLOG THING or On Creating a Blog

Gracious! What a project! I’m printing, hole-punching, and putting everything in a notebook so I can wrap my mind around it. Theme, counter, add-ons, domain! Should I pay for a domain or go with wordpress.com? In any case, I am examining all the information wordpress.com has to offer and am knee deep into online literature on blog planning and development.

I’m learning a new vocabulary. I knew B2B (business to business), but B2C had passed me by. It means “business to consumers” – directly. Hmm. Then there is SEO: search engine optimization, nicely defined on Wikipedia and used everywhere. The idea: make sure you’re up there in the list of search results. RSS is either Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication. Simple? Probably, down the line. Hmm.

I’m also taking a look at Time Magazine’s 25 best blogs of 2012. The link is a good place to start for someone who is starting from (near) Zero. I think I know a good blog when I see one. I’ve been actually following one of the 25 best blogs for the past couple of years. http://techland.time.com/2012/10/22/25-best-blogs-2012/slide/all/

I’m finding that charts and lists of things to consider for regular retail business may need to be supplemented for a writer of fiction because the end-goals include not only interesting readers to buy books, but also developing a platform as an expert. Degrees are not enough; you have to show that you’re keeping your knowledge base up to date. In the area of science fiction, expertise means you know the science well enough to change it a bit – or add to it – for the sake of a good story. And make it sound believable.

So I’ve started. And from what I’m learning I’ll develop a blog plan.

There are lots of questions I’ve asked myself about goals, content, and promotion. My general goal is to create a platform for my books: RED REVOLT, BEANS, and ORION’S HEART, which make up The Nanotech Trilogy. My novel RED REVOLT is “The Story of Hank Chin and the Founding of Martian Society.”

And the themes of The Nanotech Trilogy are:
· The future of agriculture.
· Nanotechnology in agriculture and warfare, on both Earth and Mars.
· Genetic engineering.
· The sociology of new planetary societies.

I would also like for my website to:
· appeal to visitors as an exciting, informal site with good links to solid web sources;
· focus upon the types of science and scientists in The Nanotech Trilogy;
· provide a means whereby readers can learn more about the lives and careers of the scientists in the trilogy.
. popularize science (which I’ve tried to do through action and dialogue) among readers who like novels about relationships.

Another thing I’ve mulled over involves establishing a Board of Advisors for the site. Why a Board of Advisors? I intend for the site to give references to serious science sources, so then why wouldn’t it be useful to have some version of a Board of Advisors? Then is it an early step or a later one? But first things first … the installation of the blog site has to take precedent.

After I have my plan I’ll seek advice and revise it accordingly. So far I’ve been given such advice as “hold back” and “make blog posts short.” With respect to my characters, I want to interest potential readers, but I don’t want to give away too much. There is a balancing act here, and I was warned of this by an “old hand” in the business.

Blog planning for a science fiction novelist is a mix of art, business, expertise, and policy because the future is all about how governments might – and might not – decide to spend money. Imagining this is an important part of being a futurist and, in my view, writing good science fiction.

Before I began writing my novels, I wrote a family history for each of the major protagonists. I will use this material in the blog so that readers can follow the characters’ lives and careers and learn more about their fields of science. I also wrote a 75-page Future World Setting. I’ll post this futurist material in weekly installments. And the timeline on the front pages of RED REVOLT will also appear.

Also, I want to provide links to solid resources on the scientific themes in the novels and by so doing get people interested in the characters. So the blog will have a couple of different types of content – science and schmooze – which will remain distinct.

One of the most difficult aspects I’ll face with the blog will be the inclusion of hard core, science-based material (links and summaries), along with fictional, emotional, background, life-story material. The two types of information need to be kept separate and not muddled.

In the novels, however, science and fiction must blend to make a darn good story. What I’ve had fun doing is taking modern science right up to where it is today – and then, moving just a tiny step beyond there to create something unusual, fascinating, and fictional. Still, it all starts with science, and I remain committed to interesting young people, men, and women who are considering science as a career. This was the reason why I took up science fiction. Besides I love science fiction and have since my teens, when I discovered Heinlein’s FAMER IN THE SKY! Any kind of thinking about the future has to include a focus on agriculture, and how the human species will feed itself on Earth, Mars, other planets, and on interstellar transportation. How will we eat? It’s a fundamental problem for the future.

Finally, let me go back to where I began: to those best blogs. (http://techland.time.com/2012/10/22/25-best-blogs-2012/slide/all/) The blog I followed had these important characteristics.

(1) It was gracious and polite and gave credit, links, and kudos where they were deserved.
(2) It provided services (where to acquire certain things, and details about these products).
(3) It included visitor-friendly surveys, games, giveaways, and other fun things to keep readers coming back for more.
(4) It was careful to link to serious sources (newspapers, etc) to point out the social and economic importance of the blog’s topic.

The Blog I followed? Oh, gosh, should I admit I’ve been following “What Kate Wore” for a couple years because, well, I remain a committed scientist, but also a committed fashionista!

A final thought: the publishing world has clearly changed. A book now may become popular – even desired – before it even has an agent or a publisher. It used to be the other way around. A blog can help bring this about, i.e., influence the book being picked up. Still if it’s not good writing, the picking up won’t happen.

Two good online sources for blog planning are Bill Rice and Heidi Cohen.
Outline #1 Heidi Cohen, Actionable Marketing Expert, [INFOGRAPHIC] “How To Plan Your Blog,” Posted on September 2, 2012
Link: http://heidicohen.com/infographic-how-to-plan-your-blog/

Outline #2 Bill Rice, Writer, Speaker, Social Selling, Lead Generation. “How I Get Ideas for Blogging,” February 9, 2011. Link: http://bettercloser.com/ideas-blogging/

Margaret Boone Rappaport, Ph.D.
msbrappaport@aol.com

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