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Oct 20, 2012

Should Writers Blog About Writing?

Here's the problem with writers who blog. What should we blog about? It seems like we're always being told what NOT to blog about. To wit, you may be have received advice like this:

1.) Don't write about yourself. No one wants to hear about what you had for breakfast, or your cat's vet appointment.

2.) Don't write about writing. That appeals to other writers--not to your readers.

3.) Don't write about politics or other incendiary topics. That will alienate half or more of your audience.
If you take this advice seriously, the first thing you'll notice is that most other writers don't.

There are highly successful writers (who are also highly successful bloggers), like David Brin and John Scalzi, who blog about whatever stuff they want, including politics. There are gobs of other great bloggers, like Michelle Davidson Argyle, Lindsey Buroker and Joe Konrath, who write about writing. There are others who blog on specialty interests which have nothing to do with the books. Deb Harkness had a wine blog; Jodi Meadows blogs about knitting. Davin Malasaran blogs about the important question What's Davin Eating? (It often includes updates about what his dog Peanut is eating too--sometimes the answer is books. See? Related to books after all.)

So, as usual the advice is only half right. Don't be too quick to dismiss that half, however. I think a good rule of thumb for blogs is the same as for novels: begin as you mean to go on. If you feel like having a blog about your breakfast, just remember, you have to maintain that. If you're going to talk about politics, you better have something insightful, not just something inciteful, to say. And do it regularly.

What doesn't work well is to have a blog about cooking and then randomly thrown a post in about writing, and then another post about the presidential debate. Your regular readers will be wondering, What is this crap?  Consistency of topic is more important than what the topic is.

There's only one thing more important than consistency, and that's passion. Duh, right? It's great to do your research into the perfect blog that will attract 20,000 readers per day, but if you have no actual passion for that topic, you'll end up burning out quickly. And guess what? It's better to have a blog on a specialty topic that you post to frequently than a blog on a super-popular topic that... has no posts.

Finally, for fiction writers, we need to remember that blogging is not our main form of writing. My novels come first. If I have to neglect my blog for a week, a month or a year, to finish a novel, I'm not going to apologize for it. (We have all been there, right? "Sorry I haven't blogged in a while...")

So here are my three "rules" for a fun blog:

1.) Blog about something you love.

2.) Begin as you mean to go on. Pick a main topic, plus a few related things you're willing to branch out to sometimes, and stick with that.

3.) Don't let your blog writing overshadow or squeeze out the time you spend on your other writing.
What actually happens for me is that when I'm going strong on my novel, I'm also usually more interested writing posts for my blog too. When I'm too depressed to write my novel, I'm usually too depressed to write  anything. Or do anything. (It's not pretty.) When I'm excited about writing, I want to not only write scenes but write about writing scenes.

And that's why I write about writing. I know a lot of my readers aren't interested in the scaffolding behind the scenes, and I have no problem with that. But I don't see my blog as just a big advertisement for my books. Sure, it's part of the whole "doing social media" blah blah blah that writers, and everyone these days, is "supposed" to do. But if that were it's only purpose, I couldn't keep it up. I'm not much good at doing what I'm supposed to do. (This is one thing Dindi and I have in common.) I write about issues that are actually interesting to me. I give "writing advice" not because I think I'm such an expert (oh, I should have warned you about that) but because I am learning about it myself. As I figure something out (or think I have) I like to write about my process of discovery.  Then you'll see some post about first chapters or subtext in dialogue pop up on my blog.  ;)

Also, readers of mine who do read this blog... be happy if you see a lot of posts. It means I'm going strong on the next book....


Should Fish More said...

Read this post after finding your blog wandering. I had to chuckle because in my last post I think I 'violated' almost all of the tenets mentioned.
Perhaps it depends on why one blogs; my reasons are probably different than others. I do it as a way for my grown kids and friends can 'discuss' things. My children are grown, one with two kids of her own. They are all busy adults, and though we phone frequently, we often are not free at the same time. For me, it's a way to communicate thoughts at our leisure.

Lucas Darr said...


I disagree. :-P

Your blogging goals are working for you, but that's where we part. I believe that the end result of a blog is a connection with your readers, and not your fellow writers, and therefore the majority (80% or more) of the content should be geared towards that audience.

Now why do a say that? And why a blog?

Your website is something you own and control. The blog that sits off of it is your content. You control how it is presented,the graphic and written content and the information/purchase flow.

Facebook, Twitter and all the other social sites are not under your control. While you can connect with readers there, your are essentially working against your own connection because the goals of those services are to perpetuate people's use inside their ecosystem.

So where am I going with this? Readers today, serious readers, reach out and try to learn more things about the people who write books they like. They also go on self-discovery tours. You want to not only own that from your side, as I mention above, but you want to connect with those people. You want to know why they liked your books. You want to engage them in discussions and comments about topics you are they are interested in because that is how you would learn about your reader.

This is the only way we can truly grow as writers. Today what you are seeing is many top-down connections. Publish a book via the big six, connect with readers through a blog/website or Facebook/Twitter. Traditional publishing does this. But you don't have to follow this course. You can go from the bottom up. From a technical perspective, you want a reader to add your blog and comment feed into their RSS reader. That is the holy grail of someone interested in your books.

And now we come full circle. Do you want to engage someone interested in your books, or do you want to talk with other writers? What's going expand your horizons and connect you with people interested in wanting to know if your books are for them?

Think about it.

Tara Maya said...

Should Fish More, it sounds like you are interested in using your blog more as a personal tool than a marketing tool, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. It's a choice; I'm not sure I would feel comfortable using a public forum to communicate with my family, but might prefer a private blog for that.

Anthony, you're talking about the other end, where the blog is reader-oriented. Again, there's nothing wrong with that. Indeed, it might be the ideal for a writer. I applaud those writers who are capable of doing it. For myself, it's not something that comes easily. One of these days, I'll get my second blog going again--it's primarily for showing-casing excerpts for readers. That was my solution by the way: to keep this blog for myself and my thoughts on writing, and to start a second blog which is more focused on reading. But of course the trade off is that it is difficult to maintain both.

SandyG said...

I am not sure I agree with Anthony. My impression is that people who respond to your blog may not necessarily be the readers of your books. The blog is a separate medium with its own type of content that will appeal to a specific niche. I personally like Tara Maya's books, but I appreciate her blog for entirely different reasons. My interest in Dindi's development has very little to do with my interest in Tara's peculiar perspective on the universe.

Jai Joshi said...

The only rule I consistently follow is to be authentic always.


Tara Maya said...

Jai, I love how you always see right to the heart of the matter.

John Barnes said...

Out of your three rules, I'd suggest discarding two so as to prove that you can't push us around, nyeah nyeah nyeah, and obeying the remaining one slavishly just to make things challenging. But it doesn't matter which ones go into which category.

Finite players play within the rules, infinite players play with the rules -- James F. Carse

DLGardner said...

I agree that you should be passionate about what you blog about. I've found being an artist longer than I've been a writer, that you can't ever predict who your work is going to appeal to. So you just need to be yourself. I started blogging long before I read blogs. I started blogging about the process of writing my book. I put up work in progress, excerpts, name the dragon contests. It's like a journal for me and I've picked up readership. I can't really categorized it. But I enjoy posting to my blog. I've since started another blog to help promote other YA authors. We're free to blog about anything we want so really, I don't believe we should think that we have to follow any rules like the ones you've mentioned.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

It's important to keep blogging enjoyable. Lately, I haven't been blogging nearly as much about writing as I used to. Most of my writing posts are archived. Now I'm focusing more on WHAT I'm writing and posting updates about my current projects. I've also started sharing more about what I'm reading and enjoying. My blog is really just my corner to do whatever I want. I used to check stats all the time. Now I rarely do that, because I just don't care. It's definitely not to sell books!

Cicada said...

See, maybe it's just me, but I use my blog as a public writer's journal. This way I can post about my life, my current projects in the field of writing, anything that gets me wanting to write (be it politics, food, music, etc), and through this all I am able to show myself as I really am. Essentially, if I were to die in five minutes, I would want my thought process to be visible to those of my life so they might be able to see something like a negative trend in my outlook, or even if something were bothering me bad enough to give plausible cause for my death.

Of course the other benefit is that I often find myself writing short stories for funzies, and later post them onto my story-themed blog, thereby creating a very good reason to keep doing this in the way that I have chosen.

Hannah @ Dragons and Whimsy said...

I think you should do what feels most comfortable to you as you'll find your posts come much easier.

You want to write about writing? Great! Do that! You'd be surprised how many readers might be intrigued about the process, whether they want to write themselves or just to see how it's done.
Perhaps you read a great book. Tell your readers about it!

Whatever, you know? It's your space, your rules, and your readers will follow you because they're interested and not because you write what you think they want to hear. :)

PS. Captcha is horrid D: took me 7 refreshes to find a semi-readable one.