This is my participatory post for the 10 Day Writing Blogger Challenge, Day One. I am taking the alternative prompt today, as I wanted to discuss a topic which is often debated by our social media and writing gurus.
As writers, we often encounter an initial conundrum when setting up. We read all the books and blog posts telling us that as aspiring authors we need to get to work on building our author platforms and finding potential readers for our work.
One of the biggest ways of creating a platform is via a blog. Many gurus also tell us to look at social media, but of course that area remains undependable – talk to anyone who put a lot of effort and content into Myspace. Although Facebook and Twitter look like being around for the meantime, blogs are something we can rely on more readily, control, customise and brand to our needs. And big bonus: blogs allow us to write – not to a maximum 140 characters, but as we want.
No wonder so many of us turn to a weblog to build our first and main web presence upon.
But then we start to wonder what we should actually blog about.
As we traverse our writing journey – such a big thing in our lives, a massive thing – we naturally want to share on our blogs that journey, what we’ve learnt, what we’ve found. About writing.
Then we encounter the advice. Advice that, technically, makes a lot of sense, based on a lot of experience. Advice like –
- Kristen Lamb (many times), but here’s one post – “Sacred Cow-Tipping – Why Writers Blogging About Writing is Bad“
- Jeff Goins with “Why You Need to Stop Blogging & Regain your Writing Soul“
- Jane Friedman published a recent guest post by LL Barkat: “It’s Time for (Many) Experienced Writers to Stop Blogging” which culled a lot of attention (and thankfully encourages new writers to blog).
- From many: none of us, as unpublished writers, really should spend much effort on blogging anything until we’ve got one (two, three…or is the going rate now ten books?) published. As they all say – the secret to success is to write, publish, write another one, publish…rinse, repeat.
- Then again: if we want to go the route of traditional agents and publishers we’re told that to motivate their interest in us, we must have some platform figures to support that we have some kind of potential readership. What’s the going rate on blog/twitter/facebook followers or likers now?
Much of this advice makes great sense. As Kristen Lamb points out, blogging about writing will only find other writers for our blogs. (Below, I point out how that might not be such a bad thing for some of us.) Instead, we should be blogging content that our readers are interested in, to draw them in.
What’s a poor
girl writer to do?
Well, this is what I tried to do:
Believing I would find thriller readers, I tried blogging genre content in my author platform blog at HunterEmkay.com. Sadly I had very limited success in finding any readers, let alone potential readers of my fiction. Of course, back then when I started the site, the term “author platform” hadn’t been developed as yet.
But problems remain – as an aspiring author, I still (as yet) do not have any work to share or promote on that site, so my content was towards the genre – thrillers – but I have serious doubts that it found any readers. It found a few people interested in the darkness of serial killer research, but if I look at how that website and content looks and feels, it’s dark and gives very little of my own humour and personality as an author.
Perhaps other genre-based writers have an easier time providing content potential readers may be drawn to?
Having blogged for over a decade I know how slowly a blog can take to find a readership. And some won’t ever. Just like many who begin writing a novel will give up, or turn away from their dream.
Meanwhile, my author site, based on genre, made me feel that I was talking to myself – I was, for a very long time. That’s very demotivational for any writer.
On a whim I opened up this free wordpress.com blog and began to write about my writing journey. I agree with Kristen when she says an author needs only one blog, but I’ve gotten so much more out of this blog than the other.
One Model or the Other, in Blogging?
Lately I’ve noticed many different models in blogging or platforms for writers.
- Joanna Penn comes to mind (she writes thrillers too, under the name JF Penn) because many of us knew of her very successful writing site, The Creative Penn, long before we knew of her fiction. Whilst she continues to write more fiction and uses a website setup specifically for this body of work, she also progresses her writing career as a speaker and instructor, through the Creative Penn site.
- Others also have followed a similar model, holding a personal or writing website, and a professional author website for their books. They feasibly have two different platforms. Joanna, in her brilliant new book, ‘How to Market a Book‘ admits she uses different profile pictures to differentiate herself on both sites.
- Others have totally different models. Many well-known authors don’t have websites or platforms at all. Many found success in traditional publishing long before websites were a required commodity.
- Several only hold product websites previewing their backlists and latest works. Some add blogs where they may put up more personal posts, others never blog.
- Some have professionally serviced and designed sites, others have a successful web presence based on a free blog engine like Blogger or WordPress.com, and a few others have closed down their blogs to allow more time for productive writing work, and may be found blogging periodically on group blogs for their genre.
As a writer, we have decisions to make everyday about how to build our platform, how much time to spend on it, how to monitor and improve upon it, what value we get out of it, and whether something is not working for us.
Why I Blog About Writing
Holding a blog about my writing journey and sharing things that I hope help other writers on a similar path to me, is working well for me at this time. There are several benefits blogging on this topic –
- I found a small community of writers – something I couldn’t do on forums, slowly my own voice is sometimes being heard and possibly appreciated. That’s big, for a new writer.
- This blog has allowed me to start developing that necessary thicker skin. Throwing a blog post out into the world can have surprising results – something you’ve laboured over and think is quite a nifty little piece disappears with absolutely no attention while other posts are disagreed with, other bits are spammed, and yet others you thought a bit of fluff pull in more comments or likes than you thought worthy. Blogging here is teaching me to not be so mothering or precious over my words – you can never second-guess how the market will take to them.
- In having to provide regular content I’ve gone out and discovered things, experimented and learnt so much more about writing, something that isn’t available to me if I sat back on my laurels and did a few local writing courses when I could afford them. This blog has developed my writing knowledge, and my writing.
In response to the question of whether writers should blog about writing – in my case it’s a definite Yes! I’m very happy to be blogging about writing. Is it successful? For me, yes, in many ways.
This may well change (I hope it does – I hope I get so busy and so successful in writing and producing books that I lose my passion or time to blog) but right now – I’m happy to blog about writing, and to blog here.
What about you? Does your interest in writing find itself or possibly define your own blog?
Update: Thank you to Laura Barkat who kindly took the time to point out he misspelling of her name. This has been corrected.