Lately there’s been a bit of hoopla surrounding blogs that belong to fiction writers, or writers that expect blogs to be a means to building a platform. Last week Roni Loren shared a post in which she rants about blogging, and she sums up the arguments and annoyances several people have voiced about author’s blogs. When you’re a fictioneer, what should your blog be doing for you?
Reasons to Blog
There are a few reasons why a writer would decide to blog:
- To gain personal validation by whispering (or shouting) into the interwebs
- To engage in a community
- To gain exposure (i.e., build a readership platform or name recognition)
- To drive sales
If you’re posting when you feel like it, responding to comments when you have them, and commenting on others’ blogs, you’ve got the first two reasons down pat. If those are the only two you have in mind, you’re golden. But if you want the last two, you’ve got to think about the way you blog a bit more, and you may need to do things a little differently than you expect.
One of the main gripes about writer blogs that Loren addresses is that writers who blog about writing are only engaging other writers, and many aspiring author blogs devolve into something nearing drivel. If you are blogging to reach readers, you need to be writing posts that appeal to them, not your critique group. You should also make the content engaging, not just whatever you were thinking that day. Illustrator and art director Jon Schindehette points out that random madness will not engage a readership/viewership, even if eclectic posting makes you feel better.
If you want to engage a readership and not just the writing community, you need to write posts aimed at your target audience. To do that, first determine what about your writing will appeal to a reader.
- Do they like action? Write about your favorite action sequences in film or about martial arts, explosions, or weapons.
- Are they into crazy science? Write about the bizarre bioluminescent chemical recently discovered in a deep-sea fish or dark energy.
- Is your writing in a specific genre with an active fandom? Review other pieces of work in your genre or talk about what makes the genre great.
For example, for a couple of years now I’ve had an idea for a story about a spice caravaner and a cook. Spices feature prominently, as does food in general. I know that if I were to write and publish this story I would share recipes for meals in the book, spicelore, and spice-related history on my blog. It relates to my story and it relates to readers.
There are plenty of other things I could write about for that story, and there will be plenty of reasons why readers will be engaged in your novel. You don’t have to pick just one.
Does everything need to be reader focused? Heck no! You should be yourself, and if you’re a writer, you think about writing. But you should consciously include posts that talk about things your readers like and things they want to know or hear. In my example, I wouldn’t necessarily need to start a dedicated food blog where I posted nothing but bizarre things I’ve learned about cinnamon. But I’d do food-based posts occasionally, because it would be relevant to my readers and could be shared with non-writers who have not read my books. I’d engage with non-writers who are interested in those topics (i.e., I’d expand my “engage in a community” reason for blogging beyond the borders of book creators).
The things you share can widely vary. They might be video games, other books, movies, annotations to your stories, poetry, sailing, science, spacecraft, or cooking. If the ideal reader for your book would enjoy it, write it. Then share it.
When someone who has read your book comes to visit your blog, that reader is looking for you, so you shouldn’t smother who you are or what you think about. Just curate your thoughts and target them. If you want to try to engage new readers with your blog, you have to keep in interesting for someone who reads the sort of things you write, but who doesn’t know you or have an interest in writing his or her own novel.
Balance your blog: express yourself, but target those expressions. Meandering blogs soon see readers meandering away. Balance your focus: if you’re a fiction writer who also blogs, you should make sure you’re not putting more weight on your blog than your fiction. Unless you’re a blogger first and a fiction writer second, you shouldn’t allow your online activities to overshadow your stories when you’re creating. Stories reach readers; occasionally blogs help the stories get in readers’ hands.