Okay, the whole thing started with this post by Kristen Lamb. Sacred Cow Tipping – Why writers blogging about writing is bad. Read it.
The gist of it says that by blogging about writing you only reach a small percentage of the population. You want to be reaching readers. Her one example made perfect sense: a paranormal author who blogs about wine and cooking.
It’s easy to read Kristen’s words and immediately scorn the blog you’ve put so much time into. A hot flush races across your skin as you realize you’ve been doing it all wrong. You can’t blog about writing anymore! So maybe you better start watching soap operas – and fast! Or pick up knitting. Something. Anything.
I’m pretty sure that strategy won’t work either.
So is Kristen wrong or right?
She’s neither, just a little misunderstood. Blogging about writing is different than a pure writing blog. My takeaway is that she encourages your blog to be about you. Don’t limit your blog to just writing tips all the time. Be yourself. Include parts of you that you want to share. Funny stories. Book reviews. Your travels. Your research for your stories. Be you. Let your voice shine through. If you’re passionate about cute little green inch worms then blog about it. Or not.
No one can argue the success Jody Hedlund has had and her blog is primarily about writing. But she puts herself into each and every post. There is a difference.
I write for children and teens. Most of my targeted audience won’t read my blog unless I sell a book on the bestseller list or win an award. And then they’ll look me up to fill out a book report. So my next target would be teachers and librarians and moms. (No thanks. I’m not becoming a mommy blogger no matter how cute I think my kids are.)
I can think of a handful of authors who naturally embrace Kristen’s approach. Lisa and Laura Roecker (hilarious) blog about pop culture with self deprecating humor. But they are entertaining. Kirsten White used to blog about nothing in particular, but again, is extremely witty. And Elana Johnson not only has posts on writing but her blog is full of heart. She’s Elana. And those bloggers reached higher heights of followers through getting agents, giving back, book deals and almost dying (Kirsten).
So if you blog about nothing or pop culture or soap operas or cooking you better be ready to entertain. Or you won’t gain many followers even if they are potential readers. But the same holds true when blogging about writing. And entertaining doesn’t have to mean funny.
I return to the motto I uphold when blogging: unique, useful, and updated. Use your slant, your voice, your approach to any topic, even if it’s writing.
That’s what I think Kristen meant. Don’t dig yourself into a “writing” hole. #ofcourseicouldbewrong
Here are some great links to check out.
And Roz Morris answers my questions on the subject in this blog post. (How will she promote her fiction when she blogs about writing?)
Roni Loren recently wrote an incredible post on ten things she’d do differently. (In reference to her blogging journey) (Incredible post!)
The Bookshelf Muse wrote a terrific post about knowing your audience.
Livia Blackburn writes Author blogging: you’re doing it wrong.
And of course this brings up another scary question: How effective is blogging? Um yeah, that will be for another time. Maybe next Wednesday.
What do you all think? Are you going to start blogging about your lifetime obsession with the Smurfs? Make me laugh and I’ll read it.
I think about this stuff a lot, but for me, I sort of have a niche and it seems to be working for now, because I blog about writing, psychology, and the intersection between the two. But I have read all of those “writing blog” posts with a lot of interest and am always wondering if I should be doing something different!
I try to dedicate one blog a week to something writing-related: author interview, technique/craft, social media, review, etc. The rest, we try to keep fun with something for everyone somewhere on the site.
Dream. Believe. Strive. Achieve!
NO MATTER WHY
The Wild Rose Press
I loved that post by Roz. She’s got some great ideas–many of which I would definitely embrace when the time comes.
There is nothing ‘WRONG’ about blogging about writing, as long as the person is passionate about it, authentic and personable, and does their best to add value in some way to readers. 🙂
If you’re doing something well, stick with it! But if your blog is not reaching your intended book audience or will not be instrumental in getting the word out about it, think ahead to what you can do to reach your book-buying stream. 🙂
Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse
I think about this a lot and will continue to do so. When I have a book coming out, I’m sure some things will change. But I’m not going to start blogging on specific topics yet b/c I’m not sure which book it will be. Ya know? Too early to tell.
I’m with you about laughing! Great point here. I told myself the first day I started my blog I wanted to remain free with what I blog about. Has remained the case 400 posts later.
Can’t wait to check out those links.
GREAT thoughts, Laura. Really great thoughts. I have given that post of Kristen’s a lot of thought as well. And I think her message was misunderstood in some ways. But it’s like a good sermon. She made writers think about their content. Soemtimes our toes have to be stepped on to keep us thinking about improving. She makes a lot of good points, ones we all should at least think about as we try to attract more readers.
Off to check out some of those links.
I have thought on this but my blog is about whatever hits me:) I think most people have come to know me through it as I might share about writing but more the struggles of life in general and one of those happens to be for me writing!
LOL. With my debut novel releasing in 8 months, I’ve been going round and round about this in my head and just hashed things out with my agent.
I LOVE Jody Hedlunds blog and considered doing a slant on a writing blog myself. In fact, that’s probably still my first choice of a blog. Why? Well, it’s the only thing I’m passionate enough about. Plus the topics my blog would cover would help my own writing as I examined some of the writing theories and techniques out there.
However, in the end I decided I will start a genre related blog, not a writing blog, once I get my website professionally redone. That’s just my choice though. Good luck to you writer-bloggers. 🙂 And I know I can always do my writing blog in the future, after I have more knowledge of the craft.
I always find it curious when people say you shouldn’t be a niche blogger – whatever your particular niche may be. When I kept a personal blog, I wrote about anything and everything, from funny stuff my kids said, to writing updates, to deep philosophical or theological thoughts. I had hardly any readers, and very few of those readers ever left a comment. When I switched and created a blog focused mostly on writing-related matters, my readership and comment count pretty much doubled from what I’d had before.
Out of curiosity, I recently did a post on the writing blog about non-writing or -book related matters, and I had only one comment on it, and that one from a personal friend.
So I’ve concluded that for me, I work best as a niche blogger. Otherwise, I just can’t seem to hold people’s interest!
Love this, Laura. Insightful and wise. I definitely think there’s a difference b/w a writing blog and posting about writing-related things.
I’m a fan of Kristen’s philosophy. Ever since I changed things up – broadened my scope – I’ve enjoyed blogging more.
Well, since I’m going to see the Smurfs today, maybe . . . . 😀
I like blogging about writing. It helps me grow as a writer because it solidifies those concepts I talk about into my brain. Besides, I haven’t found a hobby as exciting as breeding glow worms. I am still working on it, though.
Right now, my blog isn’t for my target audience (teens). It’s for my potential audience (writers who love YA novels). But they’re the ones who are awesome at getting the word out when they love a book. Of course, if they didn’t do that, my TBR pile and list wouldn’t be anywhere near as long as they are. 😉
I tend to write what I feel. I think if and when I have a book coming out, I will be promoting it so things might change. I like a blog that’s colorful. Lot’s of different topics that may be realted to writing, but specifically to that person’s particular journey. I do like when their voice shows through and you can tell. It will be like you’re in a one on one conversation with them.
I know a lot of writers panicked when I said don’t have a writing blog, but it needed to be said. I am absolutely sick to death of every writer blogging about writing and feeling that it is a must if we are a writer who wants to blog. What is worse is when I see a writer come up with some catchy title:
The Procrastinating Pen
And this writer is blogging three times a week, contributing thousands of words…yet her NAME is nowhere on the blog. All this is is a time suck that does NOTHING to brand an author (unless she changes her name to Procrastinating Pen so we can BUY her books).
My goal was to challenge writers to use the same creativity they apply to their novels to connect with readers emotionally. How-To is not emotional. Articles are not emotive, either. Thus, they are rarely memorable.
Writing about writing is not creative. We all get the same idea, so how are we going to stand apart if everyone is talking about the same stuff? Most agents and editors roll their eyes when I mention writers blogging, and I bet you can guess why. Writers are as creative as a hunk of glass 98% of the time (I was guilty too!).
Fear is driving their choices of topics. Blogging outside of the comfort zone is where we are likely to find the greatest number of fans. Writers want to read about something different than plotters vs. pantsers and non-writers never cared in the first place.
You are correct. I think you can blog about writing all you want to if you love it. But I will tell you that I have been blogging about writing every week for two years and there comes a point that you just burn out. If we start a “writing blog” instead of an “us blog” then our choices are terrible: 1) quit blogging and throw away a ton of hard work or 2) keep blogging about a subject we no longer hold passion for…and then we might as well quit because the readership will grow bored easily once the passion is no longer there.
I will also, also say that Jody Hedlund and I are both published authors, which opens up a new layer of authority to help with topics. For a brand new writer who starts blogging the same time she is writing her first novel? Who is unagented and unpublished? Writing about writing is going to be tough.
Thanks for the shout-out.
Thanks for responding Kristen.
As you can tell, I’m still thinking about this. But I’m not sure a writer who has not defined their voice and writing style is going to gain many fans/followers by blogging on topics outside of writing either. Unless like crafting that high concept best seller idea – they create a high concept best selling blog. So in a perfect John Locke world it sounds like the better plan but might not bring writers that sudden success with their blogs they’re looking for.
I do love your challenge to writers to use the same creativity they apply to their novel to connect with readers emotionally. Definitely a smart idea. I don’t agree with all your points but that’s okay. I do agree that all writers should evaluate their blogs and their social media goals. They should have their name on their blog and contact information. And I agree that writers need to create that emotional connection with their readers.
I blog about writing too, but I also include book reviews when I get the chance. I think I might eventually branch out a little (we’ll see) but for now I’ve found that writing about writing is something I like to do, so my posts don’t come out forced or stilted.
I think you made a good point. The important part isn’t necessarily what you’re blogging about, but how you do it. Is it you? Is it natural? If so, I think you’ll be pretty successful regardless of what the topic is.
I’m one of those writers who write about writing, but I tried to make my blog a little different with the medical angle.
If I ever get a deal for a book, I might consider adding a new blog with the theme of that book (or spirit of that book) to reach a wider audience. You post got me thinking!
I’ve been waiting for this post! 🙂
To turn your question upside down, how do successful writers use blogging? I fear the answer is “not very much” – in the case of YA and MG writers in particular.
Livia’s post (and Locke’s approach) are interesting, but I’m still seeking the way to apply that to YA/MG purchasers (as you say, teachers, librarians, moms). I still believe networking with those people pays dividends, but targeting them as an audience is a whole different problem.
Still working it out…
Susan – Great point. A blog does not make a successful writer. A great story does. That’s what counts. I don’t think John Locke’s approach is going to be replicated successfully by many people. But writing a great page turning story – that will!
Lydia – I love your angle. You are giving back and it’s working for you.
Stina – The fact that you know your goals behind blogging is great. I don’t think the connections we make can be underestimated.
Everyone, all writers, must come to their own decisions. Experiment to see what draws the most hits on your blog. That’s what people are looking for. And I bet for most writers it is the posts that are writing related. How do you break out of the circle of writers that read your blog and reach the general population? Not sure.
Great post. To blog or not to blog about blogging about blogging about writing about (OK, I’ll stop there) …
I struggle with the content of my blog; it’s still fairly new. It’s part of my professional freelance website, so “should” it be about editing or writing? I don’t know how much I can say about editing or words or grammar that hasn’t already been said. And is it shooting myself in the foot if I write a self-deprecating blog about realizing I’ve screwed up some grammar rule?
I labeled my blog “On words, working and searching,” so it is supposed to be about the working life, about being unemployed (and my takes on unemployment news) as well as working as an editor and writer out of my home.
I can’t be completely honest about some of my past work horrors, or my present interviewing adventures, without talking trash about former employers or making potential employers look bad. (I’m not yet supporting myself as a freelancer, so I’m still looking for full-time work.)
Yet, when I do write about disastrous interviews and some of the bad practices that are going on out there by companies, I get more responses. So I think I may keep doing that and just work harder at changing identifying details.
Thanks for a very well-written, thought-provoking piece.
Blogging makes me feel a little less alone as a writer and if that is all that it does, then it is still time well spent.
The hidden benefit to having a blog is that it ultimately is a place that people can find you if they are looking for you. I have booked MANY appearances because folks (libraries, schools) found my blog. And these appearances connect me with my young readers, who probably aren’t reading the blog because they are too young.
Great analysis — the idea that whatever you’re blogging about should convey your voice and slant really resonated with me. My blog focuses on children’s literature but I use that as a point of departure for writing about art and other tangentially related topics at On Beyond Words & Pictures
Delighted to discover your blog.
I’m retweeting this post.
Shelley – Great point. I have to say the main reason I started a blog was to be found esp. since I was ready to start the journey to publication.
Megan – And that was the whole point behind my blog. Make your posts interesting whatever you are blogging about. This is how I processed Kristen’s post and the conclusions I came to for me.
Great thoughts. I like to do a lot of laughing when I’m reading blogs. Whether they are about writing or not. I don’t blog often about writing, occasionally. I find niche blogging gives me more stuff to write about and makes blogging more enjoyable. 🙂
You mentioned a lot of good points about blogging. This is something I’ve got to figure out since I’m coming back from a very long blogging break:)
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this! I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’m like Stina – my blog isn’t being read by my target audience (teens, who don’t typically read blogs anyway) but by YA writers who love to read YA too.
What I liked about Kristen’s advice is that you don’t HAVE to write about writing, so I’m giving myself permission to branch out a little and show a little more me. 🙂
Ghenet – Definitely. I didn’t realize or understand that writers felt like they had to blog about writing. But that is her more freeing best piece of advice for sure.
It’s funny how this has suddenly become a big issue. I do agree with KL about the wisdom of having your name on your blog, and twitter, etc. More than once I’ve tried to find a blog but couldn’t because I couldn’t remember the “catchy” name.
I think ultimately you have to blog about whatever is bubbling up in you to write. If it’s about writing, then blog about writing–just don’t blog about writing because you’re a writer and that’s what you THINK you have to write about. I follow blogs because I’m interested in the topic and the blogger is passionate about the topic when they write.
I think we can easily lean toward a Much Ado About Nothing here.
Our blogs also evolve as our career evolves. No need to pin ourselves down one way or another.
As far as where our buying audience is, broadening our blog topics doesn’t necessarily translate to more book buyers. Writers are avid readers and book talkers. I think it’s a great audience to appeal to when you have a book to sell.
I took on KL’s challenge and wrote a weekly Travel Diary blog post over the summer. It was fun to break out of posting about writing, and to talk about another passion of mine, but interestingly, the visits to my blog drop by quite a bit when I veer off writing or book topics.
Thanks for another engaging post, Laura!
Elle – You bring up an interesting thought. Similar to you, my hits decrease when I veer away from writing too much. I think a leap has to be made. Like you lose hits but if you find the right connections they might increase again. I think to blog about non writing topics in a world filled with writers you need to have high concept ideas or be extremely entertaining. I honestly don’t think everyone can be a John Locke and get away with 12 posts a year, writing about shopping carts. Especially writers that are just starting out. But I hope someone out there proves me wrong!
I’m sure my posts will change when I have a book coming out. Or one day of the week will focus on themes related to the book – but I’m not there yet!
This is interesting timing, because I was just mentioning today how I need to get back to blogging about writing. Hmm.
I read a lot of blogs by both writers and non-writers and the reason I keep coming back to them is the voice and the personal experience.
I want to feel like I’m reading about a person.
Maybe this is what meant about not focusing on writing as the topic of every post.
I started reading a blog that posted writing tips and fiction craft stuff but after about 6 months or so, I stopped reading it because it was just tips with no personal connection. I didn’t feel like I knew who that person was and couldn’t create a relationship with them.
Karen – Yes! That’s my point. It’s the personal connection that matters!
Eh, if I don’t write about writing then I run out of things I’m truly passionate about. That’s me. That’s my blog, so that’s what I do. If I ever have a book out there, MAYBE I’d try something else for the audience. IDK, but either way, I’d continue Paranormal Point of View because I love it. 😀
I guess I’ve always just blogged about whatever I wanted because I never wanted to be boxed in (I’ve been blogging for three years). Once you feel boxed in, you lose your passion for it. And that will show no matter what you blog about.
I think it hurts my brain to think about this too much and I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. If people like you or your style, they’ll come, even if it’s just to peek at what you’ve been up to for awhile.
Great post, Laura. I sort of laughed a little–I struggle with blogging about writing. I don’t think I’m qualified to give anyone writing advice or tips. So I write about my experience, my journey, life in general, books I like. I’ve always thought maybe I should try to write about writing more, but I guess I’m good!
Well, my purpose for starting a blog was to reach other writers. And I succeeded! I think the day I actually have a professional writing career within reach (agent, book deal, etc.) will be the day I rethink my blog’s entertainment outside of the writing process so I can appeal to my book’s readers, too.
Hmm, food for thought. I’ve often wondered about that topic and when I first started reading your post my insides were going, “eeeek!” Of course, they settled when I finished reading 😉
I THINK I put a bit of me in my posts. I could probably do it more though. I think I make most of my connections in the comments, but I need to draw people to my blog and that’s harder when it’s mainly about writing.
I was talking to a couple of readers recently and their eyes lit up when I told them I had a blog. When I told them what it was about (writing) they became disinterested. What to do? I guess we can’t please everyone…
The thing is, if I start branching out, I risk losing my blog’s identity. A few writing groups have picked up my blog and are promoting it. If I include other types of post eg my interest in quirky science, that might cause confusion.
Your answer is the best one. Put yourself in the posts. (Apologies for the rambling comment).
I love this post. Thanks! I have been blogging for years, but only got focused as a writer (and moved to WordPress) a few weeks ago and I keep biting my lip and wondering if the things I blog about have any relevance at all. But maybe when it comes to blogging the old writer’s addage of “Write what you know” comes into play. And I’ve begun to realize that there are some quirks about me that people might be amused by and that would separate me from the crowd. Like the “Unlikely Heroes” series of blog posts I’m about to start about men I have serious crushes on and use as heroes in my stories that make everyone else raise their eyebrows at me and think I’m weird (like Michael Emerson, who I adore). It’s sort of about writing, it’s about men, which I think is a subject we can all get behind, and it’s unique to me. I hope that’s what makes a good blog.
Thanks again for the post! =D
I have a dent in my forehead from banging my head on my desk over this topic these last few months, lol. (Thank you for linking to me btw.)
I am attempting to be more broad with my author blog and then keeping my writing blog a writing blog for now. Obviously, it’s not the ideal set up, but it’s what works for me right now.
I do agree that we shouldn’t box ourselves in and yes everyone in their mama is blogging about writing. But I also know that I wouldn’t have 1500 followers right now if I hadn’t blogged about writing. Niche blogs do work because people know what to expect. But I think you’re right in that it’s what the personal touch is on the posts. I hope my posts are injected with my voice and personality and that’s why people have stuck around. We’ll see how having the author blog with different topics goes. 🙂
But great food for thought and great comments to consider. 🙂
Thanks everyone! It would be interesting to experiment. I do like the idea, similar to what Roni is doing, and make certain days for certain topics. I can see having a website with the non writing posts on the front to connect with readers that only changes every couple weeks. And then the ‘for writers’ that is maybe once or twice a week but a reader would have to click on the tab. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. As long as I have a game plan, I feel good. And of course we can always improve. In every area writing, blogging, social media, marketing – there is always room to get better. And I appreciate everyone sharing their opinion, even if I disagree with some of it, because with all the information I can find a plan that works for me.
The main reason I started a blog was so that an agent/editor could find during the querying process and get a feel for who I am. To see that I was serious about writing as a career. I can see how that transitions to reaching readers. I’m glad we’re all figuring it out together.
Figuring out what to blog about was difficult for me. I kept trying to talk about writing but was getting nowhere. So I finally started being myself. I do have a theme – Mondays are about anything, and if I talk about writing, it’s usually there. Tuesdays are usually silly things that “temp” me in some way, and Thursdays are devoted to all things thriller. It’s fun and the followers are coming slowly but surely. The main difference is I’m actually enjoying the blogging experience instead of viewing it as a chore:)
Well said, Laura. I loved it when I read Kristen’s post because even though I enjoy other bloggers’ posts about writing, I don’t have a knack for writing about writing. I agree that as long as we blog about things we’re interested in and put some heart into it, that’s what matters. And, no, it doesn’t have to be funny to be entertaining.
Great post, Laura!! I admit to being taken back by Kristen Lamb’s advice but then I figured, teens don’t read blogs (that we know of anyway), and much of what I know falls to writing. So I write about it every Thursday, every Tuesday, I write about something else: genealogy, medieval festivals, etc. I’m finding I enjoy the balance, so maybe her advice helped everyone after all. I think she didn’t want us all to get stuck in a rut. Now the possibilities are endless. Really, I think writing a blog is about opening your heart to others (not that I mean, you tell every detail of your personal life). It’s about sharing who you are as a person and as a writer with your audience.
Clearly we all have a lot to say on this topic! I think you’re absolutely right that it comes down to passion and personality. We’ll probably never be able to reach as many people as we’d like to, but making sure that our blogs reflect us as people is the important thing.
I never really wanted to blog, but I finally gave in to have a “web presence.” Up until then, I wrote short features for the local paper, so I’ve somewhat incorporated that into my blog posts.
I think you have to base what you do on the purpose of your blog. For me it’s literally a Log of where I am and what’s happening. I try to be helpful, but mostly for me, blogging is a way to connect w/other writers and find support when I need it in this solitary occupation.
For me, it’s working! 😀 <3
I had read Kristen’s post and got all worried. But then I chilled out and remembered that for me, blogging is about relationships. And right now, my relationships are centered around other writers. We’re on this road together, sharing what we know and what we learn.
Great comments everyone! Yes, Kristen’s post was extremely helpful to a lot of people, esp. writers who felt they had to blog about writing. And I’m still thinking about it. And it was good for me because it got me thinking about my blog now and my blog in the future when I have books coming out. What ever gets us thinking is a good thing!
A lot to think about here. Whatever you choose to write about, I do think that sustainability is really important. You may have a true passion for something, and others might share it with you, but if the topic is so narrow that after a few months you’ve run out of things to say or fresh ways to say it, that’s a problem for you and your readers.
Thanks for writing this, Laura. Your posts always keep me thinking.
Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse
I love it when a writer’s blog is a blend of their writing process/experiences and who they are as a person. I’m a huge fan of a post that makes me giggle AND think.
Thanks for the shoutout, Laura 🙂 That’s a great point about being entertaining. I find that I’ll read anything if it makes me laugh.
I’ve read that post and it had me thinking as well. I enjoy the writing community and have learned much from those “writing” related posts, but I understand Kristen Lamb’s meaning. Marketing your book is the hardest part of the process.