When Writers Blog

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When I was a kid, I loved to write letters to authors who’d impressed me.  They were typed on an old manual typewriter, on clean white paper that I folded and slipped into a long white envelope, addressed to the author in care of his publisher’s address, stamped and sent away.  I didn’t really expect an answer, you know.  Authors were famous people in mansions somewhere far away.  They wouldn’t deign to think about a mere reader of their books, right?  But the worlds they’d given me to play in made such an impact, I just had to tell them.  On the rare occasions that an author wrote back, the response was weeks later – it took a while for letters to be forwarded from the publisher’s offices.  Some of them did write back, of course – E L Konigsberg, Philip Jose Farmer, Marguerite Henry and my very favorite, Alexander Key.  Those letters were a brief glimpse into the minds of people that created whole worlds just for me, lovely reminders that the authors were real people who were touched enough by my childish admiration to make the effort to respond.   These days, no one much writes letters any more (except for my extraordinary friend John Broadfoot.)  When people read a book and decide to tell the author they loved it, they go looking for the author’s email address and website.  They’re looking to make that same connection I wanted with my typewritten fan letters.

At Ravencon, I sat on a panel called “Blogging for Writers”, in which we talked about the need for writers to establish a web presence. The easiest way to do this is, of course, through blogging. Most of the well-populated sites are incredibly user-friendly, even for those writers who think the hunt&peck typing method is the height of technology. The two most well-known sites are Livejournal and Blogspot, but there are many smaller options available as well.  Some writers even take the leap and buy their own domains from which to blog.  How ever you decide to do it, I think it’s important for writers to have a web presence that allows interaction with their readers.

The thing is, blogging isn’t comfortable for everyone.  I’ve met a lot of people who claim they don’t know what to write about when they sit down to write in their journals.  They say it turns into a huge waste of their time because they spend so long thinking of what to say.  Trust me, I understand that.  It doesn’t have to be a time-suck, though.  Every post you make doesn’t have to be profound, or memorable, or even on the subject of writing.  It doesn’t even have to be longer than a sentence or two.  When a writer blogs, knowing his readers are looking, he should remember they’re just trying to make a connection.  They want to know that writers are real people, too.  So post about whatever’s on your mind.  If you don’t have anything to say about writing, talk about something else.  Did you like the new Star Trek movie?  Tell your readers.  Spend the day taking nature photographs?  They want to hear that, too.  Having trouble staying awake in front of the computer screen?  Sure, even that’s okay, as long as you don’t post that every day.

“But Misty! I’m not published yet – no one wants to read a blog from me!” Actually, they do. If you relax and write things in your blog that make people laugh or think or nod in agreement, you’ll find yourself gaining a following. Cleolinda (a LiveJournal blogger), is published now, but before that, she had a big following because she created Movies In 15 Minutes, which were snarky recaps of movies she’d watched. She eventually sold a book of those recaps, but it all came from the silliness of blogging.

Eventually you can attempt to brand yourself a little, if you like.  Back during the election, David posted once a week about dreadful behavior from players in the political circus.  People on either side of the argument read his posts and chimed in on the comments.  I begin every blog post with a bit of interesting history.  These days Cleolinda posts the continuing adventures of the dolls on her shelf, and I’m utterly hooked.

Branding yourself isn’t necessary, though.  The best thing you can do is be yourself.  Your readers want to feel as if they know you.  Blogging is an easy way to give them that connection.

And it’s way cheaper than stamps.

Tune in tomorrow, to meet our special guest, writer and editor Valerie Griswold-Ford!   And the winner of our contest will be announced tomorrow too – it’s just going to be a bang-up day!

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15 comments to When Writers Blog

  • I agree. It’s not always easy to find the time, but it’s important to do.

  • I struggle with this issue as well. I find myself far too mundane to be terribly interesting. Trick then is to come up with something you can speak to with some intelligence or humor that will attract readers. I’ve drawn a blank on that one thus far.

  • Jim, I promise – you’re probably more interesting than you know. 😀

  • I haven’t been over to mine in a while. Been busy trying to juggle spring planting and cleaning with writing.

  • Nice post, Misty. I’d just add the one thing that we all seemed to agree on during that panel: If you’re blogging out of a sense of obligation, and you’re not enjoying it, or you feel that it’s a waste of your time that is keeping you from your book or story writing, don’t do it. Your distaste for it will come through in what you write, which might turn off readers. And the most important writing you do is the stuff that feeds your soul. If blogging takes you away from that, it might not be for you.

  • David,

    But doesn’t blogging help build a writer’s following? I know publishers want a writer to have a fan base before they are published.

  • Christina

    Misty, I guess I don’t understand what will bring them to my blog in the first place if I’m not published already. There are tons of these things out there, so what gets someone to mine? How did you find the blog you mention of the previously unpublished writer? Word of mouth?

    Personally, I just don’t spend a lot of time hunting down blogs, so I’m guessing there are a lot of people like me out there.

  • I tend to have mine in my sig line at various sites where I’m known (which reminds me, I have to update my sig lines everywhere). Like the Eden boards and such. The one I have for writing is linked to my name here.

    A lot of the Eden folks know me and pretty much know that I can write, so that when I set up a site I usually end up getting some hits from that place.

    I’d almost say that going to other sites like this and having your link available would be something to do as well. Someone may get curious enough to click, especially if you seem interesting in your posts on those other sites.

  • Todd

    Christina said:

    Misty, I guess I don’t understand what will bring them to my blog in the first place if I’m not published already. There are tons of these things out there, so what gets someone to mine?

    The Internet is a giant networking party. People with various common and uncommon interests are constantly networking. Whether you realize it or not the things you are interested in will come out as you visit places around the web, forums, blogs and the like.

    If you love cats you will visit cat places. You will make comments and leave a link back to your blog where you probably will also talk about cats, because that is what you love. People will follow your link to your blog and hang out reading your posts or make comments or just move on.

    Odds are since you are a writing a novel, there will be a cat in your novel. What you love and have a strong interest in will automatically come out in your writing, whether it is on your blog or in your novel.

    Much like David’s books have strong political intrigue this also showed up when he was having a big snark on his blog with election time politics.

    One other point about blogging and getting people to your site is the search engines. Teh Google understands most of the time what your site is about and when people search for something that interests them, they will sometimes find your site that way.

    The point being, when you hang out on other sites, be sure to link back to your website, talk about the things that really interest you. Don’t try to be someone you are not. If politics is not your thing, don’t try and talk politics just talk cats.

    You won’t have a lot of people at first, just a few friends but once published this will grow, or who knows maybe the things you blog about is what will make you famous first before you get published.

  • Christina said, Misty, I guess I don’t understand what will bring them to my blog in the first place if I’m not published already.

    That’s where the extremely easy sites like Livejournal and Blogspot (and Dreamwidth, which is an up and coming blog site) can help you. I started my first journal on LJ back in the day, and was really just using it to keep up with farflung friends. When it became clear that I needed to separate the very personal info from the more public writing info, I started my second blog, A Hazardous Occupation. But all those friends from the original blog followed me to the second one, and they also bring others in, because they mention things I say.

    And David is absolutely right – don’t blog because you feel you must. Try it, and see if you don’t enjoy it. But if it turns out to be a true chore that just drives you batty, then look for other options to make your online presence felt. 😀

  • Wade, yes, publishers do want us to have an online presence, and blogging is a good way to get that going. But publishers also want us to meet deadlines and write new books and get short stories published, and in the long run those things contribute more to our success than a blog will. By all means, have a website, have a blog, make yourself visible. But ultimately, we are writers.

  • Oh, and Todd: I love the phrase “he was having a big snark on his blog…” Yes, I was!

  • Coming to this later, with hands that are so swollen from paddling that they don’t want to type. Eight typos in the last sentence to be fixed with pecking. I have a love / hate relationship with blogging. Hate part mostly because I am not that interesting. But I do it. And sometimes I love it.

  • Faith said, Hate part mostly because I am not that interesting.

    Do I need to come over there and shake my finger at you? You are FASCINATING!

  • I do keep a blog, but I don’t think it gets much traffic. Mostly I write about what I’m working on in the gaming field, which includes comments about the Rogue Mage roleplaying game I’m working on with Faith.

    Anyone interested in checking it out should go to: http://christinastiles.com/myblog/