These days, 97% of writers have websites. We are told we MUST have a website! Even before we have anything published. And we should be on Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter. And we should have a blog. It’s little wonder some writers are asking – when am I supposed to actually write? I know of a few writers who do a fantastic job of providing content for others, such as interviews with editors and agents, massive ebooks on how to write better, and marketing information. They write as well, and see all of the other “stuff” as a way to promote their books. At the other end of the scale, some well-known, widely-published authors don’t have anything, not even a basic website. I have to say, in today’s environment, it does astonish me a little when I try to look someone up (usually to see what else they’ve written if I’ve just read something of theirs I liked) and there is nothing on the net apart from their bio on a publisher’s website.
But the question of “why blog?” comes up more often than “why do I need a website?”. This is for a good reason. Blogging is not a one-off. To make it worthwhile, you do need to blog at least once a week, for several reasons. Firstly, it will help to build up a group of regular readers, and the more posts you have, the more likely it is that people (and Google) will find you. Also if you blog regularly, it helps you create a habit, so that you don’t just forget about the blog for weeks or months at a time. If you have trouble committing to a writing routine, blogging can help you by being a “lead in” – first you blog for 15 minutes to warm up, then you write. Blogging can also help you write better. There’s nothing like the sense of an audience, however small, to make you more conscious of writing well.
Of course there are downsides, and here are the most common pitfalls:
* You run out of topics and end up writing about your domestic/everyday life (thereby putting everyone to sleep and perhaps revealing more than you should).
* You use blogging as an excuse not to write, rather than a “lead in”.
* You get bored coming up with blogging topics, so you start posting chapters of your novel, or short stories, and run into trouble with issues of first publication rights. Or people hate what you are writing and you get discouraged.
* Your blog has no focus or topic, so readers have no idea what to expect. Funnily enough, people read blogs because they are interested in certain things (such as fashion, books, travel) and if you just blog about whatever comes to mind, they will drift away.
* You treat your blog as a way to sell your books and/or yourself, and forget that you have to create content that interests readers, or is useful to them. These days, anything on the net that is too blatantly pushing a product generally turns people off.
One thing that appeals to readers is voice. The feeling that there is someone real behind the blog, they have an opinion or a worldview or a way of looking at things that resonates, and so readers look forward to seeing what they post next. A good example of this is Janet Reid, a New York agent. She’s very outspoken, often funny, but also generous with her readers. There are various agents and editors who blog, either anonymously or under their own names. There are also writers with immense followings – John Green has a huge teen following and does video blogging (vlogging).
Do you have a favorite blog you can recommend?
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