Today’s post is written by regular contributor Sarah Baughman.
Google “writing blogs” and you’ll get 410 million hits. In .22 seconds.
As the internet and social media change the face of publishing, establishing a web presence has worked its way to the top of many writers’ to-do lists. Even if you’re not concerned about publicity, a blog offers excellent opportunities to develop your voice and connect with other writers.
But what to blog about? Writers might first wonder whether to develop a “niche” blog that focuses on one specific subject, or a “non-niche” blog that covers a diverse range of topics.
I asked four successful bloggers on both sides of the spectrum to comment on the advantages and challenges of these different blogging platforms.
- Nina Badzin (Nina Badzin’s Blog)
- Leah Singer (Leah’s Thoughts)
- Shirley Showalter (100 Memoirs)
- Natalia Sylvester (Finding Truth Through Fiction)
As these talented women confirm, both “niche” and “non-niche” blogs can work—depending on the writer. It’s all about finding the system that works for you.
Option 1: Niche Blogging
(a) The Writers
Shirley Showalter began blogging about memoir writing in 2008 on Heather Sellers‘ advice “that if you want to write in a genre, you need to read 100 examples” (Chapter After Chapter). Natalia Sylvester already had a couple of other writing-related blogs in the works when she began her “blog about the life and perspective of a fiction writer.”
Readers know what to expect; your audience builds itself. “I think it helps both the writer and reader when a blog has a recognizable structure,” says Natalia. “Readers know what to expect when they come to your site, and over time it’s what they’ll keep coming back for if it resonates with them.”
Direct Link To Writing
You can use your blog to more thoughtfully ponder your writing craft. “The nice thing about memoir as a niche,” says Shirley, “is that all blogs are forms of memoir. So I could make a category called ‘Personal Reflections’ and use my niche blog as a general blog.”
“Writing about this particular topic has helped me as a writer because it’s made me more aware of the role fiction plays in my life,” says Natalia. “The thoughts I share come from a place deep within me, but writing about them on the blog gives me a chance to pull them out, analyze, and discover them in a way that only writing about something allows. And I get to share it with others, who then add to that conversation.”
What if you get stuck? “I admit it can feel limiting on days when you feel like you have nothing left to say about a certain topic,” says Natalia, noting that she had to nix a couple of posts she felt pulled to write about but which did not fit with her blog’s theme.
The Blog vs. The Craft
Should you write…or write about writing? “My biggest challenge now is that I need to make my own memoir manuscript my first priority, and blogs need to be fed (new blog post written) at least weekly,” says Shirley.
Be Passionate, But That’s Not All
“If all you have to say about something is that you love it, you can run out of fresh material pretty quickly,” says Natalia. “If it’s a topic that evolves, that you ponder constantly from different angles, that informs your life in countless ways, that isn’t always black and white…then things could get interesting.”
“Choose a subject narrow enough to become expert in it and deep enough to engage your passion for a sustained period of time,” advises Showalter. “Here are some questions to consider: Can this subject grow along with you as your life evolves? Can you find a way to use categories to help you contain and also broaden your niche?”
Plan, But Don’t Over-Plan
“Some of the posts I’m proudest of came to me on days when I had every intention of writing something else, then changed my mind the second I saw the blank screen,” says Natalia.
Option 2: Non-Niche Blogging
(a) The Writers
Nina Badzin set out to write a “fun parenting blog” then “proceeded to write post after post about everything other than parenthood. Oops.” She now covers “writing, reading, parenthood, marriage, friendship and social media. Oh–and Jewish stuff.” Leah Singer’s blog “has really become a mix of writing, stories, photography (and stories through photos), recipes, crafts and book reviews. And as I look at it,” she says, “it’s the perfect representation of me since I love all those things.”
A wide variety of topics attracts many different readers. “My followers really run the gamut from mothers, to authors, to other writers, foodies and photographers, ” says Leah.
There’s no need to feel pigeonholed into writing about just one thing. “The advantage of going non-niche,” says Nina, “is that I can write a post about Downton Abbey if I feel like it, then cover baby names the next week.”
“By shaking up my posts and covering so many different things,” says Leah, “I think it also keeps the content fresh for my readers. They never know what to expect.”
Hard To Pinpoint
You don’t always fit in a reliable box. “It is sometimes tough for me to answer the question, ‘What do you blog about?'” says Leah.
Can there be too much of a good thing? “When I’m thinking of a new post, I’m overwhelmed by the possibilities, which more often than not means that nothing especially pressing comes to mind,” says Nina.
If you believe in what you do, others will too. “People like variety and I think they appreciate changing up the content every once in a while,” says Leah. “Don’t be intimidated by blogging “experts” who say your blog needs to have a theme. I don’t have a theme and my site continues to grow and gain new readers every week.”
Aim For Quality
“If you have a voice that people want to hear, they’ll keep coming back for more,” says Nina, who also recommends circling around a few consistent topics to develop some continuity.
A unique voice and compelling writing will carry the blog. Says Leah, “as long as you are putting out quality, people will follow – ‘niche’ or ‘non-niche.'”
As you consider range of possibilities for your blog, keep your own goals in mind. Check out writer Anne R. Allen’s excellent series of posts on how to blog effectively, whether you want general blogging tips to get started, a comprehensive list of blogging don’ts, or specific advice on how to structure your blog based on your “writing stage.”
Are you a “niche” or a “non-niche” blogger? What advantages and disadvantages have you experienced in your chosen platform?