Not Just Another Writer’s Writing Blog

by Susan Bearman

Woman working on laptop

Today’s post is written by regular contributor Susan Bearman.

“Actually,” explained Edward, “it depends on what kind of writer you are. What kind were you intending to be?”

“A writer who attracts readers.”

“Then for heaven’s sake, don’t write writing. Write reading.”

— from A Beginning, a Muddle, and an End by Avi

Write reading. The most brilliant writing advice I have ever heard comes from a children’s book by Avi.

The general consensus is that writers need an online presence to promote themselves and their writing, and that a a blog is an essential part of that presence. But deciding who you want to be online can be a tricky business. As agent April Eberhardt recently told us, you need to be authentic. But what does that mean? As writers, I think our biggest mistake is defining and positioning ourselves online so that other writers will find us.

What we want is for our readers to find us.

I love writing. I love everything about writing: doing it, talking about it, reading about it. But I don’t (usually) blog about it on my own blog.

If you write a blog about writing, I have probably read it. And I probably love it. If your goal is to attract other writers, if you’re writing a book about writing, or if you just love writing about writing, great. Your blog is doing it’s job. But if you are writing a picture book about reindeer in Siberia, or a thriller set in New Orleans, or an epic love story that spans three generations, then your blog is probably not reaching your potential readers.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have a blog about writing. And it doesn’t mean that your blog should be nothing more than a tool for shilling your book. I read a tweet today with a link to a post written by a librarian about blogging; it’s the perfect blogging motto:

“Don’t broadcast, engage.”

Use your blog to engage your readers.

Write Well

Demonstrate your best writing in every post. This is essential. Your blog may be the first exposure a potential reader (or agent or publisher) has to your writing, so do a good job. Think through your post. Make sure you have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Proofread before you post. Better yet, ask a picky friend to proofread for you. Correct mistakes immediately.

If you don’t have anything to say, don’t say it in a post. A stale blog is pointless, but a boring blog is deadly. Keep it fresh by posting regularly, and keep it interesting. Be on the lookout for good ideas. You keep a notebook with you at all times, right? (Your smart phone works just as well.) Start a list of possible posts right now.

A great way to keep your blog fresh is to write several posts at a time and schedule them in advance. For example, write three posts over the weekend and schedule them to go up on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Once you start writing, you tend to get into a groove. Writing online usually works better when it’s short, anyway, so you don’t need to worry about writing three chapters of War and Peace every weekend; 200-400 words is plenty.

Be Creative

How can you write a blog that readers want to read?

First, think about your target audience. If you write YA, your blog should be targeted to the wants, needs, and interests of teens. If your hero is as skateboard-riding teen crime fighter, maybe you should blog about skateboarding. Or teen crime fighters.

Think about writing something different. A blog is a great place to flex your writing muscles. If you write fiction, try a creative nonfiction blog. Stretch yourself.

A friend of mine writes literary fiction, but she loved the soap opera All My Children, and was saddened when it went off the air. As both an homage to her favorite soap, and as a way to try a completely different kind of writing, she has created a “blog opera” called Pine Lake, posting episodes once a week under a pseudonym. “I write it between noon and 1:00 p.m., when I used to watch All My Children,” she says. “I’ve discovered that episodic writing is fun, but really hard work.”

Another writer, E. Victoria Flynn, dreams of one day opening a hip artists’ hangout for creative types, where they can work, play, and socialize. Money and time limitations make it difficult for her to pursue that dream in the physical world right now, so she created a virtual version of her dream called V’s Place. Her motto: “If you can’t find your community, make it.” You’ll find writers, painters, musicians, and artists of every ilk hanging out at V’s Place. You should, too.

Picture book writer Carolyn Crimi wrote a book called Dear Tabby (about a cat who writes a “Dear Abby”-esque column). She also created a blog called Dear Tabby, where she posts in the voice of her character. Just plain fun.

The point is, use your creativity to develop a blog that engages your readers.

Write What You Love

One of the keys to a great, engaging blog is consistent posting. If you’re excited about your topic—if it keeps your mind hopping—then chances are you won’t run out of things to post. Writer Shona Patel has a mutli-faceted blog that includes her musings about the writing process, but also has a whole section devoted to tea. That’s right, tea. Shona was raised by a tea planter in Assam, India, and clearly still has tea in her blood.

If the topic you love doesn’t relate specifically to your book, that’s OK. It can give your readers an inside look at who you really are, and most fans love to get the inside scoop. If your passion does relate to your published work or work in progress, so much the better. But make those connections with skill and subtlety. You can do it. You’re a writer.

(For example, watch how skillfully I weave in a plug for my own blog, Two Kinds of People, right here.) I started blogging in early 2008. The originally idea had been to write a newspaper column (kind of Erma Bombeck meets Dave Barry) based on the “Two Kinds of People” (2KoP) theme. Sadly, I came up with the idea at just about the same time newspapers stopped hiring columnists. When I thought about writing a blog, I was terrified that it would become a rambling brain purge, where I dumped endless rants on an unsuspecting readership. The 2KoP idea resurfaced and gave me the perfect proverbial hook upon which to hang my blogging hat. (See how I worked that right into the conversation.)

If you are going to write about writing, pick a specific niche and do it well. One of my favorite blogs is called Detectives Beyond Borders by Peter Rozovsky. Peter is a copy editor by day, and devoted crime novel junkie and blogger by night. He uses his love of crime writing as jumping off point for all kinds of topics on his blog, and frequently poses specific, thought provoking questions—a great way to engage readers in a comment-based discussion.

If you haven’t yet started a blog, think about your potential readers and how you might give them some added value. If you already have a blog, think about ways you can up the ante and reach out to readers, not just writers.

{ 21 comments }

Sarah Callender March 9, 2012 at 12:30 am

Love this post, Susan. Such a good reminder about why we should be writing what we write. (Wow. That was a terrible sentence BUT I trust you will understand).

Thanks for a great one!
Read Sarah Callender´s last article ..Fever

Susan @ 2KoP March 9, 2012 at 11:35 am

I do understand, Sarah. Thanks for reading some of my writing.

Lisa Rivero March 9, 2012 at 1:06 am

Susan, this is just what I need right now as I feel a renewed blogging motivation (it happens every spring!) but know I need some new perspectives and direction. I plan to use your advice to start a regular, weekly feature on the historical fiction I am working on rather than posting about “whatever, whenever” :). Many thanks!
Read Lisa Rivero´s last article ..Blogging on My iPhone

Susan @ 2KoP March 9, 2012 at 11:37 am

Lisa, I love when you find just what you need just when you need it. Great idea for a regular feature. I’m excited about mine, too, and these ideas really helped me spiff up the blog for my husband’s pet store. Good luck.

Shona Patel March 9, 2012 at 2:58 am

Many thanks for your mention and the link to my blog, Susan. The tea section on my blog actually works very well to attract potential readers. When I write a post about tea, I make sure to add plenty of tea-related tags and links, so that the search engines can pick up the trail and lead people to my blog. My reasoning is, if you are interested in tea, you are going to like a story set in an exotic tea plantation, right? Absolutely. One important thing to remember (and I do this) is to sign off every post with a blurb to your book and additional links (more breadcrumbs!). If you don’t do that the ant will read your wonderful post and say, “Wow, thanks for that delicious crumb,” and wander off. The blurb about your book will make the ant stop and think, “Now, wait a minute, what is this? A whole loaf? Hmmmm…” and they start to follow you and bingo, now you have a potential reader!
Read Shona Patel´s last article ..TEA TRIVIA: talking about the “Earl” in Grey and the “High in Tea

Susan @ 2KoP March 9, 2012 at 11:38 am

Shona, you’ve done such a great job with your site. The tea posts are a wonderful tie-in to your book. Well done.

Shona Patel March 9, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Many thanks for your kind words, Susan. This is a great post, full of good sense.
Read Shona Patel´s last article ..TEA TRIVIA: talking about the “Earl” in Grey and the “High in Tea

Robin Coyle March 9, 2012 at 4:19 am

I love the line “write reading.” So simple, yet it changes one’s perspective doesn’t it?
Read Robin Coyle´s last article ..What Are Your Grammar/Usage Pet Peeves?

Susan @ 2KoP March 9, 2012 at 11:38 am

Robin, I was totally bowled over by that line. I think I should make up bumperstickers.

Cathryn Leigh March 9, 2012 at 4:28 am

I feel the urge to start a Blog Log (I just like the sound of it) To record ideas ad thoughts into one place of what I’ve contemplated posting and what I have posted… It would also allow me to broadly categorize things and…

Sorry my organized brain going into over drive there.

I’m going to bookmark this in my Blogging advice section. I’d really like to be a little more consitant than I feel I am currently on my blog.

:} Cathryn / Elorithryn
Read Cathryn Leigh´s last article ..Pocketful of Sunshine

Susan @ 2KoP March 9, 2012 at 11:39 am

Cathryn, you should make a Blog Log app. I would definitely buy it.

Deborah Turner March 9, 2012 at 4:48 am

I find blogging difficult so I appreciate this one. Catheryn’s “Blog Log” is great! I am not so organized and have ideas sort of scribbled on sticky notes stuck on my printer. Then I never seem to get around to doing them because I’m always working on a novel.

Maybe I’m just old? Blogging is scary for me, even though my readers always say such nice things. This is a very big learning curve for me. Thanks for the tips and tricks. I will try them.

Susan @ 2KoP March 9, 2012 at 11:40 am

Glad to help, Deborah. There’s no such thing as too old. Keep us posted on how you’re doing.

Sharon Settle March 9, 2012 at 5:19 am

“Write reading” is one of those quotes that really makes you think. I recently posted on my blog Writer’s Block at sharonsettle.wordpress.com ( I can plug too) a quote from the late Jimmy Stewart that read, “Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.” The theme of my post was the target audience and how to stop writing for them but instead to them. I think that is what you are advising here; to bring your target audience to you through your blog. That is so important in today’s world of social media. It is great advice to blog about what interests them. One minute they are reading your latest post on their phone or pad and the next minute they are downloading your book and Tweeting about it attracting more readers to your blog. I would warn to be careful to remain authentic. If you are blogging about a skateboarding crime solver don’t blog what you think skateboarders are all about be sure you know.
Read Sharon Settle´s last article ..Audience, Audience…Who Art Thou Audience?

Susan @ 2KoP March 9, 2012 at 11:41 am

Sharon, thanks for the Jimmy Stewart quote. It’s great. I’ve often heard it said that authors only write half the book; readers write the other half, and each time the book is reread or read by someone new, it is completely rewritten.

Victoria March 9, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Susan, I really appreciate the mention and link back to my blog, but even more I appreciate your ambition and the great tips you put in here. Since I’ve moved over to V’s Place I’ve had the most difficult time getting back into the swing of a regular posting schedule. If I had my way, I’d do Fourth Monday every Monday. Sharing other artists’ work is the most fun I think I’ve had since I’ve started blogging. All I can say is, More contributors! And that little notebook, I think it needs to be a little bigger.
Read Victoria´s last article ..In honor of International Women’s Day…

Wendy A.M. Prosser March 9, 2012 at 6:10 pm

It’s easy to fall into writing about writing, because writing is what I do all day (and editing, but that would be even more boring!). I think I need to get out more!
Read Wendy A.M. Prosser´s last article ..Whatever Happened To The Vegan Cat-Lover?

Ileandra Young March 9, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Another great post!
I felt, a while ago, that was a trap I’d fallen into backwards. I started the blog to be about my writing and I’ve ended up drifting away from that into lots of odds and sods about me! Its interesting that when I return to a post about writing that the post gets a tremendous amount of hits, but all the time the posts about me and what I’m up to steadily keep building.
I’ve settled on a balance for my blog which now seems to keep my reader base entertained. Now, you’re quite right though; I need more READERS rather than WRITERS on looking at my blog, to reach more of the people I want to entertain.
Read Ileandra Young´s last article ..80 Post Challenge – Post 53

Linda Gartz March 14, 2012 at 4:56 am

So glad you addressed this topic. It is exactly what I’ve been pondering as I am thinking about creating a new blog. Readers are the ones who will buy our books (of course all writers must be readers, but not all readers — in fact, probably the vast majority, are not writers. So there’s the trick.

So now to figure out how to do that!
Thanks for a great column!
Read Linda Gartz´s last article ..A pock-marked resume

Peter May 10, 2012 at 6:10 am

I’m really a copy editor by night and a crime-novel junkie by later at night. I don’t know why I missed this post, but it’s never too late to say thanks, so thanks.
=======================================
Detectives Beyond Borders
“Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home”
http://detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com.

Susan @ 2KoP May 10, 2012 at 7:30 am

Anytime, Peter. I’ve liked your blog for years. Even though I’m not a crime-novel junkie, you always have something interesting to catch my attention.
Read Susan @ 2KoP´s last article ..Wordless Wednesday #11: Dots and Dashes?

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