I have been “blogging” since July of 2004, when I was an unemployed aspiring writer trying to save up enough money to move out of my parents’ house. Before that, I didn’t know what a blog was, but had been keeping regular “news” updates on my nascent website of what I’d accomplished that month in writing, etc. In the past eight years, my blog has gone through a lot of changes.
I find I’m much more circumspect than I used to be. Part of it is I’ve just run out of topics. It turns out there is a limit to how many cute pics you can post of your puppy before you feel like you’re just exploiting her. And though I have many Thoughts on Craft and Industry, I’m sure no one wants to hear me extolling the virtues of the synopsis yet again. Book reviews are right out, book recommendations can start getting sticky, and book giveaways become exhausting (Man, I hate the post office.) It’s difficult even to discuss writing pet peeves, as your readers will invariably decide that you’re picking on a particular book (even if it’s one you aren’t familiar with at all).
I used to talk about my manuscript progress. I don’t do that anymore; because if and when (mostly when) things get thorny, I have an unfortunate tendency to sound melodramatic about it — “the book is broken, the sky is falling, I’m a terrible writer, why would anyone ever want to read me?” My readers, who I am attempting to induce to read my next book, probably don’t want to hear me whining about how awful it is, and me whining about how awful it all is is apparently an Official Part of my Process.
(In passing, don’t you hate the term “My Process?” It sounds so pretentious. “I’m an artiste. This is My Process!” Blecch.)
It’s also so easy to miscommunicate things — the informality of a blog post combined with the “official” nature of an author’s website appear to make the perfect storm of potential misunderstanding. Offhand comments can be taken as The Word From On High. Jokes are taken seriously. People skim, or alternately, people read Deeper Meanings into whatever you say. A short and by no means exhaustive list of things I have inadvertently misled readers about over the course of my blog:
- That a badly photoshopped, clearly jokey “fake” cover stealing images from The Last Unicorn cartoon was an actual bookcover of mine.
- That a badly photoshopped, clearly jokey “fake” cover that was an 80s style bodice ripper (complete with tattered edges) was an actual bookcover of my YA.
- That a badly photoshopped — well, let’s just say my whole “fake Rampant cover” series did not go over well — irony does not always read on a blog. Even my mother in law got tripped up by one of them.
- That my husband was actually my gay roommate, Will & Grace style. (this particular reader was shocked when I blogged about getting married).
- That I was pregnant. (When I wasn’t and a few times when I was and being sneaky about it — my MIL again.)
- That I was not pregnant. (Given the aforementioned sneakies.)
- That I was having a movie made from my book.
- That I was writing a sequel to The Hunger Games. (?!?!)
- An announcement that I’d be speaking in the “Hong Kong” room in a hotel at a conference made someone think I was going to be speaking at a Hong Kong location of that hotel chain.
- An attempt to be as transparent as possible to other aspiring authors about what the revision process looks like got an editor in trouble about the format of her revision letters.
- An attempt to be as transparent as possible about the plans for continuing an ongoing series led to rampant (pun intended) speculation about completely fictional fights, threats, and disappointments between myself and my publisher.
- That the aforementioned cute puppy had died.
And that doesn’t even cover the arguments I’ve waded into!
On the other hand, my blog is to account for some of my greatest joys in my career. It was through a blog post that I first met my good friend and critique partner Justine Larbalestier. Regular readers of my blog have become virtual friends. One came to the launch party of my first book and then, years later, with the wisdom of a fellow new mom, somehow read between the lines of my blog when I was pregnant and sent me a handmade baby blanket. Another keeps me in book and Canadian television recommendations, and we hang out on Pinterest talking about wedding decor. A third cajoled me into joining SFWA.
My blog readers have helped me when my garden was in trouble, when my dog has been sick, and when I needed to geek out with someone about my latest book release and my husband (who was a good sport about the whole “gay roommate” thing) got tired of hearing me speculate on what my secondary characters’ favorite foods were. My blog has been a place where I’ve experimented with form, invited other writers to experiment with voice, and given out freebies and extras to my readers. And that whole “fake cover” thing may have been confusing to some, but I had a blast with it and those readers who got the joke enjoyed it too.
Nowadays, my blog is just one part of a big web of social networking. I love Twitter — I Twitter daily, even when I don’t have time for a whole blog post. Twitter conversations can spark blogs and vice versa. I recently discovered Tumblr, which fulfills a different need entirely and which I often use to post on the fly inspirational photos and such of my works in progress. Because it’s on tumblr instead of my official blog, I feel like I can be a little more open with my works in progress (I’m usually excessively circumspect on my blog). However, I recently learned I’m not in the clear there, either. I was contacted by a reader who was super confused about the pictures I was posting of the heroine of the manuscript I’m writing now and how different they were from the descriptions of the heroine in the book I’ve got coming out next month. Gah. Informality strikes again.
For me, blogging is a fun outlet. When it stops being fun, I take breaks. I honestly don’t know what the solution to pitfalls like these are. A lot of writers I know who get frustrated by these setbacks and mishaps just cut off all social media completely. I enjoy blogging, though. I like giving back to the writing community in the form of industry and craft posts, and I like giving back to my readers in the form of Easter eggs, extras, and giveaways. It’s not a perfect system, I suppose, but until I see a better one…