This week’s topic on Genreality: writers and blogs. Too obvious a connection to discuss? I don’t think so. There are as many opinions about blogging as there are writers.
Blogging as been such an amazing thing for so many writers. Some, like John Scalzi, broke in through their blogs, and others, like Catherynne Valente, have built tremendously supportive audiences and communities with their blogs. I enjoy reading blogs and feeling like I’m part of a larger community. I mostly read the blogs of other writers. It’s a way to keep up with the community and convince myself that I’m not alone and crazy and so on. But I have to watch myself, and resist the urge to compare myself to others, which reading their blogs makes so easy to do. I also read blogs for research — have a certain kind of character or a profession or topic you want the inside scoop on? Chances are, someone’s keeping a blog on it.
I started my own blog on June 8, 2007. As a data point, this was almost two years after my first novel appeared on bookshelves. So, I’m a firm believer that blogging is not an absolute requirement for professional fiction authors. Do it if you want to, if you enjoy it. And most importantly, I think: do it if you have a plan.
Why didn’t I blog for such a long time? And why did I change my mind? I avoided blogging for a long time because I didn’t want my blog to turn into a confessional online journal (that’s what my bedside diary is for). I didn’t want to spend the time on it. I knew I didn’t have what it takes to maintain a blog of the caliber of John Scalzi’s Whatever (one of my favorite SF writer blogs) — posting every day, writing intelligently on a variety of topics, presenting a charismatic persona. So I figured, why do it at all? Then, for a brief time I wrote for a now-defunct science fiction blog. The venture as a whole didn’t work out, but I found I enjoyed the outlet, discussing way-out topics, reviewing movies, and so on. And I discovered I could keep up a schedule of writing several posts a week.
I decided to start my own blog when I figured out how to do it on my own terms, rather than trying to emulate other blogs. The science fiction blog taught me how to set parameters on what I write about. I realized I didn’t have to replicate Whatever. This would be my own outlet, strictly for fun, and maybe my readers would enjoy getting a peek into my world. And I could avoid very personal topics. That was ultimately the theme I set for myself: what’s life like for a full-time writer? What goes into my writing? What do I love, and how does that translate into stories? Hence, my blog’s title: Filling the Well. Another of my parameters: I didn’t want to blog every day. So you know what? I don’t. For a long time, I tried to blog every other day. Over the last year, I’ve moved to a Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, giving myself weekends off, and that’s been great. I like that. (I wrote about my reasons to start blogging in one of my first posts.)
It was year or so after starting my own blog that Sasha invited me to join Genreality, and I jumped at the chance, because one of the things I avoided on my own blog was writing too much about the mechanics of writing, the how-to, the obstacles, and so on. This was something I learned from reading other people’s blogs: if you only write about writing on your blog, it gets real boring real fast. A big chuck of my target audience out there aren’t writers, and don’t care. But a group blog with the specific, designated topic of being about the nitty gritty of writing, with lots of different authors contributing their perspective? That’s where I could write about niggling writing stuff. And it’s worked! I now have an outlet for writing topics without turning my own blog into all-writing-all-the-time. It’s that plan and parameters thing again.
My advice for starting a blog: have a plan, have parameters. Study other blogs and make note of what you like and what you don’t. But my biggest advice of all may be: if you don’t want to write a blog, then don’t. That’s okay too.