Why Don’t Writers’ Blogs Work?

Blogging is often recommended as a way for authors to build their brand, but it’s a special challenge for novelists to find topics.  I’d see posts on platform from non-fiction authors who didn’t know what they were talking about in relation to novelists, and it left me even more confused about this branding thing.  And I’m clearly not alone, because what ends up being a common topic is writing about writing — usually how-tos.  That created quite a bit of discussion in the comments over here, so it made me think about why writers blogs don’t work.

Writing blogs sound the same.  How many times can anyone discuss “Butt in chair” without sounding like everyone else?  I’ve searched for articles on pantsers for my posts, and it’s a challenge finding anything not “plotter vs. pantser.”  These writing posts may sound new to the writer, but they’re in the same uniform and don’t stand out.

Soldiers standing in formation in a gym.

Can you spot the five women?

Writing how-tos.  Not every reader is a writer, so all this will do is get other writers — and not necessarily writers who would be interested in reading future books.  Yet, it’s also the first person every writer zooms in and starts marketing to.

Limited subjects:  After a while, there isn’t much to say about writing when it comes to how-tos.  I’ve been blogging since 2007, and every 2 years or so, I’d stop because I’d run dry of ideas. It also made it more difficult to simply come up with ideas that were fresh and different.

Then what?

Mike Hyatt suggested novelists do interviews with their characters and excerpts.  He’s has great information on blogging and non-fiction.  But fiction?  Not so much.  It assumes the author already has a contract in place and is promoting a book readers are waiting for.  I don’t have a book out.  Exactly how will blogging about my story and characters draw potential readers to the blog?  Plus, it puts the focus on the individual book, and not the brand itself.

Others have suggested posting about your research.  Weeellll … Miasma’s setting is based on Hawaii, and my next book is set in Washington, DC.  If I did posts about Hawaii, I would get tourists planning to go to Hawaii, not potential readers.  If I did posts about Washington, DC — we’re getting into election season … bad, bad idea.

I don’t think we can’t fully escape from doing blogs about writing because writing is so much a part of our time.  Yet, I don’t think it’s a complete ban on writing topics.  Readers are interested in books, so it’s reasonable to assume that there are topics that would bring them in.

Your turn: Let’s pretend there’s a ban on writing how-to topics, but you still want to write about writing.  What would you write on?

9 thoughts on “Why Don’t Writers’ Blogs Work?

  1. This topic never gets old. You’re so right that most writing posts sound the same. I’m getting really bored with it, especially since I read a lot of craft books that delve into the topics far more in depht. Especially the motivational posts can be the same old.

    Some ideas for blogging about writing without doing how-to’s:

    – write book reviews (when you talk about what works and what doesn’t, you’re doing a sneaky how to)
    – if you don’t have time for a full book review, review short stories or first chapters (Laura Pauling does this partial review thing really well)
    – or do movie reviews (movies are popular so you might get new visitors)
    – write craft book reviews
    – tell stories about your experiences as a writer (and now I mean narratives, not bullet point lists, but there can be an epiphany in the end)
    – write about topics related to writing (creative barriers, creativity in general, time management, writer wellness (mind, body and soul)

    Basically, bring in your own thoughts and perspective. That’s unique and no one else can replicate that. That’s why I love reading Sarah Hoyt’s and Lynn Viehl’s blogs. They reveal themselves as human beings and talk about other things than writing.

    Some good examples about writers blogging about topics interesting readers of their genre are Debra Kristi’s Immortal Mondays where she introduces a new immortal being from mythology or books or pop culture. Or Marcy Kennedy writing about recent movies and their life lessons.

    My Monday music posts have propably been more miss than a hit but they were fast to create and pretty much everyone enjoys music. Just maybe not my kind of music 😀


  2. Good ideas, Reetta! Having done reviews, that would be one I would recommend only doing a limited number of posts. They are incredibly time consuming because they also involve doing the reader. Great if you were already going to read it anyway, but a time suck if you probably wouldn’t have.


  3. I like reading about other creative endeavors and how they feed a writer’s stories. Personally, I feel iffy reviewing books (I leave that to book bloggers) but movies and TV shows are fair game.


  4. 🙂 I’m not so sure I’d fully agree with your question/concern about research topic info. Tourists going to Hawaii or those interested in Hawaii might be more interested in reading a novel with a setting similar to there.

    My Tumblr covers a lot of the history items I love. The people more likely to be interested in the steampunk world I’ve built might be those interested in history, so including that information (whether I eventually use it or not) is a draw.

    Research can also cross into other areas such as — here is how I worked out my magic system and here are 3 other magic systems from novels similar to mine. Here is how we’re the same and here is how we’re different.

    Or fun snippets about your characters relating to research…you find an image of a Hawaiian shirt that a character would DEFINITELY wear. Post it and why they’d love it and someone else might hate it etc. See what other fave outfits commenters might have (or put on characters if you have writer-readers).

    Washington DC, yeah, you may end up with some “odd” hits but some of the details might appeal to other people and those people just MIGHT want to pick up your book.

    I have to admit that my greatest hits are as you said, a mix of personal and professional. So I’d say use that. As an example, your novel involved a subgroup in society trained for combat. How would your own experience in the military compare? What would be similar and what would be different and why? 🙂 And not just the facts, but the “feeling.” I’m sure you have the occassional personal observation of “that guy” (there’s always one) in your group that made everyone roll their eyes…makes for a great blog post.


    1. I’ve actually tried most of that already, with very limited success, or perhaps a better phrasing, is that I did get interest, but not book interest. When I was working with a cowriter, we had Civil War firearms information up. We got a lot of interest on that, but it was all people wanting to know how much their family Civil War gun was worth. Military and Microsoft Word Tips for Writers yielded people who were demanding information (how do I do X?); my attempts and Hawaii and Washington, DC have not yielded anything but drive-bys, or comments that I shouldn’t use Washington, DC because of the politics. I think some of the problem there is that if I had a high visibility book already published, a setting topic would be interesting to readers anticipating a new book or wanting more behind the scenes of an existing book. But without a book available, it’s just one of the crowd and isn’t going to stand out.


  5. I think the question of whether or not a writer’s blog “works” depends on what the individual hopes to gain by creating it. I use my blog as an outlet for imagination and, if anyone ever reads it, a possible avenue for feedback. It encourages me to keep writing, and as a newcomer to the craft I think that’s valuable. Hopefully others appreciate what I do, and if readers wish to post constructive criticism it’s always welcome. As long as it aids my progression then my blog works for me.

    However, I think there are some great suggestions in these comments. One of the things I’m planning for my blog is to write detailed reviews of stories told in movies. My emphasis isn’t necessarily to give my opinion of a movie, but to analyse its telling and craft. That is the sort of thing that might be useful for others to read, and possibly provoke thought and generate discussion.


  6. It’s taken me a while to come to grips with what kind of reader I want to attract and usually do, but that’s where I’d go. Consider who will love to read your fiction and then think about what they want.

    My readers tend to love voice, can wait for the answers to their questions, are analytical types that love character studies, love deep thinky thoughts about how people work, love words and language used well, and are usually female, big readers, and enthusiastic about their favorite stories in whatever medium. (We call them fangirls in this corner of the web.)

    Funny. That’s also a perfect description of me.

    I’m currently revamping my blog to have more posts that line up with these interests. It’s my forté, after all.


  7. Pingback: Top Ten Posts for June 2012 « Linda Adams

  8. The best advice I’ve found on blogging writers who try to brand themselves and attract potential readers, is for them to blog about the things that interest them. About the things that make their world go around, and how these pertain to their writing, how they influence their stories. That makes for a genuine blogger, an interesting and relatable writer, and … blog topics that don’t bore the blogger. 🙂


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