Sunday, 27 November 2011

Should we get on topic?

There's been a bit of a debate raging on the blogosphere recently which you might already be aware of. I keyed into it via this post on Freya Morris' blog, wherein she unveils her new blog which goes along with the subject matter of her book. Follow the links back from Freya's post to see the discussions that inspired her. The blogger that started this advocates targetting your blog towards your potential readers by posting about material related to your book, rather than focussing on writing itself which would be of no interest to those readers.

While I can see the logic in her argument, I find it difficult to imagine how it would be implemented in practice - at least for me. Of course I wish Freya all the best with her new blog and hope it generates a lot of interest in her book. But it wouldn't work for me and here's why.

As writers, we tend not to be experts on whatever subjects crop up in our books. When it comes to research, we tend to learn just enough to allow us to get by and tell the story. The main topic in my story is amnesia, but I could in no way call myself an expert on this. I'm not a doctor. So to post articles on the subject would strike me as pompous, even fraudulent. For a lot of us, research is a necessary evil. We'd rather be getting on with writing. And when it comes to blogging, we want to offload about the ups and downs of our process, not raking over our research again. And I want to write about lots of different things. Will I need a blog for each one?

What if you write fantasy, for example? As this genre doesn't have its origins in the real world, but goes back to various folk tales, all you can talk about are your literary influences. So this would just come back to a discussion about the craft anyway.

Some writers, of course, have a particular passion that infuses their books, so it would be natural to blog about it. And the idea makes perfect sense when applied to non-fiction. But I would say that for the majority of us, our passion is the writing. People blog about what's most important to them; to do otherwise would be inauthentic.

The argument for the "blog on topic" approach states that the ordinary readers you are trying to reach won't care about your agonising over your craft. But I would argue against this as well. A lot of people who care about books may have more than a passing interest in how those books come into being, even if they have no intention of writing one. Why are there behind-the-scenes bonus features on DVDs, if film buffs don't care about the creative process? What about that quoted 80-90% of people who say they want to write a book? I don't know if those figures are true, but if my blog inspired just one person to start writing, I would consider that a triumph.

I might have taken the idea far too literally. I'm eager to hear more opinions on it. Personally, I'm quite happy to carry on blogging about writing and making connections with kindred spirits. It's a lonely job and we need people to vent with. What do you make of the on-topic argument? What do you blog for?


Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Yeah, I've heard this argument before and it got me all worries, because I give writing tips and social media tips on my blog. I write YA fantasy and scifi. I don't think I could post regularly on those topics alone. I do try to keep readers in mind, though so I include topics on books.

Jemi Fraser said...

Good post. I think it all depends on your purpose for blogging. I started because of a push from some friends. I've learned so much from blogging and reading others' blogs. At this point I'm more than happy chatting about writing and books :)

Angela Cothran said...

I also read Freya's new blog idea. I think it is cool, but I agree it isn't for everyone. Unpublished authors don't have readers yet, so why shouldn't we try and connect with other writers we can learn from? When I get published I'm sure I will start a new blog with readers in mind, but until then I will blog about what I want :)

Amanda Borenstadt said...

I've thought about this. Most of my followers are other writers and in an attempt to attract the attention of potential readers of my novel that's out and my work in progress, I've blogged about music, books, fantastic creatures, steampunky things, etc.

I get a lot of hits from people searching key phrases about hats and Harry Potter. I guess, if I blog more about those two things, I'll get more hits. Don't know if that will mean more book sales, though. :?

Nick Wilford said...

Lynda - I think it's good to have a mix. A blog on just one subject would get dull.

Jemi - Yes, you've got to do what feels right for you. If you try too hard to ensnare readers, it will come across as inauthentic.

Angela - Blogging is a great opportunity to share tips and pick up tips from other writers, as I'm finding out! It should also be about relaxation and fun - writing about your subject material all the time would feel like too much work.

All that said, I do think Freya's blog looks really good - I've followed it and am interested to see how it goes.

Nick Wilford said...

Amanda - Sounds like you're doing something right. The people who reach your blog might remember your name and buy your book at some point. Something I forgot to say in my post was, the biggest tool for selling books is word of mouth - even the writers who read your blog might recommend you to their non-writer friends.

Stu Ayris said...

Interesting stuff Nick! As you know, my blog started off being primarily about the ups and downs of getting my book published and does indeed contain excerpts from it. I have tried though to add in other things and I can see that I will continue to do so. It's difficult I guess as we write about what interests us and if that ends up as a novel then sometimes we can have exhausted all we have to say! I'm still very new to this blog thing and with my current time off work I think I will be devoting much more time to writing and all that entails - as of next week hopefully!!

Keep up the good work mate!

Nick Wilford said...

Hi Stu - In your case, I would definitely flag up more that your novel relates to your day job, as apparently that is very impressive to agents and publishers. I don't think it would hurt to write about schizophrenia and how you approach it in your novel. I worry about running out of things to say too - but so far I've just gone with the flow and wrote about what I've been thinking about each week.

Enjoy your time off - use it well!

Julius Cicero said...

Great post, new follower. I feel that it's necessary to network and connect with other readers and writers for advice on our art form.

Nick Wilford said...

Julius - I agree, I think that learning from other writers is too good an opportunity to pass up.