Fiction Writers Don’t Need Blogs

2012 Debutante Molly BackesDear Fiction Writer,

Despite what everyone else has told you, you don’t actually have to start a blog. 

In fact, you probably shouldn’t.

I know this may sound crazy, coming from someone who is, you know, blogging, but I have met so many writers who are starting blogs because they’ve heard they need to have a “platform” or something. While that may be true for non-fiction writers (and I’m hoping Deb Rachel will address the non-fiction side of the story tomorrow), I’m going to argue that it’s not true for fiction writers.

For one thing, blogging takes up a ton of time. It takes an enormous amount of time to come up with topics, write entries, and respond to comments. For a writer, each blog post represents your writing — your brand — so you can’t really afford to dash off a few sloppy sentences and call it good enough. And if you’re already juggling a day job, a family, and your fiction, adding a blog to the mix isn’t going to make your life easier. If you only have an hour or two a day to spend writing, wouldn’t you rather spend that time working on your fiction?

For another thing, blog entries tend to be personal essays, not fiction. So spending time writing blog entries won’t necessarily help you to grow as a fiction writer, and if you do attract an audience for your personal essays, it won’t necessarily translate into readers for your fiction. Over the summer, I wrote a blog post that went viral, and when I told my mother how many hits I’d gotten on it, she said, “That’s thirty thousand people who will buy your book!” Sadly, that’s not how it works. Sure, there’s probably some overlap in the audience for that blog post and the audience for my book, but fundamentally they’re different groups of readers.

As far as creating a platform and connecting with readers, that’s what your book is for. A fiction writer’s job isn’t to be the wizard, it’s to be the man behind the curtain. If we’re doing it right, we should be invisible. The characters should be front and center, not the author.

Plus, you don’t need a blog to connect with readers. There are a million other forms of social media — twitter, facebook, skype, goodreads, etc — and I’ve heard that some authors even venture out into the world to talk to readers in person.

With all that said, if you want to start a blog, go ahead and start a blog. Maybe you have the time (and the discipline!), maybe you enjoy the community and conversations a blog can help to foster. Maybe, like many writers, your primary method of grappling with your own questions and experiences is by writing about them, and your blog provides you with a forum to publish the musings you’d be writing anyway. But if you do decide to start a blog, make sure it’s for the right reasons. Blog because you want to, not because you have to.

Love,

Molly

 

 

 

25 thoughts on “Fiction Writers Don’t Need Blogs

  1. You make a very good point. If you’re blogging ONLY because you think you have to, it’s probably wise to rethink your decision, because I guarantee it will become a frustration. If, however, you enjoy the connections you make, then go for it. It may not get thousands of people to buy your books, but it sure can’t hurt. 🙂

    • I used to teach a class on blogging, and I’d tell my students to create a “mission statement” for their blogs, to help them clarify their reasons for keeping the blog, as well as how often they planned to post — & I always recommend setting the bar low. 🙂 I also suggested they actually post it somewhere (“Musings on Writing and Life. I post Tuesdays & Thursdays.”) so the readers of their blog could know what to expect. I think there’s a perception that a blog should be updated daily, and that, more than anything else, can begin to feel like a huge burden.

      • Yes, yes, yes. Authors in particular need to have a plan and a purpose for their blogs. You could even call it a gimmick, or else what’s the point? Allison Winn Scotch has a great blog that I love to read, but I’m not sure it gets her new readers (at least who aren’t writers/in the industry), because it is primarily about the business of writing.

        • That’s the other thing — most writers’ blogs are about writing, and again, the readership of a blog about writing may not overlap with the readership of a romance novel, or a dystopian YA, or a fantasy epic.

  2. Miss Molly, this is a wonderful post–for lots of reasons. Like so many things about the brave, new world of the path to publication, there is such pressure to pursue avenues to exposure that, at their core, may not actually enhance your chances, or even make you a stronger writer.

    That said…why I started and (although lately sporadically) keep a blog were/are for very different reasons, I see now, several years in. I would say I started a blog for the reason we are advised to–to get word out about my upcoming book. What I have found, however, is that starting a blog actually put me in contact with a very, very special group of writers and readers who I now proudly consider friends. There’s no question I didn’t believe that would be the greatest thing to come out of starting a blog. For me, it isn’t so much about self-promotion as it is an exchange of ideas. Allowing for longer dialogs than we can have on Twitter or FB.

    Nowadays, I feel badly that I don’t keep up with my blog as much as I used to–and I want to remedy that–but I think it’s so important for writers to hear the other side of the coin. There are only so many hours in the day to write THAT BOOK THAT WILL GET YOU PUBLISHED. As you say, make your choice for the reasons that are right FOR YOU.

    • Yes, I think it’s interesting how a blog can evolve over time. My blog started as a way to communicate with my family after I’d moved to New Mexico — they could read my stories and know that I was alive without me actually having to talk to them. 🙂 Later, it became a place to record stories about teaching, and then a project to amuse myself when I was working a boring desk job. And now… it mostly exists because it has existed for so long, but I only post to it when I have something to say.

      And yes, the BOOK should be first priority! If you can do both, fine, but if you have to choose, the BOOK should always come first!

  3. This is completely true and I wish (a) I had known this a year ago and (b) people would stop insisting every writer in every stage of her career has to have a blog.

    I still would have done the Debutante Ball, because that felt more like being part of a community than blogging, but as for my personal blog, I would have saved a lot of stress trying to make sure it was current. I still keep it online to post news and the occasional topic I want to chat about, but I no longer give myself stomachaches about it. I’m so grateful to people who do blog regularly, because I LOVE being on the readerly side of things.

    The best advice I have gotten about blogging totally echoes your recommendation: “If you enjoy it, do it. If you don’t, don’t worry about it.”

    Now. Didn’t your blood pressure just go down 15 points? Mine too.

    • I’m happy to be a part of the Debutante Ball (which is because of you, after all!), but I’m also happy that it’s a limited engagement — I can post once a week for a year, but not indefinitely. Like Joanne, I spend a TON of time on these once-weekly posts! On the other hand, we’re only a quarter of the way through the year and I’ve already written things that I’m happy with and proud of, little essays I wouldn’t have written otherwise, and that’s a good thing.

      More importantly, I get to hang out with these wise, funny, gorgeous ladies, and THAT is definitely worth it!!

      • I agree on all fronts. I have some posts from the Ball that I am really happy I wrote, but it does take a lot of time.

    • Thanks, Paul! And yes: a fiction writer’s primary concern should always be the fiction! The rest is all secondary.

  4. Great post, Molly. You’ve pretty much summed up my feelings – if you want to blog, blog. But I agree that it’s not necessary for a fiction writer to set up a blog just for the sake of doing it. I’m very glad to be here as a member of the Deb community, but I don’t think I could ever do a blog of my own and I don’t think I’ll suffer because of that. And to be honest, I’m not sure how people do it anyway; my posts here take up a good chunk of time and writing mojo and that’s just a weekly thing!

    • Exactly! A girl can still have an internet presence without having a blog of her own; it’s not an all-or-nothing game. And if you really have something to say, you can always ask a blogging friend if you can guest post on her blog! Most folks are thrilled to have new content without having to write it themselves!

  5. Dear Molly, I haven’t done any blogging as yet. Want so much to have readers, who take the time to read to add their bit and thus creating the longest blog ever! Would u like to read a preview?

  6. Thanks, Molly. I have a blog that I don’t write in often. The last entry was last April. I’ve felt guilty about it, but at the same time, I realize I can only right when I have something to say. I don’t want to just ramble on in a post just to have a post. I also think the blogosphere is way over saturated. I have lots of friends that have blogs and I can honestly say I don’t read most of them. If I did commit to reading my friends blog, I wouldn’t have time for anything! It’s just too time consuming. I plan on keeping my blog, but only posting when I have something truly worth posting, or when I have the urge to express myself in a longer form that what would fit on Facebook or Twitter.

    • I think part of the guilt is carrying around a different idea of what your blog should be — once I clarified for myself what I was keeping my blog for (namely, for *me* & my own purposes, not for marketing or audience), I stopped feeling quite as guilty about never updating it. 🙂

  7. I’m with you for fiction writers (non-fiction is another story and I’ll get to that tomorrow!) I always wonder about fiction writer blogs… they never seem to really take off (this is a generalization to which I am SURE there are exceptions) and they don’t do much to promote a specific piece of fiction. I guess if your blog were, like, blogging as the characters it would be one thing. Then readers could get attached to the people in your book before the book is even out. (Woah, did I just come up with a brilliant novel idea???) I mean, if JK Rowling blogged as, like, Ginny Weasley, I’d be all over it. ‘Cause, you know, JK doesnt have anything else to do and she totally needs some guerilla promotion.

    As I’m writing this, I keep thinking of Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s blog. She is a fiction writer who started a blog that was, more or less, a mommy blog. Or at least, it was in the mommy blog space. It wasn’t about her book, but she did seem to gain a loyal following in the mommy blog arena– and those people, as supporters of Aidan, bought her book, chose it for their book clubs, etc. But this is someone who posted every single day for at least a year in advance of her pub date. I think she was successful in her blogging-for-book endeavor because she really established herself in a specific blogging community. And also for a while it seemed as if she was blogging for bloggings sake, as you say. Not because she was supposed to, or to build a readership (even if that was indeed her motive).

    Generally, I really agree with you. I am interested in the worlds that novelists create, but if the blog is just a forum established because it’s necessary, it’s probably not worth it. As you say, it’s entirely likely that the readership won’t overlap. But it can’t hurt, in your case for example, to have had that viral post. There are probably people who will see your book now and say “Oh that M. Molly Backes, she wrote that brilliant post about teaching kids to be writers! I really appreciated that, and I want to support her by buying her book! And she wrote that so beautifully, this book is probably well-written too.” But then again, on the other hand (the third hand at this point?) it’s not likely that everyone will write a viral post like you did.

    As you can see, I’m a bit torn here. Thank goodness I don’t write fiction!

    • I would love to read Ginny Weasley’s blog. But again, the time commitment would be massive! But in general, I agree that keeping a blog isn’t going to hurt you as a fiction writer — unless it’s idiotic, or inappropriate, or poorly written.

  8. This is a really great point, Molly.

    It is true that a blog gives extra space for exposure to readers online, but that the typical fiction writer’s blog is usually about writing (and that gets other writers, not necessarily readers). I’ve thought about this very topic a lot, as I’ve been blogging weekly for 3 years. I have built an audience, while I’m working toward publication, but it may or may not translate over after my first novel is published.

    I do think the age-old and sometimes broken record of Write the Best Novel You Can Write is true. Time spent writing the novel is a million times more valuable than a blog post per week… Great food for thought. Thank you!

    • Yes! I’m one of those broken records. Write the best novel you can write! Little else matters, in the end.

      Good luck, Jennifer!

  9. I’m one of the 30,000 who read that amazing blog post of yours and was so struck by it, how insightful and perfect, that I put your upcoming book on auto-buy. So your mom may have been right, after all! But I’ve never been much of a blogger myself and am always relieved when someone says you don’t HAVE to blog.

  10. That’s a fantastic post, Molly. I have to admit I go back and forth on blogging. I loved the Deb Ball, though it was a lot of work. I love my own blog because the posts are fun to write and I love connecting with people through it… but the time it takes is pretty crazy, and I feel like I spend more time blogging on the site than doing the things I should more actively do, like updating reviews and information. That stuff, of course, isn’t as much fun, while exchanging thoughts and anecdotes with people is delightful.

    I’ve been blogging a year and a half, and in that time I’ve gone through one reinvention, and will probably go through another, mainly because while I’ve been striving for five posts a week, I just don’t think that’s feasible for me.

    New Year’s is my favorite time to do some soul and schedule searching, so I may well jump into January with some new and more tenable goals. When I do, I will in large part have you and your post to thank for helping me re-think.

    • Thanks, Elise! And yes, five posts/week is crazy for such an already-busy woman! MWF or TTH is just as good as 5/week, in my opinion (of course, I’m happy if I can manage to post once a month on my own blog). I think if you decide to cut back, it might help to announce your posting days on your blog, so your readers know when to expect you.

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