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.