The blog thing

What Michelle Sagara and Scalzi said.

Lately I’ve been getting a bunch of people writing me wanting advice on how to blog. They’ve been told that it’s a great way to promote their books but they don’t know how or they want some magic recipe for attracting lots of traffic.

I haven’t answered any of those letters yet. (Hey, I owe my mother emails! No one’s ahead of Jan in the email queue.) But mostly I haven’t answered because I really don’t know what to say. For starters, I don’t get lots of traffic. I average around a thousand hits a day,1 which ain’t bad, but it’s no where near the numbers of the truly popular blogs. Also blogging just to promote yourself? Meh.

For me the least interesting part of having a blog is talking about myself and my books. The most fun is ranting and opinionating about stuff I care about like writing, fashion, politics, cricket, Elvis and quokkas. I have a lot of opinions and I likes to share them. More than that I likes to hear other peoples respsonses to my rants. When I first started pontificating online back in 2003, I didn’t allow comments. Mostly I didn’t like the idea of flame wars or dealing with spam. When I switched to proper blogging in 2005 I quickly realised that the comments were the best part.

Blogging’s a dialogue, that’s one of the many reasons I love it. Part of what’s so awesome about Scalzi’s Whatever and the Nielsen Hayden’s Making Light is that they’re communities. They’re smart, argumentative, witty communities and they’re that way because of the high quality posts and comments they’re responding to. You’re never going to wind up with a community like that if all you can talk about are your books. BORING!!

I always have several posts I’m working on at once. Right now I have one about my friend Lisa Herb’s incredibly inspiring non-profit organisation, Alliance for International Women’s Rights, another about torture inspired by this incredible book, which I read because of Scalzi. Then there’s the long-overdue insomnia post, more stuff on fashion, DNA and race, and answers to reader questions about agents, how to give public readings, and world-building.

But most of my posts are an immediate response to something I saw or read or tripped over that day. It’s occasional writing—as in, inspired by a particular occasion. I see a stupid list of rules for writing so I write my own and so on and so forth.

Keeping a blog has changed how I view the world. Mostly for the good, but sometimes for the bad (ish). You know you might have a problem when your friends ask you, “Are you going to blog this argument?” “Er, no,” you tell them as you mentally erase the post you have just composed in your head. “How could you think such a thing?” Or worse when they ask if you’re going to blog the fabulous evening you’ve just had when that was the last thing on your mind because you was just having fun. That’s one of the many reasons I don’t blog about my life directly.

My advice to would-be bloggers is the same as Michelle Sagara’s and Scalzi’s if it’s not fun, don’t do it.

There are many extremely successful writers who don’t blog. There are some wonderful bloggers whose books don’t sell that well. A successful blog is neither here nor there when it come to a successful writing career.

  1. When I first started pontificating online in 2003 I had barely a hundred hits a day []


  1. Hillary! on #

    Then I guess you’re lucky that what you find to be fun so do your readers.
    And Skin Hunger was sooooooooooo awesome!When’s the sequel coming out?

  2. Faith on #

    I wouldn’t be reading your blog if you only talked about your books. I like reading your rants and opinions and things.

  3. Iris on #

    hear hear!
    I love your blog because you talk ’bout all that other stuff.

  4. Hillary! on #

    Speaking of ‘all that other stuff’, when are we going to have a new poll?

  5. sara z on #

    So true, all of it. I’m totally jacking this topic for my blog post tomorrow.

  6. janet on #

    That all makes a lot of sense.

    Over the last few years, various people have suggested to me that I start a blog. My answer: “Why?????” I think I have interesting things to say from time to time, but not every day (let’s face it, most people’s random thoughts and observations are not consistently interesting). And when I have something I want to write about, I’m usually too lazy to sit down and do it. I’d rather comment in on other people’s blogs, which I can do when I feel inspired — without having to worry about keeping it up regularly, whether I feel like it or not.

    There’s so much noise out there, why add to it without a good reason?

    In fact, a couple of days ago I took about 75% of the blogs out of my blog bookmark folder and either deleted them or stuck them in a less easily accessible folder. For one thing, I’ve decided not to read any political blogs for a while because reading them makes me angry and frustrated about things I can’t do anything about. I deleted a few more that have become defunct. And there are some that I just don’t read any more because they’re not consistently interesting. Yours is one of the handful that stuck. And I need to add Scalzi’s, which I’ve been intending to read regularly.

    This attitude that everybody should want to blog, and almost anybody can do a good job of it — where did it come from?

  7. Chef on #

    Finally, the answers that I was looking for! Cheers mate.

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