What is the point of a blog? is a question I’m asked time and time again. Most of the time, these would be self-publishers are asking me where does a blog fit into the scheme of things? What’s its place in my overall plan? How do I know if it’s working, if I’m blogging well?
But sometimes, they’re asking something else, something a bit frightening. They’re asking what is the point of a blog? because they actually don’t see the point of having one.
Utterly irrelevant photo, but LOOK HOW PRETTY!
What is the point of a book?
Writers write. We may be locked forever in the battle between I hate writing and I love having written, and we may write not every single day, and there may be enough dust on the top page of our most recently finished manuscript for someone to write ‘REVISE ME’ in it with their finger, but we still write. It’s what we were meant to do, and if we don’t do it frequently enough, we start to feel antsy and anxious, unable to read a book or concentrate on TV or walk down a street without sentences and ideas and characters crowding around inside our head, demanding to be written down.
I assume, as a writer, you would never ask what is the point of a book? You might say this is because you love books, but you don’t read blogs. Well, I love books, but I don’t read poetry. I haven’t since I was forced to in school, and I don’t see a way back into it in my future. I could go as far as to say that I don’t like poetry. But I would never, ever, ask what is the point of it (or try to write it, for that matter, even if someone told me I really should).
Blogging is writing. Blog posts are made up of words. I’m writing this in bed on a lazy morning, laptop perched on the duvet, (cold) coffee to hand, knowing that this afternoon, I have to do some Proper Writing. I have to add words to my WIP. So this blog post is a way into that, a gentle easing into the writing/typing/thoughts-into-words frame of mind. And I always blog, even when I’m not doing any Proper Writing, even when there IS enough dust on top of that MS to write threatening messages. It’s an important part of my writing life.
Writers have something to say
Why do you write in the first place? Why write at all? Forget agents and fame and money and names on spines and book festival lanyards that identify you as an ‘author’ and all that. Go back to the beginning. Why did you start to write in the first place? What made you want to do it? What was the initial spark? Did you start writing, maybe, because you felt you had something to say?
When I started thinking about what is the point of a blog? I knew I had to write a blog post about it. I thought, I will next week. But as soon as I made that decision, thoughts came rushing in: sentences for this post, section headings, etc. until it all got too loud and I had to put down the book I was reading (The Good Nurse—on a bit of a serial-killer-research spree at the moment), pull the laptop onto my knees and start writing this. Because I had to something to say about it.
A novel may take a year or more to write, and it might never see the light of day—if you put everything you’ve to say in there, no one might ever hear it. Or maybe you have things to say about something that has nothing to do with your novel. Maybe you know a lot about a specific something, or maybe you love ranting at bad movies in a way that makes people laugh, or maybe you’ve experienced something that you suspect a lot of other people have too but everyone is afraid to say. All good reasons to start blogging, a blog being the most suitable medium for things like that.
Fun—have you heard of it?
If there’s an option, I don’t do anything that isn’t fun for me. Obviously we all have to earn a living, and you may have a job that isn’t much fun, but you can’t exactly jack it in because you need food, shelter, warmth and something to pay your credit card bills with. But if you hated knitting, would you run home after work every night, take out your patterns and your needles and your ball of wool, and start adding rows to that reindeer jumper? Of course not.
So if you hate blogging or the idea of blogging just as much—if you have to wonder what the point of it might be—then don’t do it. If you feel you have to do it to sell books, my advice is the same: don’t do it. Because if you don’t want to blog, if you don’t love it and have fun doing it and put great books about serial killers aside to write a post before you forget all the points you want to make, then it won’t ‘work’ anyway, whether ‘work’ means people reading it or people liking it enough to go seek out other, longer things you’ve written too.
Do you even read blogs?
Let’s pretend for a second that you’re at a writer’s workshop. How To Write A Novel, Get An Agent And A Six-Figure Deal By Next Weekend, or something like that. You meet a guy who arrives wearing hipster eyeglasses and a tweed blazer with leather elbow patches, and has his portable vintage Corona under his arm. He will write first in longhand, he tells you, with a 2H pencil he’s sharpened with a Swiss Army knife. He’s set up a card table by his washer/dryer because he read On Writing and found out the Stephen King wrote Carrie in his laundry room. He knows how many pages he’s going to write per day; he might even have a title for the novel. He has a list of agents he’ll send it to you as soon as the ink’s dry. But he’s never read fiction for pleasure. He isn’t really ‘into’ books. But he wants to get published, and to get published you have to have written a book, so…
If you don’t read blogs, if you don’t like to read blogs for pleasure, then why in the name of fudge are you even considering starting one of your own?
The hard sell
I know I’m guilty of telling people that blogs help sell self-published books, because I believe that this blog helped sell my self-published books. But that’s just what happened: it wasn’t my intention. My intention was that I wanted to start a blog—or another blog, because I’d previously had a travel blog which chronicled my backpacking adventures in Central America. And I’d really enjoyed creating and updating that blog. I loved it.
I have never, I hope, gone for the hard sell on this blog. Sometimes I do of course draw my readers’ attention to workshops and new releases and things like that, but I hope that I’ve earned their permission to do that every now and then by not doing it all most of the time. You’ll never catch one of the those GOD AWFUL RED-RAGE INDUCING pop-ups on here that some blogs have, that pop up like a fruit fly at the end of your nose every time your browser loads the site, asking you to sign up for something stupid so you can get something stupid for free in return, which all gets in the way of why you were there in the first place—to READ THE BLOG—and sometimes, makes you give up before you get past it. And I don’t find a new way to mention my latest book or my most relevant book at the end of every single post. My advertising is confined to my sidebar, which most blog readers don’t even see, what with blog reading tools like Feedly (which just show the blog post itself), and the use of smart-phones (the mobile version of this blog shows the sidebar items at the end, after the blog post).
If I whipped all my titles off Amazon right now and vowed never to write a word destined for a price-tag ever again, you know what? I’d STILL write this blog. I really would. It would have to become exclusively about coffee and Christmas crafts and The Amazing Adventures of Catherine Watching TV, but I’d still do it. Because I like it. I love it. I want to blog.
I don’t believe that people can be taught how to write, from scratch, although I do believe that if you have any little smidgen of writing talent at all, you can learn how to write better. Or more good. (That was a joke, by the way.) So if you want to write any and all things, and you have something to say, and blogging is fun for you, and you like to read blogs and think they add to your daily life, then yes, there are questions I and other bloggers can answer about blogging.
I think, for example, that:
- While it’s fine to let Facebook and Twitter grow cobwebs occasionally, your blog should always be up to date
- Your blog design should reflect your personality, and make your blog stand out from the rest
- You should use WordPress.com
- It doesn’t matter how often you blog, but your blogging should be regular
- You should have a contact page where people can send you private messages (blog peeve #214: when bloggers have contact pages that tell me I can contact them on Twitter—you never know who is going to try and get in contact with you—journalists, radio show producers, publicists, etc.—and they mightn’t bother if they’ve to do it in public)
- Your blog and website should not be in different places, they should be combined, i.e. a blogsite. (Like this one)
- Like writing the book you want to read but can’t find on the shelves, you should create the blog you want to read but can’t find online.
But this is all just irrelevant crap if you don’t genuinely want to blog, if you don’t already have something to blog about.
Do you agree?
And now, that I’ve got this out of my system, that I’ve said my something to say, I can go back to my book—the one I’m reading—and later, get myself to the desk, because there’s no pressure: even if I add nothing to my WIP at all, I’ve already written 1,828 words today. And I enjoyed writing them, and I look forward to reading your comments.
That is the point of this blog.