When it comes to blogging, there are three questions that I’ve stumbled upon behind the writer’s curtain, and stumbled to answer, in my blogging adventure. So to all my fellow bloggers, I present Three Questions to Ponder.
1. What are you blogging about?
When it comes to blogging, the number one piece of advice I hear is this: stick to one topic. Build an identity. Focus on a specialty. Become the go-to person for whatever you’ve got.
What am I focusing on?
Nutty in-laws and nutty doctors and nutty dates and nutty stuff that I catch myself doing. But wait…I veer off into pep talks and mindful meanderings and short fiction— which have nothing to do with nuttiness–and then I trek off on a long tangent about rewriting, when I’m obviously not rewriting at all, but merely engaged in nutty activities to sabotage my rewriting efforts.
Hmm, is there a focus here?
And should writers write about the writing process? Some experts answer with an emphatic, “NO.” They say, “Nobody wants to read about your writing process except other writers. You want to attract readers.”
This advice comes from people in-the-know. Like Janet Reid, a literary agent whose informative and witty blog I recommend to all writers who want the skinny on seeking representation.
On the other hand, I hear, “Go ahead, blog about writing. You’re a writer, share what you do. Readers want to know.”
Oh yeah? Says who?
Another blogger. Who has thousands of followers.
Things to ponder.
I was beginning to wonder, as I swiveled ‘round and ‘round in my swivel chair behind the writer’s curtain: is my lack of focus a detriment to readership? I decided to go to the source for an answer. Ask my readers to weigh in.
So I’m asking.
“Why on earth are you reading my blog?”
Don’t get me wrong, I’m delighted that you’re reading. But why did you land here?
The problem is, I don’t know who I’m writing for, so how can I know what to focus on? Which leads me to question number two…
2. Who is your ideal reader?
And just who is my ideal reader? My artistic aunt? Absolutely. My trombone-playing pops? Yep. My singer/songwriter sister? My mother the craftsperson? Okay, anyone beyond my family? What about that guy who blogs about weird stuff in Florida, who wrote that humorous book Lost in Spain? Is Scott Oglesby my ideal reader?
I decided I needed to narrow it down; find my ideal reader. So I went on a scouting mission to where readers congregate: the library. I saw the Japanese man with the giant scissors clipping his junk mail into miniature pieces. I saw the balding guy hunched over the computer checking out porn. Are these my ideal readers? Unlikely.
My ideal reader, I mused, must be somewhere in the age of forty to eighty, probably female, with a good sense of humor, a creative streak, an anxious personality, and a desire to improve herself. Someone who…
Wait, that’s me!
My ideal reader is me!
So, if the ideal reader is me, why blog at all? Why agonize over rewrites and rewrites of rewrites? Why not just write whatever the heck I want whenever I want, print it, and read?
Which leads me to question number three…
3. What is your goal as a blogger?
Another piece of advice I hear from those superpowers-in-power: writers need a platform. Something to stand on so you can shout out your stories to the gathering crowd. But first you’ve got to attract a crowd. And if you don’t have thousands of followers (as those all-knowing ones are quick to warn), a publisher won’t even look at your work.
Yeah, well, who needs a publisher, when there are so many self-publishing opportunities out there?
Hold on. The sad truth of the matter is, if you want others to read what you write, and to buy whatever book you plan to publish, you need followers. Even in days of yore, wandering storytellers needed other bodies to gather ’round the campfire and listen.
So blogging seemed to me like a good place to start.
Now, maybe ten people are following my blog, including me. And if one-tenth actually forks over the dough to purchase my book (the one that I’m blogging about rewriting but not actually rewriting)—if one out of ten buy my as-yet-to-be-completed bestseller, that means I’m blogging for one person.
Which comes back to me.
The ideal reader.
I rest my case.
Except this particular ideal reader is picky and critical and hard to please. I’d rather be writing for someone who is less obsessive, easily amused, and non-judgmental. Like my family. And those other unknown followers.
And, oh yes, Scott Oglesby.
Takeaways this week:
If you’re a beginning blogger, and can’t figure out what to write about, start writing whatever you want. Blog your bloggin’ heart out. Do it for you. Yes, I dare to make such a statement. With a qualifier: post the good stuff. The stuff you would read. Because we all know there’s plenty ‘o stuff in our pile ‘o stuff that ain’t worth posting. Of course, I could be spouting nonsense because I want to feel good about giving myself free-rein. Hmm. More to ponder.
Let’s be honest: if you’re looking for your ideal reader, look in the mirror. Chances are you’ll find him, or her, peering back.
Realize that I might be wrong about all of the above. You might have an ideal reader who is nothing like you–which could make it tricky writing for them. And maybe, maybe, blogging willy-nilly won’t draw any reader, ideal or not. But I’ll bet doughnuts to turnips that if you keep at it you’ll find your niche, settle in, and become that go-to person that your ideal reader goes to.
Want to take a shot at writing a book while blogging? I recommend How to Blog a Book by Nina Amir. She covers the gamut: from deciding on a focus, mapping out the book, building a website, and building a following. For even more information, visit her website: http://howtoblogabook.com/
A great resource for platform-building: Create Your Writer Platform by Chuck Sambuchino. For both fiction and non-fiction writers.