The Secrets of Good Blogging

Last week, I wrote a post asking whether writers should blog, and why. I wanted to write a follow-up for the hypothetical writer whose thought things over and decided to go for it. Having made that choice, what next?

Here’s the thing. Blogging is basically self-publishing, with all of the advantages and disadvantages that come with it.

There are exceptions, sure. I know there are paid blogging opportunities, blogs where submissions are reviewed and edited, and so on. But for most of us as writers trying to blog, we’re going the self-publishing route. We’re responsible for our own content, editing, and publishing. There are no gatekeepers. Nobody can reject our posts saying, “Thank you for your submission, but this post doesn’t meet our blog’s needs at this time.”

So how do you stand out? Just as with self-publishing, it can help if you’ve already got an audience. When Frederick Pohl began blogging, a lot of people immediately added that blog to their reading lists, because … well, he’s Frederick Freaking Pohl. But for the rest of us, the secret seems to come down to two words:

Be interesting.

Just as with fiction, you can get away with almost anything, as long as it keeps readers interested.

A lot of people have said they aren’t very good at blogging, that it feels awkward or uncomfortable or unnatural or whatever. And that’s fine. I don’t personally feel like writers have to do this.

But I also think blogging is a learned, practiced skill, just like fiction. My first short stories bit the waxed tadpole. So did my first blog posts. In both cases, I had to learn what I was doing. I had to practice, to study other examples, and to write a lot of crap. (I like to think that neither my fiction nor my blogging bite as much waxed tadpole these days, but I’ll leave it to others to judge whether that practice paid off.)

Be interesting. Be you. I’ve never met an uninteresting person. The trick, as I see it, is learning your own strengths. Your expertise, your passions, your experiences.

And yes, the fact that you wrote a book is interesting … but if the only thing you ever blog about is your book’s Amazon rank, or the fact that someone reviewed your book, or how much you love your book, then the interest is going to wane pretty quickly.

To quote Neil Gaiman, “Use your blog to connect. Use it as you. Don’t ‘network’ or ‘promote.’ Just talk.”

It takes time. Like any self-published author, you’re probably not going to get 10,000 daily readers in your first month. Or even your first year. But if blogging is something you want to do, then trust yourself. Don’t worry about being Neil Gaiman. Be you. Because believe it or not, you’re every bit as interesting as Gaiman. (Okay, maybe you don’t have the accent, but that doesn’t come through online anyway.)

And try to have a little fun while you’re at it.

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  1. 1. margaret y.

    This is helpful. I recently started a blog and was fearful that I’m doing it wrong. It’s a book review blog focusing on a very, very small niche. But I love these particular kinds of books. So as long as I keep that passion for my topic, I think I’ll be okay.

  2. 2. Elias McClellan

    “Okay, maybe you don’t have the accent but that doesn’t come through online anyway.”

    Yeah, but I don’t have the accent or the good hair and some how the good hair does come through online. I think I need to go lie down, under my desk, where hopefully my boss won’t hear me weeping.

  3. 3. Jim C. Hines

    Elias – have you seen my author photo? Believe me, good hair is not a requirement!

  4. 4. Jim C. Hines

    Margaret – running with my self-publishing analogy, in the pre-Kindle days, I was always told that self-publishing works best with a niche topic/audience. So from that perspective, it sounds like you’re off to a great start :-)

    More seriously, if it’s something you’re passionate about, I expect that will come through and attract others who share the same passion.

  5. 5. Rabia

    “Don’t worry about being Neil Gaiman. Be you. Because believe it or not, you’re every bit as interesting as Gaiman. (Okay, maybe you don’t have the accent, but that doesn’t come through online anyway.)”

    I have a little bit of that English accent still. Does that help? *grin*

    Seriously, thanks for this post. It’s very encouraging.

  6. 6. Karen Woodward

    Jim, thanks for writing this blog post, lately I’ve been discouraged about blogging and this was the pick-me-up I needed. I’ve subscribed to your blog. :) Cheers!

  7. 7. Deborah Blake

    “Be interesting.” Ha! You say that like it’s easy :-)

  8. 8. Elias McClellan

    @Deborah Blake, yeah, best I’ve come up with so far is an insightful and witty discourse on toe fungus. Something tells me this just isn’t going to sing.

  9. 9. Mindy Klasky

    Methinks you are a bit too modest – the tone of your blog is unique, and the way you approach difficult topics is what keeps people coming back. That said, thanks for this post, which makes a lot of sense!

  10. 10. Jim C. Hines

    Modest? Pbbt. I am AWESOME!

    Joking aside, I agree with you that tone matters … but I think the tone of the blog determines which people will find it interesting/entertaining. I’ve seen bloggers who, in my opinion, come off as total dicks, but they do it in a way that attracts readers. It doesn’t tend to be the kind of thing I want to read, but there’s no such thing as a blog (or book) that’s going to appeal to everyone.

  11. 11. Simon Haynes

    ‘Be interesting’ is right. Back in 2006 I blogged about a slice of toast with an amusing shape, and that particular post has been seen 25-30 times MORE than anything else I’ve written since.

    I guess that’s why many bloggers go for quirky lolz, hoping it’ll go viral.

  12. 12. Pedro Ramirez III

    Simple. And yet… challenging. Thx for the post.

  13. 13. Stuart Clark

    JIm,
    I think you are absolutely right in what you say but there’s a double edged sword here. A lot of advice out there promotes blooging regularly to keep people coming back. I think the problem is that people don’t necessarily think they have something interesting to say every. single. day.
    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with blogging only when you feel like you have an interesting topic to write about. You might not be a frequent blogger, but at least you are interesting. In that particular situation, it helps to have a blog roll like this, where many different bloggers are contributing to it and keeping the blog lively, even though contributors are dipping in and out.
    Thanks for a thoughtful and interesting post ;-)

  14. 14. Stuart Clark

    Sorry, that should be blogging, although I’d be interested to see what a bloog looks like!

  15. 15. Sabine A. Reed

    Love the concept of equating blogging to self-publishing. Never thought of it that way. Good comparison. I think authors should blog only if they really want to, and not for promoting because seriously how much promoting can you do. Sooner or later, you are going to run out of steam, but if you are blogging because you love it and it makes you feel good…then you will be more persistent…and persistent is key to success.

  16. 16. Jeff Stover

    Good advice. I think the pressure to be a “purple cow” (yes, Godin reference intended) is strong, but just putting yourself out there is all that is needed. I’ve read some good blogs by writers about writing, but I never cared about reading their books. They blogged to get rankings, not to connect to readers.

    Thanks for the post, and the nod from Gaiman.

  17. 17. Ariel

    This is really interesting. I’m an incredibly young [[God, too young to be writing is what I think sometimes.]] “Aspiring” novelist, and I was considering blogging, but I’m not quite sure what sites would be best to start on. Would you mind spouting off some examples for me? Much appreciated. Thank you.

Pingbacks

  1. Being interesting | Elizabeth Shack
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Author Information

Jim C. Hines

Jim C. Hines' latest book is THE SNOW QUEEN'S SHADOW, the fourth of his fantasy adventures that retell the old fairy tales with a Charlie's Angels twist. He's also the author of the humorous GOBLIN QUEST trilogy. Jim's short fiction has appeared in more than 40 magazines and anthologies, including Realms of Fantasy, Turn the Other Chick, and Sword & Sorceress XXI. Jim lives in Michigan with his wife and two children. He's currently hard at work on LIBRIOMANCER, the first book in a new fantasy series. Visit site.

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