if you’re a fiction writer just starting to blog
“I hope to look through my life at life.” — Maya Angelou
If you’re a fiction writer just starting to blog, you face an interesting challenge: how to pull in your right readers who have never heard of you?
The standard blogging advice is to claim your niche.
Choose a particular topic and become the expert on that topic, the go-to girl or boy for whatever it is that you’re passionate about.
It’s good advice, but authority blogging seems better suited to bloggers who actually have a service or product to sell within that particular niche. They don’t attract ideal readers so much as customers.
Which is kind of the thing about most blogging advice: it’s not really directed at you, oh Fiction Writer. Your interests and passions range across a whole inner landscape. Your area of expertise is your worldview; your service or product (I know, I feel you wincing, but for lack of a better word) is your voice.
But unless you’re already a published writer with a following, no one is going to seek you out for either of those things unless they already know you.
What you have to do as a blogger is to create value for your readers, value that’s immediately obvious – say, in a headline that gets retweeted – to reel them in. This is the point where standard blogging advice is to get inside your reader’s head and think about the problems they have and how you can help solve them: 5 ways to do this and 16 ways to do that.
Which is why some writers will blog about the craft of writing – Sean Platt and Jeff Goins being prominent examples (who do it very well). It’s their area of expertise. It offers up problems of plot, structure and platform that go well with authority blogging: witness the catchy headlines on the cover of any issue of Writer’s Digest.
The problem here is that a) people who are interested in writing are not necessarily interested in reading your kind of fiction
and b) there are sooooooooooo many writing blogs that it might be best to focus on something else in order to differentiate yourself.
Besides, as fiction writers we do wrestle with problems. They just happen to be the kind of abstract, theoretical questions (“Can love conquer all?”) that we ground in the specifics of plot and character and work out through narrative.
And as fiction writers, we have our obsessions: those questions that we’re compelled to ask again and again, entering the same theme through different doorways, like Monet and his water lilies or Degas and his dancers.
How could you take one of those questions and put it at the center of your blog?
Instead of using it as a catchall drawer for random musings, why not turn your blog into a personal quest through asking, researching and answering or exploring different aspects of that central question?
It could be spiritual, emotional, or social.
You can do what great writers, philosophers, and even social scientists have done: used themselves as their best and most original case study, a jumping off point into the universal.
Not only does that relate to your fiction, it can feed your fiction and help to inspire it.
You would have to expand your own experience and insight. You would have to take your thoughts seriously (if yourself, not so seriously). You would have to be bold enough to speak the truth as you see and feel and know it (but boldness can develop over time, with practice and experience, one baby blog post in front of another).
Lauren Cerand once made the awesome observation that social media is something you make. (“We get so hung up on the ‘social’ part, we forget about the ‘media’ part.”) If you don’t like the kind of social media that other people are making, you can make something different. You can experiment and stretch the form, stretch yourself, in ways that serve you (and your readers).
Commit to the learning curve, the process of trial and error, and who knows: as you reach out with your voice — post after post after post — you might find your real voice. As you find your readers, you might find yourself.