Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Truth About Blogging

So I was whining on Twitter that I couldn't figure out what to blog about, and the lovely @LunaCatBooks said: Blog about blogging and why it is important for a writer to be involved in social media :-).

Oh, Luna, that is quite the topic, and as usual I shall address it with utmost honesty.

Truth #1
I've been blogging about 3 1/2 years now. Which, wow. In those three years this online community has changed so much. I've changed so much! And this world will continue to change, probably a lot faster than we realize.

I love the blogging community. I love seeing people passionate about reading and writing. I love learning and growing with this community. I love the discussions and support and insert-more-gushing here. Seriously, blogging has done so much for me. I met my crit partners online. I won a contest that ultimately led to getting my first agent. I've had the chance to interact with amazing writers I never thought I'd know personally.

There is no denying that blogging has a lot to offer a writer. It's an outlet, and, of course, a way to build what some people call a "fan base," but I think that sounds so...shrewd. As social media has exploded, people seem more concerned with the "Like" button than earning real approval. I personally get turned off when people go "Follow" crazy. You know what I mean—"Follow me and win this! Spread the word so more people will follow me and you'll get a better prize!" For me, that smacks of gathering followers just for the sake of having a nice big number. A "fanbase."

But are they really interested in you? Or do they want the prize? Will they ever read your blog again?

Blogging is not about the numbers; it's about people. I prefer to think of it more like moving into a neighborhood, becoming part of something, caring and being cared for in return. Whether that neighborhood is big or small, you treat it with respect and love. So you know, I don't see any of you as my fan base—you are my colleagues, my friends, my mentors. There is no difference between us, save the fact that I may be ahead or behind you in the journey.

Honestly, it irks me that some people look at blogging and see dollar signs, potential readers, etc. It's like having one of those neighbors who constantly tries to sell you some miracle juice he invented. You're not a person to him—you're a buyer. I don't like people coming into my place and treating my friends like that, either.

The people who see success through blogging never intended it to happen. They came here, got involved, gave back, and became part of a very supportive community over a long period of time.

Truth #2
Sometimes it seems that people forget the blogging community is just that—a single community. Not the entire world. Not even the entire industry. And honestly, a very small percentage of our actual target audiences.

Yes, being active in blogging can help you, but we have to remember that it is not the be all end all of publishing success. I mean, I have more followers than some extremely successful and amazing PUBLISHED authors. Their audience is far, far more than this community, and it's that audience, out there, that is really the most important one.

That should put things into perspective, because that's how skewed things are. If you think the online writing community is a perfect representation of this business, then you'd think 90% of writers write YA, 99% of writers are female, that the only good agents are the ones who are active online, and same goes for editors. All of which is not true.

We can't forget that this is a great community, but it's not everything. Let's not get so focused on ourselves that we can't see what's outside.

Do I want you guys to approve of me? Of course. I like you, and I hope you like me. But at the end of the day I don't write books for other aspiring writers—I want to write books for teens. Who don't read my blog en masse. Who couldn't care less about it. Who have no clue who I am. (Yet;P) I am SO happy that you support and root for me (and I hope you'll continue even after this post), but they are the readers I aspire to grab. Like I said, you are my teammates.

It's so easy to get caught up in the daily dramas of our community, but the vast majority of it won't destroy careers or, conversely, propel you to major bestsellerdom. So be involved, but don't sweat it too much. Enjoy yourself.

Truth #3
People are constantly spouting out rules. How to blog, what to blog and what not to blog. What to write and what not to write. Be happy all the time. Be funny. Be this and that ALL AT THE SAME TIME.

The truth? Good bloggers follow their own rules. In fact, sometimes they rebel against The Rules altogether. They carve a place for themselves by being unique, by creating an honest, appealing persona.

BUT. That doesn't mean you're seeing 100% authenticity.

Yup, the girl you see on this blog isn't exactly who I am. If you met me, I'd be nervous and short on words. I'm horrible at small talk, and large crowds in particular freak me out. I would likely gravitate to corners and people I'm familiar with, which might make you think I don't like you but really I'm afraid YOU won't like ME.

I don't run around revealing my honest opinions to everyone, or my struggles, etc., like I do on my blog. I don't look like my pretty profile picture all the time...or even most of the time. I'm not very funny—I'm the one who thinks of all the funny replies AFTER the conversation is over. Luckily, you don't see my truly horrifying and irrational freak outs. You don't see my pity parties (in all their glory, at least), either.

These are GOOD things. There should be a barrier between your public and personal life.

You know me, but not all of me. Does that make sense? And I don't know you completely, either. I know your public, online face and vice versa. And your faces are all so pretty (or handsome).

Those are my blogging truths today. Again, I adore this community, and I hope to be part of it for a long, long time.


  1. So very, very true.

    I definitely view blogging friends as relationships, not numbers, and I think that is why I enjoy it so much.

  2. Wait, I don't know you?!? What are you hiding from me, woman. :) Loved this post. So. True.

  3. LOVE LOVE LOVE all of this. I love my small blog community, I love to see the outside of that community, and I love knowing that the 30 subscribers I have subscribed because they felt a connection with me — not because we're looking for our next leg up. :)

    Lisa Kilian

  4. I am the same kind of person in real life that you are. I'd be in the corner on the opposite side with the people I know. (I would probably be on the same side, if I actually knew you, instead of read you.) Cause, gees. What if you didn't like the real me?

    Thanks for your honest thoughts about blogging. I think you are right on. The times I enjoy it the most are when I just write for writing's sake and stop worrying about numbers and people and fanbase and whatever.

  5. I have to admit, I first got into blogging to make connections that might get me published. That may very well happen and I certainly wouldn't complain, but I'm starting to realize the real value of a blog is just getting to know people. I enjoy splashing some of my thoughts on the screen and seeing who chimes in. Getting comments makes my whole day now! It really is about the relationships you build.

  6. Couldn't agree more.

    I get tired of people talking about blogs in a constant noise of money and cold-calculation.

    I've always wanted my blog to be about expression and even blowing off some steam. And community, yes, it should totally be about that.

    Your points are refreshing and down-to-earth. I think you'll gain more followers after this one.

  7. When you started talking about being the person in the corner who's afraid they won't like you and who doesn't reveal things, I started going, Oh my gosh. Me. Too. You're not alone! And this whole post, it's so true. Thanks for the fresh, honest insight. :)

  8. Oh, thank you, thank you! It's so refreshing - and affirming - to hear.

    We need to hang out in the corner together and chat ;-)

  9. You are so right, it's just that a community and we need to follow our own set of rules.
    And I loved the way you opened up to tell us some of what you're like off-blog - you might as well been describing me ;-)(and gave me an idea for a blog post :) Thanks!)

  10. And this post, sweet Natalie, is EXACTLY why we love you. You're so real, so honest, so refreshing, so inspiring.

    The on-line writing community IS amazing. From Twitter to blogs, there are so many cool folks out there-- an ocean full of support. And for me you're a huge part of all that's good. Great blog, great voice, cool posts. I don't blog, but I tweet (and it was a fellow YA writer who urged me to get on Twitter), and your truths apply to Twitter too.

    Blog on, Natalie. You write it, we'll read it.
    P.S. And thank heavens you didn't tweet about Peeps :) (Which, I discovered after trying one today for the first time, are truly nasty. They also hold their shape in the microwave, which is slightly disturbing. :)) Although, considering how well you write, you could have blogged about Peeps and I'd bet it would have been a brilliant post. 'nuff said.

  11. I do agree that teens do not read these blogs and we're reaching out to other authors. And the numbers aren't as important as getting to be friends.

    And even though I haven't followed you for long, I was worried when you posted that you were going off line for awhile. It's important that we care about each other and help each other through those rough times.

  12. Great post - I didn't toss my blog up until after I was agented. Initially, yes I wanted to get myself "out there," but a couple of months into it, I'm doing the blog for the sake of the blog. My followers rock and I enjoy their comments as much as they seem to enjoy my posts.

  13. Could not agree more. I think most bloggers will go through a phase (or several, lol) where they worry about numbers and audience -- I know I did -- but eventually they'll realize exactly what you've said: that's not what this is about.

    I'm SO happy about the people I've met and the conversations I've had through blogging. People like you! :)

  14. I feel like I'm much more interested in getting to know other people through blogging than having them get to know me (and it shows in my blogging or lack there of). Maybe that will make for bad marketing. I don't know. My blog is more a way for me to keep active in a community I love. And to occasionally share my silly ideas or ask for feedback. I'm grateful for that. My true writing heart goes into my books and poetry. I've never felt particularly skilled at writing creative non-fiction, which is what a blog is in my opinion. I know I could grow and become better at it if I worked harder at it, and I'm definitely better than I used to be.

  15. Your truths are all very, VERY true.

    My target audience is little kids, I mean 4-8 right now and up to around 12 when the novel comes out. Very few blog readers are of that deomgraphic.

    But I don't care. Blogging gives me a place to be on-line that I feel somewhat comfortable with. And I appreciate the peers I have met here.

    And I'd be sitting in the corner, too, small-talk hater that I am!

    You said many things I've been thinking for a while. (Except that I couldn't figure out how to say it.)


  16. I'm so glad you wrote that! (And not just because I feel like a pimp right now that you took my sugestion, lol!)

    For me personally, reading the blogs of other writers has taught me SO much about not only 'the industry' but about the actual practice of writing.

    I love seeing other writers succeed and to know that we have all gone throught the same struggles along the way. It's a community that supports one another and I'm happy to be apart of it.

    I cannot agree more that (for me) it's not about the 'like' button or how many followers you get. It's all about the people. The people like us.

  17. I agree 100%. I have been 'trying' to follow the 'rules', but it really isn't me. I hate feeling like people are judging every word that comes out of my mouth and that I have to be perfect all the time. Some people seem to come by that naturally. Not I.

  18. I never knew there were rules to blogging which is probably a good thing since I seem to have broken most of them. I agree with all your truths especially about followers. I love to read your blog though I don't read your genre. And I've actually blogged about you, at least a couple of times, because I love your attitude & most especially your spirit! I'm so happy to see you blogging regularly again.

  19. Great great great post. I never thought about blogging until I started taking my writing seriously. I'd heard it's good for networking and learning, and I've done both over the last year. I can't even tell you how much I've learned about writing, publishing, etc. And I've also met my two critique partners through blogging. While my "followers" I've gained aren't necessarily the market I'm writing for, I do know they will support me--because they already do, through their encouragement, advice, their own experiences... and I am thrilled to be able to support and encourage them as well. I LOVE the community I've found on here.

  20. Very well said, Natalie, and quite true.

  21. "If you met me, I'd be nervous and short on words. I'm horrible at small talk, and large crowds in particular freak me out. I would likely gravitate to corners and people I'm familiar with, which might make you think I don't like you but really I'm afraid YOU won't like ME."

    Oh my gosh, it's like I wrote this!

  22. I certainly follow my own rules when blogging - and I honestly don't care if my blog is crap or not. LOL.

  23. I've thought a lot about my blog double, lately. I'm not REALLY that girl all my blogging friends know. I mean, I'm much less (all good qualities that you may garner from my blog posts) in real life. I have to wonder if we were all put in a room together IN THE FLESH how would qe get along? Hmmm. Sounds like a good blog post.

  24. What a great post. I think what makes a great blog is authenticity. You certainly have that. (Although, as you say, your authentic blog self doesn't have to be identical to your in-person self.)

  25. Thank you, Natalie. This is what I struggle with most of all. I like blogging a lot, but I hate the "how do I get more followers" game. It's not me. I may not get many comments but I feel that those who do comment want to be there, you know? Like friends. And really, at the end of the day, if blogging is taking away from my writing time - which it has lately - I need to reevalute my priorities.

    Are you sure you're not my long lost twin? We are so much alike, lol.

  26. What a great post. I'm also the girl that would hide in the corner and be afraid people won't like me. I'm going to a conference next week and I'm terrified I'll be too shy to say anything to anyone!
    Blogging has sort of gotten me out of my shell more. I've loved making friends through commenting on other blogs and receiving comments on mine. I haven't been blogging very long, but I've made some great friends already! I love seeing what they are up to, and I look forward to their posts. I don't know if I'll ever have a lot of followers, and truthfully I don't really care. I love the relationships I'm building with my online friends. They make me happy. :)

  27. I've been following you for awhile now, and always find you encouraging, but this particular post really spoke to me. It is so easy to get lost in the "popularity" game, wanting to be liked, especially when you have 5 followers and 4 of them are directly related to you. I always have to remind myself that I didn't start a blog to be followed. I started it as an outlet to share my fears, hopes, thoughts, and doubts. The things that I find myself unable to to voice in the "real" world. So thank you for validating my cathartic musings! Keep up the good work!

    On a completely different note, can I just say that I love love LOVE that you used the word irk! It's one of my favorite words and drives my husband up the wall every time I use it. Glad to see someone else putting it to good use ;)

  28. "I would likely gravitate to corners and people I'm familiar with, which might make you think I don't like you but really I'm afraid YOU won't like ME."
    I'm the same way. I'm shy and terrible in social situations. I tend to say what is on my mind and that can be off putting, I know. Even online, though, I still find it difficult to open up and insert myself into 'conversations' (i.e. comments). I've been reading your blog for awhile, but I think I've posted 3 or 4 times.

    Thanks for the wonderful post, as usual. Rock on!

  29. Love your post, Natalie. Your truths just reek of ... truth. And honesty. We can never say spontaneously what seems to come out so well on paper--assuming we don't hit the post button too quickly.

  30. You always write the truth! I'm so glad to have found this blogging community. I've learned so much from it. But yeah, there's a lot more beyond it. Hard to remember sometimes ;)

  31. Well said, Natalie, especially the last part. :)

  32. I'm not sure I've ever commented, but I've been following your blog since around January. I'd just like to say that no, most teenagers don't read your blog, but as a 14-almost-15-year-old, I think I qualify. But then, I'm also an aspiring writer. And I blog, too. But my point is that ... well, I'm not sure what my point is. Maybe that I defy conformity? Oh, here's a better point: while blogs don't really draw in most readers, they draw in some, who draw in others, who draw in others. For example, I read Kiersten White's blog (which is how I found this place)so I decided to read Paranormalcy. Then I recommended it to all my friends and they did the same.
    This target-audience(ish) reader? Definitely drawn in. And I haven't even read more than an excerpt or two from any novels you've written!
    (My verification word was "coromama". Just thought I'd share that strange tidbit.)

  33. Just found you on Twitter and after this post I will follow you for your honesty. I am new to blogging--well I've started many but the one that is sticking is (forgive the plug but I'd love for you to fine me, as well. But if you don't, I want you to know how you have put my hat on straight today. Yes, I want people to follow me and hire me to help them with their writing. That was my motivation a few weeks ago when I began my blog. But I find that, like any writing, if you immerse yourself, it takes you where it wants you to go. I now write my posts for the thrill of writing about something I'm passionate about--writing. I have three followers, 1 is a friend. That's all I may ever have. But my few minutes--or hours--of posting allows me to touch that place inside me that needs to write. I'm finishing up 15 years on a literary (I hope) novel set in 19th century Ireland that fits no genre. I've published other books, this is my first novel, my current reason for living, sort of. Your post tells me that when I write from my heart, whether it is food writing, fiction, blogging, I am fulfilling myself, which is why we all write--which is the truest way to reach others. Many thanks for this post.

  34. I don't get a lot of time for blog-surfing, but when I do, yours is one of the first ones I check out. All the stuff you said about the reasons writers should blog are evident on your blog. It's a very friendly, honest place to hang out. I've learned tons here too. Thanks! :)