Should You Blog? And If So, What Are Best Practices?

Photo credit: Laughing Squid

More writers are blogging than ever. And if you’re not blogging already, you’ve probably considered it. Recently, a writer asked me via Facebook about blogging.

She said:

[It is] my impression that blogs related to writing are primarily written by people with expertise in their field and who have valuable advice and connections within the industry. Now, however, I am checking around and I see that many writers, even writers who are unpublished — and some who appear very far from being published — have blogs, also where they discuss writing and their completed works and/or works in progress. These people generally have direct links to their blogs that become available when they sign their name (or their blog name) when commenting on another blog. So, I suppose they are doing some marketing for themselves.

So, my question is: Should I have a blog?

This writer had some serious reservations about starting a blog, and here’s how I answered her questions.

1. I don’t feel like I have much in the way of valuable advice. What kind of advice do I have to dispense?

For aspiring writers (especially novelists), it often comes down to a matter of voice—an engaging voice, humorous insights, or a unique perspective to bring to the table.

Sometimes you may have specific advice, sometimes not. For many aspiring writers who blog, it’s about a community—writers who are learning from one another. It helps if you can identify what about your experience sets you apart, but this insight may not occur for 6 months or more of blogging.

Don’t assume your blog should be specifically about writing. It could be about whatever sets you apart, makes you unique. The writing life can simply be an accent.

2. One person mentioned on his blog that a literary agent looked at his blog, saw his complaints about the issues remaining with his book, and decided not to look at his book. I suppose it seems obvious that you shouldn’t write negative things about your work on your blog, but to me this seems like one example of potentially many examples of why a BAD blog could be worse than no blog at all.

There’s always that risk that an editor/agent will be turned off by your site or blog. Frankly, though, if you’re sending out material knowing there are still issues to resolve, you should be getting rejected. (Never send material out that isn’t as final as you can make it!)

If an agent/editor is turned off by your site/blog, they may not like your style or voice, regardless of content or professionalism. If your blog is a good representation of who you are as a writer (and most blogs are), then it would be like worrying about a potential mate who decides not to start a relationship with you because he/she doesn’t like your personality. Saves you both some trouble, right?

3. I know nothing about blogging, so I feel my chances of writing a bad blog are sufficiently high that I should be concerned.

Maybe you worry too much. This could a unique angle to your blog.

4. Since blogs need to be updated on a regular basis and you have to respond to your commentors, I feel like a blog could be a significant time sink. I just wonder if my time isn’t better spent working on my next book.

This is a legitimate concern, but only because you would fall in love with blogging and community building and not do the real writing.

The administrative part of the blog (design/setup/posting/blahblahblah) takes no time at all (minutes). Many people fall into the trap of widget-y improvements, or the fun tinkering, the stuff that you do to avoid writing.

You should decide upfront how much time you want to spend (or can afford), e.g., I will post once a week, the post will be about 500 words. It can actually be a good warm-up exercise.

Try not to plan this out too much or wait to act because you feel lots of preparation is needed. Overplanning or overthinking is somewhat antithetical to today’s blogging practice (except for professional bloggers who make a living at it).

5. One final concern: if I post excerpts from my novel on my blog, is that a problem down the road? I see that many authors do post excerpts from their unpublished books. Do you know if posting excerpts is a problem?

You do not lose ownership of your content by posting it online; it does not go into the public domain or give anyone else the right to use it. (Of course, it can heighten risk of someone stealing it, but this is incredibly rare, and it’s not like there’s raging demand out there for unpublished writing—where people are just waiting to steal and profit from your work!)

Unless you want to see your excerpts published in a literary journal or magazine in about the same form as on your site/blog, there’s no need to worry. Your blog audience and platform is not the same thing as having a book published and distributed through major retail channels. Some authors have podcasted or otherwise distributed their entire novels before publication, and it helped them get a book deal. (See

So, what do you think? Do you think that *trying* to start a blog is a valuable investment for me at this stage?

For fiction writers and poets, a blog should exercise your creative muscles and let you write in an unpressured way. Sometimes it can help you stumble on insights, as well as new friendships. However, for an aspiring writer, you have to be careful it doesn’t detract or replace the “real” work of writing the book or the manuscript.

For nonfiction writers, blogs can be an essential part of your marketing and promotion—the author platform that helps you get published in the first place.

Only you can make the final decision. While you shouldn’t jump in just
because everyone else is doing it, sometimes it’s good to try things
that stretch you beyond your comfort zone. Blogging isn’t for everyone, and
there’s no shame in leaving it behind if you don’t like it.

I’d love to hear in the comments from aspiring writers who are bloggers. What’s your experience? Has anyone started, then decided to stop—and why?

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0 thoughts on “Should You Blog? And If So, What Are Best Practices?

  1. Donna Gambale

    I must confess, I was originally a blog-doubter. But about 1.5 years into writing my YA novel, the members of my critique group and I decided to start one. Honestly, I’m in love. Blogs are useful networking tools for all genres, but I feel they’re especially important for YA.

    I’ve begun relationships with so many people in the blogosphere – YA book bloggers, readers, published authors, and aspiring writers. I’ve learned so much from reading others’ blogs, and as our readership builds at First Novels Club, I feel like we’re reciprocating! I’m definitely finding my voice as a blogger, and as a group we’re learning what makes us stand out from the crowd.

    It’s hard not to let blogging suck up too much time, but there are too many benefits to make me want to stop anytime soon! Overall though, the blogosphere support system for the YA genre is incredible.

  2. Lucy Coats

    I’m a children’s/YA author in the UK. Have been blogging roughly once a week for about a year–but not necessarily exclusively about writing (although I do often). My editor lets me know that he looks, so I am very careful. I definitely use blogging as a creative starter motor–it gets me into the right frame of mind if my work is stuck or not going well. I enjoy the comments and interaction, but don’t let it rule my life. I’m also on a daily blog called An Awfully Big Blog Adventure with several other UK kidlit authors. I joined Twitter too–quite recently–and find that an invaluable source of articles/blogs of a bookish nature. I found a link to this blog there, after all, so it obviously worked as a platform for you, Jane!

    Lucy @

  3. Phillipa Fioretti

    I started blogging not long after I was offered a publishing contract at the start of this year. I enjoy it and find it has improved my writing skills, my analytical skills and given me hours of pleasure. I have a small band of followers, I post regularly on all aspects of writing, creativity, the themes in my books. I’m actually a little taken aback that others are interested in reading what I write, but like most creative endeavours, I derive the most satisfaction from it and that’s what motivates me to keep going.

  4. Patience Coale Renzulli

    My blog makes my writing much less lonely. It allows me to test readers’ reactions to my work, and provides that life-sustaining instant gratification!
    Thank you for this blog. See? This is another ginormous benefit of blogging: discovering other blogs. Agents, editors, newly published authors, other aspiring authors. There is a wealth of information, critical advice, and support in blogland.

  5. Jane Koenen Bretl

    As an aspiring writer, I find blogging is well worth my time.

    1. In the eight months since I started my blog, I have used it as an "idea incubator", starting story ideas that I can blow out and expand into pieces I can submit for publication. I can receive almost instant feedback on what strikes a cord with my readers. Some posts generate such encouraging comments; yet other stories that I thought were quite funny? All I hear after posting is crickets… It’s all useful feedback.

    2. Blogging provides additional incentive to write daily, even when I don’t feel the words. I don’t post daily anymore, but I try to work on posts every day for future use.

    3. Blogging has been a wonderful networking tool. I have "met" many other aspiring and published writers through their blogs, or they found me through mine. We share advice and offer encouragement. I learn more about the publishing industry and writing craft with many of these interactions; I’ve helped revise query letters and reviewed first reader copies for other writers. Their writing inspires me and I find I gain more in experience than the time I give.

    4. Most importantly for me, blogging is a fun way to write. I can use my own voice and each time I do it, I continue to develop my own style.

  6. David O'Connor Thompson

    I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now and would hate someone to judge my writing by what I post. My style and tone vary considerably depending on the subject matter, my mood, even the time of day when it gets written. This is very unlike my professional writing where I devote considerable time to stylistic issues.

    All the other points you make, I totally agree with.

    Blogging is writing and, therefore, something writers should do. As Lisa, in the previous comment, observes, it is useful in developing your skills – you can try things out for a public who will not be too harsh in their criticism.

  7. Lisa Katzenberger

    After I’d been blogging for a few months, I found that it helped me develop a more casual writing style. With a background as a technical writer, it took some practice for me to have fun with my writing. So blogging has helped me find my personal voice, and that’s creeped into my creative writing, too. It’s really helping me round out my writing skills.

  8. Shannon Reinbold-Gee

    As an author with a debut YA paranormal series (13 to Life, initially written under my pseudonym) launching in June 2010, blogging regularly is an important aspect of reminding people about my existence before the first novel hits shelves.

    I try to keep my posts readable–many are about writing and werewolves and the paranormal, as well as cellphone novels (since that’s how 13 to Life got its start). I also have hosted a blog tour for other authors and will be doing blog tours and guest blogs at some of their sites as the release date for 13 to Life approaches.

    I’m thinking more and more about "branding" as I go and I’m studying other author blogs–specifically those of bestsellers to try and see what I like and what the public responds to. This whole journey into publishing (thanks to St. Martin’s Press) is an amazing adventure that definitely keeps me hopping!

    I think more authors should blog occasionally to have contact with their fans and potential fans. We’ve come a long way since it was accepted for an author to write a book and live life as a recluse. 😉

  9. Cathy Shouse

    I’ve been published extensively in nonfiction for several years, mostly in newspapers, as well as some magazines. A couple of years ago, newspapers started to get blogs and since one of my areas of expertise is personal finance, I offered to do one for a mid-size newspaper (it’s for a city about 20 miles from where I live).

    I knew I wouldn’t keep it up if I were "talking to myself." I do that with my fiction, so far. At first, the newspaper sometimes featured my subject lines on the home page. Some months I had 3,000 hits. Then they changed formats and things dropped off. They haven’t given me the numbers for awhile. I’m not paid but they want me to blog at least four times a week, so I do. It takes some time but my topic is very broad (everything relates to money, or at least I make sure it does 🙂 Whenever I’m introduced locally, people mention the blog. I’m sure there are pros and cons to affiliating with a newspaper, since editors probably won’t find me there. I’m at, then scroll down on the right to Cathy Shouse "Personal Finance." It’s definitely helped me find my voice and write regularly on something that isn’t an assignment.

  10. Eric J. Krause

    I have some short stories published on the web, but no novels or anything big yet. I do blog, however. I think it’s good to get in the habit now because when I someday do have a novel to promote, I’ll have some people already reading, and therefore a pre-made audience to hear about it. On my blog, I can give advice on things I feel I’m good at, post links to short stories that get published, and I also started posting flash fiction every Friday for something I found on Twitter called #fridayflash. That has upped the traffic to my blog and to the number of people who know I’m a writer. Again, a possible future audience. All in all, I think a blog is an excellent tool for both published and unpublished authors.

  11. Livia

    I mulled over the expertise question quite a bit when starting my blog. Since I’m not published yet, why would people want to listen to my writing advice? For that reason, I decided to focus on analyzing examples of good writing from published fiction and reviewing craft books rather than preach my own writing tips.

    The addiction factor is a constant struggle. Google analytics is a dangerous black hole!

  12. Reesha

    I followed the advice of many bloggers who are published and have started building my plaform.
    As I look back over my posts and what I’ve been doing, I realize that my blogging and reading other people’s blogs have become a time sink for me.

    Thanks for this post to remind me to cut it back a bit!
    Also, I’m being patient. Not a lot of peope are reading my blog right now, but every now and then I hear about someone who’s been reading all along and I didn’t know about it.
    When I get discouraged about writing or building my platform, or even lonely, I imagine lots of lurkers who secretly read my blog, are interested in what I have to say, and love my work.

    I was once told to approach things like this with the attitude that the person who you’re interacting with loves you and is generally interested in what you have to say. The worst case scenario is that they hate you and aren’t interested in what you have to say, and then you or they move on. There are lots of people out there. Lots of possibilities someone who likes what you have to say will find you.

  13. Marie Devers


    I am an unpublished-writer blogger, and here is what I love about blogging:

    1. It gives me a homebase on the Web. I’m not ready for a Web site yet. When I send out queries, however, important people can Google me and quickly see that I write daily and coherently. They can also find my email and twitter addresses.

    2. It’s how I found my beta readers. There are four of us. We each have a blog where we pimp each other out. We also have great email sessions, where we perform group emergency surgery on queries that aren’t working and where we celebrate when one of our own gets an offer of representation (She’s signing tomorrow!).

    3. As solitary as writing can be, it’s nice to have someone to report to, and I feel like my blog readers are my boss. It’s much, much harder to give up when you’ve publicly announced that you are trying to publish a novel and people all over the world support your efforts.

  14. LK Hunsaker

    I’ve been blogging for years and it did take time to build an audience, but it’s a great way to interact and get feedback. My books revolve around the arts along with societal issues, so on my blog I do book and music reviews, author interviews, artistic musings that reveal my writing voice and style, and some minor societal issue entries. It shows who I am and what I’m about. I think free promo is something every up-and-coming author should consider seriously. Blogs are free promo. Start early and build your audience before your books come out if they haven’t yet.

    Personally, I think blogs strictly about writing should be left to professionals with plenty of experience. Are you trying to attract writers or readers? Who is your target audience for your books? Write to them.

  15. Jeff Posey

    I started a blog this spring and began using Twitter a short time later. I post short scenes and character interviews outside my core in-progress novel but that illuminate it.

    My lesson? This has been a great way to explore my main storyline and has inspired me to increase my average weekly writing output toward my novel, even while spending perhaps two-to-four hours per week on the blog and Twitter activity.

    Besides, it’s a load of fun.

  16. Teri Coyne

    I started my blog around the same time I sold my debut novel. I committed to posting once a week or more but not less. It has been a great experience as an aspiring writer, not only did it help connect me to an audience but by syndicating to Facebook, Amazon and other places, it allows me to share my writing out from a central location.

    Having a blog before I built my website was also a good way for me to post information for a nominal cost. As my website was being designed, I had my URL ( point to the blog. There are so many widgets and options available for blogs, you can create a nice site as a starting point.

    In my monthly newsletter to readers I link back to my blog and use it as a source for important updates. It works well.