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What Should Fiction Writers Blog About?

Categories: Blogging, Blogging for Writers, Build a Platform & Start Blogging, Building Readership, Freelance Writer, Article Writing, Marketing & Self-Promotion.

I often receive the following question at conferences and via e-mail and blog comments:

It seems easier for nonfiction writers to offer free content through their blogs (e.g. how-to tips). Could you share tips on how fiction writers can make that work?

There are many ways to approach this, which ought to be guided by your own interests, strengths, and eccentricities, but here are a few things to think about.

  1. Serialize your work—which can be done in many mediums, not just a blog. Scott Sigler and Seth Harwood are the most well-known models when it comes to audio serialization.
  2. Share interesting information or thoughts related to research or themes in your work. Writers, by their very nature, usually read, observe, and discuss some very fascinating topics. You can blog about these things.
  3. Be creative in how you present information related to yourself or your characters. For example, YA author Megan McCafferty started a blog based on her own diaries from when she was a teenager. She calls it the (retro)blog. Another YA author, John Green, has a YouTube video series that’s wildly popular (but not necessarily about his fiction work).
  4. Write book reviews or do interviews with other writers about their work, the writing process, etc.
  5. Partner with other authors for a group blog. Here’s an example of a good one: The Whine Sisters

I’m sure I don’t have the best list, though—I’m always searching for novelists as well as aspiring writers who are doing something interesting online.

What novelists or aspiring fiction writer blogs do you follow? Have you seen anyone with a ground-breaking strategy? Who would you like to see interviewed here on their blogging strategy?

Good resource on the big-picture
Get Known Before the Book Deal by Christina Katz offers a chapter on how fiction writers can build platform.

Also see my post: Fiction Writers Need Platforms, Too

Photo credit: Lady Madonna

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42 Responses to What Should Fiction Writers Blog About?

  1. Hart Johnson says:

    I find that if you want a read readership, you either need to be helpful or be amusing, and it didn’t take long to figure out I’m not a utility model. I read several of both kinds though (only including author blogs here):

    Favorite helpful blogs:
    http://mysterywritingismurder.blogspot.com/
    http://straightfromhel.blogspot.com/

    Favorite for entertainment value:
    http://thealliterativeallomorph.blogspot.com/
    http://bmillerfiction.blogspot.com/
    http://cherrytart.wordpress.com/
    http://www.imnothannah.com/

    Those favorites have very little in common except frequent humor and REALLY TRUE voice. I think mine hangs with them pretty well though:

    http://waterytart23.blogspot.com/

  2. Some great tips and comments worth sharing with authors! The sky is the limit as far as ideas go – authors can write about their characters, or in character, about their writing process, hot button issues in the industry… and so on. We offered a few ideas on our blog as well: http://amarketingexpert.com/ameblog/uncategorized/blogging-what-on-earth-do-i-talk-about/.

  3. David Abrams says:

    Like others have said, this comes as good timing for me since I just started a blog (The Quivering Pen) at the beginning of this month. I’ve been struggling to strike the right balance between discussing the writing process, excerpts from my work in progress, and book/writing news.

    One question I do have, however: is it possible to post *too* many excerpts from your writing on your blog? And what do agents and publishers think about writers who preview their work before it’s been edited (or even accepted for publication)? Just wondering if any of you other fiction bloggers ever put limits on yourself.

    David
    The Quivering Pen: http://davidabramsbooks.blogspot.com/

  4. Great post, and great comments! One fiction writer’s blog I really enjoy is the one maintained by author and professor Tayari Jones (http://tayarijones.com/blog/). Tayari blogs about her current projects, her travels to conferences/readings/residencies, other people’s new books/successes, and so much more. She’s very generous in her link roundups, too.

    Two other blogworthy topics I wanted to mention. First, there’s still time for authors/bloggers to join in the Short Story Month Collection Giveaway Project (see http://fictionwritersreview.com/blog/the-short-story-month-2010-the-collection-giveaway-project). My own Collection Giveaway Project post happens to be my second-most-commented-on post this week (you can find it at http://practicing-writing.blogspot.com/2010/05/short-story-month-2010-collection.html).

    Second observation: My story collection, *Quiet Americans*, will be out in January, and I’ve been chronicling the pre-publication process on my blog with a weekly (Thursday) post. This week, my pre-publication post is about my author photo. These pre-pub posts seem to be a success–I love writing them, and readers seem to enjoy reading them.

  5. I think it depends on whether the purpose of your blog is to connect with other writers, who might be interested in the writing process, publishing process etc, or the people who will buy your books, who are probably not that interested in your creative journey! My books are about kids in nature so my blog is about kids exploring nature.

  6. @Jim – If you’re looking for peer critiques, then you should try joining an online writing community. Writer’s Digest offers critique forums at http://community.writersdigest.com, as well as at our forum (link at http://www.writersdigest.com).

  7. @Shirley: The best way to get your blog noticed is to post consistently, and post valuable content. All the search engines (including Google) crawl blogs, and will automatically add them to search results.

    The other good way to market your blog is to comment on other blogs, especially those with high traffic. But don’t comment, "Nice post." Instead, offer something interesting or meaningful to the conversation.

    Here’s a post where I talk more about it:
    http://blog.writersdigest.com/norules/2009/10/19/TheFirst5SimpleStepsForGrowingReadershipOnYourBlog.aspx

  8. Shirley Martin says:

    Now you have given me even more food for thought! I currently write four blogs, one personal family blog, one book review blog, one gardening blog and one general review/highlights blog. I have been blogging since February 2010. I have so many ideas that I could just keep going and now you have provided more! Such a dilemma!! I love to write and hope someday I will be discovered. Do you have any tips to get my blogs noticed? How do I list with a search engine like Yahoo or Google? Basically my question is how can I market myself?

    http://shirley-agardenerslife.blogspot.com/
    http://shirley-mybookshelf.blogspot.com/
    http://shirley-adventuresinanotsounusuallife.blogspot.com/

  9. Nina Amir says:

    I write four blogs–soon to be five, however, none of them are on fiction. I’m a nonfiction writer by trade. However, I coach all types of writers about how to build platform prior to getting their books published, and I always tell them to start with a blog. For fiction writers, I suggest they write about their own writing process. I suggest they discuss their research and the elements of their book that have universal appeal or that fall into a niche market. If they are writing about characters in China, blog about China or Chinese food or what they have discovered about Chinese families or Chinese clothing. Additionally, other writers enjoy knowing how they write–in the morning, with a deadline, with coffee nearby, with a reward system, etc. So, the writing process always makes a good topic. They can blog about their plot development and even include a tidbit of dialogue. This entices readers to want to purchase the book later when it’s published.

    I’d go as far as to say they could blog their book! Some writers have done this.

    I’m writing a blog about how to blog a nonfiction book, but some of what I’ve written could be applied to fiction. There’s so much interest these days in how to write a blog that gets "discovered" and turned into a book that I thought someone should discuss how to write a successful non-fiction book in cyberspace. My blog, How to Blog a book (www.howtoblogabook.com) goes through the proposal process with writers, claiming that they have to examine their subject, readers, markets, competition when starting a blog or blogged book just as they would with a "real" book. Then they break their content down into "post-sized" pieces. They also have to look at promotion and writing for the Internet, etc.

    So, there are a few thoughts for fiction writers–and non-fiction writers–looking for blogging ideas.

  10. Terry Odell says:

    I started blogging when my first publisher urged its authors to do so. All I had was a contract for one short story, but I’ve kept up the blog as I’ve published not only more shorts, but five romantic suspense novels.

    I like to post about the writing process, what works for me, and I share recaps of workshops I’m giving or have attended. I have guests once a week to keep things varied.

    What I don’t like is straight book promo on blogs. I like the ‘behind the scenes’ kind of stuff.

    Terry
    http://terryodell.blogspot.com

  11. Dana says:

    If there is a topic a person likes to talk about, but nobody in her personal life is particularly interested in hearing it, that might be a good topic to blog about.

  12. I started a flash fiction blog (and welcome submissions) and on Thursdays I post information and advice of interest to writers.

  13. B Jas says:

    Jane, I always enjoy your posts. How about blogs as a support group!

    In our case, (www.restlesswriters.wordpress.com) our blog functions as a starting point (for writers and agents) to get to know us better. We are a writing group three-some that maintain the blog on a regular basis.

    We encourage/edit/critique each other’s projects, in addition to highlighting resources we find helpful on the road to publication. Our blog is a support group! For now, until one of us gets our novels published and we evolve to the next stage of our journey as writers.

    B Jas
    http://www.restlesswriters.wordpress.com

  14. Fascinating posts and comments.

    I’ve written a personal blog for years and have a very healthy band of followers. Have just started one for my WIP, a YA novel (http://samaelstory.blogspot.com) and been pondering exactly this question.

    So far, I’ve posted the opening chapter, a Q&A and also some background on the inspiration for the book. It’s very early days (the book is agented and now being submitted to editors) so looks like I’ve got some great inspiration here.

    Many thanks for this.

  15. One thing to keep in mind in blogging is that a blog is not just a "content producing machine," but a personal connection between readers and authors. Too much worrying over "branding" and "proper content" will strike you dead in the water. It’s important that, whatever content you provide, you are enthusiastic about it, and that you interact with your readers and encourage their involvement.

    I’ve posted just about everything at one point or another in my blog. I’ve serialized screenplays as I’ve written them, posted bits and pieces of my life – created lolcats and written poems in the voice of Dr. Seuss. it seems to work. I get good, solid traffic.

    I’m also the administrator and designer of "Storytellers Unplugged," where 30 or so writers each have one day a month to post about anything that comes to their mind. We share our fan bases and traffic this way, and it’s been a very interesting process watching the site grow.

    you can find it over at storytellersunplugged.com if you are so inclined.

    Another great question.

    David

  16. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, since I started my new — and currently only — blog.

    At the moment, I talk mostly about the novel I’m working on, and other bits of the creative process. Once I have graduated from university, I hope to branch out a bit more, maybe into stuff about where I live and what it’s like to move home after three years mostly away.

  17. I have a separate personal blog to the one on my website. As I run a monthly Flash Fiction contest on my website, I like to keep the two things separate… not that it works a lot of the time! For some reason I find myself blogging all over the place.

    I’m currently a Guest Blogger on Richard Scott’s Blog, Uphill Writing – http://uphillwriting.org – where I am writing a series about my interpretation of some rather successful writer’s take on writing.

    I’m also on Webook – I often find myself writing a piece for the "WTF? Daily" project that I will then publish on my website, add to my blog on Canonbridge and my Notes on Facebook…

    I tend to hold back from publishing stories or book excerpts on my website because then it is officially "Published" and if it’s a story that I want to submit to an anthology I’d have to say that it’s a reprint.

    I review books that have been published, books that should be published etc as well, so there is quite a bit going on on my website – it’s almost a full time job to keep up with it!

    Thanks for this article – I was passed here by a friend via Facebook!

    Tigerprincess

  18. Jim Luttrall says:

    I have recently finished a historical novel and would like to get some critical reviews from others. How would I best do this?

  19. I just started my blog. I also wrote the Prologue to the book I am working on.

    I am very interested in your article since I want to get my name out. So far, I have not decide on which way I will go with this.

    Just wanted you to check my blog and read what I have so far and if you can give me any more ideas, I would appreciate them.

    Thank you, Kathie

  20. I dabble in both fiction and non-fiction writing. I’ve just started in this business and a blog was one of the first things I set up to help me develop my writing. (I must say though, Writer’s Digest has been instrumental in kicking me off in this career!)

    I do not blog about fiction, yet. But, this morning when this article popped up in my inbox, I found it hit home for me. I think something many fiction writers can do in their blogs is post excerpts or short stories to help readers view their writing style. They can also introduce characters a reader will meet in their next novel. It seems one might be giving away ideas for the next best-seller, but anyone who is well read knows ideas repeat over and over again – the market is saturated with Vampire and ghost stories – but that doesn’t stop me from whirling a ghost story around in my head as we "speak".

    Fiction writers have a lot to lend to the writing community and blogging can be fundamental in building their fan base. My blog is currently a mixture of essays and poetry, however forth coming are novel reviews, articles, and fiction pieces (mostly short stories) to build interest and diversity in my writing style. I’m hoping to introduce a few characters, too in the not too distant future.

    Just my "2 cents" from a very novice participant.

  21. I am part of a huge community of writers, but it only happened after I started my blog and connected online with other blogs in networks. I write about stuff that happens in my life and the world around me from a writer’s point of view. Also I invite guest authors for interviews on my blog. From writing the blog I have become involved in many other things including a radio show on Blog Talk Radio, Red River Writers Live Tales from the Pages and writing articles for Examiner.com as the NY Literature Examiner.

    During April I participated in Poetry Month and posted my poems on a poetry webiste, Poetic Asides. However, I also posted them on my blog as well. Though I have lots of prose written with a published story online, three YA novels unpublished, and an adult romance/suspense/adventure novel, I don’t usually post much of my own prose writing. Instead, I will sometimes talk about different aspects of writing. Mostly my life tends to put me in very usual situations and I write about them. Current events is always a big topic for me especially if it has affected me. Events in my life tend to get a lot of attention so I write about them a lot! Posting your own writing goals is also a good idea for a writer who has a blog. But if you have enough guest authors and other personal events to promote you can refer people to various other places. I also think that writing about content is important, because people enjoy that. Linking to other blogs also helps. because you refer people to another blog and you add another blogger as well. Participating in fun events works too. You meet a lot of new people too.

  22. I just actually started my own blog to do exactly what you outline above. It also was another way to be able to build the a platform like Christina Katz suggests. My newest project is an episodic Web fiction series done with in collaboration with another writer — Martius Catalyst. (http://www.martiuscatalyst.com). My personal blog has let me discuss the processes with collaboration or any number of fiction-writing subjects.
    I also think the fiction writer’s blog is a great way to keep the creative juices flowing between projects.

  23. I love this blog (!), especially the tweet roundup, and Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents. Anne Mini’s "Author! Author!" has been a great help to me, as has Nicola Morgan’s "Help! I Need A Publisher!" Glad to see someone else gave her a shout-out as well!

    It’s hard to think of topics to write about. I’m leery of putting unpublished material online. Recently I participated in an Alphabet Blog Challenge during April, proposed by Arlee Bird at "tossing it out." Each post’s title or topic followed the alphabet every day but Sunday through the month. It was fun.

    My blog is oriented toward writing and creative topics, but I made Saturday’s posts about anything I wanted. I’m keeping that tradition. That will open up more topics and maybe even stir up the old idea pot!

  24. RaShelle says:

    Thanks for the info. Truthfully, when I started my blog, I was stumped with the exact question. What do I write about?
    All of your suggestions are great!
    Again, many thanks.
    RaShelle

  25. Leslie moon says:

    Though I do write several non-fiction articles a week, most my posts on my blog are fiction. There are so many story sites and poetry sites where you write based on a prompt (some not). Great because we get feedback from other writers.
    If I can get several writers interested, I will be hosting a Saturday children’s story "hour" that would link from my blog to yours. Great way for parents to have some reading material for the kids and for writers to do what they love – write.

    I’m at moondustwriter.com if you are interested or want to know of other sites

  26. My novel, Shell Games, and the sequel, Tricks of the Trade, are financial thrillers. So my blog, is a reflection of my novel themes: sex, rock ‘n roll and finance.

    One of my most popular posts is "Massages Gone Wild." Go to Saramcintosh.wordpress.com/2010/03/22/massages-gone-wild. Please let me know what you think about it. (saramcintoshwrites@gmail.com)

    If you have a blog you’d like me to critique I’d be happy to as well (just send me a link in gmail).

    Much success to you all!

    Ciao for Now,

    Sara McIntosh

  27. http://ramblingsfromtheleft.wordpress.com/

    That is my blog and I started it with two ideas in mind … (1) I love to use my satirical wit or jaundice eye of the world as a means of having some fun with my readers, and (2) I wanted to get people to read it and have a good time.

    I post short stories on separate pages, have a cute bio and generally love poking at my more than loud, crazy Italian family. It gets serios sometimes and recently I added a monthly spot for aspiring or newly published authors where they can choose to contribute a post or do an interview.

    I meant to have a good time and create a base for my work, since I am mostly the long lost cousin of Gail Parent and think making people smile is a nice full time profession.

    I link blogs like WD’s community; Chuck Sambuchino’s incredibly valuable blog and others like Pimp My Novel; RWA; Romance University and I keep adding as I get to know other sites.

    And as soon as someone out there becomes my agent, I’ll publish and continue doing what I love.

  28. Marie says:

    This is very interesting. I just started my blog and have found that exploring the odd world of writing is a great source of blogging gold. I try to look at aspects of writing through motivation, humor, and where I’m at in my own progress. Seeing all of these other ideas and blogs is great and perfect timing for me :).

    http://faeriesdragonsspaceships.blogspot.com/

  29. Two others I would recommend:

    My all-time favorite is Laini Taylor’s blog at http://growwings.blogspot.com/. She’s a YA writer and offers great writing advice, but the reason why her blog has been a favorite of mine is her personality shines in every post and comes across to me very genuine. In addition to writing related topics, she blogs about many things that interest her: her family, art, animal skulls, odd facts and trivia. And she’s an excellent writer, which always helps.

    Someone that I think is doing something unique and fun that would speak well to the audience he is trying to reach would be author/illustrator Aaron Zenz who blogs at http://bookiewoogie.blogspot.com/. His blog offers weekly picture book reviews, but the fun and unique twist is that the reviews come in the form of a transcribed conversation with his three children. They are often insightful and funny and it’s a fun way to get an overview of a picture book along with a child’s perspective. I also think the posts offer a great example of how interactive reading can be with your children.

    Okay, I’ve written so much here, now I’m thinking I should turn this into a blog post for my own blog–thanks for inspiring some content!

  30. Jennifer says:

    Jane, thanks so much for posting this and for starting this conversation amongst the commenters! As a writer who recently started a blog and is always trying to figure out what to blog about, this list is both timely and helpful.

    Also, how great that people in the comments were kind enough to recommend others’ blogs rather than their own! The blogging world is such a friendly place! :)

  31. Delia Lloyd says:

    Hi Jane

    By far the best blog I’ve seen by a fiction blogger is Nicola Morgan’s "Help! I Need a Publisher" blog. Morgan is British, funny as all get out, and extremely helpful on writing/publishing tips esp for fiction writers. Check her out:

    http://need2bpublished.blogspot.com/

    best

    Delia Lloyd
    http://www.realdelia.com

  32. In March I began an interview series called Creative Spaces with children’s lit authors and illustrators about their workspaces and how they work. It’s a topic I’m genuinely interested in so I have a lot of fun with it. I post a new interview every Monday, which takes some pressure off me to come up with entertaining and/or informative original posts on a regular basis, which generally stress me out (although I still feel the need to include more personal posts so the stress isn’t completely relieved).

    Jennifer Bertman

  33. My niche is writing about substitute teaching, but I touch on writing. As a result, my followers and the blogs I follow are all teaching and writing related. Most of the writers blog about the angst of writing and some offer "how to" tips.

    Only one blog stands out. She recently began blogging (March) and has accumulated followers rather quickly (on her way to 400). She has an agent, and if her YA novel is as funny and sweet as her blog, she’ll have an offer in no time. Here’s the link:

    http://stiryourtea.blogspot.com/

  34. Andi Newton says:

    Right now, I’m posting a series of 100 word pieces (okay, most are longer than 100 words, but not by much) as a compromise since my schedule won’t allow me to participate in the Story-a-Day challenge this month. It also seemed like a good way to let people get a taste of my style. But mostly it’s fun for me to polish and post these snippets, and hopefully they’re fun for folks to read.

    Oh, and my favorite novelist blog to read? Neil Gaiman’s.

  35. Ruth Seeley says:

    British author Nick Harkaway (The Gone-Away World) recently did something highly innovative and very much in the spirit of social media: conducted market research with his readers on his blog. I thought the experiment was quite wonderful (although he’s apparently not happy about having to collate the data now, and who can blame him). Here’s his experiment: http://www.nickharkaway.com/2010/04/market-research-and-goodies/

  36. Oooh! One more comment. One of the reasons it is better for fiction authors to steer clear of posting fiction is that the tags associated with fiction are not the kind of words easily picked up by search engines. Thus, a fiction author will get FAR GREATER HITS on their blogs by blogging on topic.

    In simple terms. A blog about the TOPIC of UFOs will get far more hits than a piece of flash fiction about UFOs.

    For now, people mostly defer to the Internet to find information, not entertainment. That will likely change in a few years, but right now that is the reality. Thus, understand that reality and then you can use it to your advantage.

  37. Keary Taylor says:

    As a fiction writer, I blog about my journey in my writing experiences, my accomplishments, my failures and my misadventures. I post news, pictures of people or places from my novels, outtakes, and pretty much everything else.
    http://kearytaylor.blogspot.com

  38. K. McKibben says:

    In my upcoming book "We Are Not Alone-Writers and Social Media Marketing" (sorry for the blatant self-promo :D)I actually recommend for fiction authors to blog on content/topic. Also posted a blog about this very topic a couple of weeks ago, and a lot of the suggestions are very similar to yours.

    Writers! Be creative! You have more content in you than just your novel.

    If you write books about UFOs then the topic of UFOs and unexplained phenomena must interest you enough to generate a 100,000 work novel about it. Write about Roswell, the first UFO sightings, the history of UFO sightings, the difference between a Close Encounter of the 1st Kind vs. the Fourth Kind. People who will eventually buy your book likely are ALSO interested in UFOs (the topic). Profile your reader!

    Same with vampires, dragons, fairies, true love, or books set in different time periods. I have a fiction author who is writing a spy book set in WWI. Thus, I advised he blog about WWI (especially since everyone kept defaulting to Nazis every time they heard "German"). He is now going to blog about WWI, what was at stake, interesting factoids, spy history of that time, etc. This way he can generate interest in his topic and also appeal to those who love that time period.

    Thanks for addressing this topic.

  39. Cesar Torres says:

    I would also encourage authors to write posts on productivity tools and workflow practices to help other writers. Additionally, YouTube clips are a great idea.

    I would also agree that sharing insight into the research process is fascinating and can possibly pull in new readers who may find you through search results on Google.

    All in all though, an altruistic and generous attitude toward sharing knowledge is excellent for writers.

  40. I learned quite a bit on this subject at a local SCBWI workshop from Greg Pincus at http://www.thehappyaccident.net/ and Lee Wind at http://zenofblogging.blogspot.com/

  41. Zoe Winters says:

    I’ve been interviewing my characters as promo in the lead up to my book release:

    http://en.wordpress.com/tag/blood-lust-interviews/

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