A quick heads up: I’ve been experiencing computer difficulties lately, and while this cannot be blamed for the fact that I’ve been short on content on long on the silences these past few weeks (no, for that you can turn to lingering anonymity problems and the inertia of joblessness), I may continue the trend this week as I try to get the problems fixed. Emo Guy has promised to wipe my hard drive, reload my programs and take a look at my cooling fan, but when this all goes down remains to be seen. Cross your fingers that this will be a quick and painless experience because I really can’t afford to buy a new laptop right now.
And now that the excuses are out of the way, let’s get to the main topic of this piece: what kind of content do you expect from your writers who blog? How about from the bloggers who aren’t (and never will be) “professional” writers? With the proliferation of writer blogs, group writer blogs, reader blogs and the personal blogs that blend all these things into one, I’ve really begun to question what I need from each source as well as how each affects my thoughts on the blogger. How much is too much? How much is not enough?
Now we may have talked about this subject before, but latest mental wrangling was triggered by something the Written Nerd said to me when she was in town: she didn’t start blogging because she wanted to be a writer, but blogging has improved her writing and her perception of her writing considerably. And it got me thinking about why we blog and what we get from it as readers and writers.
Often in my own writing I think that I share too much of my personal life with y’all. I wobble back and forth on what constitutes too much sharing or content too frivolous, which I’m sure has to do with the original intent of this blog warring with what it has involved into. This blog started as a personal thing to entertain a few friends and then grew into something else entirely. While I did start it so that I would get in the habit of writing something everyday (I’m a horrible journaler—is that even a word?—when it comes to setting pen to paper), it was never with the intent that the content of this blog should be used for anything other than amusement. I’m not going to lie, in the back of my mind there was always some vague little dream where this blog would rocket me into stardom or some nonsense, but I never thought anything would actually happen with it. To find a group of people greater than ten asking me questions and treating me as an authority is very odd. It leaves me feeling both powerful (in the “wow, look what I made” sense) and insecure (in the “wow, did absolutely nothing to earn this and this could all disappear tomorrow” kind of way) as well as a driving need to understand how this happened.
What makes a successful blog, and do we expect different things from different people? Voice, of course, has a lot to do with it, relevance, and content as well, but there is no magic equation that can be applied to all blogs to explain why some command a readership as others fade into Technorati obscurity. I know that I don’t expect the same things from every blog I visit. I know that there are some blogs I’ll check multiple times a day to see if the writer has updated while I’ll only surf past another once a week. The reasons for my fickleness aren’t static, but changing as the blogs—and bloggers—themselves. Some people can talk about face wash and make it sound like the most interesting thing in the world while others need to be hitting the topics that are hot in the writing sphere at any given time (in writing see: self-promotion, ARCs, readers reviews vs. professional reviews, etc).
It’s the difference of content that is driven by the blogger from content being driven by the readership. My blog is mostly driven by what I think (or know) that you want, which is why I’ll often post questions that will hopefully lead to more questions and possible a discussion. It’s how I think of this blog, actually: as a discussion between reader, writer and booksellers. I’m hoping to take the questions asked in the “Ask a Bookseller” post and turn them into a bit of a questionnaire to ask other booksellers and provide a wide variety of opinions and thoughts because while I know what I like, I also know that I’m not the only type of person out there. We’ve all got our own take on the industry and what matters.
When it comes to writer blogs, often I visit to see what they have to say about the process of writing and the industry, but mostly it is to see what’s up with the newest title or upcoming release. Is it going to be out on time? What’s it about? Did the author experience any problems while writing it? I’m not asking for treatise on the subject matter, just an update (even if it is slightly nonsensical: “ran into writer’s block. Am considering killing off all the characters and starting fresh. Wish I hadn’t been so stupid to make character X invincible. Will X win out against the paper shedder and the delete key? Will editor kill me if project is delayed a month? Let’s ask Mr. Owl.”). I’m perfectly cool with a six line entry on a blog if it will allow an author to update something more frequently than many do their websites (a personal pet peeve of mine). I’m not necessarily interested in forming a relationship with the author so much as gaining information to continue the relationship I have with their books.
With reader blogs—unlike with author blogs—personality and uniqueness drive my readership. I have to like and be drawn to the reader blog content because this is the only writing of theirs I will ever read. Sure, I might go there once to read a review on this book or that, but I’ll return if I like their style and content. Do they review the newest and best books? Are they good for discovering new authors and promoting titles that will blossom from word of mouth? Do they have a grading system and how does it work? All these questions are subconsciously something I ask when visiting a reader blog and determining whether I’ll return or add it to my bloglines and sidebar. It’s a relationship based both on content and personality as well as our mutual love for one genre or another.
Personal blogs are more voyeuristic pleasure for me. I return time and again simply because I enjoy the personality, musings, and life stories these blogs relate, while knowing that they’ll do nothing to further my interests in the publishing industry. As a person who hates reality TV, I find my fascination with certain personal blogs (those of people I’ve never met and probably never will) odd, even knowing that they can be as filtered as reality TV. The writer of the personal blog chooses what they share, what they don’t, and what spin they put on it. They can always be the victim or the hero, but never the villain, and I’ll never know if they’re telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I’ll never hear other sides of the story (for the most part) and I’ll never know if they’ll follow up with the consequences that their actions wrought. And while this can be applied to reader and writer blogs as well, there remains an indefinable (for me, at least) difference.
My incomplete—but long, soooo long—rambles aside, I’m interested in hearing what you get out of blogging as a reader or a writer of one and specifically what you get (if anything) out of reader vs. writer vs. personal blogs. What gets you to a blog? What brings you back? And, if you have one, what do you expect from your own blogging?