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June 9, 2011

How Do You Choose Blog Topics?

Multiple choice questionnaire

In case you missed it, Kristen Lamb started a debate with her post yesterday—Sacred Cow-Tipping–Why Writers Blogging About Writing is Bad.  A collective whine went up from the writing community.  “No blogging about writing?  Then what are we supposed to blog about?”

*raises hand*  I was right there with the crowd, joining in the hyperventilating.  What does that mean?  Was that a secret shout-out to me?

I finally calmed down enough to actually read the post.  Always a good idea.  *ahem*  Kristen also said:

“[B]logging about writing and creating a writing blog are two different animals.”

Ahh.  Her point was that our blog should be about our brand.  About us.

If all our posts are about writing craft, then the focus is on the craft of writing.  If we blog about things that interest us, which can include writing, then the focus is on us.

For the “What should we blog about?” question, Kristen gave the answer in her post:

Want to know the formula for a hit blog?
Topics you are excited about + topics readers are excited about = hit blog

So then the question is…

What Topics Excite You?

*cue Jeopardy theme*  Hmm, well, there’s writing and my family, and uh…

I don’t know about about anyone else, but I’m feeling rather lame and boring about now.  *smile*

As I mentioned in my online brand vs. author brand post, the research I do for my novels is too scattered to build a brand around.  I’m opinionated but have a live-and-let-live approach as to whether or not anyone should agree with me.  And I’d never blog about my family because I’m a private person.

Kristen gave several suggestions in her post, but there are a lot of things I don’t do so I have more time to write and spend precious time with my family.  I don’t watch TV.  (I prided myself on the fact that I didn’t have a clue who Snooki was until her book came out.)  Gardening in Arizona is impossible.  (There is no soil to dig into.)  I don’t have time for crafts, or video games, or anything else.  I don’t cook, I rarely drink, and *whispers* I don’t even drink coffee.  (I know.  I’m a writer-heathen.)

You know what excites me?  Sharing what I’ve learned.  I love helping others, especially my “tribe”—other writers.  I am a teacher at heart.

I love taking ideas from five different sources and meshing them into new concepts.  I love reworking a vague or complicated idea into something clear and concise.  I love making people think.

Those values are me.  And my fiction writing reflects that.  My novels have unique premises and explore deep issues.  I want to make my fiction readers think too.

So here on my blog, I share.  I share posts about writing craft, yes.  But I also share my thoughts about the publishing industry, perfectionism, self-doubt, organizational tools, social media, website design, romance haters, being introverted, dreams, balancing all the demands on our time, muses and insanity, taking risks, making sacrifices, etc.

In other words, I ramble about whatever strikes my fancy that day.  *smile*

Should I change my approach?  I don’t think so.  What would I do, start a bogus hobby just so I could blog about it?  No thanks.  While a readership in the millions would be nice, there isn’t anything I could blog about that would get me there.

This approach is me.  Sharing is the emotional heart of my story.  Sometimes my posts will be about writing craft, but often they won’t.  Long blog series bore me, so I purposely mix topics around.

The important thing is that I’m sharing something I’ve learned.  Right now, most of my readers are writers, so I relate each post back to writing.  But I can add or expand examples to make the “lesson” relate-able to non-writers as my readership expands.  I hope this means I’d fall into the “blogging about writing” camp rather than the “writing blog” camp Kristen mentioned.

But just because this approach works for me doesn’t mean it’s the right approach for anyone else.  So I want to know, what do you blog about?  How did you decide on that topic?  Do you think you need to change it?  If so (or if you don’t have a blog yet), what things interest you?  Do you have ideas for what might make a good blog?

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Catie Rhodes

When I realized I was going to have blog in order to promote myself as an author, I was annoyed. I don’t have a nifty hobby. I do like to cook, but a cooking blog was just not what I wanted to do. Kait Nolan has a fantastic one, and I don’t see how she has time to do it as well as she does. Besides, my cooking is less recipe, and more a dash of this, a pinch of that. So there I was, standing around looking stupid, and trying to figure out WTF to blog about. I’m not an expert on anything. All the jobs I’ve had have been minimum wage bore-fests. I don’t have any one interest that stands out above all others. My hubby and I watch TV together, because that’s “our” time. I listen to music and am always looking for new artists who pique my interest. I like true crime, and I like ghost stories–and I don’t mind researching them. That’s when it hit me–my research projects! If a topic interests me, I might spend years researching it. I did that with Bonnie and Clyde, and I did it with James Dean’s car. More recently, I did it with songs that have been made into movies. I guess my brand is weird little did-you-know-isms. It may not be a very good brand, but, without taking up a fake hobby to blog about, it’s all I have to offer. LOL Thanks for these thought-provoking blogs,…  — Read More »

Damian Trasler

I couldn’t get past the “punch kittens in the face” idea….
But like you, I was initially outraged, then thoughtful. I’ve taken Kristen’s online course and found it really helpful and a great source of online community, but I’m still really struggling with content and what I *ought* to be writing. Fnd myself unable to commit to writing what I’m thinking about, and not enjoying the posts I do produce…..

Angela Wallace

Yeah, the first time I read that, I was thinking, “is she talking about me?” 0_0 I picked writing, reading, and books as my blog topic because I thought I was supposed to as a writer. But I do want my posts to be unique to my perspective, or at least entertaining. I’ve done a couple rants about cliffhangers and the muse waking me up in the middle of the night.

Now I’m definitely trying to figure out what other aspects in my life I could blog about. Or rather, should or *should not* blog about. I have a feeling everyone who read Kristen’s blog is going to be trying out new topics and seeing what kind of response they get! 🙂

Kristen Lamb
Kristen Lamb

Your blog has always struck me as Jami Gold’s blog. I have no problem with writers blogging about writing, but too many feel that they are SUPPOSED to be blogging about craft, so it kneecaps their creativity and strangles their muse. They start a “writing blog” and burn out and hate blogging because they have tunnel vision.

I love blogging about writing. I never get tired of talking craft. If there was any other subject–gardening, cooking, wine–that I felt as passionate about, I might blog on those, but, for now *shrugs* I dig writing too much. I love helping others learn, much like you.

But, I feel that with this approach it frees all of us to have content for the long-haul. Thanks for the post. I alawys enjoy your stuff. 😀

Brooke Johnson

When I first started my blog, I thought that I had to blog about writing. So I did. And I did get burned out on it. So then I added my love of video games and RPGs. It seems a good number of writers played D&D at least once in their life, so it wasn’t that hard to branch out that way. Then I started blogging about fantasy things, ancient history, and mythology — things that I am passionate about. But, I almost always try to relate it back to writing, as you do. Sometimes, I blog about things that have nothing to do with writing, and it’s a nice break every now and then. And I think readers appreciate it too. It helps them get to know us as people, not just writers.

I think your blog is fantastic. I read every single one of your posts, where some bloggers, I skip over the less interesting sounding posts. I know when I come here that I’ll enjoy my stay and perhaps learn a thing or two. 😉

Amber

I don’t feel like you are ever preaching craft to me, or rehashing the same thing I read 1000 other places. To me, that makes the difference. You can write about anything, so long as you are enthusiastic about it and that comes across in what you write.

My two cents. 🙂

Barbara Watson

I read Kristen’s post yesterday too, and what I took was: freedom. Freedom in that, even though I have a writer’s blog, posts don’t have to focus only on writing. Making my blog personal, a piece of me, is what I took from it, like you.

Anne-Mhairi Simpson

When I started blogging I did it to create a platform for my writing. The idea was that I needed to have a blog if I was ever going to show anyone anything I’d written, so it was mainly for Flash Fiction Friday. And swiftly metamorphosed into a daily something. I also found that I couldn’t always talk about writing because sometimes I just didn’t want to. I read Kristen’s post yesterday and “EEK!!!” doesn’t even cover it. Worked something out eventually, though 🙂

(So far my brand seems to be “Crazy Person Who Also Writes”. I can live with that. I should probably name my blog that, really.)

Roni Loren

Yes, this same topic caused a kerfuffle on my blog on Monday. I had seen Kristen speak at a conference last weekend and talked about the not doing a writing blog thing.

I’m in the same boat with you. We write about writing. I didn’t plan to have a writing blog, but that is what I’m passionate about and I’m a teacher at heart too. But it is a bit of a challenge now that I have a book coming out and I”m trying to appeal to non-writing readers as well. This is why I’m blogging two days a week at my author blog about non-writing topics. It’s not the perfect solution but it is what it is.

I don’t regret doing the writing blog though. I’ve met amazing people with it and have gotten a lot of opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise (agent referral, speaking gig, etc.) if I didn’t have a successful writing blog.

Kristin Nador
Kristin Nador

I read Kristen’s blog post as well and since my blog is in its brand spanking new stage, I admit my feathers got a little ruffled. I wanted to write about writing, but from a very specific point of view, conquering writer’s procrastination by writing in a new venue each week. I think that’s unique enough and doesn’t require wearing the expert’s hat, and the main reason is just to encourage myself getting over the procrastination I struggle with in all the areas of my life. I think writers’ blogs that are written in a way that is encouraging, sharing their journey and the gems (as well as crap) they discover along the way, with their own personality shining through, are the kinds of blogs I am drawn to. That’s why I enjoy your blog, Jami. 😉

Jordan

I’m in the same place as you and Roni, Jami. I don’t have a writing blog because I felt like I was supposed to; I have a writing blog because I have a lot to say about writing 😉 . I love teaching, too.

I have friends who’ve transitioned from writing blogs to writer blogs, and TBH I’ve really lost interest in a lot of their content. But it’s really worked for their readers, so that’s good.

My biggest problem is that I already have blogs (which are also successful) for my other roles/hobbies (motherhood and crafts of all kinds), so I can’t really blog about those. I’m trying to think of what I might be able to use my research for, but even that I’d want to wait until, you know, I’m under contract or something.

Maryanne Fantalis

I’m with you, Jami. It’s what you’re passionate about that will come through to your readers, and you’ve got that in buckets. In bushels. In wagon-loads. In caravans. I love your blog. I hope mine will grow to be as informative, helpful and thought-provoking to my readers as yours is.

No cooking/growing organic food/living without toilet paper necessary. 😉

Mary Elizabeth

Yet another fantastic post, Jami! I, too, read Kristen’s post yesterday and had a minor freak out. She had a lot of great points that I actually had considered when starting my blog. I decided to pick writing as my blog’s theme for two reasons–I haven’t published anything yet, so no one knows me from Adam; and I love love love talking about writing, as it’s my hobby, my day job, and probably what I think about most during my day. I wanted to write posts that I’d actually want to read myself.

I’m sure that if/when my stories are published, my blog will morph to be a little more personal. But for now, that’s why I have Facebook and Twitter.

Jeanmarie Anaya

Love this post (and your blog)!

I’ve heard this advice before and STILL have such a hard time with it. It always feel so self-indulgent when I post things about myself or about my likes/dislikes. It’s much easier ti post writing tips I’ve learned or about other news/contests of interest to writers. And yet, when reading others’ blogs, I LOVE to read what makes those other writers tick and what things inspire them to write. I suppose those things are more of the “brand”. Sigh. It’s so hard to envision yourself as a brand before you’ve got your book on a shelf or even landed an agent!

Roxanne Skelly
Roxanne Skelly

This was a great post, as was Kristen’s. Truly eye opening.

Reflecting on it a bit, I’ve probably been a bit mercenary about my blogging lately. I’ve been thinking about writing and publishing and all that because I’m in the midst of my first project that I’d like to push out to the world.

And in doing that, I’ve actually sought out other writers, publishers and agents. People who share a common interest. And I’ve found that hey, they’re really cool, interesting people. And I can learn from them.

Yup, definitely narcissistic and selfish. I want to interact with my target audience. Other writers, agents and publishers.

I guess once I’m published…and it will happen, you’ve no idea of my stubbornness…well, once I’m published I’ll have to be a bit more mercenary and focus on interacting with readers.

I’m ok with that, as I really just want to interact with people interested in the same thing that I am, which is human.

Rachel Graves

Okay, I read this hours ago, and something’s been nagging at me: How do we (as writers) handle the situation when things that excite don’t fit neatly into one category?
Things that excite me:
My workouts
Corsets (and Corset shopping)
DragonCon
Writing
Travel

So while corsets might appeal to some people, the subset of that group that’s also interested in working out is probably slim. Ditto the number of people going to DragonCon who want to talk work outs. I guess what I’m saying is no blog should be all over the place, but it’s impossible to interest everyone all the time. I feel like the only thing we can do is focus on one topic (writing) and hope that the occasional post about things (corset shopping, working out, travel, DragonCon) doesn’t alienate readers.

At least that’s what I’m doing, I’ll keep my fingers-crossed that you’ve got a better idea, Jami. 🙂

Roxanne Skelly
Roxanne Skelly

Traveling great distances to cons such as dragoncon while dragging suitcases of corsets can be quite a workout. At least you get to show off your corsets to everyone else wearing corsets, and there are plenty at the cons I’ve been to. Oh, and definitely attend the writing seminars.

All the things you list seem to go together fine to me 🙂

Todd Moody
Todd Moody

Hi Jami!
When I started my blog it was just to have a space in the blogosphere for when I actually published a book. I had no idea what to blog about. One of my favorite writers has had a blog since before they were called that, and she just talks about the stuff she does during the day and things that grab her attention. She blogs now nearly everyday. I kind of started with that in mind but it wasn’t working for me. Mine evolved more and more into a “writer’s blog” but I still like to pepper in stuff that is a real snapshot of my interests. The only real thing I try to stick to is to try to pit something up at least once a week to keep some continuity.

I blog about things that hit me in the process of trying to become a better writer and share what I’ve learned. I don’t have a writing pedigree but it hasn’t stopped me yet. =)

Great blog as always! You are always on my check everyday list!

Lynn Kelley

I started a blog a month ago, and I knew I’d never be able to teach about writing like so many awesome bloggers. You’re lucky that you’re a natural at it. Even though I write, I don’t feel competent to teach it, unless it’s for kids who are just learning. My goal from the get-go was to have fun, but I knew I’d run out of ideas sooner or later, so I was glad to read Kristen’s post, and from now on I plan to have as much fun as possible with my posts. I’ll come and read your posts when I need tips on writing and writer-related topics!

Sonia G Medeiros

It took me a little while to figure it out too. I knew I liked science fiction, horror, and fantasy. I also like to talk about writing. I like gardening & cooking too. I settled on the sci/fi, fantasy, horror and writing topics and gave each their day (combining science fiction and fantasy into one day). It allows me a lot of latitude for post topics. All I have to do is tie them to the theme of the day somehow. It’s a lot more fun to come up with a blog topic now that I have themes to guide me.

Darcy Peal
Darcy Peal

I just want my blog to help people feel better about themselves and I see writing as very beneficial form of self-help, so I am enouraging them to learn how to write. However, I do not want to write only about writing since I am such an accomplished comedian.
For the funniest joke in the world click this link.
http://www.darcypeal.com/2011/06/fun-friday.html

Gene Lempp

This is something I struggled with when I decided to start blogging. I love archaeology, history, science and myth. I also love to write science fiction (social, not hard science) and fantasy. Combining these two gave me the idea for Designing from Bones, yes, I know, its a series but there is such a vast array of topics available across broad subjects that it can be moved about quite easily. And most importantly, its me and represents what I do in my writing.

I’m still fairly new to blogging and do plan to expand into a topical format for one day.

Great post Jami, always thought provoking 🙂

CMStewart

Judging from how often I see your posts retweeted, and how many comments you get on your blog, I’m willing to bet your blog- and in turn, you- are a popular writer and author. You already have the “seal of approval” from the only people who matter- your readers, fans, and YOURSELF. Please don’t stop blogging about writing, no matter what any one person says. I don’t want to read about how you don’t drink coffee! YIKES

Of all the many “how to write fiction” blogs I’ve seen, I find yours is the most focused, personable, and consistently helpful. Thanks, BTW. 🙂

Laura Pauling

I think Kristen should’ve been a little more clear about that. I think to be a successful blogger is akin to being a successful writer in some ways. You have to have voice, confidence and personality. Yes, I skip over very dry blogs about writing; but I also skip over blogs that are about personal stuff that I don’t care about. Unless a blogger is super funny, it’s hard to blog about soap operas. Unless you have reached stardom, most people don’t care about your hobbies. Unless you are funny.

And, if writers feel that they have to blog about writing, they haven’t done their research. Plain and simple.

Suzanne Johnson

Ah, I hate WordPress notifications–they’re always 24 hours after the original post and I’m late to the party. Fashionably late? Anyway, I started out writing about writing and ran out of things to write about–my book was still almost two years from launch. I’m passionate about writing but not writing about writing. But I am passionate about reading. So my blog has become a speculative fiction book blog, into which I get my voice and an occasional plug for my own stuff. Whether it results in book sales? Well, we’ll see.

Lisa Gail Green

It took a while to find my niche. I felt odd about giving “writing advice” thinking Who am I to tell others what works? Then I realized that (like you said above) it’s taking those concepts that really mean something to me, and wording them in a way that might turn on a lightbulb for someone else. Oh and I try to tie in the paranormal thing cuz, you know, I like that stuff. 😀

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