The Purpose of Blogging for Fiction Writers

Over the past several months I’ve seen numerous posts around the blogosphere debating the issue of what fiction writers should blog about.

On one side, some say that fiction writers should NOT blog about “writing.” They encourage us to find out what our target fiction readers want to hear and gear our posts toward them. They believe that if we gear our blogs toward writers, then we’re missing out on our potential to connect with readers (particularly after publication).

On the other hand, some say if we’re passionate about writing, then why not share that love with others? Since we often can’t share the ups and downs of our unique writing journeys with real life friends, blogging provides an outlet for talking about writing and publication. Besides, we have a lot to learn from one another.

I haven’t jumped into the discussion because quite frankly I haven’t been sure who’s right. I guess I’ve always considered blogging to be individualistic and figured each person needs to find the niche that works for him or her. Of course, non-fiction writers really should have blogs geared to the topics and audiences of their books. And of course, there will always be the one-in-a-million blogger who has a unique voice and way of sharing that will make a name for themselves in blogging (like the Pioneer Woman).

But the majority of us are pretty average bloggers. So is there really a right or wrong way for fiction writers to approach blogging?

Sure, we can talk about attracting our genre readers before publication, but that’s very hard to do because we’re relatively unknown to readers. And we can talk about how we’re going to attract our readers after publication, but that’s hard too because when we’re a young author, we’re still mostly unknown.

The fact is, most readers aren’t flocking to their favorite authors' websites and reading them on a regular basis anyway. This might change for authors who eventually go on to be big time best sellers and have millions of readers. Perhaps then, we can expect that readers will seek us out on a more regular basis. But for now, I’m not expecting hoards of readers to wait with bated breath for every blog I post.

The more I’ve thought about the issue and evaluated my blogging experience, the more my opinion has evolved. Here’s my current philosophy—I believe one of the primary purposes of blogging for fiction writers is to develop a team or tribe, particularly before publication.

I found that through blogging I’ve made incredible connections, expanded my web presence, and developed a network of team players who are supportive, encouraging, and willing to help me out in numerous ways. During the releases of my books, my team has spread the word of my books in SO many more ways than I ever could have done on my own (which includes many of you—thank you!!).

When we blog authentically and relationally (meaning not all one-sided!), we will begin to build our teams. We develop friends who will go out of their way to promote us because we mutually care about each other and want each other to succeed.

In the scope of today’s crowded marketplace, I can’t emphasize enough just how much of a difference having a team has made in the promotion of my book. And I wouldn’t have had that team if it weren’t for my blogging.

So then, does it really matter what we blog about?

Yes and no. Yes, we want to attract team members. We want to refresh, encourage, and inspire them through our posts. Maybe we’ll make them think, or laugh, or cry. We want that give-and-take relationship that is a part of team-building.

But no. We are writers. We can take a dried worm and make it look good enough to eat. We can craft our words and posts in such a way that draws people—no matter what we’re talking about. Right?

What’s your opinion? Do you agree with my evolving philosophy that one of the primary purposes of blogging for fiction writers is in building a team? Do you think it matters what a writer blogs about?

Mid-week blog tour stops:

Thurs. 10/13: I'm visiting on Karen Lange's blog and sharing a time management tip that has held me in good stead as a writer. (Plus a book giveaway!)


  1. Hi Jody.

    I agree that fiction writers can defiantely build a team/network of friends through blogging. I also think that the fiction writer's friends, family and aquaintances might also find the blog posts interesting even if they are about writing. And if there are big-fan readers down the road, I'm sure some of them will take an interest too. There's always writers who become readers/fans too.

    In the end, I don't think it hurts anyone to blog. Each to their own.

  2. Hi Jody. I just started blogging in May and at first started because in learning about the publishing world I learned that I needed to have a platform and brand and tribe and... In retrospect, while it may be for all of those things, I also believe it has been a way for me to write from my heart in a way that God can use to touch and encourage people - even if I never get published.

    My post today was to announce the winners of your book, and as I was thinking about that, I wondered how that would fit with a blog that is geared mainly toward Christian service.

    I believe that we each have a calling: writing, teaching, organization...whatever, and that God gave us these gifts to use for his glory every day. We are also called to encourage one another. So that's how I see my blog and why I feel comfortable having pages on my blog that follow my writing journey as well as my non-profit ministry journey. Those are the things God has called me to so that's why I blog and what I share about.

    I also think it's like anything else God calls us to is uniquely ours for his service. No matter what the 'industry' or 'experts' say, God has a plan that will almost always surprise us!

  3. I definitely believe in your philosophy, Jody. One of the greatest benefits I've had from blogging is connecting with others in the industry who I would never have even known about without blogging. I think it's all about the kinds of connections you make. How you can receive help and give help in return. Yes, blogging about writing attracts other writers, but that's not such a bad thing. We're all in this game together and the best part of this game is that there doesn't have to be just one winner. Any of us can become successful if the right combination of hard work, writing quality, word of mouth and luck hit us.

    One thing I think is being overlooked is that writers are more than just writers. They're friends, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters. They go to, and organise, conventions and conferences. They run PR companies. They're doctors. They work in radio or television. They know a bookstore-owner. They're active in church groups or with their local library.

    There are so many ways befriending other writers can be a boon that have nothing to do with blog readership, but can offer so many great opportunities. I think anyone who overlooks the benefit of making a few good friends does so at their peril.

  4. Excellent points, everyone!

    Nicole said that writers become readers, and I've found that to be very true. I have quite a number of blog readers who've eventually picked up my books or given them to family.

    And Sheri mentioned blogging being a ministry, which can be true too. I look at my blog as a way to encourage other writers (particularly younger writers).

    Paul, you bring up a great point too. The people we meet through blogging will have their own spheres of influence. Their word-of-mouth promotion spirals outward and is hard to measure. But I regularly hear from blogging friends who tell me they passed the word of my book along to real life people they know.

  5. Jody, your blog is one of my favorite writing blogs. I love the information you provide and always look forward to learning something new when I come here. And I fully agree with your evolving philosophy. Personally, I don't know enough about writing fiction to have a blog strictly about writing fiction (lol, that's why I come here), but I can certainly blog about the struggles & joys of it from a newbie's perspective. In fact, that's one of the other aspects of following writer's blogs that I enjoy: to share experiences (I guess that's the 'tribe' thing). Also, I prefer blogs that are relational more than business-oriented and tend to gravitate toward the bloggers who incorporate personal feelings on various subjects into their posts as well.

    Great post! I just got done reading Kristen Lamb's two books on blogging and this is a topic that's been on my mind lately. Can't wait to see what others say...

  6. I think it's different for different stages of writing. Very few bloggers that are writers break out on a subject other than writing. And I agree, very few readers are searching for writer blogs. So I do think building a team is important.

    I can see the wisdom in trying to approach non writers through our blogs but I think there are very few that can actually do that unless you hit a hot topic that people are googling and a non writer comes to your blog once or twice and then sees your book, then clicks on it, and then buys it. Seems kind of like a crap shoot.

    I think it's more important to be ourself and be interesting regardless of what we blog about.

  7. Definitely a great topic for dissection. I'm happy with my decision to blog about non-writing related topics. I still blog about writing, but only once a week. The other two days I blog, I blog about romance and faith, which is appropriate for my intended audience. I get feedback from friends/family who read my blog a lot more now that it's not just about writing. They don't leave comments though. My editor was happy with my decision to expand my blogging topics. And it's made the whole blogging thing more fun for me. I was getting tired of just blogging about writing, especially when there are a million and one other blogs blogging about writing. I was starting to feel redundant.

    Whether or not readers will come read my blog.....I have no idea if that'll happen or not. I'm going to move to wordpress, which will help my SEO and hopefully make myself easier to find for readers. I'm just not sure readers want to read blogs.

    I agree, though, that blogging for fiction writers is about building a community, and perhaps out of that community, a team or a tribe will start to arise.

  8. My blogging philosophy continues to evolve as well. But I mostly think a blogger who is in it long-term has to find a topic or topics they're passionate about, then continuoulsy allow their voice to shine through. For me it's about finding a blog interesting. It has to hold my attention to keep me coming back.

  9. I changed my blog to reflect the genre of writing I do. It was a huge tonic for me as I now blog about things which really interest me and are no hassle to write. I hope others see my enthusiasm for my subject matter shining through. I still blog about writing but only in as far as I can relate it to writing thrillers.

  10. Popping in again here to say, YES (to those of you who are mentioning writing about your passion, about things that interest you). When we share the things we're passionate about (and for some of us that might include writing topics!), our readers will see that coming through. When we share deeply, genuinely, and relationally hopefully our posts will resonate with readers.

  11. I absolutely agree. To me, blogging has always been relational and about building relationships. I have met the most wonderful people through blogging. I will be very surprised if the majority of my followers are readers. Before I started writing, I rarely looked at WHO an author was. I might know their name, but I was more interested in their books.
    I adore blogging and I don't believe in boxes. That is, like you said, it should be individualistic. Some people think there's an exact formula that MUST be followed, and I don't agree with that.
    Good post, girl!

  12. I've struggled with this question, but I've finally come down with a shrug, realizing I have to write what people actually care to read. On my blog, that is *not* writing-related posts.

    Plus, I write such a wide variety, from nonfiction religious books to personal essays and secular fiction, not to mention music, that I don't really have a writing "niche" to address.

    I have found that my readership hasn't expanded the way I initially hoped, but for now, that's where I am. So it goes. And I have to echo the above comment about all of us being called to different things. The sheer scope of my "focus" (or lack thereof) allows me to touch people on topics they wouldn't ordinarily go looking for.

  13. Forget the debate - you're doing great. I found your blog due to our shared interest in writing, but through it fell in love with your books. Count me as a tribe member!

  14. Yep, it's about building a team and more...for me it's about connecting with women--my peeps.

    I learn so much from the comments on my blog. I've grown as a writer because of my dedication to blogging, but more, as a person as well.
    ~ Wendy

  15. Hi Jody,

    Sorry havn't been over in a while... Been busy. Just bought our first house! (Very excited move in tomorrow...)

    I don't think it matters. However if you want a blog for your readers, then it needs to include stuff that is interesting for them.

    If you want a blog that connects you to the writing world, keeps your fingers tapping on the keys and keeps you up-to-date with the industry, then write about writing.

    I find that writing about writing helps focus me a little. Narrows in on what i need to be working on.

    So really write what makes you feel good. IF you can't decide - then have both!

    Anyway back to writing, have a great day.


  16. Great topic Jody!

    After taking Kristen Lamb's online Building Your Brand course I think I got it.

    A writing blog is not my message. Writing is my passion, but it's what my stories are about the drive me. I love sharing about all the broken places people have that are screaming for a Savior.

    Now blogging makes sense:)

  17. Other than yours & two others, I don't read writer's blogs anymore. For the most part, everyone says the same thing. Like a book, a blog has to have an unique voice to hook me - and most don't.

    I primarily use my blog to give updates about my book and random things that interest me. Perhaps it's not the best approach (I don't post regularly), but it allows me to focus on other forms of social media where actual conversation exists: namely, Twitter. Blogging feels too one-sided to me when trying to connect with others.

    That said, I'm thankful for blogs like yours.

  18. I like the word "relationally" about how to blog. I was just reading blog post by Michael Hyatt this morning (yes, of course I found it through your fabulous agent) and he used a blog template that allowed him to respond to comments non-chronologically. In other words, his reply to X was directly under X's comment, not at the end of the string.

    Aha! I thought. That is a good thing.

    And now I know what it's called: blogging relationally.

    Thank you!

  19. I've been pondering this question lately, too. In my own blogging, I'm finding that even though I know the craft of writing well, doing posts about writing don't always interest me. Someone who was at the ACFW conference recently tweeted that in one of the seminars there someone had said fiction writers shouldn't necessarily blog about writing exclusively... so I'm giving that a try to see how it goes. Big change for me after 2 years!

  20. It's such an interesting discussion. I do think that building a team is important and I am truly grateful for the wonderful people I have come to know through blogs and blogging. However, I've had many teachers and readers tell me how much they enjoy the blogs of writers who blog about their perspectives on writing. Who better to turn to about writing than a writer, after all.

    As is true with almost everything, we can't please everyone all the time. I enjoy the blogs written with sincerity and passion for a topic. I guess, in the end, that seems the wisest way to go (for me, anyway).

  21. I agree with you. I want a team of friends who are supportive, and I want to offer that to others as well. My posts are varied. I don't adhere to set rules in one genre, partly because I write both fiction and non fiction, and my followers are a varied group. Good post. :)

    Thanks for the shout out about tomorrow's interview and giveaway!

  22. This is a fun topic. I have been blogging more often lately, primarily to grow the habit of writing in public. When I started my blog, I called it "My Favorite Things," because I knew if I didn't write about things that interest me, I wouldn't write! I also wanted to maintain a positive tone. I mainly focus on reviews of books, movies, and food, but I only write about things I like rather than bashing what I don't. There is enough negativity out there already. My goal is that readers will get to know me through my favorite things, and perhaps find something we have in common. I suppose it is very much like building a tribe, although I wouldn't have thought of it that way before reading this post.

  23. I do agree although that wasn't my intended purpose when I started. I also remember reading an agent preferred her clients to write both fiction and non. Either way, blogging has helped me connect with a community that has made a huge impact on my writing - for the better.

    Like the word tribe :)

  24. Literary tribe! Yes, that's exactly it. That is what I have found so valuable about blogging thus far. I'm still working on my first manuscript, but I've already gotten so much encouragement, advice and support and it has made all the difference. Through blogging.

    Sarah Allen
    (my creative writing blog)

  25. Hi Jody. I just found your blog through a tweet your agent put out. This topic is so interesting to me, because I just started blogging a few months ago. I haven't posted a whole lot of posts, mostly because I do have difficulty finding (1) time (I'm also working full time and trying to write a manuscript also!) and (2) interesting topics. I tried to find a "niche" and decided to gear my blog toward my experience writing my first novel. But it's been difficult for me to come up with new topics, and to sound like any sort of expert when I've just started this! So thanks for an interesting post. This has me thinking a lot. Perhaps I should expand my blog topics to include things that could be interesting to potential readers and not just to writers.

  26. Great post, Jody! I very much agree with your point that blogging before publication is all about building community and making connections. It only makes sense that we're unknown to readers at that point because we don't have a product yet. It's good to start to build a platform in the direction of readers but I agree that building a team may mean we partly blog about writing because that's our connection at that moment.

    Enjoying the comments in this post too. You have to love a good discussion!

  27. Blogging has so many benefits beyond selling books. It creates discipline and an ability to meet self-imposed deadlines. It makes us better, faster, cleaner writers and YES it creates community.

    I have no real problem with writers blogging about writing. Yet, I do feel it can be a comfort zone. It can also create burnout. I mean how many years can we blog about narrative structure or landing an agent before we hate our blogs and want to slam our heads in a door?

    It also severly limits our audience. We aren't talking to potential readers (who don't also happen to be writers).

    Fiction authors, unlike NF authors do not have the burden of being viewed as an expert. YOU ARE STORYTELLERS FIRST.

    Storytellers have elevated the mundane to the magical for tens of thousands of years. Why does this stop with blogging? Why do writers suddenly all feel the need to become teachers? If you are a teacher then great, but if not? Don't try to be something you aren't.

    Our blogs really are just to create community, to generate discussion and to leave people better than when they came to our blog. Our blogs need to be the fun place to hange out and share our thoughts and opinions.

    One of my students took a day off from blogging about writing and, instead, write a blog about her collection of My Little Ponies. Her comments and subscriptions EXPLODED. People related, they connected and they wanted to share about their favorite toys from childhood. Her blog has grown increasingly popular and her content appeals to writers AND non-writers (code for "reader").

    The best blogs make us 3D human beings and help others come together in community. Thanks for an aweome post!

  28. I blog for many of the reasons you listed - to make connections, to find a tribe, to be part of a community. Also, as Kristen Lamb says, regular blogging is a form of writing discipline, a way to recognize and embrace the deadline.

    Great post.

  29. I think an author's blog could be a balance of all things, articles for other writers, and articles for readers, but as you correctly point out, a lot depends upon the size and interests of your own readers.

    I agree with your conclusion that in many cases we are all blogging for the benefit of other authors, and particularly unpublished or newly published authors. I guess that is a kind of "support group". I also like to think that my own meager posts help those who are interested in writing their first novel. My friends ask me a lot of such questions.

    I learn a lot from your posts, and those of other authors. Blogs and twitter are a stream of information that is easy to dabble in, to dip into for inspiration, so I think that it is ok for there to be something for everyone. Often it inspires me just to hear other authors are facing the same challenges, or having lazy writing days - I don't always need to learn something.

    Great thought-provoking post!

  30. This topic has been on my mind lately. My blog seems a bit bi-polar. I started with random topics, then focused on writing for a while. Turns out I got a better response from the random topics. Probably because that's where my heart was. Regardless of all the other reasons for a fiction writer to blog, blogging has taught me a lot about writing. And a lot about myself. Neither of which were ever my goals. :)

  31. I think it's important to use blogs as a way to show publishers that you can write on a regular basis and keep deadlines, etc., but it's also a great means to build online support. Like you said, Jody, many of our friends in real life just don't know what it means to be a writer. We need to find an outlet where we can express our joys and triumphs with people who understand and appreciate them.

  32. Jody,
    Of all the fiction writers who blog about writing, your blog is my favorite. You do it so well, and I've learned so much from you! I think that we should be blogging about what we are passionate about. For me, that's not the writing process, because I could never do it justice the way you and many others do. I'm going to focus on topics that I find relevant to what I'm writing about, like relationships and romance. I do think our blogs should focus on building a base, and I'm hoping to do just that. :)

  33. You've summed this up very well. My opinion is still evolving too, and right now I feel strongly that my team of blogger writing friends are a blessing. I hope I help them as much as they help me. But I also feel it's important to reach out, branch out, and include others in a genuine way, not a 'get my numbers up' way. I try to be genuine, but it doesn't always turn out as well as I'd like. Onward and upward. :)

  34. So the write-what-you-love philosophy has been mentioned many, many times, but I thought I'd throw in my two cents anyway.

    I've always wanted to be a good blogger, but for some reason it's never really worked for me. Now that I have a blog with my name on it and a book coming out that will say "and for more, go to the website," I do feel more likely to be successful. Also, this time around I've limited myself to blogging once a week, because that's the most I trust myself to come up with quality content.

    I write biblical fiction, currently plucking stories from the book of Acts and creating a story around that story. So I blog about faith, sharing the Gospel, and how writing allows me to share the Gospel when I might otherwise be chicken. That leaves plenty of leeway for topic choosing and seems to be working so far for me.

  35. Hey everyone! Am REALLY loving the discussion here in the comments today! Thank you everyone for adding your thoughts. I appreciate each and everyone (even though I don't have the time to respond to each one individually!).

    Special thanks to Kristen Lamb for chiming in. I know we all have appreciated learning from you and your social media books! You have great wisdom, my dear!

    And thanks too to Janet Reid for stopping by! Love the "blogging relationally" term. I think that's truly how we build our blog followings.

  36. I agree, Jody. One thing blogging for three years has taught me--chill out! I used to be so fanatical about getting things right (including the perfect blog formula or whatever). Now, I'm just relaxing and enjoying it more. :)

  37. Jody, you helped inspire me to write a new post on my own blog about something that non-writers can also relate to: time management and prioritizing in the face of worry! Thanks!

  38. I love Jill's comment to chill out. Great post Jody.

  39. I've been blogging several years now and started to dedicate myself to one blog last year. I'm just about finished with my first novel. I blog about living purposefully and what God has been teaching me, which looks different post to post and week to week. Because my WIP focuses on grief and loss, I've been incorporating more of my own bereavement history on my blog, which I'd previously left to my professional (now defunct) blog. I do look at this time as a way to build my tribe and I certainly hope that my regular readers will read my book if/when it's published. But I think you're right that book readers may not always translate to blog readers. It's good to be aware of these matters though.

  40. Great post, Jody! I have to echo Jennifer Hale's thoughts. You do such a great job at mentoring other writers through your blog (as do other bloggers), that I don't feel a need to add myself to the mix. I do have an outlet for writing-related posts in my group blog, so that takes the pressure off for my personal blog. Ultimately, I think if we're being genuine and giving people a sense of who we are, they'll connect with it.

  41. I have a writer's blog "Living the Writer's Life'> Sometimes it's just about that, other times in the past I posted snippets of my work-in-progress novel. It is about all aspects of a writer's life and I think it's important for people who want to be writers to know what that entails.
    I also have 2 other blogs: one for travel and one for general rants. And I plan to start a blog for my finished novel to promote it as I am marketing. Blogs are useful tools.

  42. I couldn't agree more. This post has captured all of the reasons I blog, although I hadn't even realised some of them until I read the post. So very helpful and motivating. Thanks, Jody. :-)

  43. If you've seen my Thursday post, then you know I agree with you 100%. Definitely great minds thinking the same thing. :)

  44. That's interesting actually. I don't really know; I don't think I've decided that myself. My blog started like a diary, a soundboard that I could put things on to come back later, mainly to clear my head of things that was cluttering it. Then as the months went by, I used it to talk about writing achievements (NaNoWriMo 2010).
    Now, a whole year on, I use the blog to talk about everything; my writing, certain not-too-personal aspects of my life, my radio show, my drawing (occasionally), book and film reviews.
    I wonder if talking so much about so many different things distracts from my actual fiction writing, but if I was just going to talking about my writing, it would run the risk of being a bit samey, since at the moment, its all a bit slow.

    Interesting though; I hadn't thought over much about exactly where and who I wanted my blog to speak to.

  45. I've been in the process of reinventing my blog. I've been blogging for years, trying to figure out what my brand is. I believe I finally understand the concept. I'm also thinking of going the ebook route.

    There's a lot of ebooks out there. It's a sea filled with flotsam, and not a lot stands out. How does a reader find me? A lot of writers don't get how to promote -- they just push "Buy my book" to other writers. Other writers are a very small audience, and they don't stand out from the other writers.

    I know of a writer who has a writing blog. Also about 10 ebooks. She writes about writing. Gets a lot of comments, so people are following her blog. But I've also seen her lament in tweets that no one is buying her books. All those writers are coming in for the writing advice, and they're not buying.

    Doesn't seem like a good use of my time to blog to people who are interested in the writing tips but not interested me. So I've been trying to reinvent myself by working my brand. I still have one writing-related blog a week for the writers -- and in line with my brand -- but the other two are on things potential readers might be interested in.

  46. I'm new to the world of blogging and your posts on blogging have been an encouragement to me. I'm beginning to see that having a following on one's blog can help them out when they are pursuing writing. Whatever writing is done in blogs or in books, I think it should be done from the heart. That seems to be the best type of writing!

  47. I'm new to the world of blogging. in fact I stumbled on your blog as i research on the purpose of blogging.
    And you have MADE A WHOLE LOT OF SENSE - at least to me. I'm an aspiring writer as well, hoping to finalize my first novel by September ending. Thank you for putting those beautiful thoughts. i agree with you - blogging should serve more to build teams that leaves each person on the team satisfied and fulfilled.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Despan! I'm glad the post resonated! I wish you all the best as you blog!

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