Sunday, July 17, 2011

Avoiding the (blogging) Pretentious Label

This is an excerpt from my new writing reference book, No More Blank Screen: Blogging Ideas for Fiction Authors.

There is one bit of advice that I'd like to pass on to all bloggers, but especially unpublished ones who discuss the business of writing and publishing. It is really important to blog about what you know.

Many new writers start out blogging about their path to publication. They share their ups and downs, pass along helpful websites, and the writing tips they've picked up along the way. All of these ideas produce great blog articles and bring readers to your site.

Problems arise when the blog becomes a teaching tool by a writer with nearly no publishing or writing experience. Published authors may be turned off by advice from someone with no actual knowledge on their subject manner. Even worse, you could be passing along incorrect information and leading people down the wrong path.

Not sure what I mean?

Let's say Bob is an unpublished writer who is working on his first fantasy novel. He's stumbled upon a way to ramp up the tension in his first chapter. Here are two potential blog posts from Bob:

Example #1
You wouldn't believe what happened today! I finally figured out how to ramp up my tension in Chapter 1. What a difference. Here's a quick summary of what worked for me. Have you tried something similar?
Example #2
When you write fantasy, you need to remember the importance of conflict and tension in your first chapter. Here are some steps on how to do it properly so that you can catch the eye of an agent.

See the difference? In the first example, the author's voice is coming through, celebrating a breakthrough in his writing. In the second example, the information appears to come from the author's own experience. He's teaching us, even though Bob can't honestly say if his steps will help catch an agent's eye because he hasn't even finished a novel!

Personal experience? People love it. Teaching without any experience? You get a bit of a reputation for talking about things you don't actually know. It makes it harder in the future for people to take your actual knowledge seriously.

So, how do you avoid the pretentious label? Quite simple, really. Blog about what you know. If you don’t know something, blog about how you don’t know or how you don’t understand a particular thing. In fact, people generally will respect you more for admitting that you don't know. As a bonus, readers may comment and give their advice and opinions. Instant dialogue!

Bottom line: Write what you know. Everything else falls into place.

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