Should a novelist start a blog?

I read your comments today on bloggers-- how six people with book deals this season are bloggers and how agents google the names of potential clients.

Would you advise would-be novelists to start a blog? And at what point in the creative process would a blog be most helpful to a writer's career?

I'm worried that writing and maintaining a blog will take away from my much-needed real writing time.

And what kind of things do you look for when visiting potential clients' blogs? Publishing savvy? Humor? Evidence that they enjoy a dry martini? A certain professional commitment? The lack of felony convictions?

Let me clarify: I visit blogs of people who mention me. They are not potential clients. When someone sends a query letter, I read the pages. I hardly ever read the blog or a website unless the writing gets my attention. So, your first job is to write well.

Blogs are a nice bonus when you're talking to an editor about the fact this debut novelist is not unknown. Short story publications help. So does a well clicked blog.

Blogging sucks up time like a hoover. None of my novelists blog unless they are on the road. I asked. They're busy writing their novels, or writing to me, or writing to their fans. Mostly they're writing.

And blogs can suck up your creativity. I'm reminded of a scene in one of the Fletch books by Gregory McDonald. A columnist does a whole rant on "my wife liked your book". At the end of the rant, he ruefully says "there goes a great column. Once I've said it I can't write it."

The value of this blog for me is that I get to hear from writers who aren't all caught up in the burning question of whether I like their novel. I've learned a LOT from the questions that've been asked and the links y'all have sent. Not to mention learning how to punctuate y'all correctly.

Plus it's like an early morning diner with the local townspeople. Not a lot of that here in New York. I like that. It's fun.

But, it sucks up time like a whale at the Circus Circus plankton buffet of life. I don't sleep much and I don't watch television at all so that's where I get the time, but if you're trying to write a novel AND work you don't have much time as it is. And a successful blog is work, and has to be updated OFTEN.

I advise posting comments and reading them rather than writing one. Or joining forces with other writers. They do that over at Romancing the Blog

No, I don't advise novelists to start blogs. I advise novelists to revise more.


Mama Rose said...

But blogging is so much fun!!!!

I don't want to give it up, which is why, as a general rule, I limit myself to one blog entry per day and only during the week. I don't write stuff every day. Some days I post those fun things I find on my friend's blogs that I want to share. It balances out the work so I get to do something I enjoy and still get the work done on my novel. Now, I just have to remember to update the progress bar so y'all can see that I really am writing. :)


carriekabak@yahoo.com said...

Oh lordy, I admire those who blog brilliantly AND write manuscripts. I can't. :o(

Miss Snark, I have put a link to your blog on mine. Well, you can't really call mine a blog. Perhaps after I've turned my ms over to my agent, and before I start the next, I'll make my excuse for a blog a bit more, um, lively.

Where's a great place to eat on Hudson Street?

ali said...

I find blogging helps me write. I don't write often, though, or very long entries. But after I've written in my blog about whatever I've been thinking about, I feel much calmer and more ready to write. Otherwise I just sit spinning round on my chair :).

Demented M said...

For me, writing on my blog doesn't suck up as much time as surfing all the other blogs.

Blogging doesn't interfere with my writing in the sense that I'm pretty disciplined about my writing time. It does allow me to free associate (in public--eek!) and blogging really helped me realize how and why I'm funny. I also used it to sharpen my dialogue by posting oddball conversations I had with my husband--that was a big help.

Overall, blogging has been a useful experience, but I plan to keep it a deep, dark secret from agents and editors. They don't need to see the rampant comma abuse on my blog. The blog has mistakes that will never be found in my fiction. The blog gets the least quality control of everything I write. That might be the wrong approach, but it works for me.

I know you've been there and I'm sure other pub pros have checked me out, but I won't be publicizing the blog in my queries. In that sense, I don't see the blog affecting me negatively.

I don't think I'll ever be one of those authors whose agent and editor read their blog. My blog is more about me than it is a promotional vehicle and there are just some things agents and editors do not need to know about me. :)


Bill Peschel said...

Blogging, for me, is an outlet, a way of sharing bits of information and generally let off steam, but I've found that I can either write the book or blog, but not both.

If nothing else, blogging made it clear which choice I had to make.

Kristin said...

While I was writing my novel, I found maintaining my blog hard to do. All my inspiration was channeled toward the novel, and I had nothing left for the blog. Since I finished the wretched beast (and only edit it at night instead of at work), I'm having fun with the blog again. Like Ali said above, writing about my life and my house on the blog frees my mind of clutter and leaves it more ready to write other stuff. Plus, it keeps me in writing mode.

Sherrill Quinn said...

I use my blog to let readers see my personality. It's more of a marketing tool than anything else. Plus, I share tidbits that I'm learning as I go along, hopefully to help other writers out there.

Two blogs that I check regularly are Miss Snark's (of course) and Deidre Knight's. Blogs are like forums--if you get hooked up to too many of them, all your time gets sucked away.

Now, if I can just discipline myself not to check my email every 10 minutes...

Kayla said...

I agree with M. Bloghopping takes more time than writing entries. Both are addicting, but neither get in the way of working on my latest ms or what ever else I need to do. Blogging is like an ice cream sundae at the end of the day -- not as delicious, perhaps, but still relaxing.

Jillian said...

For me, blogging is a way to make a "readership transfer." Because I've made the switch from non-fiction to novel, I've got to broaden and/or change my readership prior to The Big Publish.

Also, since I type an average of 95 WMP, blogging doesn't take up much time. I'm lucky in that, I suppose. I'm lucky, too, that the writing itself is completely different than my fiction work, so it uses up a different kind of "writing energy."

(That sounded wacky, but there you have it.)

Not only have I mentioned the esteemed Miss Snark, but I link to her blog, which I believe many writers can benefit from. Do I hope that Miss Snark will want to represent me? No. Not because I don't think she's terrific, but because she does not represent my genre. And if I were seriously interested in querying Miss Snark -- or any other agent, for that matter -- I would definitely not blog about or link to said person!

I was very anti-blog until a few months ago, though, and went kicking and screaming to the blogging arena (my husband/business manager insisted that I needed to blog, dad-gum-it). Now, I find that the relationship I'm fostering with my regular readers is energizing and affirming. And we all need energy and affirmation, yes?

Throw me a positive comment and I'm happy for the day. "Positive blog comments" must be my love language.

harridan said...

Heh heh heh.

I don't blog. I've tried, but my midwest life is too dull to be noteworthy. Plus, my natural born penchant is to be controversial. I want to rant and rave on occasion. Heck, more than just on occasion.

So instead I just post on other blogs now and again and try to make sure that before I hit the post button, I've not been a total psycho.

Blogs are great, but I don't think I have the talent--or patience--to host my own.

Now ... bloghopping I am VERRA good at. (smile)

The Gambino Crime Family said...

The guy who writes Clublife, a blog about what it's like to be a bouncer in New York, just got a book deal, so it's not unheard of. But he's a really funny writer - if a bit bitter - and I don't get the feeling he's working on a novel on the side.

If you've got a great blog, one which complete strangers check every day (like this one), it's probably worth it. Otherwise, it'll just take up time you can use for your novel.

Kate R said...

How do you track yourself down in the blogs? Do you google yourself?

Miss Snark said...

Google "Miss Snark" and you'll get the array. It's pretty cool.

K said...

I think it depends what kind of writer you are.

I'm addicted to Neil Gaiman's blog, and he can obviously do it and still find time to write. But he's established, didn't start it as a showcase for his writing, and doesn't have a day job to schedule as well.

He has talked here


about feeling slightly weird about the fact that so many people now read it, and that if he decided he didn't want to do it any more, a lot of people would be sorry.

Gwen said...

A day job equals blogging time, though. I wouldn't work on a manuscript at my day job, but I may very well update my blog while at said day job.

(Notice that I'm admitting nothing here.)

I had a blog long before I sold my first book, and it ended up being a valuable marketing tool. I can't see quitting my blog in order to work on subsequent books. That wouldn't be keeping it real, you know?

Miss Snark, I found your blog through www.poundy.com and am enjoying it very much.