Why Writers Should Blog and Bloggers Should Write

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Ali-swinging-from-bars(Photo  of me is thanks to my fantastic father-in-law!)

For a couple of years now, I’ve been caught between two different worlds.

There’s the blogging world. Your world. The world where I write these posts, and read other people’s work, and make a living.

Then there’s the writing world. The world of my MA and my workshop group. The world of fiction, of a story that I’ve worked on for two years.

At times, I’ve wondered who I really am.

I’ve looked at other bloggers and I’ve felt like a failure – for not posting more, for not focusing solidly on my business, for spending a substantial chunk of time writing fiction which, so far, less than a dozen people have ever read.

I’ve looked at other writers and I’ve felt like a failure – for spending so much time writing content that doesn’t challenge me much, for writing for money, not for posterity. For all the times when I haven’t written from the heart.

Yet a few of the people I know straddle two worlds with me – Lorna, Pam, Leanne and Nick amongst them.

And even though it’s been tough at times, even though I seriously considered not starting Aliventures until I’d finished my novel, I’m now glad to be a hybrid child of two worlds.

Here’s why.

Writers Should Blog

In December 1998, I turned fourteen.

Back then, I dreamt of one day being a “writer” and having a book published. Of course there were opportunities to write online (two years later, I started playing an online text game; four years later, I started my first blog) but “writer” still meant novels or non-fiction books which were on the shelves in real physical stores.

It would be another three years before I bought my first books from Amazon. “Research” meant going to libraries. Google didn’t yet exist.

But the world was already changing, irreversibly. I was reading fan fiction and taking part in chat rooms. I was soon to get my first email address.

Today, the world is very different. Today’s fourteen-year-olds have grown up with the internet – with broadband and email and Facebook.

Tomorrow’s readers are in this online world. And the authors who’re blogging – the ones with thousands of fans and followers – are the ones who’ll do well.

A blog gives you a platform. It gives you instant access to readers, without having to get an agent, a publisher, a book deal, a great spot in Borders or Waterstones.

There are a host of other advantages too, which I’ll be writing about in other posts – like getting comfortable with marketing yourself, and getting into a regular writing practice. For me, though, the most crucial thing is building an audience and reaching your readers directly. No barriers, no intermediaries.

Except …

Some bloggers take that as an excuse to just fling their words at the screen, press publish, and move on. Which isn’t good for them or for their readers. Because…

Bloggers Should Write

Some bloggers don’t really write. They just type.

I’m sure there’s been times when I’ve been guilty of the latter. It’s easy to fall into the trap of seeing posts as “content” – something to tap out fast in order to increase a bunch of statistics. More page hits. More comments. More readers.

But you know that bloggers who carry on like that won’t succeed. The blogs that you love aren’t the ones which churn out half-arsed content – they’re the ones where the words grab you and don’t let you go.

On Wednesday, I was listening to some of the awesome back catalogue of interviews on BlogCastFM, and J.D. Roth made the point that, actually, good writing matters. You’ll get and keep readers through the strength of your writing.

I think this is something which doesn’t always get sufficient attention in the blogosphere. When I wrote The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing, I aimed to plug a gap in blogging advice: there’s lots of great tips about strategy and technicalities, but not much on how to structure, draft, edit and hone a great blog post.

If you’re a blogger, you are a writer. Your words are being read by dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people. Remember that – and respect it.

Upcoming Birthday Sale – ooh!

Newsletter readers already know about this (you’re not on my newsletter list? Sign up in the sidebar – the big grey box).

It’s my birthday on 12th December! Yay! In celebration, from 6th – 11th December, you can get any (or indeed, all) of my three products at half price:

  • The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing (an ebook aimed at bloggers who want to write more easily and powerfully) – usually $29, will be $14.50
  • The Staff Blogging Course (a self-study course aimed at writers who want to make money from freelance blogging) – usually $19, will be $9.50
  • Regain Your Balance (not just for writers – an ebook on getting your balance back when life’s knocked you off-course) – usually $19, will be $9.50

All the money that I make during the sale will go to Divya Shanthi, a small charity in India which my family and my church support.

I’ll be posting all the details on Monday 6th, so stay tuned… (you might want to get on my newsletter list so I can send you an email to let you know when it’s live).

Thanks for commenting! I read all comments, and reply to as many as I can. Please keep the discussion constructive and friendly. Thank you!

32 thoughts on “Why Writers Should Blog and Bloggers Should Write

  1. While I love dabbling in the art of writing, I would never consider myself a “writer”. Then again, even though I blog fairly regularly, I don’t think I fit in with the world of “bloggers” either. Maybe I’m an example of somebody that straddles that middle ground–kind of a Jack of all trades… master of none. 🙂

    That sale is pretty incredible, Ali. I’m going to order “The Blogger’s Guide to Effective Writing”. I value your writing, so I know it’ll be good. Plus, that’s a great cause.
    .-= Todd@PhitZone´s last blog ..Budget Minded Fitness =-.

    • Awesome, and thanks Todd, I really appreciate the support 🙂 (And while $14.50 might not be too much to us, it’s means a year’s school uniform or school books for the kids over in Divya Shanthi.)

      I finally felt like I could call myself a “writer” once I started making money from it. But really, in my book, anyone who loves to write is already a writer.

    • Thanks, Alex! You’re a great voice in the blogosphere – I particular admire your ability to write from the heart and write with sensitivity and grace. I’m honoured that I’ve been an inspiration for that.

  2. Ali,

    You’re so right about the future readers are in this online world. Though I am just a reader, I think when people read books(both online/offline) they would value more your actual content (writing) than its form, whether blogs or physical books.

  3. Can you really separate bloggers from writers any more? Surely we all do the same thing. I think the problem with bloggers is that they are not thinking like businesses and travel writers and this means that they struggle to make money. I see more travel writers WITH blogs that getting a lot of business from writing one.
    .-= Darren´s last blog ..Locals review of historic Kirkstall Abbey =-.

    • Good question, Darren. I personally don’t think we should separate “bloggers” and “writers” — but I think most of us identify as one or the other. I certainly know lots of writers who’ve never read a blog, let alone written a post. And I know bloggers (like Todd, above) who are perfectly good at writing but who wouldn’t call themselves a “writer”.

  4. Hi Ali,

    Very nice post. I agree with you in the future, they will be more readers online and those bloggers who have many subscribers, will succeed. In terms of writing, I think the content has to be captivating, so it pulls the people to read it and make it easy for them to follow. Thanks for sharing
    .-= Dia´s last blog ..How to deal with a stubborn person =-.

    • Thanks Dia! I agree with you on captivating content – that’s what good writing is all about. A well structured, engaging blog post is always going to draw readers in much better than a post which was dashed off to fulfil some sort of content quota.

  5. You’re right, it is really easy to fall into the trap of “producing content” instead of “writing content”. I don’t know if there’s a difference to other people…but there is to me, and I have to watch myself because if I don’t, it’s easy to just churn things out without really thinking about it.

    Happy early birthday! 😀
    .-= Michelle´s last blog ..Gift Guide- Pagans =-.

    • Hehe, thanks! For what it’s worth, your stuff always comes across as “written” to me (actually, it’s a mark of how strong your writing is that I find your posts on paganism engaging … it’s really not one of my normal reading topics!)

  6. ” Your words are being read by dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people. Remember that – and respect it.” – so true, Ali. I was reminded of that once when one of my blog posts was shared through all the company and was read I think by everyone, including the CEO. The post was totally OK and I was still comfortable with it but nevertheless it was scary for a moment. But then I thought “Well, you know what you’re doing. It’s public. Be responsible for what you write.” It was a good lesson in being responsible for every word I put online.

    Thanks for another great post, Ali.

  7. Fabulous. I’ve always been a writer, and I’m new to blogging but now that and ghostblogging are what I do. But I think I’ll always be a writer that blogs. I agree so much with the idea that blogging helps you get more comfortable putting yourself out there for people to see, and the platform. Through the internet our words could be read by random people all across the world! What a potential audience!! It’s amazing.

    Thanks for the great insights!
    .-= Lauren Ashley Miller´s last blog ..College Majors Nowadays- Where is my Time Machine =-.

    • Thanks, Lauren! It is amazing 😀 I’m always really thrilled to meet people who’ve *read* my blog posts… suddenly it feels all the more real.

    • Show her this post and maybe she’ll understand why it’s so valuable to writers 😉 I think a lot of people who start out as non-blogging writers can struggle to “get” why it’s worthwhile.

  8. Hey, Ali. I read most of your articles on DLM. Haven’t been following your adventures regularly, but was happy to see you in my Twitter timeline, thanks to a retweet from @raamdev
    .
    That’s a great post there. Particularly, I totally agree with the idea about not seeing blog posts as just “content”.

    • Thanks Sudeep, glad to have you here! I blog here a bit more regularly than on DLM, so I hope you stick around. 🙂

  9. Ali,

    Thanks for writing this timely post. I appreciate your insights, as always.

    I’m not against blogging per se, but I have to wonder if….with reference to writers and writing….

    we are losing touch with reality in this virtual world, such as the joy of reading classical literature. There is so much we can learn from old or even ancient texts, which may not always be available on-line. I would rather read the works of Alexander Dumas, an amazing artist, in the original rather than on-line, but that’s just me.

    Also, all kinds of stuff are posted on-line. Not all of it is up to the mark. What you write is probably an exception to that rule. Believe you me, I have read all kinds of stuff on-line and it is not wholesome or worth the time.

    Having said that, there is nothing wrong with blogging. If you are a blogger, that’s A-okay. Just remember not to lose sight of the simple joys of life and good, old-fashioned, dust-layered books. And visit your local library too.

    There used to be a time when people would lose the hours in a library or bookstore. Have a nice day. Cheers.

    • Good counter-points, Archan.

      Regarding older texts — I’ve actually been delighted myself to discover some 19th century gems on Project Gutenberg (including a third book in the “Five Children and It” series by E. Nesbit which I never knew existed!) So I think, if anything, the online world has the potential to revitalise interest in pre-20th century texts.

      Yes, a lot of stuff isn’t up to the mark at all. That’s why I wish bloggers would see themselves as writers, not as content factories!

      Nowadays I lose far more hours online than in bookstores/libraries, especially now Borders has closed in the UK. 🙁 (Used to curl up in an armchair in the Cambridge branch of Borders as a student, wading through Dickens and George Eliot…)

  10. Whether you write fiction or write a blog, I think that it’s all good practice. As long as your writing. Write everyday, that’s what they say. I’ve recently leafed through some books on writing by James Michener, John Gardner, Brenda Ueland, Walter Mosley, Ann Lamott, most of them say write 1000 words a day.

    It could be a blog post, a long email to a friend, a letter, a sales letter, a press release, it doesn’t matter it’s all writing.

    If you write, you are a writer. Don’t wait for any body else to validate you. That’s why I started my blog, to add one more platform to express my writing, and to practice.
    .-= Zac´s last blog ..Scaredy Squirrel Book Review by Zac Vega =-.

    • I’ve definitely heard the 1,000 words a day advice from a lot of writers (Stephen King, too; have you read “On Writing”? If not, I think you’d enjoy it, based on your reading list there. :-))

      I’m not an absolute stickler for writing every day – but I think having several quality writing sessions each week is a must.

  11. Hi Ali,
    I think your title sums it up. I am a blogger, I write to convey my message, I also use video to get my message across. I think the term writer for me means an author, somebody that goes to print. Yes the world is changing that I understand, and also a lot of bloggers have their work in print. The offline world so to speak should not be overlooked.
    I am not a writer, I am a blogger.
    Pete
    .-= Pete Carr´s last blog ..GOAL- Whats Yours =-.

    • Thanks, Pete. I’d draw a distinction between “writer” (someone who writes, probably regularly and with at least the intent of having an audience) and “author” (a writer who’s been published in book form).

      But good point that the offline world shouldn’t be overlooked either. Contrary to how it might seem in the blogosphere, there are an awful lot of book-readers (and magazine and newspaper readers) who’ve never sent a tweet or commented on a blog!

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