Blogging and "platform"

In the September issue of Writer’s Digest, there’s an article by Nina Amir encouraging writers to “blog their book” — to post a blog with bite-size book content over time to develop a readership and, eventually, attract the attention of publishers. The article has a “hit two birds with one stone” approach, claiming you can “build your platform” AND write your book at the same time. Although she admits this works better for non-fiction, she encourages fiction writers to give it a try, too. I started wondering whether I should be posting more of my actual writing here, rather than just writing about my writing. Over at the She Writes community, Meghan Ward writes a counterargument, backing it up with the fact that books and blogs are different mediums and don’t easily translate one to the other, and that once you post something on the Internet, it can be easily stolen or plagiarized (that argument worries me less and seems a little self-centered … if it’s so hard to get noticed, why would it be any easier for someone who stole your work to succeed in your place? Without your passion for the subject, I suspect they’d give up before they became rich off your material.) Ultimately, Meghan echoes the more “tried and true” advice of using your blog to supplement your book, to build your platform, without actually using the exact same subject matter or narrative arc.

All of this has me reflecting on this blog and my “platform,” whether I even have one or not, and what my purposes are, ultimately, for writing here. Initially, I opened this blog because I felt I didn’t have the skills needed to build a website from scratch, and I wanted there to be a URL I could direct people to where they could see samples of my writing and that I did know a thing or two about word-smithing. So credibility was the one goal. But another goal was accountability. When I quit my traditional job to do freelance work full-time, I wanted it to be an opportunity for me to take some other big risks, too. I wanted to be published. I wanted to feel like a real writer. I imagined that if I stated my goals on this blog, the added sense of accountability would keep me persevering, even if only a couple of my friends were actually reading it. Until I had real “progress” to report, I filled space here with what I was learning about freelancing and info about opportunities for submissions and reflections on writing.

Ultimately, I did meet a lot of my goals — writing for publication, writing for a real audience, being recognized as a writer by the outside world. And now, it feels a little too “navel-gazy” to keep tracking my progress in that kind of way on this blog; I’m not sure the rest of the world really cares when I’ve sent manuscripts off, and what the results were; now, it’s more important that I just keep track of those things quietly and post here about them only in the breakthrough moments (a “good” rejection, or an acceptance).

Although I like having a place where I can reflect on my experience as a developing writer, I’m not enough of an expert on writing for “writing” to be a suitable “platform”; I know there are hundreds of writing blogs out there with real credentials, written by best-selling authors or by agents and editors who work with or for the big, established publishers. When I started this blog, what I had going for me wasn’t my expertise, but my inexperience as a newbie who was still (and is still) figuring this all out, a sort of, “If I can figure this out, you can too” approacah.

It’s no wonder that there’s a glut of writing blogs on the Internet–bloggers are all writers, after all. But there are also the blogs that offer a subject-matter platform instead–the child psychologist who has published parenting books, but who blogs about developmental psychology rather than writing. If you look at where and what I’ve actually published, Catholicism and sexuality seem to be my niche, but speculative fiction is my passion. Although the majority of my fiction does grapple with the same issues as my non-fiction, I get enough opportunity to blog my thoughts about religion at Young Adult Catholics. I could blog about speculative fiction, or the subgenre I love the most, which is retellings, and I would love the excuse to think and write more about fairy tales. I probably will, inevitably, since after wrapping up my second draft of Rumpled, I plan to plunge into planning my Rapunzel retelling, which is slated as my NaNoWriMo book for this year.

Here are a few things I do know: I’m not really interested in blogging for the sake of establishing a platform. Although there’s something validating in finding publication, my deepest passion still lays with my unpublished work. And I will continue to blog here, regardless of the direction in which this blog continues to evolve, because I like to do it, without getting hung up on whether it’s really serving any “purpose” to my career. Ultimately, that’s why I’ve been writing all along.