I really liked Karen Ball’s post a few days ago where three different kinds of 21st century book buying and reading were identified. It seemed to me to get right to the heart of the matter: variety is what characterises the habits of book buyers. Since we have recently been having a discussion among ourselves about the possible future directions of this blog, I thought it would be interesting to copy her model and look at my own blog-reading habits as a representative example.
Why do I read blogs?
Blogs such as Cake wrecks are not going to expand my intellectual horizons (though I did learn a lot about different kinds of icing), but they are so funny. I usually don’t look at Cake Wrecks for weeks, then I go back and have a binge, reading back through pages of posts. I laugh and relax and feel happier afterwards. The thing that obviously makes this work is not so much the photos of cakes gone bad, but the author’s fantastic voice – she could write a teen novel if she wanted. Angus, Cakes and Full Frontal Icing?
We all know writing is a lonely business, and for me, the real value of blogs such as helpineedapublisher is that when I read them I know that there are other writers out there, coping with the same problems that I am. I shall not walk alone! Nicola Morgan’s blog works so well for me partly because it deals honestly with subjects that are really important to me, but also, importantly, because of her voice. You feel that a real person is talking to you, a real conversation is being had. The fact that she’s in Scotland, I’m in Italy, and we’ve never met, becomes unimportant. Helpineedapublisher is one of maybe two or three blogs that I actively look at daily.
There is really worthwhile and important information out there on the internet. People are giving it away for free. Most news sites, for example – BBC or the Guardian. From a writing point of view, I can go to The Greenhouse Agency’s blog to hear from the horse’s mouth what you should look for in an agent, or to find out what kind of writing they are looking for. I can go to Emma Darwin’s blog for a thoughtful piece on the technical skills of writing. People hoping to be published have more sources of free information available to them than ever before.
Obviously these three blog functions overlap. Ideally, I suppose a blog should be entertaining, give you a great sense of community, and be instructive as well. Helpineedapublisher does all three, I think.
When do I read blogs?
In a break from work, when I’ve finished typing up a section of my novel in progress, or done something else that makes my brain feel as if it needs a rest. I don’t sit down to read blogs as a duty – I do it in my spare time, for relaxation.
I think, therefore, that blogs are best compared to newspapers or magazines. The same things make both work: being written in a strong, entertaining voice, issues that affect the readers (or that the readers believe affect them), information that they need or want. Just like newspapers or magazines, they get cliquey; people stick to the same blog and want their opinions reinforced more than challenged, as is human nature. But the flip side of that is that they create a sense of lively community.
It seems that we writers should be in a really strong position to make the best possible use of blogging technology. We know how to write in a strong voice, we understand about writing for a specific audience, we know how to make novels readable and gripping – so the blogosphere should be our oyster. All comments on how we on ABBA can make the most of that oyster will be gratefully received below!