There are a great many different types of author blogs out there, some of them absolutely awesome (like John Scalzi’s Whatever, Chuck Wendig’s Terribleminds, Larry Brooks’ Storyfix, Janice Hardy’s The Other Side Of The Story and Jody Hedlund‘s blog, and dozens more) and some of them rather peculiar and all over the place (won’t give examples, I’m sure you know a few).
I’ve been spying around with my little digital eye, sifting through the many authors’ blogs that stand out and a few that don’t, trying to understand the pattern and the basic categories. I’ve only taken single-person blogs into consideration, not group blogs or multiple-column websites, and here’s the resulting list of my findings. It’s a multiple-choice list really, since most great blogs are a mix of at least two types, and it’s also got the distinct selfish purpose of clarifying my own direction for the future.
1. General Writing Advice
Writers that have dedicated their online existence to teaching other writers about the writing craft. The posts cover all the basic elements of the writing craft, specific techniques and countless examples, interactive critique and case studies, and are not directed at specific genres. These blogs are popular watering holes for the big and small scribblers scurrying through the internet.
Pro: They offer an enormous amount of useful tips and tricks, and attract a large audience of aspiring writers who form a loyal community around the blog’s author.
Con: Such blogs rarely win over new customers who buy books, except if the books are about writing fiction. They also tend to lack more depth the wider they spread in their struggle to cover all relevant topics.
2. Writing Industry
Not just authors, but also agents, editors and publishers who blog about industry inside information and related advice. Particularly loved by writers who are dealing with the industry for the first time, either querying agents or self-publishing their debut novels.
Pro: These blogs offer a degree of transparency to the publishing process, and offer much needed guidance to beginners.
Con: They don’t do much in terms of establishing their author as a creator of fiction. But that’s fine, most blog authors of this type aren’t primarily writing fiction anyway.
3. Writing Pop Culture
Writers who blog about the latest developments in the literary community, such as current best sellers, awards and prestigious contests, conventions and lectures by famous authors. They focus on what’s hot and why, and act like a search light running over the entire literary landscape, highlighting things of general interest to writers.
Pro: They are an awesome source to keep up with the speeding industry and community.
Con: They are mainly literary newsreels.
4. Genre Specific
Writers who only blog about topics and advice related to their specific genre. Most often encountered with writers of sciene-fiction, fantasy, romance, historical, horror and crime. They can be about the writing craft and research, or industry developments and awards, as long as they’re related to the genre.
Pro: Ideal for other writers of the genre, and for ones curious about dipping in. Also great for readers who are curious about the nuts and bolts of how books of their favorite genre come to be.
Con: This type of blog is tough to pull off for writers who have a very unique perspective on their genre, and might not find a great many other writers who share that approach. But I doubt that’s the point of genre related blogs.
5. Polemic and Satire
Writers whose main focus is criticism of current social developments, of writing industry developments, other writers, politics, religion, and general online community developments. These blogs are strongly colored by the author’s opinions, but not necessarily in a negative way. If the author is well informed and has a strong grip on reality, such a blog can be phenomenal.
Pro: Readers of all kinds can get a good inside scoop, get to understand the author’s perspective while also becoming informed about critical issues.
Con: Strong opinions often find strong opposition. It’s not uncommon for such blogs to cause comment-riots and segregation.
6. Research and Sciences
Writers who mainly blog about facts they discover during book research, or about the latest scientific and technological developments. Also, writers who blog about uncovered historical facts, details of a real political situation they are writing about, details about a true crime they are writing about, and so on.
Pro: Facts are awesome! Weird facts and uncommon discoveries are even awesomer. A great many people are curious about facts, even if they don’t have any other tangents with that particular science, genre or topic.
Con: It’s not easy to present facts in an entertaining and personal way, and not become a Wikipedia subsidiary.
7. Speculation and Contemplation
This type of blog spans the entire fiction genre spectrum. It consists of writers who blog about potential future developments of our current sciences or industries, about the evolution of individual or global consciousness, about technological advancements looming just over the horizon, or about political developments in the far future. It also consists of writers who blog about the meaning of the human condition as we know it now, about the effects of certain historical events on our present priorities, and so on. Not to mention general ruminations about the life, the universe and everything.
Pro: Fascinating blogs to follow if their authors have a way of making things expand and grow, stimulating the readers’ imagination.
Con: There’s a thin line between speculation and aberration; also some blogs lean perilously toward preaching and doomsday-saying.
8. Personal Diary
Writers who blog about anything that strikes their fancy, held together by the fact that it’s mainly about things that affect them personally, not a wider group of people. Trips with the family, memory lane strolls and personal qualms and hopes are included.
Pro: These blogs often create a cozy atmosphere, like an afternoon conversation with a friend, and can be really valuable in today’s accelerating day-to-day hustle.
Con: Keeping private things private is often a problem, as is the tendency toward digression.
9. Fiction Samples and Contests
Writers who mainly post samples of their fiction, either from a work in progress or as entries into various online writing contests.
Pro: A very good way to show skill and attract readers, to promote one’s book or to gain visibility among peers.
Con: Not well suited for novelists, and sometimes even counterproductive. They also feel episodic, lacking cohesion.
10. Guest Posts, Interviews, Reviews and Promotion
Writers whose blogs are comprised of posts written by, or centered on other people — interviews, guest posts, reblogged posts from famous bloggers, and even complimentary reviews specifically intended to promote other writers (often on a quid-pro-quo basis).
Pro: Great page-view statistics and a glorious aura of selfless generosity.
Con: A glorious lack of personality & meaning.
11. Personal Ramblings, Rants and General Gibberish
The blog that just won’t get to the point. This category holds blogs by writers who have no idea what to blog about and end up sighing or thinking in 500 words spurts, or bitching about things they don’t like or can’t be bothered to understand. Not to be confused with the diary blogs, in which posts treat coherent episodes of their writer’s lives, or with the polemic and satire blogs that discuss things of general importance in an intelligent, sarcastic manner.
Pro: A good way to vent frustrations, and to establish oneself as a human being (as opposed to, say, a three-legged chair).
Con: They give people that eerie feeling of intruding on someone’s tantrum. They have a troubling tendency toward woe-is-me-ism and toward censoring comments that disagree or chastise the writer for their bitching.
12. Social Media Paraphenalia
Writers who don’t seem to have anything else in common with the writing community other than the social media tools they use. Their blogs focus primarily on how to promote books via social media, how to gain followers or use hashtags correctly, how to create FB pages or author blogs, and how to get people to interact with their automation bots. Not offering much else than mainstream blogging blogs, these types of “writers” blogs are pretty much just a travesty for various tutorials.
Pro: Temporarily useful to writers who are starting out with a specific online tool.
Con: Indistinguishable from general tutorials dedicated to social media tools, most of which are much more detailed and professional than their “writer dedicated” counterparts.
13. All-Over-The-Spacetime-Continuum Disasters
Writer blogs that are updated only when the right stars are aligned, that have never seen a coherent topic thread or a distinct author voice, and are basically reduced to being washed-out tags hanging from their author’s name in various search engines.
Pro: Useful as space-fillers for those nasty rows that say “website” on various social media profiles.
Con: Complete and utter waste of bytes, with less genuine followers than letters in their domain names.
Most successful author blogs are a combination of at least two such categories (typically those before #10), but despite their great variety, all of them share the presence of a strong, authoritarian voice that readers trust and enjoy to read. Most of that strength comes from dedication and conviction, from passion and openness, not from a secret formula of success or the current fad in modern bloggery.
After almost a year in the blogosphere (yeah yeah, I know, whatta greenhorn), I think I want my blog to be more (4) Genre Specific (maybe with some research and speculation thrown in), so I will slowly veer away from general writing advice. I have nothing against writing blogs, in fact I love reading posts about the craft, but I find it increasingly tedious to write them myself. I’d much rather spend my online time chatting about the awesomely diverse science-fiction universe that makes my cogs spin and my lights burn brighter every single day. Blogging about the sciences and the resulting fictions is both exciting and daunting, but you know what, it feels pretty damn good! I hope most of you guys will stick around with me, and there will still be occasional how-to and what’s-this posts, but I gladly yield the writing advice floor to professional coaches who are much better at teaching things than me.
So whatta ya think? Which types do you enjoy reading most?
Also which type of blog is yours? How did you realize it’s what you really wanted?