Monday, January 28, 2013

Who am I? Part 2: The Blog

The Look

Recently I've been looking at my blog. For while now it's been bright and cheerful. All happy little clouds and primary colors. I liked that look. It made me smile to look at it. But let me bring you in on a little secret... The look of my blog didn't reflect me as a person in the slightest. It also didn't reflect the type of stories I want to write at all.

That's a problem. As I'm sure you all know, there's this thing called author branding. Now, I hate the term "branding". It makes me feel like a commodity. Still, the principle behind the term is solid. Branding is all about how you present yourself to your potential readers. It's important to send a clear message about what readers can expect from you as an author.

And the simple truth is that I am not one of those cheerful, carefree bloggers that are always relating amusing stories and making people laugh. That's just not me. Sometimes I wish it was, but I have to accept who I am. I'm a thoughtful, introspective, often philosophic person who only talks when I have something worth saying and always, always, always fact checks any statement I make on any subject for dread of being wrong. When I'm humorous, it's usually sarcastic humor. I'm a somewhat serious and old fashioned person who sometimes wishes I had been born in another age and always wishes I had been born an Elf in Middle-earth. I'm not bright, cheerful colors and happy little clouds.

That's why I've decided to go for a new look. Something that reflects me and my writing better. Yeah, I'm definitely more of an earth tones person. The picture I've chosen for my new header is by Scottish painter David Roberts who produced many images from his tour through Egypt in the 1840s. It's no secret that Ancient Egypt is a passion of mine and a strong influence on my worldbuilding.

The Name

I've also chosen a new title for the blog. Truth be told, I've never been happy with "The Aspiring Subcreator". There's something suggestive about using the word  "aspiring". It subconsciously gives you permission to stay aspiring forever, to never quite meet your goals because you can always reach higher. Well, I'm tired of that. I want to accomplish something this year. I'm not giving myself permission anymore to keep putting off achievement.

I do love the term "sub-creator" coined by Tolkien. But the term "mythopoeia" (which also come from Tolkien, in the context of fantasy literature) is probably more descriptive of the particular way in while I want to write. And the structure of the word gives me a good opportunity to use it to make a geeky reference to Babylon 5, my favorite Sci Fi TV show. (The phrase "Falling Toward Mythopoesis" is a shameless paraphrase of the title of a season 4 episode of Babylon 5, "Falling Toward Apotheosis".) And we geeks love our little in jokes and references, don't we?

To match the new name and new look and new everything else, I think I'd also better change the blog address. As far as I know, if I change it nothing should get screwed up. Everyone who follows me under this address will still be following me under the new one. Please tell me if I'm wrong about that before I do anything drastic. My intent is to just use my name, since this will probably have to serve as my author's website for some time after I finally begin publishing. In fact, that's really what this whole overhaul is about. Getting serious about my goals and preparing for the day when I'll be using this site to present myself to the world as an author.

The Content

But the main thing about a blog is the content, right? No matter how pretty it looks it still needs to be engaging to those reading it. And now I'm going to talk about an observation I've made recently that may be a bit... unwelcome.

I took a long break (again) from the blogosphere. Actually, this past year I took a couple. Every time I stepped back and stopped watching my blog list and then came back... I've noticed that the list of blogs I follow becomes more and more about a relatively small group of writers constantly promoting each other to each other and little more. Which makes me wonder... Who are we even talking to here?

Most posts that show up on my blog feed are all cover reveals and blog tours and new releases. And I see the same ones over and over and over.  Do readers see any of this? Or is it mostly fellow writers? Is that even slightly effective? I'll be honest, I follow a lot of fellow writers because they are writers and I am a writer and I'm interested in writerly fellowship. However, most of the time I'm not at all interested in their books because I'm not going to force myself to read something that doesn't suit my literary tastes just because I like the author's blog. I admittedly skip over the blog tour posts and the cover reveal posts and the release date posts and all the other promotional posts. It means I end up passing over most of the posts that show up on my blog feed everyday. There are few enough that have any real substance outside of promotion.

The other major category of blog posts I see is inexperienced, amateur writers dispensing writing wisdom to other equally experienced amateur writers. Now, maybe it's just me, but this bothers me. I think that if you're going to act like an authority on a subject you should actually be an authority on that subject. If you're going to say things like "This is how you should ____" then you should have at least 10 published novels under your belt.  Now, it's fine if you're clearly just talking about what your personal opinion is or describing your personal observations of the writing process. But all too many unpublished, short term writers blogging around here act as if they know exactly how all books should be written and their posts come across as if they think their way is the right way or that they've discovered the one secret to good writing. Perhaps it's just bad communication, but I expect better than that of writers.

I don't say these things to call anyone out or to tell you you're doing it wrong. Whatever brings you happiness and success as a writer and blogger is what you should do. But I'm not happy with this blogging atmosphere. And I don't want to fall into that trap. The trap where all I'm talking to are fellow writers who probably don't want to read my books anyway because they simply enjoy different genres. The trap where all I do is promote myself and those fellow writers to other fellow writers or the trap where I talk as if I know everything about writing stories even though I haven't accomplished anything on a professional level.

I think I do have worth while things to say about writing and books, but they are only my opinions. I do think that blogs are a good venue for promotion, but only in moderation and I have doubts about how effective so-called blog tours could possibly be. I realize that it's hard to reach beyond the writing blogosphere to the actual readers (who aren't writers), but that's where I want to be headed. And I want to start making my blog right now a place where readers and writers can glean near equal value from reading my posts.

In Conclusion

I have a lot of work to do.


  1. I like the new look. I write...but I don't claim to be a writer. Yet. Right now I'm just a reader and as a reader, I can tell you from my own personal experience that I won't comment on a blog unless I have something good to say. If I can't add to a discussion or pose a thoughtful question, I don't. I don't want to comment just to comment. There isn't any point to that!

    As for falling into a trap? If you are aware of the issue, then more than likely you aren't going to fall into it. And as far as self promotion, if you don't, who will? I mean I wouldn't make every post about "ME MEMEME ME ME!" but it doesn't hurt to put out there what you're working on and what's upcoming!

    1. I have trouble commenting unless I have something worthwhile to say as well. But that's also how I am in life. I don't talk unless I have something to contribute.

      I am not talking about promoting your own works (in moderation) on your site. I'm mostly talking about all the blog tours that are constantly going on an all the people who are talking about other authors' covers and release dates and whatnot. I have strong doubts about how effective all that is and I know that if I see a post on someone's blog that's all promotion for other authors I'm more than likely going to skip it.

  2. I love the new look, and it makes me wonder about my own blog. Do I need to change something? Everything? I'm too old to change...

    1. I'm one of those really odd people who finds certain kinds of changes necessary and refreshing. :)

  3. Personally, I'm with you on the blogs that get skipped from my feed, and I refuse to promote I book I haven't read. At best, that's disingenuous. At worst, it turns out to be a lie.

    Also, I try to offer enough diverse content to attract people that aren't writers. I don't know if I'm actually accomplishing that or not, because, it seems, the writers are mostly the ones that comment, which, I suppose, makes sense. My traffic continues to go up, so I'm hoping I'm pulling in readers.

    I have an old post I started a long time ago called "what your blog says about you" that talks about some of the things you just mentioned. I have never finished writing that post because, at the time, I decided I hadn't been blogging long enough to publish that post and, since then, I just haven't gotten back to it. I have been meaning to for a while, though.

    I like the new look. I wish I could figure out how to change the look of my blog, but, when I have tried, blogger has only told me that I'm doing it incorrectly, so I gave up. I just don't have time to spend a couple of weeks learning how to make the visual changes I want to make. One day... probably when I can pay someone to do it for me.

  4. Andrew, yours is one of the blogs I read more often than not, even when I don't comment. Your posts are generally full of substance and I appreciate that.

    I've actually found that messing around with the blogger template is very easy. The most time consuming part was finding some good public domain art that would fit my vision.

  5. And I appreciate you appreciating it. I hate posts without substance and when bloggers fall into the trap of only posting those short bits that don't say anything, I quit following them.

    I have a picture of a dragon I tried to add as a background on my blog, but it wouldn't take no matter what I did to it. >shrug< I don't know. There are other things that blogger offers that just don't seem to work on my blog, too, so I don't know what the issue is.

  6. Perhaps you should try to adapt the dragon image as a header. As I understand it, for the background you really either need to use the blogger created backgrounds or an image that has been specially created to flow together seamlessly when it is tiled across the page for a background to really work.

  7. I tried that, too. I couldn't get it to work anywhere, and I don't really have the extra time, right now, to try and figure it out.

  8. Author branding is important to marketing and I do think our website/blogs should reflect who we are and how we write.

  9. Ooo...spiffy new look and title. And it works great with the address. You're probably not surprised that I like it! ;-)

    Also, I really like the Egyptology illustration.

  10. I think what makes it a wee bit easier for me - looking on the positive side of not being published yet - is that I *don't* have a book coming out or cover reveals of my own or anything. So blogging is still fun, and still a way to 'give' to other writers. On the other hand, I hope that if I do get published, I don't turn into one of those bloggers who forgets all her friends because suddenly there's an agent/editor/publisher imposed deadline...
    It's all a tightrope...
    I like your new colours a lot!

  11. I agree with everything you are saying. I prefer when bloggers who write about writing do it in a manner of "this is what I've discovered" and "this is where I'm at" rather than from the attitude of "here's some advice" (though I have been guilty of that myself). And oh my all the promotion. I can spot a genuine love of a book from fake promotion in a heart beat.

    I'm still experimenting with what to blog about but I keep coming back to - blog what you love, what you're passionate about. Honestly, I love to write book reviews about books I loved, or books that really made me think, so I'm trying that for a while.

    Very curious to see what you come up with! I loved discovering Tolkien's poem on your blog last summer and glad you incorporated it into your title.


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