Friday, July 16, 2010

If You Can't Say Anything Nice, Sit Right Here By Me

Natalie Whipple has just posted some social networking tips for writers.

They are as follows (she fleshes them out very well though, so her post is still worth reading):

1. Don't be mean.
2. Don't be boring.
3. Don't be annoying.
4. Don't be (too) whiny.
5. Don't do everything.

They're actually pretty good rules for life, too :)

They all come down to one basic point - you never know who might be reading. I've talked before about being conscious of my 'public' persona as an unpublished writer who blogs. I try not be mean. It's tough, because sometimes I read a book that is just so unbearably BAD that I MUST warn the world about it or else I will go to HELL charged with being an accessory to RUBBISH BOOKS.


But I don't tend to post those. Because who knows who might read it?

And sometimes this feels - 'wrong' is too strong a word, as is 'cowardly'. Weasel-y, maybe? Political? Egotistical, because who on earth is going to seek out my blog to read my comments on their work?

Offline, I'm quite a snarky person. I try not to be mean, because being mean is - well, it's mean. But I also try to be funny, and these are uneasy bedfellows. So I do sometimes make snarky comments, and I can be vitriolic about things I don't like. And I recognise that there is a big difference between being nasty about someone for its own sake, and blowing off some steam with a close friend.

I don't always get it right. I probably don't always get it right on my blog either.

Does anyone else feel like they 'hold back' when they blog? Also, the 'Don't be whiny' rule is interesting - unpublished bloggers out there, do you ever find it hard to stay positive on your blog? Could you care less about staying positive on your blog?


  1. I agree, but if you don't give your opinion on things, you will get into trouble with #4 because you will have nothing to talk about but your own troubles.
    In fact this may be the biggest trap of all for bloggers -- who am I to talk about X, so let me tell you what's going on in my life instead.
    I should know, I've done it enough.

  2. I try and follow all blogging rules to keep people interested with my life rather than with my ranting. I do find that at times it is hard to follow the no whining rule however I've kind of done a play on it, next week my character and I have a discussion on things that annoy her, and things that annoy me. It's a funny way of showing that I have a difficult character rather than just whining about it.

    When I notice that other bloggers are whining about if they are good enough to be a writer I tend to post "You know your a writer" segments to the blogger world to show them that they are good enough... if they are crazy enough.

    I have a naturally sarcastic attitude but I hope that it never comes off rude, only playful. I think on my blog I'm still very much me just minus the foul language :)

    Great post!

  3. I think you are absolutely right in playing it safe in the bloggy world. You just never know who might be reading, and once it is out there it is forever.
    Caution is wise particularly if your humour is sarcastic, so much of sarcasm relies on context and non verbal cues. It's too easy to be taken literally when being sarky in a written medium.

  4. At one time I really thought about who was reading and adjusted accordingly. But now I just blog like nobody is reading (most of the time). I don't know who gave that advice, but I like it...

  5. Personally I take great pleasure in being very disciplined as to what I put on my blog and what I like my blog to be about. I find that taking time and effort to create a blog entry that I think is entertaining and well designed/written helps me improve my general writing/creative skills. And I find I have a sense of accomplishment too when I finish a blog entry. I know that probably makes me sound really sad but that's just how I treat my blog.

    I also like to think that the blogs I follow do the same! As in they are mindful of their audience and their audience's sensibilities.

    I don;t mind what bloggers blog about really. I do mind however when I recognise that they at least made the effort to compose a blog piece properly (writing/editing/drafting) because I do the same for mine. I would gladly read a long wordy blog entry if I can sense the effort put in each word in the same way I would a pictorial blog entry.

    I do the same with comments btw! LOL!!!

    Take care

  6. I agree with everything Al said. My own sense of humour is quite sarcastic and I do try and tone it down.

    There is a difference though with being opinionated and being mean. I hope I am never the latter.

  7. Laura, that's true. It's so hard to write interestingly when you're trying to only be nice. Dorothy Parker's book reviews are a great example of this - her bad reviews were laugh-out-loud funny, her good ones were clumsy and inarticulate (well, for Dorothy. At her worst she was still pretty good). I wonder what this says about us as humans. . .? :)

    Jen, I love your idea for talking out your problems with your character! I think Talli Roland does a great job of writing about the bad side of writing in a funny, entertaining and non-whiny way. I still remember how much I laughed at her entry about Writers' Arse.

    Al, I know the Irish are very sarcastic and I have heard Aussies are the same. A friend of mine moved here from Canada and picked up our Irish sarcasm (complete with deadpan Irish delivery) and said her friends at home didn't know what to make of it when she got back. So even in person, when the non-verbal cues don't necessarily match, sarcasm can be a difficult thing to interpret.

    Pat, I think that really comes across in your blog and it works very well. I find your entries very often have an unflinching honesty about them that suits your content really well :)

    Kitty, it shows. Definitely!

    Donna, it is a difficult balance to maintain but at least our hearts are in the right places - that has to help. . .

  8. They are good rules for life too! I am really conscious of complaining in my blog - I've been told I have whinging down to a fine art in my real life so I'm aware of a certain tendency there! But i think you cant go wrong with honesty because being an emerging writer can be tough. And I have noticed in blogs which are usually quite upbeat the odd post of rant and despair gets the most comments? Probably because it comes from the heart. be yourself is my guide, as Kurt Cobain said, I'd rather be hated for who I am than adored for who I am not... (I know he didnt have a happy ending, but still...!)

  9. It boils down to voice and personality sometimes. As much as we try to be all positive and upbeat in our posts, sometimes our moods can't help but come out. Yet those who follow consistently get to know the ups & the downs, which is good, because then it's real and not fake. But even a whiny or snarky post needs to be tempered and like Kitty said, we have to be aware of our audience. Cuz we aren't just writing for ourselves. That's what our private journals are for. I have removed posts later that I thought were too...something...negative, whiny, whatever, and might be misinterpreted. At the same time, I like my personality and my voice to come out in my blogs and to be myself.

  10. Ellen, I try to be as non-mean as I can in my social networking. I am not always quite so nice in the real world. But when it comes to my writing world, the one where my future editors, agents and sisters/brothers and writers live? Oh, I am tres careful

    Great post. And I have a friend who has a snarky side as well. You'd love her!

  11. You're right about the sarcasm in Aussie humour.
    Aussie humour is like that of the English with a huge dose of Irish sarcasm mixed in.
    The first rule of Aussie humour is that you have to be able to poke fun at yourself, then you start on everybody else.

    If we are referring to our pre-war population we tend to talk of it being Anglo-Irish. The Brits packed piles of the Irish down here in chains and the potato famine and the gold rushes brought heaps more.

  12. Hello again, Ms Brickley.

    Thanks for responding to my comment a couple of posts back. I was going to say something else down there but then realised I wanted to say something here and to do both things may have made me appear a bit creepy and stalkery, frankly. And we can’t be having that. (Not yet, anyway.)

    It’s hard to know where to start – I want to comment on absolutely all of the points made. Must rein myself in. Must.

    Right so, and I’ll try to brief (not to be mistaken for being “curt” or “unfriendly”, okay? Good.): No, I never hold back in my blog and I would never allow myself to care about whining, either. Being “positive” or “thinking positively” is a concept quite beyond my reach. In fact, I think I might go so far as to say that I rather loathe the practice, finding that it often dulls the minds of the practicioners. (That may take some explaining, but I’m always happy to do so if pressed.)

    If I find a blogger who is constantly positive and always banging on about how great things are then it’s a cast-iron certainty I’ll switch off before long. These things are subjective, of course, but such an outlook crucifies me.

    I take your point about not wishing to get on the wrong side of people who may help you in your career etc, and I would also agree that being mean about someone is never a good look. I don’t see that a justified criticism of a book, say, or a film, perhaps, is ever beyond the pale, however – just so long as the criticism refrains from the personal, obviously.

    I’ve been writing for a living since before I left university – just trash fiction, it causes me deep shame – and find that my blog (on those rare occasions I ever get round to writing anything on it) offers a welcome respite from the constraints of good grammar, good taste and the niggly little nuisances of having to bear one’s audience in mind. In short, it’s quite liberating and I would rather hate myself for wasting this freedom by worrying about what other people might think. It’s free of charge, no one pays a subscription, they can come and go (yes, they usually go) just as they please. (I far prefer hanging out at other people’s blogs, anyway, as I already know what’s at my place. Makes sense, no?)

    As you’re writing under what I must assume is your real name, however, the rules seem slightly different (from where I’m slouching). Shorn of an internetty anonymity, you must surely – as a reasonable person – be operating under certain constraints. This seems normal and decent to me.

    Maybe, if you really wanted to go to the zoo about certain books or subjects, you might consider setting up another blog using a pseudonym? (I agree, incidentally, that there is an obligation of sorts on the reviewer to tell the absolute truth. What’s the point of a review, after all, if the reviewer is holding back? How would this serve to benefit the would-be buyer of a book? It’s a dilemma, for sure.)

    Eek. I’m going on too much. I’ll stop. (I’m not even halfway through what I was going to say – consider yourself lucky.)

    Kind regards etc….


  13. Hi Ellen - great thought provoking post. Yep I have often felt that there is something less than honest about some blogs - a kind of enforced nicety that somehow does not ring true. And I include my own blog in that comment! I also wonder about blogging when most comments are positive and I don't think I have ever seen a comment taking issue with the blog post/writer. Are we all just stroking each others egos?

    I have pondered this for a while. But as others have said one has to be very careful with what you post and comment. Therefore my rule of thumb is now to be honest. If you are posting tickedy boo all the time - as in 'look at my wonderful life, look at my wonderful blog etc' - your blog is not really worth reading. Honesty I think will always shine through! Even if you are being a bit negative or critical!

  14. Definitely agree that voice is important too, and it can be hard to have an authentic and interesting voice if you're all about the sunshine and lollipops - no one manages to be positive all the time!

    Al, little has changed - although the Irish don't head for australia in chains anymore, we do keep showing up in droves waving Working Holiday Visas yelling 'Direct me to the nearest Irish bar!' How you all put up with us I'll never know :)

    TPE, thanks for popping back :) Cork folk are always welcome here. Blogging under my real name does make a difference. Firstly, there is the fact that my last name is slightly unusual so I'm always worried I stick out more in people's memories than Jane Jones might. And like all blogging wannabe writers, I'm concerned about what an agent/editor might think if my blog was full of posts that said 'OMG WRITER X IS LIKE A TOTAL NUDNIK. . .!!'

    Then there is the fact that, because I blog under my own name, people who know me offline also read sometimes, so I don't post anything that I'm not comfortable with agents, friends, former colleagues etc, seeing. Again the unusual name kicks in here.

    Barbara, I do hope honesty always shines through - I agree that relentless positivity can feel very false.

  15. Such a great post! On my blog, I try to emit positiveness -- because I think dwelling on the negative is counterproductive, and because I believe whole-heartedly in the Universal Law of Karma. Does that sometimes feel false, especially when confronted with things in life that are lacking or negative? Absolutely. But blogs are like friendships. I have a small group of friends who I'm totally honest with, and who are totally honest with me -- no matter how horrible the truth, we can handle hearing it from each other. My larger circle of friends, and most of my family members :P, prefer to hear only my favorable opinions, and if I could candy-coat those, that would be even better. Which is fine with me. I'd rather their small circle of trusted friends give them the ugly in my place.

    Am I babbling? So sorry! I'm just enjoying my visit to your blog!! Thanks for indulging me :D

    Have a wonderful day!!
    ((hugs)) Nicole

  16. Great post, Ellen. I think you're so right - you have to be careful what you post. You just never know who might be out there, reading -- it could be your future publisher or agent! Great reminder -- thanks to you and Natalie!

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