Tag Archives: John Scalzi

Why I Subscribe to Blogs

I have recently subscribed to a new blog, Invincible Summer from lovely YA writer Hannah Moskowitz.  This may not seem like a big deal, but it’s actually the first new blog I’ve subscribed to in a year.

So why did I subscribe to it?  Did I stumble upon it on Google?  Find a link on a bookmarking site like reddit or  No.  I kept running into links on other sites and blogs.  Took part in some conversations on Absolute Write.  After about the fiftieth link on blogs to which I am already subscribed, I stopped by and read the first ten posts on the blog.  Several of them were exactly the sort of thing Ilook for on a writing blog, and so I copied the url into my googlereader.  Now, I’ve done similar things with other blogs, but I ended up not subscribing.  Here are the five most common reasons I subscribe to a blog, and the five most common reasons why I do not:

Why? (In no particular order:)

1.  Links from blogs I already follow.  The more the better.  They tell me that there is a consistent pattern of valued and valuable content.  These can be posts about the link only, or they can be round-ups.  If I start to recognize your name on a round-up post, I am very likely to give your blog itself a look.

2.  Meeting the blogger in a community setting, such as a forum for writers.  My top forum for finding good blogs?  Absolute Write.

3.  I buy one of the bloggers books and like it.  if I like your book, then I have a reason as a reader to look you up.  If I like your blog, it’s because I enjoy it as a writer, as well.

4.  I see one of your books on Amazon or Wikipedia.  These are the places I go when someone recs a book to me.

5.  Guest posts on blogs I read.  These are fantastic advertisements for your own blog.  They mean someone I trust likes what you have to say, and they are a good sample of what I expect to find on your blog.

Why not?

1.  I go to your blog and I see advertisements.  If I get to the point where I’m reading through your recent posts to see if there’s a pattern of value, I don’t want to see adverts for your books.  I don’t want to see contests, or giveaways.  All of these things are fine.  But they are not what attracts people to a good blog.  A good blog gives something to the reader, it does not only solicit money for the writer.

2.  I go to your blog and all I see is pictures of your cats, covered in bacon or otherwise.  I am not looking for cat blogs.  I am looking for writer and/or writing blogs.  If you want to occasionally post pictures of your cats or of sunsets, or of your cute little kid, that’s fine.  But it’s a grace note, something you can foist off on me as content once I am engaged and interested.  John Scalzi likes to post amateur photos of sunsets, and they are very pretty.  I like them.  But they are not why I read his blog.

3.  If there have not been any posts for over two months.  I don’t think I need to explain.

4.  If the posting schedule is inconsistent.  This is not a big loser.  It’s why people invented blog readers, so I don’t have to check every day to see if a bloggers has dug up and displayed some nugget of wisdom for me.  It’s a small issue, but consistent posting does tell me that this blog is likely to survive long enough to be worth my inital investment.  (I am also a hypocrite for saying this, since I have updated irregularly of late.)

5.  Boring stuff/stuff I have seen before.  This is tougher.  These sort of posts will attract blogging newbies, because they have not seen all the other examples out there.  But the best blogs provide something new, something you can’t get elsewhere easily.  After the thirtieth generic query advice post, they all start to seem the same.  If they are well-written, I will forgive you.

So, here is the conclusion.  I want good content on a consistent basis.  I understand that promotional posts will pick up when a book release is imminent.  I understand tha real life gets in the way.  But if your entire blog morphs into promotion when a book is coming out, or you suddenly veer into all extras about your cats and kids, then I am likely to not subscribe, or else to drop my subscription if I already have one.


Posted by on January 5, 2011 in atsiko, Authors, Blogging, How To, Ideas, Rants


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First Lines: Do They Really Matter?

I wanted to title this, “First Lines: WTF?!”, but I thought some people might find that a bit offensive.  And anyway, the title I ended up using better communicates the topic of this post.  (Ad as you’ve probably heard here and in many other places, that’s one of the main things that draws in readers.)

I was plowing through the 600+ blogs posts my reader has racked up in recent weeks—I’m still not done—and I came across another post on the importance of a good first line.  And as I was reading it, I thought to myself: “Why do people get so worked up about one little line?”

1.  “It’s the first thing an agent/editor/reader will see, so it’s important to get it right.”

2.  “The first line has a larger impact on readers because it’s in such a prominent place.”

3.  “Many readers see a cover, grab a book, read the blurb, flip to the first page, and read the first line.”

4.  “Readers buy books based on the first line; if the first line is bad, how can they trust the author to have written a good book?”


All reasonable arguments, I’ll admit.  But I think they place way too much emphasis on one little line.  One sentence cannot carry a 100,000 word novel.  I’ve never seen this much emphasis placed on any other sentence in a story, except as a general “Make every sentence as good as you can.”  Nobody demands that a writer have a perfect third sentence, unless that writer is John Scalzi.

I rarely, if ever,  see writers expounding on the importance of a fantastic final line, although there’s at least as much structural weight implied by that position.  And I’ll be honest, I can’t remember very many first lines from books I’ve read, but I do remember quite a few last ones.

Now if we think about the reasons I quoted above, a first line will likely appear in more versions of a story.  It will be in the sample pages, the partial, possibly even in the query or synopsis, if it is that sort of sentence.  So yes, it will be seen a lot.  It will be seen by those who don’t finish the book, but do take the opportunity to leave a scathing “review” on Amazon.  So yes, it will likely be seen the most out of all the lines in the book.

But so what?

If it’s a bad book overall, it won’t matter what the first sentence is like.  Even if you spend hours slaving over this all-important scrap of literature, it won’t matter if the rest of the book can’t hold up.  (The same goes for any other sample or benchmark of your work, but we’ll stick to the first line for now.)  No matter how much you polish it, if the rest of the book isn’t polished, it won’t matter.  And if the rest of the book is polished, it won’t be such a big deal either.

Here’s a little secret;  I have never bought a book based on the first line.  I’ve picked them up because of titles or covers, flipped through the pages because of good cover copy, even read a chapter or two in store because of a really good opening.  But I buy books now mostly based on recommendations, or good reviews, and that’s true for a large majority of readers I know. 

I’m not an agent nor do I know any agents personally.  (I have read slush and been staff for a small e-mag, and I never accepted or rejected a piece based on the first line.)  Perhaps someone will chime in with an example of where a first line made or broke a deal, or convinced them to pick up or put down a book in-store.

Of course you should always try to write to the best of your ability, but to be constantly pre-occupied with ten or twenty words that may or may not make it into the final draft is just silly.

Well, that’s how I see it.  I’m sure there are folks out there who would just love to disagree with me.  I’m looking forward to it.


Posted by on November 15, 2010 in atsiko, Writing


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Bloggers I Wish I Was

One of the best parts about becoming active in the blogosphere, or, more specifically, the authosphere, is meeting all the awesome people follwoing the same track, published or unpublished.  One of the worst parts about becoming active in the blogoshphere, or, more specifically, the authosphere, is meeting all the awesome people following the same track, published or unpublished.  If there’s one thing that can drive home the dismal chances of a writer beating out the pack for publication, it’s seeing what the pack really looks like. 

 There are quite a few published authors with impressive and thriving blogs and their surrounding communities:  John Scalzi at Whatever, Jay Lake, Tobias Buckell, and also the folks at Deadline Dames, Magical Words, and The Magic District.  There’s also Lauren Oliver, Justine Larbelestier, and Carrie Ryan.  And that’s just the people I’ve looked at recently.

For the unpubs, we have: Sierra Godfrey, CKHB, and many, many more.

So, I’m definitely in great company here.  I guess the title is a bit isleading I would love to reach the same level as any of the people on that list.

Now, I have to admit, competing against these people is scary.  A lot of them write in different genres than I do, but considering the number of people not on my list, I think it’s safe to assume that there are just as many fantastic writers in my genres, published or not.  And while writing is not a head-on-collision sort of competition, there’s limited space on the lists of agents and publishers, so to an extent, someone else getting published means I have less of a chance.  And just wait ’til we’re talking about the marketplace.  I can read a few hundred books a year, and that’s not even scratching the surface of published material out there.

So, yeah, the authosphere is a very scary place, but I’m enjoying it.


Posted by on April 9, 2010 in atsiko, Authors, Blogging


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