Blogging Perils and Pitfalls

I am looking forward to the Blogging For Beginners day-long workshop that I’m doing for Litfest. The Storey is a magnificent venue and Litfest put on some brilliant events there. I also love meeting people who are interested in the same sort of things as I am, and getting to talk to them about it. Which is a big part of what teaching is all about. If you are interested in signing up, details are here.

Part of the workshop is going to be about the tricky side of blogging – the worrying things that can sometimes happen as a consequence of putting yourself out there on-line and how you anticipate / prepare for / avoid them.

Perhaps I’m just noticing blogging perils more now I’ve started to think about them in advance of my workshop, but recently I have noticed a few on-line friends having bad experiences – with trolling from anonymous commenters, sarcastic remarks on facebook pages from envious fellow writers, hacked twitter accounts,  plagiarism of stories and poems posted on blogs and forums… all kinds of horridness.

My version of a bad experience might not be yours. I don’t think I’d be upset by an anonymous trolling commenter because they usually make themselves look so daft it would only be funny, although I do worry about my privacy and the privacy of my family. The benefits I get from on-line exposure (making friends, getting invited to do readings and workshops, increased promotion for my books which might, one day, translate into increased income through royalties…) outweigh the risks for me right now. But that is always something that could change.

There are other kinds of pitfall – it isn’t all cyber-stalkers and trolls. Perhaps some of you pour time and effort into blogging and feel that your ‘real’ writing is suffering. Perhaps by publishing yourself on-line you worry you are giving away something for free you could have been paid for? Maybe your work colleagues and employers don’t know you’re also a blogger and you worry about what the consequences would be if they did? Feel free to chip in if you’ve experienced a blogging pitfall that I haven’t thought of yet.

My own approach is fairly simple. I always keep in mind I’m talking to strangers and not friends – even when that isn’t entirely true and I’ve actually met many of the readers of this blog. I don’t talk about other people when I know / guess they wouldn’t like it, and if I don’t have anything nice to say, I don’t say it (hence no real book reviews). This isn’t how I conduct myself in real life (I can be an opinionated over-sharer at the best of times) but I know that once something is in writing it is there forever and can be quoted into infinity without me being present to explain myself.

These aren’t things that I thought about when I started blogging three and a bit years ago but apart from a few strange emails and the someone who persistently finds this blog by googling for my children’s names, I’ve been very lucky. Because I’ve worked in prisons I know just how careful I need to be with my personal information, but I also want to live and write my life, and so I take calculated risks that may be different to yours. My own comfort zone (ugh, what a phrase) has also evolved from what I’ve observed from other bloggers.

As many of the readers of this blog are also experienced bloggers, I thought whose better brains to pick? What advice would you give to a beginner – someone who has only just started reading blogs and hasn’t started their own yet, or perhaps who has been blogging for a little while but is looking to expand and get a wider readership?

My teaching style isn’t prescriptive, so I’m not looking to create a set of rules or guidelines. I’m researching other people’s experiences so I can lead a discussion on the way the bloggers in the workshop can think about what parts of themselves they want to put on-line and how they go about safeguarding themselves. I know what I do and why I do it, but there are as many ways of doing this as there are blogs and bloggers, so the more you share with me about your own thoughts and methods, the richer the discussion will be.

If it could be guaranteed that your personal information was safe, that you’d never be misquoted or offend someone you later want to employ you, how would your blog be different? For long time bloggers – have you ever been back over old posts and deleted content you wish you’d kept to yourself? What about photographs? Have your ideas about what it is ‘safe’ to write about online changed since your readership has increased? What is your policy on anonymous comments? In what circumstances would you delete a comment?

Comments on this blog are public and so I may quote them in the workshop or direct workshop participants to this post for ‘further reading’. Emails sent direct to me are private and won’t be shared in any format either anonymously or with your name attached unless you give me your permission.


Edited to add: someone kind sent me these links, which may interest you:

Only You Can Prevent Blog Trolls and Comment Jerks

Developing a Personal Social Media Policy

How To Protect Against Social Media Remorse 

42 responses to “Blogging Perils and Pitfalls”

  1. Jo Bell says:

    Not much I can add, I think, but for beginners it is particularly worth thinking ‘what is this blog for?’ and therefore ‘what audience am I aiming at?’ As with your real writing, so with your blog – ask yourself with every sentence, ‘Is this actually interesting?’

    Posting the real names of your children and friends is obviously foolish, as is giving advance warning that ‘I will be away this weekend and my house, at 999 Acacia Avenue, will be unoccupied. We just bought a new DVD player….’ etc

    People don’t just read a blog because they like the writer, but because it is a source of links, information and resources which are of use to them. I put links to projects, venues, festivals etc that my readers might enjoy, and signpost other blogs too. It’s a great tool for building a local or regional community where writers can exchange ideas.

    And yours, of course, is fab!


  2. Sian says:

    Workshop sounds great, well done Jenn!

    My own fear of keeping a writer’s blog comes from feeling like I lack the time to make it as good as it should be – I have a pretty involving job that requires a lot of traveling and (even though this is a bollocks excuse and display of wimpery in front of writers who have children etc.), I feel like I have to pour every spare second into my ‘real’ writing or I’ll never get the novel finished, published, etc etc. I’m afraid of writing a blog for the sake of it and ending up filling it with ill-thought out rants which will then be all most people see of me as a writer. I don’t like the idea of this because I work hard to make my ‘real’ writing as good as it can be, and that’s what I want to be known for, published or not. So, vanity really. Equally, I don’t really think I have anything to say on a blog, and should keep my mouth shut until I do. That said, I have been better at keeping up an online presence recently because I do agree that it’s useful and fun. The writers’ blogs I read are all excellent; no rants in evidence. 🙂

  3. Jo – thank you. I think making sure you have a focus and a theme is really important, if only so you can find the right readership. I do stuff other than writing and I do write about my not writing life sometimes, but this isn’t a cooking or a mummy or a making clay pots blog, so I don’t write about that too much (not that there’s anything wrong with those kinds of blogs…)

    Linking – I should do more of that. My blogging has been entirely self absorbed recently but I’m looking forward to getting out in the world again.

    Sian – I think that’s a really important point. Once your blog starts getting readers, often the only thing people will know about you will be your on-line persona. If you use your blog to moan, criticise, slag off, rant etc – that is how people are going to see you, even if it’s not really how you are. That might not be a problem, but being aware that people who read your blog might never meet you or read your book is important.

    The time issue is really important too. I dread to think how much time I’ve spent on this blog over the three and a bit years that I’ve kept it – but right now, it seems to balance against the amount of benefit I get from it. I think.

    Do you think that for writers who want to have work print published, there’s a disadvantage to having a blog? That if it isn’t a brilliant blog, or portrays them to be a hard-work sort of person, that it will be off putting to prospective publishers?

    I sometimes worry my bad spelling will be the end of my career.

  4. Sofie Fowler says:

    I think the biggest concern with online writing nowadays is definitely privacy. My rule of thumb is never post anything online that you wouldn’t say to a stranger you’d just met.

    It’s like you said, you have to find your “comfort zone” with what you’re happy to reveal. I have been back through my blog and twitter to delete anything I’m not happy with professionaly. I think you have to be on your guard.

  5. Hi Sofie!

    I think privacy is really important too – with tweet ups and bloggers meet ups, both of which I’ve been involved it, it can be really easy to get the impression you’re talking to a select group of friends. It is too easy to forget that most of your readers are, and always will be strangers. Although I wouldn’t want to exaggerate that risk either.

    Sofie, when you say you’ve deleted things that you’re ‘not happy with professionally’ can you go into any more detail? Do you mean you’ve deleted things you think / fear might impact on a print-writing career, or on your current job, or something else?

  6. Sofie Fowler says:


    I mean deleting things which are too personal or could be misconstrued, in order to keep your professional appearance clean and above board.

    For example, a friend of mine had his film showreel on YouTube alongside videos of him getting drunk. I think it’s best to keep those two worlds separate and remember that anything you put online is viewable by anyone, including potential colleagues and/or employers.

    Jacob Sam-La Rose had some good advice at the Social Networking for Writers workshop at TEC, explaining the benfits of segregating your online activity to personal and professional.

  7. Hi Sofie

    that’s a really good example – although of course there’s nothing stopping you from constructing an online persona that you use for professional purposes that is anything but clean and above board!

    I do get what you mean though. I try to keep my facebook professional, but I have friends on there are well as people who are interested in my writing and teaching, so it is tricky.

    I’ve been to a Jacob Sam-La Rose workshop before – one called Digital Ink and run by Litfest. I was already blogging at the time, but it was a brilliant introduction to some of these issues. He’s a really good workshop leader, isn’t he?

  8. Ed Walker says:

    My advice would be to not blog too often. If you’ve got something worth saying, say it. If you don’t, don’t, or you’ll just become an echo chamber.

    Also, plan our your blog posts offline. I often take a post-it note and plan out some sub-headings. This will make your post tighter and to the point. If you just start off on a rambling stream of consciousness it’ll be rubbish.

    Always read back your post. Read it back and prepare yourself for the glaring error that will no doubt be in there. Get your partner/friend to read over what you’ve written for typos.

    Link. Link. Link. Always link to something if you’re referencing it. Just as a newspaper would reference where it got the stats from or an academic paper would reference the previous bit of research. Make sure you link to any source you accredit. It’s also a good way of attracting more readers to your blog.

    Hope that’s useful.


  9. Hi Ed – long time no see!

    Your comments about the pitfalls of bad writing are useful, thank you. I think sometimes bloggers are impatient to get content out there and don’t proof read or check for quality enough. I know I can be guilty of this.

    Although for me, one of the things I really like about reading blogs is the hand-made, draft quality they sometimes have. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting to read a writer’s notebook rather than their finished copy, and I love that insight. I’m also much more forgiving of typos and repetitions in blogs than I am in print published work, usually because I haven’t paid to read a blog!

    And in the spirit of following your advice about linking, here’s a profile of the blogger Emily Morris
    written by another blogger, Daisy Baldwin
    and published on the Lancashire Writing Hub site.
    It is interesting and relevant to this topic because Emily blogs about her own life
    and has had to re-look at the way she handles her personal information and how her blogging impacts on her family relationships as the readership of her blog has grown.

  10. Hi there!
    First.. I have to say, thank you for listing my blog post on developing personal social media policy.. which of course, makes me ad in another plug for linking.. I was able to follow the link and find my way here! Links are great.. and for your workshop, I would suggest putting the bug in people’s ears about how to use basic SEO to link to folks so it helps out both the linker and the linkees.

    Of course, I am a “put it all out there” person, but even for a beginner, the one thing I always try to convey is how amazing blogging can be. It’s such a journey of discovery and really can be an adventure. But, it’s like Lotto.. you got to be in it!

    O, since I am here, I should also say that you may quote freely from anything you find helpful on the DragonSearch blog..

    Good luck with your workshop and have fun! An

  11. Hi Jenn,

    I’ve enjoyed reading through all of the responses to your piece about the workshop. I haven’t been blogging for very long, and I’d probably benefit from coming to hear you speak, but I thought I’d add this thought to the conversation.
    The one thing I keep in mind when penning pieces for my blog is to look at it as a shop window for the rest of my writing, so I don’t put anything up I wouldn’t want a prospective publisher to see.
    I don’t have many readers beyond my nearest and dearest, so writing about them, or airing opinions is a no-no too. I did find it hard to keep going once the novelty wore off – as Sian said, it can be hard to find the time – so I only write short ‘flash’ pieces, and i use these to experiment with different voices.

    At the risk of sounding like a huge creep, I enjoy reading your blog. Keep up the good work!!

    Sam x

  12. Sofie Fowler says:

    Jenn, No of course, look at Charlie Brooker, he makes a living being offensive. Sometimes I think I’m doing it wrong trying to be nice all the time.

    Jacob is a wonderful workshop leader, friendly and open. It’s a shame I’ve not as of yet managed to make it to one of yours, although I’m hoping to come to the Rainy City Stories talk in Manchester, I’m sure I read you were speaking?

    Ed, I agree that linking to everything is very useful. A good way of acting as an information portal for your readers.

  13. Sam – thanks for dropping by! If you’re interested in coming to the workshop, let me know. the day is aimed particularly at bloggers who are writers so it might suit you.

    I hear what you’re saying about your nearest and dearest being your main readership – there’s no point alienating the people who support you most, no matter how temping the material is for a story!

    I notice you publish your own fiction on your blog. are you worried about being plagiarised? A fear of having material stolen has come up a lot in my off line conversations with writers who haven’t started blogging yet.

    Claudia – thanks for popping by! I think you’re right about what a brilliant experience blogging can be. Although for today I’m interested in the negative aspects and how you can overcome them or minimise the likelihood of them happening, it would be a shame to be so risk adverse you didn’t write at all or over exaggerate how ‘risky’ it can be to put yourself out there on-line.

    Sofie – re being nice / professional / above board – I know what you mean. Sometimes I’ve had to step away from my computer because I know that what I want to blog about would probably make me feel better, but wouldn’t be in my best interests in the long run. I know there are writers who blog about their rejections, problems with their agents or editors or publishers and it makes me cringe – it#s juicy for everyone else to read but they really aren’t doing themselves any good in the long run. On the other hand, over sanitising and refusing to express an opinion about anything because you’re worried about offending or alienating doesn’t make for interesting blogs either. There’s got to be a balance, and it can be tricky to find.

    Ed – does your employer have a policy on its employees keeping personal blogs? I blogged when I worked for my local council and while I never really blogged about my work, I always wondered what the rules were. Part of me didn’t want to know so I could plead ignorance! It is a bit easier now I am my own boss, but most people do work for an organisation so it is probably worth finding out.

  14. Ed Walker says:

    @Jenn | I checked before starting at Media Wales and as long as there’s a disclaimer on my blog that views are my own (I put one on the about page) and I don’t give away any company secrets then it’s okay. I can completely understand how people in other professions may have difficulty.

    It’s always best to check first, most companies with any sense will see it as an asset as potentially you can drive a bit of extra traffic to their website.

  15. Tom Vowler says:

    Interesting piece. It’s a difficult balance to achieve at times. As a blogger I’m reluctant to vet comments before posting them, preferring the spontaniety and free-for-all nature not doing this allows. But then I’ve been lucky in only having to delete one nuisance, inappropriate comment. It’s been a shock to see what some colleagues/friends have had to endure.

    Your advice about remembering for the most part these aren’t friends, but (usually) friendly strangers. Keep it professional; keep a certain distance, whilst still giving as much of yourself as feels comfortable.

  16. Hi Tom

    thanks for your comment. I have comment moderation set up on this blog because I get tons and tons of spam and askinet wasn’t catching all of it. Once you’ve been cleared to comment once though, your comments appear direct on the blog so it’s a bit of a compromise and I hope doesn’t come across too much like censorship. I’ve never had to delete any nasty comments yet – although if someone was being politely critical of my writing, I’d let it stay.

    According to the article at the first of the three links I put up in the main blog post, having a comments policy and not being afraid to delete comments is the best way of getting rid of trolls. I don’t have a comments policy and I haven’t come across it on the kind of personal writer blogs that I read. Have you?

  17. sara says:

    I still get confused about this sharing of information online. When I started my blog I used an alias. I was paranoid about revealing too much and nervous about various sections of my life meeting online and finding out all sorts. I referred to the “big bookshop” rather than identify my place of work as I didn’t want random internet peeps turning up. Then a commenter “outed” me. I’ve now had a fair few strangers turn up at the bookshop and ask for me. Thankfully they just want to chat about short stories, writing and so on.

    The more I became published the clearer it was that I’d have to use my real name. I want my stories read. I want to link to them. A journalist friend asked me what I was so nervous about. She uses her real name in her many articles, and also socialises online too. She reckons it’s safer to go on a date with a man she’s spent time talking to online than it is to agree to a night out with a bloke she’s met in a club. I realised that if I chat to you in a shop I will happily reveal the names of my boys, why should it be different online? So I will say online pretty much what I would say to an acquaintance.

    Online personas are a curious thing. I am only myself, and yet, how does that translate? I have no real clue. I met a writer that I know quite well online, and she said that she had imagined that I’d be more reserved. That surprised me. I’m a fairly mouthy kinda person. I figured that probably came over – apparently not.

    Facebook got messy with its mash of old school pals, my kids, the playground mums, some neighbours, my colleagues, my writing pals, family members and actual friends. (I wondered about making two facebook accounts for a while before dismissing the idea as being stupid.) And then I stopped worrying. So what if a playground mum reads a story I wrote and thinks it’s weird? Or an editor reads my inane waffle with a pal? I decided to chill about it all but sometimes it still weirds me out. Ultimately though I have decided that if I avoid pretence except in my fiction then I’m not going to have much to hide.

    One thing you say which rings true is “I always keep in mind I’m talking to strangers and not friends – even when that isn’t entirely true and I’ve actually met many of the readers of this blog.”

    I did make the mistake of thinking that I was building friendships with some of my regular commenters. It’s easy to feel that way, but it’s not a real relationship. In the writing world there’s a lot of “networking” which I’ve been stupidly naive to. People who have a book coming out that they want stocked in the bookshop, or a review written, or a critique done, they can be oh so friendly. Once they have what they want they fade back out, until next time. I found that a bit of a harsh lesson.

    Tip for new bloggers – find the blogs you like which fit with what you are trying to do with your own, and comment!

  18. I love this: ‘Ultimately though I have decided that if I avoid pretence except in my fiction then I’m not going to have much to hide.’

    would you mind if I quoted it (along with linky, of course) in my workshop?

    You bring up an important point about the difference between networking and real friendship – people looking to network and get links / reviews etc aren’t really doing anything wrong, and there are pleasant and not so pleasant ways of going about it, but you can get burned if you don’t realise what is happening. I think the more reciprocal these kind of things are, the comfier I feel about it. Which isn’t to say I’ll only mention a book I’ve enjoyed if I know the author will scratch my back in return, but it does mean that if I regularly comment on a blog / link to it and feel I am being ignored in return, eventually I will lose interest.

  19. Elizabeth Baines says:

    I started out blogging anonymously on my Fictionbitch blog, but then I got outed. It was a very sticky moment as I was being pretty forthright about the publishing industry etc, but then I decided to stick by everything I’d said as one of my rules is always to be able to back up anything I say and always to be reasonable. As for my personal author blog, I started out with the rule of thumb never to say anything I wouldn’t say in a lecture hall or newspaper article. The trouble is, though, as has been said here,
    it’s hard not to reveal more and more personal stuff as you go on and as your blog becomes a developing and inevitably personal story. I reveal my partner john’s name because he’s a writer too and so has a public profile. I made the rule never to name any other members of my family, but I’ve already revealed my sister’s name… Facebook is the really difficult one, though, as has been said, is the really difficult one. It’s always been the social norm to have different personae for the different compartments of our lives, but apparently the philosophy of the creators of fb is that we should each have a single identity. So I end up having stuff revealed about me on fb by my personal friends and then is out there and it seems daft to hide it on my blog….
    Good luck with the workshop. It sounds as if it will be great.

  20. Elizabeth Baiines says:

    Sorry for typos, I did that on my iPhone!

  21. Elizabeth

    I had a similar experience, where I was very reluctant to ‘announce’ my pregnancy on my blog because it felt very private, and also not that interesting to my readers. At the same time, I was still doing events and teaching workshops and my condition was becoming obvious – friends were mentioning it on facebook, which I link to from my blog, so it seemed wilfully perverse to continue not to mention it, especially as managing the demands of family vs career is increasingly an issue for me and my writing life.

    There is always the option, of course, of writing a blog and not using twitter and facebook to promote it. No-one says you have to. I liked your recent post about how much time is spent on on-line self promotion, and how that time could be more usefully spent writing. Another pitfall of blogging, I think – where the feedback and gratification of publication is so instant.

    And as you didn’t link to yourself, I will do it for you!

  22. Tom Vowler says:

    For the most part, I think folk are generous, constructive, kindly contributors. I don’t have any comments policy – and the only one I had to delete was from someone who took rejection of their short story badly.

    I suppose I keep references to my personal life rather superficial.

    I suppose the danger is when a blog becomes very popular, and sitting alone at your desk can give the impression of an intimate forum, almost one-to-one. Yet within minutes what you’ve written, your face etc can be posted anywhere, read by anyone. Not something I worried about when I started a year ago, when five visits to my blog a day felt profuse.

  23. Max Dunbar says:

    Only comment I would make would be to remember that the fiction comes first and everything else is just paraphernalia.

  24. I’ve wanted to write a blog for years and struggled because I couldn’t hit the right tone. I think it only started to become clear last year when I began a magazine column, and through that was forced to find a way of expressing personal thoughts and experiences publicly, with it still feeling like ‘me’. Now I use my Twitter and blog for this and keep my Facebook much more private (it’s mostly so I can see photos of my friends’ babies and not miss out on parties, which some people outrageously only publicise on FB these days…) – but then, nothing’s really ever private online, or at least that’s the way it feels, and even with privacy settings cranked up you run the risk of photos and info from your ‘real life’ becoming more public than you might like…
    For the blog, I decided to use my real name to help promote my writing, and I also use my partner’s real name because he’s in a band so has a public profile, but I won’t use anyone else’s real name unless they have a public profile too.
    I think it’s dead handy to have a few quick questions up your sleeve when you’re making decisions about what to put online, such as the one above: ‘Would I tell this to a stranger in the street?’ It’ll never be a perfect process, but a few strategies like that can really help!

  25. *I should add to that: Even if I ran away [from the stranger in the street] immediately afterwards?
    Which is sometimes what blogging feels like to me.

  26. @Tom I think changing the way you think about what you blog about and how you handle commenting as your readership grows is really common – it’s something I’ve certainly changed my mind on now I get 100s of hits per day instead of just one, which was me, proofreading (too late) my post.

    @Max – there’s a division between my ‘real’ writing and blogging paraphernalia for me too, but not a cut and dried one. I make a lot of this up too, you know, and a lot of the themes about identity and personae that I investigate in my fiction, I do ‘live’ on my blog too.

    @Emma – I like the idea of questions – a mental check-list to go through before you click post.

    But sometimes I wonder, if I always blog perfectly sensibly and never offend anyone and never spell anything wrong, never get pissed and say something stupid, never moan about the hard parts of being a writer because I know lots of readers would like to be in my shoes, never be indiscreet, never blog about someone else’s business, never put a dodgy picture of myself on-line, never swear, never show I’m irritated by another blogger, never pay any attention to trollers and spammers – then I’m writing a pretty dull, insipid blog and portraying a person that is not me at all, because of course I do all of these things or their equivalents in real life all the time.

    I think it takes courage to be your real self in writing – whether that writing is in print or on-line. Perhaps the risks of doing it on-line feel greater because more people are doing it, you’re closer to your reader and you (usually) aren’t getting much back in the way of payment.

  27. Daisy says:

    Hey Jenn thanks for the link!

    I found it really hard when I began blogging as I would write a post aimed at my friends and then realise my family was reading it, or my tutor, or my prospective employers, or my actual employers. I eventually figured it out by stopping thinking of a prospective reader at all but just trying to make sure that everything I wrote was was my true opinion, didn’t hurt anyone else, and might be interesting to others. I recently fell foul of my own rules (I see a lot of people here have) in writing an About Me post which was probably aimed at my friends and uninteresting to strangers and which now I don’t feel looks very professional. But I won’t take it down – I think unless you’ve made a massive error you should try not delete posts as it’s confusing for readers.

    I’ve recently been trying to decide what to do about naming people on my blog. A design blogger who I read recently started writing a series of posts called ‘Things Bloggers Do’ which has a humorous take on this
    and basically shows that whether you choose to use initials, or real names or nicknames there are pros and cons to each.

    I think that if you’re relying on anonymity then you need to be extremely careful about keeping your identity secret (eg Belle De Jour)because if you are ‘outed’ you could be in for some unpleasantness, real or imagined. If not, then just remain aware that anyone from any corner of your life could conceivably be reading.

    The workshop sounds really useful!

  28. Hi Daisy!

    When I first started blogging I’d hardly had anything published, and I never even considered being anonymous – I wanted to promote myself as a writer and keep in touch with friends who already knew who I was, so it wouldn’t have made sense. Often I wish, now I have more readers and more to lose, I suppose, that I had an anonymous blog too! I have a private, old fashioned diary for those kind of writings though.

    I think now there are blogging awards and tweet-ups and bloggers meet ups being anonymous and yet fully involved with your community is harder and harder. Now I come to think of it though, one of this year’s winners of the Manchester Blog Awards chose to remain anonymous. I think. Anyone else know?

    And this idea of ‘professional’ keeps cropping up and I don’t even know what it means, not really. There is professional for librarians and employees of the council and there’s professional for writers and social networking entrepreneurs and journalists and I think professional creatives are allowed to be / expected to be a little bit quirky and swear sometimes on their blogs. I hope so, anyway.

  29. Daisy says:

    To add to that I suppose what I’m saying is that personally I would never rely on anonymity. As Emma said, nothing on-line is really private. But I understand different situations call for different approaches. It’s an interesting debate.

  30. sara says:

    “I love this: ‘Ultimately though I have decided that if I avoid pretence except in my fiction then I’m not going to have much to hide.’

    would you mind if I quoted it (along with linky, of course) in my workshop?”

    Yes, that’s fine.

    : )

    Also, to clarify, it’s not networking itself that bothers me, it’s when someone has created an illusion of friendship that doesn’t last longer than their desire for something to be done. I prefer a more direct approach as I loathe schmoozing. I network – blog, twitter, facebook are all networking tools and are brilliant at enabling us to communicate with people from all over. That bit still explodes my mind!

  31. Yes – even in this discussion there have been two people, Sara and Elizabeth, who have started out anonymous and then been ‘outed’ by commenters – maliciously or not, I don’t know.

    I don’t take people that seriously if they are not willing to put their names next to what they say, although I do allow anonymous comments on my blog.

  32. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sceptre Books, Emily Morris, Jenn Ashworth, Jenn Ashworth, Jenn Ashworth and others. Jenn Ashworth said: Blogging Perils and Pitfalls: I am looking forward to the Blogging For Beginners day-long workshop that I’m doing … […]

  33. @Sara

    I’m another one who can never tell if I am being schmoozed or networked or if I’m actually friends with someone. I think Fiona Robyn does a good job of using blogs and social networking to market her various professional selves, sell her books and coaching etc – without coming across as insincere about it. As my social life is fairly non existent this aspect doesn’t bother me too much any more although it really used to – I’ve been ignored by someone I thought was a friend, and then courted by them as soon as I had a book out. No thanks. Oddly enough I think the people who I do the pub quiz with and ring up when my washing machine is broken hardly ever read my blog, even if they knew I had one.

  34. Excellent debate, Jenn!

    I’ve always used my real name when blogging because I started the blog as a vehicle to support/compliment my fiction-writing. I didn’t want to get into a tangled web of real names and fake names and mix-ups and complications, though I can see why people might want to.

    At the time, I didn’t really tell many actual friends I was blogging – I didn’t know any bloggers in real life, or many writers, and most of the people who got my URL were lit mag editors and people I met online through commenting on other blogs. I didn’t link to my blog through Facebook because I didn’t want my colleagues reading it – mainly because I’m pretty shy about talking about my writing with non-writing folks and I just didn’t want to go there with them. That was about two years ago, and in the meantime I’ve broken down that barrier (which was partly built from embarrassment)and have linked to the blog on Facebook and most of my friends and family have seen it (though I doubt they read regularly). Partly that was because I’ve been more successful with the writing recently and it all seemed a more legitimate enterprise, and I feel more confident about outing myself – even though, of course, I was never anonymous. And it’s paid off – non-writing people who I thought might be a bit uninterested or snooty have been lovely.

    I write a mix of personal/non-personal stuff, but I don’t name people unless I’ve either asked (like my partner) or I’m very very sure they’d be cool with it (like friends who have a fairly prolific online persona themselves). I also keep the personal stuff fairly superficial, though, I hope, entertaining. I’d only write about stuff I’d tell acquaintances in the pub; nothing very emotional or personal or intimate.

    I’ve never had dodgy commenters, just some spam, but then, I get feck-all readers compared to lots of you guys. I look forward to being well enough known that I get the vitriol 🙂

  35. […] an interesting debate over at Jenn Ashworth’s blog about blogging pitfalls. Some time ago, I was offered the chance to write a  book about the back […]

  36. Hi Jenn,

    Going back to what you said about plagiarism… I’m the equivalent of whatever is smaller than an amoeba in the deepest mud at the bottom of the cyber-pond. So being plagiarised would mean 1. someone’s actually read my stuff, and 2. they think it’s good enough to copy, both of which would give cause for a major yee-ha celebratory moment down here in the depths!

    Seriously though, I know some people have had horrible experiences, but I think it is an occupational hazard of blogging. I keep the stuff I’m praying I might actually get paid for off the internet. I’m quaking at the thought of some of the things other people have raised here. Sounds like no commenters is vastly preferrable to horrid ones!

    Sam x

  37. Annie Clarkson says:


    I’ve been wondering about the pitfalls and perils of autobiographical writing, which can bring up some of the same issues I think…?

  38. Jane Eagland says:

    As someone who is hoping to come to your workshop, Jenn, I’ve found this post and all the comments fascinating. I’ve been debating whether to have a blog or not and for the moment am sticking with ‘not’ mainly because there seem to be lots of issues I want to be clear about before/if I take the plunge. This discussion has raised a number of them and given me lots to think about so thanks, everyone.

  39. @ Valerie It’s good your experience has been positive. I’ve never had anything really horrible happen, and the bad things I’ve observed have been aimed at really, really busy blogs. I guess the more readers you get the more likely one or two of them are going to be mad or bad. It is a risk you take when you put yourself out there though.

    @ Sam – I think I feel the same way about plagiarism as you do. If I want to be paid for it, I don’t put it on my blog. I’m also aware that if someone did nick my stories and claim they were their own, I hopefully have enough blogging friends and readers to let me know or stick up for me. I think in many ways the community polices itself on issues like this. And there are creative commons licenses etc. I bring it up though, because it’s a really common thing for people who don’t blog to be concerned about.

    @ Annie I’ve been thinking the same thing. I think a lot of the ethical issues about blogging your own secrets, other people’s secrets, using things that happen to you to make stories out of and the charges you can reasonably level against bloggers (they are narcissists and attention seekers…) are issues that autobiographical writers go through too. Blogging is a kind of autobiographical writing, although some blogs are more confessional than others.

    This post might link in a bit:

    @Jane I hope we haven’t put you off!! The perils and pitfalls topic might have sparked off a really wide ranging discussion, but it is only going to be a little bit of the workshop, honest!

  40. […] « Blogging Perils and Pitfalls […]

  41. Jane Eagland says:

    Not at all! These are just the kinds of things I need to think about. If anything it’s whetted my appetite for the course!

  42. Really interesting debate – so many aspects to blogging and being ‘out there’ online which I am sure most of us didn’t even consider when we pressed the Publish button on our first post. Good luck with the workshop.

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