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Blogging with Ulterior Motives

ellenhawleyBy Guest Author, Ellen Hawley who blogs at

I’m new to blog-world, and I entered it only because I had an ulterior motive.

I have a novel coming out in January 2015, and my editor suggested that an online presence would be the best way to publicize it. She recommended a few author blogs for me to model myself on.
I read a few and decided I’d rather drive a spike through my foot. They were, basically, me-blogs: My cat is cute; my kids are cute/profound/inspiring; my computer has a virus; my husband/wife/partner/child has a virus; I went to San Francisco/Nepal/North Dakota but now I’m home and writing again; the garden is beautiful this spring.
Where’s that spike?
I tried a cooking blog. I didn’t actually create the blog, just wrote some posts to see if I could sustain it. Cooking’s central to my novel, I enjoy cooking, and I’m a decent cook, even if am the only person who’s going to say so in this format, so the topic didn’t seem unreasonable. But I’m also a hopelessly disorganized cook, and a lazy one, and recipes are both precise and a lot of work. That spike was starting to look good again.
The topic that I found I could sustain is living, as an American, in England. It’s not a tourist blog, although I’m not above writing for tourist blogs in my endless quest to make my own visible. What I’m doing is exploring the spidery corners of the British culture and the oddities—and absurdities—of being an outsider inside it. I write about baked beans, about tea, about the ways people talk about weather, about living in a village, about the tendency to organize a club any time two people discover a common interest, about who stole our beach’s sand. I do seem to write a lot about food, and I’m not above tossing in a recipe, but if I can’t pull one together I don’t have to. For weeks now I’ve been meaning to work out a lemon drizzle cake recipe using cups and liquid ounces instead of grams and kilos and milliwhatsits, but I haven’t gotten around to it. Eventually I will, because lemon drizzle cake is only one step short of holy, but the not having done it yet? It’s not a crisis.
My great discovery about all this is that the posts are fun to write. I’d been struggling to finish writing a heavy-duty, oh-so-serious novel that, for reasons that aren’t yet clear to me, I had driven right into a wall, and it had given me a major case of writer’s block. How long, I’d begun to wonder, can you be a writer if you’re not writing? Then I started the blog. It’s a place I can play with my writing, and it’s unleashed an aspect of myself-as-a-writer that I’m grateful to have access to.
Unlike writing for the page, it gives me immediate feedback. People comment. They seem to be having as much fun as I am. It’s a party, and I don’t even have to clean the house.
The hard part has been finding ways to make the blog visible. It doesn’t seem to fit any of the defined categories—or none I can think of. Try googling International Mayhem and see what you find. Top listing today? “Evil frog spawns international mayhem in ‘Muppets Most Wanted.’” Other categories I’ve tried come a bit closer, but none of them, so far, has brought me to the right community.

But I’m writing again, and I’m loving it. And even if my audience isn’t yet as big as I’d like, I’m still reaching an audience. Besides, no writer ever said, “I think my audience is as big as I want now.”

Ellen Hawley blogs at Be sure to pay her site a visit to find an interesting read.

Related post: Another Update

52 thoughts on “Blogging with Ulterior Motives

  1. An interesting confession … and an intriguing post. I began writing my blog after my Dad died. I started with some of his stories, adventures and eventually found the confidence to share some of my own stories.

  2. Love this, thank you! I also found myself enjoying blogging much more than anticipated, with more of a scattershot approach than a focus. :)

  3. This blog looks great. I do the same thing and analyse people and the way they live wherever I go. I’m from Belfast in Northern Ireland (part of the U.K.) and I lived in England for four years before moving to the Republic of Ireland 9 years ago. I felt a greater cultural shift in my move from England to the Republic of Ireland, whereas the move from N.Ireland to England was so effortless. I seemed to fit in right away.

    Look forward to reading more from this blog :)

  4. Being a Brit I think I shall enjoy your take on our oddities after all we have always been able to laugh at ourselves or I certainly have. Eccentricity is a top quality I think. Already signed up and followed your blog

    Timethief thank you for the introduction xx hope your resting.

  5. @ Ellen

    The whole point as a blogger (as an author), rather more than FB or Twitter, is that you have a perfect showcase for your writing rather than 140 characters or the banalities of I’m going to make a cup of coffee that you get on FB. But it takes work to build up an audience, and to keep building it as inevitably some drop off the end. I like to reply to all my comments, it’s an acknowledgement that someone has taken not only the time to read, but to write something thoughtful too and I appreciate that. But I wouldn’t want to be getting 100 comments on every post – so in that sense, I wouldn’t want it to get out of control. Plus a lot of my readers read the comments, and there is a limit to how many comments we are all prepared to read.

    As for exposure, TT is the expert on SEO and getting yourself up there and visible. I managed it for my olive pâté post for some inexplicable reason. No idea why.

    It never hurts to add a dog or cat pic. People do like to see them. I did one recently about my rescue Podenco who is approx a year old now, complete with puppy pix and as he is now. And they want to know more about the person behind the blog, so a little judicious sprinkling of personal posts doesn’t go amiss.

    @ TT

    I hope you get some more volunteers as this post and Ellen’s blog made for an interesting read.

    • Jonathan Scalzi writes on his blog that, for some reason, he posted a picture of his cat with a piece of bacon taped to his (I think) side, and the thing went viral. Since’s bacon’s already been done, my cats and I are in negotiations about whether they’d accept oatmeal. They’re holding out for fish, but I’m a vegetarian and I’m having an attack of conscience.

        • As a vegetarian, I’m probably not the best person to write bacon reviews. But I can report that the Americans I know who like bacon will swear blind that American bacon’s the best bacon anywhere. In fact, the ones who’ve had English bacon don’t quite recognize it as bacon. Which probably goes to show you something, although I’m damned if I know what exactly. I’ve started to type all several things it proves and deleted them all as not quite true.

          I’m pretty sure my cats would eat either kind.

    • In my theology, chocolate isn’t next to godliness, it is godliness. And ironing is sent by the devil to keep us from it. But I do understand that not everyone holds my views.

  6. First off, here’s another American living in England blogger; Think you will like her.

    Secondly I started my blog for the same reason you did. I have a novel I plan on publishing on kindle sometime next year. When I thought about what the theme of my blog, it came to me why not just entertain your reader. Give her a few laughs or a few tears. Help him to forget all the crap that may be coming down on his head. One thing I didn’t worry about was the number of readers I have. Figured a lot of folks just wouldn’t get me. But that was okay. If I had one person who did, that was enough for me.

    I’ve been at this blogging thing here at WordPress and I love being a Blogger. It has forced me to be creative when I would rather not. And I have found that more than a few get me. I now have over 200 followers. When that happened, I had my Sally Field moment, then went back to doing what I do best. Making my words dance on the page. If I have any advance to give to someone starting a blog, it is this. Care about your viewer. Make them feel welcomed. Then if you post it, they will come.

  7. Just shows that the advice I give people in the forum is correct “if you are not having fun you are doing it wrong” – glad she found something fun to write about. Sometimes I do just fun observations about the town in one of my other blogs the “cookie & such blog”

  8. “”It’s a party, and I don’t even have to clean the house.”

    Precious. You nailed it.

    Thanks so much for taking me upon my guest post offer. Ellen. I enjoyed reading about your blogging journey and I’m looking forward to trying your lemon drizzle cake recipe too. The conversion won’t stump me. :)

  9. Thank you for finding this blog. I can so relate. I was writing screenplays for years, single Mom, East Coast, what was I thinking. Even started a novel. Again what was I thinking, I write like a screenwriter. Than “The Walking Dead” enter my home and forged a bond with my teenage son that aided in my parenting tactics and from there “Waking the Walker” the blog was born. Never thought blog writing would be my thing, but it fits perfectly into my schedule and has helped me with my son, so it’s a win/win situation.

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