I often complain to those who know me well that my sister is very scathing and dismissive of a lot of what I do on the internet and frequently makes comments about my blog right when I’m not really in the right mood to answer her politely or even coherently, and so I’m taking quite a risk writing this as there’s about an 80% chance she’ll read it. However, some of what she says does have substance to it. Often she’s only pointing out things I noticed myself, although sometimes it’s something that hadn’t occurred to me.
We were discussing what people say about themselves on their blogs. Here’s a challenge, readers: go to the blog of any young writer you know, any teen with novels on their hard drive, and look at their bio.
“Most people think I’m weird.” “I’m quite a loner, possibly because of my eccentric behaviour.” “I lack the sanity that goes along with being a normal person and instead have a writer’s insanity.” “I’m weird.” “Generally, people think I’m a freak.”
These are examples from the top of my head, as I’m not picking on anyone in particular, but the fact is that young writers seem to feel it’s necessary for the world to know that they’re not normal. I was the same. My bio used to say that. I’m pretty sure I updated it, but I’m going to go and check it right after I publish this post in case I’m just being blatantly hypocritical.
One of the rules your English teachers impose upon you (and you never really know entirely what they mean) is show don’t tell. You’ve heard that, right? Well, it’s the same with your biography on your blog.
If you tell us that you’re a young writer, we are going to assume that you don’t have the same hobbies and personality traits as your peers, because otherwise the entire generation would be writers. If you tell us your favourite books and they’re all really difficult classics we’ve not actually heard of, we’re going to assume that you don’t have much of a soical life, since you wouldn’t have had time to read them otherwise.
We don’t need you to reiterate that you’re weird, by the way.
Recently, I was in charge of setting up a blog for St Mallory’s Forever (click to visit the awesomeness), the young adult boarding school mystery that I’m co-writing with Charley Robson and Saffina Desforges. I was writing the ‘Meet The Authors’ page, and wrote about myself. What was I supposed to say?
I could say I’m a nerd. But everyone says that, it hardly means anything any more. And since one of my main hobbies is reading… well, that’s obvious. I like Sherlock and Doctor Who, but do I just come out and start talking about my favourite TV programmes? That doesn’t seem very relevant to my author-ness. Hmm. How can I say that without actually saying that?
Writing a bio for a blog is important because it’s often the first thing people read if they went to the website to find out about you after seeing you mentioned somewhere. Therefore, I put quite a lot of thought into it.
I was talking about my hobbies and what I do when I’m not writing. I also wanted people to know the sort of TV I watch, and the genres that interest me. In the end, I settled on the following –
On top of all of this, she spends far too much time on Tumblr, generally reblogging anything relating to Doctor Who, Torchwood, or the BBC’s recent version of Sherlock.
I’m not sure it’s perfect, but it gets across the fact that I procrastinate (I spend time on Tumblr), and I’m a fan of DW, TW and Sherlock. In addition to that, you now know that I like sci-fi. Plus, if you didn’t know already that I was from the UK, there’s a slight hint here. Although these programmes are available in many other countries, they’re most popular in their home country, the UK. BBC Wales for the win! :)
As I have the administrator’s rights to the blog itself, I was also responsible for editing and uploading Charley’s bio. She sent me a draft, apologising for the length, and it opened like this:
Charley Robson is an eccentrically-inclined young author with a myriad of strange quirks and an even stranger background.
I know Charley quite well, so I know that she’s not like every other teenage author out there. But do the readers? Most of them don’t. Most of them have never even heard of her, despite the high praise her recently published short story has had in reviews. (I’d link to it, but it would just boost her ego.)
She’s eccentrically-inclined, yes. You only have to stay on the blog for about five minutes to know that – our second post on the site is an interview with her, which says a lot. So, we can cut that out, because you’ll know that soon. Strange quirks will explain themselves. A strange background is intriguing, though – it tells us she’s not just an ordinary girl growing up in an ordinary school. A ‘different’ home life is interesting and makes us want to know what someone has to say, as they can probably tell us something we don’t know.
I changed the first line of her biography, therefore, to read like this:
Charley Robson is a young author with an unusual background.
It not only helps the length issue, but it also says everything that needs to be said, don’t you think? We know her name, we know she’s a young author so is relevant to this book, and we know she’s got a slightly different background that makes us want to hear more.
I don’t claim to be a biography-writing expert, but I’m beginning to learn what you should and shouldn’t say online. It’s quite easy; I just imagine my sister reading it, and work out what to cut out from her imagined reactions.
And anyway, if everybody says they’re weird, doesn’t that mean none of us are? You can’t be different if you’re the same as everybody else.
Sneaky plug in bold to stop it being too sneaky! So you’re probably young writers out there, if you’re reading this (yes, I know there are exceptions). Head over to the ‘competitions’ tab on the right for a short story competition open to teens! I’ll be very pleased to see your entries.