In my Legacy of Words classes, I spend a good amount of time talking about VALUABLE writing. It isn’t a concept that is original with me, and I present it this way:

Valuable writing informs the reader, engages the reader, and deepens the reader’s understanding of the story, himself, or the world. Not every sentence must do all three, but good sentences will.

Originally, I had used the word “entertain” in this explanation of “valuable” writing, instead of “engage.” Some students, though, thought that meant that every story the told had to be funny or full of plot-points like a Tom Clancy novel. So, I modified my approach to put an emphasis on getting a reader’s reaction, not just making them laugh or gasp. We live in an Entertainment Age, when too often that word is reserved only for over-the-top theatrics. Sometimes, the reaction we want from a reader is much more subtle than that; we want a nod of the head, a sigh, or a pause of recognition.

Whether we see our blog as a business or as just one tool in our quest to meet and interact with new people, we are always hoping to find a way to increase engagement.
Whether we see our blog as a business or as just one tool in our quest to meet and interact with new people, we are always hoping to find a way to increase engagement.

We not only live in an Entertainment Age, but an Engagement Age as well. Engagement is a buzz-word for those of us who are active in various social media circles. Writers, today, are judged not only by the content of the book or story collection or slate of poems, but by their ability to engage with people on Twitter or Facebook or via their personal blog. Writers who have more “followers” get a step up in the literary line. Those writers who have an active and engaged following in social media circles get even more attention from agents and publishers. So, those of us who are involved in social media try to find ways to get readers to re-Tweet or “share” or “like” or leave a comment. We ask questions we hope people will answer and we write about topics we hope people are interested in, then we sit back and wait to see if anyone takes the bait. And so, as a writer who has a blog, I strive to find ways to add value to my blog posts, but it seems like the “engage” piece of that puzzle often remains lacking. Perhaps I’ve not said something controversial enough to stir a response. Or, maybe, I’ve not provided enough information or increased the reader’s understanding, and therefore, haven’t earned a response. (It has occurred to me that if I would make more typos, that might at least generate a series of, “Hey writer genius, you misspelled a word!” sorts of comments…) As a fiction writer, I want to produce a novel or a short story that will be valuable to the writer. As a blog owner, I want to do the same. I think, most of the time, my fiction can lay claim to meeting that goal. With my blog, I’m still searching for the right formula.

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photo credit: The Rocketeer via photopin cc

The Engagement Age (This is NOT a Wedding Blog)
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  • I love to comment, but I’m just your mom <3

    • Oh. Moms can comment. But one hopes that the sphere of influence reaches beyond that… 🙂

  • I think this was quite an engaging post. 🙂 Controversy isn’t the only way to get people involved. Frankly, I’m a little tired of it. Sometimes, you posts will get people thinking, open a new way to see their writing or the world. They may not be compelled to comment, and you may never know how you’ve affected them, but you did. Oh! Eric’s Mom, your comments are valid and appreciated by his vast audience! 🙂

    • Yes. I’m not a fan of controversy just for the sake of it, but in a purely analytical sense, it seems to work for some bloggers.

  • I sometimes wonder if it’s not lack of quality or reach, but the more of a reader-burnout phenomenon. I didn’t even READ blogs for about six months, just because keeping up with my own was overwhelming! Of course, now I’m back to reading (and commenting) but my own blog suffers!

    For what it’s worth, I’m hoping will some day take some of the weight off writers’ shoulders in therms of audience building. It might take awhile though.

    • There IS a lot of content “out there” and that does make it difficult to cultivate a following. And, truth be told, I often read the email versions (or, synopsis) of many of the blogs I follow, without going to the actual blog to “like” or comment or otherwise engage.

  • P.S. My mom doesn’t comment on my blog!

  • Jean Muccini

    I read your blogs with interest and can say they leave me with a lot to think about. A confession is in order. I never realized that a comment is so welcome. But now after reading this post you will hear from me. Keep them coming.

    • Measuring the “reach” of social media (whether blogs, websites, Twitter accounts, etc) is an imprecise science, but an outsider looking in (be it a possible agent or publisher) looks to see not just numbers of followers, but if they interact. “Followers” can be an inflated number, quite easily. When people “like” or comment or share the content by passing it on to others, it is a sign of real engagement.

      Certainly, there is no expectation that every post will elicit a response from every reader, but those that do are more “valuable” in the PLATFORM sense.

      I’m glad you’re reading Jean. Hope to see you soon.

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