I follow an eclectic collection of blogs (note to self--update blogroll to reflect what I'm reading these days), and recently started reading Copyblogger. Their 'tagline' is "copywriting tips for oneline marketing success."
While I don't have anything to 'sell' and I'm not writing copy per se, I find what they have to say extremely interesting and relevant, especially regarding relationships between bloggers and their audience. They promote the model that has worked so well for folks like Cory Doctorow: Have a value added relationship with your audience, use good content to drive that relationship, and be honest in what you're selling. I know that I have a lot of respect for Doctorow simply because of his willingness to make his work available digitally for free. It nudged me to read one of his novels, which I really enjoyed (Little Brother) and I have gone on to recommend him to others, and purchase tangible editions for myself.
Another site I am new to, which takes the Copyblogger principles into the writer's world is Tribal Writer. Justine Lee Musk has a lot in her site about effective presentation and marketing for writers, in addition to posts about the writing process. (I am always a sucker for writing process.)
All of which brings me to the whole 'platform' thing.
As I was reminded by a writer friend of mine, platform is most applicable to non-fiction writing. Say you are a well-known and well-respected expert in left-handed smoke shifters. You give lectures all around the world and people line up for your autograph. You smoke shifter blog gets a zillion hits a day and well, you get the picture. That's platform. If you go ahead and write the definitive bible of left-handed smoke shifters, you own the market.
It's not quite so clear for fiction writers, especially writers who work in more than one genre.
So what's a poor, struggling novelist to do?
Stop stressing about it, for one thing.
I've had this blog for several years now, and I've been able to update it several times a week all this time because, first and foremost, I enjoy it. I really love the process of sitting down, thinking something through, and writing about it. And since the past few years have coincided with me learning to write novels, that's what the majority of my posts have been about.
All along, I've striven to find my honest voice and I can say that if you read my blog, you pretty much have a sense of who I am.
I hope that when the times comes, and I have my very first book contract in hand, then the 'platform' (though I hesitate to apply that word) I have already created here and with my website will form the core of an appropriate promotion and marketing plan, while continuing to be a reflection of me.
I asked my 16 year old son if he looks for the online presence of his favorite writers. (Yes) I then asked him to tell me what he likes and looks for in those sites/blogs/twitter feeds. His answer was interesting.
He said that he likes when the writer's on line voice makes him feel more connected to the writer, regardless of content. It doesn't need to be about the book(s) or the writing process, but the writer's personality needs to shine through. The worst 'sin' in my son's eyes is for the writer to talk down to him, or try too hard.
I guess it's no different from the parent who tries too hard to be their teen's best friend.
So, I'm not going to turn my blog into something I'm not for the sake of some kind of illusory platform that probably doesn't exist. I'm just going to continue to think, write, and post and hope for the best.