Eating My Words

I liked the idea of posting this article, originally published in Red Herrings, the CWA Members’ Bulletin, given my complete volte-face…

Are You A Blogger?

MySpace, Facebook, Bebo: social networking sites and a free way to make contacts and connections and promote your work.  A few months ago my dad emailed to ask if I’d be his friend on Facebook and my heart sank.  I am your friend, Dad, in the real world, can’t we just leave it at that?  My latest copy of The Writer’s Handbook exhorts me to get out there, blog it and flog it but still I balk.

I’m not a technophobe: I love my computer and I’m the only one in the house who can work the DVD recorder, so it’s not that.  And I agree that self-promotion (the more shameless the better) is a necessity in these times when few of us get marketing campaigns or publicity budgets from our cash-strapped publishers.  In fact twelve years ago, when Margaret Murphy suggested forming Murder Squad to do exactly that, I jumped at the chance.  We did (and do) most of the organising online and via e-mail and the venture has proved an excellent way of raising our profiles and generating income from events we do.  It might even have sold a few more books.  At the last tally four of the seven squaddies had blogs (though one calls his a diary).

And I do like trying out new forms of writing.  One of the projects I’ve enjoyed most was with and involved writing ultra short fiction that was published online and sent to WAP phones (no I don’t either).

So why do I resist?  My reservations are random and don’t add up to any coherent position but for what they’re worth:

1) Isn’t it a bind?  I can only just manage to keep my (shared) website and latest biog updated.  Anecdotally, I met a famous blogger recently, Fiction Bitch, who turned out to be a friend (in the actual sense of the word – not the poking sort*) and who said writing two blogs every day was driving her demented, she ends up doing them late at night and sometimes a little the worse for wear but she couldn’t stop, having achieved some measure of success and notoriety.  I guess the name helped.

2) What would I write about?  I certainly don’t want to dissect the process of writing, I’m too busy actually doing it and I want it to retain that vaguely mystical, organic feel.  And I don’t want to bleat about the vagaries of the publishing industry or complain about my ratings on Amazon or whatever.  My personal life is just that, personal, so what’s left?

3) Reciprocity.  It wouldn’t stop with what I wrote.  People would add comments or respond and I’d have to answer them and visit their pages and it would mushroom.  I might have to make friends with people I wouldn’t want to be friends with.

4)  Where would I find the time?  See above.  Already life is busy, full; there aren’t enough hours in the day for all the things I’d like to do.  So should I make space for something that I don’t really want to do?  And sacrifice my writing time?

5) My posts would come back to haunt me.  Like reading old diaries.  Yikes, what I had for dinner (and tea), amusing tales of the dog and the budgie and who fell out with who in the playground.  But IN PUBLIC.

Meanwhile the bandwagon rolls on; I can see it in the distance disappearing over the virtual hill in a cloud of virtual dust.  I guess you’re all on it.  Off to pastures new.  Maybe one day I’ll join you, become a born again blogger or twitter-addict and exhort all the people I meet in workshops to get connected.  Till then…Am I losing out?  What do you reckon?

* It’s a Facebook thing.

So – what changed my mind?  I’ll look at that next week…

The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard

My first blog!  Though I have guested on a couple before but this is the first of my own.  I’ve no great scheme for the blog, it’ll consist of whatever I feel like writing about each week (I do intend to keep them fresh by updating them every week – honest – watch this space).  So the entries will likely be a mish-mash of musings on life as a writer and life in general with references to any other blogs or articles that I hope people might find interesting.

I thought I’d start with the process of writing, the actual nuts and bolts and declare that I write longhand – with a pen, on paper.  Strange but true.  When this came up in conversation with a publisher recently, she said she didn’t know any authors who did that – and she must encounter dozens of writers through her work.  Of course I don’t submit anything in longhand, otherwise I’d never have been published, there is a process of typing up my first handwritten draft which also serves as an editing stage.  But for me, getting the prose down on paper is the most organic and productive way of writing, it holds true for planning my novels too and sketching out back stories or character biogs, for writing short stories or flash fiction.  It’s a different matter if I’m working on a screenplay or radio script, I type those straight into whichever formatting programme I’m using.  I’m not completely sure why that feels okay, whether it’s the relative paucity of words, or the fact that the material is a blend of brief dialogue and pragmatic stage directions with little scope for scribbling in the margins and waxing lyrical, going off on a tangent or whatever.  Though even with scripts, if I have a particularly weighty or emotional scene to write I will instinctively reach for pad and pen to get to grips with it.  (Just for comparison a radio play is around 8,000 words while a novel may be ten times as many – and with radio and TV a story outline has already been thrashed out whereas a novel is still being discovered in the process of writing).   At the end of the day all writers find out what works for them, which tools best serve their purpose – I’ve begun to use speech recognition software for the typing up stage.  More on that in another blog.  Now, back to the book.