Archive for November, 2014
Last week it was suggested to me that maybe I spend too much time working on my blog. It is true that one measly blog a week eats into my writing time, and I’m not getting much accomplished as far as creating new material. It is also true that I have at least temporarily abandoned the manuscript this blog was named for. So why do I continue? The readership for my blog is small, if not close to nonexistent, but so is the readership for my novels (manuscripts.) I like to think that the number of readers of my shorter work is a bit larger since there are all those readers and editors who reject the stories, as well as a few actual readers for those which have been accepted and published.
If the blog is eating into my time, what exactly am I losing if I continue it? I find the blog keeps me searching for new ideas, often through reading the Times and articles on line. I enjoy making connections and coming to conclusions I might not have realized if I wasn’t trying to produce and shape a piece weekly. And even if each post is short, and has taken longer than it should have to produce, it gives me a feeling of accomplishment and purpose. Occasionally someone responds to a post and a new friend, or someone to follow, appears. Who is to say where these new contacts might lead?
I suspect that I will continue to keep my self-imposed deadline. I will keep posting short pieces even if few people read. I welcome readers, and I love comments, especially those that present a different side to my thoughts. I relish the interchange of ideas and know that if I kept those ideas to myself as typed pieces on my computer or in a leather bound journal, the chances of exchanging thoughts with another are greatly reduced, probably approaching zero.
And if no one reads any of my words? Is it that different than taking photographs? Not many see the ones we take, yet most of us keep taking them, if only for our own learning process, to see what we can produce, or more succinctly, for our own enjoyment.
If you blog, why? And is it worth it?
When I was a kid, we bought the New York Times after church and then spent the rest of the day reading it. As an adult we had The Denver Post delivered, and I read The Atlantic and other magazines, but I missed the BookReview. We’ve subscribed to the Sunday Times now for a number of years. Although I usually at least scan the book review, I more regularly read other sections indepth. Styles Magazine is a leaf-through section, with an occasional article read. Today, though, I started with Andrew O’Hagan’s piece on the past and modern innovations. He asks what has society/the individual lost by the use of the iPhone and its attendant apps. He contends that life is better with technology.
In many respects, I agree. At a reunion recently my classmates commented about the superiority of “our music.” While I’d agree some of that music is pretty special and some songs are masterpieces, overall I prefer contemporary music. A steady diet of “classic rock” makes me gag. O’Hagan mentions the ease of research using the Internet. That is a plus,although I still look for books or articles beyond what I can easily (and cheaply) find online. He also mentions the availability of friendship, or at least camaraderie, via social media, and talks about the advantages of the world at your fingertips when you live in the middle of nowhere.
Yes, I agree with all those improvements, yet it still seems that something is lost by the use of phones and computers where before we had card catalogs, meetings in person, books, and had to wait to view movies, hear music, etc. Why is instant gratification better than a wait, or having to work a bit to accomplish something? What is wrong with watching Downton Abbey at the regularly scheduled time in the US instead of watching episodes in advance through some Internet service? Yes, I love streaming movies, but I also enjoy watching certain of the special features included on DVDs. I give up some positives for ease and instant gratification.
I know if it weren’t for computers, writing would be real work for me and would test my patience. I started writing on a typewriter and never quite got the knack of using the back correction. Even liquid paper was a mess. I could never get the paper to line up properly if I removed it from the typewriter. So yes, the advent of word processing programs with spell check and an easy way to make corrections and changes was a boon for me as well as thousands of other writers.
The ease of typing up stories has to be one of the factors in the rise in the number of writers. Not only is it easier to produce manuscripts, it’s easier to get them out in the world. Self publishing on the Internet doesn’t bother me too much since it seems to be akin to the self-publishing/vanity press of old. I do believe, though, that journals and agents and editors are swimming in print due to the ease of submitting online. In the past, not only did you have to write and type a story, but you had to figure out where to send it without the information being at your fingertips. Sure, you could buy a writers’ guidebook, but it likely was out of date before it saw print. More than once I sent off a story the same day I purchased the brand new book and received it back in the mail with a “return to sender” stamp due to an outdated address.
After you figured out your submission strategy, you had to buy and address envelopes, weigh the manuscript for return, possibly make a trip to the post office, and wait. Most journals back then didn’t allow simultaneous submissions, and stupidly, some of us obeyed that. Now, all you have to do is spend a few minutes looking around on the Internet, click and send, very often directly from the correct journal/agent/editor site.
The work involved in submission in the past helped weed out those who weren’t serious, those who were dabbling. It is possible that some great writers were left undiscovered in the process who are now found due to the ease of submitting, but is the overall good of the writing world served by this? Would Emily Dickinson have been published sooner and more prolifically if she merely had to click a button to send her poems? Maybe. But possibly her work would have been lost in the jumble of more fashionable submissions.
Would I go back to the day of the typewriter? No. Computers made writing much easier for me. The Internet makes submitting work and research less difficult, too. For those things I am thankful. I suppose another byproduct of the Internet is an increase in the number of places to publish. It would be interesting to know the ratio of writers to the number of journals over time. Has this changed? Of course there are other factors at play in the book publishing world. If, though, the ease of getting information and then submitting is at least in part due to the Internet, it is likely that the deluge of manuscripts to editors was at least one factor in the Agent as Gateway method to publication. As it seems that editors like my work more than agents, I’m not sure this is a positive for me and my writing career.
Andrew O’Hagan admits that technology changed his character, but the innovations in her lifetime did not change his mother’s. I do not know if the Internet has in any way changed my character. At the same time, I do wonder if it has in some way modified my life course?
How has the ease of technology shaped you and your writing career, if at all?
I recently quit an online critique group. The other three women in the group were excellent critiquers so it was a hard decision to make.
One of my difficulties with the online group was the platform we were using, yahoo.groups. I have used this platform for classes and found it daunting. I couldn’t easily follow any conversation, partly because people would start new topics when merely responding to a previous post. This happened in my most recent group as well.
A disappointment with the group was that we didn’t interact around points made about each others’ work. In my live group, someone may complain about the premise of a story. The others chime in and agree or disagree, make new points, etc. The author may also ask a question or explain what he or she was attempting. Either of those scenarios may result in more discussion between the members. Sometimes this sort of conversation helps the writer see where something went wrong or find a solution for a perceived problem. Not doing any of this made the group feel more like individual beta readers. True, we posted our critiques and the other participants could read comments, and yes, that has some appeal and advantages, but I believe the interplay of the various readers is both fun, enlightening, and engaging. And this interplay, more than the shared work, might eventually develop friendships.
I’ve been following Writers’ Rumpus for awhile now, and as part of the weekly digest I noticed Marianne Knowle’s interview with a woman who has started a website set up for critiques. I glanced at the sample pages, and it looks like it might be useful. I’m wondering if any of my readers has used the site, Inked Voices, or if anyone has another site or method to recommend for online critiquing?
Reasons November is not a good month for NaNoWriMO
- Especially if you are hosting a dinner
- Or have company for the weekend,
- And even worse if you are traveling.
- Volleyball is still going, including Selection Sunday
- Basketball gears up
- Really bad if you have men’s and women’s tickets
- And if you’re one of those crazies who also has football tickets? Exactly when would you have time to write?
- And there’s NFL games, NBA games, and hockey, too. At least I think that last is true.
- Some Nanoers gather to write, and probably eat, but since the month is bracketed by Halloween candy and Thanksgiving, that in itself might not be a good idea.
- There’re all those craft shows for holiday giving, and
- That day after Thanksgiving where so many shop.
- Start of Christmas cookie baking.
- Other holiday planning and doing.
- And it’s close to the end of the semester for many schools.
There are plenty of good reasons to take the challenge. For instance, this site lists 14 published books written during Nano. There are sites that give you ideas of how to make this month productive, as well as this blog by WFWA and RMFW member, Jamie Raintree, with ways to convert this month into a productive year.
Even with evidence that this month truly does work, I’m not participating. When I’ve attempted this exercise in the past, I’ve ended up with a mess. I did “win,” but I’m still trying to untangle the knots from four years ago.
My writing group has tried some alternate “months of writing.” We’ve picked a month with the idea of writing a story a week. Each week one of us emailed prompts. Although I haven’t checked with the others, I know at least two of the stories I produced have either been published or are slated to come out soon. This shorter, more focused exercise works better for me.
Are you Nanoing? How has the process worked for you in the past?