Art For Art’s Sake… Blogging For God’s Sake…

Yes, the quiet half of the Saffina Desforges partnership has been quiter than usual this week, thanks to a hard-drive failure.

And very peaceful it was too, I hear you cry. Bring on the hard-drive failures!

Of course, if you thought that you’d not be here reading this in the first place. It’s not as if blogs are compulsory reading, and there’s a zillion other blogs out there to choose from.

Which got me thinking about why we read blogs, and what drives someone to give up their valuable time to write one.

And three blogs in particular caught my attention in this respect.

One was Kristen Lamb, the bouncy, bubbly disco-diva of social media, who’s snappily titled Kristen Lamb’s Blog is a regular stop for me to check out the latest tips on blogging, facebook and twitter (yes, I finally signed up this week, but I’m still working out what to do next).

Kristen’s blogs range from the compulsive reading, like her recent One Of The Best Ways To Build Our Social Media Platform – Be A Blogger Booster to her latest post Strange Addictions & Habits–Do They All Have to Have Meaning? which frankly left me wondering why I was anywhere near her site. It was a bizarre post about an addiction / obsession with Febreze. Go figure, I believe is the latest in vogue phrase we have imported to express our bewilderment.

Yes, I’ll still be back reading Kristen’s next blog because most of the time they are constructive and useful to me as a writer. But I must confess to feeling let down that I waded through an entire blog that was little more than a free ad for a cleaning product…

That said, her readers seemed to love it! Go figure again!

Which brings us neatly to Meghan Ward’s Writerland. Blogging Rule #1: Keep It Real is a recent post that really struck a chord with me.

Meghan recently hosted the you-tube recorded interview with Nathan Bransford, another must-read blogger. Nathan of course has a zillion followers, but made some good points about being comfortable with social media.

Essentially he said that we as writers should adopt those social media platforms that we feel comfortable with and not worry too much about those we don’t. If we are good at blogging, blog. If twitter tickles our fancy, tweet. But don’t waste time and creative energy doing either just for the sake of it.

Now that’s fine by me. I’ve been blogging, off and on, a long time (even though this current blog is relatively new).

I love reading blogs and I love writing them. But this just returns us to the question, why? For what purpose? To what end?

Meghan summed it up beautifully:

It’s so easy for bloggers to get caught up in the race for more followers, more comments, more hits. I know that when I get two comments on my Link Love posts (and one of them is mine) I want to stop posting links—partly because I feel it’s a waste of time if people aren’t interested and partly because my ego doesn’t want to be the blogger with two comments on a post.

I want to be the blogger with 20, 30, 40 comments. I want to be the blogger bragging about how many hits I have, how popular my blog is, how awesome I am. I want to BE awesome!

But is that what this is really all about? Is that why we’re doing this? Isn’t life more than about how much money you have in the bank? Isn’t blogging more than about how many followers you have? Isn’t it about connecting with people, making friends, inspiring people, and being inspired?

Wow! Let’s hear that last bit again: Isn’t blogging more than about how many followers you have? Isn’t it about connecting with people, making friends, inspiring people, and being inspired?

Meghan, you have summed it up perfectly.

No disrespect to Kristen or Nathan or any of the mega-bloggers out there with trillions of followers, but when I read a blog I like to be informed and entertained. Both Kristen and Nathan do that well. That’s why they are popular and why I keep going back, despite the Febreze business.

But I also like to see a debate. Readers may have valid and useful points to make against the blog’s point of view, or useful examples to support it.

But when a blog has a hundred comments below it then it becomes daunting to read, and when many of those comments are just “You rock!”, “You’ve made my day,” etc, then the debate element is lost.

Often I will feel I have a valid contribution to make, but I haven’t the time or inclination to wade through all those comments already posted to see if someone else has already said something similar. And then I think, will the blog author actually read this? These are busy people.

It begs the question, when is a blog too big?

Which brings us to a relatively obscure (until a day or so ago) Canadian blog I occasionally dip into called Occupation: Writer. Last week it was “Freshly Posted” (given a very prominent profile) by wordpress, and with remarkable results.

Carrie did a delightful little post called Can You Write In Coffee Shops?

Typically Carrie’s blogs gather just a few comments, like all good but not mega-star celebrity-blogs do. But with the Freshly Posted wind behind her Carrie picked up an impressive 418 comments on the subject of writing in coffee shops.

Wow! What wouldn’t we give to have that kind of traffic!

Or would it be a nightmare?

Carrie wrote the next day,

I have been reading all of the comments, and replying as fast as my fingers will type, but in reality I won’t be able to respond to everyone. Please know that I really appreciate that you took the time to comment, even if I don’t manage to reply.

Which really says it all. I’m sure Carrie did read all the comments. But if this was the kind of thing you had to deal with every time you blogged? Life would be impossible.

So thanks, Carrie, for giving me my theme for today’s post, and also an ideal note on which to finish.

Yes, you can write in coffee shops.

Much of the best-selling crime thriller Sugar & Spice was written in coffee shops, and for anyone interested in the story behind the story of Sugar & Spice, fellow writer Mark Edwards (Killing Cupid, see link on side panel) is running a two-part interview with the quiet half of the Saffina Desforges writing team on his blog at indieiq. Part one is live now and part two will follow after the weekend.

It’s a bizarre story about two unknown wannabe novelists writing two very different novels who “met” via  a peer-group review website, teamed up to write a different book from Sugar & Spice, have only met twice in real life, have neither an agent nor publisher, yet somehow have a top-five Kindle UK best-seller that sold 20,000 ebooks just in April.

Real life… You just couldn’t make it up!

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  1. The comment thing is interesting… my most valued friends, people I’ve never met and will probably never meet, have come from the fact that somehow they found my blog and found it worthy of reading and then commenting. And not always agreeable. Yesterday someone let me know horse-racing and the Royal Wedding sucked.
    Do I set the world on fire with my blog… no and never likely to. Do I love writing it? Yes. Why? It’s a mode of expression above and beyond the novel I might be writing at the time. I don’t pretend that I can tell anyone how to write, how to live, how to do anything really but I love connecting on even the smallest level with even just one person.
    As to Twitter… so damned hard. Not so much fun although informative links. Working hard for what… well, I ended up taking part in the writing of an Austenesque novel on Twitter (mentioned in the Times) which was astonishing. It finishes this Tuesday (#A4T)
    Facebook? Its for friends and family. Have yet to find the courage to set up a fan page for the author side of me. What if you only get one or two fans? Somehow that doesn’t matter on Twitter or the blog but I’m guessing it would matter in a writer’s future profile.

  2. An Austenesque novel written on twitter??? The mind boggles!

    A blog is “a mode of expression above and beyond the novel I might be writing at the time.”

    Eloquent as ever, Prue. Wish I’d said that! 🙂

    For anyone not yet familar with Prue’s work and blog I strongly recommend you check her latest post (http://mesmered.wordpress.com/) which is a to die for interview with Maria Grazia).

    Prue, I’m dying to read Gisborne, but one of my WIPs is a thirteenth century historical novel in which King John is the good guy, so steering well clear of anything that might influence it. Just wish i could get Saffi interested so we could bring it forward…

  3. Hello Mark,

    Thank you so much for mentioning my post – I’m very flattered! Being Freshly Pressed has been a fantastic experience, but I did find myself thinking exactly what you wrote above: what would I do if this happened every day? I’m not sure how bloggers like Nathan Bransford do it, but I am in admiration of their ability to write posts that garner that much attention on a regular basis (and to keep up with the comments enough to keep everyone engaged).

    After being Freshly Pressed I had to revisit my blogging goals to remind myself why I’m doing this. Much like you mentioned in your post, I’m blogging not because I want to see those site visit stats fly through the roof, but because I want to share my experiences with others, meet other writers, and be a part of a writing community.

    I’m glad to hear that you and your writing partner were able to complete most of a novel in a coffee shop! I’m definitely going to have to check it out.

    Nice to meet you, and thanks again for mentioning my post!

    Carrie

    • Carrie – Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! I think Nathan skims his comments quickly and responds to a few here and there, but he does read them all, he said. I, too, find myself not wanting to comment on a blog that has too many comments – for fear of repeating what someone else said and because I know there’s little chance the blogger will respond or visit my own blog. Kind of feels like a comment being sent out into the void. Looking forward to checking out your blog.

  4. Thanks, Carrie. Since then I’ve relocated to West Africa, where coffee shops are pretty much unknown, and no question my output has diminished!

    But yes, being part of the writing community is really what makes it all worthwhile, and that it is a truly international community just makes it all the better.

  5. Thanks for the mention, Mark! Nathan Bransford said he does read all of his comments – which surprised me – although he responds less and less as his book release nears. Thanks for the link to Carrie’s blog, too. I wrote in a coffee shop until an SUV drove through the door one day (which prompted my first-ever blog post on a previous blog). I never went back. I look forward to reading your interview on indieq!

  6. Great interview. The stuff of literary legend. Set in Milton Keynes and Grimsby. As I said there–who needs Paris?

    You’ve mentioned three of my blogging gurus. I started as a novice Nathanite, then found Meghan and Kristin after I started my own blog. They’re full of great advice. I must check out Carrie and Prue.

    Gisborne? You’re writing about King John as a good guy? Did you know the Russell Crowe film was first supposed to be called “Nottingham” and he was going to play the Sheriff as a good guy? They tossed the whole script eventually. I’ve written a contemporary send-up of the Robin Hood story with a Midlands crook in a green hoodie as a really bad boyfriend. Nobody here wants it, of course. Too English.

    I digress. Blogging. Love it. For its own sake. I just happen to have written a guest blogpost for Sierra Godfrey today on the subject http://sierragodfrey.blogspot.com/2011/05/guest-post-8-ways-blogging-has-improved.html

  7. Anne,
    No, I’m not writing about King John at all, except in passing reference. And then only as a bad guy. I’m writing about the legendary Sir Guy of Gisborne. My take on the man on the assumption that there may be another side to his whole story.
    Robin Hood doesn’t even feature and there’s every chance in the world that Nottingham may not either. This is not the Guy we know from Basil Rathbone nor Richard Armitage and God forbid it is so not the Guy we know from that terrible Russell Crowe movie. I’ve already had a half of the novel revealed on the blog and its had excellent stats. Its now being finished away from the blog and will be published at the end of the year, early next.
    Blogs are great for determining interest in potential stories.

  8. Is the comment by somebody else, and I’m reading it wrong? Maybe I’m being a cybermoron. But I’m interested. I’ve read some historians are interested in rehabilitating John, the way they’ve tried with Richard III

    Who wrote this? “I’m dying to read Gisborne, but one of my WIPs is a thirteenth century historical novel in which King John is the good guy, so steering well clear of anything that might influence it. Just wish i could get Saffi interested so we could bring it forward”

    • LOL! That was me, Anne. Sorry for the confusion.

      I was referring to Prue’s writing about Gisborne, which I’ve deliberately refrained from reading despite being desperate to read it!

      It would be great to see historians finally re-examine John’s role. He’s had a bad press, no question, and the Robin Hood legend certainly didn’t help.

      My version originally intended to explore John’s reign through the first-person eyes of his wife Isabella, but given she was twelve years old when they married (and by all accounts they spent an inordinate amount of time in bed together from day one) it made for uncomfortable writing.

      Isabella of Angouleme is one of the great “undiscovered” characters of British history, lost to the unjust legacy John carried.

      But how does one write accurate historical fiction without being bogged down by modern-day values and perceptions?

      Perhaps narrative non-fiction is the way forward?

  9. Almost forgot. Thanks, Anne, for the link to Sierra’s blog. What an adorable baby!

  10. We watch Romeo and Juliet without worrying too much about the fact she was 13. Any way you could not mention her exact age? I’d love to read about her. The one thing the awful Russell Crowe movie did was show Richard I for the slime he was. And if Richard can be slime, maybe his brother doesn’t have to look so bad? Sure is a fascinating premise. But I suppose a nonfic exploration a la the recent Cleopatra book might work.

    Sierra’s got a great blog. And she’s so conscientious, blogging right after giving birth.

  11. I can feel another blog theme developing here, Anne:

    Romeo & Juliet… Lolita… Would these ever have been published in the UK or USA today?

    Melissa P’s 100 Strokes comes close, I guess. (What an indictment of modern society that a book / film about the sexual encounters of a fourteen year old can be so popular!) If a man had written it he’d probably still be in jail…

    For John and Isabella may be both a novel and narrative non-fiction is the answer. Maximise my research reward and double my fun by writing both!

    As you recently remarked, Anne, the biggest challenge facing a writer is staying alive long enough to get everything finished!

  12. Hi Ann and Mark… again. My research is pointing Richard to be anything but the Lionheart and its an angle that may well appear in my work… there was the Jewish massacre in London that is rarely mentioned and of course the fact that he not only bled the country dry but rarely set foot in England if he could help it, on top of a myriad other smaller things. Mark, go for the soft hist.fict option… I’d buy that, whereas my attention-span would shorten with non-fict. But then I never claimed to be an academic anyway!

    Just read a fantastic fiction variation on the Juliet theme as well… Ann Fortier’s ‘Juliet’. An utterly unique take on the legend.

    i so agree with the time and length of one’s life needed to get all these ideas down! We’ve just got to ‘keep calm and carry on’.

  13. Really interesting post! It got me thinking – which is one of the qualities I like about blog posts.
    I’ve decided a long time ago that even if I were to never get any of my stories published, I would still keep writing. Even if no one ever read them, I would go on because it is important to me, I need to write. But what about blogging? Would I keep blogging of no one read my blog at all? I don’t have a lot of readers, but I enjoy getting comments – not just for the sake of getting comments, but I’ve come to really appreciate the interaction that blogging provides. I often visit new blogs (like I’m doing now) and exchange views with others. When people take the time to comment on my blog, I get genuinely happy – if they have opinions, tips or views to share, I get even more thrilled. So yes, part of blogging, for me, is related to having readers. I want to hear what people think, and I hope to be able to provide them with useful links or information or topics to think about. On the other hand, a lot of the things I write about are derived from conversations I’ve had “IRL”, and regardless of readers and comments, I find it useful to type up my conclusions or inner discussions.

    • Interaction is great and that it can happen in real time (subject to being awake – Prue is in Australia, so our paths rarely cross in real time) and in far flung parts of the world just makes it so much better still.

      • Oh, I agree! That’s one of the best things about the internet, being able to communicate so easily.

  14. Prue, never heard of Anne Fortier’s Juliet. Just hope it’s on Kindle as real books here in the Third World are hard to come by.

    Non-fiction doesn’t have to be dry, academic text-book stuff. The move towards narrative non-fiction has been increasing year by year, thanks largely to the likes of Bill Bryson, who can make the most unlikely of subjects a best-seller.

    Hist fic the soft option? If only…

    As for Richard the so-called Lion-Heart… At school I remember asking my teacher why he was such a good king if he was never actually here. That didn’t go down too well. Teachers just repeat what they were taught.

    Luckily I spent more time skiving school than attending lessons, so discovered the wonder of REAL history / science / maths / literature, etc.

  15. I sure got an alternate opinion of Richard I when I met a bunch of Yorkshiremen when I was researching my Robin Hood book. “Lionheart?” they said.”He were a sodding Froggy. Hated England, that prat.” On the other hand, they loved Richard III. House of York, of course.

  16. Your Robin Hood book?! Tell us more!

    • Oh, it’s just the one I mentioned before: Sherwood, Ltd. It’s a contemporary English Midlands romantic suspense story using Robin Hood archetypes–a Midlands crook in a green hoodie as a really bad boyfriend–told from the Marian character’s point of view. There’s also a talent-free romance writer who’s written a Robin Hood-as-werewolf book. I’m making fun of the way Yanks idolize an England that never was. Notting Hill meets Kinky Boots.

      I’d love to have an actual Englishman read it, if you ever felt so inclined. Between teaching and writing best sellers, of course. I know. I don’t have time to read any of my friends’ work either.

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