Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday!

Today, we have a guest blog by bunnygirl on fiction blogging. Sit back, relax, and enjoy!

Fiction blogging is one of those vaguely disreputable activities a "real" writer isn't supposed to do. After all, anyone can do it, and some of what's out there is pretty bad. There's no glory. You don't get paid, there's no end product to hold in your hands,and you can count on not getting reviewed in the New York Times.So why do it? And what the heck is fiction blogging,anyway?

There are two kinds of fiction blogs I've come across. One is the "fake" blog, which might advertise itself as a fake (Diary of a Killer, Under Odysseus, Diana's Diary), or it might seem like a real blog (PlainLayne).

Fake blogs that pretend to be real can backfire, as Odin Solis found out when he was outed as the author of PlainLayne, which took fiction to a whole new level, crossing over into reality and making the readers part of the story and becoming something more akin to performance art. (Note: I don't recommend doing this. Always include an Author's Note or Disclaimer in your fiction blog!)

The advantage to writing as a fictional character is that it's a fun way to explore your character and his or her world. When I set out to write Diana's Diary, it was to get a better grasp on the interim period between the second and third books of my trilogy, and also to delve more deeply into the mind of one of my favorite characters.

Once I gave "Diana" her blog and set her on a 1,500 mile journey through a post-apocalyptic America, I couldn't hold her back. She led me to places I never imagined and introduced me to people who I still can't believe came out of my own head. It was a creative burst like no other I've ever had, and I still mourn the late nights of sitting down to write with no idea what was going to happen next, as eager for the next chapter as my readers.

The other type of fiction blog is a modern version of the serial novel. A writer might be posting relatively new work, or something he or she has been sitting on for years. It might be first person, but is just as likely to be third person. No attempt is made to give the impression that the characters themselves are the bloggers. In this tradition, we have The Legacy of Tsazcuth and The Mexican Year (much of which has been taken down,unfortunately).

Why post a work of fiction in blog format? The reasons against it are clear: once you've put more than about three chapters online, you're publishing house poison. You're giving your work away for free and your chances of ever getting paid for it have dropped like a rock. You could password-protect your blog and restrict access, but then you kill your chances of gaining a following.

So why do it? Well, it's instant gratification. Instead of querying for months or even years, then waiting another year or more for your novel to make it to the bookshelf, you can post your fiction tonight. You can get readers right away and develop a following. (Under Odysseus sells logo-printed items via Café Press.) You can edit at will and add pictures, like I did. There is no one to tell you your work of fiction is too long or too short, and it doesn't matter if there is a "market" for it. The blogosphere is a place where you can give free rein to your creative muse.

Want to give it a try? Start by checking out this list of blogger laws you should know. Next, remember that although Blogger and Wordpress have made blogging simple, there may still be technical matters you need to address, especially if you decide to include pictures in your blog, or want a particular look that isn't available on an existing template. A basic knowledge of HTML and Photoshop is a huge plus, and the web is full of resources that can help.

Finally, consider your long-term commitment. Can you see this thing through to completion? Blogging can be a big time commitment, and if you've chosen to write as your character, your job is doubly hard because you can't just jump in as the author and say, "Oh, btw,I'm going on hiatus."

I made the mistake with the first diary of Diana's Diary of committing to daily posting. This turned into a nightmare as her journey stretched from a few weeks to five months, and as the author, I had no graceful way to give her an out. So unless you've already finished the work you intend to post, I don't recommend daily postings. But you should commit to a regular schedule, so your readers will keep coming back.

I'm no prophet, and fiction blogging could just be a passing fad, like so many others. But I consider it in many ways the modern successor to the serial novel of Dickens' day. With so many people doing their reading online instead of in print (witness the death of print newspapers vs their online versions), this is a medium that could have a bright future ahead of it.

If nothing else, it's a chance to get your name out there, if you choose to blog under your real or pen name. It's also an opportunity to exercise your creativity, write the book you want to write, format it the way you envision, and not have to answer to an agent's or publisher's vision of current market whims.

To heck with the market! Create your own reality!

1 comment:

Mel said...

Never thought of this but it's quite interesting. The only downside I can see is getting sick of the writing the character's POV. Or even if you move onto a new book.

I think this would work though if you're writing a series and what you're going to write in the novel isn't what you've already written on the blog. If you're using the blog to stay in character and appease the masses until the next book comes out.