Saturday, 29 September 2012

Blogging's False Expectations



I read an opinion piece this morning from my university’s magazine which spoke about blogging, and one person’s difficulties with gaining an audience as well as not achieving the instant gratification which he assumed would come from blogging. 

I think this is the main reason people decide to give up on blogs. There’s so much false expectation attached to the idea of blogging. Most people – and by this I mean people who usually haven’t had much or any experience blogging themselves – believe that if you start a blog you’re likely to achieve instant popularity, that it isn’t something you need to work for. You simply publish something and BAM! instant fame.

But if you’re reading this now, you know that it isn’t true at all. Blogging is hard work. It takes time, dedication and consistency. You can’t wait for the system to acknowledge you – you have to work with the system to get something out of it. I’ll break this down into the three categories I believe make up blogging. 

Time:  You need to have free time in order to blog. You have to write the posts, edit the posts, manage the blog look and layout, reply to comments and find time to visit other people’s blogs and comment. If you don’t have time for these things, it’s not very likely that you’ll gain a readership. People like to be noticed. If you become a regular commenter on somebody else’s blog, sooner or later they’ll get curious and decide to visit yours. But it does take time to establish that level of curiosity, and if you’re trying to do this for a lot of other blogs, then the time quickly adds up. 

Dedication: If you want a decent audience you can’t blog sporadically, unless the content is so unique, specialised or amazing that people will follow you regardless. If you’re lucky enough to have the status of an industry insider, such as a well known agent, editor, or author then yes, you would probably get away with this. If you had these jobs, it’s likely you’re quite a busy person, and people actively seek advice from people who are essentially the publishing gatekeepers and experts. However, most people don’t hold these credentials. Most people, like me, are normal people who like reading, writing and the publishing industry and decide to blog about it. That means you have to remain dedicated to blogging, even if you feel like you’re not getting anywhere. 

Consistency: Be consistent. You should be somewhat consistent in what you blog about, particularly if you’re holding a certain niche. My blog won’t exactly appeal to the masses, but I don’t want it to. I want to appeal to writers and people who, like me, are looking to get involved in publishing. I would rather appeal to a small spectrum of people who hold the same interests than a wide variety of people who I have nothing in common with. Plus, it also helps if you have some sort of blog schedule, or blog somewhat regularly. 

But despite these three core aspects of blogging, there is one thing which I haven’t mentioned: fun. You have to like what you’re doing. If you resent having to blog, then there isn’t much use in carrying it on. It’s better to pour your energy into something you do enjoy, rather than something which takes up time and dedication which you’d rather not part with. 

What do you think? Has blogging got false expectations surrounding it? Do you agree or disagree with what I think it takes to run a blog and gain and audience?

Saturday, 22 September 2012

University and Erase Update



Well, it’s official – I’ve moved into university! I’ve met a few people already, and I look forward to meeting a lot more. It’s been crazy this week trying to pack everything up and get ready, which means I haven’t had a lot of time for writing, even when I really wanted to. The next week will most likely be quite hectic too, but once things start to settle back down I’m sure I’ll be writing most days. 

In regards to Erase, I feel like I’ve got a clearer picture of where it’s going. I had a chat with a writer friend of mine, which helped, and despite the fact I’ve been mostly making it up as I go along, I have a basic outline already in my mind for the rest of the novel. I don’t know whether this will all go to plan or not, but I know what I’m heading towards at least, which is great. Hopefully that will make it a lot easier to get stuck in once I finally do get back to writing.

A final note: go check out Laura’s post on her first draft word counts. She kindly asked my permission to use my idea, and I think her results are really interesting! As long as you credit me, and let me know you’ve posted it so I can go check it out, I’m more than happy for other people to use my idea and post their first draft word counts too.

How is everybody else’s projects and/or life coming along?

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

First Draft Word Counts



I thought this would be a good topic to discuss, especially since I’m back to writing Erase. I also think it’s a great way to evaluate progress as a writer.

When I first started writing, my first draft word counts were colossal. Typically they were over 100,000 words, which meant a lot of editing and paring down. I think the reason my word counts were so huge was mostly due to the fact that I hadn’t learnt how to really create a succinct plot. These novels would have so much in them that it would be hard to keep track of everything. There would be chapters which were fillers, simply there to build up to the next sub-plot. There wasn’t much skill in the writing. 

But as I’ve become more practised at writing novels, the first draft word count for my projects has continued to fall, and I think this shows good progress. I’ve slowly learned how to get to the point. I’ve actively tried to avoid long-winded sub-plots. I’d like to hope I don’t have many (or any, in an ideal world) filler chapters.
To demonstrate this trend, I thought I’d catalogue my first draft word counts up to my recent project. I’ll go by project initials. 

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Novel 1 – RW: 140,000 (I don’t have an exact number, since I started my first edits without creating a new document; it got edited down to 77,000, clearly reflecting all the waste)

Novel 2 – S: 103,489 (I may have edited this one on the first draft, because I don’t think this one is wholly correct. If this were a graph, this would be the outlier.) 

Novel 3 – RC: 135, 793 (This one even surprised me. I didn’t remember it being that huge! That’s 248 pages. Really.)

Novel 4 – SRM:  113, 375 (Going down slowly but surely.)

Novel 5 – RA: 72, 606 (We’re finally getting somewhere!)

Novel 6 – RF: Incomplete. (However if it had been completed I can assure you it would have been huge.)

Novel 7 – NYR: 56, 932 (This is my short story collection. Six stories, all near 10,000 words, so I expected it to be around this count.) 

Novel 8 – Erase: I’m at 38,000 words right now. I imagine I’m about half away, if not just over. But since I have no idea what’s actually going to happen next, I’m not entirely sure what the final count will be. 

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I do think writing all these novels has helped me learn a lot about how to write a first draft. I learn something new every time I write another novel. But I’m glad I decided to really break down my word counts today, and I invite you do to the same. It shows my progress, and sometimes with writing, that can be hard to see. 

What are your word counts like? Do they tend to go down the more you write, or go up?

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Another Progress Report



I’m becoming quite fond of these progress reports. They’re starting to become a bit of a series. Perhaps they should be. Nevertheless, here is what I’ve been up to.

Basically, there’s been zero progress with regards to Erase. However, yesterday in the middle of the night, very typically, my mind found a way to completely solve my plotting issues and whilst not tried and tested yet, it did seem to make sense at 2AM. Let’s hope that translates well into actual writing.

To compensate for this ridiculous writing dry spell, I have instead been doing a lot of reading. I’ve recently finished Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell, which was better than I expected. At times it did seem a little long winded, but I think this was mainly due to the large segments I was reading every day. It is of course a book for my university course, and it was very different to something I would usually read, seeing as it takes place during the Victorian Industrial Revolution. 

I also finished Nice Work by David Lodge today, again a book for my university course, which I absolutely flew through. This was a great book. It’s set during the Thatcher era in 1980’s Britain, and revolves around two characters – Robyn Penrose and Vic Wilcox. At times it seemed like an older, more intricate version of 500 Days of Summer, although a bit different in tone. A good book, although admittedly a little deus ex machina towards the end, but I’m not going to argue with a happy ending.

I’m sorry I didn’t post on Tuesday. It’s been a bit of a strange week, saying goodbye to all my friends, people I’ve worked with and people I’ve known. I don’t leave until next week, so I’ll probably have a lot more of that to go through. Goodbyes are hard! But before long I’ll have met a load of new people and begun my studies, which I’m looking forward to!

How are things for all of you?

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Books I've Read This Summer



So this summer I’ve managed to get through twenty books. There are a lot of books which I haven’t read, and I’m really disappointed that I haven’t had a chance to read them. Hopefully I’ll manage to get those ones read soon, but realistically I have no idea when that will happen. But I wanted to share small, bite-sized reviews with you in regards to what I have been reading this summer. I've linked to previous blogposts which mention or are related to the book I'm talking about.

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The Strange Tale of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson:

I really liked this one. It was an intriguing tale, and although the ending wasn’t exactly a surprise, it was a good little book and a nice short read. A great way to begin my summer reads.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding:

This is something I'd wanted to read for ages, so I’m glad I finally got a chance to this summer. A very strange book, but thought-provoking none the less. I’m re-watching Lost at the moment and I keep finding small, little details which remind me of this.

Children of the Dust by Louise Lawrence:

This disappointed me. It had a great premise, but I didn’t like the execution, and I didn’t like the characters much either. However, this did kick-start my post-apocalyptic reads of the summer.

Pure by Julianna Baggott:

In contrast I loved this! A great concept, fabulous characters and I’m incredibly glad this is the first in a trilogy. A YA dystopia which had everything I could want. 

Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro:

The first thing I’d read by Ishiguro. I absolutely adored it. It definitely grew on me, and I really came to like the protagonist Stephen. An event near the end made me cry. 

To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf:

Whilst reading the first part of this book, I wasn’t particularly enthused by it. Sure, it was decent, but it all seemed a bit too normal for my tastes . . . then I got to the second and third part, and my perspective of the book changed. I understood why Woolf had to include the first part, and I’m really looking forward to reading this again with a renewed perspective.

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller:

I picked this up on a whim and I’m so glad I did, because it was wonderful. I really enjoyed it, and it was a great read to break up my university required reads too. One day I’d love to read this again!

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks:

This was quite a strange one. I liked the premise, although at times it did get a tad confusing. The ending was completely unexpected, and although I’m not quite sure it fitted, at least it managed to surprise me.

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood:

Ever since I read The Handmaid’s Tale I’d been meaning to read more of Atwood’s work, and I really liked this. It was a great dystopian novel, and a really good read. Atwood has yet to disappoint!

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro:

This is the main book Ishiguro is known for, largely due to the film made based on it. Although I have to say I think I actually prefer Remains of the Day, which is surprising considering how Never Let Me Go is typically my sort of book. Nevertheless, still a great read.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare:

I’ve been meaning to read this for years, ever since I was cast in my school’s production of it which I eventually dropped out of. I was meant to be Bottom, and I was actually quite sad to find that Bottom played a relatively big part! On retrospect, I should have stayed in the production.

The Thirty Nine Steps by John Buchan:

I liked this. It was different from the sort of thing I usually read, being a bit of a mystery novel, but I liked Hannay’s adventure and it had a decent plot. The film version is completely different for some strange reason.

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare:

I may not have read this purely to understand the Mean Girls reference but that was definitely a benefit. A good play, and another good work by Shakespeare. Since he’s basically the god of literature, I suppose that was to be expected.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle:

This surprised me by how good it was. I was expecting it to be really boring and a bit rubbish, but I really enjoyed this. I liked the little mini mysteries, the narration by Dr Watson and the enigmatic character of Holmes. I would definitely read more Sherlock Holmes after this.


Without a doubt the strangest book I’ve ever read in my entire life. This boggled my mind from start to finish. Calvino is without a doubt much, much smarter than me, and I admire the challenge he created in writing this. A great premise, even if it proved hard to understand at several points.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells:

The first work by Wells I’ve ever read, and again it was a nice, short read for summer. I liked the storyline, and it certainly presented the strangest futuristic image I’ve ever seen. Since Wells predicted a lot of other future events, I’m really hoping his vision in The Time Machine doesn’t come true, even if I’ll be long gone by that time.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess:

I’m so glad this was recommended to me. I was worried the rape and violence would bother me, but it didn’t and it didn’t feature as much as I expected. I was very surprised to see the sudden, Nineteen Eighty-Four-ish twist to events, and I really loved the plot. A great read.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys:

I’m ridiculously grateful that this wasn’t anything like Jane Eyre, even if it gets its roots from Charlotte Bronte’s story. A great read, and I’m glad I get to study it this year at university.

Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane:

This kept reminding me of Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks. Even if the time periods are completely different – Red Badge of Courage is about the American Civil War whilst Birdsong is about WW1 – the feel of war and the thoughts of the protagonists were similar. I guess it goes to show it doesn’t matter when or where war happens – its impact and devastation are still the same. 

A Sentimental Journey by Lawrence Sterne:

Not too taken with this honestly. I read it for my university course, and I’m glad it’s not on the syllabus this year as I found it a bit convoluted and dull at times. It doesn’t help that it’s not exactly a modern book either.

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So that concludes my mini-reviews. I hope you’ve taken some book recommendations out of them, or maybe decided to steer clear of some. I really hope I get around to the other books I wanted to read, and if I do, I’m sure you’ll be hearing about them in the future too.