When publisher Keirsten Clark offered PaperBooks’ authors a guest blog, I wasn’t sure how to respond. I’d read various blogs previously, but this was usually a result of glancing visits, when a Google search bounced me into some post or other, rather than from any deliberate encounter. The only blog I’d ever read with any thoroughness was Where is Raed? ... and I’d read that entirely in paperback (The Baghdad Blog by Salam Pax, Guardian Books) and not online!
Nine months later (and a few weeks before The Snowing and Greening of Thomas Passmore is due to appear in print *gulp, sigh*), I thought it might be timely to review the situation. Have there been problems? What have I learnt? Who have I met? Has it been worthwhile?
For me, the biggest problem is scarcity of time. Maintaining a regular blog is time-consuming, and I stand in awe of those prolific writers and thinkers who post something interesting every day---in contrast to my weekly effort. But then I remind myself that it'd be too ironic if I no longer had time to write fiction because I was posting blogs about my involvement in writing fiction, and I take a deep breath and relax again. Besides, I won't get paid and there'll be no bread on the table if I spend so much time blogging that I forget to turn up to work, and then there's domestic duties, being sociable, relaxing and, well, having a life ... in short, I’ve contented myself that a post-a-week is okay.
I’ve learnt that blogging is about having something to say (duh!) and is a great tool for networking and building a neighbourhood of friends through posted comments, e-mails and conversation. (Blogcatalog lends itself to making this process easier, but also attracts those who use the process purely for advertising/self-promoting rather than generating any real dialogue.) The whole process serves to reveal a tremendous range of perspectives, views, ideas, frustrations, achievements, aspirations ... the whole gamut of human experience. It’s a bizarre journey which leaps round the globe through night and day and which allows you to discover other writers who you have an affinity for because of how they write or what they write about, or the colour or shape of their blog.
I’ve also learnt a different way of writing that's got little to do with writing fiction, I suspect, but which I value nonetheless, because it’s an intriguing challenge to put together a regular article in a limited number of words and to have it reasonably polished in a three hour time-frame ... especially as a short story might take me weeks and a novel can take years.
Instant gratification---hmm, I like it!
Lastly, who have I met? Well having recently received the honour of being placed on the blogroll at Go!Smell the flowers, I thought I could answer this question by generating a blogroll of my own (soft, unbleached and environmentally-friendly), so that you might explore some of the links for yourself. There are numerous other sites I occasionally tap into, but what appears below is a list of those I visit regularly because I particularly enjoy them. Before too long, I’ll build another page into my website (click screenshot at bottom right corner of this post) that includes this blogroll on a more permanent basis.
- PaperBooks' blogs obviously (click on the homepage author links to see who's blogging and what's happening). Gary Davison (Fat Tuesday) is a particularly frequent blogger here.
- Go!Smell the flowers - a magazine-style post with a dynamic community of twenty writers all posting on diverse topics.
- Alina Sharon posts some of her original (and frequently stunning) poetry, as well as old favourites, at The Musings of Madness.
- Novice Writer provides a "medley of books, movies, crafting ideas and of course some random thoughts."
- Scott Pack (ex-big cheese in HMV and Waterstones, and currently a director at The Friday Project) writes on anything and everything---no holds barred, and usually assisted by a wry sense of humour.
- Margo Lanagan (highly acclaimed and much-published author of speculative fiction for YA) gives insight into her writing and is ready to tackle crassness whenever she meets it.
- Dovegreyreader "scribbles" about books, books, books ... and occasionally something else. Self-described as a bookaholic, it's hard to see how she reads so many and still has time to sleep, but what a pleasant vice.
- Mike French is one of the founders at Go!Smell the flowers, but also maintains his own blog at The View From Here. Mike provides book reviews, interviews (including one with yours truly), competitions, experiments in writing, and many visual delights.
- Stella alternates between providing excellent, detailed advice for writing fiction (different forms of structure, developing dialogue, etc), samples of her own prose and witty haiku.
- Harriet Devine is a recently retired professor of English Literature who writes books and who posts mostly about literature.
- Mr Grudge provides some interesting anecdotes from his life.
- Much of a muchness claims to be a bookbinding blog, but I'm drawn to it because it's much more than this. Much more than just a muchness. Great clips, nice art, well-written.