Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Blog Resume

JA Konrath started it. David Terrenoire did it too (scroll to March 28, just below the nude Britney Spears post).

I figure whatever the boys can do, a woman can probably do better.

Joking. This won’t be a rehash of the posts Joe and David made. This is a different angle on blogging - Why blog?

It used to be that writers wrote in solitude and produced work, shopped it or sought professional editorial feedback and then began to step into the public sphere as an emerging author.

Now, there are a lot of blogs that seem to be all about the aspiring writer seeking that big break.

I’m not knocking them all carte blanche. I read blogs by aspiring authors who talk about the ups and downs of pursuing their dreams. (I just added Forrest to my list of links.) I blogged before I got my deal too. But now I visit blogs and people talk about giving up on writing a few weeks or months in. No book finished, in some cases nothing produced. I’m not even sure you can be a “novelist” until you’ve finished a manuscript. It’s like calling yourself a lawyer before you complete your degree and pass the bar exam – you aren't - not really.

I understand the need for encouragement BUT does it matter if complete strangers you don’t know from Adam tell you to stick with it? For all you know, they’re complete frauds with beefed-up bios that have IP addresses that go back to the local asylum and they don’t know what they hell they’re talking about. I mean, I’ve seen people on forums impersonate famous authors, so why not on blogs? I tend to trust bloggers with websites just a wee bit quicker, but that’s after seeing some of my favourite authors impersonated elsewhere…

Some of these blogs give me the impression the writer only wants validation.

I’m going to be brutally honest here – and this isn’t because I don’t like encouraging and supporting people. We all need that, and I think most people who will read this know that I’ve tried to support a lot of new writers.

The writing business if tough to crack. It is hard enough to have the perseverance to finish a manuscript. And that’s the easy part.

Don’t believe me? Check out John Connolly’s recent post. I could start a list here – published authors struggle. You want to get published? Read author blogs. Listen and learn from the people who’ve traveled the road you say you want to follow. They know what they’re talking about.

Once you finish the manuscript, there’s editing. Did you know the average is 7 re-writes of a manuscript until it’s marketable, if it ever will be?

Then, if you survive that, there are queries and rejections and the struggle to actually get your work in front of someone. Getting an agent who wants to see a full or partial manuscript isn’t easy. Agents I’ve spoken with speculate 1% of what crosses their desk might be worth considering.

And if you do get an agent and/or publisher, then you get to face the critics.

In short, you’re going to have to toughen up to survive in this business. That doesn’t mean you don’t seek a support group. It doesn’t mean you don’t benefit from encouragement.

But it does mean you might need to be a bit more realistic with your goals.

Exceptionally few authors write their first manuscript and sell it without serious revisions or editing. Odds are, you won’t polish off a manuscript in 6 months and sell it right away. Some of my favourite authors wrote 4 manuscripts before selling book 5… And the other 4 remain in drawers with no deal on them.

The other concern I have is the feeling that the blog is nothing more than an online resume with post to post to post of unpublished work.

It seems as though some think that an agent/publisher/connected person will stumble across their blog and presto! They’ll be getting the call with a 6-figure deal.

Let’s just think about it. How many people blog? Tens of thousands? Probably hundreds of thousands. Maybe millions.

And how many have gotten that big deal through blogging? Oh, you’ll dig up one or two stories, to be sure. But look at the odds. You have a better chance of being struck by lightning.

I visit some blogs and wonder why the person is there. They don’t interact with the commenters. I’ve heard of a few that delete comments from people they don’t know or who raise a slightly different pov. (I only delete promotional spam.) I’ve seen some people who’ve commented be openly insulted.

I once read a comment from an agent that said they wished aspiring authors would get off author’s forums and actually write. Now, they say they wish aspiring authors would actually write and re-write instead of blogging.

I’m not knocking blogging. Don’t jump on that pony and trot off. I’m not even knocking aspiring authors blogging.

But I want to make one point. When I went to Harrogate last year, I attended the panel on “How To Get Published” – a panel filled with industry experts – agents, booksellers, publishers. One thing the agents said was that there were times they’d meet a writer and get a feel for the person and think, “I can work with this person.” The personality mattered.

The person outside of just the sheer storytelling mattered.

And a lot of blogs lack personality.

Now, I’m not saying I’m above anyone else. Not by a long shot. When I first started blogging I had no clue why I was doing it or what I was doing. But I’ve also seen some trends amongst blogs I don’t frequent, because I don’t feel comfortable. Bloggers who acknowledge everyone’s comments but mine. They feel snobby and cliquey.

There are some places I don’t bother going because I know that until I’m a proven success, I’m seen as just a courtyard mutt allowed to nab a few table scraps, and I should be thankful that I don’t get a kick in the ribs for my trouble.

However, there are some blogs that resonate with the personality of the blogger. They sizzle. I start to warm to them, and then I want to read their books. There’s something about them that I connect with in their writing, in their tone, in their approach. It doesn’t have to be storytelling – it can just be a rant on the bird flu.

But the things that keep me going back are the things that make me want to see those people get book deals, or if they’re already published, go out and buy their books. They've sold me on themselves.

It’s about more than just the writing and the validation. It’s also about interacting. I feel like this is part of a community and yes, we support each other, and I’ve appreciated that a lot. But at the end of the day, you still need to be able to sit down alone and write.

And no amount of encouragement is going to make up for it if you can’t bring yourself to do that.

For some, the act of expressing their feelings through their blog is a huge accomplishment, and part of their journey. And I applaud the ones who've been vulnerable and open and honest. I feared making this post because some would assume I meant them - and almost certainly anyone who drops by here isn't someone I'm talking about. If you find something in this that goes to you, that's between you and yourself. I'm not pointing fingers at anyone, simply expressing how I feel when I go to some blogs - and why there are plenty I don't go to.

Terrenoire said in the comments, “As for blogging rules, there's only one rule that matters: Don't be boring. That said, I'm still wondering what the hell I'm doing here but I'm happy you're all along for the ride.”

And you know what? Terrenoire’s blog is interesting. It has personality. Through it, I’ve gotten a sense of the person, and this is a person I’d love to buy a drink and chat with in the bar.

I know you want to market your work. I know you want to see some reward for all your efforts.

But don’t forget you’re still a person.

Writing isn’t something that often gives overnight reward from others. There are people who persevere a long time to achieve success in this business.

So make sure you pace yourself for the marathon, because if you think a quick sprint will ensure success, you’re likely going to be in for disappointment.

I tried the quiz twice and changed answers and still got this result. Look out Hollywood… With thanks to fellow blogger and author John Baker for the link.

(Yet another blog worthy of visiting, I might add.)

You Should Be a Film Writer

You don't just create compelling stories, you see them as clearly as a movie in your mind.

You have a knack for details and dialogue. You can really make a character come to life.

Chances are, you enjoy creating all types of stories. The joy is in the storytelling.

And nothing would please you more than millions of people seeing your story on the big screen!


Erik Ivan James said...

A really good post Samdra. The thoughts you have expressed here are similar to the thoughts I had which caused me to write the post on blogger personalities.

I know what you mean about having a feeling of community with some and not with others. To some blogs I feel welcome and to others I don't. I've said before that I come to the blogs for two reasons primarily. One reason is to have some fun and the other to learn. Learning is the most important for me.

And where I learn the most, is on the blogs where I feel welcome. To me it doesn't matter whether or not the blog author is published. What matters to me is the feeling of being welcomed to exchange ideas, experiences and a bit of knowledge.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Thanks Erik, and I'm glad you agree. It's a hard thing, to me, to express this without feeling some may be offended. I like the community spirit of some blogs a lot. And I learn a lot from them too - regardless of where they're at in the publishing spectrum.

But I also really appreciate the blogging authors, because I learn a lot from them, and they've helped me understand more about the challenges ahead of me. I really appreciate their honesty.

David Terrenoire said...


You can buy me a drink any time. Another blogger who is a great bar companion is Dusty Rhoades.

Come to think of it, every writer I know is a great bar companion. Do I detect a pattern here?

Thanks for the kind words. I like stopping by here, too.

JamesO said...

I started blogging because Stuart told me to (and I always do what he tells me.) I've never really considered what should or shouldn't be posted - but there's only so many days of 'didn't get much writing done today,' or other such guff that you can put in before it becomes tiresomely self-indulgent and narcissistic. Mostly I write the first thing that comes into my head, which may or may not be about my attempts to get published (usually not,) and is more likely complete and utter gibberish.

In the end, I think I prefer blogs that don't have any particular agenda. These are much more likely to be an accurate extension of the blogger's personality, rather than a one-dimensional view of any given obsession. So writing's fine, but tell me about your cats or what's cooking for dinner, or rant about the world in general. Anything goes, really.

And as to why? Well, why not?

Bernita said...

A really acute post, Sandra. Touches on a lot of things I've thought and wondered about.
I really appreciate bloggers who take the time to read and comment with ideas related to and expanding a post,like Erik says, rather than an obligatory one liner (unless it's funny - that's welcome any time.)
The real shocker was bloggers impersonating well-known authors.
Strikes me as both pathetic and criminal.

Bernita said...
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Anonymous said...
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Bernita said...

Sorry about the double. Blogger was a little twitchy.

Sandra Ruttan said...

David, I look forward to meeting you in a bar one day. I know Dusty from the online world - definitely another author to drink with.

Actually, what author isn't? I'm probably the only virtual teetotaller out there. And I do drink. I'm just not very knowledgeable about the range of beverage options and I've never been drunk.

James, I agree with you that too much on the writing does become rather nacissistic and self-indulgent. And your rants are legendary.

And yeah, Bernita, I've seen some strange shit during my forum days... which is why I'll be talking forums later this week or early next week.

Sandra Ruttan said...
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Sandra Ruttan said...
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Sandra Ruttan said...

No problem Bernita - I've been having trouble posting comments as well.

Vincent said...

Hey, I don't drink either, but I am happy confusing everyone at the bar by asking for blackcurrant cordial (I got bored of orange juice).

That said, drinking myself into a stupour might be required after writing a post on my blog about how little writing I've done of late to find James's comment here denouncing me as tiresomely self-indulgent and narcissistic.

Which is true, but the truth always hits hardest when you're sober.

Anyway, regarding your post which I'm actually commenting on. I think it was an article by Julian Friedmann of the Blake Friedmann Literary Agency that listed twenty questions for an aspiring writer, with number one being: 'why do you write?'

It didn't matter what the answer was - pleasure, money, recognition - just as long as you know what it was (he may have gone on to say that writing is far from the easiest way of achieving any of those things).

I'm not sure exactly where I was going with all that, so I shall seemlessly segue into what I think the difference is between those good blogs you mention and those bad ones. They may all be written by 'writers', aspiring or otherwise, but I'm inclined to think the good ones are also written by storytellers. A writer simply strings words together, a storyteller takes those words and conjures up something lively and engaging, regardless of the subject.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I agree Vincent - in fact, the difference between being a writer and a storyteller could be the topic of a whole new blog post.

I always find your blog interesting. There's nothing wrong with talking about the writing sometimes too - lord knows, James does. No matter what he says!

It's just when that's all there is. I'd be bored silly going to a blog where the person only talked about completing their degree and pursing their dream career and each day was graded on how much closer to their goal they'd gotten, with no mention of a pet or a hobby or a life.

So it isn't just about writers. It's also about anyone who has a one-dimensional blog.

M. G. Tarquini said...

Tell me if my blog gets boring, Sandra. I'd say more, but I have an appt.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I always find your blog interesting, Mindy. Your blog is one of the most refreshing ones I've had the pleasure of stumbling across.

Literally and figuratively, judging from my comments some days...

M. G. Tarquini said...

Thanks, Sandra. Good to know. But just in case, drop an email. I've got some flamenco dancers and a couple of acrobats on call should the need arise.

Tania said...

Well said, Sandra. You've raised some good points.

Speaking as a reader (and definitely not a writer), I make regular visits to blogs by authors who somehow manage to give me information about their work as well as to give me a little glimpse into their lives as well. Duane Swierczynski pops into my mind as an author who does a great job of that, and there are certainly many others.

Bottom line is that blogs are like everything else - there are good ones and there are bad ones, but even that distinction is subjective. Even personality on a blog isn't a guarantee of anything. There are some blogs that exude personality but feel 'clique-ish' (which is often self-perpetuating), while others that may be lacking in personality really serve a purpose and know their audience. The good news is that there are so many blogs out there, there's always something for everyone!

Sandra Ruttan said...

A very good point Tania. And that's the plus - if you think through what you want to accomplish you can blog accordingly and be happy with the outcome.

If not, then you never know what you might end up with, but truly there is something for everyone.

I mean, I just came up #1 on a technorati search for Horsefucking - in your face John Rickards!

I'm just happy when anybody talks to me. Even if it's Vincent's imaginary girlfriend.

I guess I'm going to have to check out Duane How-the-hell-do-you-spell-it's blog.

Lisa Hunter said...

I can always tell a serious writer from a pie-in-the-sky one when they ask me to critique their work. If someone asks, "What do you think of this?" I know they only want empty praise. When someone asks, "How can I make this better?" I know he/she is a real writer.

Developing a thick skin is the most important thing a new writer can do. In college, I was in a seminar with a Big Deal Writer who never minced words. Sometimes he'd even crumple up your work, throw it at you, and tell you to start over because nothing in it was salvageable. Of the 12 people in the class, 6 became professional writers, and more than one has dedicated a book to him.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Wow - talk about trial by fire. But the thick skin is important because you'll get it from all sides, sooner or later. Best-selling authors get trashed in amazon reviews too, and on forums and blogs. And they may have nicer bank accounts but they still have feelings.

I'm going to have to make sure I always ask, "how can I make this better" - that's a good distinction. When my manuscript got a deal, one of the first things I did was send it out to 7 people for feedback. Last chance to get that before you start doing the final edits and the book is done and man, I sure wanted to fix things before it went into print.

Never underestimate the value of a great critique!

M. G. Tarquini said...

A great critique can mean the difference between published and not. Excellent observation, Lisa. That's how I'm going to word it from now on, also.

Sela Carsen said...

I concur. A great CP or Crit Group can make ordinary writing sparkle.

As to blogs, I think I'm frequently boring, but I blog about it anyway! Life is really only boring as it happens. It's far more interesting in retrospect.

Sandra Ruttan said...

I think we also think what's going on in our own lives is boring, but others find it interesting. I feel so encouraged when I see other authors talk about struggling with their writing. I'm not happy they're struggling, but it makes me feel less alone, and I'm sure they wish they were talking about anything but that.

Great critiques make writers grow. Best thing you can do, IMHO, if you really want to learn is have someone tell you the things about your work that are shite. And not just dismiss everything they say, but look at your own stuff objectively.

Lisa Hunter said...

I personally love having my work edited by someone I trust. I once worked on a magazine with a fabulous managing editor who always made my prose better than I could. It actually made me a bit lazy. I'd think, "Well, I don't know how to phrase this, but Ellen will probably fix it..." Having a good critiquer is like having a second brain working on your manuscript. It's not something to be dreaded.

Jeff said...

This is a great post, Sandra. I think you are right on the mark about blogs. For me, blogging has been a way to meet other like-minded people involved in writing. I am a novice, and therefore have a lot to learn about the craft and the business. Honestly, I have fun blogging, and I hope mine isn't boring. LOL
But I have to be careful because sometimes I allow it to take away time from my reading and writing.
I have met some very kind and helpful writers(both published and non-published) through blogging. However, there have been a couple of authors with blogs that I have left comments on more than once and gotten no response at all. That can be very frustrating. It's like they are simply ignoring me because I'm not "on their level."
I respond to all comments left on my posts no matter who leaves them, even if it's just a simple, thanks. I feel like if a person takes the time to read my post and leave a comment, the least I can do is acknowledge them. :)

Bonnie Calhoun said...

That's a great post, Sandra...truer words were never spoke!

Sandra Ruttan said...

Jeff, I think we've got very similar ideas about blogging. I've met a lot of people this way, and that's been great. I've learned a lot. For the most part, my blog experiences have been really positive.

Unfortunately, I keep discovering more and more blogs...

Thanks Bonnie!

For The Trees said...

I feel like an absolute dolt. I have not been responding to commentors on my blog. That's gotta change. Then I have such great doubts about whether anybody - ANYBODY - out there really gives a shit about some idiot with bipolar disorder...yet I seem to have people linking with me anyway. So something's working somewhere in the Universe.

I find I can always find more and more and more blogs that intrigue, entice, entertain and illuminate - and there's my problem: I have all these interruptions from Sherry, the phone, friends who want to go to coffee, errands to be run, a cat who comes up and digs his claws into my thigh seeking an opportunity to leap up in my lap and take a nap (which precludes my typing, my keyboard's on my knees) and the OTHER cat, who lies in wait just outside the door to my room, ready to pounce on my body for attention and love she doesn't get from Sherry.

Oh, yeah, it's nice to be wanted and needed, but I'm trying to write a book, here - one that's really hard to get into. I suppose all the interruptions are just ways to procrastinate, but I'm a master at that.

So I'm gonna start responding to comments on my blog, and see what kind of dialogues erupt from the dusty wordbin stashed in my computer.

Thanks, Sandra, for an excellent blog post. I really enjoyed it.

For The Trees said...

Well,damn. Here I went and took the quiz three (3) times, and each time regardless of my answers' variations, it came up "You Should Be a Pornography Writer." So maybe I missed my calling. Oh, well, back to thighs, mons and beasts with two or six or nine backs. Sigh. And Commercial Fiction was such a nice break.

Where the hell do they come up with those quizzes, anyway?