Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Left Coast Crime & Blogging Thoughts

Some of the panel discussions are still churning through the part of my brain not completely submerged in fog, so I’m going to attempt to exorcise those thoughts here. Let’s hope I’m not a complete babbling idiot.

This is where I have to step in and say that I’m worse. My voice went on strike. Of course, Kevin’s thrilled about that, but I seem to get groggier every day. I last about an hour and then it’s back to bed. I read and fall asleep. And since I’ve been away for a few weeks without internet something like 1100 emails stacked up. I’m so far behind, there’s no way I’ll be climbing out of this until next week.

So what exactly am I doing on my blog? Yes, I’ve posted here. I’ve read a few other blogs. And I’ve posted to DL and 4MA. How is it I’m doing that and not churning through the correspondence?

It leads into one of the points raised on a Saturday afternoon panel about technology and fandom. One of the concerns raised was the wonder at how authors blogged and still managed to produce books – when were they writing?

It’s a fair enough question, but was raised by the panel and not answered. It * seemed * to be a shared opinion amongst the panelists.

So, what do I say to this?

Now, can blogging get in the way of writing? Absolutely. But to assume this is true for all bloggers is to assume all bloggers are created equally. And it also assumes all writers work the same way.

How do I find the time to go around to blogs and read them on a regular basis? Well, sometimes I don’t. I’ve been rather hit and miss the last few months. That’s okay. Life gets that way.

But how do I find the time, in general?

How many of you watch TV every night? I know a lot of people who have their programs for every day of the week. I don’t. There is not one night of the week, save when The Wire or The Shield is running, that I regularly watch TV. I used to spend more time relaxing in the evenings. However, I don’t live in New York. Or London. Or even Toronto. Way over here in my corner of the world I can’t hobnob with industry insiders and learn how things work.

I can learn this off of blogs, to at least some extent.

As far as I’m concerned (although at times I groan about it) you have to do some networking. You have to start knowing names. You should know a bit about what’s going on in the business, who’s getting buzz, who’s getting award nominations, what the trends in the business are.

I find most of my info these days on The Rap Sheet. Reading it isn’t much different than reading a magazine when it comes in, except I get it in pieces. It’s like my daily devotional. When I’m away from the blogs and only able to skim stuff on occasion I always – always always always – end up having someone mention something to me that I felt I should have known.

It is different for me. I wear a few hats. One is my Spinetingler hat, and the longer we run that the more important it is that I keep my eye open for what’s happening in the business.

Blogs might eat up writing time for some, but in my case I can honestly say that I average 10-12 hours a day in my office, and spending 1-2 on blogs is the equivalent of more than reasonable breaks. I have no real social life locally, so it’s mainly times like the last few weeks that I’ve been away that I’m hanging out with people. This is partly because of moving back from Vancouver (and many of my friends being there) and because of our crazy schedules. Between my writing, Spinetingler and the fire department, we don’t have time for much of a life.

Beyond that, I write an average post in 15 minutes. I don’t typically edit them, unless I’ve written something very stupid. Of course, when I write posts at 5 or 6 am, what can you expect? It’s whatever’s on my mind at the time and then I’m done unless there’s a discussion in the comments.

So, how is it I have all these emails to sort through and I’m commenting on lists? It’s easy. The emails become layered, interconnected, one thing leading to another. Having been away for a few weeks, in some cases I have to go through everything related to get to where things are at now and respond.

It’s, like, work.

And I don’t have the prolonged brain juice for it at the moment. It’s very easy for me to write one-offs. In handling those emails I’ve whittled down a considerable chunk.

One of the real problems with blogging and email is the sense of immediacy it gives to our lives. We email someone and expect instant answers. What a surprise to discover we aren’t the centre of everyone’s universe.

And blogging exposes people in ways that aren’t always good.

Now, I’ve always maintained that anyone who’s going to take offense to my opinions/personality and therefore not buy my book is just as likely to see ‘the real me’ in an interview or at a convention some day and I may as well do them the favour of putting them off now.

I blog now mainly to keep in touch with friends. Okay, it is a bit one-sided. Many of you read and don’t comment. Some of you read and email me. A few regulars do comment.

This is what I have to say for writers about blogging. If it’s getting in the way of the writing, stop. But only you know your schedule, how stretched you are. It’s up to you. One thing I do is list all blogs under categories in my bookmarks bar. Some I only check once a week, on average. Some, occasional. Some daily. It’s either cut out a lot of blogs I enjoy dropping by, or make my visits sporadic. I opted for the latter.

And for heaven’s sakes, if you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it.

For readers worried about authors blogging… Well, you’ve got to give the authors a bit of a break here. I’ve been on forums and listservs for a few years now, and I’ve seen everything complained about at some point. I know someone who emails authors persistently and expects prompt answers to every email. I got thinking about this recently, when someone posted on Inspector Rebus asking for an email address to ask Rankin questions because they didn’t want to have to write via post to his publisher – it most certainly is not true of everyone, but there are a lot of people who expect to have direct access to authors now. I have also seen people gripe on forums about authors who don’t give out their email addresses. And I’ve seen the remarks about authors who don’t post on DorothyL – they only show up for BSP, or they think they’re better than the readers. Don’t specify – this isn’t true of everyone on the list or everyone out there. Probably not even true of 10% of the avid readers. But you know what they say about squeaky wheels. The gripes stand out.

The reality is, it’s far easier for me to ‘keep in touch’ and ‘be accessible’ via a blog than to deal with emails one by one. And it takes far less time. I know some authors opt for newsletters instead. I understand that as well. For now, blogging is the road I’ve chosen.

Each one of us is just trying to sort things out, find what works for us, or doesn’t. There are no absolute perfect choices. But one thing is certain. The more technology progresses, the more pressure authors are under to choose how to utilize it. Book trailers, podcasts, live chat, forums, blogs, newsletters, emails, ezines…

I think a lot of authors jumped on the blogging bandwagon because they felt they had no choice. It’s too soon to know if blogging will sell books (I remain skeptical that it sells enough to warrant the time invested IF that’s the only reason you’re blogging) but if the proof comes in that blogging authors are seeing higher sales than non-bloggers, it will be too late for those who stayed on the sidelines to get ahead of the curve.

As far as I’m concerned, the blog tide is ebbing.

I think there’s also a real risk that it’s all been said before, and usually so much better by someone else, that it’s a bit pointless to keep hashing over the same old, same old. This is why I don’t blog all about the book or my author life. Plus, it would bore me to tears.

But when we’re hashing out the topics repeatedly here, what’s the point in going to conventions? Are we going to hear/say/see/think anything new? Not often. The more cons I attend the more panels I leave feeling I haven’t heard much new. The more people blog on the business side/author life the less necessary to read an interview with them or see them on a panel, because it’s more likely that you’ve already heard all they have to say on it.

Now, I have my little addictions, and am unlikely to fully give up the blog any time soon. Really, for me, it’s therapy. I have my little rants and then feel so much better.

And I don’t know if I’ve wrapped this up, but I’ve got to go back to bed. Thoughts, as always, most welcome.

You May Be a Bit Obsessive Compulsive...

Meticulous and detailed oriented, you have some irrational obsessions.
Maybe it's your super neat closet or washing your hands a gazillion times.
You probably know it's weird, but you just can't stop thinking about it.
In fact, the more you think about your quirks, the more you have to do them.


Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

A while ago, I said I was going to spend a lot less time on blogging and get serious about finishing the novel. I soon discovered that my fiction output was no greater than it was before I cut back.

Checking the blogs has become as much a part of my morning as reading the paper and getting Rowan off to school.

Sure, blogging can get in the way of writing. On the other hand, if I actually write a post on my own blog instead of making my usual asinine comments on someone else's, it becomes almost a warm-up exercise. It gets me limbered up (and Christ knows I need that) for the work of "real" writing.
Blogging doesn't seem to slow down Bill Crider or Anne Frasier or Stuart MacBride get the picture.

I don't spend a lot of time on Rara-Avis or the Short Mystery Fiction Society listservs because I just don't have much to add to the conversation. But I do read most of the messages that get posted.

I think blogging can be a great way for writers to reach out to their readers (and maybe sell a few more books), but I do agree you have to keep some kind of distance. You can't have fans e-mailing you directly and expected instant answers or, worse, calling you. And there are some freaky-ass people out there who will try to take advantage of your openness. I've already had a couple of brushes with their kind, and I'm still a fucking nobody!

So I'm glad you're blogging. You know what small towns are literary scene to speak of. Blogging gives me a chance to interact with other writers, from novice to pro, that I would never get in central Maine.

angie said...

I don't know where the hell you're getting your information from...I AM the center of the universe. Sheesh, ya think you'd have figured it out by now!


Sandra Ruttan said...

Patrick, you should really do a blog post on that. Wow, thorough and interesting points.

I agree about the am warm-up.

Angie, how do I stick my tongue out at you electronically?

angie said...

That sounded kinda dirty, Sandra.


spyscribbler said...

Blog Readers and Feed Readers: they're awesome! I learn so much from other blogs. For me, (poor readers) blogging gets sh*t out of my brain, so I can focus on writing fiction.

And I'm so lucky to have readers who cheer me up when the going gets tough. It's so, so, so sweet and wonderful.

Erik Ivan James said...

Good commentary, Samdra. Good advice too. For one, I am glad you have chosen to stay with us.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Ha ha Angie!

Spyscribbler, I love that group encouragement too. Boy, some days, you really need it! And btw, you really got what I was trying to do with LCC posts - give people a taste of it. I would hope someone would go away and think, "Wish I'd been there, sounds like so much fun." That's the whole point!

Erik, hi! I think I owe you an email...

Alexandra Sokoloff said...

Sandra, that LCC panel and those comments on authors spending too much time blogging really stuck with me, too, really on the level of an epiphany.

Readers would rather we be writing books than blogging.

Wow. Good to know.

Now you are obviously able to multi-task and churn out these blogs without it affecting your other work, but I know, personally, I've got to be more careful.

So that was one of the more important nuggets I took away from LCC.

Hope you're feeling better! (I was also very low energy in Seattle, recovering from my once-a-year flu...)

Daniel Hatadi said...

I think different blogging routines work for different authors, and that may easily change as they become more popular. Sometimes I find the idea of a reclusive and enigmatic author really appealing: it lends an air of mystery to their work.

Actually, that gives me an idea for a post ...

BTW, I haven't stopped by in a few days or so because I didn't realise you'd updated. For whatever reason, I had to resubscribe to your newsfeed (I blame Bloglines/Blogger).