Monthly Archives: April 2007

Gosh! A Thesis On Blog Fiction!

Amazing what writing a series can do to you. The last few days I’ve been completely out of tune with the world at large, and I even lost track of most of the blooks I read.

But on to the issue on hand: I’ve just come across Betsy Friedrich’s thesis on blog fiction … and I’m very impressed with it. So maybe as a reader I could’ve done without the first chapter (Definition of Terms), but it was a thesis, so it had to explain blogs to internet virgins academicians.
proffessor tiger
Highlights from each chapter:

Chapter 1 – Definition of Terms

Here Friedrich introduces blogs and the various forms of fictional blogging – according to her there is a distinct difference between serialized fiction and ‘blog fiction’. The first may use blogs as a medium through which fiction is written, the second utilizes all aspects of blogging – ‘feeds, comment forms and hyperlinks’.

Chapter 2 – Blog Fiction as Digital Media

Much of this chapter is used to point out how comments from readers and the interactivity of the blogging medium has helped shape blog fiction. An example of this:

At its peak Simon of Space received upwards of 75 comments on each post. Some were from new readers, but there was also a group of regular readers and posters … Their comments were often in response to one another, and many readers linked one another as a result of their meeting on the fictional blog comments section … readers were able to form a real community around a fictional text without ever interacting with one another in person.

(page 17, paragraph 2)

Another interesting point she brings up is the strange isolation of fictional blogs – almost all authors of blog fiction she interviewed did not read other fictional blogs, and in many cases were not aware of others. In an interview she conducted:

I’ve been writing a fictional blog since May ’06 and I’ve been struggling to find out if there’s a community or some sort of ‘hub’ for fiction bloggers out there. Unlike other areas (e.g. technology or politics), the whole fiction blogging world seems very small and very fractured. Sure, I’ve seen quite a few other fiction blogs in my travels but there’s no real conversation’ between them. In this respect they’re quite unlike the other blogs I’ve read. Unlike, say, a political blog where you’ll get a lot of instant feed back and links to and from your blog, fiction blogging seems to be quite an isolated and, at times, disheartening experience.

(page 19, blockquote 2)

In this view the Simon in Space‘s community was a rarity.

Chapter 3 – Novels and Blogs: A Historical and Structural Analysis

Then Friedrich takes us on a trek down history – comparing blog fiction to the 18th century novel. She shows us that the 19th century novel was epistolary – or delivered in the form of letter/diary entries, a echo of blog fiction today. The rest of the chapter is spent exploring the social impact blogging has on society, interspersed with social developments and changes in the 18th century.

Step 7: Publish!

Publishers! A beginning and an end; a new ballgame to play.


As a blook writer you’ve got a few extra options open for you – blooks and blogs are essentially books within themselves, only presented online and in a different format. Being digital allows you to do different stuff with your work – you can, for instance, convert it to an e-book (either in pdf or Sophie), send it to a self publisher for on-demand publishing, or just wrapping it up and sending it through the normal channels (agent, publishing house, etc etc etc).

Let’s take a look at each of these options:


world wide webI regard this as a slight twist to the read-a-blook-on-the-internet concept – what you’re doing is basically formatting your blook content into one easily stored, easily distributed pdf file. Why would you want to do this? Hrmm, let’s see.

1. E-books can be sold. Yes, there are probably hundreds of e-book wholesalers out there who make a pretty penny selling you SEO tips or dating ‘secrets’. And I’d say this about them: they make their authors money on a monthly basis. Which is good – if you’re an internet marketer. Or if your blook is non-fiction.

2. E-books are a lot easier to distribute (and understand) then blooks. People are comfortable with the pdf file – it’s been here for ages. Offering your novel or a short story collection in this format is pretty intuitive – people understand what pdfs can and cannot do, what they are for, how they are used. And it gets your work in front of their eyeballs.

3. Publicity. I know of authors who keep a personal blog, write about lit events and readings happening around their area, and offer some of their work for free download on their site. It’s pretty amazing, really – it builds a rapport between author and reader, it allows a free sampling of his/her work, and it’s free publicity … amongst the internet savvy crowd, at least. Kenny Mah is a fine example of that. Check out his e-book, Broken Mornings, here.

Traditional Publishing Houses

You know, the ones where most of the world’s rejection slips come from. I can’t exactly tell you how you can get in on one – someone once told me perseverance is the key to everything in this world … well, rejection slips should be framed up and cherished nevertheless.

Step 6: Promote

You’ve written a good part of your blook. The plot is coming together, the posts are frequent and you get a fuzzy feeling when you look at your cumulative post counts (first hundred reached! Yay!). Only one problem.

The only people who read your blook are spammer bots. And your cat.

So how can you tell the world about your blook?


The site‘s going through a makeover at the moment, and much of it seems … strangely empty. Two years ago it was a bustling hive of activity for online fiction – but now the design isn’t intuitive and I can’t find the listings and the featured articles that made it such a joy to browse. In due time perhaps – and I can’t discount the fact that it has an old, established community of users, one that won’t disperse that quickly. Plus … it is still the biggest place writers of online fiction (blooks, webisodes, serialized novels) gather, and there are obvious benefits to be reaped from mixing around with them.


Build a relationship with authors of other blogs. It doesn’t matter if you trackback or comment – just make sure your thoughts and the ideas expressed are relevant and bring something new into the conversation. If you come over a fellow blook writer who is passionate in his writing reach out and talk, give constructive cristicism … make friends. It makes the writing worthwhile, having someone who is involved in the same creative medium to talk to.


There are hundreds of writing communities out there on the web. Personally I frequent the 9rules writing section the most, for the sheer quality of good blog posts and notes on the topic. And then there’s Pages Unbound, which is fantastic for promoting your blook. But there are others … scattered on various platforms. Some are hosted in Yahoo or Google groups. Others are on forums powered by phpBB or vBulletin. Find them, talk to them, learn how to write. And when they begin to express interest in your work show them.


And of course I’ve left the best for last (can’t help myself – sorry, sorry). If you have a blook feel free to drop me an email. I’m always on the lookout for new blooks, or for fiction you’ve recently decided to transfer to blog format. And if I think it’s worthy I’ll give you a link up in one of my Bookmarked! posts!

This post is part of the Ultimate Blook Guide series. If you enjoyed this post you may subscribe to Novelr’s RSS feed.

Go to Step 7: Publish!

Step 5: Write!

We’ve finally come to the very core of blogging your book: your writing. Steps 1-4 would all count for nothing if you can’t do Step 5 right, and I’m actually wondering why I placed Writing as Step 5, and not the first one. A mistake on my end, certainly – writing should begin way before you even purchase a hosting plan.


Writing a novel or a book requires some degree of planning. How much really depends on how you work – some authors plan for months before hand, making sure every facet of the book is tightly plotted together, and others justpens.jpg create a loose outline to follow, which works because of the genre they’re writing in.

Blogging your book works pretty much the same way, only now you’re be posting up installations of your novel and getting feedback in the process. And so the planning stage is made even more vital – your work is ever changing, ever improving – and it’s exposed. If you do want to create something good be sure to be at least 5 chapters ahead – this allows you to make major corrections behind the scenes, without affecting your posting consistency.

Of course, this post assumes you’re working on a novel purely for this medium, and not blogging an already written manuscript.

How does blook writing differ from manuscript writing?

In 3 major ways.

1. You need shorter chapters/installations/episodes
Nobody will read through a 20 page chapter all on the net (read this). You’ll need to slice and dice your writing and post up short, interesting pieces. Richard from Undead Flowers has a unique formula that works: 300 words per episode. Very good stuff.

2. You need to be consistent
This doesn’t mean just in posting frequency. It also means consistency in writing style, in your ability to entertain, in creating and fulfilling reader expectations. Though I must admit posting frequency does play a big part – I’ve witnessed first hand how erratic posting on any kind of blog will dampen readership and feed subscribers. This is perhaps the biggest difference from writing a manuscript that you keep under your desk with writing a blook – you’re under constant expectation to deliver, deliver, deliver.

3. You need to create drugs
Or rather you’ll need to draw the reader in, to keep him going from one chapter to the next. Writing a blook will force you to go for hooks and cliffhangers at the end of episodes, preferably starting from the very first one. You can’t do much exposition, be it on your characters or on the setting – in fact much of your character building will have to be in the form of actions and dialogue, not descriptions that take up whole pages.

Step 4: Copyright

wannawork.pngOne of the major concerns with putting up creative work online is with copyright. What is to prevent someone from visiting your blook, copying everything you’ve written and then publishing it under their name?

Well, if you’re not licensed – absolutely nothing.

Now what can you do? Not being licensed is taking a terrible risk, but applying for a copyright will be tedious at best – especially if you treat your blook as a side project. The answer lies between the two extremes – reserving some rights for little or no cost.

Creative Commons

I first heard about Creative Commons in 2002, where a budding community of content developers were already gathering. They have since expanded into 34 jurisdictions, with more in the draft process. At the heart of the Creative Commons effort is the want to create a culture of creativity – to provide an alternative to traditional content distributors. This spirit is in line with user generated content – a category blooks fall under.

So what is Creative Commons?
From their website:

Creative Commons is a new system, built within current copyright law, that allows you to share your creations with others and use music, movies, images, and text online that’s been marked with a Creative Commons license.

A simpler explanation: A Creative Commons license allows people to reproduce your work, but prevents them from using it commercially or allow modifications of said work. If they do, you have the legal power to sue them – since their actions breach the Creative Commons license your work was published under.

Step 3: Optimize

In this Step 3 I’m going to spend some time talking about SEO, or Search Engine Optimization. It’s not a topic I like, mainly because there is a dark side to it, and also because it detracts from the actual act of putting out great writing.

It is, however, an ‘integral’ part of the internet.computers

What Is SEO?

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process of optimizing a webpage or blog for easier indexing by Search Engines. SEO can be divided into two categories: white hat and black hat. For obvious reasons we’re not going to even talk about black hat SEO techniques, since that would just get you penalized by Google. For more information on that topic, check out this Wikipedia page.

1. The Permalink Mess
The first step to optimize your WordPress blog would be edit the blog’s permalink structure. Permalinks are the URLs to each of your blog posts … by default WordPress displays nonsensical URLs for specific posts that make no sense to search engines. You can change that to suit your tastes by heading over to Options > Permalinks and tweaking the Customize Permalink Structure section. Novelr uses /%year%/%monthnum%/%day%/%postname%/ – but there are other ways of doing it.

Detailed tutorials about WordPress permalink tweaking can be found here and here.

2. Sitemap For Spiders
A sitemap is a document that links to all the pages in your blog. It functions like a table of content for search engines: they know where each chapter is and it helps them list your blook. How do you put up a sitemap in WordPress? Easy. Download this plugin, upload it to your blog and activate. Then include a link to your sitemap on your main page. Presto! For blogger users head over to Google Webmaster Tools and follow the instructions there to include a sitemap for your site.

Step 2: Set It Up

Now that you’ve chosen a blogging platform in Step 1 let’s take a look at the various things you’ll need to do to get your blog up and running. As mentioned earlier this process might take anywhere between 30 seconds to 5 hours … depending on the type of blogging platform (Hosted vs Stand-Alone), design (premade template vs self built) and personal preferences. For the sake of brevity I’ll limit this guide to the downloadable WordPress platform as well as Blogger – due to time and space constraints.

Installation – WordPress

Installing the WordPress platform may take some time (as does Movable Type, instructions here). The project page proclaims how great and mighty their 5-minute-installation is, but the fact still remains you’ll have to understand the basics of FTP and have a good code editor on hand.

For this I suggest getting Winzip (for the downloaded package), Filezilla (for uploading the software to your server), and Notepad++ (for code editing). These are my personal favourites, and while there may be other better packages out there I get by pretty fine using those, even today.
Detailed instructions on the installation (there are several ways of doing it) can be found here, and if anything crops up there’s a great support forum with a bustling, growing community. Alternatively you can get a free installation from the guys at install4free. I personally would not take such an option, mainly because I first installed WordPress as a learning tool about blogging software. But if you have no care for understanding the intricacies of the WordPress backend, by all means go ahead and use the service. Just remember to change your server passwords after your blog is up and running.

Don’t worry, it’s not as daunting as it sounds. WordPress is wonderful to work with once it’s installed, and very rarely will you have to manually tinker around with the software files itself. Just keep at it – there’s a wealth of help files all online, and it won’t hurt to learn a thing or two about FTP while you’re at it.

Installation – Blogger

Blogger – like other hosted blog platforms – is incredibly easy to set up and use. There are a total of 3 screens while creating a new blog, all of which are self explanatory and (God forbid) explained here.

Beyond the Installation – WordPress

WordPress users have quite a few options available to them – especially if they want to customize their blook to suit their needs. Some things you’d need to do after installation:

1. Activate the Akismet plugin. Akismet prevents your blook from being flooded by comment and trackback spam. This is absolutely vital – spam is annoying and WordPress’s Matt Mullenweg is pretty sure this problem will only worsen in the coming years.

2. Get a unique theme. The default theme is boring. Either design one yourself (knowledge of CSS and PHP is required, as well as at least 6 hours of testing and retesting), contract a designer to help you, or get a free theme from the WordPress theme viewer. Before downloading one, however … read this and this and understand that there are themes out there that serve no other purpose other than to promote poker and printers and other spammish sites. Good designers to get themes from? Small Potato is one of the best.

Step 1: Choosing The Right Blogging Platform

I’ve covered this topic before on Novelr, but it’ll be good to go through it one more time in this series.

But before I begin: freeze. Do you know what blogs are? If you don’t, read up and find out what blogs are before even attempting to continue reading this post. (Just in case you don’t know you’re reading a blog, highly unlikely, but you never know).

Alright. On with the post.

Why should I write my book in blog form?

There are many forms of online writing, as you’ll quickly see over at Epiguide. Websites, writing services such as FanFiction, Fictionpress and Urbis, the list goes on and on. Blogs, however, provide a number of advantages over webpages/services. Amongst these advantages are the fact that blogs are incredibly easy to update, are part of a bigger ethos called the blogosphere and are (mostly) standards compliant – making it easier for search engines to find you and your work.

More reasons can be found here.

Types of Blogging Platforms

Blogging platforms are divided under two categories:

Hosted Platforms
Hosted blogging platforms are usually free, easy to use and are the first choice of many new bloggers in the blogosphere. They do not require much technical knowledge to use and are recommended for those who don’t wish to muck around in code. On the flip side, blogs on Hosted Platforms are very limited in design and functionality, so quite a few bloggers make the switch to Stand-Alone platforms later on.

The Ultimate Blook Guide: Blogging Your Book

stairsOver the past few days I’ve realized there should be a guide detailing the basics of setting up a blook on the internet – sooner or later a lot of authors are going to realize they have the internet open to them as a publishing option, and many of them do not understand the various nuances of blogs and the blogosphere. This guide would ideally serve as a reference, to make posting up novels or books or even textbooks easier for authors who do not understand one line of code, not to mention copyright on the internet and all the other aspects of blogging a book.

I’ll be writing a series over the next few days covering just about everything I can think of about writing a blook – these posts will come in the form of ‘steps’, all the way from choosing a blogging platform to publishing your blook.

This guide will not be overly detailed – its purpose is to be a reference, or a rough guide – but it will be clear and to the point. I’ll leave links to other articles and resources which I think are relevant and helpful to each of the steps where aspiring authors can go and peruse at their own pace.

Note: The majority of this guide will be written with WordPress and Blogger users in mind, since they are free, easy to use and are generally well known blogging platforms.

The steps:

Step 1: Choosing a Blogging Platform – Here I’ll talk about the selection of blogging platforms available, how they work and a brief explanation about why they are so useful, especially in writing a book on the internet.

Step 2: Set It Up – After choosing the right blogging platform you’re left with the task of setting it up. This might range from 30 seconds to 5 hours, depending on your level of expertise and the blogging platform you choose.

Step 3: Optimize – Step 3 is where I’ll talk about the fiddling you’ll need to do before the blook is acceptable to both humans and search engines. This step covers simple SEO, theme edits as well as recommended services for your RSS feeds or your blog comments.

Step 4: Copyright – What is Creative Commons? How does it work? Are there limitations? Alternatives? Questions, questions.

Step 5: Write! – Ideas on how to post up chapters, modify your writing for the web as well as basic principles to follow. I’ll put up links to more detailed writing guides on the internet, that I feel everyone who wants to write fiction should read.

Step 6: Promote – Where are you going to promote your blook? How are you going to go about it? I won’t promise you instant fame and success, but there are places to go to on the web to meet up with like minded people. Again, these are merely guidelines.

Step 7: Publish! – With the advent of on-demand publishing, services like Lulu and Blurb offer blook writers an alternative to the traditional publishing industry. And then there are other publishers that deal exclusively with publishing web content – we’ll take a look at them here.

Conclusion – A sum up of the series and blooking in general.

Whew! What a list. I’ve got my work cut out for me, and if you enjoy them jump up and subscribe to Novelr’s RSS Feed.

Why Adverbs Suck

Dog LeashI’ve been coming across a lot of stylistic guides over the past few days … perhaps due to hththt‘s posts on 9Rules about great writing tutorials online. A lot of them are good, and a lot of them talk about the horror of adverbs.

What are adverbs?

Adverbs are words that are used in writing to answer questions such as how?, when?, where? … and so on. (Wikipedia link)

A few examples: “I love you,” she said tenderly.

He threw the ball expertly; the crowd cheered as it arced through the air.

“Kill her.” He said coldly, “And then leave the body here to rot.”

So? What seems to be the problem? These sentences seem perfectly alright on their own. But allow me rewrite them, and let’s see what happens:

“I love you,” she said, her hands tracing the outline of his face.

He threw the ball in a single fluid motion; the crowd cheered as it arced through the air.

“Kill her.” He said, eyes cold and distant, “And then leave the body here to rot.”

Replacing the adverb in all three cases strengthens the impact of the sentence and adds a degree of depth: in the first example, you knew she said it tenderly – but the rewritten version tells you how exactly the tenderness was expressed.

In a sentence: If used incorrectly, adverbs can blunt the impact and power of a verb.

This brings us to our next problem: How can you tell if an adverb is used correctly?

The solution is actually pretty simple. Reread your writing and take note of the adverbs used (typically ending with -ly). Ask yourself this question: “Is this adverb absolutely necessary?

An example of a necessary adverb:

Ceri got to his feet slowly, a mild headache throbbing between his temples.

The use of slowly cannot be replaced or expanded upon, and is in fact necessary to convey the pain Ceri is experiencing and the effect it has on his movements. Another example:

Yuki calmly blocked a forward blow; Bishop’s palm streaked upwards and a corresponding streak of falling bricks and disintegrating mortar appeared in the side of the hall.

The calmly here can actually be expanded upon, but there is no way of doing so without muddling up the sentence. This is due to the fact that in long sentences it is absolutely vital to keep both subject (Yuki) and verb (blocked) at the very front … anything between will just confuse the reader.

Let’s end with the bad use of an adverb:

Suddenly, there was an eruption of searing white light.

And how can we improve that without changing the meaning of the sentence? Simple:

There was a sudden eruption of searing white light.

It’s pretty amazing what proper adverb usage can do for your writing. The next time you’re flipping through a magazine or a newspaper grab a pencil and watch out for them. Good writers use them sparingly. Do the same.

5 Great Productivity Tools for Online Writers

What can I possibly do to start writing creatively on the computer?

I recently talked about how I found writing on paper to be more productive than writing on a computer. And so I started searching for ways to motivate myself – to complete chapters, meet deadlines and revise stylistic elements of whatever novel it was that I’m writing … whether it was on paper or on keyboard.

I thought my answer would lie somewhere on the internet. After all – it’s a rapidly growing ecosystem of blogs, websites, forums and chat conversations, some of which would be able to provide me with a solution, right?

Yeah, I was right. And the solution is paper.

1. The Task Progress Tracker

No – don’t get me wrong. The first solution starts off digitally, but it’s really a cool to-do list that you have to print out on … (waitforit!) strips of processed bark paper. productivitydavidseah.jpg
It’s called the Task Progress Tracker, part of David Seah‘s Printable CEO series of productivity sheets – something we can all do with in our daily lives. You start off with jotting down the name of your task, and then colouring in your progress in 15 minute increments. The maximum time alocated for each task is 4 hours – David includes instructions for what to do on the sheet if you overshoot (rewriting your climax five times), or if the task is too easy (a one page chapter, perhaps).

I found the check at the end of a task very rewarding, and the fifteen minute bubbles prevented procrastination, even with the TV on full blast. And that isn’t all! David provides Destruct-o-Matic and Power User editions, cute little variations on the original idea. Click the links above to be taken to their respective pages, read up a little on his instructions, and print!

2. Language is a Virus!

For downtime and writer’s block I found the Language Is A Virus page, with little writing ‘toys’ and resources to help you overcome obstacles. It doesn’t do much, and it wouldn’t help everyone, but I always find inspiration comes from the most unexpected of places. If walking the dog and chatting over coffee fails, I’d go there and give their toys a little spin. My favourite? The Writing Prompt widget.

Early Thoughts On Sophie

I’ve installed and played around with Sophie for a few days now. It’s an Alpha release, so expect bugs and crashes and weird little things to pop up.
The current Sophie user interface is clunky, to say the least – objects dragged about don’t feel snappy, and there are no help files built into the software. There is no right click functionality anywhere. To make things worse, the only documentation I’ve found is a Quicktime movie over at the Sophie project page, and while it may cover all the basics for writing a Sophie eBook it isn’t enough.

The project site is a minor drawback on its own – it is hard to navigate and is a complete pain when you’re trying to find information about the software. A quick peek around tells me the site is running on Drupal, though I may be mistaken.

Perhaps a wiki will help, in due time.

I’m not exactly sure how Sophie will be accepted by the global eBook publishing community, and from what I see it looks like a glorified cross-platform version of Powerpoint. With comments, streaming and web integration.

But apart from all the Alpha hiccups (we must give it time to grow), Sophie has all the basics in place. Videos, music, pictures and good typography support are built in, as well as integration with servers. The inclusion of a Timeline feature is slightly perplexing to me – books are meant to be browsed at your own pace, are they not? – but overall it looks very promising.

I’ll see if I can help out with documentation – Sophie has a lot of potential; let’s hope it starts taking off in a year or two.

Download Sophie here.