Blogs Are Fantastically Boring

Are blogs really that interesting? Imagine for a moment that your favourite personal blog (say, Dooce or Kamigoroshi) were transferred onto the printed page. Would it be as compelling as the blog itself? Would anyone stick around to read page 1000 (assuming it’s 1 post per page)?

The answer is no.

It was an article in the Sydney Morning herald that started me on this line of thought – in it a quote from Juliet Annan (publishing director of Penguin/Fig Tree) struck gold:

Most blogs are fantastically boring. What is exciting is that you can find people who don’t realise what great writers they are.

Yeah, so why would blogs being converted directly to print fail?

Let’s think about it: in a novel there’s an introduction, then rising action, a climax, and a falling action. This is of course a very basic idea of what a novel can be, but it underlines the fact that all novels have a proper ending – something that readers would look forward to and which every chapter points to.

In a blog this idea of a clear narrative is almost non-existent. Today I talk about my newly-dianosed cancer, tomorrow I go on a tyrade against George Bush and the next I tell you why I think Borat was a great movie.

Most blooks that get published will need to have a purpose: a beginning and an end. Julie and Julia (winner of the 2006 Blooker prize) was a cooking project by Julie Powell – 365 days, 524 recipes, one tiny apartment kitchen. Of which she says:

“My blog had an advantage because it was a project, so it had a beginning, a middle and a kind of end, but it was obvious to me from the beginning that I didn’t want to include everything I had written on the blog and put it on the page, because it would have been stiflingly dull,” she says. “I didn’t want it to be indulgent.”

Back to the two personal blogs I mentioned earlier: if by any chance their owners would like to turn them into books … a purpose would have to be found, and about half of the posts would have to be sliced out.

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Category: Writing Web Fiction
  • http://undeadflowers.com Richard

    Julie Powell makes a good point in that article, that she very consciously “didn’t want it [her blog] to be indulgent.”

    I think this is a very important point–a majority of blogs seem to be written for the authors themselves, without much awareness of their (potential) readership’s wants and needs.

    Of course, even if a blog author were to pay attention to this, to purpose, to narrative and structure, s/he would still have a huge leap to make were s/he to be published in book form.

    We read so differently online from the way we read print books that–with a few exceptions–to successfully make the leap across media, the blog would have to become almost unrecognisable.

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    Which is what editors are for. I’ll be betting that blogs making the brave leap would be stretched and condensed and blown apart and glued together again … for the better.

  • http://benjaminsolah.com/blog Benjamin Solah

    I find books and blogs very different. These are instant, independent posts, sometimes linked and intersecting but they’re also by themselves.

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    Perhaps personal blogs can be thought of as … short story collections? That does makes sense, doesn’t it?

  • http://kamigoroshi.net Edrei

    It’s actually much more simple than that.

    Every writer can be a blogger, but not every blogger can be a writer.

    There is always a reason why there is an editorial process when it comes to writing. It’s to make sure errors are corrected and the content is worth the reader’s attention.

    Personal blogs don’t command that kind of presence. Though informative blogs do command that presence. Take Lorelle on WordPress for instance. She writes about blogging and wordpress and recently she has published a book based on her content about blogging. It makes sense when you have a market because that’s what books have to target.

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    There are personal blogs who made the leap – a few months back there was news of how Julie O’Rielly started her blog about moving to the north and got discovered by Penguin Viking.

    Though it must be noted she had contacts in the publishing industry to start off with.

    I think personal blogs and informative blogs both have a shot at making the leap – all that matters is what they’re blogging about.

  • http://criticalmass.crazydreams.org/ CrazyDreamer

    Good post. Now apply it to narrative blogs (webfiction): Is a story that might not have an immediately-anticipated ending (or anticipate ever ending at all) going to be able to sell in print?

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    Post idea taken, absorbed, and noted down. Thank you, Crazy Dreamer.