Monthly Archives: July 2007

Harry Potter Spoilers Are Everywhere

Click the image below only if you’ve already read the last Harry Potter book and want a laugh.
Image276_rs_1.jpg

The above image was taken by an Australian friend outside his school’s locker area. He tells me the spoilers are everywhere.

Honestly, the nerve of some people.

Bookmarked! July 28th

  • Just discovered Xlibris: a ‘strategic partner of Random House Ventures’. Much like Lulu, only … smaller, and connected to a traditional publishing house at that.
  • Anne Wayman tells us how Writers can stop Global Warming.
  • [Blook]: Death On The Beach. Blooked on a ‘displaced Blackberry’, and currently on Chapter 4.
  • [Blook]: I have read half of the first arc of Omen of Chaos, and … well. Carlos is prolific and enthusiastic, and really dedicated to the story, but OoC is not something you’ll find in a bookstore anytime soon. I’m keen to see what he writes next, though: someone who writes so much can only get better and better at it.

Blooking Needs A Community

Richard from Undead Flowers posted a comment here – quite some time ago – that sparked off a series of thoughts and half baked ideas in my head. It’s returned to haunt me again and again:

I think that if we wanted to do something about sorting out the chaff from the wheat, it would need to be done quite far down the line. Take political bloggers, for instance: they have a community, and the ‘better’ bloggers are those that get referenced more by the others. So quite rapidly, you have a grassroots mechanism in place where certain blogs are highlighted.

This isn’t quite possible with fiction blogs because they don’t reference each other in the same way. To do something similar you’d probably have to set up an independent site where you could vote for and review your favourite fiction blogs. At least, that’s all I can think of that might do the job.

Richard’s point is gold, real gold: in two paragraphs he circles out a major problem facing blooks – one that I’ve never even thought about.

Funny thing, isn’t it – the blogosphere? How important that sense of community (real or imagined) is to the blogs of various genres. How blogs can turn out to be small coffee shops – where people come and share and think and talk.

Richard’s comment highlights another more important aspect of covering blooks – Novelr isn’t on top of everything there is out there. I may have started Novelr out of passion for blooks, trying to see how far we can push the boundaries of blog fiction (or online lit, for that matter), and I know I can’t possibly cover all bases. Take, for instance, this illuminating post in Collected Voices:

While the satirical nature of TV Controller gives it an added advantage (a daily dose of bitchy comedy never goes amiss), what it has in common with Belle is an instantly gettable, simple top line. With ‘The diary of a London call girl’, or ‘the secret blog of Britain’s youngest TV controller’, even new readers know exactly what to expect. A two-dimensional character, who doesn’t go on a transformational journey is actually an advantage in blog fiction. Stories confined to one or two posts are the ideal length of narrative.

That part of the post was an aha! moment for me – another thing about blooking I hadn’t yet considered.

Richard’s right. While this blog and Blooking Central (Cheryl’s doing a fabulous job covering blooks – much better than I am, I might say) is doing fine for the moment, we’ll soon need something bigger, something better – something more community-based … where blookers like us can converge and share and write.

I’ll be trying my best to find other blookers to voice out and guest post here at Novelr – it’ll be a small step to building a community, and a first one at that. But let’s look beyond: where to next? A forum? A mailing list? Who? Where? How?

I’d like to hear from you all.

You’ve Got To Do Better Than Austen Today

I couldn’t help but post this up, even if it’s a little late: Austen resubmitted.

David Lassman, the director of the Jane Austen Festival in Bath decided to find out what sort of reception the writer might get if she approached publishers and agents in the age of Harry Potter and the airport blockbuster.

After making only minor changes, he sent off opening chapters and plot synopses to 18 of the UK’s biggest publishers and agents. He was amazed when they all sent the manuscripts back with polite but firm “no-thank-you’s” and almost all failed to spot that he was ripping off one of the world’s most famous literary figures.

This sounds uncannily like Why You Will Never Get Published (Through Traditional Outlets) Today – a very depressing post wrapped around a very depressing Guardian Unlimited article.

If publishers refuse to publish Austen … God knows who else they’re refusing to publish.

Beginning, Middle and End

The following guest post has been written by Scott Mckenzie from Rebirth.

soda_row.jpgYou’re a writer. Something inside you is tugging at your creative strings, telling you that publishing fiction on the internet is the way to go for you. Maybe you’ll even publish it in paperback via Lulu and dish some copies out to friends and family and offer it up for sale on Amazon. There are many reasons to blog your creative output:

  1. Get it out there
  2. Following on from 1, hopefully someone will read it
  3. Following on from 2, hopefully someone will like it and want to read more
  4. Feedback
  5. Standard publishing routes haven’t worked for you
  6. An experiment

As the writer who decided to blog my first novel, all six points are true for me to a certain degree, but I’ve realised the most important thing about being an online writer is: you have to write! It may seem obvious but if you’re going to blog your work and offer up subscription services (e.g. www.feedburner.com) then you’d better have a beginning, middle and end of your novel.

Searching the internet for online novels, blooks, blog novels or whatever they’re called this week reveals a raft of half-finished tales. Blog posts come thick and fast up to a point and they stop without warning, leaving the readers hanging. Online fiction is a niche market with potential but if it’s going to grow, the readers out there need to be able to trust the writers to get them from the beginning to the end of the story.

(Reader) Trust Matters

As an online writer, how can you guarantee you’ll be able to go this and retain the trust of readers that the next chapter will be published? There are two ways:

1. Set yourself a strict writing and publishing timetable and stick to it
2. Write the whole damn thing before publishing chapter 1

open_book.jpgHere’s the bad news: neither approach is easy and will take away a lot of your time. Setting yourself a writing/publishing timetable means that you have to manage it around the rest of your life. If you have to write a chapter before you can publish it, your readers may have to wait for your writer’s block to go away before they get their latest instalment and you know what? They’re only going to wait so long…

Writing the whole novel first is a major investment of time in advance of publishing. There’s a good chance your finished work will be more polished but you’re effectively ‘off the grid’ for the whole time.

Coming Clean

There is, however, a third approach: come clean from day one and tell your readers your writing is an experiment. If they know you’re making it up as you go along then they can feel like they’re part of the experiment. If not, they’re only going to wait so long for the next chapter…

I Will Tell This Story In _ Hours

The concept of a story within a set period of time has always interested me. Readers know how many chapters there are going to be: rather than keeping them guessing on how long before the story is concluded they have a sense of urgency as the events in the story unfold.

Take 24 (the TV series) as an example. The concept is pretty simple to grasp: each episode is 1 hour (of a day), and 24 makes up the entire season. This makes for pretty interesting plotting: you have the end in sight, now what is going to happen within those 24 hours?
24
Another example of this is Life Of Pi. Early on in the novel Yann Martel tells us he would give us Pi’s amazing story in exactly 100 chapters. As the book went on I found myself wanting the book to last longer, and I used the chapters as a yardstick for how much story there was left.

This has an interesting effect. In 24 the characters are plunged into a crisis, and the writers throw complication after complication at them. In writing, set periods coupled with non-stop hurdles prove for very interesting stories. When your characters are in deep, deep trouble readers are probably wondering how you’re going to get them out again … which is very good if you’re writing with a need of holding the reader’s attention.

Like, for instance, the computer screen.

I wonder how far I can push this concept – really short storytelling in … 25 chapters? Should be interesting, don’t you think?

The Definition Of Blook

Cheryl

A blook is a book with content that was developed in a significant way from material originally presented on a blog, webcomic or other website. This material includes the website’s characters, themes, ideas or outline that ends up getting published as a printed book. [Note: book in this instance means hardcopy, dead tree variety, three copies of which must be submitted for the Blooker Prize competition.]

As those of you who have been reading Novelr would know such a definition isn’t used in this blog. When I say blooks, I mean this: (taken from Wikipedia)

With the advent of the blog people started to publish books serialized on their blogs. Chapters are published one by one as blog posts, and readers can then subscribe to the blook via an RSS feed, tag it and comment on it.

Cheryl then continues by saying a blook can only be a blook if it is in dead tree form (and inspired from, or with content taken from a blog). She closes on a rather authoritative tone:

Less than a month ago Reuters reported that blook was “among the most annoying words that have been spawned by the Internet.” So include it or not, love it or not, use it correctly. Please.

This view of what is (and isn’t) a blook irks me. Lulu has every right to define a blook to suit its Blooker competition – but by and large the Blooker does not have the influence (yet) into defining what is and isn’t a blook.

So who defines what a blook is? The answer is deceptively simple: us. The way blook authors (and readers) use or regard the usage of the word blook helps shape its meaning. For instance in Novelr I’ve been pretty liberal with the usage of the word blook – to me a blook can be either:

  • A book (or work of fiction, such as a novel) that is serialised in blog form
  • A book published (in dead tree form) that is inspired by a blog.

lifehacker_the_book_cover_1.jpgThat is to say I regard Lifehacker: 88 Tech Tricks to Turbocharge Your Day as a blook, and Lifehacker itself as a blog.

James at Progression also has a post on what is (and isn’t) blog fiction – but blog fiction is a term that is perhaps more suited than blook for what I’m trying to cover in Novelr.

Nevertheless I have used blook (not only because it’s easier to identify with, but also because it’s just so horrid to readers), and it’s going to stick. I may have made some mistakes in calling blog fiction blooks (The City Desk is an example) – but I’ll seek to remedy that.

Blook authors, readers, interested publishers? Onward.

Writing Action

action.jpgWriting action has always been my favourite part of working on a manuscript. It’s those scenes in between (before and after the climax, gasp!) that I abhor – and probably would still have to work on.

So let me admit my guilt here: I use my action scenes as a way to tempt me into completing the ‘boring parts’. Ironic, then, that the boring parts are more important – characters come to life there, and if any emotional connection is to be made it’ll have to be made over the course of the first few chapters.

But action is easy. It is direct, fast, fun and hard hitting. I enjoy watching my friends reading action I’d written: their pupils dilate, and their body posture changes perceptively.

Let’s start with a snippet from the climax of Silence Of The Lambs:

Catherine Martin was keening again.

Wait here? Wait forever? Maybe he’s gone. He can’t be sure no backup’s coming. Yes he can. But soon I’ll be missed. Tonight. The stairs are in the direction of the screams. Solve it now.

She moved, quietly, her shoulder barely brushing the wall, brushing it too lightly for sound, one hand extended ahead, the gun at waist level, close to her in the confined hallway. Out into the workroom now. Feel the space opening up. Open room. In the crouch in the open room, arms out, both hands on the gun. You know exactly where the gun is, it’s just below eye level. Stop, listen. Head and body and arms turning together like a turret. Stop, listen.

So what can we take from this?

Thomas Harris makes good use of the short sentence – it captures the heat and confusion of the situation Clarice Starling is in, and it conveys strong panic. It hooks you, keeps you reading; the type of writing that brings you to the edge of your seat.

What else does Harris use? Look at the way he repeats stop, listen. It’s done tastefully, in a way that resembles gasping or panting – very human responses to a high tension environment. He also incorporates Starling’s thoughts into the narrative – the 2nd paragraph is basically a monologue that segues into action, and is far less intrusive then a “Is he still here?” she thought, breathing heavily kind of description.

Blooks cannot afford much dreamy prose – something has to happen to slice the monotony of the narrative. Anything to get the reader’s attention – and action is one of them.

Want emotional connection or character development in your blook? How about wrapping your action around that? So the boring parts won’t be so boring, and the exciting parts are almost everywhere.

And by segueing the two together – gosh, what a ride that’ll be!