Monthly Archives: August 2007

Dugg! Horton’s Folly

Let’s see how far we can push this experiment: digg Horton’s Folly (or at least one episode of it) here.

Fingers crossed. Online fiction on the Digg frontpage? Now there’s something I’d like to see!

[Update]: James has posted a call to arms in his blog, explaining the fundamentals and what we are trying to get accomplished from this experiment. Check it out here.

Writing Long (And Getting Read)

Window in the roof, revealing a striking square of blue skyMost of you who have been following Novelr know what I see as the answer to the “Don’t Read Text Online” conundrum. In a sentence: shorter, bite-sized, standalone posts, with clear, unembellished writing.

I’m beginning to see that I was wrong. I’m beginning to see that Cory Doctorow isn’t completely correct.

Short text is not the only way forward, and I probably had this coming to me: Lee didn’t agree with my point that dreamy prose won’t work online. With good cause, as I now see. What brought about this sudden epiphany, you may ask? The answer may be a little ironic: an article entitled ‘Reviving Anorexic Web Writing‘, from A List Apart Issue 242. A design website for heaven’s sakes! It swept the carpet from under my feet and I suggest that you read it in its entirety before continuing with this post.

Seriously. Go read it now. Reading quotes will just dillute the point Amber Simmon‘s trying to make. Done? Okay …

In The Defense Of Brevity

Much of what I’ve talked about has been proven to work online: bulleted points, lists, (short) length, as well as subheadings. All this works to promote scannability of an article – to direct reader attention to ideas and paragraphs you want them to pay attention to. You see this everywhere you look: the NYT splits long posts into multiple pages; news sites put up subheadings to tell readers which part of the article says what.

In fact, writing like this probably works best in the majority of cases. I cannot imagine reading Faulkner-like prose while browsing Google News, nor can I imagine stinging social commentary while reading a blogging tutorial. My writing on Novelr follows this advice – it produces organized, rant-free posts with enough impact to start a discussion going – which is my ultimate aim.

(At least, I hope it does … most of the time.)

Fiction Is A Different Story

Now here’s the clincher: if online prose is condensed and changed to suit scan-click ADD readers … then doesn’t that sacrifice quality on the altar of readership? Changing the way people write to suit the medium is something Cory Doctorow champions, but Amber Simmons fights against.

She has strong reasons.

… the advice to omit words, chunk content, use bullets, and keep it short remains. This is sometimes, but not universally good advice. I thought I was the only one who felt this way until I read Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think! wherein he writes, “No one is suggesting the articles on be shorter.” I cheered inside! Except that people are suggesting this. Because we haven’t yet figured out the difference between content and copy.

She even gives us an example. My Body, by Shelley Jackson, is ‘real writing: beautiful, lucid, captivating.’ The lack of headlines and bullets mattered not, the lack of pictures mattered not.

Permalink Change (and a shoutout)

I’ve just changed the permalink structure of Novelr, so you can expect dead links to be everywhere for awhile. It’s messy and I wish this needn’t be, but I realize that some of the posts might clash under the old setup.

I’ve also changed it because I’m setting up a Movable Type blog on the same server. Going to do a review on it very soon, and then use the platform to experiment with the different ways fiction can be presented onscreen.

Please alert me to any dead links I’ve missed out, especially in articles. Sorry for the hassle.

PS: We’re going to digg Horton’s Folly this Wednesday (the 22nd), to see how far we can push online fiction to the frontpage. Get ready your accounts and vote!

Digg And Online Fiction

You’ve probably heard of the Digg effect. You post something in your blog and somebody likes it. They digg it. Other people like it, and they digg it too. Somewhere along the line enough people digg it for a chain reaction to occur, and then hundreds, and later thousands visit your page through Digg. Great success.doomsdaycloud

Apart from the lift in recognition your blog gets from the Digg effect you’ll also be on the receiving end of some less than attractive repercussions. Your blog/blook may be threatened. You may be hacked. Your server may crash (a lot of this depends on the way WordPress is built, so I’ll not go into the technicalities). But still many on the Internet regard the frontpage Digg as the holy grail. My question is this: how many pieces of online fiction get dugg?

The answer (no surprise): almost none.

So what gets Dugg?

I’m going to take a look at today’s frontpage (10th August, 2007) and categorize the top 30 stories that make it. These stories are selected by an algorithm that Digg changes from time to time – to keep things simple let’s just say it has something to do with the number of diggs (votes) in a period of time – and then we’ll see what this tells us about the Digg crowd in general.
In pie chart form:
Predominantly technology, odd funny bits, and a dash of politics, right? No online fiction. So what exactly do these results have in common?

Bookmarked! August 9th

  • James from JPS/fact (formerly Progression, which I quoted from in my post about lousy blook quality) is asking a favour from all of us. He’s currently doing a PhD on the influence of the internet on traditional print fiction, and he wants to compile a list of novels (printed & published) that have been influenced by the internets, either being published as fake blogs, emails, web pages and such. Go, on, give him a hand – his blog has amazing insights into the world of online (and blog) fiction.
  • While you’re there read his post on online fiction and popularity – there’ll a few points to think about, though it’s written as a rant.
  • Duane Poncy from Elohi Gadugi (and The Germaine Truth) has done something truly laudable: setting up a forum, Creative Blogs, for blook writing and online reading. Go join up, and quickly!
  • Business Standard – Read a good blook lately?
  • After releasing Sophie (which I covered here), The Institute For The Future Of The Book is hard at work again. They’ve outdone themselves with CommentPress, a plugin that helps give context to blog comments in a post. I can already see fascinating applications for it – non-fiction blooks in particular have great use for context sensitive reader and author interaction. TIFTFOTB projects are usually academic in nature – so I’ll not be surprised if the world of academia (and academic blogs in particular) employ this plugin to dissect articles and posts. Peer review, anyone?

I’ll Look at Yours If You’ll Look at Mine

The following guest post has been written by Gloria Hildebrandt from Orchard House Communications. Stonyfields, her novel in blog form, can be found here.
We would all benefit from a greater sense of community among fiction bloggers, or to put it more elegantly, online fiction writers. It’s difficult for newcomers to find other writers who are currently active on line, and even wilder finding well-crafted blooks (ugh) or e-fiction. (An aside: I’m not fond of the new terminology and wish we had lovelier words.)

My Work Over Yours

It’s a labyrinth out there, and you have to be diligent about searching out e-fiction. I’m grateful to the fiction bloggers who have blogrolls listing other sites of note. I realize that I should add one to my blog. I have lots to learn about this new medium. An active community of e-fiction writers could offer dialogue, information sharing, learning and the promotion of our own work.

I think that last point is key.

Here’s one problem: I am more interested in my work than I am in yours. So I’m not too keen on reading your fiction. It might be bad or boring and a chore. It could be better than my writing, which could be hugely depressing. I want ME to become rich and famous or at least published by a traditional publisher so my father can finally see a book of mine in a bookstore and feel that what I’ve been spending my life at is finally showing results he can be proud of.

Not that I care what my father thinks.

I can also sense people agreeing with me that the time I spend on your work is time I’m not spending on my work.

Another problem is that writing is an introverted activity. Fiction writers probably tend to be more introverted than non-fiction writers. Supporting a community is an extroverted activity.

We have to get over this. We have to make the time and effort or we’re writing, posting blogs and publishing our work in isolation.