When Publishing, Go Write A Proper God-Damned Book, Please?

A girl reading a book.Today I woke up to yet another article demonizing a blog turned blook. And the problems mentioned were exactly the same as a hundred other similar reviews I had read in the past: it was sloppy, it was put together slap dash without a thought on how it would read on the page, blog popularity did not translate to book sales. Etcetera etcetera etcetera.

And it’s funny, you know, how blog popularity and stunning wit in a blog just doesn’t seem to jump onto the printed page. Because it should. Because writing a post is as linear as writing a chapter in a book, and there shouldn’t be any problem in converting the things you love in the blog from one form to another. And it’s just frustrating for me to see such great writing, such amazing blogs at the forefront of blooking, stumble the leap to the static page. And get a bad review in the process.

The two links I posted above refers to The Order Of The Phoenix Park and Petite Anglaise (though the 2nd link also talks a little about Julie And Julia) respectively. The first had newspapers calling it “resolutely clunky and self-indulgent’ and having ‘sloppy’ structure. The 2nd had this particular comment going for it (I’ve read similar ones on Julie and Juila the year before, so this review is by no means alone):

I remember being disappointed with Julia Powell’s Julie and Julia that the book wasn’t a series of her best blog posts. I didn’t ever follow her experiment (to cook her way through Julia Child’s massive tome Mastering the Art of French Cooking) online, and I expected the book to be a series of vignettes charting her progress. Instead, it was fluffed out with less fascinating personal detail. The same is true with Petite Anglaise: the blog itself was gripping in a reality TV, slice-of-life, car crash kind of way, and the book itself isn’t. It’s fluffy, and like candy floss, doesn’t satisfy.

My theory for this is that personal bloggers don’t approach writing the same way writers do. Writers set out on a project to tell a story; personal bloggers just want to let steam off after their boss yells at them or their cat pees on the couch. And the good ones do it so well, so brilliantly, so witty, so true, that we readers can’t help but fall in love with them.

But the problem with all this is that when Penguin comes knocking on their doorsteps any thought to the formula that has so far worked for them goes flying out the window. They start to approach the project like a writer writing an actual manuscript, but not exactly, because they’re sourcing material from their online rantings. So what you get a mix of both: blog writing and book writing, and it doesn’t appeal to either groups that will buy these blooks: the blog readers (who follow these bloggers) and the book readers (who browse a bookstore and don’t care if it’s a blook; they just want something good to read).

In the end readers aren’t going to read you because you’re hip and in the news all the time. They’re going to read your book if your writing is good and your story is solid, regardless of where the source material is from. So please, blook writers – you Petite Anglaises and Julias out there. Write your book as a writer would (from scratch) or capture your blog posts without tinkering around with the format that has worked for you so well.

Just don’t mash the two approaches together. Put out a book that’s worth reading, that’s worth falling in love with – because it’s the ideas and stories in between the covers that matter the most, not the fancy technological shwag that got it there in the first place.

And that’ll do all of us in the blook medium a big favour. We won’t have to deal with any more negative preconceptions about jumping to the static page. And that – if it happens – can only be a good thing.

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Category: Publishing · Writing Web Fiction
  • Mack

    You might consider that these are two very differnt mediums you’re talking about, and one just does not work in the other.

  • http://thebookaholic.blogpsot.com bibliobibuli

    Eli, you’re doing such a good job blogging all this so well.

    have you managed to read awang goneng’s book yet? i’m just gobsmacked that it translated so well from blog to book.

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    Thanks, Sharon.

    I’ve heard about it, but I haven’t been to any bookstores lately (been reading off friends). So, no, I haven’t read it.

  • http://darkmatterswebnovel.com Theron Gibbons

    I think that for a blogger to succeed at writing, they will need to use either a diary/confessional with a light plot or else an autobiographical style with a conflict resolution of some form, and that comes down to whether they want to write fiction or memoir.

    Also, the mediums can coexist (analog and digital and visa versa), but the issue is one of time. Blogging is mostly in the now, while a book is less so. The writer has to accept that their work won’t be appreciated immediately, that the book must have a deeper sense of substance than can exist in the immediacy, in order to survive.

    This would be especially true for a blog who is orienting their book as a work of fiction, rather than a memoir or biographical context.

  • http://eoinpurcell.wordpress.com/ Eoin Purcell

    In defense of 20’s book,

    The article in question was very hostile and while I wouldn’t call 20’s book a classic, for the genre it sat in it was pretty good.

    It also got much better reviews from others too!


  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    @Theron: I agree. Blogs aren’t as long-lasting as books, so I guess it’s only natural for bloggers to gravitate towards instant reader gratification rather than the ‘deeper sense of meaning’.

    @Eoin: Well, thank God for that. I’m sick of people blasting blooks for not being as riveting/good/wonderful as their blog counterparts.

  • http://www.lethebashar.blogspot.com Lethe

    Very enlightening post. Lately I’ve been very interested in the possibilities available to fiction bloggers that novelists simply don’t have. I agree with the commentor who mentioned the autobiographical style, my blogs are autobiographical fiction. But it up to the blogger to keep the reader interested and the story continually open. This prompts the reader further and further on. I would like to challenget the idea that blog fiction ever needs to get resolved. Some novels maintain this open-architecture, but the blog form is even more perfect for it. As for switching between mediums, I can see why blog writers are failing. A novel or a book for that matter is an organic thing.