Monthly Archives: November 2009

  •    Kenny Goldman has hit on something brilliant (in comments):
    As I’ve said before on the Poetry Foundation, with the rise of the web, writing has met its photography. By that I mean, writing has encountered a situation similar to what happened to painting upon the invention of photography, a technology so much better at doing what the art form had been trying to do, that in order to survive, the field had to alter its course radically. If photography was striving for sharp focus, painting was forced to go soft, hence Impressionism. Faced with an unprecedented amount of digital available text, writing needs to redefine itself in order to adapt to the new environment of textual abundance.
    The full analysis is available on Snarkmarket. I’ve no idea how Tim Carmody finds things like this, but I’m grateful for it. #

Why Do You Read Online Fiction?

Johnathan Harris on digital storytellingI’m going to be talking about self-promotion w/r/t online fiction in a couple of days, but I first want to ask you, all of you: why do you read online fiction? If you’re writers, and I’m assuming you are – this being Novelr and all – then why do you read this thing that we do? What makes it so different from books? What makes it better? And why?

Do you read it because you write it? Do you read because you’re part of the community now, and you’ve gotten to know the other writers around you, and you’re reading their work the same way you might read the blog of a loved one? Do you even read at all?

If you don’t, not as many as you would like: why? Is it because of the medium?

(I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I have found that I do less long-form reading when I’m online, and to be able to read through a masterpiece like The Grapes of Wrath – a copy of which is sitting on my table at this very moment – requires the unplugging of my computer and the physical removal of my web browser. This isn’t good, for obvious reasons: I have probably read less in the past 6 months than I have in the last three years combined.)

There has been much talk lately of self-promotion in online fiction. Many of us seem enamored with the idea that web fiction writers; indie writers – these new, fringe groups (of which I am a part) deserve to be treated professionally: at the same level as traditionally-published authors. But perhaps these are answers to the wrong questions. Most online experiences today are made to be simple, easy, and addictive. Web fiction is unique in that it has little of the three. And so here we must ask ourselves a series of questions about our work: do we attempt to emulate the rest of the web? (Much of Novelr has attempted to do just that). Or should we attempt to find other possible methods for online expression? What are our answers to the following questions:

  • Can it make someone gasp, or cry?
  • Does it feel as special as a love letter?
  • Does it compare to masterpieces of other mediums?
  • Could it have gone further?

And: why should you read online fiction? Because when you have found the answer to that, one that is not couched in defensive or capitalist terminology, then you would have found the answer to the self-promotion problem. Till then, I’d like to know this: why do you read online fiction? It’s a good place to start.

(Image at top taken from Johnathan Harris’s presentation on digital storytelling.)

[Update] A clarification:

I believe I should respond as well: I read online fiction because I started writing it. This is a cop-out (and is certainly not the answer anyone wants to hear), but it is the truth. I would not have considered reading in this medium if it wasn’t for the fact that I considered writing in it.

Now this is in itself a compelling reason. The reason for me asking is this: are there any other compelling reasons? One of the oldest problems we have in online fiction is that there are too many readers who are other writers, and marketing often feels like cross-promotion: writers selling to other writers. This is simply ridiculous. So I am asking you in the hopes of finding someone who was compelled into reading without first considering writing. If there are none, then I’ll have confirmed a suspicion I’ve had for sometime now. (I’ll explain in a latter post.)

  •    I don’t usually link to Malaysian lit, but this is a short story that captures the essence of my country: A Rightful Share by Preeta Samarasan. And, yes, that voice? That’s how we Malaysians really sound like. (thx, Sharon) #

A Very Basic Introduction To Twitter For #WebFiction

This guest post is written by webfiction reader Jan Oda (@janoda), who writes one of the best Twitter streams covering online fiction. Many of the things I’ve linked to in the past have come from her , and if you’re not already following her account … well, you should. She finds the coolest things in the strangest places, and should be part of any webfiction writer’s reading list.Even plushies tweet!

I’ve been using Twitter for a bit now, and while I’m by no means an expert, Eli has asked me to write an article on the usefulness of the network for web fiction writers, and so here I am.

A rough idea of what I use Twitter for: in the past couple of days I’ve discovered a great poem, found out about a Webfiction Podcast, voted for my favorite contestant in a literary reality show and almost became MCM’s marketing agent for The Vector.

On a more personal note I learned that one of the authors of the Peacock King just found her first grey hair at the age of 28, that Lord Likely is getting married (no matter how much I protest) and I’ve organized a sleepover party, pillow-fight included, with The Dispatch crew. And these things are only the tip of the iceberg.

For me Twitter has been a revelation. I have made contacts with web-fiction authors I would never have found otherwise, I have discovered great short-stories, poems and other digital art, and I got to take part in #3D1D, which really deserves it’s own article on the technologies MCM used.

These are my personal benefits, but I believe Twitter could be a real asset to all web-fiction authors, and I’ll try to explain how and why in this post. There really is no limit to the possibilities of the use of the medium, but I’ll try to cover the basics at least. If you don’t know what Twitter is and how it works, I’d suggest reading the TwiTip Starters Guide and Inkygirl’s Writer’s Guide to Twitter.

How it Works

Twitter defines itself as a microblogging system in which people can post short updates (there is a max. of 140 characters per update), and other people can subscribe to their feeds. 140 characters sounds very limiting, but you can say more than you think you can, and there is a subtle art in being brief and to the point. As far as I can see it there are 3 kinds of authors on Twitter.

  1. The Personal Account
  2. The RSS Author
  3. The Balanced One

Until recently Eli himself was a good example of the first type. He didn’t use Twitter frequently, but when he did he tweeted personal thoughts. There weren’t any references to Novelr, and not many references to anything web-fiction related in general. He also didn’t really connect with people (because he didn’t know how to reply to them), so his Twitter feed resembled a stream of consciousness. Other variants of this are authors using Twitter as a chatbox with their personal friends, taking the “What Are You Doing Question?” to an extreme and posting everything they eat and do. There is nothing wrong with that, but in my opinion this isn’t using Twitter to its full potential.

The RSS Author is on the other extreme of the spectrum; there is nothing personal in these accounts. RSS Authors simply attach their RSS feeds to their Twitter account, and let it run on auto-pilot from there on. No interaction whatsoever. A variant of this, and probably more annoying, are the marketeering authors, who only use Twitter to promote themselves and their books. Both types aren’t using Twitter to connect, which is a big loss, because, since their streams aren’t very interesting, they probably won’t gain many followers.

The Balanced One is the ideal Twitter-using author. He varies personal updates with updates on his writing, publishing and other professional updates, promotes (through the art of retweeting) interesting content of fellow authors and contacts and interacts with his followers. The really cool authors take this interaction to a new level and come up with stuff like #3D1D. Off course there isn’t such a thing as a perfect twitterer, but aiming for a mix between personal, professional and peers should get you close.

Useful Features

Twitter has implemented a couple of nice features to make connecting with interesting people and content easier. The most important one is probably the hashtag. Each term that starts with a # is converted into a hashtag. These hashtags are searchable, which means you can easily find all tweets mentioning the topic. A lot of web-fiction authors are adding #weblit to their tweets concerning their web-fiction, or web-fiction in general. Some of them also use a hashtag for their stories, so people can easily find updates. MCM even named his project after the hashtag he used for it, #3D1D.

Some people organize chats around these hashtags, using a twitterclient like tweetchat, or the Twitter search function (search.twitter.com) on a set day of the week. The most interesting ones for web-fiction authors are #writechat, #dnchat and #wnchat, but there are a lot of others as well.

Another great side effect of the hashtags are the hashtags projects. A prime example of this is #fridayflash, where every Friday authors publish a Flash Fiction Piece, and tweet about it using the #fridayflash hashtag. J.M. Strother posts a weekly roundup on his blog of all stories published each week, and an Anthology is in the making.

On your profile you can easily save searches, so you can check your favorite topics with one easy click. My personal saved searches include ‘Online Novel’, ‘Online Fiction’, Web-Fiction and others, and by checking them daily I found authors publishing online that weren’t on the WFG, Muse’s Success or other Web-Fiction Directories.

Some authors have been creating characters accounts, and are tweeting in character. I find this a great way of connecting with fans and readers, and that it greatly adds to the web-fiction experience. Reading the adventures of Lord Likely is twice as fun since I’ve been following his twitter account and I’m sure other readers feel the same.

A final great feature are Twitter Lists. These lists are used to organize the people you follow into categories, so people can easily find people with similar interests. I have made one for web-fiction authors, which currently lists 124 tweeting authors of web-fiction. Once you’ve subscribed to a list, it only takes one click to subscribe, and the tweets of all those listed are within reach from your Twitter sidebar. Nancy Brauer of Strange Little Band has also made a Twitter list of fictional characters tweeting.

Last but not least I’d like to mention @onlinefiction, a Twitter account created by Naomi of Nomesque Fiction, which tweets and promotes various web-fiction on hourly intervals.

I have by no means mentioned everything there is to do on and with Twitter, so please do comment with your favorite accounts, hashtags or anecdotes.

Jan Oda tweets at @janoda, and presents her followers with a LOT of good links. (Image at top sourced from Flickr)

  •    Ten Ways to Write a Bestselling Novel:
    6. That brings to mind another point: the author bio photo. The less you look like someone who actually writes, the better. The only exception regards novel/memoir writers, who are allowed to look like writers due to the abuse they’ve heaped upon themselves, either literally or not. If writing a romantic novel, get out the makeup. Red hair is preferable. Make sure the photographer uses a special lens that will cause viewers to suspect they have some sort of visual problem that corrects all defects.
    Also: “pose with your eyeglasses off, holding them in hand with one stem in the mouth, as if you’re about to eat your spectacles.” #
  •    I first read Lord of the Flies when I was 17, and it has been, since then, the Book I Love The Most. Which explains why I’ve gone gaga over these: LotF illustrations. Simply gorgeous. #
  •    J.C. Hutchins is a podcast author (yes, I know that sounds really weird). His debut novel, 7th Son, is being serialized on Boing Boing, and he’s got a pretty crazy book-marketing strategy on his site: buy a hundred copies of 7th Son and he’ll spend a day with you and your friends. It’s an outrageous idea, and a little scary – what if nobody bites? – but you have to admire the guy’s guts. (thx, Jan) #
  •    The Daily Prompt on Lit Drift is an image-based inspiration prompt for writers. Also: see Lit Drift’s Free Book Friday – one title from indie publishing per week, for absolutely nothing. #
  •    September is Write A Shitty Novel Month. Amen. #
  •    Tim Carmody has got this thoughtful little piece over at Snarkmarket on Barnes & Noble’s strategy with the Nook. Apparently, you can read any book for free in any B&N store in the world:
    They say: yes, you can use your Nook any­where — but the very best place to use it is in one of our stores. What’s more: as long as you’re in the store, you can read as much of as many books as you want. Just like if you were flip­ping the pages. That’s huge!
    Tim thinks this is B&N’s way of leveraging their physical store presence over the Kindle. I think I’ve just found the new libraries of the 21st century. #
  •    Oh, this New Yorker short story is simply hilarious: Attention, People of Earth! Possible subtitle: we do not want your gravel! (via) #
  •    The Washington Post has got a wonderful piece on storytelling, new media, and writing after Twitter:
    There are two ways to look at this situation: One is to make the electronic gadget the star of a heroic tale called The Changing Media. New gadgets can do anything! They can not only put you in touch with friends, they can store your photo album, tell you your longitude and latitude, and write fabulous novels. But another way of describing the situation is to say that you can’t keep a good story down. The story, not the gadget, is what’s irrepressible. So powerful is the story as a way of communicating that it will even sprout in a cellphone.
    One of the best commentaries on digital literature I’ve seen thus far. (via) #