Thoughts on Writing 2.0

Do you care that I’m still “almost done” my novel? Something I’ve been saying for a bit, I realize (if, by “a bit,” I mean, like, two years), but well, closer every day. That stumbling block the other day knocked me a bit sideways, and the ending is, and always has been, a trouble spot. Namely because I know the precise effect I’m trying to go for but haven’t a clue how to frickin’ do it.

So I’m experimenting. I’ve written and rewritten it several times already, not counting previous drafts.

I’ve been hesitating to continue posting about it, though. One of my favorite Hemingway quotes, and perhaps the smartest (not to mention: most sober) things I’ve ever heard he said was: “Fuck ’em. Let ’em think you were born knowing how to write.”

Or something to that effect.

Which is why I’ll admit I sometimes struggle with blogging (and probably why I take so many breaks from it), not just as an activity but as a culture. With blogging and MySpace/Facebook and now with Twitter . . . just how connected do people need to be? How much do I really need to know about people? Do I care what you’re listening to? More important: do you care what I’m listening to?

The thing is, many regard it as the answer or solution for writers and publishing, which they see as “in decline.” Oh, whatever will we do, peepul dont reed no morez11!! You’ve heard the lamentations. You’ve seen the YouTube videos, and if you haven’t, there’s this one, which caught on in the blogosphere a while ago:

Yeah.

The thing about it is that I think it’s pretty uniformly utter bullshit (and I like that that video highlights that). Book trailers? Book videos? Lulu has some marketing package thing that includes bookmarks and, like, postcards or some shit.

I can’t believe readership is down, or if it is, not for the reasons many suspect, like the “ADHD Internet culture”; the utter and nearly spontaneous proliferation of blogs seems to me to demonstrate otherwise. It took, what, nearly 20,000 years or something for the human race to reach the 1 billion mark, while blogs reached double that number in, like, two hours or something (I’m using hyperbole here, obviously, but only just).

I think it’s more about a signal-to-noise ratio, because I think readers thirst for content. I think our culture is starved for it, in fact. I think one of the reason for this proliferation is that people are starving for something they are looking to such 2.0 stylistic hoodoo to provide.

If readership is down, I think it’s because there are too few writers, and I mean real writers out there actually doing their job. One of my other favorite quotes, which traces back to a pseudonym used on the Well many moons ago (but possibly still in use), was “You’re an author! Fuck off and auth!” How many writers with popular blogs have actually managed to write good books?

(and yes, I realize that begins to get into the subjective nature of “good” and such, but I’m not tackling that here)

One of the major points I think all this examination of web 2.0 and its relationship to writers and books has summarily and utterly missed is that you can market the hell out of a mediocre book and it doesn’t actually make the book any better. And readers know that.

The thing is that it’s focus on two disparately different things: the writing of a book versus the selling of it. Two completely different functions and activities with, I’d argue, very little in common. And yes, I would be among the first to note that it’s no longer enough for writers to simply write their books, that proactive energy is necessary, but while it may not be enough, that’s where it starts.

The other thing is that the Internet and its numbers don’t translate. I learned this personally, on MySpace; I established a rather substantial readership of nearly 4,000 friends and 1,200 subscribers to my blog. My blog had nearly 3,000 views per day when I realized I wanted to publish my collection. And I won’t say it was summarily ignored (far from it), but those numbers certainly didn’t transfer from one situation to the other.

I think Entrekin has gotten about as much attention as it ever deserved to; some, certainly, because I wouldn’t have done it if I hadn’t thought it was good, but not a lot, because it’s certainly not a great book–it’s a book collecting a bunch of stories by a writer discovering his voice in the process of telling them. The order of the pieces is very nearly chronological (which, I think, demonstrates said evolution), to culminate in the first two chapters of my novel. It’s not perfect (and even the novel chapters have since changed rather markedly), but it’s a record, and concerning the people in whom it does manage to strike a chord, it seems to do so deeply. What negative response it seems to provoke has less to do with the book than it does with people’s perception of me, as a person.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to digress and really have no idea how I ended up where I now find myself, but that’s my story. An ironic call to arms, probably, from a guy who maintains (roughly) three separate blogs, but I hope a call to arms nonetheless, if to no one else but myself. Because, really, it’s time for me to finish a good book.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Writing 2.0

  1. GOTHAMGIRL

    Maybe you just keep running into crappy books, but I don’t think it’s a lack of good writers that has gotten book sales down. (if that’s not what you wanted me to get out of this I appoligise now for the misinterpretation and what follows) One should not have to go out and buy Aswomely-Great-Tottally-Bitchin-Deserves-Every-Award-Changed-My-Life-Book in order to enjoy reading. I’m not saying everyone can enjoy a crappy book, but just because a book isn’t award worthy dosn’t mean it’s not a enjoyable read.

    That being said, there is no shortage of Aswomely-Great-Tottally-Bitchin-Deserves-Every-Award-Changed-My-Life-Books. No I have not lost my mind. Make a list of your favorite authors. Somewhere between five names and twenty is good. Now ask your self this, have you read every peice of liturature they have wrote? Have you read their favorite books? The numer of books here is quite large and hopefully, if you have good taste, the quality is quite good. Now the number of NEW Aswomely-Great-Tottally-Bitchin-Deserves-Every-Award-Changed-My-Life-Books may be at a record time low but their are plenty of quality old books. Books that have stood the test of time. Books that touch on issues we still deal with today. Books that inspired and continue to inspire more great peices of liturature. And yet, they aren’t being read. Why? The books are being printed. The internet has made them more accesible. Libraries haven’t completely lost their charm.

    The number of people actually reading is low. Yes, a new great book can inspire mas reading where there was none like harry potter. But it shouldn’t have to take that to get results. We see comercials for parents to monitor what their kids watch. We see comercials for people to eat healthy and excersise. We see commercials for people not do drugs. We see inofective commercials for teens not to have sex. When was the last time you saw a commercial for a child to read without it marketing a specific book? When was the last time you saw a poster encouraging adults to read more? When was the last time you saw a comercial encouraging adults to take their kids to the library? I’ve met people who say they have never read a whole book despite being able to read. People are addicted to stupid or damging activities instead of enriching their minds with books.

    I realise this is a uber long coment but seeing on how this blog was made six days ago and it’s the only comment I hope yopu will let it slide. 🙂

  2. GUY SMILEY

    The source of the “Fuck off and auth” quote is Peter O’Donnell, the late creator of Modesty Blaise, adventuress of comic strips and novels. It was a comment made to him when he sought advice on deadline from a newspaper editor about a strip (not Modesty) he was writing. Not that this has anything to do with Web 2.0. Just thought I’d set the record straight. Cheers.


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