blog v. fiction

Question from FB:

John wrote: "Sorry to bug you, Betsy, but I wanted to ask for advice. I have kind of the opposite problem, where it's easy for me to write lots of blog posts and status updates, but fiction is getting harder for me to write. Any tips for going back to prose and dialogue?"

First, you're not bugging me! And sorry, this will long...

Two things to start:

There's a definite ceiling to what you can achieve for a fiction career through social media. I've definitely hit it and I've been incessantly online since 2004. I did blogging hot and heavy for awhile (a long time ago back when people used to actually read blogs). They can be super tough to balance with fiction, especially if you're managing a sizable following, as I did. Yes, Scalzi, but he's a total anomaly. You'll also notice as he was finishing his last project blogging for him dropped to almost zero. 

Plus social media is super addictive. It's the instant response we like. But know that it's mostly play, not as much really work as we'd like it to be. Sure, we need to be on and visible, but it should be a small part of your writing career/package. It just doesn't pay well (or really at all). If you're not getting at least ten comments per blog post, or more (it's estimated we get comments from about 10% of readers; my stats bear that out) then it's a waste of time, career wise.

(That said, I'm a big proponent in the million word theory, and blogging helped me get there and to find my voice, such as it is. I'm definitely not anti-blog. Just anti-magical career elixir.)

To start, I'd lessen any commitments to blogging down to almost zero. Just blog some when you want to--or make a schedule for yourself if that's what works. I heard Chuck Wendig tends to write his blogs on the weekends. Some people like to warm up for writing fiction by writing a blog post. I have no set schedule now, though pre-Facebook I used to blog every day.

This leads nicely to my next point, which speaks to writing:  I think a writer only has so many words in him a day. You have to figure out what that is for yourself.
 I happen to be a person who can write a few thousand words in a day and often do, just not all on one project.

Some people like to use blogging as a warm up to fiction. Facebook works well for me in that. Also because I'm so ADD, I often write two projects at once and pop into FB pretty often throughout the day.

For the past year and a half my side project was a RPG that involved a ton of writing. In the past couple of weeks, I've only been working on one project because 1) I was behind for a deadline (far off but it's a big book).  2) I've had edits, copy edits and  a map to work on for EXILE from my editors. So firming up EXILE was my side project.  In the next day or so I anticipate picking up my other fiction project and working on that.

Then there's always the discipline approach (which never works for me). Write on fiction first, get your words in or whatever, before doing anything else. People do that all kinds of ways: write until noon or word count, whichever comes first. Don't leave your desk for an hour, even if you just sit. No internet until you're done with your word count. Get out of the house to write. Write a page, check the internet for 15 minutes, write another page...  Mostly what works is me getting bored enough with FB that I go write. Plus being super into my projects help. :)

One thing I'm realizing though, as I am actively trying to get my fiction word count up into the 5K range per day, that it's like building muscle, you know? I've started low and worked my way up. I'm nearly at 2K now and it's taken me two weeks of  working at it. I hope by the end of the month to be at 5K. So cut yourself a break at first. Write some fiction, even just a page a day, and slowly build up, if that's what it takes.

Hope this helps!


John Patterson said...

That really does help, Betsy! Truly excellent advice. Thank you again for giving it. I can try some of these strategies over the week, and I'll see what sticks.

sex scenes at starbucks, said...

Yeah, I think you have to just keep working with yourself and see what happens. A lot of writers say it's just the getting started that is the bugger; after that you get all caught up in it. I find that true sometimes.