Excerpts or No Excerpts?

Or, more generally speaking, what sorts of content should you put on your blog and what sorts should you not?

In my adventures browsing around the land of literary blogs, I’ve encountered numerous instances of people blogging about blogging. I’ve read several tidbits of advice here or there about what should go in a blog and what shouldn’t.

Certain things are (hopefully!) obvious to many writers who enter the blogging world. “Don’t make your blog too personal” is some of the most sound advice and I agree with it wholeheartedly. Blogs are certainly meant to be journal-esque, but they’re also supposed to be professional. At least that’s what most writers are aiming for.

Some other things I’ve heard aren’t as black and white as “Don’t make it too personal,” though. The one I’m struggling with right now is the topic of excerpts, and whether or not it’s a wise idea to display them on the Internet. If I were to create a scale of the opinions of others, generally I’d say that more people are okay with putting excerpts of their works on their blogs or websites.

It’s a different story if you add weight to the opinions, though. Like, I’d say that most of the people who say to go for it and put up excerpts are unpublished authors (such as myself) who are trying to establish their places and build a base for themselves. Most of the people who insist that excerpts are a bad idea are professionals already deeply involved in the publishing world. So as a general rule I’d tend to believe with the minority here, just because I value their opinions a bit more highly. (One of the simplest and best examples is a pair of posts by Meredith Barnes of FinePrint Literary Management. She has much to say on the topic HERE and a follow-up HERE. Read them.)

Meredith’s points are well-taken. I have no doubt that marketing professionals have their reasons for posting excerpts as a means to get to an end (the end hopefully being increased sales, of course), but I wonder if having some sort of sample of your work on your blog/site isn’t such a terrible idea.

If an excerpt of your current novel isn’t the right way to go, what about material that is technically separate from your stream of blog entries that illustrates your actual writing potential. Some might argue that a person’s blog posts do illustrate a person’s writing potential, but I’d say that there’s a strict limit on how much you can learn about a person’s fiction writing skills based on their blog writing skills.

What I’m saying is, would it be beneficial to write something specifically for the blog? Some flash fiction once in a while, or a vignette of one of your characters that isn’t necessarily from the work you’re trying to sell? My blog, as of right now, is still young. I’ve got much to say, much to blog about,  but I’m also considering starting up another section that’s devoted entirely to small works (or maybe small pieces that fit together in a running series).

I want to know what other people think, though. Good idea? Bad idea? Anyone?

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Progress (4)

It might be best to start here if you haven’t seen them already.

Progress (1), Progress (2), Progress (3).

All right, this is it. Yesterday was the last day of the first month of my careful word-tracking to see exactly how many words I write in a month. It starts on the third of February because I finished editing my last manuscript on the second, so the third was my first day getting back on Iris, my current WIP. And I think for the most part the month went well. Here’s what the graph looks like.

My goal was to keep my average above 1,000 words per day, but although I pulled through and got it up there by the end, it fell below at one point during the month and dropped to 979. Not too disappointing I suppose since I still got over 29k words in 29 days, but still.

I’m going to continue keeping track of my words like this, if not for anyone else’s benefit then for my own–it will be nice to reflect on my days and remember which ones weren’t very productive and why.

In the interest of making it a bit more organized in the future, I’m going to start the next one on March 1st instead of March 4th, so there will be a bit of overlap. Stay tuned!

Any questions or comments? Feel free to speak up.

Gotta hold it once in a while

I used to write on a typewriter. It was a choice–I’m only twenty-one and I was raised on computers. When I started writing a few years ago, I did so on my computer. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had a problem that is widespread among writers who write on their computers: the Internet is sitting right there behind your word processor, shimmering with nearly limitless pools of procrastination to drink from. I, personally, was most definitely susceptible to these enticing pools.

So, in an effort to force myself to focus, I bought a typewriter. It’s a Brother, it’s electric, and it was just what I needed. I realized that I loved the sounds it made, I loved the way it shook my whole desk with its vigor (it gave a whole new meaning to “pounding away” at my WIP), and I loved seeing my words appearing right there on the paper. I wrote some letters to my friends on it, I wrote some short stories on it, and I wrote the first hundred and twenty pages of my first novel on it.

There came a point when I realized that I had the focus aspect of writing down. I just sort of knew that if I switched back to writing on a computer, I’d be able to do it just as well and get just as much work done, no problem. I briefly considered sticking with the typewriter for the rest of my first book (and beyond, maybe) but I ditched the idea when I realized that I’d already committed myself to completely retyping everything I’d written so far. I’d retyped a few of my short stories which in and of themselves were huge pains in the ass. I switched back over here for convenience, and I’m glad I did. Retyping those hundred and twenty pages was not fun.

But I do miss it sometimes. I miss the noise, I miss the feel of it, but I realized recently that one of the things I missed the most was seeing the pages stack up. Of holding them and forcing other people to hold them and tell me how nice and heavy the manuscript was getting. It may not seem like a big deal, but although watching the word count of my WIP climb is satisfying in its own way, there really isn’t anything quite like actually seeing your pages stack up. And there’s nothing that even comes close to the feeling of holding your manuscript as it gets heavier and heavier. It’s like a pregnancy.

So now, because the pain of retyping was just too much to handle, I type on my computer and print my pages as I go along. Every time I write ten or twenty pages, I’ll print them out and add them to the stack. I’m going to need a printed copy when I’m done anyway to edit it (after I box it up and leave it in a drawer for a month to steep, of course), so there’s no harm in printing it as I crank the words out.

Try it some time!

My current WIP, Iris (that’s the working title), is at a hefty 140 printed manuscript pages right now.