Thursday, October 14, 2010

Meditations on blogging

Seventy-five. It's not really so round a number, but it's not square either. This is my 75th blog post. It's not the 100th, and I'm only 2/3 of the way to my blog's first birthday. So I'll try not to draw too many insupportable conclusions on this fraction of an occasion.


Here's a bit of what I wrote in that first, Hello World post to One Finger Typing on the day I came home from the San Francisco Writer's Conference: One of the conference's many take-aways was that if you want to get read you have to develop an on-line presence. Yeah, yeah, I've heard it before. [...] But somehow, this weekend was my tipping point. So. Here I am...

Energized by the conference, I was convinced that "you have to develop" ought to begin right away, so I might have a backlist, as it were, by the time one of the Six Sisters started doing handsprings over my novel manuscript. I still have a bit of time, I think, on those handsprings. But the backlist is coming along. And it turns out that posting a couple blogs a week has yielded some unexpected benefits.

Some costs too.

The major cost is obvious. It takes time to blog. Lots of time. Lots and lots of time in my case, because I'm the kind of person who revises everything, even e-mail. So there's the madly typed idea; then letting it percolate a bit; then maybe jotting down a few bullets to organize my thoughts; then the draft; then the revision; then the second revision in the course of which I wonder whether I really believe what I wrote; and then the two or three or six passes to get the sentences right. I don't always get the sentences right. Some might say that I don't always get my thoughts organized either. Anyway, another reason it takes lots and lots of time because I do go on. I mean, yeah, sometimes I can slip a quick one by whatever part of my brain is forever bolted into the "bloviate" position, but mostly my blogs run long (this month so far: 1544, 861, and 985 words before today, and 1119 today).

But, from the perspective of someone whose writing activity and interest revolves around fiction, here are some pretty nifty benefits:

Deadlines. Okay, I didn't see that coming, not as a benefit ... but in retrospect -- duh! I took eight years to give up on my first fully-developed novel manuscript (220K words, four or five file boxes of notes and drafts in the back of a closet). It's been fewer than that many years actively drafting and editing Consequence, a far slimmer manuscript, but not so very dramatically fewer. Let's just say Consequence has taken more than a year to write. More than three. More than ... well, let's just say never mind the strict accounting. In any case, writing a novel takes orders of magnitude more time, and involves a whole lot more meandering around and tweaking and fiddling and razing and remodeling than a person has time for if the goal is to post two coherent pieces of eight or twelve hundred words every week. Pumping out the volume means that self-imposed blog deadlines sometimes feel like they're crowding out my fiction time. Except that they're not. In fact, what's happening is that I'm getting a lot better, and a lot faster, at editing chapters. Why? Probably a few reasons, but one of them has to be that it's hard to get too attached to your words when you're letting them go every few days. As I put it to a writer friend this past weekend, blogging has hardened me so that it's a whole lot easier to dump the words that aren't working in my fiction. Just pick up the red pen and .... don't worry! There's more where those came from. I demonstrate that twice a week, on

Multiple tracks. For a writer of fiction, this one really shouldn't be understated. I've known for a long time that there's value in switching focus: I work part-time, usually splitting my days, so that my morning's work (writing fiction) refreshes my focus and freshness for my afternoon's work (playing Professional Geek at a local university), and vice versa. Augmented by caffeine, this arrangement is a great way to stoke the workaholic fires. And, it turns out, writing blog prose is a great way to refocus in a third direction, one that has a whole different feel from writing and editing fiction manuscripts. Even better? More often than not, blogging is an excuse to work out ideas that are substrates of my fiction. How sweet is that?

Readers. Thank you readers! It's a fine thing when somebody reads your words. It's even finer when they leave comments, as I've explained in posts past. I've had a bit of work published in that old timey, pre-digital way -- that was pretty fabulous, and I'm looking forward to more. But this on-line business let's you see right away that people are paying attention, through tools like Google Analytics and Feedburner, and the comments people do leave on your blog, and retweets, and Likes on Facebook. Nice!

It wouldn't be a truly genuine One Finger Typing blog post if I didn't go off on a bit of a tangent. Today's tangent is lifted from Mark Sample's blog of a couple weeks back in The Chronicle of Higher Education. The topic on 27 September was A Rubric for Evaluating Student Blogs. What do you think of this scale ProfHacker and others use to "quickly and fairly evaluate blog posts"?

4 - Exceptional. The blog post is focused and coherently integrates examples with explanations or analysis. The post demonstrates awareness of its own limitations or implications, and it considers multiple perspectives when appropriate. The entry reflects in-depth engagement with the topic.

3 - Satisfactory. The blog post is reasonably focused, and explanations or analysis are mostly based on examples or other evidence. Fewer connections are made between ideas, and though new insights are offered, they are not fully developed. The post reflects moderate engagement with the topic.

2 - Underdeveloped. The blog post is mostly description or summary, without consideration of alternative perspectives, and few connections are made between ideas. The post reflects passing engagement with the topic.

1 - Limited. The blog post is unfocused, or simply rehashes previous comments, and displays no evidence of [...] engagement with the topic.

0 - No Credit. The blog post is missing or consists of one or two disconnected sentences.

So -- setting aside what all this bloviating does for me -- how do you think I'm doing?

1 comment:

  1. steve. as with the writing, the time the time to read everything!, but when I do, it's always worthwhile. here's hoping you continue multi-tracking (perhaps even writing a reply to my long-overdue email)