Blogging and Novels
This is the 100th entry I’ve written since switching over to Movable Type, which averages out to a little more than 2 and a half entries a day since I’ve started using MT, so if you were wondering whether blogging software helps you write more, and more blog-like, now you know the answer, at least as it applies to me. On the other hand, I get three times the unique views a day as well, so that’s a nice reward for a writer.
To commemorate this momentous occasion, let’s talk about blogging and other forms of writing, specifically, writing novels. One of my frequent correspondents pointed me in the direction of a newspaper interview with William Gibson, a novelist who recently started a blog. Gibson said in his interview that he enjoys his blog, “However, if I’m ever going to write another book, I’m going to have to quit doing my blog as I have a hunch it interferes with the ecology of being a novelist.” My correspondent wanted to know what I thought about that statement.
Well, I wrote one novel before I started writing regularly on my personal site (that would be Agent to the Stars) and one after (that would be Old Man’s War), and I can’t say that the writing experience was that much different; in both cases I would sit down, typically on a Saturday, and spew out a chapter, more or less, and then that would be it. My novel-writing process tends to be fairly efficient in that I don’t do much rewriting (this is less an issue of brilliance than the willingness to improvise with plot), so in both cases the writing went fairly quickly — about three to four months each, and again, mostly working on the weekend. So in terms of work time, blogging didn’t interfere much.
What blogging does do, however, is offer what is best described as an “attractive distraction.” It’s been noted that man can do anything, so long as it’s not the thing he’s supposed to be doing at the moment, and writers are famously distractable. Blogging offers a special sort of distraction, in that it’s actually writing, so a writer can feel like it’s not really just wasting time — he is writing, after all, and he’s supposed to be writing. Sure, not on his blog, but even so. I wish I could say I don’t let myself fall prey to this rationale, but you’ll note I’m writing this on a Saturday, which is the day I typically write on my novels, and I’m theoretically working on a new novel at the moment. You can do the math.
But I don’t blame writing the Whatever for my distractability. I’m also distracted by e-mail, by reading material online and off, by phone calls, by video games and by interaction with the family (although they’re away just at this moment, so I don’t have that excuse). I don’t spend more time being distracted because I write online, I just have more options to be distracted. Thank God I don’t actually live near any of my friends. I might never write at all.
Gibson is correct, I think, in his intimation that when push comes to shove, one form of writing might have to go for the sake of the other. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ll take off a month or two from writing the Whatever in order to focus in on a major writing assignment; I particularly do this the closer I am to a deadline. And, to go back to the theme of “attractive distractions,” I don’t just do it with writing the Whatever; I also tend to shut down other distractions in my life. It’s just that folks reading here don’t see me not playing video games, you just see me not writing in this space.
This is, incidentally, a head’s up: If August comes around and I don’t feel like I’m progressing happily with either The Book of the Dumb or the new novel (still untitled), then you’re likely to see an entry that says “see you in a month.” I never feel too bad about doing taking these sorts of breaks; as I’m fond of noting, I don’t get paid for this, and paid writing (especially the paid writing that actually ends up on a bookstore shelf) takes priority.
Aside from the question of being an attractive distraction, the Whatever doesn’t really pull me away from the mindset of writing a novel. By personal inclination and by the necessities of reality, I’m not one of those people who is solely focused on one project at one time; I’m writing two books, working with corporate clients, and writing magazine and newspaper articles all at once. And then I do the Whatever and IndieCrit as well. To be entirely honest about it, I don’t know if I could just concentrate on one thing at one time. I think it’d make me twitchy. There’s very little similarity between what I write for the Whatever and what I write in the novels, so it’s not like one is cannibalizing mindshare or material from the other.
This may not be the case with Gibson, for the simple fact that while all writers end up with the same end result (i.e., writing), the process by which they produce it is utterly individual. So if he thinks that writing his blog is going impact his novel writing, then he’s probably right about that, and he should therefore take a break from the blogging to work on telling stories.
Speaking of which, I’ve distracted myself long enough. Back to the novel —