"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Writer's block

No, not that kind of block.

After writing 1,000 words today and feeling damned proud of myself, I went surfing and found some interesting sites for writers. So this post is a block of links for writers, get it?

First of all, I always recommend the Blood Red Pencil blog (http://bloodredpencil.blogspot.com/). It's full of editors telling us writers that they won't eat us alive and have our best interests (okay, our writing's best interests) at heart. Trust them, they don't bite... hard.

Alexandra Sokoloff also has a great blog for writers, or even non-writers who study how stories are told, no matter what the media. We frequently talk about movies in our attempts to dissect story arc, character development, and what makes a good hero-villain relationship. Visit the Dark Salon - I dare you.

And, of course, there's Joe (http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/). The fun part about his discourses on writing is that he manages to engage so many differing opinions. One of these days, I'm going to witness a cyber-fist fight on his blog, I'm just certain of it.

Today, I had three new posts lobbed at me. One of them came via the Echelon Authors Group (my tail still wags when I realize I'm one of the Echelon authors). It's an e-article from ForeWord Publishing by Tom Christensen about the importance of blogs (visit article here). Basically, it says, you'll get more hits if you stop talking about yourself so much and turn your focus on your reader. The really funny part of the article for me was when Tom studied several blogs to prove his point - according to his research, Penguin Books UK actually got TWENTY-THREE comments on one of their blogs. Wow. Joe Konrath's last post is still going at 56 comments. Many of the posts I read get over 20 comments with almost every post. Maybe Tom needs to branch out on his blog studies.

Next, I read an interesting, albeit old (from September) post by E.E. Knight, a science fiction and fantasy writer, on famous writing blunders he has seen. Okay, most of these pits have been pointed out to me along the way, but there were a few faux pas I'd never seen before. Thankfully, I've also never committed them, either. If you're a writer, look here for one more list to tack on your wall.

Lastly, a magnificent letter from John Steinbeck, giving advice to new writers. In one of Joe's recent posts, he was arguing about whether published authors are the best equipped to teach writers. There are two schools of thought about this, but Steinbeck's letter seems to indicate that he would not have made a good teacher. After years of writing and being successful, he sounds as if he puts the words to paper and then "a miracle happens" to make them mean anything. Read it here.

So much for a block about writers. Read and learn, padawans.


Khaled KEM said...

I understand the mental blocking about writing..it happens to me from time to time..
I also agree that great writers, not necessarily the best ones to teach writing.

Thanks for the thought.

Helen Ginger said...

Well, dang, there goes my Sunday. I'll be hopping to all these links to do some "learning."

Seriously, though, thanks for providing the links.

Helen Ginger

tom christensen said...

Hi Gayle

You have to understand that book publishing companies tend to be backward when it comes to blogging. 23 comments would not be a huge number on many blogs, but you have to compare that to what the other publishers in the discussion were getting (zero). That was the point I was making. (And, by the way, the Penguin blog is a good one -- check it out.)

Gayle Carline said...

I hope I didn't offend you, Tom. I really felt your post was interesting and had some very valuable insights into what brings people back to a blog. In the end, it's what brings people back to a conversation - do you show more interest in the other people, or more interest in yourself? As for the 23 comments, it was the timing of the thing that made it funny. I was watching an animated discussion on Joe's site at the time, which was growing larger by the minute.

Joe, Alex, and the Blood Red Pencil gang perfectly illustrate your point - they get a lot of comments because they are engaging their readers to think and discuss, instead of spewing self-advertising.

tom christensen said...

No offense taken, Gayle. By the way, the post has had at least one good effect -- the folks at Godine (one of the publisher's blogs I had criticized) tell me they have decided to get serious about ramping up their blog. Godine has been around a long time and done a lot of good publishing so it will be great to hear what they have to say. Already we are seeing some good posts from them. Cheers!

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