Thursday, July 22, 2010

Has The Social Media Bubble Burst?

Twitter. Facebook. Myspace. Blogger.

Ten years ago, if you told someone that your full-time job was updating statuses and posting content on free-to-use websites, you'd be laughed at. Myspace, which I consider to have truly started the social media frenzy, used to be a fun way for high-school kids to connect with friends and meet new strangers. Some businesses and artists caught on early and capitalized on the free adverstising, often with great success.

Facebook when I first joined was open only to post-secondary students, to be used as a means to meet people at school and swap notes. Now everyone and their sister, grandmother and dog (literally) at least have an operational Facebook account.

Twitter is built entirely on constant 140-character updates, originally to answer the question, "What are you doing right now?"

Many bands, visual artists, novelists, businesses, and prominent social figureheads have experienced monumental success for doing nothing more than pushing their free online content. Hell, Justin Bieber's mom posted his videos on Youtube. Perez Hilton was just another blogger.


My question is this - has the bubble finally burst? With the ease of putting music, photos, and other content online, has the internet finally reached a point of over-saturation with too many voices shouting over each other, jockeying for your attention? Having 1000 followers on Twitter now is just 'alright,' as is a hundred blog followers. Have we finally reached a point where small-timers without something truly special and unique or revolutionary are going to be left to shrivel on the vine?

I'm not sure, and I don't think anyone can truly have a real answer. Youtube had already gone corporate with Google by the time Bieber was discovered - and that happened by accident when a record label mistakenly clicked on his link. Who's to say what may happen.

I believe the interwebs are finally reaching a point where services are being created that border on ridicious - enter Foursquare, a stalker's dream (but yes, I still use it) but I don't think it's truly over.

Remember, ten years ago a blogger was just another guy with something to say.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Summer Slagging



Personally, I don't think anything motivates a writer as much as hearing what other authors, publishers and the like are up to. Nothing quite twists my nethers and screams, "Get writing!" as seeing other writers post on Twitter that they're crossing mile-markers on their current works-in-progress.


Unfortunately, this always seems to come when I can't get down to business and hammer out some prose because I'm usually tied up at work. Unfortunate. Lament, bitch, moan.


On the positive side, some progress is being made in my own writing career. Queries keep going out to get agented, and rejections keep pouring back. Hell, any news is good news, even if it isn't the news I'd like to hear. All that matters is that somewhere someone involved in the publishing field is reading my name and works, even if it's only a cursory glance at tiny digital type. My name is out there and crossing desks. Navigating slushpiles. Succumbing to its fate.


On a brighter note, my author site is quickly becoming a reality. The web guy here at the office is a friend of mine (thank god.) and agreed to help me out with the endeavour. By help me out, I mean I give him beer and he does it for me, because I'm hopeless when it comes to internetromy. Apparently I could have a full mockup as early as tomorrow, and it's got me quivering in anticipation, yet again.


As an open question to other published writers - when does it become real?



When does it finally sink in that you, a former Joe Nobody, has achieved something great and beaten the odds? When do you officially become an Author rather than Dude Who Likes To Write On His Free Time? Is it when you get your book in print for the first time? Is it the first royalty check that you hang on the wall rather than cash? Is it when your first review comes in a newspaper? I have no idea.


For me, it's all just a fun distraction thusfar. I love writing. I love storycraft. I love the idea that someone out there may feel genuine emotion for characters spun solely from my mind. But it isn't really real yet.




In any case, I don't plan on stopping any day soon. I've put the sequel to GREY DOGS & THE WILLOW temporarily on hold while I consider another project. Who knows if it will work - it's great to plant seeds, but no one can truly tell whether it will bear golden apples or shrivelled peaches.



I guess the waiting game really is more serious than I take it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Distractions & Making a Living


Writing full-time is my aspiration in life. Like most authors, I want to get paid for the words I put on paper to the degree I can do it without supplementing my income with other work.


While I've managed to sign a contract publishing my first work that will pay once it's out, we ain't there yet.


Working 60+ hours a week between two jobs has really taken a toll in my writing life in the last two weeks, doing nothing of merit to further my writing career besides half-hearted posts on Twitter and answering a few rogue emails here and there as the agent rejections continue to spill in. Yippee.


Regardless, I look forward to a time when I can sit at a desk eight hours a day and write about what I want to, instead of compiling a security manual for a 40 hour course I have to teach in the coming months. I don't mind work. I don't mind hard work. I don't mind drain-you-till-you're-dry work. I just wish I had the passion for it as I do writing novels - hell, I'd never retire.


For all of those out there like me, I wish you the best. I hope one day, even if you can't live extravagantly, that you can survive on your words. I hope people read them and want to buy more as soon as they're available.


Until then, I wish you well as you continue to slag through the corporate world to fund your artistic career until it takes off.


Here's to hoping mine does sooner than later.

Friday, July 2, 2010

That Next Project.


In the writing world, we all have them. Those half-formed ideas swirling about in our heads all the time, never coming to full fruition but begging to interrupt our days at every junction. We get excited about them in all their unwritten glory, each shimmering brightly with hope that it may just be the one.

The One that will cross editor's desks and make their jaws drop. The One that agents will call us about after hearing about it from a collegue. The One that will propel an otherwise 'average' writer into the annals of history as being a Great American (Canadian? Whichever you please) Novelist.

The problem? They always come while we're busy on our last 'One.'

Currently, I'm facing the same problem every author will encounter at some point in their careers, the 'which to do' crossroads. Some writers can happily plug away at multiple works at a time, picking up right where they left off in their varied worlds, rejoining the characters they'd temporarily abandoned as if they'd never missed a beat.

I'm not one of those writers. If I put down a manuscript for more than a few days, I have to franitically check my outlines and reread past chapters to recapture the mood I was portraying, the subtle clues I was leaving, and what 'feel' I was trying to get out of the scene.

As it stands, I'm still working on the sequel to GREY DOGS & THE WILLOW, working title - WAITING JACKALS. A few nights ago after my creative flow had ebbed it's last after a 3,000 word session, I conceded defeat to peruse the forums on AbsoluteWrite. A few glasses of wine later, I found myself absorbed in the Screenplay section.

I've always been mesmorised with screenwriters when I watch films. As a novelist, I find it amazing the way they can make us feel for characters in the first ten minutes enough to continue watching, even if we didn't really dig the plot all that much. If an author failed to hook a reader with a stellar storyline from the get-go, the novel would be cast aside to the selection used in-house to prop up wobbly tables and even out shelves. It always boggled my mind how they could get so much history and backstory into their works without the dreaded infodump, often strictly through dialogue.

At once, I felt that feeling. The one that said, Why not?

It was one of those ideas that could be the one.

Christ, I'll keep you posted with this one. At present, it's all I can do to find time to write with this insane summer schedule, let alone hammer away on two projects simultaneously.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Carbon-Copy Sells?

Anybody who's been in a bookstore in the last ten years knows that people know what they want, and authors are more than happy to give it to them.

When Harry Potter came out, we were smashed with 5,000 other titles highlighting the in's and out's of the wizarding world told from various perspectives, some more successful than others, none of which touching JK Rowling's runaway hit.

She's the only one that could spin movie deals and merchandising unseen since KISS made everything from lunchboxes to condoms.

Even now, we see spin-off type genres I'd consider fitting like, and Percy Jackson and the Olympians and The Sorcerers Apprentice hitting box-offices at the moment.



Twilight is another beast entirely. Bella Swan and some dark character named Edward have become a generation's touchstones, spawning an entire genre usually referred to as Paranormal Romance. Crazy.

It's gotten so bad that editors on website listings outright say that if they get another vampire romance novel submission, they're apt to drink the magic Kool-Aid and call it quits.

I can't blame them.

It begs the question - which is better?

To pave bravely on in a genre that has been saturated with every Jim, Bob and Sue crossing editors desks with similar queries, or to try something new that isn't known to sell well?

Hell, no one ever would have thought the journey of a nerdy teen in a magical world based on a typical Hero's Journey framework would have the success it did. Likewise, in a world of tanned celebs, nobody could have guessed a pasty Robert Pattinson would become a sex symbol. Both authors crossed into territory previously unknown (at least to the mainstream reader) and hit the jackpot.

It must be taken into account that both Twilight and the Harry Potter series were targeted towards the Young Adult market - impressionable and seeking something new - which was obviously the wise choice.

I guess at the end of the day, we'll just have to sit back and wait to see what new genre will emerge.

I'm terrified.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Getting Back to Basics

I've recently found myself faced with something I'm sure many experienced writers hit -

The Wall of Writing Rules.

It stands high above the manuscript, ominously foreboding.
And It's gotten me down.

After perusing forums on AbsoluteWrite (among others) I feel as though I've finally been overwhelmed by the amount of 'rules' I've learned about writing a novel. They deal with wordcounts, page-lengths, word-choices - even titles. They've finally piled up in my brain to the point that even thinking of my manuscript-in-progress elicits a small twang of pain.

I've been Pavlov-ed in the most rudimentary sense - I think manuscript, I feel dread.
And shee-it, it sucks.

I'm not sure what other writers / agents / publishers may think on the matter, but has writing a novel finally come down to a formula where x + y / c = a sellable work? Are there really rules that dictate what is and isn't appropriate in Young Adult fiction? How about too extreme / not extreme enough in Horror? It seems for every question that comes to mind, four different answers from four different authoritative resources rise to meet it.

My goal for the coming week - to get back to writing, and to do it soon.

Wish me luck.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Small Screen Musings

What a wild ride the past few weeks have been.

From achieving publication a little over a month ago until now, things have definately been turned on their heads from my previous comfortable little life.

Wednesday, I had my first televised interview (available online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-G09g-CMlw&playnext_from=TL&videos=hTFe2C-yVZs) for Cogeco Niagara Channel 10. It was a three-minute whirlwind of an experience, made all the more surreal by the lovely lavender background supplied.

It was strange talking about the book, that much is for sure. I wrote the novel mostly spurned on by red wine and boredom while watching TV in my living room, and here a reporter was asking me questions about the work. Absolutely ridiculous.

It was a great learning experience, and hopefully one of many to come in the future. Practice makes perfect, and I really hope I get more chances to work on it in the future. Many thanks to Darryl Day, producer of the show, for his patience and dilligence in helping me out with the endeavour!

Any writers seeking publicity for their work? I offer this advice.

Don't stop.

I sent out in the neighbourhood of 50 emails for interviews before recieving a single response. It's like querying for an agent all over again, and can be equally disheartening. Keep your foot to the floor and don't give up - you never know what emails you might find in your inbox the next day!