Wednesday, 5 May 2010
Blogging – a Godsend to writers
No doubt about it, blogging and social networking are inescapable and will be for a long time to come. But if you’re a writer, you need to know how it works and how you can make the most of it. So this is what happens.
First, you have to write your novel, of course, or at least jot down a few paragraphs – enough to put extracts online now and again. But you can probably get away with just a few pages. You’ll be telling the world you’re a writer and, with no evidence to the contrary, who’s going to contradict you?
Just to be safe, though, prepare a few snippets of writerly wisdom. Mix and match them a bit because you want to tap into as many potential readerships as possible. Intellectuals are the easy ones. For them, just look up some huge words and juggle them into sentences. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what they mean; if they sound obscure enough no one will dare question them because that might suggest inadequacy on their part.
Another easy target is the literary snob. To satisfy them, just check the Wikipedia entries for a few of the big hitters – depending on your genre, that could be Tolstoy, H G Wells, Brett Easton-Ellis, Balzac, Nietzsche, Jane Austen, whoever. Find out what their particular stylistic or thematic tics were and add little parallels to them in your own works. No need to point out these parallels yourself – a reviewer will find them, congratulate himself on how clever he is, and want to be first to point them out. This will make other reviewers hunt for similar echoes and you’ll soon be on the Man Booker short list.
Then there are the more difficult, easily-offended demographics, such as the gender-specific readerships, the gay community, and Jehova's Witnesses and their ilk. Apart from slamming a metaphorical door in the faces of the fundamentalists, my only advice there is to maintain a balance. Talk and write winningly about ‘sensitive machismo’, ‘pugnacious fragility’ and 'caring conservatism'. (Forgive me, I had to pause there to snigger at that final, curiously British oxymoron.)
And remember the size of the relative markets; the largest English-speaking readership is in the USA so make sure that you don’t offend any Americans. I know that’s easier said than done, but there’s no room for pride in today’s successful writer.
If you do all of that conscientiously, this is what will happen.
You’ll get followers. Some of them will actually like the books you’ve written and/or the things you write in the blog, but you’re looking for someone more specific. Favourite would be the major player in the movie industry who reads a couple of your pages, flies you first class to Los Angeles for lunch and buys the rights to all your works for several million somethings. (She's so impressed that she lets you choose the currency yourself.)
The news gets out that your income from the books has already got people feeling sorry for J K Rowling so the critics are desperate to sneer and scoff and rank you alongside Dan Brown in the ‘who-the-hell-told-this-guy-he-could-write?’ stakes. But your imagination, creativity, command of language and style disarm their criticisms, and their glowing reviews open up new, more highbrow audiences.
The ensuing popularity draws even more followers to your blog (which is now ghost-written because you’re busy swimming in the pool of your new home in Barbados) and many of them have lots of money and thousands of friends. They buy your books to give as presents to all their acquaintances and family and they mention you to their friends. So word of mouth brings in even more punters until your books are required reading in every school and university on every continent.
You appear on chat shows with a ready-made set of answers (ghost-written, of course, and tailor-made for the show’s demographic). For example, to the question ‘What’s the secret of your popularity?’ your answers might be:
• (on a late-night, highbrow arts programme) ‘I hesitate to indulge in hubristic speculation. I prefer to think I’ve tapped a vein in Jung’s collective unconscious which facilitates individuation as a liberator of synchronicity and posits stability as a regenerative thesis.’
• (on a popular but low-brow show) ‘I … well, dunno what to say really. Big surprise, but awesome, wicked, mega … really, really cool.’
• (on any Simon Cowell vehicle) ‘Who gives a shit? It’s making me millions.’
So it really is that easy. Thanks to networking, you could soon sack your ghost-writers and give up writing altogether.