Sunday, 15 November 2009

The joy of blogging

Six months ago I only had a very hazy idea about blogging. I thought it was for people to record their cute kid’s witty quotes, or their anonymous sex lives, or some other boring solipsistic rubbish.

I despised the whole idea, to be completely honest. I was a professional journalist, an aspiring author. I have been paid to write for nearly thirty years. Why on earth would I want to work for nothing?

Then (after spending a year writing  books for absolutely nothing except the joy and hope of it) I got a book deal. My first book was going to be published in just under a year’s time. I began to investigate ways of raising my profile, letting people know about me and my book.

A website was my first idea, but I knew I couldn’t afford the flashy site of my dreams. Then, one day, I was reading Candy Gourlay’s great blog on marketing children’s books. Candy had been writing for nine years, had snared an agent but had no publishing deal. One could completely understand if she had become bitter and despairing. But no, she carried on generously handing out advice to techno dimwits, about how they can use the internet to sell themselves. ‘I really can’t understand why a published author wouldn’t have a blog,’ she wrote one day. And - at last, duh – I got it.

I’d been thinking that writing a blog was writing for free. It wasn’t. It was completely free marketing for me and my book.

So I started this blog back in May, with the idea of writing bits and pieces about the background of the books, news stories about related topics, and perhaps some posts about the interesting journey of becoming a published author. I didn’t exactly keep to my own brief. Before long I was writing about everything and anything. The blog is a little bit book-pushing, a little bit writer’s journey and an awful lot of whatever springs to mind at the moment.

I had no idea at all how much I’d enjoy it. It’s like having a diary that talks back, that goes out and meets people, that can link to other interesting and funny stuff and be illustrated with pictures. After a lifetime of writing to prescribed lengths in a newspaper’s style, I have total freedom. If I want a post to be long, it’s long. If I want it to be short, it’s short. The feeling of liberation is extraordinary.

What have I achieved? I’ve been linked to on some great blogs, and been quoted on an email that goes out to everyone in the UK publishing world. I’ve made some new friends - friends I haven’t even met yet, but friends nonetheless. Hopefully I’ve sold a copy or two of the book.

This is my sixtieth blog post. I’ve written about witness protection and knife crime, and being a writer. I’ve written about the world of children’s books. But I’ve also written about chance encounters, and stories from my past.  If it's solipsistic or self-indulgent, I don't really care. I just aim to make it interesting.

I've had lots of witty and interesting comments from readers, some of whom have become followers. I never imagined having followers of any kind, and I love it. But the sweetest response came from my dad. ‘I really enjoy your blog,’ he told me, ‘I’ve learned a lot about you that I didn’t know before.’ My dad is 81 and I am 46. If that was the only thing that I gained from writing this blog then  it was worth it.

 The two books I've written so far are told  in the first person, in the voice of a teenage boy. Ty’s voice isn’t my voice. His language is very flat and uncomplicated, he uses ‘kind of’ and ‘sort of’ a lot, he says ‘like’ instead of ‘as if’ and his grammar isn’t always what it should be.  Ty’s voice was very easy for me. He almost took over. This blog has given me a place to use and develop my own voice. I hope it’ll make it easier for me now it’s time to move on from Ty and adapt to a new narrator for my next project.

Anyway, Candy Gourlay inspired this blog and I’m exceptionally happy to say that all the good karma she’s put out into the world, not to mention her hard work and enormous talent has been rewarded with a publishing deal. David Fickling will publish Tall Story next summer. Here's Candy's video response to the news - essential viewing for any as yet unpublished writer.  Well done Candy - but please, don’t neglect your blog!


  1. Are you going to tell people about what you had for breakfast, and that you've brushed your teeth and things? That's what one dear (internet-less) friend asked when I started my blog, nearly three years ago. She still asks that, since she has never seen my 'masterpiece' of a blog.

    Good blogs are much better than most things. Wish I had a parent who could read mine.

    (And it's Weetabix, if you wondered. After mealtimes.)

  2. Scrambled eggs, Colgate...but what could the things be?? Yes, I had a few responses like that too.'Isn't that very self-indulgent?' was my favourite.

  3. Well, I'm glad you started a blog, and will be buying a copy of your book, which I probably wouldn't have done if I hadn't discovered your blog. Keep up the great work!

  4. Oh thank you, Alissa. Just putting my book-selling hat on...You'll have to wait until autumn to get a (hardcover!) edition in the States..or check out the link to the Book Depository on the left - free shipping worldwide.

  5. Congratulations, Keren, on sixty posts! And to Candy for being the inspiration.

  6. This is just a test for Fenella...

  7. I certainly enjoy your posts Keren and as someone who has only just started blogging, you prod me to keep going and to develop my blogging voice. But I agree, its well worth doing and I have people following me from all over the world now. Keep up the good woork.

  8. wow, thanks so much for the kind words, keren and CONGRATS on your 60th post! i have to say i've been very much impressed by how you 'get' this whole blogging business - and i'm glad you enjoy it, which is probably the most importanty thing.

  9. And as a friend who has gotten to know you from your blog, but has yet to meet you in person, I must say, it's a great blog!

    And an excellent post explaining the wonders of blogging.

  10. Only a month ago I knew nothing about blogging. Now, thanks in no small part to the inspiration of your blog and a number of blogs of your followers, I've launched myself into the blogging world and have just made my second posting. I'm loving it. And my output of 'real' writing has increased considerably. You'd think you wouldn't have the time for everything but I guess it's true that the more you write the more you write.

  11. Really nice post, Keren. Never really thought about the liberation but you're right. Not that I impose word limits on myself at work, but I'm loving having something of my own to nurture and cherish, without a cockhead editor nip-picking.

  12. Congratulations on 60, Keren, and you have made me step back and take a(nother) sober look at blogging. I always think I don't have time, but this post and some of the comments seem to show it's time well invested. I think I might....

    And congratulations again to Candy!

  13. Hah..some of my best virtual friends all in a row. Fish, Anne and Gillian - strictly speaking a FB friend I suppose, but these social boundaries are mercifully blurred in cyberspace.
    Rosalind - thanks for stepping out of the follower shadows and into the spotlight of the comments! I'm now following your blog, which looks great.

  14. Late night blogging myself Keren and you put it so well. I think you're right on a lot of counts. It's an essential way of finding your voice. As journalists we are past masters at masking our voice. The comment about your dad made me cry. My dad - a veritable magpie of ideas - would have loved the possibilities presented by the internet and blogging.

  15. Yes, the I also think blogging is a good way for writers to exercise the writing muscle. That part about your father and daughter relationship growing through technology strikes a resonance -but my dad, whose 82 now, doesn't embrace technology and is quite happy with letter writing and sketching for his water colours paintings. The best way to keep up is by telephone. I've got ideas for a blog from Norway about Norwegian society, a cross between George Mikes on the English from the 1950s and Three in Norway by 2 of them which is charmingly informative about the natives and the landscapes from the 1880s. I don't know how to find the time or how to strike the right note with it,(!) especially if it's up there for public view. But finding more work and learning more of the language is more of a priority right now.

  16. I'm really glad you blog Keren!

    I googled you after pre-ordering When I Was Joe, and found this XD

  17. Fenella - a Norway blog sounds great - would love to read that.

    Amna - great, that's how it's meant to work. There's going to be a mention of the blog in the book as well. I'm wondering if I'll have to change my content/style at all once I start to (hopefully) attract readers to the blog.

  18. Nice story and a really nice end.
    I like Blogging too,though my blog is nowhere near as well visited as yours.
    However, I don't really care, I just like splurging my psyche for anyone to see without being arrested for it.
    Reg :-)

  19. Jan (the story so far) You have the most beautiful blog I've ever seen. As your friend for a long time I've learned about a different side of you from your blog.

    Candy - it's all inspired by you!

    Miriam - thanks! Getting new followers is amazing isn't it, particularly when you have no idea who they are and how they've found you.

    ...which leads us onto Reg - just rushed over to read your psyche-splurging and now I'm a follower.

  20. Thanks Keren (Almost True). What a compliment. I love doing it, especially when I have a tax return to file... The whole blogging thing is a revelation.