Sunday, 15 November 2009
The joy of blogging
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!