Monthly Archives: September 2009

Why I Blog Less So I Can Write More

I have noticed that my blog postings are getting fewer and farther between – even the ‘easy’ ones where I repost already written fiction from my collaborative writing community. It’s pretty hard to maintain a good blog. Anyone that says “you need a blog” is making a suggestion that has merit, but also entails a whole butt load of work. There is the essential component of having a good idea that hasn’t been covered to death, then finding something to say abut that idea that hasn’t been said five billion other times in the exact same way, and then the craft of writing the piece. Once you’ve done that you have to do it all over again, maybe not immediately, but certainly within a timely fashion; say, once every couple of days.

For some people that process can take days right there. And if you’re an expert on something, or even just trying to be informative and give people value for their click, there is all the research that many topics entail. Oh – and you have to do all the links, the attributions, the editing, the keywords, and maybe even a nice little summary. Of course you’re trying to stand out too so you’ll grab hold of some images to pepper your writing with and catch the wandering eye and short attention span of your target audience. You need to promote your blog, post the link on Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and perhaps Digg It, or Technorati it, and at the end of the day, after you’ve checked all your stats to see your traffic a whole fifteen people might have checked you out.

And if you’re like me and you’re hoping that your blog will alert people to the fun of your true love and get them curious and you find that you’re not driving any traffic there, you gotta start wondering: is it worth all this damn trouble? You have to start asking yourself “why do I blog?”. If the answer is “to advertise” than maybe it’s just not all that useful after all. The standard advice for writers and other professionals is that you have to self-promote, self-promote, self-promote, but is that incredible cacophony of sound that is the world-wide-web really doing anyone any good?

On Twitter, which I actually enjoy for more than it’s potential to advertise my wares, the majority of people that follow me are bots looking to advertise products. All the ‘in the know’ blogs by the ‘smart people’ tell you not to be a bot, but give value, but even those value-laden pundits can become overwhelming and tedious. Link after link is advertised sending you off to sites that tell you how to market, how to create great ads in Photoshop, how to sell, how to write, how to yell louder than anyone else, and it’s all just becoming noise, noise, noise. And we all know what happens next: we drown it out. We tune it out, we drop out, we find a secluded beach somewhere.

The only things that really give value in this life are the things you’re passionate about. I’m passionate about Pan Historia. I’m passionate about gardening, writing, reading good books, good games, good food, art, the people I love, and so if I don’t have the passion to tell you something interesting on this blog – I’m not going to waste my time and yours by making sure I post every few days to keep my blog on the top of the list.


It Takes a Village to Create a Good Monster

Beguiling Serial Killer Dexter, image property of Showtime

Beguiling Serial Killer Dexter, image property of Showtime

Most of my adult life I have not signed up for cable TV. It’s been a time sucking temptation I didn’t need or want. But that’s not because I’m some kind of stuck up puritan deeming the viewing of comedies and dramas on the small screen as sinful or wasteful. I just know myself – I love the distraction of a tale well told or a meal well cooked. In consequence my viewing of popular series has been as a customer of Netflix. I tell you this to explain the next part: I watch TV series after everyone else as seen them because I watch them on DVD.

I’m a big fan of the hit Showtime series Dexter and gobbled up Season 1 & 2 with avidity of appetite that left me with a very long wait for Season 3. I had to fill that time somehow. Dexter, serial killer with a code, is such an engaging and fascinating character that when I discovered that he was actually inspired by a book I was delighted. I’m one of those who love to read and believe that most books are better than the shows/movies made from them. I understand that it’s hard work to adapt a book to a totally different medium and realize that the result often diverges enough from the original that the reader is left unsatisfied: their imaginative take on the events and characters far different than the script writer and director’s. So to say that I was excited to find that Jeffrey Lindsay was the creator of one of my favorite television character was possibly an understatement. These were not books based on the hit series, but a hit series based on popular books, bound to be as good at the show if not better. I must be in for a treat so I bought all three extant books at once.

Here is where I’m going to offend Jeffrey Lindsay and all his fans. These were definitely the worst three books I have ever read as a series. I confess that I hated the first trilogy of Thomas Covenant by Stephan R. Donaldson nearly as much but for very different reasons, but in main if I have bothered to read three books by the same author about the same subject I’m probably hooked. I was not hooked; I was desperate. I wanted to be in Dexter’s world and this was the best I could do while I waited for the series to return (thankfully they were both short and easy to read). Lindsay created an engaging character, a bold premise, and a convincing setup, and for that I will always be grateful. But after that he let me down with pedestrian writing and cheap tricks.

One huge mistake: his sister Debra finds out he’s a killer in the beginning of the first book, but she loves him anyway in the second book. Where is the alienation that so defines the character? Doakes gets all his limbs cut off but clumps into the office anyway? Was that mean to be humorous? And the third book… I’m rolling my eyes at this one. In the third book Lindsay blows away his own brilliant premise by making Dexter possessed of a demon, rather than the interesting psychology that is hinted at (not actually explored because Lindsay is not that good of a writer) in the previous novels. The device of Dexter’s inner monologue has its source in the books, but whereas it is very interesting and well done in the TV series, after three books you’re tired of the boasting and whining:

“Gosh I’m a smart guy without any human emotions, why can’t I do my normal brilliant analysis of this challenge right now?”

That was a paraphrase because I can’t access the books anymore. Disgusted that I read all three I passed them onto another Dexter fan – who then did precisely what I did – read them all in disgust and then dumped them off somewhere like a dead body that needed disposal. I have googled around the web for evidence that others viewed Lindsay’s hack writing the same way as I did, but I have not found it. I believe that Dexter is so arresting as a character in fiction that Lindsay is easily pulling the wool over the eyes of his readers, but the glamour can’t last forever.

What is the point of trashing Lindsay’s books in my blog since this is not intended as a review? I think, for me, that it’s that the collaborative effort that took flight from Lindsay’s brilliant starting point shows that the artistic process, even for crafting stories, doesn’t have to be a lonely journey. We all know that movies and TV shows are the result of the work of a lot of people, but we always think of them in terms of a ‘a writer’, ‘a director’, or ‘a star’, but the fact is that all those people and more work together to produce a show like Dexter. Every link in the Dexter chain, from Lindsay’s premise, to the uncanny performance by Michael C. Hall, is part of a greater whole of people coming together to create something unique in the world. At least that’s how I like to think of it when I collaborate on my fiction projects – that we are bringing something unique into the world through our collective creativity and vision. Lindsay conceived Dexter, but it took ‘a village’ to raise this monster.