Happy Birthday, Blog!

One year ago, I started up this blog with the intention of getting some of my writing out there, where it might gain some constructive criticism (and, I hoped, approval).

Now I’m sitting with 155 awesome blog followers, many of whom have been active commenters on this site. I honestly didn’t expect so many people to be interested in my opinions as a writer, and the feedback I have received has helped alter my views on writing and publishing. I’ve picked up lots of tips and tricks that have already served me out in the writing world. So thank you so much!

For the one-year anniversary of this blog, I thought I’d go over some of the things I learned regarding blog content, social media, and interaction.

Content

I started Forging Shadows as a place to put my poetry, short stories and eventually a serial or two. It was my aim to get people interested in my writing and to get feedback that would help me improve.

There are a number of blogs out there devoted to posting fantasy novels, section by section. I don’t know how it works out for them, but I found pretty quickly that people often weren’t too interested in what I posted. Maybe that says something about my writing (uh, oh), but I prefer to think that it says something about the way blogs work.  I got a lot more traffic when I discussed the writing process, or even posted an apology for procrastinating and not posting new content.

I think that unless you’re big in the world of blogging, a lot of people won’t read every single post you make. That makes a serial hard to pull off. People also like to weigh in, which is harder to do when you read a piece that is supposedly finished. And I can see why people wouldn’t want to put out full-blown critiques in the blog comments.

I also found that any writing I put out between non-fiction posts got more attention. A hybrid blog worked better than just a fiction blog. Of course, this is only my experience. Others may have fiction blogs with thousands of followers, and I’m glad it’s working out for them.

Social Media

Everyone in the writing world is currently concerned with the social media craze. Which one is best? How do you use them properly? Are they worth it? I decided to take a look at my stats page to see what’s working best for me.

One of the things that I noticed as I was preparing for this blog post was that I haven’t been participating in a lot of the social media that writers are supposed to engage in these days. I don’t have facebook, I barely use twitter, I’ve been trying pinterest but it really just feels like a personal bulletin board that happens to be online, where others can stumble across it.

I found that I just didn’t have time to give each of these social media outlets enough attention to make it worth looking over by someone else. I’d rather work on this blog, or a work in progress.

Twitter is quickly becoming my nemesis. To be honest, I have a hard time seeing why it’s so great. I’ve seen just a few interesting conversations, and just a few witty remarks. I’m in love with the TNG Season 8 twitter account and I like other accounts with similar concepts. A lot of the news I get on twitter revolves around book promotion, but with just 140 characters it’s hard to make a sell or even generate much interest. I’ve even unfollowed some people because all they do is tweet about themselves (ahem, Mike Wells).

Of course, this makes me a raging hypocrite. These days, I pretty much only tweet when I’ve put up a blog post. And I only do that because wordpress tweets it for me automatically.

Of course, we’re not just here to talk about twitter. Here’s a list of referrers to my blog:

WordPress Reader: 158 views
Search Engines: 94 views
Other Blogs: 57 views
Twitter: 19 views
Fantasy sites and Forums: 10 views
Writing sites and forums: 2 views

I think I’ll save a full breakdown of this for later, particularly the analysis of writing sites. The stats may not be stellar to some of you, but I was just shocked that some people might want to read what I have to say.

Interaction

WordPress advises us to read other blogs and comment on them, and it wasn’t until I took that advice to heart that I started getting more traffic to my own blog. It also meant that I found some awesome people out there who have taught me a lot about writing.

One thing I have really enjoyed is reading the comments that you all put up about writing. It has been really lovely to hear from you all throughout this year. You’ve given me a lot to think about and I have always felt better after reading a comment that someone put up. No one has ever left a nasty or even particularly negative comment on my blog. Plenty of people have disagreed with me, but always in the most civil of terms.

Thank you everyone, for making forgingshadows’ first year a great one. Hopefully next year will be even better!

The Pitfalls of Jumping from Fanfiction to Published Fiction

Awhile back, I read a blog post by a writer detailing how writing fanfiction had improved her writing abilities overall. While writing of any kind will improve our writing overall, I found myself adding a number of mental provisos to her post. Not long after that, a certain infamous piece of fanfiction was changed to ‘fiction,’ and became a worldwide bestseller (out of respect for the integrity of this blog, it shall not be mentioned by name here). So I thought I’d spend some time today discussing fanfiction and what it does – and doesn’t do – for writers.

Let’s start with a little personal history. When I was six I decided I was going to be a writer, and I started writing. I’ll reserve the nuances of that story for another day (or never, if you’re lucky). The point is that I wasn’t introduced to fanfiction until almost 10 years later, when I started high school. My two best friends were very into fanfiction, particularly that of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. Suddenly I was swept up into this notion that I could contribute to the stories I loved the best, and put my own spin on them, and explore things that the author had left out. It was amazing, empowering, and it got me to write.

That’s what’s great about fanfiction. It gets you to write. You have a ready-made starting point, and from there you can go in so many different directions. It also comes with an in-built audience that isn’t afraid to tell you what’s good and bad about your story.

But.

There’s always a but.

Anecdote time again. When I left high school, I stopped reading fanfiction, more or less. I just didn’t have anyone to talk to about it, and it seemed less fun. When I stopped reading it I also stopped writing it, of course. There was only one fanfiction that I still read with regularity, and I was overjoyed to hear that the woman who wrote it was in the process of publishing a book. I followed her updates closely and, as a sign of support, I went out and bought her book the very day it was put on the shelves.

I enjoyed it well enough, but by the end I couldn’t help feeling disappointed. The best way I could describe the book was ‘fanfiction-y.’ Great word, for someone who calls herself a writer.

By ‘fanfiction-y’ I mean that the entire book felt like fanfiction for another book that I’d never read. Imagine coming across some Harry Potter fanfiction without knowing the premise of Harry Potter. By the end of it you might have a rough idea of Deatheaters, Lord Voldemort, and magic in the world around us, but you’d still be missing something. That’s how I felt about this book.

Descriptions of the world were missing, little details that I would have liked to know. The characters were underdeveloped, as though we were already supposed to know them. And the plot – the plot was probably what made me feel most fanfictioned. The main plot felt like it was happening somewhere else.

All of these points made me realize why writing only fanfiction isn’t going to make you a strong author. Fanfiction is great. Fanfiction has a purpose. But the purpose of fanfiction is highly limited.

When you write fanfiction, your world is pre-developed. Your characters are ready made. And your plot works around the main plot, which is what fanfiction is all about but seems rather anticlimactic if a reader is unfamiliar with the original material.

A lot of people use fanfiction as a way to get started with writing, and I think that’s perfectly legitimate. But just because a person writes good fanfiction doesn’t mean that he or she can write good fiction. Practice in the craft of writing original fiction is needed before you make that jump to published author.

 

How about the other authors out there? Any thoughts on how writing fanfiction helped or hindered you?

A Holiday Reading List

When Nanowrimo started, everyone who participated dropped whatever was on our reading lists and sat down to write as much as we could in our free time. But now that we’re taking a (hopefully not too long) break, there’s time to put a book next to the bed again and postpone sleep for the sake of someone else’s creation.

I went to the library today with the intention of coming back with some great books to read. I picked up a couple books while I was there (I have the tendency to rack up library fines if I get more) and I got a lot of good ideas as to what I should search for next.

Here’s what I’ll be reading through the long winter nights:

Embassytown by China Mieville

 

 

 

 

 

Okay, I don’t actually know anything about this book. A few years ago I read Perdido Street Station and thought it was one of the richest, most complex science fantasy books I’d ever read. When I saw his name on the shelf, I decided to see if some of his other work lived up to that initial impression.

The Penguin Book of Modern Fantasy by Women, edited by A. Susan Williams and Richard Glyn Jones

I’m always on the lookout for good modern fantasy – I think I read too much of the traditional stuff as a child – and compilations are excellent ways to find a new favorite author. Though I don’t necessarily think that female fantasy authors should be given preference over male ones – this was just the anthology that was still on the shelf.

 

 

 

 

Cinder, by Marissa Meyer

I’ll admit, I heard about this shortly before it was published and was always intrigued by it. Unfortunately, life seemed to get in the way. But when I thought about it in the library, I decided to try to find it. I’m a sucker for rewritten fairy tales (though I never liked the Gregory Maguire ones) and this is a vastly different take indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

Anything by Guy Gavriel Kay

Kay’s work is hit and miss for me, but when it hits, it hits with the force of a freight train. He blends history, fantasy and mythology to create a world both recognizable and unsettling. Also, he helped ready The Silmarillion for publication. If that’s not a glowing recommendation, then I don’t know what is.

 

 

The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling

Okay, okay. A lot of people have been on the fence about this one. While I’m sure it doesn’t have the charm of Harry Potter, I’d like to see how her writing has grown since she started the juvenile series. But since I am a poor student, I’m betting it will be a long time before this is ready for pickup at the library.

 

 

 

And, of course, I’ll be aiming to write some things, too. Hopefully some short pieces.

Anyone read the books on this list? Are any of them worth reading before the rest? Any that I should skip all together?