On writing, blogging and social media: an interview from Victorian Writer

After reading A.S. Patric’s thoughts on blogging, in an interview he did for Nigel Featherstone at the Canberra Times, I thought I’d reprint a recent interview I did for Victorian Writer, the Victorian Writers’ Centre magazine, to add to the conversation. Enjoy! And please share your thoughts in the comments, or via the Facebook fan page, Twitter, your own blogs, etc. Thanks to the VWC for permission to reprint.

You’ve written, it seems, in about every format. Which do you think audiences (and editors/publishers) are most receptive to, and is this changing?

I have had short stories, reviews, interviews, essays, articles and the odd poem published/performed. Traditional publishing channels haven’t changed much yet: book publishers still want novels and long-form nonfiction; journals want short stories, poems and essays; newspapers and magazines want quality articles, reviews and interviews. Audiences love book reviews, both in print and online, I’ve found––they’re very receptive to them. And, happily, the audience for short stories is really alive online––people read them (either in print or online) and talk about reading them.

Audiences are (obviously) very receptive to free content––the challenge over the coming years, as more things are read online, is how this mode might become more sustainable for the content creators––writers, journalists, reviewers etc. And for editors, as well, whose job might help to differentiate the good stuff on the internet from the oodles of crap. They need to have a role in that world somehow––perhaps we’ll see more edited group blogs, online magazines etc. that charge for some quality content and provide other stuff free.

How does writing for online publications call upon a change in your writing from hard copy?

It depends, still, on the publication, as it would in print. The style and audience are important––are you writing a news story or writing for a blog? Is the website/blog self-deprecating or serious? Are the reviews published there analytical or personalised? Cultural blogs do work better with a personalised slant, in my experience. A blog is a narrative––a public evolution of a writer (or series of writers) and their world and interests. This means they’re often selective and esoteric, sure, but a loyal and involved audience is better than a broad, casual one, in my opinion. The word on everyone’s lips is ‘niche’.

You’re a prolific ‘tweeter’ (there had to be a Twitter question!) – do you feel this practice allows you, or your writing, to reach audiences you otherwise wouldn’t or couldn’t?

Yes, particularly overseas audiences. Again, personalisation is key (and that doesn’t mean telling them what you had for breakfast). Let people in on the narrative, the slant, the interests of the blog and its ‘character’, then, if you think they’ll be interested––link to your blog posts and publications (or just your publications if you don’t blog). I know people have bought some of the publications I’ve been in because they are followers of my blog, or because I’ve mentioned something on Twitter. But if that’s the only thing you broadcast, people will run away in droves, spammer! It’s all about selectivity––follow the people whose tweets you enjoy, and the people whose broadcasts you’re going to get the most out of, whether that be personally, professionally or both––that’s up to you.

What are some rules about blogging or micro-blogging that you’d recommend others follow when sending their writing out through the internets?

There are no ‘rules’ per se, but there is etiquette. The no-spamming thing, as above, is something. Always acknowledge the source of your words (by saying you got this ‘via’ someone, or by ‘retweeting’ it) and try not to push too many things on people if they’re not interested (keep an eye on trends in your stats and what people retweet etc.)––be yourself but think about building an audience too. If you’re going to be promoting unedited writing (particularly fiction and poetry) and you haven’t yet established an audience, be very careful. It can seem amateurish and can put off potential readers and publishers if the writing is ordinary or not up to scratch. And never, ever presume you’re the only one who has something to say on a subject…

From short fiction to essay to review to 140-character micro-blogs, the options for getting your writing out there are numerous. What are some tips for those wishing to push their work to the world in any of these formats?

MiscellaneousVoicesCover_FINAL-209x300Read. I can’t stress that enough. READ. Don’t even try and write a novel, a short story, an article, a blog post or even a tweet without reading widely how others have done it (the good and the bad). Immerse yourself in the format. And if you choose to publish online, embrace it, love it – do it for the sake of it not simply for promotional purposes.

For those in Melbourne, tonight is the launch of Miscellaneous Voices: Australian Blog Writing #1, featuring A.S. Patric and myself, alongside wonderful bloggers like James Bradley, Penni Russon and Lisa Dempster. See you at Readings Carlton, at 6:30pm!

4 thoughts on “On writing, blogging and social media: an interview from Victorian Writer

  1. Great interview. Lots to chew on here along with so much stuff on the blogosphere recently discussing the medium. I will have to say something now, but after pinpoint the points of debate that are common between blogs at the moment.

    Moving away from seeing online as compared to print is probably the biggest issue.

  2. Pingback: On writing, blogging and social media: an interview from Victorian … | blog blog blog

  3. In your Miscellaneous Voices piece you wrote, “Only by embracing cultural blogging as a different medium in both form and style to cultural work and cultural criticism in print can we create innovative, interesting content that stands on its own, not necessarily in comparison.”

    I love that but I think we could go further than embracing the new medium. We could look at the way the communal is becoming the defining characteristic of a form yet to really come alive. In this new medium community becomes the dominant feature and a word like zeitgeist takes on a far more galvanized significance.

    We’re standing at the start of a long road despite blogs being about two decades old. Which is nothing really. The revolution of the Gutenberg printing press completely destabilised power across the European world and democratised words and literature. To a degree. This new medium will destabilise power in just as radical a way, as the traditional controls of information disintegrate, and are replaced by a far more democratic distribution of knowledge. More than that, the paradigm we operate under can begin to develop again, and evolve hopefully.

    The communal becomes an ever growing hallmark of blog writing. Engaged with other blogs, and all forms of information, distributing and disseminating ideas and insights into new patterns of significance. Responsive to the thoughts and comments of readers as we go along on a daily basis, we keep on weaving that narrative you like to talk about with great effect.

    ‘The Revolution will be Downloaded.’ Yes indeed Ange.

  4. Thanks for your comment, Alec! Great point on the communal being a hallmark of blog writing. Bloggers who don’t engage with the community within their own blog comments or through others’ comment systems and social media are shooting themselves in the foot, really. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

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