Blogging


WARNING! This is one of my ‘grumpy’ posts. Although I first set up this blog to have a grump about things which irritate me, hence the user name, I don’t do that often now.

What has irritated me recently? Bloggers who think they are psychologists, philosophers, even psychiatrists, and/or are competent to advise on writing fiction though either they have never had their writings, particularly a novel, published or only self published. I don’t mean to knock self publishing – I’ve read some great writing on blogs, which is after all a form of self publishing, but I think the test for any would-be novelist has to be the market – has the ‘advisor’ had a novel published by a commercial publisher?

I know there are some outstanding exceptions but even with that there seems to be only one bit of good advice: don’t be discouraged by rejections and keep submitting (after all, if I’d have received Harry Potter I’d have rejected it!). Having said that, do get it edited by a good native speaker of the language in which it’s written. (No. I don’t want the job.)

I know, I know – such blogged advice usually gets a lot of ‘likes’ and grateful comments – some people are even willing to pay for it – but I wonder how many would-be writers in fact go on to be successful writers based on such blogged advice.

Short story writers and poets have it easier; it is simpler to get into an anthology though I would not belittle that.

Blogging is different

Blogging is somewhat different; if you want thousands of followers (I do not) there are several things you can do in your writing to achieve this; most of them are ‘mechanical’ and could be done by a robot. In fact there are ‘digital robots’ out there which will analyse your writing and ‘advise’ how to increase readers and followers or even do it for you. And there are some really ‘successful’ blogs on which the writing is terrible.

One exception is of course bloggers writing in imperfect English, that not being their native tongue. I follow several blogs like this and have great admiration for these bloggers, quite apart from the enjoyment I have from what they post.

If your blog has a ‘theme’ then even if the writing is poor you may get followers who are interested in that subject. .

One of the blog things which most impresses me is a number of non-native English-speaking bloggers who post in two languages – both their own language and English – and in which the standard of English is excellent. I can only judge those published in Romanian and English as the only foreign language I speak pretty well is Romanian; in fact I usually only read the English if I get stuck with the Romanian, which is rare now.

Writers’ club

One of the things I really like about our writers’ club, Writing on the Wharfe, is that advice is given only if asked for (and we do have several published writers); the same applies to ‘criticism’ (which I use in its positive sense: “The analysis and judgement of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work“ – Oxford dictionary). Such criticism is anyway always kindly and supportive. There is never criticism in the other sense: “The expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes.”

Writing fiction or poetry is something pretty new for me though I earned my living from writing, sometimes a very good living, for most of my working life. But even in my field I’d be wary of giving advice.

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I’ve never aimed to post every day so none of my blogs were intended to be a daily journal of my life. In fact, reading other bloggers and perhaps (usually) commenting on them was always more important to me.

Maintaining three WordPress blogs

The little Sony delivers amazing quality for its size, acquired mainly for ‘blipfoto’, with one of my favourite classic camera marques but with the tools of my first love, pen and paper for writing

The little Sony delivers amazing quality for its size, acquired mainly for ‘blipfoto’, with one of my favourite classic camera marques but with the tools of my first love

For those of you who do not know, at one time I maintained three personal blogs: this one, one for my interest in photography (particularly about classic cameras and film photography) and an ‘alternative’ site for the village in which I live.

Having decided some time ago not to maintain posting on the village blog and circumstances dictating rare posting on the photography blog, coupled with missing some bloggers I used to enjoy a lot, today I decided to see what the situation with the bloggers I ‘follow’ is.

Missing ‘followed’ bloggers

49 have not posted for 2 years or more. I wonder what happened to them. There was not a final post saying “I’m stopping posting on the blog, because ….”, as far as I know, not one; of course I did do a ‘final’ post on the village site announcing my intention to stop posting and giving the reasons.

So most of those I followed who have not posted for two years I have now  ‘unfollowed’ but a few I particularly liked I’ve continued to follow in the hope they may reappear.

For myself, my first love being writing, I’ll continue to post on this blog, which is more suitable for longer posts, including those about my short stories or ‘poems’.

But, more suitable for a photo with a short text, or even no text, blipfoto has a wonderful supportive community and having met a challenge from a blogger friend, to reach 300 ‘blips’ by Christmas Day, I’m going to make a big effort to ‘blip’ more frequently – my target is at least once a week.

And, I might just try to post now and then on my photo blog – grumpytykepix – particularly as I’ll now allow more digital pix among any on film which I’m now able to do.

 

Latvia's flag

Latvia’s flag

Today is Latvia’s ‘Independence Day’. In fact the country is celebrating its 100th birthday today. Two years ago I would not have known that, nor would it have had any importance to me. Now, thanks to the wonder of blogging, I know far more about this small (certainly in terms of current population) country and take an interest in its culture, history and language. Admittedly that’s down to one blogger, Ilze, with whom I’ve developed a particularly close blogging relationship.

Many years ago I did visit Riga briefly, on the way to Helsinki and St Petersburg (it was then called Leningrad), though which way round I don’t remember but probably Finland first as that was work, USSR as it was then was just an interest in the city, as it was for Latvia’s capital. In those days, running my own business with overseas clients, I often used a client visit as an excuse to make an itinerary to take in other places of interest.

Would Riga now be ‘disappointing’?

I would probably be disappointed now by Riga – I suspect that though the architecture would be the same, as in Sibiu in Romania, the culture which attracted me has probably been overwhelmed by commerce – tourist cafes and restaurants, etc. I’m not a city person but nevertheless I would like to see the city again now that I know much more about the country.

Latvians are rightly proud of their independence; they fought hard for it in every sense of the word. Again, thanks to blogging I know not only much of the overall story but even some individual, personal stories.

The general story you can find elsewhere on internet, so I will not repeat it here, but personal insights are thanks to my special blogger friend, which I will not repeat here either. What I will do is pick out some unusual facts which have intrigued me.

Aerial photo of the beach at Salacgrīva

The beach at Salacgrīva

Seven things you may not know

  • Latvia is believed to be now the country with the tallest women, though I believe there are individual women who are taller elsewhere. Although I am well past doing anything about that now it is interesting because I have always found tall women attractive, as anyone reading my short story ‘The Girl in Block 18’ might have concluded.
  • Latvia is a leader in terms of internet connectivity.
  • It is also a leader in use of open source software. Perhaps that is more linked to freedom than saving money. Internet was, of course, intended to be free to all but has been largely taken over by commercial or governmental interests. I use a lot of open source software and had I not been introduced to PCs with an Apple computer (Europa II) long ago (actually 44 years ago) I would probably be using Linux today.
  • I knew of course Latvia had a coastline but I didn’t know it had a beautiful seaside, golden sands stretching from sand dunes to an inviting sea. So, if I ever manage to visit the country a stop in Salacgrīva, the home town of my ‘special’ blogging friend, will be a must.
  • Latvian food is mostly extraordinarily simple but delicious, from what I’ve learned from following blogged recipes from my good Latvian friend.
  • The country in which you will find the most Latvians who have left their own country is right here, the UK. You are all very welcome.
  • Latvia should be referred to as a ‘northern’ country, not an ‘east European’ country. If you know the history you will know why Latvians dislike being referred to as ‘east Europeans’. That’s not just because it is geographically incorrect.

So, on this day especially I wish my good blogger friend Ilze and her family, along with all Latvians everywhere, a great celebration and a bright future.

A message from WordPress seemed to start the day well – an anniversary greeting as I’ve been on WordPress 10 years. Then the kick in the teeth: not only is a new editor is to be introduced but it will be the default, though the classic editor will be “available as a plugin”.

Gutenberg

Photo of Gutenberg statue in Strasburg

Gutenberg statue in Strasburg

They are calling it ‘Gutenberg’, which doesn’t bode well; it’s certainly arrogant as Gutenberg brought about a real publishing revolution and, of course, there’s already the Gutenberg Project which, by making so many of the best writers ever freely available to all, was close to being a similarly far-reaching publishing revolution.

I’m just hoping that this new WordPress editor applies only to the self-hosted blogs run under WordPress.org, not those constructed under WordPress.com. If the current excellent ‘classic’ editor is available only as a plugin then I might surmise it will be available only under WordPress.org.

Fixing things which ain’t broke

I’ve commented before on the tendency of projects run by ‘techies’, like WordPress, to fix things which ain’t broke. I read a note from WordPress on what the new editor was all about; I’m not completely computer/IT illiterate but I did not understand a single word – all about ‘blocks’ written, presumably, for block heads. (I may have also said before that WordPress needs some good technical writers!)

So far I’ve been able to ignore the message which appears every time I begin a new post, that the ‘new’ editor is better and easier – not for me it’s not. I tried it of course. Terrible. And, although I now write most of my blog posts on an iPad, the app is also terrible and I ignore it.

I hope I’ve got it all wrong as if turns out that WordPress.com users like me are forced to use the new editor I’ll probably be saying “Goodbye WordPress”.

PS. Although grumpytyke was born ten years ago, it was quite a bit later that he began to post (about four years later!).

A picture of The famous Roman acrostic (and palindrome) or word square in Cirencester in the UK.

The famous Roman acrostic (and palindrome) or word square in Cirencester in UK.

I so love this blogging world. Over the years I have made blogging friends (friends in the true sense) from several countries; I have learnt so much about things of which I would not even have been aware were I not an avid reader of other blogs; and recently, the day before yesterday, I added a new word to my vocabulary, a rare occurrence having been an insatiable reader of books of many kinds for around three quarters of a century. I’m as excited as I would be finding a rare piece of ancient Chinese porcelain for 10p at a car boot or flea market. The word is: Rambunctious

As an aspiring writer (of fiction – I had a successful career in what you might call ‘documentary writing’), reading something with excellent use of the vast English vocabulary thrills me; lazy writing, with restricted vocabulary, makes me despair, the overwhelming example now being the liberal sprinkling of ‘the f… word’ throughout a piece. I’m no prude; it used to be a good word to use when riled; now, it having been made meaningless, we have been left without such a word.

Rambunctious – an 19th century north American word

Back to rambunctious; a little research found that it was was a north American word coined in the early to mid 19th century and, surprise, used in the Financial Times in 2011.  I was so excited at its discovery I just had to use it; I’m no poet but I decided to rush off an acrostic poem for today’s meeting of our writers’ club, ‘Writing on the Wharfe’. Here it is:

Rare is the day when
After years of devouring books –
Many times, when young, with a torch,
Blankets over my head
Until the battery failed –
New words, or even just one, are added to my vocabulary.
Came a blogger new to me,
Tasted, drawn by, my comments to another blogger friend,
Introducing her young grandsons as ‘rambunctious’.
Oh what a word to savour!
Uncontrollably exuberant, wildly boisterous,
Such am I today – rambunctious

Thanks are due to ‘atticsister’, an antique dealer and blogger from Illinois who was brought to my blog by my comments on the blog of my good blogger friend Ilze from Latvia. She described her grandsons as rambunctious. What is more, she also described them as ‘tikes’, calling to mind my own grandmother who often called me and my younger brothers that when we were being unruly.

 

 

Photo of cup with a few coins in the hands of a beggar

Photo by York Press

A lot of bloggers make a little money selling their ‘products’ through their WordPress blogs – self-published books, courses in anything from writing or photography to cookery, using Photoshop or other applications, and a wide variety of other products. Of course I cannot have any objection to that; it seems to me that it’s a valid use of a blog. I have some sympathy also with students who offer something in return for a small ‘donation’.

But when it comes to what amounts to ‘begging’, the on-line equivalent of sitting in the street with a begging bowl, I find it difficult to accept. It works at various levels.

Sponsorship

First there are the requests to ‘sponsor’ a blog, the argument being ‘if you like reading my blog please give me some money to allow me to continue’. What about the millions of bloggers who just give us a good read, often giving excellent advice too (foodie and photography blogs spring to mind), fitting their blogging activity around the ‘day job’?

Donate

Then there’s the ‘donate’ button. This is often accompanied by a text with an explanation similar to that given with requests for ‘sponsorship’.

On-line begging bowl

Finally, there’s the simple on-line equivalent of the begging bowl, a blog post which just asks for money because the blogger needs money for anything from day to day living to help with medical bills.

Many of us will respond to the street beggar with a little money or, better, a hot drink or some food when they seem to be a genuine case of hardship. Money needs more thought as it will often go on drugs. And of course there are the street beggars who have a daily take only dreamed of by many hardworking people with a ‘day job’. Spotting them can be difficult as they are often put on the street by a ‘minder’ who takes most of the money. This is particularly prevalent in Romania.

What brought on this post?

There’s a Romanian blogger who I’ve followed for a few years. As the number of posts asking for money increased my reading of his posts, usually several a day, has decreased. I have in the past bought some of his ‘products’, more as a way of giving a bit of help than that I wanted the ‘product’. But now, for me, he’s overstepped the mark.

His latest story is that he will be made homeless unless he pays overdue rent of several hundred dollars. It began with requests to help with dental bills. I had some sympathy with that as it would be difficult to work well if in continual pain. Bloggers sent him really substantial sums of money. Then he asked for money to buy a video camera to make his video clips. My sympathy evaporated but it seems he received the money. Then the story was that his laptop had crashed and he needed money to buy a new one. Again he seemed to receive it readily. Now he says he hasn’t been able to pay his rent and will shortly be evicted, made homeless!

Romanians to whom I’ve related this story have been furious; it’s the kind of story which has brought Romania into disrepute. Having worked with Romanians for over a decade and spending a lot of time in the country since, I can assure you that most Romanians are hardworking given the opportunity (for many this, sadly, meant emigrating).

As I said above, I no longer read many of this blogger’s posts but was drawn to comment on one recently, one of several which seemed to assume that we all want a large number of followers. I felt obliged to point out that not all bloggers want this and gave the reasons; in my case because I try to respond to all comments and ‘likes’ (with some exceptions) and I just could not deal with large numbers.

How many comments ‘not approved’?

What is really sad is that my comment on his blog, which did include a mild admonishment about ‘begging’, was not approved so no one other than the blogger in question has seen it. So I must assume that any other comments expressing unease about ‘begging’ have been similarly withheld.

So, I have to ask here: do you think this type of ‘begging via blog’ is acceptable or not, and which type oversteps the mark? Do you think I’m being unreasonable?

 

Temporary cover and the start of ‘Chapter 5’.

Stuck on your ‘big story’ in progress? I may have found the answer to get you going again.

Don’t leave it formatted as a manuscript, format it as a book. The motivation to finish it is difficult to resist.

It’s not difficult to do: to get it near enough to a paperback just set an A4 page as landscape and make it two columns. Choose a book-suitable typeface, though Times (default for many people) will be fine. Start each chapter on a new column, about 1/3 down the page, and put a centred chapter heading over it,

et voilá

If you can make a front cover then the motivation becomes even stronger, but it’s not necessary. I did, as in picture, as it’s not difficult for me after many years formatting magazines, newspapers and brochures, though never books.

Novella or novel?

I cannot guarantee it will work for you of course but it has certainly worked for me. The characters are just clammering to be heard. They are suggesting perhaps a further six to eight ‘chapters’ which, with completing a few of the current 14 ‘chapters’ as yet unfinished will, I reckon, take the word count from the current 21,800 to around 40,000, so more novella than novel. But who knows?

If you want to submit to a publisher then you’ll have to go back to industry standard manuscript but that’s no problem of course.

If I do finish it I’ll decide then whether I think I can ‘sell it’ to a publisher and maybe have a shot; multiple rejections wouldn’t bother me. Self publishing doesn’t interest me. At least, not for now


The few words, related in ‘Chapter 5’ by the male protagonist, with the fairly appropriate photo for the female protagonist, Miranda, perhaps give a flavour of the story (tap the image to enlarge enough to read the words). I’ve avoided the ‘spicier’ passages. You’ll also see part of one of several observations from a narrator who butts in from time to time.

The picture I ‘borrowed’ from The Daily Mirror’s 1969 campaign ‘Save the mini’. The model’s real name was Julie I believe.

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