Thursday, May 6, 2010

Murphy

Of course Murphy would have it that on the self same day that I read a yahoo article about how your migraine might actually be an aneurysm in your brain JUST ABOUT TO ASPLODE that I would get my semi-monthly headsplitter. In case you were wondering, the combined effects of a migraine and a mild hypochondria induced panic attack = peekaboo hand/finger silhouettes at the edges of your vision. Wtf, body?

A mild setback

As many of you know, in the past weeks I've started devoting myself to writing almost full time, and, more recently (and perhaps less well known), I've started inundating myself with information about the publishing industry as a whole, and agents specifically. They say you should dress for your dream job, and I know that part of that is knowing what I'm getting myself into, and how to go about it. The research I've done is pretty encouraging; the market is actually better for my genre than it was even two years ago, but (for better or for worse) hasn't really changed a whole lot in the procedure of things since high school: it's still mostly writing, patience, and more writing, and more patience, with a dash of not being an idiot about the whole thing by taking some time to understand the process. Which is very comforting, because I've been doing rounds of learning how to and writing queries and summaries, finding agents with relevant interests, and staying peripherally aware of the publishing world since, oh, say, my junior year of high school. And since then, a lot of agents and publishers have gotten on board with the whole internet thing, which makes everything a whole lot easier. With places like http://www.agentquery.com/ there's no reason to ever hassle an agent that won't pick you up, and you can feel out a personality fit from afar, because many of them actively maintain personal and professional blogs. Though, from reading said blogs, there are enough people still doing it wrong that I'm consistently made to feel like a shining star just for not having my head up my ass.

But I'm becoming increasingly aware that the hardest part of being a writer, right after self discipline (which is far and away the greatest battle for any artist), is self promotion. Everyone is talking about writing as a business - "authorpreneurship" - because if your book isn't salable, and if you don't have a plan for how to sell it, evidently the dollar signs drop out of the eyes of potential publishers like dead flies, and you (and your book) drop to the bottom of the pile. And I sense that this might be a problem for me - it's admittedly at least a fraction of the reason that I started this blog (though the tie ins for self promotion and the need for human communication and self-expression, at this point, are weirdly interconnected). I'm bad at maintaining contact with people, and bad at networking, and aren't blogs part of how people in "the biz" do that? So even if I only have six unique readers so far (and, boy, do I love whoever you six people are, you're my shining stars!), that's a start, isn't it?

Well, maybe.

To be honest the whole thing is still sortof unreal. I'm consistently fairly hopeful, but less consistently productive. I'm still working on the B.I.C. thing - or rather, the not spending all my free time poking around the internet and actually getting some shit done. I'm trying to self-impose deadlines with a handy dandy spreadsheet to track my progress, but it's one of those things where I have to balance between quantity productivity and quality productivity. NaNoWriMo is all about the frantic race for quantity which can act as the urgency induced inspiration that so many of us require to bust through writer's block, but at the same time I've found that it leads to MASSIVE GAPING PLOTHOLES because in the rush for wordcount there isn't much room to think out subsequent plot points. So I'm discovering my book as I'm writing it - pushing to force myself to write something anything to make that awful blank page stop staring, and then going "oh, so that's what happens" and forcing myself to accept and learn that rewriting, even and especially on the shitty first draft, is healthy, if painful to my inner racer.

Hmm, I seem to have gone off on some kind of tangent. Oh well, back to The Page!

p.s. new RSS and email subscription options, fabulous six!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

First!

So I feel that it's fitting that my first post be about the eternal struggle between blogspot and wordpress. While my decision, if you're reading this, is probably obvious, I feel that it's worth saving anyone else considering treading these roads some time. So, without further adieu, the fruits of the better part of two days worth of HRGBLURGWORKDAMNIT:

I went with wordpress first, because for whatever reason, it held a more prestigious place in my mind, and it happened to have the url that I wanted, and I had already perused some of the themes on their website when I first started thinking about making a blog. So I figured, hey, I remember liking some of those, why not! So I made an account, snagged the url, and started to go through their set up your shit tutorial, which was nice. The interface is terribly swish, by which I mean it's all smooth and rounded and fancy looking, but after about 15 minutes I wanted to smash it on the ground - which, I will emphasize, is one of the instances that my frustration had NOTHING to do with my lack of html/java/web savvy, but instead had everything to do with the fact that, despite being pretty, wordpress's layout is really counter intuitive. It took me almost ten minutes to figure out how to reset my password, because there are many multiple pages which sound like "settings" or "preferences" or "hrugflurgmyfriggingpassword" but which deal with numerous other things tumbling in stacks of buttons all the way down down down the left side of the page. Many of these pages also have false bottoms, where it looks like the page should end there, but then there's a liiittle bit more underneath it. Like my password. Which was dumb of me not to notice, but it didn't save me looking in like five other places first.

And though that was all frustrating, certainly with enough time to get used to the interface, it probably wouldn't be an issue. Unfortunately, it also isn't my only qualm with the system. While, at a first glance, wordpress has more templates in their startup, and a metric gazillion on http://wordpress.org/extend/themes/ what you don't find out until after you've made the blog is that you can't use any of the non-basic themes (or design your own) without either hosting your blog on your own domain, or paying an annual fee.

The CSS editor lets you modify the visual style of your blog. You can edit your CSS and preview the changes for free. If you would like the ability to save your changes and make your design visible to the public, please purchase the Custom CSS Upgrade.


Sounds like a trap for people who feel like spending all day designing their fantastic new blog layout without reading the little paragraph at the top and then trying to submit it and having their heads explode. Thankfully, I'm a reader, and when I saw that - and subsequently decided that I wasn't all that fond of any of the 90 basic templates anyway, I hopped over to blogspot to see what I could do there.

Blogspot only has 16 basic site layouts (most of which have multiple color schemes), and I didn't find any on their website, but http://btemplates.com/ has exactly the same number (and, likely, exactly the same) layouts as wordpress does, formatted for blogspot and... the clincher, totally free. I hate to sound like an ad, but I have to finish the sentence with - and surprisingly easy to use. Which brings me to the interface. While I spent my whole time on wordpress fighting with the UI, blogspot hits me with this fantastically old school interface - it's boxier and anti-swish, but it's extremely intuitive. All the interface is at the top of the page, simply and clearly divided into four tabs with sub headers with link titles that clearly indicate what they're linking to. It takes about three clicks to upload a new template, and you can save all of the changes you make to the basic template as your own one, just in case you manage to horribly screw everything up and need to go back, but don't want to lose your work. Both blogspot and wordpress have ways to simply add content to your blog, and the interfaces there are roughly the same, but blogspot also has a cardbord cutout version of your website layout, where you can add and alter features drag-and-drop style. Also, when you're on your blog itself, there are edit buttons for your widget and html boxes, so if something's wrong or needs updating, you can do it right there. Though, admittedly, I'm not sure if I like it or not yet - it's very convenient for the building phase, but looks a little clunky. Perhaps I'll find a way to turn it off? One last thing I like about blogspot - when they talk about ads, they talk about it in terms of making money for the blogger, not forcing the blogger to pay, like wordpress.

For the negs, I'm having trouble figuring out how to add links within the blog (ie. shaples.blogspot.com/about) (Just kidding, it was right in front of my face), and some of the basic widgets that they offer (like the twitter one) didn't seem to work until I got them from the third party sites. Though, that said, both twitter and facebook have blogspot-specific functionality, which wordpress does not, though zomg, you'd think facebook wasn't trying to take over the world for how long it took me just to get the stupid like and share buttons working. Yeesh. Wordpress has an email subscription feature in addition to the RSS, which I like, and has a huge website statistics box front and center on the dashboard, and blogspot doesn't seem to have either - which I think encapsulates the difference. Wordpress has a lot of built in functionality on their http://www.blogger.com/post-create.g?blogID=7841692274072922644website, and you have to pay to get it - with blogspot, you have to do a little more footwork, but it's free.

Oh, and it's harder to get back to your editing page from your main blog page on blogspot, which is probably something that won't be an issue once I'm done getting the setup set up.

TLDR version: Blogspot is free and I am cheap. Blogspot wins!

Let me know what you think of the blog - the layout is likely to change somewhat, but suggestions and gentle criticism would be quite helpful!