Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Dogged to death by data

I blog for fun, I run the Belmont Rural website as a Sisyphean labour. Beforehand I edited the quarterly Belmont Voice for three years and it generated a parish-wide storm of apathy. When I closed the mag to start the website the parish, collectively, burst into tears. “Too late you inert bastards,” I said to myself.

That was five years ago. Website progress was glacial. I interviewed people, learned to unknot Dreamweaver and nobody cared. More recently I started blogging, then resumed the novel. At a time when I could have usefully closed the site it took off. Now emails pour in keeping me away from novel revision. I flew a kite about whether Belmont Rural deserved to endure and, alas, I got lots of email support.

With projects like these it pays to take a long-term view. I started Voice because I was a retired journalistic smartyboots and wanted to wipe the face of my neighbours. Amazingly it attracted advertising which allowed the parish council, who financed the printing and distribution, to cut their budget. Reader response (other than the aforementioned bout of sobbing) was zilch and I found myself on a treadmill of deadlines.

Websites aren’t governed by deadlines and there was the technical attraction of starting up from nothing. However, once websites become popular they can overwhelm you. This morning, when I should have been carving Chapter Three (which some of you have read in its embryonic form) into something more readable and which is as hard as anything I’ve ever done, I had to break off and instruct a website emailer on verse scansion so that his “poetic” contributions didn’t grind my teeth.

Like WW I contain multitudes and they’re getting me down.

Editing progress: May 2, 2010. Rather alarming. Untouched, the MS totalled 99,407 words. After four chapters this has shrunk to 97,964. If this slash-and-burn average is maintained the total will drop to 92,204. You may well ask why I wrote all this unnecessary stuff anyway.

9 comments:

marja-leena said...

Thanks for the lesson, must remember next time I toy with the idea of doing an e-newsletter!

Plutarch said...

I hope that you are not allowing advertisers to limit your editorial freedom. The most interesting features of local newspapers and (and as I found when I edited one) newsletters are potentially sensitive. It has always troubled me, as it may have troubled you, that because they pay for space, advertiser sometimes expect a magazine or newspaper to restrict comment and reporting to what they consider acceptable. So far blogging seems relatively free of such a shadow, but I notice that Google is beginning to invite bloggers to accept advrtisements.

Barrett Bonden said...

M-L/Plutarch: There seems to be some misunderstanding. Belmont Voice was a quarterly magazine, printed conventionally. By its last issue there was enough revenue from ads to pay for half the print/distribution bill. I was never leaned on by any advertisers, but then I didn't seek to bring down the government - local or national.

Plutarch said...

A clumsy attempt at irony. I do remember the problems I had when I omitted to mention a manufacturer of cranes, who thought it should have been included in a particular survey; or when I criticised, as I did once, an automation device, on a page facing an advertisment by the manufacturer who was in the process of introducing it.

Rouchswalwe said...

BB, the "unnecessary stuff" you are slashing and burning makes sense to me. I mean that I write and write and write and then later pare away to give sense to what remains. I'm sure there must be others who write the bare bones and then add, add, add. Time-consuming either way, but I look forward to the end result!

The Crow said...

Fulsome writing, in the draft stage, is never wasted, for it helps the author develop his/her characters and plot.

It seems to me a bit like gardening: we overplant some seeds, knowing we will thin out the weakest sprouts later. Then we hack out the weeds so that our garden looks/performs at its best. Some parts of gardening (writing) are onerous, to say the least, but done well (and I know you will do well), the results produce a thing of great enjoyment.

Trudge onward, soldier!

Barrett Bonden said...

RW (zS)/The Crow: Yes I recognise the benefit of editing and always resort to it, even for blog posts and occasionally for blog comments. But when I write the first draft I don't intentionally do over-padded prose. I seek to write prose that can't be edited and tragedy ensues in the difference between expectation and reality.

Avus said...

As the editor of an historical society's periodical I empathise, BB. The easy part is design and layout; the worst is getting it to assimilate the variety of contributions which arrive by email, disks or handwritten, before sending the pdf to the printers.

Barrett Bonden said...

Avus: It is a pleasure to write for myself (and occasionally my readers) these days.