One of the questions I often get when talking about blogging for writers is “What about the fiction writer? How do they use blogs?” It seems straightforward for an author with expertise in a field to use blog content to create a book that encapsulates their knowledge and insights. But how does a blog work for a novelist?
While no clearcut answer has emerged yet, there is certainly a lot of experimentation going on in the blogosphere. In 2004, a blog site (NaNoBlogMo) was set up to register the blog novels of authors who were participating in the popoular NanoWriMo(National Novel Writing Month) contest. In this contest, which has been held each year since 1999, prospective authors are challenged to write 50,000 words or more during the month of November. Writers who achieve this goal are recognized on the NaNoWriMo website. (In 2006, NaNoWriMo logged over 982 million words and tens of thousands of participants.)
The NaNoBlogMo registry recorded hundreds of blog novel sites, indicating a wilingness among budding authors to experiment with blogs as a new non-fiction writing medium.
In scanning the blogosphere for samples of blog noels, you find many formats. Some authors provide chapters of their book. Often the blog records the struggles of the writer to develop characters, storyline, etc. Backstory is sometimes included as well.
Here are some thoughts on how a blog might be used to develop a novel.
Develop a writing discipline. If the goal is to build an audience while the novel is being developed, a blog can help enforce the discipline of writing something every day. To sustain an readership, you must contribute on a regular basis.
Provides a convenient sturcutre for collaborative writing. Novel writing has always been a difficult, lonely business. The writer must hone his or her skills in storytelling, dialogue, character development and scene organization. The process can be lengthy, iterative and frustrating. Imagine instead developing a novel as part of a small team. One team member may be the equivalent of a movie director, focused on the story line and scene organizaiton. Others might work on characters. Other team members might concentrate on dialogue or descriptive narrative. Especially for new authors, this could be a way to learn the craft and have the potential to complete and publish a work sooner. A blog, being web based and accessible from anywhere, with support for multiple authors, can easily facilitate this type of team effort.
Greater visibility to backstory, locale and characters. More of the research information can be shared with the audience via the blog. The major character could even post their perspective on events or other characters.
Early audience engagement. A blog has built in feedback mechanisms. The audience can become contributors to the novel and significant contributors can be recognized in the published work. This audience is the first place to begin marketing the published work.
The blog statistics can be used in a pitch to publishers or agents. Information on the potential size and profile of the target audience is invaluable to a publisher. It could be the difference between picked up or not.
The Blooker prize has been established by Bob Younger, founder of Lulu.com to recognize writers in different fiction and non-fiction categories who have gone from blog to book. In 2006, the winner was Cherie Priest for Four and Twenty Blackbirds, now published by Tor Books. The 2007 prize for fiction went to British blogger Andrew Losowsky for “The Doorbells of Florence.” No doubt such prizes will help propel the blog novel forward.
I would welcome other examples of successful blog novelists.