So What’s the Point?

10 Feb

So one of the guys in my unit was looking over my shoulder as I pecked away at the second part of “Coward Delivery” yesterday. This always makes me squirm a bit.  After all, it’s hard enough to have some barbarian eyeballing your unfinished work – but it’s the inevitable questions that always burn my porridge.

“Dude, what are you doing?”

“Writing.”  

That’s my usual response – the simple one liner that subtly insults their intelligence and hopefully drives home a friendly – but pointed fuck-off vibe.  For some, that’s enough.  They look at the words, the work involved and wander off to their own corner with a PSP or a copy of Maxim Magazine…maybe both.

Others are more tenacious.

“Whatcha writing?”

Pause.  Panic.  Where to start?  The truth?

“Fan fiction, it’s a story about my World of Warcraft character and her trials and travails in the world of Azeroth.”

Youch.  It’s one thing to admit to being a writer – to knowingly cop to spending tons of your free time making up stories and writing them down.  But fan fiction?  On the literary scale of relevance fan-fic usually rates right up there with truck-stop erotica and latrine-poetry.

Still though – this is an Army dude asking and in spite of what you might have heard, military folk are often extremely tolerant and open minded when it comes to rationalizing the odd behaviors of their own.  

“Just writing man, I have a blog.” 

That’s a safe response – blogs are cool these days and they’ll probably figure that your blog = Facebook or MySpace or something and they’ll wander away sated.  PSP, Maxim, done.

“Cool – lot of people read it?”  

For the truly persistent, the truth is the safest course of action.

“Nah – it has its moments but it’s mostly just for me.”

“Who’s Tigerclaw?  Is that your handle or something?”

“Tiger’s one of the characters in the story.”

“It’s not about you?”

“Nah – the blog’s for my writing – I put short fiction up there.”

This is usually where I lose them.  The truly persistent will shoulder snipe for a while and start asking pointed questions or poking fun.  Usually 50 / 50 chance of either.

The conversation though is one that brings me round-trip back to the point that I’ve been not getting to for some time now.

What’s the point of a blog?  Why write if people aren’t reading?  Why set yourself up for failure or disapointment if people don’t like your writing – or worse – never read it?

It’s a good question I think and it’s one that too many would-be bloggers fail to answer.  A lot of them are writing because it looks like fun.  They enjoy the blogs they read and want to be part of something similar.  After all – we all like the attention – we all love comments and we all look for validation in the words of others.  What sucks though, is when a day or a week or month go by without any of that.  More often than not, when readers don’t read and commenters don’t comment these new blogs  are abandoned and  left to whither.

It’s a shame really – but it’s one that should be expected.  Writing is hard.  Being relevant and entertaining on a consistent basis is even harder.  The writers that are managing it well are doing so at cost.  Folks with really popular WOW blogs like BRK / Pike / Tobold didn’t get there by posting something half assed once a week.  They did it with consistency, clarity and some kind of vision or focus.  Through the clutter and noise of the regular Internet they were able to carve out a place that others identified with and enjoyed enough to return to.

Then there are the rest of us – and that my friends is just fine.

I write here because I love to write and I want to be better at it.  The World of Warcraft makes for a great shared playground because there are so many folks that enjoy the game and if their novel sales figures are to be believed – enjoy reading about as well.

It’s a shared point of reference I guess.  One that is already established in over 11 million minds worldwide.  It’s a place that allows me to concentrate less on world building and instead on character building and voice.  Two things I think I need to practice. 

Now and then I get to do something fun and poke at the blogs and blogger personalities out there that inspire and entertain me.  Sometimes people like it and I get a ton of hits.  The rest of the time – there’s me – and my goal of being a better writer.

Do I dream of getting a call from a publisher or Blizzard one day?

“Hey – we love your stuff – lets talk book contract.”

Hell yeah.  Do I think that’s going to happen?

Who knows.

But I know for a fact that it will never happen if I don’t write.

So that – that’s the point.

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9 Responses to “So What’s the Point?”

  1. hotsndots February 10, 2009 at 18:01 #

    Well put!

    I gave up on my own blog when I realized that it was just becoming an endless parade of “look what I did today” posts.

    I greatly enjoy your ‘fan-fic’ — and like how you incorporate both the fiction and the informative/blog posts into the site. It’s a refreshing change from rants about awful players or endless dissection of rules and changes on most blogs. ^_^

    ~ Doodlebug of Kael’thas

  2. Capn John February 10, 2009 at 19:40 #

    My recount of my Hunter’s kite of Klinfran the Crazed was about 1500 words long, but it was really just a recap of something I actually did in WoW, so it was fairly easy to write.

    In my senior year of High School we had a year long assignment where we had to write several essays, from argumentative to instructional to descriptive. We also had word limits where each essay had to be at least 500 words, a couple had to be 750 words, and at least one essay had to be 1500 words long. Some students wrote more than one 1500 word essay. The rest of us were in awe of them. I think I failed the assignment because I wasn’t able to write a 1500 word essay, not even a descriptive/short story.

    Just recently I cranked out a more original piece, still based on the World of Warcraft, still utilizing real WoW characters and places, but unlike “Kwazi and the Demon” it’s more of an original story because the events in the story never really happened. That one tops out at 2,500 words.

    In High School I couldn’t write to save my life. I had no clue about sentence structure (I still don’t, not really), nor how to plan an essay to make writing it easier. But just like that…
    /me snaps fingers
    I crank out a 2,500 word fictional “essay”. Which (at risk of wrenching my shoulder patting myself on the back) I think reads pretty damn well. It gets off to a good start, flows reasonably well, keeps you interested and reading to the end, and when it does finish it does so in a realistic manner, even if Kwazi does wake up and it was all a dream (not all of it, of course ;).

    I must agree with you on why we write. A small part of us writes for an audience (many people do) but some of us write for ourselves. Reader critique (of the positive kind) is good because it’s nice to know other people are out there reading our material, our effort was not wasted. But for some of us we just write for ourselves, and it’s enough just to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and see our thoughts come to life.

    I following Tobold’s Blog and am in admiration of his readership, but I also see a trick he uses with some frequency. Often Tobold’s posts aren’t about what he’s written, but on the discussion he generates. What Tobold often does is write a simple paragraph or two, then leave the discussion open to his readers. Quite regularly his Blog IS his readers. That works for Tobold because he wrote well enough to begin with that he was able to attract a substantial readership who didn’t just read, but commented. And it’s these readers who were able to sustain his Blog when he used the trick of making them write his Blog posts for him 😉

    Looking at Tobold’s posts though, while he has a huge readership base (2500 according to Feedburner), only a small number of readers actually comment. Even with the most controversial posts he rarely gets 100 or more comments, most number in the 20s to 30s, and some posts generate a bare handful of comments.

    For those people who want/need an audience to write, you simply have to be content with knowing that people may read your material and appreciate what you do, but very few will comment. Many readers will never be anything but lurkers. They may visit your Blog every day, but they’ll rarely comment.

    That’s why you have to write for yourself.

  3. Capn John February 10, 2009 at 19:42 #

    Aw, man. I’ve gotta start putting in actual HTML paragraph breaks. I had them in there (not the HTML code though), you can see the Carriage Returns separating the paragraphs, but the double-spacing between paragraphs didn’t come through 😦

    Real sorry for the Wall of Text there.

  4. Sarai February 11, 2009 at 23:04 #

    That’s why I started my blog; I had so many stories for my WoW characters piling up in my head, and I wanted to get them out. Sharing them with other people was just a bonus. I post every story I come up with on my blog now. I write because I love to write and I love my characters. The only people that I know read it is my sister and 1 or 2 of my friends, anyone else that reads it and likes it enough to leave a comment is a plus. I figure I’ll probably stop posting when I run out of stories to write but right now that day is far in the future.

    And I do put in the random “Here’s what I did today” post, but I really don’t like them as much.

  5. Pike February 12, 2009 at 06:11 #

    I /salute you for doing what you enjoy.

  6. Shawndra February 12, 2009 at 07:43 #

    I really enjoy your blog. If you do it for yourself, and you enjoy what you do, chances are you’ll find a few followers. I can tell you love to write, and that’s what keeps my feed reader picking your posts up 🙂 That, and they’re really good !!

  7. Kinless February 12, 2009 at 22:36 #

    A personal diary to recall where I was a year ago, and the year before that, next yet. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes less, rant, story, or musing, and it amuses the wife too.

    Oh yeah, also to occasionally grow to know some of the folks who are into some of the same things I am, and see how they’re doing. Kind of like facebook, but at my pace. 🙂

  8. Syrana February 21, 2009 at 17:20 #

    It’s always great to see more fanfic! I’d love to get that phone call someday too, but hey, at least I have a few people now enjoying what I write. And I can see you have gathered some fans as well, which is awesome. 🙂

    I can relate to the questions you were being asked… sometimes I get some questions at work. A few of my coworkers read the story pieces I post, but nothing else because they don’t play WoW… and it was awkward at first to explain… too many questions!

  9. Jakz March 3, 2009 at 21:41 #

    I have only recently discovered your corner of Azeroth. I find myself checking it every few days to see what’s new and jumping with you! Bottom line: If you enjoy it, then go for it!

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