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Author S.A. Hunt shares with us a few thoughts on Using Google+ as a blogging platform. Moderator of bothLibrary of Shadows On Reddit and Dark Fantasy Writers Workshop on G+, he seems to be ahead of the curve in finding new and unique ways to share his work, and I was interested in his thoughts on using G+ as an alternative to traditional blogging.
CATS AND PLACENTAS by S.A.Hunt
I don’t know why I keep doing it. Like my mother always warned me, it’s making me go blind.
Maybe I’m trying to give something back to the writing community, but every time I set myself up in another moderation role, I have to wonder: have I bitten off more than I can chew? What am I thinking? I should be writing, not trying to quote-unquote “run shit”. I have one novel out and another on the way. I don’t even know what I’m talking about anyway. But that’s just the Doubt Demon talking, isn’t it?
I keep telling people I don’t have time for this, don’t have time for that. That’s malarkey. I have plenty of time, it’s just the things they want me to do don’t involve writing, and to answer the Basement Jaxx, that’s where my head’s at.
Communities, subreddits, intermittently barking semi-authoritative writing-related madness at my friends like some kind of retired drill sergeant sitting on the front porch. I don’t have time to come to your birthday party! I don’t have time to help you move house! I’m got things to do. And they involve killing imaginary people.
By the way, this blog post is going to get pretty crazy, so if you have a weak stomach, consider this your official warning.
Library Of Shadows
The real answer is not because of my overwhelming need to push people around, I do that plenty on the swings down at the park, thank you, and no, I don’t have somewhere else to be, Officer Fussypants. It’s because I like to be up to my eyeballs in the craftmanship of writing.
Between moderating at the Dark-Fantasy Writers Workshop community on Google+, the 3,000+ subscriber Library of Shadows suspense magazine at Reddit, and interacting with thousands of writers on the bustling Google+ (like the indomitable Ksenia Anske and rock-god John Ward), I get to basically swim in words all day. You’re pushing people on the swings to help them get higher. It’s a honing mechanism. You hone each other. You jump in and come out sharper.
The Library of Shadows was initially created a couple of years ago — before Google+ really took off — as a way to siphon off the obviously fictional NoSleep stories that were getting everybody’s hackles up. Third-person anecdotes, end-of-the-world epics, nail-biters in which the protagonist dies: these tales were coming from very talented people, but they didn’t quite fit in at a forum where everything is true, even if it isn’t and killing off the hero stirs outrage like “if the guy is dead, how did he post this?” and “if the world was taken over by zombies, why don’t I see them when I look outside?”
So I made a subreddit and gave it the opposite stipulation: everything here is fiction. This is where you can go apeshit and really put your characters through the wringer. And while it hasn’t attracted quite the same following as NoSleep, it still has its die-hards, and occasionally I hear of budding novelists being “tactically directed” to the Library to offload their unbelievable fiction.
And that’s good. That’s how we get some of the best talent.
Now the Library has evolved into a continually rotating showcase of some of the best unfettered writing thatReddit has to offer. Unlike subreddits geared toward workshopping, being a moderator at the Library is to be a gatekeeper of quality.
If it’s a link without an excerpt (so we can see what we’re getting into), if it’s less than two pages’ worth of text (it’s a showcase, not a workshop), it goes back into the microwave to heat up the middle. Visitors to the Library are there to read for enjoyment, and while critique is often solicited and sometimes earned, it’s not the primary purpose.
People don’t tell you this, but being a person in charge of something like that is one of the hardest things you’ll ever do, emotionally speaking. It gives you a sudden and sharp appreciation for what editors and traditional publishing houses commit to on a daily basis. You don’t see it coming. Having to put the kibosh on earnestly submitted bad prose eats at the edges of your soul like few other things.
It’s like jamming a hat down on a man’s head so tight the thoughts can’t get out, but sometimes you have to bear down and be mean. Sometimes those thoughts come squirming out half-formed and gnarly like some stillborn bovine, flopping headfirst onto the pavement greased in the black, stringy soup of confined rot. A pale, glistening bag of legs covered in what looks like Karo syrup.
That’s a horrendous mental image, isn’t it?
Now you know there are those whose job it is to plant their hands firmly on the end of that limp-limbed dead thing and heave it back into the womb, its lifeless eyes rolling, its purple tongue hanging out. You think you hate rejection letters, but imagine putting your lips against those damp, hoary folds and whispering, your white-vapor breath curling in the barn’s February silence, “I’m so sorry I had to push you back in. Better luck next time.”
Sometimes the corpse is so pretty we realize it deserves a chance to fret its stuff upon the stage, so we break out the makeup kit and defibrillator. Sometimes it pops right out sweet and dry, frolicking and playful, covered in fresh brown fur that doesn’t need more than an ounce of help.
We don’t love them any more than the dead ones, but they fetch a better price at the cattle auction. Sooollld! To the lady in the red jacket. Soooollld! To the businessman on the bus.
All things in Moderation
Moderating a fiction workshop is infinitely easier; it mainly centers around maintaining the firehose of self-promotion and making sure your fringe contributors don’t muck up the works with irrelevance and nonsense like videos of themselves singing and posts in a language nobody else can understand.
If it’s low-volume enough you feel the impetus to fill it up with your own insights to get things moving again. Which, if you’re like me, turns out to be that dead calf’s placenta, a veiny and rancid blob of advice. And like placenta, I don’t expect anyone to enjoy it, but there it is, stinking up the place, ready for clinical dissection.
I didn’t think that analogy would be as apt as it turned out to be. I just wanted to gross you out again.
Google+ as Blogging Platform for Writers
I keep hearing the clarion call from other writers: keep a blog! Fill it with stuff! What stuff? Insight? Who wants my blobs? I don’t have that many blobs. Blob blog. Bob Loblaw’s Law Blog. Say that three times fast.
I’m still in a learning stage myself, and most of my insights are calf-davers themselves. I’m not sure I could fill up a blob with my insight (I totally meant to say “blog”, but you see what came out), so what I do is toss it out onto the stoop of Google+ and see if the cat licks it up. I find it simpler and more organic and interactive to post the scrapings of my experience on Google+ because
A. It keeps me from having to force people to leave their social network to go look at my ridiculous website( Ed. Hey!), and
B. It allows for much richer and faster feedback than waiting for people to stumble across my blog and leave comments. Which I don’t think I can set up anyway, as my site’s on Weebly and while they’re the best, I don’t think they even have a module for comments. Which is just as well, because comments sections are the rotten apples of the internet. If you’re about to send me hate mail, go look at YouTube sometime. Also,
C. Social media deserves better than cat macros and depressing links to the nation-embarrassing perpetrations of Pat Robertson and John Boehner.
In other words, it takes out the internet middle-man and consolidates the user and the end-product. It takes the salesman out of the shadows of the mall or the big-box store, and sets him up on the sidewalk with a cart. What he’s selling isn’t always haute cuisine, but it’s a lot easier to access — and accessibility and visibility can make or break a salesman.
Especially when beef is what’s for dinner.
S. A. Hunt writes horror and fantasy fiction, and loves each and every one of his readers. If you’d like to see what kind of wild-eyed insanity he can get up to when the rent’s on the line, check out his new fantasy gunslinger novelThe Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree (The Outlaw King)
, available now on Amazon Kindle and paperback from Amazon.com.