I’ve been very busy writing and rewriting and traveling, so my entries have taken a hit to say the least. It’s given me time to decide how my “live writing experiment” has been going, and early reports suggest I’m still getting more hits for Emile Hirsch (there goes another one!) and freckles than for my chapters. After checking my blog stats for while I was inactive, I stayed pretty even in terms of visits. I would love to say that’s because people kept checking back as part of their routine, but there’s no real way of knowing. I was hoping to see some very low numbers, and I did, but then I’d get a spike that made me think that the numbers during the sWitch series was largely due to Speed Racer (Ding!) and fetish sexuality. Hmm…maybe there’s an idea in there, somewhere.
Despite a lack of offers to help promote my stories or a landslide in the sales of my last book, I have to say the experiment taught me a few things I wasn’t expecting, and that those things may turn out to be more valuable than I’d hoped.
For one, committing to publish three chapters a week forced me to write at least three chapters a week. As it was, I wrote ahead and was done a good three weeks prior to the final entry. That was a pleasant surprise, and despite a longer rewrite process to get it from “blogtastic” to “proseworthy”, I think my writing benefited greatly from the experience.
As I alluded to above, writing for a blog first gave me the freedom to stretch a little. My tone seemed more accessible, and my style adjusted to be more suited for shorter attention spans. I learned with HorrorCon that some people who derive their written entertainment from online sites and so forth don’t always like to dig in. They want it out there and up front, and they don’t like to wait for the goods. So, I gave them the goods, or at the very least tried to. But where I relied on a photo to get my readers going and a lot of “telling” rather than “showing”, when I went into revise mode I had to tweak things to fit the rules of the literary elders who would throw my manuscript away if I kept it the way it was. I did choose to keep the prologue-heavy, back story-dumping of my “Meet the Characters” entries, but I did not because I thought that was the only way to get their stories across, but rather because they were well-written, set the tone well and were fun. Fun, I decided, was something I wanted to survive the transition, and for now they stay.
Also, I found writing in more easily digestible chunks of 1,500 – 2,000 words a great way to maintain momentum in my narrative. At first I was a little wary that the story would feel shoe-horned or wedged into a style that was a little too monotonous, but I’m not sure that’s the case anymore. Monotony comes from bad writing, not chapters of uniform length. And by “uniform” I mean varying between the word count I mentioned above. Sometimes it was below 1.5k, and a few times towards the end it poked its ambitious eyes above 2k. In rewriting, those numbers were invisible since I pasted the chapters into a doc one after the other, so I’m sure the uniformity issue is even less pronounced.
Lastly, I think my style was made to be even more pithy and direct. I always prided myself in capturing an image or feeling in a very short amount of time by trying to get to the essence quickly and as cleverly as I could. I’m not a writer who wants to paint a hyper-realistic portrait so that the reader is given all the info they need to see my vision, but rather I want to spark the reader’s own creative juices and make them do a little work. Again, the word is “fun” – as long as they’re being entertained, they’ll help move the story along. So by not wasting time hovering over every crack in the steps that lead to Hellhole’s front door, I floated a few interesting details about the sounds made when scaling its rickety heights and let my visitors fill in the rest as per their experiences. Also, I never really describe my main characters. I give you plenty of inner qualities by describing their circumstances or attitudes, and based on that information I hoped to bring them to life in your mind. If I told you that, because Ken Sr. was ruminating on the similarities between softball and and the Hadrogen Collider, he missed an important fly ball and was subsequently left out of an invitation to play golf with some of his teammates, I’m counting on the reader to conjure an image of a man, not in the best shape of his life and possibly less athletic and “cool” than he fancies himself to be. By doing that, I’m not relying on any literary archetypes, but allowing you to pluck someone from your own lives who may be something of an unusual character who falls a lot, but isn’t afraid to get back up despite making a bit of a fool of himself.
So all in all, I feel I know how Scott Norton writes and what my readers should come to expect from one of my books. I’m into dark fiction with a literary bent that is both heavy on voice (considered to be presentation fiction, as in “Catcher in the Rye”) and sharp on imaginative detail. You also get a heavy dose of humor with my stuff, but sometimes I’m just setting you up to be terrified. And it’s my brand of humor – a bit twisted but always character-based and heartening, kind of like a very sour cocktail with a little too much of the hard stuff hidden by the taste – not garden-variety, broad slapstick that wobbles on the surface like a cheap, department store raft. My rafts have holes, and they’re likely drifting to dark and revealing shores.
As a final note, I want to invite more participation to the blog. I want this place to be about readers and their lives as well. I want to know what people think about fiction and popular culture and, hell, pretty much anything. I’ll still offer my stories and anything else I can think of that might entertain you, but it would be pretty cool to get some conversations going. Because if I’ve learned anything about writing, you can’t do it worth a goddamn unless you’ve got the energy of other souls percolating your waters.
So I ask you, what are you watching on TV? What’s really surprising you? What’s letting you down, and why? Personally, I’ve been trawling for good movies and waiting anxiously for “Battlestar Galactica” to resume. I’m also planning on giving HBO’s “True Blood” another shot by starting from the top with On–Demand. And you can laugh, but reality TV is one of my guiltier pleasures, the brasher the better. I’m definitely going to check out “Estate of Panic“, where contestants win prizes by being tormented in a haunted house of sorts. Nice.
And thanks to all who did read sWitch. Knowing you were out there and chiming in now and again made all the difference. Next up, I’ve got a trilogy of short stories I want to do with the dominant theme being demonic possession. And I plan on seriously fucking with your heads, this time.