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A Caveat for Literary Bloggers

I’m not too sure if there are many Performancing users who write literature on their blogs, but if you’re one of them, have you considered that the pieces you’ve published on your blog might be disqualified from appearing in literary publications and being entered into contests?

This isn’t an inconvenience for lit bloggers who just want to share their works with the world through online journals. It’s also not for writers who are already established (e.g. have published a book or have won contests). However, it is a problem for new writers looking to ‘break into’ the ‘offline’ (and often academic) literary circles.

When I began my first blog (Slip of the Pen) back in 2004, I wanted it to become the repository of my then-infrequent attempts at creative writing. Mercifully, a couple of good pieces sprung from the blog (or so I want to believe!). When I began to take lit submissions seriously, I naturally turned to those few good pieces. Being a lit industry n00b and all, I was disappointed to learn that these pieces couldn’t be accepted by many respected lit publications, both print and online, simply because they’re already considered self-published. Some journals even explicitly mention ‘blog posts’ as unacceptable submissions.

I personally believe this system sucks, especially if the lit blog in question isn’t monetized (and thus highly personal). But I didn’t and still don’t have a choice – I confess that I’m now writing pieces with a “publication first, blog later” mindset. It has paid off in terms of writing credits, but yeah, there’s been a trade-off – my lit blog’s content is becoming less diverse. Its recent posts have been narrowed to a single genre, that is, personal essays.

For the lit and other art bloggers (photography, paintings, comics, and so on, though I don’t know if the ‘self-published’ term applies to these works) who can see themselves in my shoes, deciding which work to put or not on blogs can be a tricky issue.

Will you save the best and post only the ‘good enough’ works? This might be construed as disrespectful to your blog readers, as they’re virtually on equal footing with print readers, and thus deserve the same quality. Will you post only the pieces which have been earlier published in journals? You’ll lose out on the early feedback and (hopefully) constructive criticism from your blog readers – and feedback is a blog’s forte. Not to mention new and raw writers need feedback, badly.

I guess one thing will help solve the problem a bit – writing more. More works to choose from, more room for a “publication first, blog later” mindset. This works well with spacing out your posts and sticking to a regular posting schedule. For example, if you post in weekly intervals, you need to resist the urge to post that spanking new masterpiece of a poem immediately a day after the last entry.

P.S. Technically, the term “literary blog” doesn’t just pertain to blogs with original works of writers and poets; the term can cover blogs that discuss books, feature other writers and their works, and deal with literature in general. I narrowed the term’s use here for simplicity’s sake. 😉

Author: PhillipK

5 thoughts on “A Caveat for Literary Bloggers

  1. This post is very interesting to me because I hope to eventually publish some things in print. My question is whether or not an article on the same topic but extensively rewritten would be acceptable to publishers. It is very helpful to blog in order to organize my thoughts and receive feedback, but I don’t plan on submitting the articles for publication in the same exact form.

  2. Well, it’s a little known secret that I managed to clone myself recently. Except he likes to sleep a lot, so he doesn’t get much work done. Or is that me?

    Why my stuff’s not literary? Well, okay, out of the 60 stories I wrote in winter 2002, about 4-5 of them are novellas/novelletes and verge on literary themes and treatments. Still, they’re “slipstream” (Canadian term), meaning that they have an element in them that might be considered science fiction, which might make it harder to be called literary. (Though Gabriel Garcia Marquez would insert elements of the supernatural into his otherwise very literary works.) A better term is “speculative fiction” – not quite science fiction, but asks “what if”.

    Yes, I’ll include you on the release list. I’m hoping to give a final edit to everything a release a few free volumes (PDF format) starting late this year.

  3. Raj, that’s hilarious! 😛 Now I need to do that, too. Too bad my problogging can’t cover the cloning costs!

    “I can’t consider any of my short and long fiction as literary” –> Why not, Raj? ‘Literary’ is a subjective term. Let’s throw out of the window the labels stamped upon our works by academicians and critics, hehe.

    Sorry to hear that about your fiction blog. I was fortunate to not have been thinking about the publication problem when I began the blog (I was both a total blogging and lit newbie back then); otherwise, I probably would’ve abandoned the journal early on.

    Raj, please include me in your list of people-to-contact when you release that collection 😉

  4. Piers Anthony cloned himself multiple times, a long time ago (before Incantations of Immortality) so that he could write one book per quarter

    I can’t consider any of my short and long fiction as literary, even though it’s influenced by many literary writers. However, I ran into the same worry. Should I try to get published first? Well, even two years after starting my fiction blog, I don’t think I have more than a handful of posts because of this concern. I did write the occasional news piece about a novelist, or about a new book, or a fiction writing technique. However, I’ve decided now decided to do the same thing as Cory Doctorow: release my writing as a free ebook. That’ll be when I polish my collections of short stories. So in about ten years

  5. Great suggestions, Brett. Piers Anthony rocks 😉 He’s up there in my personal pantheon of SF gods, along with Isaac Asimov and a select few others. When I first came across his site (half a year ago, I think), I enjoyed this page most, which deals with Internet publishing.

    Re: gratification through blogging, that’s true. Being able to instantly interact with an audience (and having that audience in the first place rather easily!) is very addicting. Still, there is mystique in being published in print, and there are countries where Internet publishing is not being taken seriously (e.g. my own, the Philippines).

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