Revenge of the Year in Review: Writing

What’s this you say? Wasn’t James done solemnly eulogizing last year? Aren’t all the Year In Reviews supposed to be done by now? What’s going on? Where am I?! You are in front of your computer reading my latest attempt at improving my writing. Yes, I know, I get a lot of compliments on my writing from those readers who are not search robots (unless ads for phentermine and online casinos are a form of compliment), but wouldn’t it be nice if my pithy observations were made more often? How do I know if I have any skills to improve if I don’t use them? Long story short, I tried to write novel last year. I started in May and gave myself until December 31st to finish the first draft. Unfortunately, since I am not mailing copies to myself and prospecting literary agents right now, something has to be done about my rate of output. We live in an ultra-industrialized society based on results, so if I’m not pumping out pages every day, I have no right to call myself a writer. Since I have more time now to write, I’ve decided that if I increase my overall writing output, a 10 page a day sort of regimen might not be so daunting. So in the interest of volume, I’d just like to talk about a couple of things I’ve learned last year about writing.

The Online Market:

There was a time when pulp and glossy magazines were so prolific that a semi-competent writer could make a living long enough to find his or her voice and build some semblance of a career. With all of these other media options out there it seems like those days are gone forever. I did a little research, and it appears that this isn’t the case. Writers today are now making money from the advertisements on weblogs. I had thought that this sort of business model had been quashed earlier in the decade, but with the advancements made in applications like Google adsense, the effectiveness of online advertisements is much better managed. Businesses can essentially pay by the eyeball for visitors to their websites. Professional blogger sites like problogger.net and copyblogger.com have extensive articles on how to make money in weblogs. The advice essentially boils down to a few choice steps

1. Choose a niche. This can be a specific interest that provides enough research for at least one article a week. The target audience for this niche interest must also be computer savvy in order to grace your site with traffic. You can also generate interest by aggregating information from many different sources with a common theme.

2. Generate enough posts consistently to generate traffic. Googlebots love it when your site updates regularly

3. Contact advertisers with a media kit describing your site. Sure, you could make some money using contextual ads, but if you actually have that personal rapport with your readers, you should be able to provide them with ads they can actually use. This will also provide your advertisers with consumers they can use.

And voila, you have your new revenue stream. Blogs like Gizmodo.com, consumerist.com and lifehacker.com are great examples of blogs that make money. As you may have noticed, james-strocel.com is not in the format of a money-making blog. The interests are too broad, and let’s face it, it doesn’t update enough. Hopefully within the next year I can come up with a blogging concept that’ll result in some groceries.

Novels: Screenplays are for suckers

Even before the writer’s strike, there was tons of literature by former television and movie writers that both media were becoming creatively bankrupt. The shows were being bankrolled to enhance the names of executives rather than to make any real profit. Works of art simply can’t be designed like cars or mp3 players. The ones that worked the best are very personal and specific in nature, so to make a movie all things to all people is an exercise in futility. So why not go it alone? Keeping ownership of your idea is not only good for future income, it preserves the idea’s potential income. When you buy a movie ticket or turn on the TV, you’re looking to experience a personal connection with whoever made the show. Film, television and print are after all only means of communication, they are not products in and of themselves. You only need to look as far as J.K. Rowling to see that we live in the era of the billionaire novelist. The potential gains of the novel far outweigh that of a screenplay that may never see the light of day anyway.