Post 500

Hey, this is my 500th post on this stupid blog!  At first I was trying to do a post a day, but I’ve slowed down to two or three times a week since I began a new novel.  

Thanks to WordPress’s comprehensive statistics, I can tell you that my most popular post ever (by a wide margin) was, oddly enough, this one about my visit to the real Mystic Pizza.  In second place was my post on organic plots.  And the bronze medal goes to this silly post on the Higgs Boson and smoking ducks.  Do you see a trend here?  No, neither do I.  Wordpress doesn’t track “likes”, but I’m pretty sure I got my most likes for this little post passing along a letter to the editor about the Middle East.  I put a lot of effort into that one!

Given the reaction to my last couple of posts, I probably should be doing a lot more Jane Austen blogging.  Maybe I should be writing Jane Austen novels.  If only I could.

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First annual state of the blog address

This blog is one year old today.  So happy birthday, blog!  Some bloggy statistics, courtesy of WordPress:

  • I’ve written 325 posts.  I had a vague idea of posting once a day, but that obviously I came up about 10% short.  I was worried that I wouldn’t have much to say, but that sure hasn’t been the problem.  The problem, as always, is time.
  • I’ve had page views from 78 different countries.  That’s kind of cool, although obviously a lot of people land here and quickly realize that they’ve made a terrible mistake. So far today, for example, I’ve gotten two search hits for “yikes etymology.”  Yikes!  I’ve never blogged about that!
  • Most of my page views come from the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.  Makes sense.  But they are followed by India, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates. Go figure. What can I do to get hits from China and Greenland, I wonder.  Those are the two big areas that aren’t filled in on the WordPress map.
  • My most popular posts have to do with writing.  It’s pretty clear that no one cares what I have to say about Mitt Romney.

The blog has fulfilled my initial purpose for it, which was to get me onto the first page of Google hits for “Richard Bowker,” past all the other undoubtedly very fine Richard Bowkers that the world has produced. This is supposed to make it easier for folks to find my books.  My other, related goal was to get all my books out in ebook format.  I have one left, Marlborough Street, which is pretty much ready to go in January.

Here are some resolutions for my second year of blogging:

  • Make my posts shorter.  Five-hundred-word essays are too long for the world’s current attention span.
  • Add more photos and graphics.  The world likes pictures.
  • Spend more time looking at the blogs of the folks who have liked my posts or commented on them.  I really appreciate your interest!
  • Say nothing about Mitt Romney.  Unfortunately, I may have to start doing more Scott Brown blogging, now that we face another senatorial election here in Massachusetts.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who has stopped by!  Now I need to shut up before your attention wanders.

The Next Big Thing — What I’m Working On Now

There’s apparently an author meme infecting the Internet wherein you’re supposed to talk about what you’re currently working on, and link to others doing the same.  I hate this meme. I hate talking about what I’m working on.  Actually, I also hate talking about stuff I’ve already worked on.  But if I didn’t do that, this blog would be empty except for posts about Mitt Romney.  So here goes.  For a much better example of how to do this, check out Jeff Carver’s site.  If you’re participating in the meme, feel free to leave a link in comments.

1) What is the title of your next book?

I dunno.  And if I told you, I would probably be wrong.

2) Where did the idea come from for the book?

I had an image.  I’ve written a few pages of notes about the novel, and that image is the first sentence in the notes.  That first sentence is now crossed out.  So I wonder if this tells us something.

3) What genre does your book fall under?

It is your standard post-apocalypse private eye novel, with a main character who is deeply interested in nineteenth-century British poetry.

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

The idea that there would be a movie rendition of this book is so ridiculous that I won’t even contemplate it.  Could you please come up with better questions?

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Walter Sands investigates the disappearance of the charismatic leader of a local church; as usual, he fails, and he succeeds, and he wonders what life is all about.  (This is the third in a series.)

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-published.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

I’m about fifteen percent into the first draft.  Early days.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

See the response to question 3.  If there are other books in this “genre,” I’m not aware of them.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I have been thinking a lot about religion.  So I started to wonder about religious beliefs in the world I had created for Dover Beach.  I said a little about this in its sequel, The Distance Beacons.  I decided I had something more to say.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think there will be a boat ride!  And maybe, if you’re good, a visit to New York City!  Unfortunately, Manhattan will have a rat problem.  Also, there will be some references to nineteenth-century British poetry.  If that doesn’t pique your interest, I don’t know what will.

Self-plagiarism: mortal sin, venial sin, or huh?–who cares?

Jonah Lehrer of the New Yorker has been caught recycling old material for his new blog Frontal Cortex. The New Yorker has had to add editor’s notes to all the blog entries in which they “regret the duplication of material.”

I haven’t read Lehrer’s books, but his blog shows him to be a fine writer working the Malcolm Gladwell vein — giving an entertaining layman’s spin on findings from social psychology, neuroscience, and the like.  Good stuff!

The Slate writer seems to have put his finger on at least part of Lehrer’s problem: it’s just to hard to keep coming up with new material.

Given that continuous cycle of creation and reuse, blogging seems to have been a bad idea for Jonah Lehrer. A blog is merciless, requiring constant bursts of insight. In populating his New Yorker blog with large swaths of his old work, Lehrer didn’t just break a rule of journalism. By repurposing an old post on why we don’t believe in science, he also unscrewed the cap on his brain, revealing that it’s currently running on the fumes emitted by back issues of Wired. For Lehrer and The New Yorker, the best prescription is to shut down Frontal Cortex and give him some time to come up with some fresh ideas. The man’s brain clearly needs a break.

That sounds about right.  Between June 5 (when the blog apparently started) and June 13, Lehrer put up five blog posts — each of which was the equivalent of a nicely crafted magazine-quality column.  It’s not surprising that he cut some corners.

Part of the problem has to be that Lehrer is trying to make a living from his blog (among other things).  Blogs have no deadlines (unless the New Yorker imposes them), but there are expectations associated with them.  There are plenty of blogs that I don’t frequent any more because the author updates them too infrequently.  If you want traffic, you need content.  Lehrer was trying to feed the beast and decided he needed to use leftovers.

And what kind of sin has Lehrer committed?  Mostly a sin of stupidity, I’d say.  You can’t expect to get away with self-plagiarism on the Internet, and you can’t expect some people not to gloat at a misstep from a young hotshot.  A little note at the end of each post saying what the editor’s note now says at the top of the post would have sufficed, I think.

But wait!  This blog is about me, not Jonah Lehrer!  Please note that today is my six-month blogging anniversary, and I haven’t been caught self-plagiarizing once! (I’ve quoted extensively from my novels, but I believe blogging etiquette allows this.)  I’ve tried to follow my own writerly advice and make blogging a habit, so I’ve averaged about a post a day — although, granted, some of them consisted mainly of YouTube videos.  I guess I cut corners, too.

Anyway, advice about how to improve the blog would be gratefully received.