Blogging a Book

Blogs, Books, and Good Writing

Blogs and books don’t share much in common, at first glance, but they should share the most important, critical aspect of the written word: good writing. Now that blogs have “grown up” as a literary form, blog authors need to  pay attention to craft.

Nina Amir is a writer, coach and editor of both books and blogs. Her guidance not only improves the writing of blogs, but opens an avenue for bloggers to publish their work in book form. Since many blog readers are blog writers, I offer her website as an invaluable tool for those whose blogs could, or should, be published as books:

 http://howtoblogabook.com/hire-a-blog-coach/

I’ve read several blogs that deserve to be immortalized in books, and I’ve read at least one book that started out as a blog:  

 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Riverbend_(blogger)

I’ve considered using my own blog to construct a book, eventually. Book or no book, a blog should offer good writing. I encourage all who  write blogs to learn about the craft of writing, even if their blogs are simply places in which they release a pressing stream-of-consciousness. Readers deserve good writing.

Blogging a Book

Certain blogs are good enough to publish in book format. American Bedu, http://americanbedu.com/ , for instance, contains  posts of interest to those who would understand life in Saudi Arabia from an international perspective. I’d love to be an editor, and cull the wheat from the chaff for an eventual hard copy book of that blog. Unfortunately, I chose the wrong course of undergraduate study, so the only editing I get to do is of my own work.

That’s OK. I have enough of it to occupy my time for the rest of my life, and since I have gravitated towards the memoir genre, I continually contemplate the writing of my own memoir,  publishable in book form, of course.

Aside from the reasons or the advisability of such a project, I am finding excellent resources to help an author accomplish just that– writing a book. One such resource is Nina Amir’s “Blog a Book” blog, in which she shows the ways in which a blog can be brought into the service of producing a book:



Occasional bloggers think that their blogs can be lifted and patched into a book, but that wouldn’t work except for a small group of highly focused blogs with dedicated followings, such as American Bedu. The blog format has developed into a vessel to contain conglomerations of outpourings from the blog writer’s psyche, and as such, has enjoyed tremendous popularity. Even focused, purposeful blogs tend to represent fluid affairs and current topics, or else serve the instruction of esoteric subjects.

Nina Amir’s idea turns the thrust of the blog around. Rather than using a blog to elucidate the blogger’s ideas on religious, political and social positions— interspersed with daily activities, menus, and weather reports— a blogger could use a blog to shape and hold a book project.

I like this idea. I will think about it.Let me know if you, too, think it’s a good idea for your writing.

WNFIN Results

Statistics for the WNFIN Project
Writing Nonfiction in November

This is the first year I’ve participated in any type of writing challenge, and I am satisfied with the results. I’ve produced the rough drafts for several essays worth more effort, and I’ve improved my sense of emotional balance. Rather than write sporadically, I’ve written regularly, even when I didn’t feel like it, except for five days, several of which found me totally upset with my son-in-law, and of two which found me at work unexpectedly during my usual writing time.

I joined the challenge on November fifth, therefore I had twenty-five days of participation. The statistics are as follows:

Total words written: 17071

Average: 683 words per day for the 25 days to which I committed
Actual average:  898 for the 19 days on which I actually wrote
Least amount of words a day: 237
Most amount of words a day: 3339
Goal:  50,000
Short of goal: 32929
Days needed to achieve goal at present rate: 48
Total days to goal: 73 (~.2.5 months)

This interesting experiment made me realize the necessity of commitment and good-old-fashioned will-power needed in order to be a writer while still in the midst of responsibilities. I learned my own rate of production. The fact that I fell profoundly short of the goal does not distress me at all, because the goal was not my own. My intention here was to do as much as I could, and even though I couldn’t do much, I did some good work.

I suppose I am ready to set a goal of my own. The goal would be to write consistently, at least twenty-five days per month, on the average of 500 words per day. I can do this. I will even craft essays worthy of posting to this blog and/or distributing elsewhere. The main goal of writing, however, is to open life’s door to deeper levels, and to position my soul closer to center.





WNFIN— Progress Commentary


Excerpt from the WNFIN challenge:
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
597 words

Maybe my ambition to write  is nothing more than a diversionary tactic to romanticize my life now which is entirely devoid of romance. Maybe my desire to write is nothing more than a sublimation of my desire to escape the routine of working. Not yet a week into this writing challenge, I am threatened with doubt about my intention as well as ability to write. The goal is fifty-thousand words during the month of November. Granted, I joined late, which means that to reach the goal, I’d have to produce about two thousand words each day, which should not be too demanding for a real writer. I, however, have fallen short of even half that measure, and I can not rationalize by blaming my job or other worldly responsibilities that rob my writing of its due.

The truth is that I spend less time writing than I do surfing the net, playing Spider Solitaire, downloading music, watching Italian films and even  inferior American films. I also do my Arabic lessons on-line, and read dozens of emails and blog comments from various sources. I am currently not doing digital photo editing, but when I get on a roll, I do nothing but digital photo editing which doesn’t even have redeeming value, such as a  family album for the grandkids; it’s fractals and kaleidoscopes and combining unlikely layers into patterns and colors that thrill my eye. No one even sees half those images, except perhaps a few of them that I put on Flickr and are looked at by a minuscule slice of Flickr membership.

All of this activity entertains me, engages me, and inspires me, but at the end of the day, I have not written the stories I think I’d like to write, so what’s going on? Even my Intensive Journal certification course has fallen by the wayside, but that, at least, is an effort I always preferred to develop in retirement.

I love reading memoir, and this year I’ve read at least a dozen, with several dozen more sitting on my bookshelf and in my Kindle, waiting. I fancy myself adding to the tidal wave of memoir that now overruns literary circles, but here I am, right now, at the keyboard, giving myself the chance, and what do I do? I complain about my lack of production. So what can a rational soul think about a person like me, a writer like me?

Well, I do have talent, that is indisputable, evidenced in the fact that I’ve been positively reinforced for it all my life by people who own  credentials. I’ve even been published a few times, once by TIME magazine when I answered one of the their questions to readers about phobias. They wanted a few words– literally– about their reader’s phobias, so I crafted a statement about my phobia of nasal congestion, and several months later, my brother was on an airplane and read my blurb. He was so shocked he said out loud, “Hey, that’s my sister!”

The TIME piece, novelty as it was, is not something that would go into my portfolio, but it does stand next to the handful of magazines, chapbooks and anthologies that include my name. So, I have talent, and that fact makes my lack of production even more suspect.

I am rambling. Yes, I am rambling, and I hate rambling, but I am doing so in order to fill the screen with words in an effort to reach the daily goal. It’s not going to happen, not today, at least. Maybe tomorrow.

Writing Nonfiction in November

For years, I’ve been aware of NaNoWriMo– the annual challenge for fiction writers to produce a fifty-thousand word manuscript during the month of November.

http://www.nanowrimo.org/

I’ve always wanted to participate, except that I don’t write fiction. I encouraged Brandy Chase (of American Muslimah Writer) to participate.

http://www.americanmuslimawriter.blogspot.com/

Actually, I suggested that if she took up the challenge, I would, as well, so she took up the challenge, and I am left with the fact that I am not a fiction writer.

Enter Jung’s concept of Synchronicity. Just this morning, while looking for something unrelated, I discovered the nonfiction equivalent to NaNoWriMo– WNFIN, Writing Nonfiction in November:

http://writenonfictioninnovember.com/about-2/

So, off I go to begin the challenge!

How shall I approach the task? I’ll need to produce about two-thousand words a day to complete the challenge. That’s a lot of writing, especially for someone like me, who hates to babble. I write deliberately. Free writing and verbal effluvience are not my strong suits, nevertheless, they will have to become so in order to meet this challenge.

I think I will make a list of subjects having to do with the events of my life, and the attitudes that have shaped my choices. Each day I’ll take up a new heading. Hopefully, some of this work will find its way to my blog. In that way, I’ll infuse some fresh material into it. I’m getting kind of saturated with writing and thinking about religion. I need a diversion.

Meditation Behind the Wheel


I’m taking an internet writing class called “Journaling Through the Chakras.” I’m supposed to begin each writing session with a guided meditation on a particular chakra. So far, I’ve approached the meditations with curiosity and openness, but I can’t help realizing that my best meditations occur behind the wheel of my car.

I love cars; they hold a special place in my heart, and maybe that’s why I can meditate so well in them. I like driving alone, when I can  put my attention to traffic on auto-pilot. I don’t know how I do this. At times, I actually miss my exit, and don’t realize it until I “wake up” and wonder why I am still on the highway, or even wonder what highway I’m on…

I’m a good driver. I don’t understand how I can meditate and still maintain good driving habits, but I can. I do it spontaneously. I’ve been thinking for years that I should get  a computer or a recording device to keep in the car so I can preserve some of the products of my driving meditations. Maybe that wouldn’t work out, after all. Maybe then I’d really forget about the traffic and get myself into trouble.

Maybe the best value of driving meditations is that I cannot capture them at all without risking problems on the highway. They must then sink back into my unconscious where they can ferment until they find openings into my journal or blog or photography or daily activities. By then, though, their character will have changed, and I won’t recognize them transformed. That’s probably OK, too, because what is the purpose of meditation?

It’s not necessarily to craft everything into beautiful words to type on a keyboard and share with whomever happens to land on the page. It’s not even necessary to save for one’s own self as a reminder or an evidence of one’s intangible life. Meditation’s goals are more practical, even worldly. They are all about putting one’s life in balance between physical and emotional, intellectual and spiritual, social and personal. As such, the act of writing out a meditation pulls out only one or two aspects of the experience. We tend to focus upon those aspects that remains conscious.

They call us to attend a need, make something right, develop something that’s already right, or reinforce something that’s been right all along. What about the rest of it, the part we didn’t  write down, the part we couldn’t record? What happens to that? Maybe it’s not important. Some believe it flies out the window.  Some say  it goes underground and works behind the scenes, gently prodding us to respond to unvocalized wisdom. I don’t know. Maybe some flies out and some sticks around incognito.

All I know for sure is that I meditate best behind the wheel, and look forward to it every day.

The Journal

Sunday, July 18, 2010
The Journal, The Wonderful Journal

The Journal is an elegant Windows program for personal journal writing, record keeping, social networking, creative writing, and whatever other purpose you might conjure up. It’s the most versatile, customizable writing program I’ve tried. You can post to your blog directly from it, you can password protect it, you can decorate it, you can insert images, etc… Whatever you can think of, it can do right now, or will do in the next version. David Michael, the programmer, is constantly at work tweaking The Journal, adding new capabilities (just when you think there are no more capabilities to be added) and communicating with Journal users who ask questions, make suggestions, or simply want to tell him how they use The Journal.

I’ve tried several other notable writing programs. I used to like Life Journal, but poor support drove me away.

Blogging tools like Windows Live Writer are useful, but The Journal includes the functions of Live Writer, plus much more.

The Journal is not yet available for Mac, but you could certainly install Windows on your Mac using Boot Camp or Parallels, and  then put The Journal on it (which is what I plan to do when I buy my first Mac, one of these days.)

Try it free for forty-five days:

http://www.davidrm.com/

For the record, I am not in any way connected to David Michael, nor do I benefit when someone clicks on the link to The Journal from my blog. I simply love the program and want to endorse it.

Typekit, Anyone?

Has anyone on WordPress gotten the hang of using this tool? I don’t know what is easy about it. Nothing was easier than controlling font appearance the old-fashioned way. I think I’ll continue to do so, if such an antiquarian method is still available on WordPress.

Book Review: “A Thousand Spendid Suns” by Khaled Husseini

July 8, 2010

(The metaphorical Riyadh has room for book reviews.)

Anyone familiar with Islam and/or the Middle East will recognize at once that this author knows whereof he writes. He should; he was born and raised in Afghanistan, but has lived in the United States long enough to digest the differences, complexities and contradictions of both worlds.

I wouldn’t have read this book, because I am sick of reading about the poor, downtrodden Middle-Eastern woman. My colleagues, however, are all reading the book, and they practically thrust it upon me. I felt duty-bound to read it and correct whatever misinformation might be pouring forth from the book into their naive minds.

In fact, I was the one who was impressed with the story’s apparent authenticity. Though I’ve never lived in Afghanistan, I know this book could have been a memoir as easily as it is a novel. I won’t go into the plot or the resolution, but I will say that the characters are drawn in all the complexity and irony that marks the human condition beyond its containment within the straightjackets of cultural indoctrination.

I can offer nothing but praise for the book.

The only other thing I added for the benefit of my colleagues was that I’d like to read books about women who are living happily in the Middle East, whose lives are not circumscribed by repressive forces. I know that happy women exist there. I was one of them, and so were my friends. I still have friends who wouldn’t dream of returning to the US to live; they’ve got it too good in Saudi Arabia.

That being said, I do underscore the need to tell the stories of Mariam, Laila, and others like them. Even Rasheed,  ogre that he was, could not have behaved but as he’d been taught to behave from growing up around men who taught him, by example, how to behave.

Tariq, however, as well as Abu Laila, grew up under a different set of values which offer a counterpoint and point of departure for the embodiment of the universal values set forth by all religions.

Novels such as this one are nothing if not an important contribution to the edification of readers who would not otherwise be afforded opportunities to enter into the lives of people like Mariam, Laila, Rasheed and Tariq. This is the kind of novel that can swing the tide of entire populations, and therefore position people for the change that must come before this world can thrive in peace, not only peace between men and women, but between cultures and countries.