Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Guest Post: Kate Harrison on "The Writer’s Dilemma: 140 characters or 100,000 words?"

I'm not afraid to say that I have a massive girl crush on the author of this guest article! Kate Harrison is one of those authors that I read and loved long before I ever considered starting a blog, and the idea that I would be able to meet her (at the Indigo launch earlier this year) made me squee more than a little. The fact that she is an incredibly sweet and lovely lady who was willing to stand for AGES as I jabbered away at her just makes her more awesome *grins*

So, Kate is releasing the YA novel Soul Beach in September as one of the opening titles in the new Indigo imprint line-up and has kindly consented to provide a guest blog. She is here to discuss The Writer's Dilemma: 140 characters or 100,000 words?

I’ve always said that if it weren’t for Facebook, I’d write twice as many novels.

So it makes me feel slightly less guilty that social networking inspired my first YA novel... well, an author’s got to do her research, right?

Ah, research. The number one excuse for writers to spend time online. One minute you’re breaking off mid-sentence to check one tiny detail about procedures for a coroner’s court hearing, the next it’s 6pm, the dinner’s not cooked, and the day has disappeared without you noticing.

And you still didn’t find out that vital detail about the coroner’s court.

Yes, there are a million more justifications I can use. Networking – yep, I’ve made loads of friends on the net. How many of them buy my books, or have the inside track on getting onto the TV Book Club shortlist? Um...

Then there’s publicity. Certainly, if you don’t have some kind of online presence, your publisher will want to have words. But I haven’t yet seen any absolute proof that tweeting merrily turns your book into a bestseller.

And it definitely won’t if it stops you writing the bloody thing.

On the plus side, all my ‘research’ has certainly made me wise to the downsides: the paranoia, the effect of one careless comment or perceived slight. The way the world outside can shrink as online takes over.

That’s not a feeling that’s limited to writers – and in Soul Beach, I explore the attraction of that other world, where you think you can control how everyone sees you ... until you realise that what you say and do lives on forever. The younger you are, the worst that can be – I feel for teenagers who can no longer escape the pressures of school or to look good when Facebook and social networking dominates their time ‘off.’

OK, so in my fictional online world, the fears and consequences are darker than wasting a day online, but anyone who has experienced that dislocation will know that the seductiveness of the web can be dangerous to your productivity, your concentration span, and your sense of reality.

All this makes me sound anti-web. Which would be highly amusing for my boyfriend who knows I struggle to answer the question ‘what’s the weather like’ without checking online.

The internet is fantastic, democratic, sociable and a force, mainly for good. It’s helping me reach and talk to readers and other writers about our mutual passions for books and writing.

I just think we all – me included – need to remember where the off switch is on the router. And remember that just because 140 characters is easier to write than 100,000 words, sometimes it’s good to choose the tricky option.

Thanks so much, Kate! Soul Beach is out now from all good book retailers *smiles* And do check out the trailer below!

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