Last week I reviewed Jennette Fulda’s bittersweet memoir “Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn’t Go Away”. I enjoyed the book so much that I begged asked Jennette to write a guest post for The Well-Read Wife, and she graciously accepted! I requested Jennette write about the differences between blogging and writing a book, because many of my readers are bloggers. However, even if you’re not a blogger Jennette’s description of the writing process is quite fascinating. So fascinating in fact, that I decided to split up the post into two parts. The following is part one of Fulda’s post on blogging vs. book writing:
Many bloggers harbor the dream of writing a book. I got my first book deal for Half-Assed: A Weight-Loss Memoir on the strength and popularity of my blog PastaQueen.
With it came the challenge of adapting and building on my blog to create a longer, cohesive piece of writing. My second book Chocolate & Vicodin: My Quest for Relief from the Headache that Wouldn’t Go Away contains almost no content from my blog, but working on both books taught me about the differences between blog writing and long form prose.
Blogging is a conversation. A book is a soliloquy.
When I write blog entries, I can directly address my audience, ask them questions, refer to someone else’s recent blog post and carry on like I am chatting to a friend. I’m like a newscaster speaking directly to the camera. Writing a book is like performing a soliloquy or acting in a television show. I know people are out there watching, but I’m not necessarily going to speak directly to them (though I can if I want to). If I ask them what Pilates DVDs they like, I’m not going to get an answer unless they mail me after
the book is published months later. My personality and sense of humor come through in both my books and my blog, but the tone of each is slightly different because of the medium I’m using.
Establishing a setting and background
In the first few pages of Chocolate & Vicodin I have to let you know what my life was like before my chronic headache and how the chronic pain immediately changed my life. This means I have to cram in a lot of information about my job, where I live, what my social circle is like, and my past experience with headaches—all in an entertaining way that still moves the story forward. You start at the beginning and follow me through the rest of the story page by page.
A blog is more like a river. You can step in and out of it where you please, but it keeps running onward. Readers don’t have to read every entry. They can jump around the blog since each post stands on its own, whereas it’s better to read a book from front to back. I don’t have to establish who I am in every entry because I have an about page for that instead. If I mention something that happened earlier, I can just hyperlink to an old entry instead of summarizing it.
Because of this, a book is more likely to have an overarching story arc that takes the reader on an emotional journey. A blog is more like a series of events that may or may not be connected to one another thematically. When I wrote Chocolate & Vicodin I kept notes on each chapter to remind me of what my attitude toward my pain was at the time, how I was coping, and what the emotional effects on my life were. I don’t have to do this sort of planning on my blog.
My blog entries are short. If a post is over two pages long in Word, I worry that people will become bored and won’t read the whole thing. People tend to sneak blogs at work or skim several blogs at once. They’re usually not sitting down in front of their computers to read a long essay.
A book is obviously much longer than a blog post. While this allows me to go into farther detail than I do in a blog entry, I have to keep in mind that each chapter is part of a bigger work. If you watch a movie that has one action sequence right after the next without any downtime, it becomes exhausting. I don’t want to drag down the pace of my books by including too much introspection all at once without splitting it up with some action. I don’t want to get too serious for too long without including some humor. I don’t want to talk for so long about one aspect of my life that the momentum of the whole story slows down. I want each chapter to be interesting in itself, but I also need to keep things moving forward while injecting variety to keep readers interested.
Have you ever had someone tell you the same story twice? It’s because they’ve told it so many times they can’t remember who they’ve told it to. As I worked on my books over the course of several months, I’d forget if I’d written about certain things yet. I kept my notes all over the place: scribbled on paper, sent to myself in emails, and stored in Google Docs files. My thoughts were scattered all over the place, so I’d inevitably end up repeating something I said in one chapter in another. This is one of the reasons
it’s good to have an editor. They caught things on their first read-through that I had become blind to.
When you’re blogging about the topic you’re writing a book about, it can be hard to prevent duplication in both mediums. When I was writing Half-Assed I would occasionally write a blog entry and think, “Hey, this should go in the book!” This presented a conundrum because I didn’t want my book to just be a rehash of my blog. But if every blog entry I wrote went into the book, I’d have nothing to blog
about. Ultimately, I tried to include only the most necessary and entertaining blog entries in the book and to polish them if necessary.
Contest Alert!!! In honor of Jennette Fulda’s guest post I am offering up for grabs 5 sets of Jennette’s memoirs, Chocolate & Vicodin and Half-Assed to 5 lucky readers! Click here for more info about how to win!
I’ll announce the winners Friday, March 4th when part two of Jennette Fulda’s guest post runs on the site. Good luck!