A faulty plug-in crashed my site and left it a total wreck. It was awful, but all is fine now.
In the intervening period, I’ve been editing a short story collection from a Canadian writer that’s set in the area just north of Detroit.
I’m also preparing for a new job: writing a piece about a Renaissance family that’s far more interesting “family” than New York’s Colombo Crime Family; compared with them, the Five Families look like the Brady Bunch.
In a posting for PaidContent, Ben Elowitz writes that SEO is dead–killed by by “SMO,” or Social Media Optimization. He says readers are now going to content sites, not because of a search, but because of a link provided by a friend on Facebook. He then rhapsodizes how this could lead to a time when good content is what people are after–not keywords and the like.
Over the past five years, Web publishing has been so heavily dominated by search engine optimization (SEO) that, to many publishing executives, the right keywords have become far more important than their sites’ actual content or audience. But this movement toward SEO has been dangerous, as it’s moved publishers’ eye off their most important job of creating great content, and onto the false goals of keywords, hacks, paid links, and technical engineering that their audience doesn’t know or care about.
I hope he’s right, but it’s best to remember that there’s that thing Lewis Mumford called the Myth of the Machine: we always think the latest invention will lead to our finally becoming less vulgar (when TV was invented, we thought it meant we’d all watch cultural programs–HA HA HA).
The death of SEO could also mean (given that Elowitz’s conjectures on where traffic will be coming from is correct) that we’ll be living in a hall of mirrors: only our friends will give us news. Personally, I get my news through Google Reader, a different kettle of fish in many ways (although Reader has a social aspect). I’m not sure where that lies on the matrix. And, while Facebook is what everyone talks about, Twitter is better on click-throughs.
The death of SEO has been predicted before. The last one I recall said Google Instant has killed SEO. Maybe SEO will die like that final scene in the 70s movie, Murder on the Orient Express: everyone is killing it, because it deserves to die.
The Gallery Bar, 120 Orchard St, New York, NY
Tuesday, November 2, 7–9 p.m.
E.C. Osondu I picked his story, “Waiting” out of the slush pile. It went on to win the 2009 Caine Prize, Africa’s leading literary prize. (It beat out the Paris Review for the award.) The Chair of Judges, New Statesman Chief Sub-Editor Nana Yaa Mensah called it “a tour de force, powerfully written with not an ounce of fat on it—and deeply moving.”
You’re invited. It’s Free.
Jonathan Franzen and Mary Gaitskill on Osondu
“E.C. Osondu is a man with a clear head and a great ear, writing from crucial places.”—Jonathan Franzen, author of Freedom and The Corrections.
“With observant wonder and subtle humor, [Osondu] portrays…our unique capacity for hope and hopelessness rolled together.” —Mary Gaitskill, author of Bad Behavior and Veronica
My PR Quote on the party
“Guernica is proud to have been a vital part of E.C. Osondu’s career—after all, that’s why our editors work on the magazine. We want to showcase the unexpected, whether its fiction, poetry, or hard-hitting nonfiction. But also, we love to host a variety of cultural events, from Pen World Voices to our get-together salons. This book party for E.C. promises to be one of our best.”
Using data from the most popular newspapers out there, a group called Perfect Market is saying that while stupid articles about trash personalities such as Lindsay Lohan generate traffic, they don’t bring in the money for the websites involved. Perhaps while this is a fantasy for the newspapers publishing the piece (I read about it in The New York Times), I still believe it.
After all, when I read that crap, I parachute in, and then feel filthy for it. I bail as quickly as possible and rarely forward it.
Ethel was raised in Ireland and now lives in San Francisco. Her story collection, Cut Through the Bone, will be released from Dark Sky Books this December. A second story collection, Hard to Say, is forthcoming from PANK, in 2011. She blogs at ethelrohan.com.
I just ran across this piece by Nancy Rawlinson (who is a contributing editor at Guernica ) on the outlining debate. She says that yes, you should. You should outline your fiction. I have to admit that I sometimes do, and sometimes don’t. If the piece is short, within the realm of flash fiction, then I don’t. If it’s long, then yes. Absolutely. But the outline itself is also a form of fiction, because I don’t follow it all that closely.
But I outline after I’ve done a bit of writing. I struggle to find my opening, then outline it if I think I’ve got a solid opening.
When I feel like there’s a firm foundation to build something upon, then I make sure that I’m going to build it right by outlining. But only then, because if I do it too early, the enormity of what I’m about to undergo disheartens me.
Right now I’m writing the beginnings of a novel or novella (I’m not sure which). I’m writing 50 pages, first. If the first 50 look like they’re good, then I’ll decide what it is. Or even if it’s crap.
The hardest part of writing (for me) is remembering why I’m writing the piece in the first place, and even worse—staying in love with it. It’s so easy to decide that a piece of fiction in its early stages is terrible, boring, and unfixable. (A journalist I used to know once said fiction writers were weak, because they complained all of the time. She even wrote an article about it, mocking them. But this journalist was wrong: fiction writers aren’t weak complainers. Not at all—we’re inventing a whole world, which is a difficult thing. And the slightest bit of grounding for us—like an outline—is a godsend.)
Janet Fitch author of the novels White Oleander and Paint it Black has some advice for writers, whether they write fiction or nonfiction (although the advice is directed at fiction writers). Many of these tips were already given to me by Jim Shepard (back when I studied with him), but they’re worth repeating here. I’ll give tip number one below. The rest is at The Los Angeles Times site.
1. Write the sentence, not just the story
Long ago I got a rejection from the editor of the Santa Monica Review, Jim Krusoe. It said: “Good enough story, but what’s unique about your sentences?” That was the best advice I ever got. . .
Eventually, there will be slides and all sorts of stuff. Eventually. Right now, nothing’s too fancy around here. It’s like I’ve just moved into a large, messy house and the construction workers haven’t quite finished with the plumbing and painting.
Except I’m the guy doing the plumbing and the painting; I’m doing this thing myself.
It’s a fun thing to do: I’m learning WordPress more concretely (Guernica is on Movable Type, so I’d previously known that CMS better than this one)
Newsonomics has a piece on its blog comparing Patch.com news report with one in the Contra Costa Times. Contra Costa has better reporting. But Patch had more interaction with its readers. It also had better SEO and was listed higher in Google.
The start-ups will have to improve their reporting, because bad reporting is wallpaper. Boring wallpaper. But the news organizations are going to have to figure out this thing called SEO. Or they will die.
Ran across this posting: poor SEO may be what killed thelondonpaper.com (but as the comments to the posting say, that might be pushing it, as a thing to say. Ironically, the writer was going for some good SEO, and thereby misstated things).
That reading was one of my best. I read a short story I’ve been working on, “Burning From the Inside.” I’m glad it worked in front of a live audience. Supposedly the reading will be on YouTube at some point.