FIFTEEN months ago, this here scribe decided to try and spread the word about his writing by setting up a blog, despite a few nagging doubts and advice that suggested it might involve a bit too much hard work and aggravation and involve more than a little procrastination.
For starters, I had little enough time as it was for the one goal I’ve ever really wanted this past couple of decades – getting my novels published.
But after leaving journalism following 15 years reporting and sub-editing for local newspapers and moving closer to my full-time writing dream, I realised – despite all my scribbling and ham-fisted word processing over the years – there was very little out there in cyberspace to show prospective agents, publishers, industry professionals and readers.
Times have changed, and the days when you could sit in comfy armchairs with a tray on your lap – a la Roald Dahl – knocking out novels with flowery handwriting, passing them to a typist and editor then waiting for launch night schmoozes with contemporaries are long gone (if they ever existed). Now you’ve got to do the networking number too – hence my late conversion to facebook, twitter and all that. And for the modern writer, it seems that blogging is pretty important too.
I was fresh from a master of arts in writing for children at the University of Central Lancashire, following that with various chin-wags with tutors, fellow freelancers and publishing professionals, career advisors and business support types – all in their own way pointing to the importance of getting something out there for free first.
I’m tired of telling people that the emphasis on the term freelance journalist for the past couple of years has been on that first syllable, but things are gradually coming together – the profile’s growing, the CV’s getting heavier, and now it’s time to concentrate on finishing all those novels and scripts, despite the continued distractions.
This blog may not have been a runaway success, but it’s certainly serving its purpose – and this very weekend moved on to 10,000-plus views in those 15 months. Some will turn their nose up at that, but this is no one-topic site compiling YouTube clips of cats that look like 20th Century despots, idiots abroad slipping up in their undies, or rattling out rumours about D-list celebs. I’m not being stuck-up there, just reiterating that it’s all my own work, and hopefully I’ve really got something to say that’s worth hearing.
The subject matter is pretty varied of course, from classic sitcom appreciations and tributes to steam railwaymen to a love of lower-league football and my take on required reading, and an appreciation of everything from classic 60s soul through to guitar-driven indie bands. Chiefly, it’s about literature, music, history, sport, the great outdoors, my home county Surrey, adopted county Lancashire, and favourite holiday spots. But not just those topics either. Sometimes it’s personal too, as will become more the case as I lead on to some of the subjects in those as-yet unpublished novels.
Despite my background in magazine and newspaper production (alongside parallel lives as a sports reporter, news-hound, fanzine writer, band manager and lesser day jobs), this was never meant to be a perfect model. But until I can afford my own all-singing all-dancing website, this wordpress format is certainly a winning option. I’m not making any money out of it, but at least I don’t have to worry about all those balls-aches like spam and system failures (much).
Getting back to my point (if there is one), I’m pretty chuffed with 10,000 hits, even if I’ve been involved with a friend’s website since it went live last October and he’s already on the brink of a staggering 75,000 hits (with just three of us writing). That’s truly impressive, and makes me wonder if my own site is showing up on enough search engines. But it doesn’t detract from my sense of pride about writewyattuk’s success.
I started with just a few lines about myself, posting ‘Apprehensive scribbler joins the world of blog’ on the last day of March 2012, following that with four proper pieces that April, covering everything from my take on the 100th anniversary of the RMS Titanic disaster through to the release of the Paul Weller album Sonik Kicks, via a piece on past and present cycling exploits and my take on the National Trust’s ’50 Things to do before …’ campaign.
A lot of reads from friends, family, old schoolmates and past and present workmates surely helped, and I’d at least got off to a semi-competent start, with 91 hits that month to add to the two from March (yes, two, but it was an … erm, closely-guarded secret at that stage).
The following month I added something about my love of vinyl and the pitfalls of record collecting, a Subways review from The Manchester Ritz, and the first of many London 2012 and table football tales. The Olympic pieces proved a hit from there, while the table football series – confusing the public, alternating Euro 2012 and Yooro 2012 stories – was largely ignored (figures suggesting less than 100 specific reads between the lot). But it’s all a learning curve.
By June I’d added my first book review, for Pete Cross’ Shadows in the Sky, and an appreciation of The Wedding Present centred around the release of Valentina, while an author event with Eoin Colfer led to a piece about book classification for children, and a Tony Parsons review led to an in-depth interview with the man himself, as the hits started to accumulate.
While the Olympics and Paralympics continued to inspire articles, the new football season took me on to the first of my features on the delights and perils of supporting (from afar these days) my beloved Woking FC, which have probably accounted for at least a quarter of my traffic so far – not bad for a club only ranked around the 100-mark in England and Wales at present, yet clearly one that inspires me and countless other real footie fans.
By September I’d added a heartfelt piece about my love for The Undertones, the first of a few features inspired by those excellent weekend BBC Four documentaries clogging up my DVD recorder. And that next month I published a pretty wide range of stories – from 25th anniversary recollections of the Great Storm of ’87 through to rants on racism in football, over-pricing at grounds, eye-watering injuries, and a personal tribute to a fellow sports fan – the latter suggesting a game shift (so to speak) after helping launch sportnw.co.uk.
November’s stories ranged from a literary review and tour of Pendle witch heartland to mark Hallowe’en, further campaigning for local libraries, a Remembrance Day tribute to England international and First World War hero Evelyn Lintott. There were also tributes to Dad’s Army star turn Clive Dunn and Munich ’58 victim Kenny Morgans. And December highlights included a popular feature on crime-writing bestseller Ian Rankin and a timely seasonal appreciation of glam giants Slade.
So to 2013, outing myself as a steam railway enthusiast, Madness fan and Tweeter in January, featuring three deserving performance poets in February, and hailing David Bowie’s latest platter, my first live internet broadcast review (Neil Finn and Paul Kelly, live from Sydney Opera House), Public Service Broadcasting and The Blockheads live reviews, and a personal tribute to horror writer James Herbert.
By April, I’d penned posts about inspirational cancer-battling r’n’b legend Wilko Johnson, and the month after a piece on Noddy Holder and Mark Radcliffe’s Preston visit. Then came an interview with Bruce Foxton which has so far proved my biggest hit, with 600-plus views, with my Otis Redding appreciation (again BBC Four-inspired) the following month not far behind on around 400 hits.
You’ll note I’ve been a bit vague with those hit counts, not least as more than 2,000 clicks have come through my home page, readers scanning the archives rather than hitting specific stories. In fact, it’s those ones that always intrigue me most. Is it Random House checking me out? Or perhaps it’s Danny Boyle, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Noddy Holder, Wilko Johnson, John O’Neill, Paul Weller, Bradley Wiggins or Geoff Chapple. The same goes for all those who’ve viewed my ‘About’ section. Who really knows who’s looking?
For those who don’t want to know the stats, look away now. But generally, there’s been month-by-month increases in traffic, going over 700 for the first time last July, and never dipping below 425 since. What’s more, I’ve had 900-plus monthly views four times, and this June has been the best yet – with just off 1,500 hits with a week to spare.
So there you have it, with more than 90 posts so far and No. 100 not far off, as soon as I can find the time between other projects, paid and voluntary work, and domestic duties. Regrets at starting this blog? None at all. I’ve made some new friends and good contacts, I’ve spread the word about my writing, it’s been a blast, and I’d recommend blogging to anyone with a passion for words and telling us something that’s truly worth hearing.
Now then, back to those novels …
Out of interest
While not writing this blog and taking on several other jobs to ensure he pays his mortgage and helps support his family, the fella behind writewyattuk offers copy-writing and editing services alongside his novel, TV and film script exploits for adults and children. He also aids other writers on their projects, and offers various ghost-writing, promotional and web services for businesses, clubs, charities and individuals. He’s also been known to tweet somewhat via @writewyattuk, but don’t hold that against him.