Amanda Hocking & DexRaven – Part 2

Posted on April 3, 2011 by

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N.B.: I’m attempting to train my body clock. It’s really awful…my autopilot seems to be just as stubborn as my conscious brain. I warn you; for the next few days I’ll be blogging to keep myself from falling asleep — so that gives you some idea about the quality you can expect.

I wrote a few days ago about some small drama that sparked my interest — for reasons wildly different to those of the participants, I imagine. A very successful self-published author linked her Twitter followers to a private blog by a little known, unpublished author, because he had written a post about her that offended her. My commentary is here. The original blog post is here.

I wrote Part 1 without context: I had never read any of DexRaven’s blog save the posts he wrote about Amanda Hocking (there are three), and I had never read any of Hocking’s work, including her blog. The day I began to follow Hocking on Twitter was the day I wrote the first post.

This was absolutely on purpose: after reading about the disagreement, I thought my opinion as a total outsider might be rare (Who hasn’t read Ms. Hocking’s work by now?) and perhaps valuable as a result.

This post makes up the other half of the story: my opinion after reading up on everyone.

When writers have spats, their respective abilities will generally make an appearance — if only to glance ’round the door and hurry away again to make the tea.

Rare, that. More often, our skill decides the outcome of a dispute (if only in our heads). Success plays a part, but so does the other writer’s physical appearance and whether or not she’s a Capricorn, I guess.

So what if he’s signed an enormous contract and will be translated into ten languages, can he write? we wonder. And when we know, we sit back and sigh. One way or the other, the argument is settled, viz: So, okay, he’s Liverpool and not Chelsea, agree to disagree, whatever — but he writes like a manna-laden angel sent from the backwoods of Eden to bequeath kisses on newborn lambs. I…feel an undercurrent of existential insecurity. I will bury myself in “The Classics” until my postmodern steampunk chick-lit stylings have been reborn as purely realist prose-poetry.

One of the remarks DexRaven makes in his posts and comments is that he believes he writes publishable material. (He doesn’t make this point to compare his own writing to Hocking’s — he’s merely expressing his frustration at the time it’s taking him to polish drafts.)

I don’t know whether DexRaven privately compares his own writing to Ms. Hocking’s or not; he probably does, but only because we all compare our own work to every other piece we’ve ever read. It’s just the nature of things.

But I was insanely curious; I had to know. I asked DexRaven if he would be kind enough to send me some of the novel he mentioned. I was expecting to be refused, or sent perhaps a paragraph or two, but he was very gracious, and sent me five chapters.

DexRaven has given me no permission to review his work or to share it here — I didn’t ask for it. I think it would be unforgivably crass of me to compare Hocking and DexRaven’s work under these circumstances, even if I had been given permission. If you would like to read his work, please visit his blog; he has vignettes posted that were composed in 500 words or less.

However, I don’t feel any compunction against briefly reviewing Amanda Hocking’s writing style according to the excerpt I’ve read: Chapter One of Hollowland, available to preview on her website, here.

Hollowland is an YA novel that centres around a pragmatic sort who’s trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. I can’t of course make any character judgements for the entire book, but from the first chapter I think I quite like Remy. Her narrative voice is just boring enough that she’s pleasant to listen to. I can’t stand wilting flowers nor those girls who are “bubbly” or “spunky”. The former invariably scream or faint or cry or whatever at the slightest hint of a twig snapping and the latter are simply sick-making chatterboxes whose “witticisms” should get them slapped.

Remy’s voice is pleasantly sensible. She seems like she might be a reliable narrator, which is par for the course in YA, but at least this time I believe it, so high marks there. The only problem I have with Remy is that sometimes she’s far too sensible, to a degree that might even suggest pathology.

She gets zombie blood on her hands. Even though the pathogen is spread through contact of blood and spit, this doesn’t faze her. I don’t think I’m reaching when I say that what she should be doing is finding the nearest sink and pulling a Lady Macbeth. It doesn’t matter whether or not she’s rough and tough; she shouldn’t be stupid.

She’s in the middle of an apocalypse, for fuck’s sake! Who knows when the skin on her hands will be broken? Furthermore, when you violently attack something that bleeds, blood sprays everywhere. Finer droplets will hang in the air for a bit before falling. If the disease is spread through blood and saliva then every time you spray zombie blood about the place and then breathe in, you’re just asking for trouble.

Hocking’s writing is pleasant to read; it’s easy on the eyes and doesn’t challenge. The voice is exactly right for YA (of course). The pace is quick and the chapter moves smoothly.

All-in-all, I expect Hollowland to be a fun read without much substance; there might perhaps be some good characterisation down the road, but it was still far too early to tell.

I think I’ve done my duty r.e. discussing their fiction — now to their blogs, the meat of this post. DexRaven’s opinion about Amanda isn’t based on her fiction, but the personality she displays on her blog.

After having read a lot of posts by Hocking, I noticed something that I didn’t expect: I can see easily why he made the comments he did. There’s something about Hocking’s tone that doesn’t appeal to me. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I can guess.

Most of the publishing blogs I see out there are about the followers, not about the blogger. The goal of these blogs is to provide a mixture of anecdotes and advice that is designed to reach out to the aspiring authors and publishing professionals of the world and help them towards the top. I’m not declaring that every one of these is a genuine attempt to help others succeed; I wouldn’t know. It’s at least a smart business move. My own blog is written to provide people with a few hours of interesting reading, and perhaps introduce them to my writing in the process.

Amanda Hocking’s blog is not about reaching out to other aspiring writers; it’s about her. A lot of it is what she thinks about TV she likes. When people ask her questions about her success, it seems to annoy her; she’s apparently tired of questions and she refers you to archives to read about the process for yourself.

Except the thing is, her archives aren’t really useful, and they don’t give any advice to other writers. They’re all about her, and they often carry a wounded air, as if she feels the need to defend herself constantly, against aggressive emails and insulting questions.

I have no doubt whatsoever she has to deal with a massive amount of unpleasant and malicious material. People are jerks, especially when it seems like you can give them what they want, or when you have something they think they should have.

Unfortunately, the wounded air doesn’t do her any favours. I don’t have anything against her, so her tone makes it unpleasant to read her posts at times. I find myself thinking, “Would it kill you to be generous with your knowledge?”

She doesn’t really talk about the process of writing and publishing at all, except to post bulletins about what her plans are . She doesn’t talk about her characters or her worlds.

It’s odd; if I were given just the text of her blog it would take me a good few posts to notice she’s a writer.

However, just because I understand where DexRaven is coming from doesn’t mean I agree that Hocking doesn’t care. My observations from the first post still stand. I get the feeling from reading her blog that she and I wouldn’t really get along in real life, but whatever. No big deal.

DexRaven seems like a nice guy. I can’t escape the impression, though, that his post was specifically written to attract blog viewers. It’s more aggressive, more insulting, than his other posts suggest is the norm. Maybe he just got really pissed-off; I don’t know. But it seems out of character, so I think it might be good old blogger’s anger doing most of the talking.

Here’s what I think might be going on: he was genuinely annoyed, and then decided (consciously or not) to embellish. Hocking’s books are well-known; maybe he’d see a big increase in views in the same way Twilight-bashers did a few years ago.

So why did I spend hours writing up this post? I don’t know, really; I guess writers interest me. This little conflict drew from several psychological patterns in the online writing community. Amanda Hocking’s success is a big thing in publishing, and every decision she makes about her career matters.

Most of all, I think I watched too much Ricki Lake as a child.