Note: It is my great pleasure today to welcome author J.T. Ellison as guest blogger at The Kill Zone. J.T. Ellison is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve critically acclaimed novels. Her topic today is one of my favorite subjects–the art (and future) of group blogging! ~ KL
Several years ago, the fiction world exploded with a number of group blogs. I was lucky to be a part of one of them – Murderati. Founded by Pari Taichert, the blog served as a one-stop shop for all things crime fiction. We made an early agreement to stay away from divisive issues like politics and religion, choosing to focus instead of the writing life. We started with 7 bloggers, and over the course of the blog’s life, had two dozen regular contributors. And that doesn’t include the countless guest blogs. There were births, and deaths. Triumphs and heartbreaks. Breakups and makeups. And books. So. Many. Books.
I was one of the first group of 7, and was the only one with the time (no book deal yet) and inclination to get involved in the backend of the site – the coding and hosting and all that technical stuff. And that, ultimately, was the reason I left the blog as well, but I get ahead of myself.
I grew up on Murderati. Late to writing (I started on Murderati when I was 34, published my first book when I was 37), not knowing much of what I was doing, knowing virtually nothing about the industry. The blog was both a learning experience, and a way to mark my own growth as a writer. It taught me the discipline of a deadline – for the first several years, I blogged every Friday – how important it was to think about writing, even if I wasn’t creating. In the beginning, I had to dedicate a full day to composing and editing and fretting about my blog. I ate up every ounce of advice and insight the other bloggers were sharing. I learned; we all did.
And it wasn’t just Murderati. The group blog phenomenon was everywhere. It crossed genres. There were mystery blogs and sci-fi blogs and romance blogs. There were male-centric and female-centric. We could gorge on the posts – I know the first thing I did every morning for years was get up and read everyone’s blog from all the sites. We all had communities of readers who chipped in daily with their own opinions. It was awesome.
And then we started repeating ourselves. After hundreds and thousands of entries, it was inevitable. The pressure to find a topic no one had discussed grew. People started dropping off to go work on their – you know – books. New people came in, and new life would be given. For a while.Then they too would run out of original topics, and peel away.
The decline of the group blog was gradual, but no less striking for its attrition. Facebook and Twitter gave quicker feedback, though its false intimacy at first didn’t seem to be enough to hook us all. But we began building ourselves as individuals, and boom. Talking to, instead of talking with. And like a lead singer who does a solo album, the next album had that shadow hanging over it. It was all over, though we didn’t want to admit it. We dragged on, desperately trying to keep things fresh and relevant, to work together, but all around us, the group blogs began dropping like flies, until Murderati too finally gave up the ghost.
We had a great run. Seven years of original work. Millions of words written. A built-in platform for book launches and celebrations. The respect of our peers. A community unlike any other.
Shutting down sucked.
Did the rise of “I” overcome the power of “Us”? Or did we all simply run out of things to say? I know for me, running the backend of the site was taking time away from my actual writing. I had so many deadlines that my head was spinning, and I had a massive set of personal losses that made me question the whole purpose behind the endeavor. Everything felt shallow to me – writing, blogging, reading, living – and I pulled out, knowing I wasn’t doing anyone any favors being involved anymore.
I know I missed the phenomenon that was us. But I kept telling myself it was for the best.
Oddly enough, several months later, we realized most of the Murderati folks still were blogging. Though we’d run out of things to say, and complained bitterly about the time it took away from our writing, we’d kept on blogging. We just didn’t do it on Murderati. We didn’t do it together. Together became too difficult. Too time consuming. Too much effort. But we still wanted to talk. So we did it on our own blogs. On Facebook. Alone. Built our own networks of people. Our own communities.
And damn if we didn’t miss being together.
Missed it enough to try an experiment.
With the help of Writerspace, we revamped Murderati.com. We built an archive site. Every blogger has their own pageof their old blogs. And everyone who was interested has their current blog feed automatically into the site. So we’re together, but not together. Blogging, but not on a set schedule.
I love seeing group blogs like The Kill Zone that are still going strong. I wish we could have found a way to make that happen for Murderati. Maybe someday in the future, we’ll all come together again, realizing that there is a reason animals run in packs – there’s safety and camaraderie in numbers.
What do you think? Can we ever get that heyday back again? Or have we become so divisive as a community – and we are, trust me. There’s a war going on out there – that we are better off on our own?
Thanks so much for having me today. Y’all rock!
J.T. Ellison is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve critically acclaimed novels, including The Lost Keyand When Shadows Fall, and is the co-author of the Nicholas Drummond series with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Her work has been published in over twenty countries. Her novel The Cold Room won the ITW Thriller Award for Best Paperback Original and Where All The Dead Lie was a RITA® Nominee for Best Romantic Suspense. She lives in Nashville with her husband. Visit JTEllison.com for more insight into her wicked imagination, or follow her on Twitter @Thrillerchick or Facebook.com/JTEllison14. Or, if you’re so inclined, read her blog, The Tao of JT.