Thanks again Renee for the opportunity!
I’m going to start this entry off by breaking one of my golden rules of blogging:
Don’t make your posts too long. No one wants to read War & Peace when their Google Reader is bulging with other blogs to peep.
I have a feeling I’ll be going on for a while. So, sorry about that.
There I go again, breaking another one of my cardinal rules of blogging:
There’s nothing more annoying than seeing a blogger apologize before they launch into a post. “Sorry I haven’t been around”, “Sorry I am going to rant”, “Sorry it’s been so long since I last updated”, etc. etc.
Never apologize. Just write.
That being said, I suppose I should take a bit of my own advice, eh?
When I was first inducted into 20SB, I knew that I would eventually have to write a “final” entry. My thirtieth birthday is in February (what happened?) and everyone knows that when you turn thirty, you instantly become NOT a twenty-something-blogger. It’s like being slowly led to the blogging gallows.
For those that aren’t familiar with how the blogging stork dropped me into the digital cabbage patch, let me give you a little background of how I came into our beloved online-social-diary world and how my blog Starting Over at 24 came to be. Back in 2007, I was a pathetic twenty-four year old who had just been unceremoniously dumped by my high school sweetheart of 6+ years. I’d spill my guts to anyone who would listen to my questions (WHY? WHY?); my tale of woe. But even my most loyal friends were tired of lending an ear while I tried to solve the romantic Rubik’s cube. So I did what any sane person would do: I turned to the internet. I chugged cheap beer and scoured Google looking for any evidence of a guy who suffered under a similar circumstance. There had to be SOME guy out there who got dumped and came out clean on the other side.
But there wasn’t. There was a ton of literature available to women about how to cope with a breakup, but nothing from a male’s point of view. Specifically, a young male in his twenties. Well, if it didn’t exist, then I was going to have to make my own. Maybe my own story would give someone else the insight they needed to wade through this awful bog of dumpness. Besides, it might actually be funny to write about learning how to date in Los Angeles. After all, I didn’t know how to date or to make-out or to do any of the other things most people learn about in high school and college. I was on my own.
Fortunately, I wouldn’t be “alone” for long.
I started off like all other bloggers do. Like a chubby, awkward baby taking its first wobbly steps, I wrote an entry and then another and then another. Some were, admittedly, super fucking emo and some were much lighter and self-deprecating. My first few months, my blog had zero hits. But then something curious started happening. I started getting a few comments. Strangers were finding my blog (presumably through word-of-mouth) and were directly responding to what I was saying! I was completely blown away. I was popping up in Blog Feeds. I was getting emails from readers saying how much they sympathized with my situation. A few even asked ME for advice with their love life problems.
It was around this time I even picked up a few 20SB awards (Best Blog about Relationships/Sex 2009 & Blog You Are Least Likely to Click “Mark as Read” in your RSS Reader). And if these were actual, physical awards, they’d be on my manly mantle next to my non-existent animal heads and I’d be polishing those bad boys right now.
There was a point where I couldn’t keep up with the emails that came in (granted, a fair share were down-on-their-luck Nigerian princes, I’ll admit). Soon I was getting inquires about advertising and Match.com offered to give me a free trial if I would mention them on my blog. I eventually took Match up on their offer (mostly out of sheer desperation for a date, although I ended up royally botching my only Match date), but I never did sponsored posts or giveaways, like what is common now. It’s difficult to describe, but it never really appealed to me to try to make money off the ol’ blog… maybe because I felt that at that time that I needed the blog more than the blog needed me.
I had a good run, but once I found my current girlfriend…
…through my blog…
… and the story of my blog ended.
My inkwell had dried up. My atrocious dating anecdotes were no more (another rule: don’t write unless you have something to say). I didn’t have anything else to say about “starting over” or dating. I would occasionally write back and check in (a curious, yet powerful obligation to give your readers an update), but I knew it would never be the same again. When you make that decision to unplug yourself from The Matrix… people seem to forget about you.
Once I stopped writing, I stopped reading. I’m not sure why that happened, but I think it’s kind of like when you’re a little kid and your best friend in the neighborhood says they have to move across town. You make a promise by spitting into your palms that you will always stay in touch but it never happens.
“Hey whatever happened to _____? That guy was hilarious!“
“Oh, he’s married now I think. He stopped blogging about a year ago.”
“Damn. I hope he’s doing alright. Is he alright?”
“I don’t know.”
It’s like this bizarre high school reunion. Except instead of terrible comb-overs and watered down punch, we have the comfort of swapping war stories of the “good ol’ days” from the same dusty computer chairs we sat in way-back-when.
I truly thought the dirt was being thrown on the casket until one evening when my fiancée Beth (the blogger I met off the blog) and I were throwing back beers on the couch and discussing the “glory days” of blogging.
As I reached for another beer, she turned to me and said, “Dude, you should make it a book.”
“I never really thought about it. Man, I don’t know. You really think I could have a shot?”
“Abso-fuckin-lutely! Look how far you’ve come!”
I was skeptical. Taking a blog and making it into a memoir was going to be fucking tough. It had been so long since I reached out to the community — maybe I missed my chance when the iron was hot? But through her encouragement and those of the readers who continued to email me, I got to work. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it right. I spent countless hours sipping whisky and pouring through entries: giving the axe to the terrible ones, rewriting the ones that were in desperate need of a rewrite, polishing up the decent ones and adding extra entries where I had left out juicy details.
To the bloggers out there who are contemplating taking the plunge into the literary world, let me prepare you for this: searching for an agent will obliterate your soul. It erodes. It’s tough to explain to those unfamiliar with blogs how powerful blogs can be. Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that if you’re not in the blogging community, it’s near impossible to explain the influence to outsiders. A lot of agents I queried just didn’t get it. “Over 100 comments per entry? I don’t know what that means.”
Then the rejection emails came rolling in. I got a lot of the blanketed “I’m sorry this isn’t what we’re looking for right now”, but a good portion of them asked for full manuscripts (which in itself is a bit of a victory). After a long search, I eventually landed an agent who thought he could sell the beast.
This is where I’m at now. The fight is far from over. While I have an agent, it’s his job to actually go out and sell the manuscript. He now has the daunting task of finding a publisher out there who is willing to take a chance on it. As I feared, it’s tough to sell a memoir when you’re not a celebrity or you haven’t traveled the world with a leg missing. Here are some of the “rejection letters” it’s received so far:
Brandon’s writing is both self-deprecating and funny at times, and I can see how his blog has received the kind of attention it has. The Hollywood parts of this story gave this story an extra zest that other young memoirs don’t necessarily have, and I did like the hopeful, happy ending.
But ultimately, I think the guidance offered about getting over your first adult relationship is something that works better in blog format rather than a book. And the blog-to-book transition is so much harder these days than it used to be, alas.
And here’s another:
There is much to admire here – Brandon is an honest, straightforward and immensely readable writer. And there is a lot here that would appeal to many guys his age, or slightly older. However I do think that while a very universal experience, I didn’t find the tent poles of the story to be oh-so-compelling that would make a splash in the book marketplace these days, which is oversaturated with memoirs. Even the really great ones struggle to find their audience.
While the feedback is pretty good, it still stings like when the cute girl at the ice cream social denies you a dance — you know if she gave you a shot, you could Patrick Swayze her ass, but she’s not even letting you get to the dance floor.
I’m still holding out for hope that someone out there will love it and see its potential. Although, anyone who starts down this path has to be honest with themselves and face the reality that maybe he/she will never actually sell their manuscript. But as for me, at least I can say that I made some damn good friends off the blog.
I’ve made friends with people I never would have met if it wasn’t for my blog. People in Los Angeles, Dublin, Edinburgh, Chicago, Cleveland, Portland, New York, San Francisco, DC, Seattle. Some I’ve never met in person (oh, I will someday) but have still had the pleasure of sharing some of the most honest and laugh-out-loud email exchanges with. There are some I will hop on the phone to catch up with or gchat or text whenever the urge snipes me. There are even readers of the blog with whom have I become so close with that they will have a seat at my wedding come this April.
Blogging is fucking powerful.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m humbled at the feedback and encouragement to keep at making this blog-to-book dream happen. Thank you for your support and if that day ever comes, I hope you’ll pick up a copy and send me an email letting me know what you think about it.
Keep sending positive mind bullets my way. If this memoir gets published, I hope that it will be considered a victory for bloggers everywhere.
PS. Oh one last piece of advice that I wasn’t able to find a way to cleverly sneak in: always save your good posts for a Monday (you’ll get the most hits) and never use up one of your gems for a Friday. People hate reading on a Friday.