YouTube? I Tube

There are some aspects of a writing career that just get in the way. There is no other way to look at it.

When I started out (twenty years ago now, God help us!) the job was easy. An author was supposed to write. As my friend Quintin Jardine likes to remind me: “Writers write and agents age.” Back in 1994, life was so easy.

However now, of course, writers have to do a lot more. We must be sociable: we must tweet, facebook, blog, and become experts in all social media. Joy, joy.

A horrible sight. A grimacing author hoping to make a video that won't scare away all readers!

A horrible sight. A grimacing author hoping to make a video that won’t scare away all readers!

It’s not that I’m not sociable generally. If there is wine or beer available, you’ve never met a more sociable fellow. I am a crime writer, after all, and crime writers tend to be cheerful chaps in a pub. In the Crime Writers’ Association it was a matter of pride that we could empty a pub’s cellars in an evening. In fact, at one notable location, we were informed that we had cleared all the bar’s stores during our AGM, and it was a source of shame that we had been beaten in doing so by the Romantic Novelists’ Association, who had met there a few months earlier!

Still, I come from a generation which enjoyed getting out and meeting people face-to-face. I still do. Social media suffer from the one big problem: they aren’t sociable.

Do not get me wrong: I have made many good friends on facebook and twitter. The Pauls, OT, Laurayne and many others have given me a lot of pleasure, and I hope one day to meet many of them. Yet in the main, these are not media for building close relationships. They divorce people from each other because human relations are built, surely, on shared experiences, on personal contact.

In any case, for me, it is enormously distracting to have to think up tweets and facebook messages. So I don’t. I put up messages and comments when I can, in between writing. Because I tend to work in one hour bursts, I can do that without too much difficulty.

But my main job is, to make up stories and put them down on paper. All social media are a distraction, a diversion. And that spells disaster for an author.

However, there is one type of social medium that I am enjoying getting to grips with: YouTube.

It is bizarre, but by starting to put down videos about all my books, I’m having to revisit all my stories, and rethink how the books came about. That itself has been great fun, but a lot of work. Yes, a lot of work! I’m having to remind myself what I wrote and why twenty years ago, and that’s not so easy when you’ve written just south of two books a year for two decades. I’m having to go back and look at what I wrote to remind myself what the hell they were about!

For all the effort involved, the five minute clips seem ridiculously short, but the time invested is quite large. And that makes it all much more pleasant because my director and producer is my daughter. We are spending a lot of time together making these videos. For me it’s fun, if a little daunting, while for her it’s the source of endless amusement. She can take the Mickey out of her dad and I’m unable to respond.

(At the time. I will get my revenge later, naturally.)

It’s been fun, but the problems have been a pain. First, of course, there is the difficulty that, with a cheap camera, the microphone is rubbish. Our first attempt was up on the hills in front of the house that inspired so much of my work: West Henstill House (see the video about The Last Templar). For that, the noise of the wind hitting the mike was so loud, we couldn’t use any of the original clip, which was a shame as I gave a very good talk, I think. Never mind.

West Henstill House

West Henstill House

The second problem has been the internet upload speed. We have broadband here, but it’s ridiculously slow to load a video. As a result I’ve invested in a new fibre optic link, which will radically alter things, with luck! I’m looking forward to its arrival so that we can upload five minute clips in less than the two hours it takes presently.

So far we’ve recorded clips on three books: Last Templar, Merchant’s Partner and Moorland Hanging (which will go up on Thursday). We’ve also recorded one video as an introduction, and a second about the Famine, because I thought it could be useful. Later this week I have to record another all about research material, the books I use to get my historical insights, and I’ve been asked to do another on my office and workspace. That one will have to wait, for no other reason than the obvious one that it’s a tip! I have to tidy it first. Then, in the future, I’ll be putting up videos on writing, on discipline while writing, on research generally, writing tools, locations and money, amongst other things.

Please take a look at the videos here and, if you like them, subscribe and put in a “like” for them. However, I don’t want to be guessing at what readers generally want to hear about, so if there’s a specific topic you would like me to talk about, please let me know. It’s all very new to me still, but I’m hoping that these videos will build into a useful series of tools for people interested in my books and for those who are considering writing themselves.

And when you watch them, try to bear in mind that behind the camera there is a bossy teenager laughing at her father trying to sound sensible.

Happy viewing!

6 Responses to “YouTube? I Tube”
  1. This sounds great fun – for your daughter!

    I wonder where we’ll be in another 20 years…


  2. Al says:

    Reblogged this on Open Jotter and commented:
    I tend to use audio content because I know for me, it’s a 2:1 ratio for time invested to actual output. (Recording, editing, transcribing etc.) For video it’s at least a 4:1 ratio unless it’s something very short and raw from a smarphone.
    I suppose a good compromise for YouTube would be to throw photograph on the screen and running the audio below it, but the time to encode, whilst greatly reduced is still longer than pure audio.
    Maybe I’m just old fashioned but I much prefer audio podcasts because I can do other things whilst they play.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: