Chasing Readers, A Fundamental Flaw

So, I’ve realized I hate blogging.

This is an especially problematic thing to admit when you’re a self-published author struggling to build a devoted audience. The thing is, writing is an extremely personal thing for me, as you can probably expect, and sitting down to do such a thing for an extended period of time often leaves me feeling emotionally-drained.

I’m quite good at what I do, even though writing fiction in and of itself comes with its own Santa’s sack of stressors and spectrum of insecurities. But at the end of the day, if I’m going to write, I’d rather direct that expendature of energy towards long-term projects, such as The Quest for the Crystals or Eri, the Monster Sealer (The former of which is going quite well in its second installment’s drafting).

If I’m being honest, blogging is easier in some regards, because I don’t really have to think much about structure or formatting — everything just seems to come together pretty organically, whereas writing fiction is rife with overanalyzation, underestimation, and copious amounts of self loathing and theraputic alcohol.

Fact of the matter is, when it comes to blogging, I just don’t have a lot to say. Or at least, it certainly feels that way.

If I’m writing for a larger audience — or attempting to — there’s this sense of pressure on my shoulders that demands that everything I write must offer my potential readers something. Giving stuff away for free has been the go to mantra of bloggers, artists, and dot-com entreprenuers since the dawn of Internet Capitalism(tm), because when you give away something of value enough times, people will begin to pay attention to you. Apparently.

This includes tutorials, advice and insider secrets, webinars, e-books, behind-the-scenes insights, et cetera. Look no further than Geoff Goins, Mark Manson, Tai Lopez, and every other web-funnel guru with an e-mail list giveaway (Yes, I realize I’ve only listed men here — they’re the first number of folks who popped into mind. Don’t have a cow). These guys make a killing by giving stuff away for free, because people value what they have to say, and wish to pay them for whatever services they have to offer.

All I want to do is write fiction. I don’t care about maintaining Facebook adverts. I don’t care about chasing after whatever trendy hash-tags are available on Twitter. Nor do I really desire to spend every waking moment vlogging my way across Youtube John Green-style when I should be sitting down at my word processor.

All of these things feel like superficial distractions to me, that may or may not aid in building in audience — but only if I have a solid audience already established. Which I don’t. These things aren’t guaranteed. I know plenty of struggling authors and artists in the same boat as me, desperately chasing after someone — anyone — to pay attention to them. And I kind of can’t help but pity their desperation.

I’d rather spend what available energy I have focused on telling honest and engaging stories that entertain the most important audience to date: myself. This is a somewhat scary thought, because I know deep down that the stories I have to tell are important ones, that need to be shared far and wide, except I just don’t have the emotional capacity to sit down and whore myself out online for a smidge of traffic.

I’m an introvert by nature. I’ve always been a lone wolf, and the idea of forcing myself to engage in social media-centered fellatio in dire attempts for Sempai to notice me feels somewhat unproductive and exhausting. Just thinking about logging into Wattpad or Twitter makes me want to take a nap and avoid anything related to the Internet.

I feel like I’ve rambled in a few directions here, and ultimately, I’m not sure what the answer is. I don’t like blogging, and I hate social media even more. But as a self-published author I feel almost obligated to take part in these acts, because every other self-published author and dot-com success story tells me I have to, in order to be viable and relevent.

But what about all those other artists and authors I know who believe this, and are still total unknowns?

Obviously it boils down to genuine connection — but I’ve never been very good at putting myself out there, pushing myself into public spaces and being the centre of attention. Most people get on my nerves easily, and I’d rather not have to John Green my way to success if I don’t have to.

Part of me really envies John Green though, and every other content creator out there who has enough of an outgoing personality to pump essays and vlogs out at a consistent rate in order to satiate whoever throws a couple bucks towards their Patreon account.

I just don’t have the energy to expend that kind of effort. What do I give away that’s useful to other people? I don’t have a lot to say, nor do I see myself as an effective mentor-figure. I’m just a spooky YA author who cries like a baby at opening credits to Don Bluth films and consistently has Doom 64’s title theme stuck in her head.

It’s a lot to consider.

How about you? What would you like to see from me? Off the cuff journal entries? Short stories and poetry? Reviews? — What kind of advice do you have, if any? If you’re also a content creator, what’s your experience been like in this frontier? I’d love to know.

 

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Upcoming Projects and their Production Logs

Productionlogs-2015

Freshly-baptized notebooks mark this author’s upcoming project schedule.

I’m unsure of how many other authors do this, but maintaining “production logs” for major projects has been a habit I’ve kept for the last few years. This all started back in college, when I was dragging myself through the mud to finish the “final draft” of Master of Monsters.

In all likelihood, it’s pretty obvious to you what a production log is. The term is almost “cinematic” in a way, or at least, it is to me. And I like the way it sounds and how it rolls off my tongue. Makes me feel like a professional business artsy-fartsy-type instead of a deadbeat shmuck who mooches off her parents under the delusional pretense that stories about sealing monsters in glass orbs, talking animals who wield swords and magic, and homages to all things 1990s anime and Don Bluth era motion picture features will ever make her a dime in the Canadian YA literary market.

To me, a production log is, in all intents and purposes a diary related to all events, incidents, insecurities, triumphs, and failures that surround the subject of the project involved. Not so much writing about what I ate for breakfast that morning, or how much of a fucking two-timing slut that bitch Lindsay is (unless — of course — Lindsay stole my precious “baby” and changed all the names and published it under her own name, and just to twist the serrated blade, went and blackmailed my editor).

No, a production log serves a greater purpose. For example, when I was in the midst of bashing my brains against the computer monitor over MoMI started the production log so that I could track of events that happened in the novel, notes of affirmation and experiences related to publishing, writing, and marketing the project, as well as a fully drawn out history of how the story came into fruition way back in high school, who supported me through that time, and how the story and characters have changed over the years.

I do this for a couple of reasons. The most important is for mental health. No, really. Something that absolutely concerns me as I grow older is Alzheimer’s disease. Not that it really runs in the family (The only person I know who suffered from anything remotely similar was my Uncle Bill, who passed away due to dementia.) Honest to God, if my brain begins to rot, and I start to lose these powerful memories related to the most important creative experiences of my whole life, I want to be gat-dang sure I have a record of everything that I may look back on, or that my family can look back on, with great pleasure.

The second reason I do this is for the sake of marketing and publicity. Yeah, I know, it’s shallow as fuck and I totally admit this. But when it comes time to face the possible fact that I may be interviewed over one of my projects, I want to be sure as hell prepared as best as possible. Put me up against a wall: my brain goes blank and my tongue falls off. If there is an important aspect or theme of a book, I want know that it is recorded so that I can go back and explain to… Oh I don’t know, Ralph Hapschat of Denton TV … how Master of Monsters explores “deep” themes and constructs of homosexuality in a small town Catholic elementary school.

Finally, production logs are a great fallback, just in case stupid Lindsay does steal your work, and you need to provide proof in court that those million dollar rights to the Chris Columbus feature coming out next year (hahaha) are, in fact, entitled to you as well as whatever other copyright losses there are to your intellectual property. Remember, kids: Authorship is a legitimate business practice – not just some angst-ridden cry for attention from your family or Tumblr followers.

In any case, I think production logs simply make a lot of sense. From a personal perspective, I think they’re a lot of fun to not only write out, but to read back on. It’s actually pretty amazing the things you had forgotten that simply spill from the pen. If this is something you’re interested in pursuing, whether you’re an author, illustrator, or whatever – I’d say go for it.

The advice I’d give you is to not think too hard when you go to write it out. And for the love of God, don’t do it all at once. It’s an obvious truth but I know some of you reading this have just let out a long breath of relief. Let the memories flow back to you. The brain will naturally work itself in-tune with your pen. Don’t beat yourself up if you remember things out of chronological order. White Out is your friend in those situations. Or – even better, just go with it and slap together a “final draft” production log later. I’ve honestly blotted out whole paragraphs to include a year’s worth of forgotten material. Maybe that’s a little insane on my part – but I wouldn’t be an author if I wasn’t bat shit crazy.

To end off, production logs kick ass. I think as I continue working through the third draft of Quest for the Crystals, it would be a lot of fun to publish snippets of the log here on the site. That book has such a storied history that is just so personal to me. I’d love to share some excerpts with you all.

Until next time, keep writing.

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