The Blog of the Future

I mentioned in a quick post on Monday that I would explain some of the changes I’m hoping to make over time around here (there’s a poll there, too, to gauge your thoughts on the appearance of the blog).  I’d added an RSS Feed to a secondary blog that I “started” a while ago in my own name as well as a feed of the Twitterfied version of this blog (along with a link to my Twitter account).  The problem I cited on Monday was that I suspect this tends to clutter up the appearance of my sidebar.

But let me explain what I’m trying to accomplish, here. In about a week, I will have packaged up that 12,000-ish word short story I’ve been working for the past six or seven months and submitted it to a publisher for consideration. From where I stand now, it’s very difficult to gauge what are my chances of making a positive impression on an editor. I’ve tried to make my cover letter very clean and professional. I polished this story until it was as good as I think I can make it in the absence of professional editing. I’ve done what I can with this story, and once it’s in the mail, it’s out of my hands, and I don’t know what will happen. But, keeping a long-term perspective, I’m very optimistic that over time my efforts at improving my writing will produce positive results. In time, then, I believe I will be a published author. But what then?

Well, then, if I do get published, the name and premise of this blog will be false. I won’t really be an “undiscovered” author. I’ll be a published one. (Although, relatively speaking, even then I may still be a tad “undiscovered”, but that’s mincing words.) When that day comes, and people actually start looking for me online, what do I want them to see? Do I want them to first see this blog, dedicated to the story of a guy who’s never been published? Or one with my name on it? One that tells about a guy who has been published?

But, if I only start to blog on a separate, eponymous blog after I’ve been published, it may be too late. (And after hearing so much positive feedback from you guys, I feel more comfortable about the idea of using my own name as my pen name, as well, so I feel that the title of my newer blog is, in fact, appropriate.) So, my long-term goal is to shift my blogging over to that secondary blog. But in the meantime, I don’t want to abandon the readership, such as it is, that I have over here on this “Undiscovered Author” blog. Nor, for that matter, do I want to phase this blog out altogether. Long after I’ve been published (assuming, for arguments’ sake, that this eventually does, in fact, come to pass) I can foresee potential uses for this blog. I think it will be a fun compliment to a more “Stephen Watkins”-focused platform. But that’s a problem for another day.

So, to get me started working toward that master-plan, I thought a good place to begin would be to link to that blog here. Right now, of course, there’s only the one post there. After a little wiggle-room in my schedule opens up (and I’m able to put an end to my hiatus days) I intend to start posting there at least once a week. In the closer term, I’m going to try to play house-keeping there and get it cleaned up and ready for presentation (you know: writing up my “About” page over there, setting up my “Categories”, adding a few additional pages, and possibly mirroring a few things that are currently here on “The Undiscovered Author”).

This is a process, and it won’t be done overnight. Admittedly, I picked a bad time to start work on this project: with life still being generally slammed for time, and feeling like I barely have breathing room to blog here, even with my self-imposed hiatus breaks at least twice a week. And that’s why you aren’t going to see changes and updates there overnight. Basically, the linking to that blog from here was just an opening salvo, but there won’t be an immediate follow-up salvo until I get a moment. In the short-term, I have a few other priorities to attend to. But I hope you all will bear with me as I map out these changes.

And, in the meantime, why don’t you drop me a line and let me know what you think about it all!

Writing and the Art of Blog Updates

So, two whole days without a blog post, and nary a word from me.  That’s unusual for me and the steady work I’ve been doing.  I really have to apologize, but it’s been an extremely busy week for me, and I haven’t had the time of day to post anything.  That said, here I am, just updating the blog primarily so I can say I have updated my blog.

It’s because of weeks like this that I made such a minimal-level promise of weekly “new material”.  But it’s been my goal to have an update per day, every day.  I think of my blog as something of a potential promotional tool for myself as an author, and I figure the blog serves two purposes in that regard.  First, it provides a place where I can showcase some of my writing.  I can do this by putting up samples of my fiction, which to date I have yet to do, but primarily I do this by having regular blog posts on interesting topics.  The second function of the blog as promotional tool is to provide a place where I can connect directly with readers and potential readers.  It’s a place where people searching for me online can go to learn more about me and my work and a place where people already familiar with me and my work can go to read what I have to say on this or that subject and share their views with me.  Both of these purposes are served by having frequent and regular updates – daily for certain and even multiple times daily if possible.  So, even though I know that right now it’s not always possible for me to run daily updates, it’s a tough pill for me to swallow.  Which is to say, as soon as I’m able, I’ll be returning to daily updates. 

And which is also to say, it hurts me as much or more to be missing these updates as it does hurt you, the dear reader.  I say more because I know I only have, as yet, a handful of regular readers (a good fraction of my traffic is driven by random web searches that somehow drives traffic to my site thanks to my cleverly writing about a variety of searchable topics), so only a handful of people will actually notice whether I continue to update or not.  Over time that may change (and I intend for it to).

Which leads me to another point I’ve been thinking a bit about.  Today, when you search for my name, there is a decent chance it will drive you to a website with the address “https://undiscoveredauthor.wordpress.com“.  Notice how my name doesn’t appear in that web address at all.  “The Undiscovered Author” was really just a snazzy-sounding title for the blog that was representative of what you’d find therein.  But it also represents a condition that I truly hope will not continue indefinitely, vis-a-vis my being as yet undiscovered.  But most popular authors have blogs on sites with their own names in the url.  So, I’ve been contemplating a tiered approach to spreading my name in the authorly blogosphere.  First, there’s this blog here.  Then, recently, I snagged another wordpress subdomain for a blog titled “Stephen Watkins, Writer”, the url of which is “http://stephenwatkinswriter.wordpress.com“.  Right now that blog is an empty shell, a place where I’ve been experimenting with different wordpress themes to find one that fits my style and is easy-on-the-eyes.  At some point, I may shift more and more of my updates to that site in a run up to really pushing myself for publication.

The real gold standard, though, is a website that looks something like: http://www.mynameismywebsite.com, such as you see in the web addresses for several of the published authors listed in my links.  That, of course, costs money.  And until such a time as my writing is actually going to provide a positive cash flow, that’s not something I’m ready to invest in, just yet.  Ultimately, however, that may be the way for me to go.  WordPress.com is free, and that’s great, and with it comes a number of free and somewhat customizable themes.  But if I go the way of having my own domain name, well, there’s a registration fee associated with that, and usually annual hosting fees.  (I know this because I do have a private domain, albeit one without my name in the url.  That said, it’s been down for over a year, ever since the hosting company’s servers were hacked, and I haven’t had time to get up a new site there yet.)  Doing this also requires you to either be an html code-monkey, css-wizard or other technically inclined person able to do-it-yourself, someone with access to Dreamweaver or another site coding tool (very expensive), someone with friends who can do either of these two for very cheap, or someone who can afford to pay for this stuff.  Notice how most of those options also involve having money.  I, personally, have some very limited DIY capability in this regard (though not necessarily all the DIY tools that would be helpful), but none of the DIY time.  (This is another reason the aforementioned personal domain remains down to this day.)

So… well… that was a longer post than I thought I’d be able to do today… but there you go.  The blog, it updateth.  Therefore go forth, and read, and be pleased with the work of my hands.