Light Blogging Ahead

Just wanted to let you all know to expect some light blogging in the next few weeks.  I mean… lighter than usual.  Lighter even than it’s been these past few weeks, with their sparse updates.

I’m anticipating a high probability that next week there is no weekly writing update.  The following week will probably see the return of my writing progress report, but right now I’m not expected much, if anything else.

It remains to be seen, but hopefully during this period of light blogging there will be some work done behind-the-scenes.  No word, for now, on what that might be (because I haven’t done it yet and don’t know if I’ll actually have time to do it).

I’ll catch you all when I’m more-or-less back.

The WordPress 2011 Year In Review Post

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog, so I thought I’d share it with you all.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 14,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Continue reading

From the Top, From the Heart

Blogging is hard sometimes.  You invest a lot of  yourself into the words you put up on the screen.  You release those words into the wild, hoping they’ll come back to you with the new friends they’ve made – comments from other readers.  Sometimes they do.  Sometimes they don’t.  Some words seem to make more friends than others.

It’s a lot like being a parent, I guess.

Except, you invest more of yourself into some of those words than into others.  As a parent, it’s kind of not cool to favor one child over another – at least that’s my philosophy; though I don’t have experience to back it up since B.T. is as-yet an only child.  But as an author, you can totally afford to play favorites among your wordlings.  Some of those wordlings come straight from the head.  Some come straight from the heart.  You want them all to be wonderfully successful.  But you want the ones from the heart, most especially, to be the most successful of all.

Of course, you try to stay realistic about which words are most likely to succeed.  But that doesn’t mean you still don’t have a lot of hope for the little blog post that could.

Man.  I’m really digging a hole with this extended metaphor thing.  Maybe beating around the bush a little, too.

The thing is, I don’t always know when what I blog is going to be a popular post.  I don’t know who’s going to comment on what.  I hope every blog post is great.  But at the end of the day, it’s like throwing darts at a board and hoping something sticks.  (I mean that literally.  Half the time when I throw darts at a board the darts bounce off.) Continue reading

Guest Post: Writing & Parenthood

Today I’m guest-posting it up over at Ollin Morales’ {Courage 2 Create} blog, where I’m talking about the challenges of being a parent and a writer (when you’ve already got so much else going on), strategies I try to use to succeed at both, and commisseration for the hard times – when being a parent means there’s just no time to write.

Ollin’s blog is a great place for writers to go when they need an inspirational pick-me-up.  If you’re a writer who also has one of those things called a life, you’ll find plenty to appreciate on {Courage 2 Create}.

If you’re a writer who’s also a parent, know a writer who’s a parent, or are a writer who might someday become a parent, hopefully you’ll find something of interest on my guest post there today.  So head on over and share your experiences!

Cross-posting: Amazon and the Big Squeeze

In one class I’m taking this semester, called “Strategic Decision Analysis”, we have a course blog where we, the students, are keeping track of things we notice in the news and in our lives that reflect the course topics, which largely revolves around Game Theory.  Earlier this year I posted an entry in this blog about the infamous “Amazonfail” event, otherwise known as the “Kerfuffle”, and what I was then learning about the future of publishing.  Well, recently, the Boston Review published an article that details the whole sordid history of how Amazon has put the squeeze on the publishing industry, and what that means for the future of the industry.  And I noticed that there were a lot of Game Theory aspects to this whole story.  So, I wrote about that for the course blog.  You can find my original entry hereContinue reading

Tag

I was tagged, and in a game of tag, when you’re tagged, you’re “it”.  So, I’m “it”.

In this version of the game, once you’re “it” you’re supposed to answer a few questions.  So, here goes:

1. If you could have any superpower, what would you have? Why?

Well, of course, the default answer to a question like this is “why, I would fly of course”.  (The second fallback always seems to be “invisibility”.)  But I’d answer this question in terms of what I’m expected to do with my superpower.  Will I be a crime-fighting superhero, or just a guy who uses his power to make his own life somewhat better?  If the latter, well, I wrote last week about my “magic button“, which would definitely act like a superpower: stopping time.  That’s one I’d primarily be using to make my life better.  Ostensibly, if you granted me more liberal use of the power, I could use it to fight crime as well. Continue reading

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!

A Minor Change in Format

Okay, I’m checking in quickly, today, to check your reaction to a minor change in the format of the blog, here. I’ve added a link to the upcoming sister-blog to this one (i.e. the one that’s actually named after me: “Stephen Watkins, Writer” – which currently only has the “inaugural” post from when I set that blog up back in April), as well as a a twitter feed to my latest twitter posts (which currently are only twitterfied versions of my blog titles, but in some theoretical future may include other things).

The question I’m asking: does this make my side-bard look too cluttered?

What I’d like to do, ideally, is remove the navigation links (to the Pages and Categories) on the sidebard and replace them with something else; but for that to work, I’d like to see drop-down menus for the category and page tabs you see across the top enabled for this theme: a probability that currently isn’t in the cards, so far as I can see. But if that were to come to pass, that would free up some space for these feeds, and I could do a lot to clean up the blog.

Anyway, I’ll share more about what I’m trying to do in a post later this week. Stay tuned until then. For now, have a poll:

Go Big or Go Home?

On Blockbuster Books, Pseudonyms, and Platforms

A couple weeks ago, in David Farland’s Daily Kick, he suggested something that I thought was provocative, with regards to the careers of new writers. He basically suggests that, unless a new writer can launch their first novel in a big way, his or her career will not last.

As a result of [a lot of changes to the book industry], it has become imperative that an author “launch big.” You need to sell your first book in hardcover. You need to write a book that is aimed at the market, that takes current tastes in literature into account, and that more than satisfies your publisher’s expectations. Indeed, we’re seeing more and more publishers launching first-time authors as best-sellers.
~David Farland

My reaction was: really? Really, that’s the only way? I’ll concede that we’ve reach a post “long-tail” reality. But to suggest that our only hope is to go big or go home, to my mind, is not so much encouragement as, well, the opposite of encouragement. (It’s called discouragement.) Because most of us who write, as it is, are unlikely to win a publishing contract for our books. Few enough of those will ever succeed at the “go big or go home” strategy.

He goes on to say something more that makes me a little suspicious, though:

Typically, the publisher will pay anywhere from $100,000 to $400,000 for a novel that they intend to launch big, and they’ll offer to launch it in hardcover.

I don’t know about the offer to launch in hardcover, but those advances are way out of whack with statistical evidence on the issue of first advances.  Author Tobias Buckell’s survey may not precisely be scientific, but it does show that the frequency of very high (6-digit) advances is very rare with respect to the population of writers as a whole (out of 108 speculative fiction authors who took his survey, he doesn’t find a single 6-figure advance for first-time novels, suggesting that the real likelihood of that eventuality is significantly less than 1%).

So, I’m not so sure about the validity of Farland’s claims on this question. Certainly, many of us dream of striking it big, just so, but, at least at present, there still seems to be plenty of room on the “midlists”.

Farland later suggests that if we fail to achieve this blockbuster opener on our first novel, that all is not lost:

So your only option is to take your money and—quite probably—start over. Write another potential blockbuster under another name. Do it enough, and eventually you’ll get the push that you deserve.

This got me thinking about the topic of pseudonyms. It sounds like Farland is suggesting an ever-revolving door of pseudonyms until we find a novel that sticks in the blockbuster status. This made me reflect back to an interview author Jim C. Hines did with a writer who’s basically doing just that.  This made me wonder about the role of pseudonyms in an author’s career, especially as concerns myself, personally.  I write this blog under my real name, and I’ve commented before that I have a rather common name.  And I’ve wondered whether that will present a challenge for me in the future, when I try in earnest to break in.  So, I’ve considered the possibility of a pseudonym… And I’ve come full circle.

Several years ago, I was already considering this issue, and had picked out for myself a pseudonym.  But I was struggling with the issue.  Then, one friend asked why, rather than agonize over what to use as a pseudonym, why don’t I just use my real name.  That question rekindled in me the pride I had in my name.  Since then, I’d planned to use my real name as my writing name… and so that’s what you see here on this blog.

But when I consider the challenges inherent in trying to brand myself while using so common a name, I am forced to consider that a pseudonym might be a necessary tool in my writing arsenal.  (Though, in a bit of irony, the pseudonym I had picked out for myself turns out to be uncomfortably close to the name of another, established science fiction author.  So, back to the drawing board, as it were.)  And now I’m back to considering: if I must have a pseudonym, what will it be?

And if I do have a pseudonym, can I keep it open?  By that, I mean, must I necessarily keep it a secret (as the writer Benjamin Tate, the one interviewed by Jim Hines, is doing)?  Or can it be a known fact that “Mr. Nom-de-plume” is, in fact, me.  I wonder about this because, it seems to me, building an audience – and a platform – is no easy feat.  And to have to start from scratch every time I have to take a “new” name seems to me to be a terrible waste of the potential resource of an existing fan-base.  If you have a few fans, wouldn’t it be better to transfer that fandom to your new name?  And wouldn’t the easiest and cleanest way to do that be to say to them: “Hey, if you like my stuff, you might want to check out the stuff written as ‘Author X’ – my new nom-de-plume!”

Then, related to this, is another article I read, recently, on the subject of self-promotion, on the Writer’s Beware blog, which asks the question: can you start self-promoting and building your “platform” too soon?  That particular article suggests that, perhaps, starting to build your network and platform several years before the launch of your novel is, just maybe, too soon.  Which gave me pause.  At this time in my “career” I’m intending on focusing on short stories, because I know I don’t have time to devote to novel writing.  Consequently, I know it will be several years before I even finish writing a full novel draft.  Then, shopping it around, waiting for responses, and doing all the rest will mean years more before I’ll be a published novelist.

Have I started this blog too soon?  Do I stand something to lose by blogging now, when all I have to show for myself are a handful of mediocre-quality short stories?  Will potential readers happen upon me and, finding nothing exciting, give a collective “meh“, and move on with their lives?  It’s a legitimate question, and one that has me thinking.

Ultimately, though, I feel alright about this.  I’ve started this journey.  Heck, I started this journey years ago, long before the idea for this blog, or any other blog, entered into my mind.  And now that I’m here, I’m here.  And I’m going to keep going, trudging onward in the direction of my dream.

Happy writing.

Memorial Day – Hiatus Monday

It is, again, Hiatus Monday.  That means no (real) new post today.

It’s also Memorial Day (at least it is here in the U.S.; I’m not sure whether this is celebrated elsewhere in the same way), so that means a nice day off of work.

A day to get some work done on homework and figuring out my career plans, for me.

Be back tomorrow for another “Weekend Assignment”…