The Perils of Writing in a Modern Age… or …What I did over Summer vacation

What’s news for horror writer Paul D. Dail?

Well, I’m back… kind of.  But more on that shortly.

More importantly, while I was “gone,” I found out that a short story of mine was accepted into an upcoming anthology from Angelic Knight Press entitled, No Place Like Home: Tales from a Fractured Future.  Their most recent release, Fading Light: An Anthology of the Monstrous made the 2012 Bram Stoker Award Recommendation list.  Speaking of Stoker Awards, AKP hasn’t released the full Table of Contents yet for No Place Like Home, but I’ve heard that I’ll be in good company, including Stoker Award winner Gene O’Neill.  I’ll give you more details as I get them.

What does the future hold?

Still getting my blogging legs back, so I’m not 100% sure, but I think I’ll be talking about social networking.  I have a post about Twitter in mind entitled “My Thoughts… in 140 Characters or Less.”

But without further ado…

This was not an easy decision.

I’m still not sure I’ve made the decision.

But I wanted to stop back in.  As many of you noticed, I’m a couple weeks overdue of my original return date.  I’ve been tempted to go back to the last post and change the information, so it looks like I’m returning exactly when I said I was going to.  You know, sort of a George Orwell 1984 Ministry of Truth type of thing.  But I’ve resisted.

I could throw out a few excuses for my tardiness, but the truth of the matter is that I’ve enjoyed the freedom from the online world.  It has felt like a return to the days when I first got serious about this whole writing thing, the days when the internet was primarily just for research.  Oh, and they had this cool thing called email.  But you had to pay for it (remember that?)

This post brought to you by Netscape :)

To be a writer then was truly to write.  I remember the month I spent in Portland with some friends when I wrote The Imaginings.  No internet at the friends’ house.  Or if there was (I really can’t remember), I didn’t use it.

Or wait, if there was, I wasn’t distracted by it.

This idea seems to be growing in acceptance.  The internet has become a distraction for most writers.  What started out a great source of information for whatever research we may have needed to conduct has now become a social and entertainment quagmire.  And sometimes it’s hard to look away from the train wreck, especially as a horror writer :) .

[Along these lines, friend and fellow writer, Kim Koning, passed along this post on the topic: Shutting out a World of Digital Distraction]

So again, with the exception of my email, I’ve enjoyed not being LinkedIn whatsoever (see what I did there?).  It’s been productive.  I’ve done more things with my limited time.  (Okay, actually, I’ve just started cutting out time from my sleep schedule so I can get more things done, but in my work time, I’ve actually been working on my writing as opposed to the latest debate over whether or not we should submit our books to the Kindle Select program or getting involved in political “discussions”).

This idea of “time” and how we manage it is another one that’s been floating around recently.  Here are two more posts that address this issue:

- Jonathan D. Allen gives his advice on squeezing out every minute using technology to our benefit here.

- Erik Gustafson talks about how he prioritizes his writing/marketing time here.

So with all of this in mind, why am I back?  Because the world has changed.  To come around full circle, when I first started writing The Imaginings, I was writing it for a reputable agent back in the days when marketing packages were a little more common.  I won’t go into all the details again here about how I ended up self- publishing (you can read them here), but needless to say, one of the first things I learned when I made the decision was that you have to be your own promoter.  And truth be told, we’ve come to a day when even traditionally published authors have to do most of their own promotion.

Ergo, the blog.  And while I was on my break, I watched the numbers.  Now while my visits weren’t as monumental as when I was posting regularly, what I was pleased to see is that readers were still finding my blog even when I didn’t have new content.  I love my regular visitors and commentors, but while I was gone, I can only assume that these new hits were readers who didn’t have any obligation to visit my blog as either friends, family or colleagues.  And while they may not have all stayed long, I can only hope that some of them did (I know, I need to set up the analytics) and that some of them will be future readers of stories by Paul D. Dail.

And to be honest, it’s fun.  I enjoy throwing out my two cents here, even if it’s not on anything horror related (funny enough, my most popular post has been on Cormac McCarthy.  Not sure if that’s helping get me more readers, but it’s interesting to me).  Now that I’m back, I’m going to have to remember some of my lessons and continue to practice my new habits, which means that the blogging world won’t be as much of a priority as it crept into being before I had to step away.  Also, some of the fun visual aspects might take a backseat for the next couple posts.  Ran across a few posts and opinions that make it pretty potentially risky to use images as loosely as I’ve been doing even if I’m not using them to make money.  Doing it the right (read: legal) way takes more time than I have right now.  Hopefully my words will be entertainment enough.  Because overall, it’s good to be back.

Hope you’re glad to have me back.

What do I want from you?

Thoughts on the matter?  If you are a writer also having to market yourself, how are you handling the balance?  If you are a reader, thanks for stopping by.

If you have the time, check out some of those other posts I mentioned.  Besides being good food for thought, they’re also entertaining blogs in general.

Finally, hope to see you back next week.  Hell, I hope to see myself back next week :)

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25 responses to “The Perils of Writing in a Modern Age… or …What I did over Summer vacation

  1. Erik Gustafson

    Hey Paul! Good to hear from you and thanks for mentioning my blog. Balancing life is a unending and often daunting endeavor. I don’t think there are many easy answers. I still haven’t figured it out. Meanwhile the weeks and months whittle away.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Erik. I did actually sneak a peek at that blog post while I was “away,” but didn’t have a chance to comment. I’ll have to swing back by and leave my two cents over there. Overall, what I found was that I was spending much more time in the blogosphere than I was spending on my writing. So I guess it felt like more marketing than producing new material. And that “marketing” usually felt more social than productive. I love the sense of community among writers, but I wasn’t doing what most people will say is to key to getting more readers: putting out more work.

      Thanks again. Looks like things are going well for you. So glad to hear it.

  2. Welcome back, my friend! I understand completely about the time drain a blog can be. I had intended to cut back my blog time (reading and reviewing) for the school year and get some major writing done, but due to a health blip, I’ve had to postpone that. I just can’t concentrate with pain present. So as I recuperate, I’m totally enjoying reading, and I tell myself it’s not a total waste of time, they’ll all end up on my blog eventually.

    I reread and reviewed “The Giver” over the summer and thought I’d drop the link on you. http://michelleisenhoff.wordpress.com/2012/08/20/the-giver-by-lois-lowry-1993-book-review/ Good to see you back!

    • Hey Michelle,

      Great to hear from you, but sorry to hear about the health issues. Hope you are on the mend. Glad to hear you are getting in some good reading time. It’s a shame that we need an excuse to read, right?

      Hope things are going well with your writing as well. I’ll be very curious to read your review of The Giver. I’m just getting ready to start teaching it again.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

      • I am on the mend. And reading Twilight for the first time. I’m actually liking it. Not sure how broadly I want to publicize that though. :) Thanks for the well-wishes.

  3. Welcome back Paul! We missed you. First, congrats on the acceptance. I can’t wait to get a copy. Second, all of this internet/social media stuff can be a tremendous time suck. It’s all necessary for a writer today, but we have to be wary that it doesn’t take over our writing time.

    • Thanks, Hunter. Seems like things are going well on the writing front for you. Hope it’s the same on the home front. Honestly, it’s tough because I do love visiting all the different blogs and the sense of writing community. Damn kids and paying job :) Just kidding. I love them… my kids, that is. I should just quit my job to be home full time, right?

      Anyway, thanks again. And everybody else make sure you check out Hunter’s blog. He has tons of stuff going on these days.

  4. So glad you’re back. Speaking of being baaaack…guess where I’m staying the end of this month? Yep, the Stanley Hotel in Colorado. The very hotel Stephen King stayed and was inspired to write the Shining. I’m monumentally excited! I hope I get a haunted room and see something supernatural that changes all my spiritual and religious beliefs in one fail swoop. I’ll bring you back a redrum mug from the gift shop.
    Enough about me. I’m glad your back. Ive missed lurking around your blog. Congrats on the anthology. That’s super exciting.
    Sometimes I miss the days when I wrote everything down in a notebook. Did you know some schools are considering eliminating cursive from the curriculum? Cursive will someday be a useless skill like shorthand. Crazy. Not sure if I’m ready for that.

    • Hey Kodi, great to hear from you. The Stanley Hotel, eh? That’s awesome. My parents were in Estes Park recently and visited the hotel (or lodge or whatever) where they filmed the movie. I’m jealous of all of you :)

      Interesting sidenote about cursive. I have some kids who have come into my class after having a year where their last teacher made them write in cursive, so it’s not dying out entirely. I never use it myself (my script is something of a mix between the two… or all caps, which I know drives some people crazy). I’ll have to think about it. The only disadvantage I can think of is, how will people sign their names now if they don’t use cursive?

      Thanks again for stopping by. Great to hear from you here. Hopefully see you in person soon.

  5. Welcome back, Paul! You have been missed. Congratulations on getting your story accepted into the anthology.

    I can identify with your comments re the sense of liberation that comes with getting away from the online world. I was recently offline for a month or so, and it was the most relaxing time I’ve had since I stepped into the self-publishing circus. I think there is a genuine danger that writers will get so caught up in self-promotion and social networking that they’ll forget what they’re really meant to be doing.

    For my part, I’ve pretty much stepped back from the whole marketing thing. I may step back in at some point in the future, perhaps when I have one or two more books to my name, but at the moment I’m just concentrating on the writing. My sales have been dismal, but I’ve been much happier!

    • Mari, great comments. And I appreciate your honesty. And while others may disagree, I think you’re on the right track. I have a handful of shorts for sale as well as my novel, but so far only one novel, and I think that makes a big difference. Why make a huge push when people will read my one novel and then not have anything to follow up on? I’m pleased with my Free Five collection. It has been in at least the top 60 on Amazon for months without me doing anything except making it free, so I’m hoping that will eventually convert to sales because otherwise, my sales too have been dismal. But I’m not stressing about it too much just yet.

      Anyway, thanks so much for stopping by. Keep fighting the good fight.

  6. Welcome back indeed! I’m with everyone else: trying to find the balance is a bitch, especially if you’re someone like me who has an extremely love/hate relationship with technology (I love the convenience of it, it hates everything about me)… I’ve cut back on blogging too, and barely devote any time to other people’s sites anymore, which probably makes the fact of my own blogging largely irrelevant since we all know that you only get meaningful blog interactions when you make them. But there are only so many hours in the day and if I want to work on my own stuff and live in the world with my family, something’s gotta give – and it’s a pretty big no-brainer for me what that something has to be, if those are my choices (because I CANNOT give up sleep like you, teehee).

    I too look forward to seeing the story/anthology – sounds to me like things are clicking along, so obviously something you’re doing is working… :)

    • Jill, you have almost echoed my thoughts. I also wondered what sort of traffic I would get once I stopped A-putting up new posts, and B-visiting other blogs. That was the relatively good news. While traffic didn’t maintain it’s numbers from before, I was pleased to see that people were still finding my blog. I think we operate under a little bit of a myth where this is concerned. Now, did I get a single comment while I was gone? Well, only one, but I think we act as if comments are what make or break our blogs, when in reality, it’s the traffic. With the exception of one or two of my friends of family, all of my comments come from other writers (and I think this is pretty consistent with most other writer blogs). It looks good on one hand, but I don’t think it determines the success/failure of a blog.

      Now, do I feel bad because I’m not visiting my writing friends’ blogs? You bet. But again, while I love the sense of community, that’s not why I started this thing. And I can only hope they understand with my life right now, it’s just not the most productive way I can spend my time if I want to be a successful writer, husband and father.

      But I still feel bad. Anyway, hope things are going well for you (and after saying all that, that I get a few minutes to visit your blog soon :))

  7. Hey Paul!
    Short and sweet on the blogs, at least that’s my MO. The internet is truly a brain drain when not utilized properly

    • Hey Joe,

      Great to see you, my friend. I know you’re right on the whole “short and sweet” thing. Unfortunately, brevity has never been my strong suit (I think my coworkers have stopped reading my emails :) ).

      Anyway, I hope everything is going well for your writing and your family. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Hey Paul, so glad to see you back. I think we’ve had this discussion before, but I totally understand why you took the time off and have had to do the same thing in limited doses. All the same, yeah, glad to have you back, and congrats on the acceptance!

    • Thanks, Jonathan. I’m considering Aniko’s advice for maybe carving out a little time on a given day to get my blog visiting done. I was trying to do a little each day, but what I found was that I would start my day with that, and then inevitably, something else would come up (or in the case of my daughter, wake up) and I would be done… having done none writing. Anyway, still figuring it out, but appreciate your support.

  9. Welcome back, Paul! I missed your voice and your clarity. I am pleased and impressed to learn that people still found your blog; you have a vocal and friendly following, so I’m not too surprised, just … pleased!

    As for being a writer and marketing, I’m terrible. I just don’t. Not at all. Internet marketing didn’t work for me, and certainly didn’t have much effect when I only had one book out. I am planning to get print editions of my books (as someday there will be another… sooner rather than later, I hope!), and then I want to do more in person type of marketing. I don’t ever tweet to try and sell my book, I don’t do any of the things I’m supposed to (like newsletters, branded item shops, etc), and I’m okay with that because I don’t want it to be my way of making a living. Which puts me in a different bracket from most writers. If it weren’t for my money-brained and practical husband, I’d probably just give away everything I write, because in some sense I don’t feel that it is really mine to sell (had a post about that recently, Provenance, if you want to know more… not trying to plug, but realized I’m writing a lot here!).

    Congratulations on the anthology news! That’s wonderful! I love it that more of your work is going to be out here for all of us horror fans!

    -aniko

    • Hey Aniko. Thanks for the comments. The funny thing about people finding my blog (and I’m only going by the WordPress stats, which I wonder about the completeness and reliability) is the search terms, of which it doesn’t tell me all of them, so I’m not 100% sure. But it’s for some interesting terms, like as I mentioned, lots of searches for Cormac McCarthy, which again, I’m not sure helps me out that much. But hey, who knows?

      It’s awesome that you aren’t really concerned about sales. That’s probably what will bring them in for you. I’ve tried this, not paying attention to sales (sort of like when I was single, pretending not to be looking for love, you know?), because at this point, we are not dependent on those sales. But it sure would be nice to be able to garner enough income to where it would be my sole occupation (of course, still also partially supported by my wife’s sole occupation :) ). I’ll have to check out your post on provenance (at first I thought you meant providence… funny that one could possibly draw a connection between the two).

      Anyway, thanks again for coming by. If nothing else, great to be back in touch.

      • People tend to come to my blog searching for Ania Ahlborn (former indie author, I reviewed her book) or for “how to be a writer.” The latter is a bit funny, because my “how to” doesn’t address the issue of how to support yourself as a writer, which is probably what most people are trying to figure out. I believe that someday, you will support yourself with your writing, and I think TESSpecFic should all fly in to throw you a party!

        Yes, it is great to be back in touch!

        -aniko

        • I appreciate your positive thoughts in my direction… if for no other reason than it would be awesome to finally meet everyone in person :)

          Thanks again. Hope you’re having a good week.

  10. Jason Darrick

    I think that stepping away is a necessary evil. I myself go days on end without really paying attention to social media, and I often kick myself for it. Good to see that you’re back, and if you find out any tricks to manage everything, please share with us.

    • Very interesting, Jason. Why would you say you kick yourself for neglecting social media? For me, even after being gone for so long from, say, Facebook, it feels like a soap opera to me in the sense that I feel like I didn’t really miss anything. Still the same ol’ stuff going on, just a different day.

      But I’ll keep you posted if I come up with a magic formula for managing everything. I think the key is to be a single recluse. Damn, too late :) I’ll try to come up with something else. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      • Jason Darrick

        I am not able to miss Facebook, though it’s a true love-hate relationship. I’d delete my account if it weren’t for the fact that FB seems to be the only way to communicate with certain people.

        Oddly enough, it’s Twitter that I miss, but the old Twitter. The new culture of spamming has turned me off almost completely, but about a year ago it was (for me) a great way to interact and meet new people.

        I also don’t get out much in real life, so any interaction is good. :)

        • Good point on Facebook. I originally joined because it seemed fun, kind of like and “email plus” (like “plus pictures”). It’s lost a little bit of its fun recently, and since I started using it as a marketing tool, it’s a little trickier. I like to keep up with my friends, but at the same time, I don’t want them to feel like I’m just hitting them up for my writing stuff, you know?

          Interesting about spamming and Twitter. I’m actually going to talk about Twitter on Friday (hopefully… now that I see it’s Wednesday and I’m already behind this week). I’ll probably quote your comment.

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