What’s news for horror writer Paul D. Dail?
A good question, as it has been just over three years since I put up something on the ol’ blog. This post will touch on my experiences in the freelance world over the past years, including a notable accomplishment that prompted me to finally blow the proverbial dust off this time around.
But in reality, unless I’m getting that type of big news on a regular basis, I may drop this lead-in section.
Or maybe I’ll use it as a motivator for myself. Or—heaven forbid—any other writers who might happen by. Maybe I can just keep track of my endeavors: pieces I’m working on, pieces I’ve submitted, rejections I’ve received.
Whew, posting rejections may get depressing, but this is, after all, the writer’s life. And I just saw a great quote from Stephen King about rejection:
“By the time I was fourteen, the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips. I replaced it with a spike and went on writing.”
I can easily imagine pounding that spike into the wall, sending bits of plaster everywhere… well, no one uses plaster anymore, but it sounds better than bits of drywall.
But the good news is that I won’t have to do that with one electronic “slip.” I have been notified that Writer’s Digest has accepted a piece of nonfiction I wrote. Even though it is their Jan. 2018 issue, my submission to their 5-minute memoir section has been officially published and can be found here.
This was huge news for me, as Writer’s Digest is one of the oldest, more reputable magazines for writers, and they still put out a print version.
This recent success also segues nice into my next section.
Without further ado…
Besides boasting a little about this acceptance, I’m also posting something here after three years because writer’s need a platform, and this one has grown particularly dusty.
For the nonwriters who might be reading this, Jane Friedman defines a platform as “an ability to sell books because of who you are and who you can reach.”
Friedman goes on to say that fiction writers don’t really need a platform, but this is a point in contention, and I’ve heard more editors and publishers say the opposite.
And if you are a self-published author—which I was for my first novel—you’re definitely on your own for selling your books. It’s largely why I started this blog to begin with, although blogs are just one aspect of a platform (others include speaking engagements and getting published in outlets such as Writer’s Digest… essentially building your body of work).
So I started this blog when I self-published “The Imaginings” in 2011. At the time, I was also teaching language arts part-time and being a stay-at-home dad for our new daughter the rest of the time.
At first I plugged away diligently, trying to publish a post a week, hosting guest authors, interviews and book reviews. But then I discovered a few things which ultimately made me pull away from this aspect of my “platform” (and maybe re-reading what else I was doing at the time will give you a clue).
First off, I liked the blog, but the reality is, it was a task. Writing 300-1,000 words (and then uploading them with images and such) didn’t always just roll off the cuff.
The biggest “AHA!” moment was when I realized I was spending all my time writing blog posts and networking with other writers—and occasionally even readers, which illustrates yet another problem with blogging about writing; most of my regular visitors were other writers trying to do the same thing.
I was doing all this in an attempt to get people to read my first novel. The problem was, if I got all these people to read my novel, I had absolutely nothing for them to read next.
So while I pretended I was going to find the time to get to that next novel, I started self-publishing my short stories just to have something out there. Some fared much better than others—my collection of flash fiction, “Free Five,” actually spent over three years in the top 50 horror short stories on Amazon; others have yet to be read at all, I’m pretty sure.
But even then, I knew what I really needed to be doing was writing the next novel.
Enter the next problem, something I discovered largely as a result of self-publishing my short stories: many publishers will not take something that has been previously published, even if only on your blog that has minimal traffic.
The dominoes kind of started falling from there.
After seeing the success of “Free Five,” I stopped publishing my short stories and flash fiction on this blog so I could send them out to publishers. And I decided to quit screwing around and finish my second novel (which meant less time for blog writing).
In 2014, I quit my teaching job and went full-time freelance, writing web content and then editing and reporting for a local newspaper. Suddenly my path looked different.
And that almost brings us up to speed, but as I implied by the title of this post, there is more. I had originally intended to write about my journey since going freelance, but this post turned into more of my gripes with being told (both as a fiction writer and as a freelancer—there’s the tie back) that I need a platform and the difficulties with said platform.
So until next time (which won’t be three years, I promise)…
What do I want from you, fellow readers and writers?
If you have a blog, what have been your experiences? Did it provide relief and something else to occupy a little time? Or did you find that it replaced time when you should’ve been working on other projects?
If you are a writer, have you found most of your blog readers are other writers? Or have you found it an effective tool for attracting more readers? Have you had an agent or publisher tell you it (or any platform) was necessary?
I would give my standard spiel about subscribing to my blog. On one hand, given my track record, you won’t be flooded with emails 🙂 But if you aren’t already subscribed, maybe you want to wait around to see if it’s worth it.