Tag Archives: blog

Sharing the Results of My Not-So-Grand Experiment

Some of you may remember that a few weeks ago I announced I would stop blogging every day, and cut the frequency of my output down to something more like a couple of times a week. There were a few reasons for this, but the main one was that I just didn’t feel like I was getting any kind of personal return that justified the time I was putting into it. I’m not necessarily talking about money here (though it would not hurt my feelings at all if you were inclined to buy one of my books). But the simple truth is that blogging every day had become more of a burden than a joy. Are times you should stick with things even when you don’t enjoy them? Sure. But there are also times when you should cut your losses and think hard about why you’re voluntarily participating in something you hate.

Anyhoo, I was thinking some of you blogger geeks might like a little insight into the results of my experiment. I was going to call this “running the numbers” but I’m not actually going to give you any numbers. Unfortunately “running the vague comparative value statements” doesn’t have quite the same punch.

What happened to my traffic when I stopped writing new posts every day? So far, absolutely nothing. Actually there might have been a slight downtick, but really things have been running on a pretty even keel.

How is this possible? Well, the majority of my traffic isn’t and never has been visitors flocking to new posts. Actually, the majority of my traffic comes from people Googleing the word “clockwork” and finding this post. I have no idea how or why this happens since it’s not anywhere close to the first page on the Google results, but…whatever. It just goes to show that you never know which posts are going connect with readers. It also goes to show that SEO is a powerful force in the blogging world. You are making the most of it, right? (Hint: always use tags.)

But even putting aside the comparatively stable  number of visitors to my blog, this experiment has still been a huge success. On my side it’s freed up time for me to spend with my family and work on my other writing projects (though sometimes I still feel like I’m stuck in the mud). It’s also meant I can take more care in crafting the blog posts that I do make. Not that I was sloppy before, but I’m only one guy and writing an average of 500 words a day for public consumption on top of doing my real job and other writing projects means there’s bound to be some lag in quality somewhere.

But also, and I think more importantly, I believe the switch has been good for you the readers. If I’m updating every day, there are a lot of you who just aren’t going to be able to keep up with that volume. After all, I’m under no illusions that I’m the only blog you’re following. Scaling back the posting time means that your RSS feed or inbox isn’t getting slowly back up with posts you haven’t had the time to read. Even if all those posts were really good, basic economics teaches us that value is a function of supply and demand, which means that the more “supply” of my blog you have, the less valuable it will be to you.

So those are my thoughts. What are yours? Have you experienced anything similar with your blog? Has the change of pace in posting affected your opinion of the Unsanity Files blog? Think I’m full of hot air? I’d love to hear what you think, so drop a line or ten in the comments and share your blogging wisdom.

Upon Emerging from a Deep and Abiding Funk

You may have noticed that I haven’t made a blog post these last couple days. Probably you didn’t notice.That’s okay too.

Were have I been? I’ve been battling my way through the absolute worst bout of depression I have seen in years. And it was bad. It got so bad, I seriously considered quitting. I thought, if writing is going to bring me this much grief then what’s the point? Why go on with something that hurts me so badly?

Fortunately I have a loving wife who gave me as much encouragement as she could, and put up with my black moods for nearly a week, and that helped me get over my desire to quit writing. Also, Ellie Soderstrom said she’d kill me if I stopped.

However, some things are going to change. Specifically, I’m shifting my attitude about blogging. Trying to get something new posted every day is part of the reason I think I burned out so badly. I had an expectation of what I could do with this blog that fell far short of reality, and it hit me all at once and took me down hard.

So for the time being at least, I’m backing off on that. It’s not that I’m going to quit blogging entirely, but I’m no longer going to strive to put something up for every weekday. After all, it’s not as if I have anything to say writing-wise that you can’t hear somewhere else, from someone better qualified and probably far more interesting.

So, I’m going to give myself permission not to blog when I don’t feel like it. I’m also going to stop trying to hit any kind of arbitrary word count.

Because somewhere in the middle of the terror that was last week, I realized that I wasn’t having any fun anymore. Blogging had become a dull and tedious ritual. I know that there are some things we should do regardless of how we feel. But it isn’t exactly as if blogging is bringing in the big bucks for me. It’s not even bringing in the little does. (Hunting humor: a sure sign you’ve been working in Sporting Goods for way too long.)

Put differently, this is not my job. And since I already get depressed often enough about the job I have, why should I let blogging add to that pile?

It’s possible I’m way off base with all of this. Maybe I should keep pushing through, regardless of how I feel. It wouldn’t be the first time I wrote something that I ended up disagreeing with later. But for now, I’m gonna take it easy. Hopefully it will help me improve my outlook and avoid falling into another nasty week-long funk.

If not at least I can promise you one thing: whatever happens, you can read about it on my blog.

The Happy Dance Manifesto

I’ve seen a lot of changes in the little circle of blogs I follow lately. My writing partner Ellie Soderstrom has recently branched out from the group blog she contributed to in order to start her own little venture. Freelance writer Austin Wulf has taken his blog in more of a freestyle direction. And last, and most dramatic of the three, Evelyn LaFont better known to us Twitterites as The Keyboard Hussy has anounced she’ll stop posting on her writing blog altogether.

A while back I posted about the whiplash our little blogging community has had to Kristen Lamb’s assertion that writers shouldn’t write exclusively about writing, and in a way I see some of these changes as a culmination of that discussion.

For myself, I’ve undergone something of a blogging transformation as well. I remember when I started writing in earnest at the beginning of the year after reading Kristen’s “Freshly Pressed” post about how all writers should have a blog.

When I started I had in mind that this blog would turn into something of a powerful sales platform, that I’d wield my mighty blogging power to move my readers toward buying my books and stories. But it hasn’t worked out that way. I didn’t sell piles of books because of this blog. I sold more than I probably would have without it, but still…no cash cow here.

So you might be wondering: why should I keep blogging? Why put time and effort into something that isn’t going to pay off?

Because over the months since I’ve started doing this, I’ve realized that hoping blogging will “pay off” is the wrong mindset. I’ve written lots of things that didn’t “pay off.” There are stories that simply weren’t good enough to get published, short fiction I’ve posted here for absolutely free, and you know what? I don’t regret one word of it.

Because maybe we’re looking at this whole thing the wrong way. Do you know what pays off in my life? My job.

I go in to work every day, punch the clock, and do what I’m supposed to do. And every two weeks I get a paycheck.

No one ever asks me to love it. No one ever asks me if that’s my life’s calling. They all know it isn’t.

But writing…writing is different. I’d like to paid for what I do some day, just like lots of other authors out there. But I’m fully aware that lots of other authors out there are either unpublished or making far less than they need to support themselves. And I still keep writing.

And you want to know why? Because I can. Because I want to.

Money is great. And every time I see that someone has gone on Amazon or Barnes and Noble’s website and bought one of my stories I do a little happy dance.

Yes that’s right, you too, can have your very own Happy Dance custom designed by me for the low low price of 99 cents! For the Deluxe Happy Dance option, buy What the Dog Saw for $2.99!

I guess what I’m trying to say is that writing, whether it be novels, short stories, or blogging, doesn’t have to have a payoff. Call it lowered expectations if you want. Maybe you’re right.

But no matter what you call it, I’m gonna keep on rolling.


Adendum: A lot of these thought are sorta kinda inspired by Ignore Everybody by Hugh Macleod which I’ve been rereading lately. If you’re a “creative type” and you haven’t read this book, you really really should. That is all.

Blogging about Blogging about Blogging

Woah. You guys…the comments section on yesterday’s post. Just wow.

You guys gave me a lot to think about with this blogging thing, and I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one struggling to find my niche. And after hearing all of your thoughts, concerns, opinions, et cetera, I think I have a little better focus now.

To me, the overarching theme in the sentiments that almost all of you expressed was this: different people like different things.

For instance some of you expressed a desire for a blog to be focussed on one topic, for it to have some overriding theme that connected all of it’s posts together. Others said that as long as a blogger speaks with passion in his own true voice, that is enough to build a following.

And here’s the thing: I don’t think either side is wrong. There is no blog that is going to appeal to everyone. This is something we bloggers know, but then often manage to ignore.

Also, some bloggers are far better at writing topically than others. For instance, I love Jody Hedlund’s blog where she writes in a very informative manner about writing and social media, but I also enjoy Jess Witkins blog where she talks about her life and occasionally discusses the speed bumps she encounters on the way to writing her first book. And my main man Don Whittington somehow manages to combine the two by talking about a particular piece of art each week, and then transitioning into incredibly moving and deeply personal thoughts inspired by the piece.

So I’m here to tell you that no one has the definitive answer as to what to write about on your blog. Chuck Wendig is proof you can get by rather handily writing about writing (though as we saw yesterday, not everyone is going to like his approach). But you can’t be Chuck Wendig and neither can I. That’s not to say you can’t write about writing. Just do it your way.

Which leads me into the first of my two rules for bloggers:

1. Be yourself.

Unless you’re a serial killer. Then maybe try being someone else.

Actually you know what, scratch that. I bet people would throng to read a blog written by a serial killer.

You can fake being someone else for a little while, but in the end you’re going to burn out. Which leads us to rule number two.

2. Stick with it.

And really this is good advice for anything you want to do in life. You want to write a book? Stick with it. Want to build a good marriage? Stick with it. Build a one to one scale model of the entire world in Minecraft? Stick with it.

Because lets be real here: you’re going to make mistakes. You’re going to have posts that bomb. You’re going to have moments of crisis where you wonder if your blog is going in the right direction. All of that is fine.

Screwing up is not the end of the world.

Giving up is.

Huh. That’s has a nice ring to it.

Anyhoo that’s it. Really. On those two principles I believe you can build a successful blog. It’ll take time. All good things do. But if you keep pressing forward eventually you’ll find the right path.

Flash Fiction Challenge: Altitude

A long while back I wrote a blog post called The Failure of Expectations about how sometimes the thing you see on the cover of a movie or in a trailer looks way cooler than the movie itself. Specifically I refered to this poster for a B-movie called Altitude:

But then I got to thinking. I’m a writer. I know lots of other people who are writers. Maybe I should stop whining about how the movie isn’t as cool as the poster, and write a story that is.

And I decided it might be fun to drag you all along for the ride. So here’s the deal: I want you to write a story inspired by that poster in 1000 words or less and post it on your blog. Then, link to the story in the comments thread for this post. I’m giving you one week, to come up with something as unbelievably epic as the poster image suggests.

And do yourself a favor and don’t do any research on the actual movie until after you write your story. Trust me. It won’t help.

One week. Starting now.

This Title Is Really Long, Which Is Ironic, Because The Post Is About Brevity, So You’d Think The Title Would Be Short Too, But Nope It Just Goes On And On And On Until It-


Yes, I’m going there. Because I think it’s important

1. This is your blog, not your magnum opus.

You got something to say, go ahead and say it, but do you really have enough substance to fill up a thousand words?

And don’t get me wrong, the answer may be, “Why yes as a matter of fact, I do Albert.” Which is fine and all, but there’s no actual obligation to give us the epic version of whatever it is you want to say. You may think, “Oh, but all this stuff is really important” and it may well be important. So split it into more than one post. Why? Because…

2. I have ADD.

Well, that may be a bit misleading. I haven’t been diagnosed or anything. Lets just lay I’m easily distracted, yes?

You’re expecting an “Ooh, shiny object” joke here. This is me subverting your expectations.

Something specifically about reading off of a computer screen is incredibly difficult for me. I know not everyone suffers from this problem. A friend of my can read through entire books on her computer screen. I can’t.

Should you cater your blog just to me? Well no. That’s what this blog is for. But I’m pretty sure not the only one who doesn’t want to read massive text blocks on his computer screen.

3. No one cares.

Seriously no one is impressed by long blog posts. Back when I first started blogging I was still learning this principle, and I had some posts that stretched on for upwards of a thousand words. No once, not once, did anyone comment and say “Woah, Albert, congratulations on writing such a long post.”

And now that I’ve started writing short posts, no one has said, “You know, Albert, I really miss when you used to go on and on and on. Your shorter posts aren’t nearly as good.”

Longer posts are not better posts.

4. Don’t listen to me.

Remember yesterday, when we talked about finding your voice? That applies here too. If you’re in love with writing long blog posts, don’t let me try to change who you are. That may be part of your identity as a writer.

Then again, It may not be. I only ask is that you consider it.

All I can show you is the world as I see it. I’m certainly not the only perspective in town.

Repetitiously Repeated Repetition or: the Perpetual Drill Sergeant

Ugh. I’m just gonna level with ya’ll. I don’t feel like writing today. I’m not sure what is is. I got plenty of sleep, I’m not feeling down or anything like that, I just feel…lazy. All I want to do is sit in my big red chair and watch old Nostalgia Critic videos all day.

I don’t think I’m the only one feeling like that either. Because I see these, “Get your butt in gear and get writing you worthless slimebag!” posts all the time on various blogs. I mean how many times can you post the same, “I don’t care what you’re feeling like, screw the muse and get writing anyway,” stuff?

Apparently the answer is, a lot. Because we need to be motivated. Like all the time. Left to ourselves I wonder if any of us would get much of anything done. I mean sure you read some great motivational book or blog post or maybe you have am uplifting conversation with a fellow writer and you think, “Yup, I’m good to go. All those I-don’t-feel-like-writing blues have done flown away.”

And then tomorrow happens. And all that positivity is gone again.

Maybe someone should start a blog which consists of nothing but drill-sergeant, in-your-face, don’t-you-dare-tell-me-you-don’t-feel-like-writing-today-soldier rants. There’s got to be  market for that.


“But Albert,” you say, “Wouldn’t that get repetitive?”

Well, yeah. That’s kind of the point. I know I’ve said this on this blog before, but screw originality. There’s only about six different things we writers need to hear so if the cheerleaders among us end up repeating themselves or sounding eerily similar it’s because we really need to hear this stuff over and over and over again.

Because that, “I can take on the world and kick this wordcount’s butt” feeling is just that…a feeling. It’s  series of chemical interactions in your brain and it ain’t gonna last any more than that, “I’m on top of the world and delirious with happiness” feeling you had last week lasted.

But that’s okay. Because feelings don’t make you a writer. Yes, you’ve heard it before, and you’re going to hear it again. Sit down. Shut everything else on your computer off. Now write.

That’s what makes you a writer. Habit. Repetition.

Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

Does it work? It does for me. At the beginning of this post I truly didn’t want to write this morning. But at the beginning of the year I made a commitment to myself to blog every day (barring Sundays), and believe it or not that commitment has taught me something important about writing which is this: if you treat writing as something you have to do, rather than something you something want to do you’ll accomplish more than you could dream.

Take it from me. I know it works. Ignore your doubts and your fears and tell your laziness to take a hike. I think you’ll find the old joy of writing is there waiting for you just like it always was.

The Soul of the Story [Guest Post by Don Whittington]

[Today I’ve got something super special for you guys. I’m all psyched up about it. I’m doing my little jumping up and down dance that always drives my dog crazy. That’s how excited I am.

Why am I so excited? Because today it is my pleasure to present to you a guest post by one of my favourite bloggers ever. Don Whittington writes The Automat, a breathtaking blog about art and life. If you haven’t heard of The Automat, you’re not alone. In my opinion, Don’s work is criminally under-appreciated. Seriously. Someone should go to jail. If you like art even a tiny little bit you should go and check out his blog. But first, read this.]

Albert asked if I would do a guest spot here, and I admit that I am somewhat reluctant to write about writing. Part of what I believe to be wrong with the current state of fiction is that so many people are writing about writing they never get around to writing a decent story. But equally, I know from having been a beginner myself once upon a time, there are certain questions that never get answered, and if someone would just answer them for you, you could get better.

I am going to answer them for you. Sort of.

Myth number one: Writing must be good to sell well.

Are you kidding me? We have all read best-selling books filled with ham-handed sentence constructions, grammatical errors, misspellings, and glaring errors of fact. It should be apparent to anyone not born this morning that good writing is not the issue. The fact is, your use of language can be perfect and the world will yawn. Your plot construction can be a masterpiece of scene and sequel and everyone will ignore you at once and with spectacular harmony. This happens when you suffer from SPW: Shitty, Pretty Writing. You are reading SPW when everything seems extraordinarily well written, but you are still bored out of your mind. Most people, once aware of it, can get beyond this stage and conquer SPW, but sadly, some never do.

Language is important; language is integral to how your story functions even as your car’s parts contribute to its handling on the road. But people don’t buy fuel injectors, they buy Porsches. Here are things no editor cares about: “I wrote 3,000 words today!” “I have fifteen Chapters!” “I wrote a great log line!” “I framed my outline and hung it on the wall!” Here is what they do care about: “My protagonist is in so much trouble.” “That choice has destroyed her marriage.” “I killed my child!” “Timmy fell down the well.”

Story, story, story, story, story…(repeat 3,000 times and say, “I wrote 3,000 words today!”)

You’ve written 110,000 words but do you have a story? A real story and not some mood flecked throwaway crap destined for the mountain of forgotten New Yorker pseudo-intellectual-paeans-to-solipsistic-omphaloskepsis. Here’s how you tell.

Drum roll:

A real story can only occur when characters, about whom the reader has come to care, experience change or growth.

High hat!

I made that up years ago and it borrows heavily from everything everybody else made up before me, which is to say, I may well have stolen it. Hope so. It works.

Other things matter in that they help satisfy these conditions. Drama occurs when good people make bad choices. Pinocchio is like a little lesson in how to tell a story. He makes the wrong choice again and again and again. But a bad choice is not enough by itself. Something has to be at stake. Pinocchio can only redeem himself if he saves his father who is about to die because of Pinocchio’s poor choice.

Other details should be seen to. Does your protagonist have obstacles appropriate for his challenge?

John wanted pickles with his sandwich, but he knew that if he opened the jar, the dragon would devour his neighbor, Mrs. Jennison. “You can live without a pickle, John,” said his practical yet secretly tormented and surprisingly stunning wife Jane. “Never. I need only fashion a spiny armor from these bits of artichoke…”

In writing classes people practice exercises in which they ask the “What if?” question to arrive at story ideas. This is a great exercise, but remember to follow it up with the “So what?” question.

“What if everyone in the world suddenly had good breath?”

Remember that a story does not have to be complicated to enthrall. It simply has to be honest and effective. You get your readers to care about your character by caring yourself, as the writer. But readers have expectations. If your character suddenly steps out of character because that’s how you outlined the story, your reader will drop you in a heartbeat. People are subject to cause and effect, just as things are. During the telling of your story, you have probably rendered your outline obsolete. When characters begin to live, they sometimes do things you didn’t expect or want. Tough. That’s the briar patch we all want to be thrown into. Send your outline to sit in the corner with the people who count “was’s” and “POV” slips. Meanwhile, you follow your now grown-up, three-dimensional character who is changing the world, baby.

Don’t get too worried about how complicated your story is. That is a plot question, and those bits of business are plot points. Plot serves story, but it is not story by itself. People are stories. Plots don’t buy books, people do. (Though people also sometimes buy plots for when they’re done being people, but that’s another story.) Anyway, complications are not that important. At the end of the day, the vast majority of stories can be ground down to three types:

Kicking someone’s ass.

Winning someone’s heart.

Living with the consequences of having failed to kick someone’s ass and/or win their heart.

Simplistic? You bet, and thank God, because deep down we writers often are just not very smart.

Myth number 2.

Myth number 2 is that when you start out numbering things there have to be others.

[My thanks to Don for so graciously writing this post. And if you’re too lazy to scroll up to the top of the page to click the link to his blog, here it is again. Go. Read. You will be amazed.]

On the Imprisonment of Ideas

I knew what I was going to write this blog about. I swear I did. It was in my head clear as a bell yesterday afternoon. It was a good blog post too. Seriously, you have no idea what you’re missing.

But instead you’re reading this. Why? Because I woke up this morning and I couldn’t remember it. I sat around for a while waiting for it to come back. I read some other blogs thinking I might find some trigger for my messed up memory. But I ended up with nuthin’. Nada. Blog idea to the zeroth power.

I’m not the only one either. Some of you have commented here in the past and said, “So Albert, I’m trying to do this blog thing, and I have all these great ideas, only when I get back to my computer I can’t seem to remember any of them.” I think I had some advice for you at the time. Maybe it could help me out too. What was it again? Oh, yeah.


Ideas are everywhere. In the store, at your house, sometimes you’ll even hit one when you’re driving down the road. They make an awful splatter don’t they?

But ideas are visitors. They don’t tend to hang around forever. You need to capture them, drag them flapping and screaming out of your head and cage them up in a place where you can come back to them later.

For a long time I used a small notebook for this. It was something small that I could keep in my back pocket with a stub of a pencil and whenever I had an idea for a story or a blog post or whatever I could take a minute to jot it down.

Lately though I’ve been tinkering with a tool called Evernote. Evernote is a program that works just like a notebook, and the cool part about it is, it syncs to the internet from both my phone and my computer so I can access it wherever I’m at.

Of course it doesn’t work if I don’t use it.

Ideas are the most valuable things we have. Why? Because they’re unique and special to us. If we leave them lying around in our brains they’re liable to get lost.

So that story idea you had about the space alien who goes into business as a landscape artist? Write it down. That totally awesome title for a story you haven’t written yet? Write it down. That plan for vanquishing disease and solving world hunger? WRITE IT DOWN.

Otherwise one day you’ll end up like me, writing a blog post to remind yourself to write your blog post ideas down. And that’s just meta.

[Insert Impractical But Awesome Title Here]

I’ve got some bad advice for you guys. But it’s good bad advice. So, you know, do with it what you will.

This is the thing. I’ve seen several articles and blog posts advising us bloggers to only stick with literal unimaginative titles for our posts. For instance, if your post is about forty-seven new ways to make tuna casserole, these people say your post should be titled Forty-Seven New Ways to Make Tuna Casserole.

To this I say, “Baloney!” Heck, lets throw in a couple of slices of “Ham” and “Cheese” and maybe a few slices of “Bread” and make ourselves a “Sandwhich”! Um, that didn’t have anything to do with anything, I just felt like being silly.

To be fair these people have a point. Literal titles are great for search engine optimization. So, for instance, if someone is looking for a post about forty-seven new ways to make tuna casserole, your post will be right there waiting for them.

Here’s my problem with it: there is more to life than SEO.

Sure, I’m here blogging to build a platform. One of these days I may actually try to sell something to all of you wonderful readers out there. But this blog is not just a long term sales pitch.

I am also here to have fun. I want to get silly, I want to tell stories, I want to enjoy myself. I want you to enjoy yourself. And part of that is coming up with crazy titles for my posts. Sometimes the crazy title even comes first, and I think of a post I can fit around it.

I’m not bashing authors who choose to follow this advice. I read after some good people who follow the “Forty-Seven New Ways to Make Tuna Casserole” formula of naming blog posts. I even gave it a try myself for a while. But if you’re on the fence about this issue then I want to encourage you to be yourself and have fun with your blog.

Maybe you’re more comfortable with literal titles. That’s fine too. Just never forget that first and foremost your blog and your platform is a reflection of you, with all your little quirks and eccentricities. So go out and have fun with it.

Because if you’re having fun, chances are your readers will be having fun too. And that’s what it’s all about.