Writing Journal 24 November 2022: Plodding toward the finish (and Thanksgiving break)

Hi, everyone. Hope all is going well with as we ease into the Thanksgiving week. I have a full five straight days of vacation and I definitely need them, I think.

There’s been a bit of a refreshing and a redesign that I’m doing a “soft launch” on this week. I think I’ll get into it in more detail on the next blog post I write, which I’ll post Saturday, I think. Essentially, it’s a bit of an update to get some of my new links up and some old items I don’t use down.

It’s still been a slow writing period for me. I did slightly better than last week. There was a part of me that considered that I might have actually reached my 200,000-word goal for this year by Thanksgiving, but it might be tight. As of last Saturday, I have about 4,200 words left to get to that mark. That’s an average week for me, so maybe by next week I will be able to pop the proverbial champagne cork in celebration. We’ll see.

Here’s the stats for last week.

Writing statistics for the week ending 20 November 2022:
+3,771 words written
Days writing: 5 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 1 of 7 for 30 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 5 of 7 days.

And this is the point in every one of my posts where I’ll ask you to subscribe to my mailing list for my Substack blog, The Writing Life With Jason Liegois. I’m trying to build up a strong email list so that I can keep in contact with people to let them know what’s going on with me, to talk about opportunities to talk with me about writing or writing advice, and, oh yeah, maybe sell a book or two. It’s free to do and trust me, I’m not even thinking about a paid subscription just yet. Just click on the button below to get yourself sorted.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Writers keep writing and the rest of you stay safe.

I’m On Substack – Come Check It Out

Well, I promised I was going to do it, so I finally did. I’m at https://jasonliegoisauthor.substack.com. I’d love it if you might want to check me out there.

My first post will be a bit of an introduction, but I plan on cross-posting many items from here to the Substack blog, both current and “classic” posts I think might have some interest.

See you there.

An Announcement Regarding a New Project

Hi, everyone,

Just wanted to let you know (as you might have suspected), I am going to start posting on Substack as well as here on WordPress. I am in the process of writing my initial welcome post on Substack and it will go live on Friday.

I will post a link to that post and my Substack site by Friday evening. Many of the articles that will be or have been posted here will be cross-posted to Substack. I think it’s a great way to reach more readers, especially fellow writers.

I’m really looking forward to it. See you then.

Substack: A Sequel

I usually don’t include short notes like this on the blog, but I did want to share something related to a review of the writing site Substack I shared here a few weeks back.

One of the things that I mentioned in that review was while I found the frequently asked questions pages quite helpful (the company terms them the “Writer’s Resource” pages) to be quite helpful, of course they were never going to have every single answer I was looking for. Also, it’s always tricky to try and use the right keywords to get the exact advice you want. Substack has regular office hours, but those are during the midday and especially with the school year coming up, it’s difficult to me to make those hours.

However, I did manage to make it to one of those “writer’s hours” chat about a week ago, and I got a great response from a writer by the name of Jackie Dana, who runs a page on Substack called Unseen St. Louis and also contributes to another couple of Substack pages as well. She answered a couple of questions I had about the platform, including what would the best options be for cross-posting from WordPress to Substack. (The short answer is, publish in WordPress, copy and paste into Substack, and there shouldn’t be too much of an issue except for maybe a couple of formatting issues.) Also, I got invited to join a Substack Writer’s forum, so I can start wandering around there at odd hours if I need some other advice.

The short story is, I’m going to look at putting together my first official Substack post soon. After that, I will continue to cross-post from her to there, and perhaps add a few older articles occasionally to Substack as well. I’ll let you know here when that goes “live,” so to speak.

I always am trying to take care that I’m doing my research before jumping into a new writing endeavor. However, I think at a certain point, the best policy is for me to plow ahead and see what happens.

So, I guess I’ll see you later here and at Substack (as well as the other places; just check out the sidebar lol).

Substack: A review

Every so often I have to remind myself of a rule that relates to my work output. It was very much the case in my younger years, but even now when I’m slowly beginning to increase my output, it still applies to me. As it turns out, I typically manage to be more productive when I’m facing a “hard” deadline.

Such is the case here, as I attempt to put together this blog starting on Monday with enough time to make sure it is completed on Saturday. Confidentially, it is also serving as a presentation for my writing group on the same day. As I once heard about the game of chess, if one move can accomplish two tasks at once, it is always a good move and usually the best move available in a given situation. So, this blog will serve the same purpose.

Introduction

It is strange how, during the course of my life, I’ve had the opportunity to see publishing, such as it is, warp from a 20th century print emphasis to a 21st century online emphasis. In the 20th century, you worried about finding a publisher for the work that you wanted to write, or possibly and agent. You would have to consult tomes, not regular books, such as Writer’s Market and other similar resources to find suitable outlets for your literary efforts. That’s how our great-grandfathers, grandfathers, and fathers did it, and we were expected to do it as well.

Then the Internet became a thing.

It turned out that you could go out onto what they called the online world and somehow make a living at doing different things. It turns out that people could take a look at something at Wal-Mart on a web site and order it to come to your house. People could reach potential customers from all parts of the world rather than just their own neighborhoods. Also, it opened up markets or services that went way beyond what people expected in the old days when people out West were amazed that you could order a Colt revolver that shot .45 caliber ammunition in their Montgomery Ward catalogue and have it arrive in person a few days later1.

So, if one is to look out into the online world, there are many places where people are trying to make a living writing online. The legacy newspapers and magazines considered the Internet a side gig where they could promote the print product until younger people realized they’d prefer to have the articles on their laptops or smartphones rather than some awkward pseudo-blogger (lol).

As such, I was trying to find the best platform for me to try and write and make a good living at it. And the more I hung around Facebook or other social media platforms, I kept hearing about something called Substack. I kept seeing authors I admired such as Robert Reich and Amanda Palmer using Substack as one of their platforms.

Although I have been blogging on WordPress now for about five years, I’ve been interested in other ways of reaching people through writing and at least making some money from it. From my initial glances at Substack, it seemed to be a platform that someone could make a living – not a prosperous living, but something to help authors out. If I wasn’t going to be a starving artist, and if I wasn’t going to be a hustler like some of these guys on YouTube and TikTok, I had to have something that would be simple, easy to understand, and capable of maintaining with few if any logistical complications.

I decided to look into Substack and see if it might meet my needs. As I do that, I will also look at my experiences using WordPress and comparing my experiences with those services.

Getting Started

Getting going on Substack is insanely easy on www.substack.com. Once you have an email address to use for setting up an account, signing up for an account is as easy as pretty much any site or online service you might encounter. They also have an app in the Apple store for Substack. I went ahead and got both the app for my iPhone and also access the site through my desktop, although the mobile app is only a reader for the service and does not have editing capabilities.

There is no cost to setting up an account or using Substack’s basic services, although if you do start charging for subscriptions they will take a cut of that. But I’ll get into that later.

Writing Something Down

When you start composing something for publication, you do so on the Dashboard section of the site. The Dashboard is the way you access not only your posts, but other information such as for subscribers, statistics, podcasts, and other features which I’ll discuss later.

I did like the straightforwardness of the drafting and editing setup for posts. You are able to put in a variety of text styles and formats, and embedding other items such as YouTube videos, Spotify tracks, and others is as easy as cutting and pasting the link into a new line of the post. I still have frustrating memories of trying to get HTML programming perfectly and trying to cut and past relevant codes I had saved for different posts on an old Blogger site I operated for a few months way back when I had a lot less motivation to write. I’m very glad sites in general are more plug and play, so to speak, than they were before, and Substack fits this bill.

The one disadvantage, however, to the editing is that you can’t substantially change the style of the Substack posts themselves, the basic formatting. By contrast, WordPress gives you several paid and unpaid options for changing the look of your blog which I have used to freshen it up at least a couple of times over the years.

When you do publish posts, Substack gives you the option of simply posting it to the web or both publishing and emailing your subscribers at the same time. One good thing about that is if you have to revise or change something, it won’t send out other emails when that happens, so that cuts down on spam quite a bit.

You can also set up separate sections of your Substack site that can host different newsletters and podcasts, for example. This can be done through the Dashboard.

Building Readers

Writing something is one thing, but actually getting someone other than yourself or (maybe) your significant other to read what you write is something entirely different. Both Substack and writers on Substack, in some of the articles on the site regarding operations, gave me some good initial advice toward how to build such a readership. Some ways that Substack suggests to promote your site include letting people know about your site by word of mouth and promoting it through any communications and social media. Another thing they emphasized was being consistent with publishing content that displays your personality. They definitely have an idea of how to create a name brand.

Another method to promote yourself is using the Recommendations feature. This allows you to recommend fellow writers that you have admired, while also allowing you to be recommended in turn to others. This feature is pretty straightforward and is a lot simpler than trying to make an Amazon review and wondering if it will get deleted because you and the author are connected on social media.

Subscriptions (Free and Paid)

When talking about subscriptions, I should mention that they can be either free or paid. Either kind are alerted to new posts via email. Free subscriptions are recommended for new authors on site. This gives you the opportunity to help build your audience for when a paid-subscription service is viable.

As for paid subscriptions, they can be at varying levels depending on your wishes. You choose how much those subscriptions are and what do readers receive for them. The website will receive 10 percent of the income that you receive from paid subscriptions as well as any credit card fees. The general advice that the site and its users give regarding paid subscriptions is to build your free subscriber base first and have a very solid plan for what people will get for those subscriptions.

Paid subscriptions are supported through a payment system called Stripe. I managed to get signed on to Stripe with little difficulty in about 5-10 minutes.

Metrics, Statistics, and Traffic

The Dashboard for the site is the place to find out all sorts of information about what is going on with your page. When it comes to posts, it gives detailed data regarding who’s seen it, shares and subscriptions from reading a post, click rates, and several other items.

The dashboard also has specific subscriber statistics. It tells you who has signed up for your email lists and its growth. You also get the total email list, total subscribers, and the revenue from those subscribers.

Other statistics the site provides includes where the traffic to your page is arriving from, along with unique visitors. There are also other sections, such as email and podcasts, that provide data for those specific operations.

Podcasting

Substack also has a podcasting feature by which you can host a podcast on your page. It allows you to import existing podcasts to the Substack page through RSS, and allows you to submit your podcasts to Spotify and other services.

However, while Substack does allow you to upload any audio files for the podcast, there isn’t any functionality that allows you to produce, edit, and revise podcast episodes. By contrast, WordPress is in partnership with Anchor (a Spotify division) that provides a very good production element). In some of my initial work with Anchor, I was able to use it to provide a fairly solid production, complete with intro/outro music, effects, etc.

What if You Need Help?

Substack has an extensive help and support section. Some of the articles are produced by the company, while some others have been contributed by successful users who pass along their knowledge. I found all of the articles to be quite helpful in walking through the publishing process. They also have “Writers’ Hours” during the week, but that can be at an inconvenient time for many. For example, they are usually going on during middays on Thursdays, so people who work during the week might find it difficult to participate. I would love to have either some later times or weekends to be able to take part myself.

Comparisons Between Substack and WordPress

WordPress has been my main blogging platform, so I usually compare a blogging platform to my experiences there. Both Substack and WordPress have an ease of use about their sites. However, I think it might be easier to embed items from other media into Substack. The statistics I get from Substack were very thorough and easy to understand. However, the ability to customize Substack doesn’t compare to WordPress.

In addition to WordPress’ ease of use, I like the creativity it allows me to alter the look and feel of my blog. The mobile app for WordPress is much better than that of Substack because it allows me to post and edit posts, unlike the Substack app. However, I do have to make some modest investments – maybe around $150 annually – to have the site have the functionality that it does as well as for domain and email services.

My verdict

Substack has potential as a possible supplement and revenue stream for my writing work. With the time and effort I have put into my WordPress blog, as well as the features of the platform that I think can match what Substack does, I don’t see myself abandoning WordPress as a result, but I get the feeling that I will be crossposting items from WordPress to Substack in the near future.

I’d score Substack as being 4 out of 5 stars. It’s a great program, but it doesn’t necessarily have every single function that I would like in a publishing platform. It’s something I will make use of in the future.

Footnotes:
1. I’m trying really hard not to get off topic. I might not succeed. But I am trying.

Writing Journal, 13 July 2022: Good (acceptable?) start to the month

[PHOTO NOTE: The picture was the first thing that came up when I put “July” in the photo search.

Last week was… acceptable, if not good from a writing perspective. I’m ahead of the game regarding my writing pace, although I’m frankly disappointed that I didn’t get more blog posts done than what I have done.

However, I am working on a presentation that I will be giving this weekend to my writing group, and it will be a presentation on the blogging and subscription website Substack. As part of my work on giving that presentation to the group, I will be putting together a blog post and review of the site – basically, my first impressions after starting to use and experiment with it.

Not much else to mention about that, although I will be posting that midday on Saturday (16 July 2022).

Anyway, that’s it for now. Stats are below. Take care everyone.

Writing statistics for the week ending 9 July 2022:
+4,895 words written.
Days writing: 5 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 1 of 7 for 60 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 6 of 7 days.

I Finished My Fantasy Game of Thrones Fan Fiction (At Least One of Them)

About two and a half years ago, I was paying attention to the final season of a really popular fantasy series on television known as Game of Thrones. I had been interested in the series for a while, but I was getting obsessed with the season and the ending of the series.

It was a weird situation. The television series that was based on George R.R. Martin’s book series was about ready to be done even though the book series itself wasn’t yet done (it still isn’t lol). So, the decision of how the series would end would rest largely in the hands of two TV producers (henceforth referred to, collectively, as 2D) who convinced Martin a decade or so back that they would take good care of his life’s work.

And they had done an all-right job. I loved the main story, its grittiness and the twists and turns behind it. The production design was fantastic and put me into this world of Westeros, and the casting to a person was spot on.

To be honest, the entire experience made me fall in love with the whole fantasy genre. It’s a wild situation, because I live in a world that’s so technologically advanced it looks like nothing in the pages of Martin’s books or what I saw on the screen. But I was falling in love with the world, and admiring the stories I had previously read. When I was in late elementary school, I had discovered The Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander and now, thirty or so years later, I was actually combing bookstores for a serviceable copy of The High King to see if it still held up. (Reader, it did.) That led to me starting (but yet to finish) The Lord of the Rings and be foolish enough to dip my toes into the deep ocean of story that is The Wheel of Time series. I would have to say that the entire experience was enough to propel my interest in fantasy fiction – one I half-fear, half-thrill at, will be what dominates my fiction writing interests moving forward.

Anyway, with that much of an impact on my fiction fandom, I was itching to see how it would all end up. And I was more than half dreading it, as well.

Because I knew about television series endings. Hollywood is starting to take ending television series a lot more seriously than the bad old days when they’d try to carry on a series forever until everyone got sick of it and they just canceled it with no concern about whether they ended it in the middle of a story or right after they got to a cliffhanger. I liked that they were trying to be civilized and try and consider a series to be part of a longer stories that could be told in just a couple or a few seasons, rather than rambling on and on with no concept of a finite story or making sense (looking at you, Simpsons and Supernatural after Season 5 or whatever it was). British television has managed to do that for years (except for Big Brother, Coronation Street, Eastenders etc.).

Getting that ending just perfect, however… a writer has to stick that landing/that ending right. Because when you stick that right, it can cover up a multitude of missteps along the way and make everything right in the end. Most people know those series – The Sopranos, The Shield, The Wire, Six Feet Under.

But the ones who screw it up, the ones that just foul up the last things devoted viewers loved about a series – their infamy is eternal. There are so many that fit that category. Lost and Dexter are just a couple of many.

(And I’m still not over the idiotic way they ended the second Battlestar Galactica series. Ancient humans colonizing Earth? Forget that nonsense. They did Adama, Apollo, and especially Starbuck dirty.)

I was desperately hoping that Game of Thrones would be one of the former types of series – the one with a great ending that overshadows everything – rather than the latter, the ones with horrible endings that poison all that came before it in regret. Guess which one it was. Go on, just guess.

It did not work out, Readers. [Photo by Ann H on Pexels.com]

Yes, in May of 2019, what I was feeling was an overwhelming sense of… disappointment, sadness, and frustration, watching what unfolded across the small screen. And finally… I started thinking.

I knew that I could do better than what I was seeing. I knew I could turn out something better than these idiots, and I didn’t need a $10 million per episode or whatever budget they had to do it.

So, I dipped my toe into the waters. I thought, what if I had one more season to salvage the wreckage that was left at the end of the series. The result was a 40,000-plus word story I decided to call “The Reunion of the Pack.” I didn’t know where I could post it – I tried to set something up on FanFiction.Net and I did have it there for a time. Then I discovered Archive Of Our Own. I really loved how you could set up the stories into separate chapters, series, and also the tagging system.

I was happy with what it was. It wasn’t a perfect story, but I thought it did a decent job of salvaging the story and getting a nice enough ending to it. I got a decent reaction from it, based on the number of kudos that I received (the AO3 version of likes)… but I was still a little unsettled. Was there a way I could make a better ending for the story?

That’s when I thought if I had the chance to rewrite the entire final season… that would be something. It would be crazy. but it would definitely be something.

And then I started writing. I just thought that it would take maybe 40 short chapters, maybe 60,000 words at the most. I figured I would knock it out in a year at the most.

I’ve now not only finished that story, but added some other stories to it and it is now a series. It’s a series that now spans over 400,000 words and is likely to top a half million words sooner than later. It’s not something that I’m ever going to make money on it, because, of course, fan fiction. And I’m doing fan fiction on an author (George RR Martin) that has gone on record speaking out against fan fiction authors. (Personally, I think it would be hilarious if someone started doing fiction based on my work as long as they’re not trying to cash in on it.)

And, I’m likely not to publicize it here. By that, I mean linking to the story and so forth.

For one thing, I am considering eventually monitizing some of the stuff on the site, and maybe utilizing Substack. So, I wouldn’t want to try and do anything that might hint at trying to make money at that.

Secondly, I am a teacher in the public schools. Right now around the country, there are people who are trying to get books banned and teachers fired from their positions for either daring to tell the truth about history in the United States or teaching materials their parents consider too “difficult” for their kids to handle.

My students know I am an author and blogger. I have never promoted my book The Holy Fool to my students because the subject matter is definitely for adults, and adult situations definitely happen in it. I know some of them have even glanced at this blog, which I have no problem with. This blog is a writing-based blog for all ages, essentially.

However, the fan fiction that I do is also not aimed at children. I do not want any hint that I might encourage kids to read my fiction. If it had a movie rating, it would definitely be an “R” rating. I want to keep this separate from my professional education life, and I have no reason to stir up the waters, to be honest.

Besides, this experience has proven to me that I can enjoy writing for the sake of writing. All throughout the process, I never had to think about whether there would be a market for whatever this was, whether it would be easy to promote under a certain genre, or whatever it is. I just got to enjoy writing for the sake of writing, and I have gotten such a positive response for my fiction from the readers on AO3. I’ve also had the chance to read some writing on that site that is absolutely the equal of any that have been on my bookshelves.

So, what now? Although I will not likely put out fan fiction at the rate I have been putting it out over the past couple years, I will certainly continue to do it. There are a few other stories I want to wrap up there before I’m done, and I’m having a blast at it. I’ve gotten great feedback on my work, and I’ve gotten to talk to writers I never would have met otherwise.

So, this will leave a little more time for this blog – and perhaps some original fiction as well. But I won’t

Writing Journal 2.16.2022: Not the best of numbers, but some clarity on my pace… and a bit more consistency… plus some other news

Welcome again.

Although it doesn’t look like it, I have been getting some blog writing done behind the scenes, yet not published yet. However, I’ve been making more progress. There’s at least three posts that I’m working on in drafts, and they are getting closer to getting done. I had wanted to get them done earlier, but I’ve been busy with a little passion project that I finally got finished up. (That’s the subject of one of those draft blogs. Maybe Friday I’ll post it?)

So, this week. I got more than a little writing done, pretty consistently across the week. The weekend wasn’t total garbage, even though I only wrote 55 words one day. At least it wasn’t zero, right?

I’m also looking to make some adjustments to the number of words I need to shoot for every day. I mentioned previously my goal for the year is 200,000 words in a year, roughly 16,667 words a month on average. I was a little below that monthly average last January, but I’m hoping to make up the difference over the next two months, especially since March is going to be a slightly “longer” month than the others.

Usually, my goal is to get to around 500 words per day. However, I have done some recalculations and realized that if I am going to make this 200,000 word goal with some words to spare, I am going to have to get closer to around 600 words per day.

That’s not a problem. One of the good things about setting a writing goal in advance and working toward it is spot checking how much you are getting done as the year progresses. I can check those stats and see if I have to make adjustments to daily or weekly totals if I get ahead or behind. Now that I have that goal ahead of time, I’m finding it to be a little easier to see where I am relative to that goal and how much I have to do to get there.

Visualization and goal-setting… seems to be working? We’ll have a better idea after a couple of months, likely.

How am I going to get those numbers up? Well, I have a blog about writing, maybe I need to… write a little more than just once a month about how much I’m writing? (Man, talk about insider baseball.) I need to get a little further into the self-publishing area, especially with this book project I’ve had sitting on the sidelines. I want to get more into Canva for design and Substack for writing – it might be a way that I can get paid for writing directly than what is going on now. But I’m also staying here on WordPress because I consider it to be a very intuitive site and not something that I need a lot of programming skill or cash to keep going.

As for last week’s numbers… they were both good and bad. For the first time in a long time, I managed to write at least something every day. Yeah, I did wind up just writing 55 words on one of those days, but I managed to make my minimum daily quota of 500 words.

(Now, however, I know I’ll have to lay on a few extra words every day to get to 200K. Again, not a problem now since I know how much I need to still write.)

Also, I managed to meet that minimum quota of either 500 words a day or 30 minutes of revisions or planning for writing a day every day last week, which isn’t a nothing statistic. After just meeting my daily quotas just 58 percent of the time, I’m going to be gunning for meeting daily quota at least 70 percent of the time. So, an entire week when I match my daily quota one way or another is going to be a big win in my book.

So, here are the weekly stats. And, it turns out all this is a bit over 600 words. Another good day of writing for me, at least.

Writers keep writing and everyone keep safe.

Writing statistics for the week ending 2.12.2022:
+3,425 words written.
Days writing: 7 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 2 of 7 for 60 total minutes.
Daily Writing Goals Met (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 7 of 7 days.

Writing Journal 1.26.2022: It’s becoming a downward trend…

[PHOTO NOTE: I typed “Downward Trend” in the old Pexels free media search and this featured photo is what came up. I’m going with it.]

Last week was not the most horrific of weeks I have had recently writing, not by a good sight. But, I would be lying if I said that it was favorable either.

I’m glad that I’m noticing it now and can take some steps to try and pick up the pace. It’s not like last year when I didn’t realize I was behind the eight-ball in meeting my yearly goals. Heck, I didn’t even have a yearly goal last year or any of the years before, so I’ve been able to get a better handle on how I am doing and working.

Good news: I am only 7,111 words away from making the monthly goal. One advantage I have this month is that there will be an extra week to work with. Two good weeks will get me up to that level relatively easy.

As far as the type of writing I’ll be doing… there’s this fanfiction project that I want to, if not put to bed, then I want to get the big part of it finished so I don’t feel pressure to finish the rest of it so fast. I’m sick of not writing anything more for the blog and want to get that started up again. I’ve got more than a few ideas; I just need to get over the idea that whatever I write has to be perfect.

As for self-publishing… I just have to admit that I’ll likely wait until the summer break to get some of that work done. That’s a bit of research and legwork that takes a bit of time, especially for someone who is doing this part-time like I am.

Random observation: Substack is sending me a lot of emails about all the cool stuff they have to tell me. But I actually have to read through all that and I can imagine that will be a time suck. That in itself might be worth a post.

Anyway, here’s the stats. Hoping for a better week.

Writing statistics for the week ending 1.22.2022:
+2,399 words written.
Days writing: 4 of 7.
Days revising/planning: 0 of 7 for 0 total minutes.
DWGM (500+ words or 30 minutes of planning/revisions): 3 of 7 days.
Yearly goal:
GOAL: 200,000
Weekly average (Approx): 3,850
Monthly average (Approx): 16,667
Percentage of daily quota to meet: 70 percent