Miscellaneous Thoughts on Writing and Obsessing Over Stats

I had one of those moments yesterday. One of those instances in which I made the mistake of looking at the stats for this blog and seeing that only a handful of people are REALLY reading it. Most of my traffic comes from spammers.

And the ridiculous thing was, just moments before I clicked into Google analytics, I was riding high. I’d just published the season finale of Hidden, and, according to my lovely pals on Twitter, it was hitting all the right notes.

Based on what people were saying to me, I had made them care about a bunch of people who only existed in my head.

That is freaking magic.

And I lost that feeling, let myself lose it, because, what? Because I was only able to share this particular experience with a handful of awesome, enthusiastic people instead of hundreds?

I have made my living online for a while now. Every site I’ve ever written for, you live or die by stats. Stats go up, you have a job next month, next year. Stats go down…time to start checking the job boards again.

I do a pretty good job at keeping those stats up, actually.

But that’s the problem, right there. I’m used to it mattering. Those numbers in analytics…they’re supposed to be so important, damn it!

You know what, though? Statistics can’t reach out to you and say “hey, yeah, tears.” And they can’t tell you that what you just wrote was heartbreaking, and that the sense of grief you felt writing it carried hundreds or even thousands of miles and affected someone else in the same way.

I don’t lie awake at night wondering if I’ll get thousands of hits on my posts. I do lie awake wondering “will Jayne and Kellie and Annie and Michelle like this?”

“Will I still love this story, a month or two down the line?”

“What’s Molly going to do next?” That’s a big one. 🙂

Hidden (and another serial I’ve been working on) were both accepted for publication on a site that specifically publishes serial fiction. It seemed like a good idea. More eyeballs on it, right?

So they got accepted, and I didn’t publish them there. I withdrew them instead. I wanted control over my words, wanted to do things my own way (I’m a bit of a control freak, maybe.). This particular site kind of makes fiction writing a competition (and I know that, in general, getting people to read your fiction is a competition all its own) and that kind of turned me off. I don’t want a bunch of other serial authors clicking on my stuff, voting for it in the hopes that I’ll scratch their back the same way. Been there, done that. Over it. I want actual readers reading my work. I do not want to think about SEO and tagging and obsessing over stats at the end of every month.

Christ. I have to worry about SEO enough for my regular work. I have no interest in keywording the fuck out of Hidden.

Stuff like this is why I’ll never be rich or famous, probably.

I am fine with that.

I just want to write good stories, and I am thrilled that anyone out there cares about them. I need to remember that next time I’m tempted to obsess over stats. I’m going to remember what Stephen King has to say about what writing is really about:

“Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid, or making friends. In the end, it’s about enriching the lives of those who will read your work, and enriching your own life, as well. It’s about getting up, getting well, and getting over. Getting happy, okay? Getting happy.”
― Stephen King, On Writing

Working on Hidden has made me happy. When I hit “publish” on the first episode back in April, I did that for me, to prove to myself that I could put this part of myself out there and it would be okay. That I can make up occasionally sexy stories about demons trying to save the world, and still be taken seriously as a person who provides reliable gardening advice.

It’s been crazy, and it’s been an emotional rollercoaster. But I am happy. I feel more myself, more the person I’m supposed to be, since hitting “publish” that first time than I’ve felt in a long time.

So much more work to do, and I wake up every morning excited to do it.

Onward!

2 thoughts on “Miscellaneous Thoughts on Writing and Obsessing Over Stats

  1. Evan says:

    Hello, um… Colleen, I guess?

    However you prefer to be addressed, I just wanted to say that this story is truly excellent. I read a huge amount of online fiction of various types (webcomics, serial novels, etc.), and my favorite genre to date is Superhero fiction. Based on that, I feel qualified enough to say that this series is one of the better Superhero works on the net. Your writing is fluid and your storylines are engaging (I thought that I had reached the latest chapter at number 22 and freaked out.), but the depth and development of your characters is where this story shines.

    In this post, you mentioned that you aren’t competing with anyone and don’t want to tag the heck out of your stories, and I can respect that. But I’d also like to say that I would have found this series much earlier if you had. As things stand, I found your site pretty randomly while clicking through links on another fiction site. Anyway, I really just wanted to thank you for all the hard work, and say that I look forward to seeing where this story goes.

    Sincerely,
    -Evan

    P.S.– I know that you will probably never see this post, but I like to express gratitude when I feel that someone deserves it, even if they never get to hear it.

    • Colleen says:

      Hi Evan!

      Thanks for this — I can’t even tell you how happy this made me. I emailed you, in case you don’t see this. But, if you see this, then the email is irrelevant. Oh, well. 🙂

      Thanks again!
      –Colleen

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