Five years of me

Martin Stellinga

On December 12, 2014, a momentous thing happened. It was the date my first post went live! That’s five years ago, yesterday. Time for a looking back.

Five years in numbers

I’ve written 270 posts in the last five years, including this one. That’s 226.280 words in total, which is equivalent to some 500 to 900 pages of a novel (depending on how many words you cram on a page). Or half a Lord of the Rings.

Interestingly, I’ve written roughly 220.000 words in actual stories and books outside of this website. So, half of my writing skill has been poured into this website, apparently.

Visits to this site have fluctuated over these five years, but last month there were 14.000 visitors, or around 400 per day. I’m no John Scalzi, but the site isn’t dying in a dark corner of the web either. I even got a review copy of a video game out of it, so yeah. And — more importantly — thank everybody for visiting! Hope you stick around for the next five.

What I learned about internet fame

I started out with this blog for two reasons: I love writing, and I want to share what I write with people.

Without the first, I would not have lasted five years with regular posts. I’ve seen friends start a blog and then saw those blogs slowly peter out. Having a blog is hard, because it eats up time, and the compliments are the same as what you’d get for a buying a few rounds of beers, unless you become John Scalzi or Charles Stross maybe. Don’t get me wrong, I love the feedback I get, and I love that people like what I write, but it is quite the investment.

Now for the learning part: as much as you hope to achieve lasting fame, simply putting a blog out there and opening a Facebook page and twitter account isn’t going to cut it. I learned as much from my Webcomic, but I learned it yet again here.

What I learned about writing

When I look at writing, I’ve learned some other things. One: marketing is hard. See above. Self-publishing seems like an interesting notion, but that requires a lot of said marketing work. I like writing not marketing, so self-publishing doesn’t seem like my cup of tea, even after five years of not being published.

The second thing I’ve learned is that the first book you write is not necessarily good, no matter how hard you work at it. I’d thought that if I could just get that first book written, I could edit it until it was great. Well, I finished it, edited it, sent it out… then realized I could do a lot better if I started from scratch. It turns out writing a book is like anything else in life: you have to practice before you’re good at it. And writing a book is different from writing a short story, so chances are you’re not going to be that good the first time around. And you can’t edit it to the next level without rebuilding it from scratch. I chose to write something else instead of chewing on the same bone of my first book.

What I learned about publishing

Five years and three books down the line, I learned something else. Being good enough and being published are not really related. That sounds a bit bitter, but it’s not meant to be. I know I’m able to write a good book. However, I also know agents and publishers get about as many queries a day as I get spam e-mails. It’s a combination of luck, perseverance, and who-you-know to get published. I’ve started treating queries more like business plan proposal, and I’ve had quite some practice at them (I can recommend Query Shark , by the way), and I hope that will pay off at some point. The longer period until rejection seems to indicate the work was actually read, instead of it being rejected from the query letter alone.

Onto 2020

Five years ago, we were not even halfway to the twenties. I was not a dad yet, and the idea of President Trump was laughable. Five years down the line, things have really changed. Trump is in power, the climate is going to hell, and Boris Johnson is about to plunge the UK into a death spiral.

The new year approaches. A new year, a new decade. If the next five years are as eventful as the past five, we’re in for something. Will the UK have risen from the ashes five years down the line or will it have broken apart? Or are they the new low-wage near-shoring haven? Will the US tear itself apart, and China take over world leadership? Or does Trump really set off a new era of US greatness, or at least white male dominance?

We’ll see, I guess. Onto 2020 we go.

Author: Martin Stellinga

I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer from the Netherlands