I have a friend who used to tell me, “You’re so predictable.” I hated it when he said that. I didn’t want to be someone who took the same action time and time again; I wanted to push the boundaries and surprise people. But I’ve come to realise that a little predictability for an author is no bad thing. I emphasise the words a little.
I first started blogging around 2003. At that time, LiveJournal was the major player in the field, but it was a rather basic platform. Even today, its premium features are equivalent to the basic package on WordPress.
But these restrictions forced serious bloggers to think carefully about their audience. With no access to stats, I figured out from the comments that my page would have more visitors on a Monday, fewer from Tuesday to Friday, and it would tail off at the weekend.
The time of day and entry is posted is also a factor in how many people will stop by. When I started using Facebook, I noticed that status updates posted on weekday evenings attracted noticeably more comments than those published at any other time. This has held generally true despite the rise in mobile Internet usage.
LiveJournal is actually one up on this front because it now has a postdating function, whereas Facebook users still need to use a third-party program to schedule their posts.
In October 2013, I decided to make the leap from general blogging to writing about literary matters. I decided to come to WordPress because its features were ideal for my needs, many people I like also use the platform, and I have opportunity to build up a new audience rather than potentially alienating my existing readers.
I started it as an experiment, not knowing whether anyone would read it or react to it. The first few entries were therefore at rather erratic times. Once satisfied that there was a literary-minded audience out there, I used my LiveJournal and Facebook guesswork to figure out the best time to make a regular appearance. It also allows me time at the weekend to write each entry.
And once I’d established this pattern, I found new readers would then view my entries on the strength of this regularity. It’s much like knowing the trading hours of a shop: you’ll go there when you know it’s open. And it’s that little piece of predictability that can help a writer.
But ‘predictable’ isn’t a great word as it can also have negative connotations; for instance, when you know someone will make a tired innuendo out of everything you say. Let’s use ‘dependable’ instead.
A dependable writer is one who doesn’t promise more than can be delivered, one who sticks to deadlines and word counts, and so forth. None of us are perfect, however. There have been a few times I’ve completed work with less than an hour to spare. In fact, I remember missing a deadline a couple of years ago when I entered the NYC Midnight writing competition and forgot to check the website for my story prompt.
I’m sure you can depend on me to post my next entry on Monday next week at 5pm.