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Did The HubChallenge Crash The Servers?

Updated on May 17, 2009

#12 of 100

12th in my 100 Hubs in 30 Days Challenge -- and I'm moving out of state during the challenge? I'm nuts.
12th in my 100 Hubs in 30 Days Challenge -- and I'm moving out of state during the challenge? I'm nuts.

Last night, I couldn't get back to HubPages

 It just wouldn't load. Around ten last night, a time when most people who spend too much time on the computer might be settling in after a Saturday of doing other things when whoever the early birds in the family are, they're drifting toward bed unless they're making seductive noises (this can slow down even the most prolific online writer, but I happen to be single), HubPages just wouldn't load.

I tried a few times, then found other things to do for a while and was a bit miffed because I'd done my three Hubs for the day for a minimal step toward achieving my goal, but hadn't managed to cut into the backlog of now 8 extra Hubs that I need to write in order to make 100 in 30 days. What I want is to get ahead on it, not behind.

I started late on the 14th so I had 10 extra hubs at the beginning, but made a good show on the first day with five hubs. Always a good thing in an online writing marathon. Usually I do these in fiction. I write novels every November for -- the great annual 50,000 word amateur novelwriting spree that has given rise to several professional novels and over 40,000 happy amateurs, many of whom self publish by way of or other Print On Demand companies.

 If you're a good novelist with a niche volume or you wrote a nonfiction book with a niche topic, please, check out -- in fact if you do anything like that, check out Booklocker and sign up for the newsletter. I've been reading Angela Hoy's useful newsletter full of writing tips and freelancing opportunities for years now and it is not to be missed. She actually has real editorial review of the books that come in, so hers is really closer to small press publication. You have to write a good book to get past her and she won't do cheap erotic literature though I suspect if it's actual erotic literature or just a steamy novel, it goes through on quality. What she doesn't do is the one-handed read intended for the semi-illiterate.

But that's off on a tangent.

That just establishes for readers who don't know me yet, that I can and do write great lots of fiction in a very short time, year after year, very very well. Most of my rough drafts are at least small press publishable just as they come off my fingers. This is what practice and 50 trunk novels will do for you. They then go into that big neglected stack of To Be Edited and I have one good independent novel at which I will not use again, because they cost too much now and their contracts are nastier than either Lulu, which leans toward the Open Source Creative Commons market, still has a stripped downr free POD program if you want to submit to Ingram and LIbrary of Congress yourself and encourages Creative Commons anthologies, or Booklocker, which encourages quality and keeps its costs down for the small entrepreneur. Either Lulu or Booklocker are good deals.

I also participate in the Three Day Novel competition every Labor Day Weekend unofficially, paid the entry fee the first time and didn't win, yet found myself unaccountably broke every time I let it pass too long before entering. I'd forget, year after year, to send the entry fee and still do a three day novel for practice. Some of those are on the To Be Edited stack.

The top of my To Be Edited stack is the one that already had the most editing, used to be The Hunt, now called Curse of Vaumuru. because the whole plot kicks off when cannibal sorceror Vaumuru casts a curse of stupidity on the Black Rock tribe and three of its members do the dumbest possible things breaking their heaviest taboos, killing their sacred spirit animal and two other bad moves to compound it. This is so he can hunt their shaman Thagar, eat him, gain his power and keep his spirit captive as part of his arnsenal of bound spirits. Perfectly reasonable predation from Vaumuru's point of view.

It's set loosely in the North American Pleistocene and I will admit right now I made it up whole cloth except for the animals. The tribes are based on everything from high school anthropology to every bit of science reading I've done since then, but as hard science fiction goes, the science is as strong as a putty eraser. It's actually a big sabertooth-and-mammoths and tribal magic romp of a book that's a slim 80,000 words and needs to be 120,000 words to get shot off to pro publication to maybe make me some more serious money than it would in small press -- ie, a real advance and some fame as a writer and free pass to get into most of the science fiction conventions by waving a SFWA card.

It's fantasy with a strong anthropology flavor. I pledged to start editing the poor thing on June 1st and have it finished and ready to go at the end of July.

But I got distracted by the glittering goal of yet another speed writing online competition or event and I could not resist finding out if I could do this with articles.

I've been writing about art too, as well as doing fantasy with Smilodon fatalis on the scene or vampire revolutionaries. This Challenge took a few days to get under my skin. Worse, pgrundy is personally responsible for it because I subscribed to pgrundy's Hubs, love them, don't see any way to link to a username and say "pgrundy" as a link to tell you where to go -- -but pgrundy is a very successful Hubber and a great writer who has had me hooked ever since I found her. Pam is brilliant and a wonderful social critic.

Pam's punctured so many of the things in society that annoy me that I'd love to recommend her for President Obama's Cabinet, provided they give her a decent salary and don't make her dress like she works in a bank. Or keep regular hours. Maybe Barack could just give her a Blackberry and e-consult her as needed,  so it wouldn't interfere with her writing career.

Pam was prolific before this challenge started.

I saw lots of other signups for the challenge by the time I jumped in. I can't remember if I actually threw in a comment on the long tail for the original HubChallenge Hub or just jumped in and started writing once I knew the rules, but either way, it had a long tail... and that is why even if it was a server crash, I can forgive HubPages and be understanding about last night's very likely traffic-induced server crash.

The object of the HubChallenge is to find out whether HubPages can actually pay off decently. If you have 100 titles, it stands to reason that AdSense and Amazon et al are more likely to actually pay off than if you have what I did to start, about 20 or 21 or 22. I jotted down 22 but mysteriously my numbers keep running one short of that so I may have counted my original "I'm joining the Challenge" hub as part of the previous total.

Coming out with 122 or 123 especially with some of them on different topics may well mean that my AdSense revenue turns positive. I'd like to find out if it is, and if so, I may spend a lot more time writing here since HubPages are so comparatively easy to write compared to where I do have about 100 articles and a nice steady trickle off their mystery algorithm of ad-share every month. Ehow has a rigid template and they changed it so that I can't use more than one paragraph within one step of a How To article.

The template's very convenient for writing How To. I swear eHow taught me how to write How To and got me over "I'm a fiction writer" into "I'm a writer and gee, nonfiction might support me so I never have to worry about the ups and downs of the SFF market." And don't wind up living on $5,000 a year like one rather famous SF author who died a few years ago -- well known, classic, his works still in reprint -- but never earning that much.

Science fiction writers don't usually have to live on it because most of the hard SF ones are doing it as a second career and living on their much fatter incomes as actual scientists or engineers. I don't have the physique to be a field paleontologist, much to my regret, and when I did college I didn't graduate because I could not make payments on my student loan and didn't choose to rack up more debt by going on to grad school because I realized right at the point of graduation that I was not cut out to take a psychology degree and go be either a Therapist or a Social Worker.

I don't like taking care of people. Least of all taking care of their feelings. I do this for close friends that I care very much about, over a long informal time of really liking that person and helping them through a crisis... but that's different. It was my success at helping friends through crises that convinced me I'd be one of the greatest therapists ever.

Until I realized that I would get a clientele of every crazy person I loathed and avoided -- all the people no one can stand to be around because they're violent screaming bigots and manipulative self-destructive depresslves who can't stand it if anyone else in the world is happy because they're left out. All the people who ever picked on me would be paying me a hefty fee per hour or billing it to insurance in order to get to mess with my head for an hour every week and I'd be seeing several of them a day and trying to do what's best for them.

Er, not.

I'm not even Christian. "Love your enemy" is not actually part of my philosophy. The reason therapists are one of the three professions most prone to suicide and that codpendence is endemic among them is that most of their waking lives are spent socializing with completely dysfunctional people under rules intended to protect their sanity that prevent forming any real relationships with them. Habit sometimes turns their off the job relationships into clients too and gives them the "I know better than anyone how to live" problem and numerous others.

So I did not become a therapist and years later before Bush et al made bankruptcy impossible for the little guy and Sallie Mae got more poisonous, my student loans got written off when I explained my assorted disabilities on the phone and that I was barely surviving, nearly homeless and never had any money because I could not get a job or keep it -- and could only really do enough self employment to get bare subsistence. They got it.

I'm very relieved I don't have to go through the stress of proving that under the current rules, because I'd probably be left with soaring interest on an impossible debt. But the conditions I knew about at the time were enough and that person, whoever that was, was oriented enough to reality to understand I wasn't a deadbeat, just a cripple who found a way to survive in an area with no shelters where you needed to be a single parent with three children to get Food Stamps. I believe it helped that I was in Louisiana at the time and the story wasn't uncommon.

Okay, this entire Hub could be entitled Off On A Tangent!

I just hope the stories are amusing enough to keep you reading and waiting for me to say hello to the topic of the server crash again. Which I should do now.

Nanowrimo has been plagued with server crashes ever since its founding in 1998 or 1999 or so.

Every year, the great and wonderful website at opens up at the start of October for this year's crop of wannabe novelists, amateurs who always wanted to write a book and aren't sure if they can actually do it. Let alone within 30 days. It takes being able to do 1,667 words a day on average. Some people can knock out the 50,000 in a week and go sailing on into multiple volumes as I did in 2004, these prolific old-timers sometimes compete but there are always some hacks that type out garbage or cheat by throwing a year's writing into the file to get the top number of a million words or something within two days. It's on the honor system so nobody really cares, you can tell where the real writers start to appear when you read the forums and notice the plotty bits and complete chunks of backstory and hair-pulling agony at stuck points.

About one in five actually does a novel the first year, completes the 50,000 word piece. Many many more succeed the second time they try and it's rare for old timers who've done it five or six times in a row not to bang out the year's great opus and have something to talk about and swank about in coffeehouses telling people "I'm a novelist" without bothering to mention "unpublished" along with that. They have a book to show for it after all.

I see nothing wrong with it and think that's wonderful. I think there ought to be more hobbyist novelists. Many many more. Every one of them is also a reader and that keeps the few who actually would rather write novels than work at more respectable jobs that have real and steady paychecks alive on royalties and advances. Many of them also love my genre. Beyond that, any successful writer with at least one pro publication and a few without can do a niche title on How To Write X Type Of Fiction and have a big audience of very interested readers right there. Go Wrimos. Everyone shares the dream of getting big and successful someday.

For me that's a grim reality that it's one of the few jobs I can do sitting in a squashy armchair rarely meeting any real in-person people who'd be revolted by my physical tics and body language, thinking I'm a schizophrenic because my bones are crooked and the pain turns into itching when I am medicated enough to be coherent. I scratch all the time like your average junkie does. I'm not all that stunning in person, though I have a handsome face and might look good in a webinar if I was very careful with camera angles.

I don't function very well on the kind of schedules most people need to keep in order to make a living and can count the days of peak function when I can almost keep up with the disabled on one hand in a good season. And revel in that because at last I'm free at least for a day or two of the prison that is my own bones and immune system and birth defects. It's all relative to what's normal -- and my high IQ can also dip to sub-idiocy functionally if the pain gets too high. My memory can dissolve into jello and leave me wondering what year it is let alone what day of the week. This is some of why for a lot of my life people thought I was clinically insane.

Everything, anything has lookalike symptoms to some rare disease that turns out to be something completely different. But my struggle to become a full time writer isn't rare at all. I may have practical reasons but so do some others and everyone's got a right to dream. Some dreamers who had no reason to abandon their day jobs beyond a burning desire to do something else have succeeded way ahead of me because nothing held them back either.

Every year, maybe 100,000 Nanowrimo writers descend on that undefended site. The last actual figure I got for it wasl 40,000 members but that was back in 2003 or 2004 and it grows every year. Doubling wasn't that uncommon back then. It's always a lot more than the previous year's membership and the staff go nuts trying to keep from crashing in the middle of the signups.

Most years they fail at least for a few hours.

Most years the lag getting onto the site in the first week of October is ludicrous. You can visit a dozen other websites or write an entire Hub in the time it takes to sign up or sign in on Nanowrimo. It's because that year's crop of newbies are all trying to register and all the old timers are rushing into the forums to make their first posts, bump their writer's group onto the front page of the forum for listing your writier's group -- mine is and it's still thriving, began in 2003 and is a small interesting community somewhat leaning toward SF and fantasy but also encompassing ANY kind of writing including HubPages or school assignments or scientific papers. Small weird and stable. We used to have a lot of teen writers but now they're all still members and going to college, so the All-Ages thing isn't as much of a big deal as it used to be.

I'm actually one of the founders and still active there sometimes. Summer Fun Run is an activity that's a warmup for Nanowrimo, set a goal of 1,000 words a day or any other reasonable goal and try to make it within two months. Lighter than Nanowrimo and more easily personalized, the main thing is that there are Progress Threads in the Coffeehouse that when you finish the day's poems or pages or subgoals, you can go shout about it and everyone cheers. It runs June 1 through end of July.

I chose to spend this year's Summer Fun Run editing Curse of Vaumuru because I have been underpublished way too long and could've been making much bigger money sooner if I hadn't been so distracted by assorted surgeries and their recovery and various other survival crises. The past three years were mostly surgical recovery, but I only got Social Security in 2005 and up to that point, basic survival included starvation, overexertion, moving to climates that half killed me because people were willing to take me in and many things that would've been hard on even an abled person. I had longterm malnutrition and a zillion cumulative sports injuries that added up because doing normal things is extreme athletic exertion to me on account of crooked bones.

Progress Threads to shout out your daily results are  a very, very good thing when you're pulling any kind of writing marathon.

Progress Threads keep up a marathon pace. They provide small rewards for baby steps. If you stop to pat yourself on the back every thousand words, the road to fifty thousand words becomes a whole lot easier even for someone who had trouble turning in a thousand words of school work up to that point. It starts to condition a writer to produce more. You get used to the little cumulative daily triumphs until it becomes a habit and it sinks in that making up stories is a lot more fun than those school assignments were -- and that you get social approval for it. Which will keep most people in the arts going long, long, before any actual money comes out of learning the skills.

It sets you into the "Talented" group of people who Can do these things. People will start saying "Your really Talented" as you post the best bits. You will also reach a point of understanding that saying "you are very talented" instead of "Your Really Talented" is one of those little points of skill that may actually get an editor sending you actual money for what you wrote and put you into that small shining elite of Wrimos who Sold Novels. And maybe someday get as rich as Stephen King or Jean Auel or Terry Pratchett.

The status shift, the change in social perception from "You wannabe, you'll never do it" to "Your Really Talented And Gonna Be Famous, Give ME A Copy When It's Done" is vitally important for anyone becoming a writer. Whatever it takes to reach the point where the people you interact with daily take for granted that you're a writer in the same way that you take for granted your friend the dentist actually is one and knows what he's doing with teeth is tremendously necessary for sanity maintenance. The part of the self that is social needs to be rewritten, constantly, or you will be picked on round the clock for not being Stephen King on your very first try at your very first novel and having his money so they can borrow some.

The mutual support of thousands of other quixotic dreamers putting up with parents/spouses/alleged friends/coworkers/roomies who say "You've never finished anything, why are you still breaking your heart trying when you have No Talent"  helps a lot in making that transition. Because even if you are the rawest beginner, having the nerve to post that first thousand and have SOME progress means you're not the bottom of the heap. A good chunk of the vast spawn of noveldom that shows up every year never get started. Don't have one word to count and post. You got to four figures. You're Somebody. You're Talented.

You stand a chance of finishing it and that's the first step to editing it and sending it out -- and if you have any sense, you will start checking your bank balance and think about Lulu or Booklocker et al, because if you have some other way to make a living and your first novel gets you a fan letter from someone you didn't know who loved it -- that will put a stake in the heart of "you're not a Real Writer" faster and deeper than anything else.

I think the day that I got a fan letter from South Africa on Raven Dance was the day I knew something deep.

I always wanted to become a science fiction writer. The day I got that fan letter, it sank in that I finished that goal. I was one. Underpaid, yeah, but so are some greats. Not yet up in the SFWA ranks, but that's part of "underpaid" and really, I could give that a try with other books. But my production had gone around the world to someone for whom English wasn't even his first language and touched a real reader who found it intelligent, absorbing and worth reading. I gave someone a vacation from his real life into a place that came out of my head and that made it all worthwhile.

It's paid out six times over, not many first time entrepreneurs can say that about their first gig, since to succeed at self employment it usually takes about twenty or thirty failed businesses to find out what's right for you and how to do it. I'm doing rather well on the Writer Thing and doing it in ways I could not have imagined the day I finished Raven Dance, because I live in Science Fiction. Every decade, technology changes the world dramatically -- and most of all with my disabilities, it changes it dramatically for the better and lets me do things I couldn't in any past decades or ages.

They may be fun and colorful to write about but I mostly do undisabled protagonists. Thagar's an exception and even he doesn't have the full range of my disabilities. I gave him about half my diagnoses and left him functional enough to survive to be in the book and get heroic. He's not me. He's tougher and he's a tribal shaman who took a far more medical-religious path in life than I ever did. He does like taking care of people even if they are severely annoying ones.

So that is why I don't mind the server crash here at HubPages.

When an event involves a big writing challenge open to all comers, some of the people who sign up for it are already prolific. I added eleven Hubs to it before the crash. I've got 69 fans and gods only knows how many keyword-driven random readers who luck into one on topic and like my prose and surf through all the topics they like from my profile. That's what I did when I found Pam, after all.

The object is to test whether HubPages can earn decent money on ads revenue, and hello, a lot of good writers are interested in money. Especially ad revenue on things that leave you free to pick your topic. Success brings traffic. Pam's driving vast waves of readers and many of them are wandering from her latest into other topics that look good. If the other side of the intent was "grow HubPages and get more traffic for all of us" I take the early server crash as a sign that the HubChallenge is working -- it's making more work for the staff, but it's growing pains.

So I take the server crash as a strong possibility that my 100 Hubs will actually pay out. That HubPages itself, community and readership, will seriously grow. That other marathoners will also do 100 Hubs or 30 Hubs, get their added revenues, the ads will get more clicks, the topics flourish... and the larger number of people already on HubPages who didn't realize they were interested in Derwent Inktense pencils till they saw my title and got intrigued will get me some more income too.

I'm going to trust the HubPages staff are working round the clock to keep the servers from overheating and crashing too often and may be making plans to get more servers. does this every year. That if they did, they're putting in extra hours installing them and shaking down the software and keeping our infrastructure running. This is what the HubChallenge was about and it is actually happening.

So don't get impatient at server crashes in the middle of a marathon.

They mean growth, and for all of us that does mean getting more readers!


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