This morning I was reading Your Google+ Audience - Who Are You Writing For? and a thought occurred to me: who am I writing for?
I've written posts that were really successful by my own standards, but when I try to mimic those posts to replicate their success they always fall flat. For a while it bothered me that this would happen as it seemed like I should be able to see similar results. Then I realized what was causing the problem; I was following trends.
It's easy to look at other people who are successful - and even more so when it's your own successes - and delude yourself into the belief that if you just write a post like Grognardia, Playing D&D with Porn Stars, or if you write one more series like If You're Going to Be Evil that you too can have that same level of success. So you write a post that covers the same territory and you post it. Only your page views aren't going up. Now you get all pissed and discouraged and in your darkest mental state you make your second mistake by either disparaging the very things you're emulating or walking away completely.
Instead of showing your ass or walking away what you needed to do was recognize that the authors you want to emulate have found their own voice which is why they were successful. Finding your own voice isn't easy by any stretch of the imagination. Let's just look at the evolution of my own blog. I started out doing my best imitation of James Maliszewski, working my way through Dragon, White Dwarf, and doing product reviews. Only I wasn't nearly as enjoyable to read as he was because what I was doing wasn't where my heart laid. Eventually I tried to emulate +Zak Smith but I couldn't pull that off either because I'm just too direct.
When I finally started writing and finding my own voice I had a really big success with the If You're Going to Be Evil series. It was shared on twitter, Facebook, and reddit (where it remained in the top ten D&D items for nearly a week). I thought, "Oh! This is what everybody wants to read!" So I chased that series and fucked it all up.
The truth is that you can't chase your audience by emulating your own past triumphs or the successes of other authors. Instead what you have to do is be yourself and break your own ground.You have to write about whatever is interesting to you on that day. Whether it's a short story about a sentient dungeon or you talking about sharing. No matter what you do though, you have to be yourself because there is only one +Zak Smith, only one James Maliszewski, and only one you.