How I built my first Ghost site

Why I decided to build a passion project on Ghost.

Passion projects take the longest to build. A wicked voice inside your head — RuPaul Charles calls it your inner saboteur, Stephen King in Full Dark, No Stars calls it the Conniving Man––nags at you and deters you in every step. 

Popular lines include: you’ll never be good enough; just kill your dream; others are better than you, and they are miles ahead; they’re bigger, faster, and they will always beat you. The last one’s so good a legend of Joan Crawford’s stature realized it in cinema.

This writer, a Filo whose job is no more than battering keyboards, is familiar with the same beast. Though I gratefully make a living as a writer, I’m not exempt from what self-help books call The Imposter Syndrome. Chronically, I create something to tear it apart, sculpt it, scrap it, distort it, or maim it, sometimes to no end. Hover a UV-ray light over my keyboard and you’ll see the key I touch most — the ‘delete’ key.

But here’s the thing: I grew up with monsters. I keep them in small rectangular boxes and pet them in my dreams (never, thankfully, as nightmares). The first horror film I’ve watched, interestingly, featured a psychopath who dressed up as his mother––his only mental and emotional anchor––when she passed. Then I’ve watched more: a metal-clawed pedophile with a sorry sense of style; a flamboyant vampire thirsty for soapy drama; a vengeful spirit who refuses to straighten out the frizz in her hair; and a bunch of others.

community for horror and science fiction fans from all over the world, I didn’t face off with the same familiar monsters. I had to battle with the questions that plague any creator who believes they have something to put out into the world.

But worse for said monsters, I’m as stubborn as a rock. I took one step forward after the other. And now we’re here.

Finding a CMS that aligns with my values

Genre Nutters is live. I’ve built it on Ghost, a CMS (content management system) that’s stupidly easy to use and geared towards creators, bloggers, podcasters, and publishers. I happen to fall somewhere across those four categories.

I previously had it parked on my typical setup––a simple WordPress site that’s skinned with a fancy theme with features that I, or my envisioned audience, probably won’t need. 

The vision for Genre Nutters is to first build a publication with a strong brand voice––a horror/sci-fi website that publishes insightful pieces, exclusive interviews, and retrospectives on forgotten horror and sci-fi gems. The last thing I want is to be a lesser version of Fangoriaor Bloody Disgusting. I refuse to adopt a clickbait-y approach either.

This stubbornness is what pushed my vision for Genre Nutters to what it is today. In two to three years, it will be:

  • a recognized media brand in global horror media;
  • a reliable publication for both aspiring and established writers;
  • and a thriving community for horror and sci-fi fans

With these ends in mind, I started to think about the means with which I would achieve them. At this point, with virtually nothing to offer as yet, the one thing (apart from great content) I can perfect is making the experience of the site as pleasant as possible for my audience.

Moving forward with a no-nonsense CMS

Which brings me to Ghost. I haven’t seen any other platform take content creation so seriously. The totality of the experience––both for the creator and the audience––is spot-on. It’s stupid fast, straightforward, and bullshit-free. 

In just a couple of hours, I was able to build a site like this:

Genre Nutters is still in its early stages, but all the features that I feel are essential are all set up:

  • Fast-loading website
  • Content-focused design (no ads!)
  • Beautiful, thoughtful typography
  • Premium membership function

Granted, these are readily available in WordPress. In fact, there’s a lot more I could have done with WordPress. And while I lose a bunch of the flexibility with Ghost (the CMS, for example, doesn’t have basic SEO stuff set up like review schema markups), there is something gobsmackingly cathartic about its truly essentialist approach.

Moving my content from WordPress to Ghost (Pro) was, unsurprisingly, easy. I was fully set up in a couple of hours. 

And theme customization (I used Fueko’s Renge theme), while new to me, is very easy, thanks to Ghost’s stubbornly clean and simple code. Seriously, take a look under Genre Nutters’ hood, and you’ll see how dandy the coding is. The result? A site that loads fast––just milliseconds to a second, which is a new record for me.

Plotting the future with confidence

The decision to try out Ghost has opened up my mind to a couple of things: 1.) it is the Essentialist way of publishing content, and 2.) I like being an Essentialist.

Essentialism, to those unaware, is a disciplined approach to life that pushes one to pursue less and less and less until they hit the baseline––or the “essence”––of what will truly bring them joy. Not to be confused with Plato’s shared elementary worldview with Aristotle that spoke of ideal realities and Greek deities. 

Greg McKeown summed it up succinctly in his book, Essentialism: “You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” Which is to mean that we don’t have to say yes to everything––including the things our passion projects need.

In my case, I decided that Genre Nutters will be these three things, and these three things only:

  • a recognized media brand in global horror media;
  • a reliable publication for both aspiring and established writers;
  • and a thriving community for horror and sci-fi fans

And Ghost has everything I need to help me achieve these goals. It has tools to help me craft an outstanding experience for readers, manage an entire editorial team smoothly, and set up a shockingly easy way for horror/sci-fi fans to join the community for a small monthly fee.