Inspiration for Monday, March 14

lucas quote

What are you focused on right now? What is the reality that you’ve created for yourself? What is the reality you would like to create for yourself?

I’m a person who often gets carried away by big dreams and big goals. I start off with a lot of momentum but when that doesn’t get me where I’d like, or my wheels get stuck in the mud I start focusing on the mud and being stuck. I start focusing on how my life isn’t where I want it to be yet, and upset because I don’t know the steps in between to get myself there.

Finishing my first novel was a huge step for me. It was not only exciting to have a completed novel, it was exciting because it told me that I could do it. I could actually finish this large goal I’d set for myself and wanted to accomplish for most of my life.

I’ve heard that Michelangelo believed his sculptures were finished already, but that he had to cut away the marble to reveal them. I feel like a lot of my adult life has been cutting away at the marble to uncover the sculpture hidden inside. I tried different things in order to figure out if they were right for me and when they weren’t I had to learn to cut them loose. It freed up energy to do this because my focus has become sharper and my goals more precise.

One way I’m trying to focus my attention is by creating a career that circles around writing. I’ve worked for the past few months at a restaurant to make some extra cash but now I’m beginning to offer editorial services (under my real name!) for academic writers (since that’s part of my day job) as well as self-publishing fiction authors (since I love fiction!). It’s one more way for me to focus on my fiction career by reserving energy that would otherwise go into other ways to pay my bills. So, if you’re a self-published author, or academic who is seeking a copyeditor or a proofreader, I’d love to talk with you about your manuscript!

Weekly Progress Wednesday

Michael-Hague

Michael Hauge expounding his wisdoms

Writing Progress

Filles Du Roi WIP: Current word count: 7,235 (no change)

So, I haven’t done any BICHOK work on this, but I’ve been doing a lot of discovery that will give me a much stronger foundation as I move forward. I’ll talk more about that in a second.

Platform Progress

Nothing happening here! It’s been so busy with other things that I haven’t focused as I would like.

Life Progress

This weekend I went to a Michael Hauge Story Mastery workshop held by my RWA chapter. It was two days full of story structure, character development and a little pitch practice too. It was honestly pretty damned amazing. Some of the concepts were things I was familiar with, which was actually pretty great because it allowed me to focus more deeply on understanding the layers underneath what I already knew rather than trying to absorb all new things. It’s improved my direction for my WIP exponentially, and my understanding of character goals and motivations. Michael is primarily a movie story consultant, but most of these concepts cross all types of story and so they are applicable in novels as well. It’s also been a great chance for me to think about how story relates to reality. Why we read stories and what we gain from them. It’s given me a better understanding of psychology and my own growth as a person.

How many times can you say you’ve gone into a writing workshop and come out with a better understanding of yourself as a human and also your marriage? Right?

 

Weekly Progress

17.-power-of-persistance-420x420_0

For the past week and a half it’s been hard to be persistent and consistent. I got a little distracted and overwhelmed by other things in my life. But I’m trying to make up for it by being smarter and preparing in advance. I’m trying to use the few moments I have wisely. It doesn’t always work, but it’s working right now, so I’m pushing forward. I have some exciting developments in the future, but that means trying to readjust the scales on my time management, figuring out what I can give up and what I need to keep. It’s not easy, but then, what is?

Writing Progress

Filles Du Roi WIP: Current word count: 7,235 (from 3,928)

3,307 words feels like a lot of progress right now. I’ve been consistent in my writing habit, but until today, it felt like I was trudging through mud. Good mud, the kind that might eventually even blossom lotus flowers, but mud all the same. It doesn’t make for easy walking through nature. However, today I feel like I might have reached a nice little turning point.

I’ve also resolved to write some of the fun scenes, the ones that I’ve been waiting anxiously to have a crack at, so that my excitement about this project is boosted. Usually I’m a chronological writer. It helps me keep the motivation of my characters straight, and their emotional state, etc. But right now, I just want some adrenaline shots into my day. So I’ll go write some of the scenes that I think will be really fun, and then I’ll come back and tackle the others once I have a stronger road map. I think that’s part of the problem right now. I have a big picture map, but none of the rest stops are marked on it, so it’s hard to keep the big picture in mind when you’re slogging through mud and don’t know when you’ll be able to get to the rest area.

Platform Progress

My new phone is shiny and pretty! But I haven’t been doing too much different with it besides enjoying having a new phone. I’ve been using it in much the same way.

In other social media news, I’ve continued to grow my networks, but I’m noticing a lot of the network isn’t who I would expect or hope my target audience would be. I really like the followers, but want to connect with more writers and readers of romance. So, I’m going to re-evaluate and re-adjust so that I can meet more of the romance community with my blog, because they are just so awesome and fun and nice, and because we share such a great common interest.

Life Progress

I have a lot to do today and very little of it has to do with writing. A lot of it has to do with my other job of teaching. We are going to be discussing one of Willa Cather’s short stories, “Paul’s Case”. I’ve read it several times before, but I do love how you learn and see so much more when you re-read. Just last night, I saw new shades in this story that I hadn’t noticed before. Often my teaching and readings for class feed my soul and direct me back to writing, so that is a lovely thing. But, grading does not feed my soul, and that’s what I’m about to do. Wish me luck!

 

“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – Francis of Assisi

Tech Tuesday: What is an Author Platform?

080501-Hemingway

This guy never had to worry about an author platform! 

As I am learning about the business of becoming a writer who can get published, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about an author platform, and how to build one. So I thought I would spend a little time this week talking about why platforms are part of today’s business of publishing, what they are, and how a person can go about creating one. I’ve spent a few weeks building my social media network but haven’t really focused on why.

Back in the day when writers wrote, editors edited, and publishers promoted, an author couldn’t spend too much time worrying about their platforms. Of course, the things existed, but there was a barrier between the author who wanted to promote a book and the audience who would read it. The author could do some things, like go on book tours, do readings and interviews, sign books and make appearances, but all of that was pretty small scale compared to today. And even then, you had to be published to be able to do them.

Today, we are able to connect with each other in mere seconds and the barriers have broken down between public personas and the audience. Twitter allows people to respond to each other no matter how big or small you might be, and blogs, Instagram accounts and YouTube channels can make even the most ordinary person a celebrity.

So in this sea of social media, where millions of people are Facebooking, tweeting and posting, how can a person navigate it, or even rise up to the top and let the swell of public sentiment carry you to success?

(I’m tempted to make an Old Man and the Sea of Social Media” joke now but I’ll spare you.)

First of all, what is an author platform?

The easiest definition might be that it is an open conversation with readers and authors. Anyone can join it, and no one is obstructed from participating. This is both awesome, and daunting. Awesome because it creates connections where before there were none. Daunting because what if people are mean, or the platform is abused? Either side could potentially cause an author’s platform to tip. Readers could respond negatively and the author will most likely hear that feedback. Or, an author could behave badly, and take advantage of the voice they have been given.

But, what is the point of this conversation?

Some cynical person might say it’s just about getting as many followers and likes as possible to sell more books, and while they wouldn’t be technically wrong, it’s not the way to view a platform. Unless of course, you are just a cynic who only cares about the bottom line and doesn’t mind living a soul sucking existence. Really, it is about the consistent effort over the course of an author’s whole career to carve out a place where they can speak and be heard. And hopefully, as an author increasingly has something to say that people want to hear, this will extend their network to attract more like-minded people who appreciate the content the author is producing. This can help make the author more marketable to larger content providers, like publishers, which will in turn increase the author’s network of like-minded people.

As far as these larger content providers are concerned (and therefore we are too) a strong platform shows three things:

  • Visibility- Who you are, what connections you have, what media outlets you can use to expand your network.
  • Proven Reach- That you can actually reach the number of people you claim (one of the major reasons why buying followers is BS!)
  • Target Audience- That you can reach the kind of people who are going to be interested in your content.

A platform is not about self-promotion just to make you feel popular. It is not about hard-selling your products. It is not about being an extrovert (thankfully!). It is not about being the most active person on social media. If your network isn’t into social media but you have strong engagement through another format then do what works for you! Jane Friedman has more to say here.

Brooke Warner, over at The Write Life has some great advice that I need to keep in mind and you might too. She says: “The key is to take it slow. For writers who are just beginning, it can feel like you’re coming really late to a party that’s been going on for years — and that’s in essence exactly what’s happening. If you look at someone who has thousands upon thousands of Twitter followers, it’s likely they were an early adopter.”

But, that’s okay! You still have a seat at the table! Your authenticity and your contribution is a foundation. Slow but steady growth is healthier because it leads to a long term career. Think about all the one hit wonders you’ve seen blaze out over the years. Now think about the musicians who toured for years, and kept putting out albums, even before they were well-known and might even still be touring. You want to be Keith Richards (only with less drug abuse). In order to be Keith you need to continue producing, publishing, connecting with people and partnering with other authors. You also need to let your voice shine. Your personality, authenticity and expertise are vital parts of making you a trusted and connected voice and that’s what an author platform is really all about.

Keith

Keith has got your back! Now go forth and create!

Tech Tuesday: Google Chrome Momentum

Normally on Tuesdays I try to talk about some form of social media or technology. Today is a little different than my usual schedule because my husband called in for a “sick” day. Actually, it’s more like a mental health day. We’ve been missing each other a lot because of our schedules and haven’t spent as much quality time together as we’d like. So we stayed up late last night and he overslept today, so he called in.

As much as I really like our lazy Tuesday (I’ve taken 2 naps!!) it really makes it hard to do the things I’d intended. Case in point, I’m posting this now instead of earlier in the day. But, I’m committed to posting and I didn’t post yesterday.

did listen to one of my favorite podcasts, Dear Bitches Smart Authors (or DBSA for iTunes). Sarah’s interview with Fay Wolff, an organization and de-cluttering expert who works with creative people in L.A., made me think about things I need to de-clutter in my life, and some technology we can use to do it. Sarah mentioned she uses the Google Chrome extension Momentum, which is a great way to start off the day because it gives a beautiful image, a quote and asks you your intention for the day. If you’ve ever taken a yoga class you know they often start off with an intention, like what do you hope to get from this class today? Declaring your intentions is a powerful, empowering tool, and I’ve been trying to say what I want this year. I just added this extension and it is lovely. I encourage you to check it out!

Pinterest Tips

Yesterday I talked about how I use Pinterest, or plan to use it. Today, I’d like to give a few tips I’ve found useful to getting more function from my Pinterest account (links to the resources in the headings!).

From Social Marketing Writing:

  • Find friends from Facebook, Google and Yahoo. You can do this by going to your account settings page (the little gear) and clicking on the account. Sadly, Twitter doesn’t seem to be an option, but Outlook is, so if that’s your email server, lucky you!
  • Check out what’s popular and trending so that you can re-pin for your followers. Even if a pin is popular it’s likely that not everyone has seen it and your followers might appreciate it.
  • Add a category to boards. When you give a board a category they will appear in Pinterest’s category section and get more exposure. (I hadn’t done this on all of mine and immediately fixed it!)

From Kim Garst at Boom Social:

  • Be active, engaging and have content.
  • Have at least 4 pins per board. These 4 are what shows up on your profile page so boards don’t look sparse or empty. Kim suggests having at least 10 boards, but I don’t think this number matters as much as having boards that are curated and active.
  • Use a web browser extension so you can pin from other sites while online. Chrome, Safari, Firefox and IE all have these extensions and so do some of the media schedulers that can be helpful. This has the added benefit of linking back to the original source, giving them credit.
  • Search with key words, not hashtags. One of the things I love about Pinterest is that your search terms can be very, very specific and you will probably still get a decent result. And they show up like tags in the search bar so if you originally searched for “men’s gray cotton trousers with pinstripes” and then realize you just want to look at all the men’s gray cotton trousers with pinstripes you can generally just click on the “cotton” tag and delete it from the search.
  • Like vs. Pin: When creating and curating your boards you probably want to keep them focused so they add to your brand or products. Pinning an image adds it to a board, and these show up on your own profile, so it’s not always appropriate for your brand. But, liking a pin doesn’t add it to your profile. It does notify the pinner that you liked it, and grabs attention, possibly creating a new follower who is also interested in what you’re pinning.
  • Include your business or brand name in the pin description. Your business or brand name should be your account name, but even if it isn’t, include it in the description so that it follows any repinned images, getting your name out there.
  • Pin Videos. I find these really helpful when I’m trying to learn how to do something. I generally go to Pinterest to search for a how to because it’s more curated and I can see a variety of images and ideas gathered together quickly. But, if there is a video included, that shows me how to actually do the thing? I’m absolutely going to watch! It’s great!
  • Include mentions or send a pin to a friend. By including a mention you are sharing credit, or pointing someone to a pin they might appreciate. Use the @ symbol and start typing their name (like you do in Facebook). The only downside is that they have to be following at least one of your boards. Or, you can send them an email of the image and it shows up in their browser, even if they aren’t a user. Be sure to give a short description in the email pop-up window.

From Field Guide:

  • Set gender in your account to get more specific search results. This may or may not be useful for you or your business. But, it might be! If you set the gender and are looking for shoes then Pinterest will automatically gear the search to shoes fitting your gender. However, if you do this and then you’re searching for say, men’s watches as a gift for your husband or SO you will probably need to specify those keywords in the search.
  • Edit large boards into other boards. You, or your followers will only get overwhelmed by pages and pages of pins for one board. Why not curate them into smaller ones for easier access? If you’re really into trousers why not specify the color or fabric and separate them into different boards?

Other tips:

  • Kim Garst says to be active and engaged, and to avoid empty boards and I couldn’t agree more. Not only do sparse or empty boards disappoint a potential follower, it indicates that you aren’t very interested in the network, or are spread too thin. If you are either of these things, I’d encourage you to scale back. Stick to the networks that you like and use the most. It’s better to have a strong presence in a few important networks than trying to hit all of them and doing a poor job.
  • Move your boards around and change the cover picture. This keeps your profile from looking too stale and showcases new images in the board.
  • Fill out the About portion in your profile. This should be focused to your business or brand, but still also personable and showing who you are.

 

Weekly Progress Wednesday

motivation poster of the week: remember how far you've come, not just how far you have to go

Writing Progress

Regency WIP: Current word count: 6,904 No change

Filles Du Roi WIP: Current word count: 46,613 (from 34,116)

Last night at my chapter meeting, we had a great speaker, Colleen Thompson, who talked about adrenaline shots for your plots. I’ve been struggling with this story a lot lately. I really enjoy what’s been going on, but until halfway through the plot there’s little conflict. There’s problems, and disagreements, but the conflict lock felt weak and not very believable. Now, though, I think I’m going to change everything about the first act, and this will of course change the second, but will make it much more enjoyable, and plausible. So, even though I’ve got nearly 50,000 words, it looks like there will be major overhauls in the next week. This number might go down!

Platform Progress 

My goal for this week was to start integrating these platforms and build stronger connections with people I admire. I don’t know if I’ve done much to start with that. I’ve done some integrating (should check that term out to make sure I know what I’m saying and doing). I’ve also expanded my followers a little, but wouldn’t say they’re definitely the people I look up to in publishing and writing. But they are people that I like, and am happy to have follow me because they’re doing their own thing and cool. Tomorrow my friend and I do our first trial run of our podcast (even though I’m stuffed up! Eek!) My writing habit has been decent, but could use more work. Now that the semester has started I need to make sure I’m being diligent. I’ve tried preparing as much as possible so that I have less to do on a weekly basis for the classes, but of course, best laid plans…

Life in General 

Still full of the sinus! I’m on so many allergy medications that I really hope they aren’t counteracting each other. I just want to breath out of my nose again! Today I go get a tattoo, so that will be exciting. It’s my second one ever, and who knows, might start a habit. I hear they are addictive, and I do have a few ideas floating around!

Instagram Tips

Instagram Icon

Instagram: 13 followers, 10 posts

Guy K.’s tips for Instagram aren’t too different than his tips for other social media, but since Instagram is image-driven it gives new possibilities and new challenges. Just like Facebook, I’ve had a personal Instagram account for a few years, but I never took a deep dive into it. It was a way to share images with friends and see their world, not to promote a brand or product. So, I was curious to try it out as someone who is trying to create a platform or brand. I’m not selling anything but I am trying to be part of the world of those who are, and might be interested in what I’m selling, when I am.

So, here is my Instagram account. As you can see, I’m keeping a consistent photo across all platforms because I want people to recognize me if they follow me elsewhere too. Looking at my account you can see I was busy in the past two days that I’ve had the account. I’ve got photos of my dogs, myself, and what I’m doing during the days. I want to focus my posts on my writing or love of books a little more, so I’ll probably keep the personal photos to a limit, but I won’t ever not post them because I know I love seeing a glimpse of the daily lives of people I admire and follow.

That opportunity is what makes Instagram so much fun. Not only do you get to hear their thoughts (like on Twitter) but you also get to see how they view the world. You get to see them as people, and that is one of Guy K’s tips: be approachable and make genuine connections.

His other tip for Instagram is to USE THE HASHTAGS! And I have to agree. That’s one of the really cool things about Instagram vs. Twitter. As you are typing a hashtag both autofills with some popular hashtags so you can get the right one. But, Instagram lets you see how popular certain hashtags are. So, you can tailor the hashtag to the most popular ones, or to the smaller ones. I’ve been going popular, but with the Powerball on my mind, I’ve been thinking statistics, and might try a few experiments to see if the smaller hashtags result in more people, since the bigger ones are probably so big that your little post might get lost among them. Also unlike Twitter, Instagram lets you hashtag it up! So, add as many as you want, don’t just do #selfie but also #selfy #selfiegram and more. Instagram shows you what tags there are as you type a tag and you can just tap to add it.

Don’t forget though, that Instagram likes, followers and all the rest are fun, but your real business is doing the writing! Try not to get carried away by checking notifications all the time. I can see this might be one of my weaknesses, so I’m mostly saying this for myself!

Here are some more posts about Instagram use for authors, so you can see some examples of what to do and how others are doing it.

Top 7 Ways Authors are Using Instagram from The Book Designer

5 Ways to Use Instagram as an Author from Jane Friedman

Instagram for Authors from DIY Author

Want to follow some literary folk? Here’s a great round up of publishers, writers and readers that HuffPost did.

Now excuse me, I have to go follow all of them.

Weekly Progress Wednesday

Progress -Tracee Ellis Ross

Regency WIP

 Current word count: 6,904

I went back and worked on the plot for this story, fleshing out a good deal more than I’d originally had, or even intended. It’s much more solid and interesting now, with stronger conflict locks. It also involves revising at least one scene, which I worked on this week. Most of my work regarding this story over the week has been re-reading, and re-acquainting myself with the characters and their personalities. It’s been about doing more discovery and making sure I like the characters and can imagine them doing what I’m plotting.

Filles Du Roi WIP

Current word count: 34,116

I stopped actively working on this story during September I believe, not sure I could handle how unwieldy the story had gotten. But I kept thinking about it, and specifically, my hero, who in fantasy casting looks like this. Why, yes, that is a pensive-looking Chris Hemsworth. Hard to get that picture out of your mind, isn’t it? Now you see my dilemma. The man had things to say, even if he is a quiet sort. So, I went back and started re-reading yesterday. And I liked what I had. It might still move in fits and starts, and not ever be exactly what I imagine, but I’m having fun doing it, which is really important to me. Even if it never sees the light of day in the form of a publication, I think it’s good to have a passion project that you can turn to and just have fun with.

Platform Progress 

I’ve signed up for Instagram and Facebook this week, as well as added to my Pinterest boards. I’ve done a good deal of writing and establishing some practices for this blog and for social media, but I’m not quite ready to talk about them yet. I have some plans to move forward with an expanded blog, and am talking with a friend about starting a podcast that would be both fun and help produce content that might get readers and listeners. My goal for next week is to start integrating all of these platforms and build stronger connections with people I admire.

Life in General 

I’m having fun on Instagram, but need to remember that the real work isn’t there. It’s in the doing of the thing. I need to focus my energy and attention to cultivating my writing, not my followers. It’s hard to remember sometimes because of the dopamine rushes that hit when someone “likes” your post. But even as I set these up, and start navigating them, they are not the end. Creating work and getting better at my writing is the end.

In other news, I’m going to a writer’s workshop in about a month, so after that I’ll make some decisions about what to do with the first novel, the one that got a pass. I might revise and send it out again, or hold onto it for a while, or even try WattPad. Suggestions? Thoughts?

Also, do I have a prolonged sinus cold that will infect my husband with a kiss? Or is it allergies that are not contagious? Inquiring minds want to know! If only you had the answers, I would be forever grateful.

Tech Tuesday: Twitter Scheduling

twitter bird

Guy K says that he tweets all of his tweets three times a day, at different intervals because not everyone is on Twitter all the time, and otherwise people might miss something. He compares it to why CNN repeats stories, or why commercials repeat. Makes sense right? So I’ve been testing it (and will keep testing it for a few weeks). How does he do this? With a service of course!

Guy K uses a paid app, which is great for him, but we’re not Guy K rich, so here is a great link from TwiTips with several options for free schedulers. I’ve been using LaterBro, which, despite the lame name, has some great options and an easy to use interface. It’s not on this list, but what I like about it is that I can post on both Facebook or Twitter. Most of the other options don’t have that. I might still change, though. I’m checking out HootSuite.