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!

Tech Tuesday: Pinterest

http://fuckitandmovetobritain.tumblr.com/image/131558906942

Yorkshire Hills– from my Locations Board

 

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a site that allows users to “pin” and save visual imagery from across the web, and create boards that group like things together, like a virtual scrapbook of ideas. Users can follow each other, or follow particular pin boards that have been curated by users. They can “like” or “pin” an item, and they can also send it to others. It’s visual heavy, rather than text heavy, but the visuals are less about your personal world and experience and more aspirational. Since it is such a visual-driven, scrapbook site, it’s best to curate from professional photos rather than creating your own images, like you do in Instagram. (If you are a pro, or a really good hobbyist then give it a try! And send me your boards).

Pinterest has an interesting (ha!) reputation in social media. I have the feeling that a lot of big media places don’t know what to do with it, and other places see it mostly as a “mommy-blogger” or “idyllic/unrealistic” wasteland of pins that make pinners go mad with desire and frustration. As a woman who loves pretty things and loves making her surroundings pleasant to be in, and loves cooking and crafts and art and design, I see how easy it would be to dismiss Pinterest as just that wonderland/wasteland.

Why use it as an author?

Even though it can be a little aspirational-heavy, and a source for frustration to some, it is also a great place to help an author or creator focus their brand, as well as a useful tool to inspire or stimulate creativity. I’ve gotten so many ideas from Pinterest for both my writing and my life, that even if it weren’t very useful for social media purposes, I’d still be writing this post.

So how do I use my Pinterest?

As a Creativity Energy Shot:

  1. When I am starting a new story I create boards for my major characters by “casting” the character. I have already spent a great deal of time thinking about these characters and about their appearances and personalities. Once I have a fair idea of the character, time period, and socio-economic status (to name a few factors) I start searching for actors who can embody this role. I think of what types of roles they’ve played before, what they look like when happy, sad, angry, flirting, and so on, and I look for them in shots, expressions or costumes that I can imagine my characters in. That helps me visualize and describe my characters in more detail, giving them a more realistic range of emotions and reactions.
  2. I pin clothing that my characters might wear. This is part of the “oohh, pretty!” reaction I so often have on Pinterest, but it’s also about realism. Clothing informs so much about our world, way of life, and way of seeing ourselves, that I’m always trying to learn more about how my characters would have dressed. For instance, if my character is wearing a corset, chemise, drawers,  petticoats, stockings and garters, plus her dress, she’s going to have a very different reaction to a hot, sunny day than I might wearing my jeans, tank top and flip flops. Or, if she’s wearing her ratty, around the house dress for a day of tidying and a guest shows up dressed for calling, there will be extra tension in the scene. I need to know about the costumes so I can help inform the underlying details of a scene.
  3. I pin locations and scenery. Basically, this informs my writing in much the same way that the clothing does. I want to know the world my characters inhabit because it informs their view of the world and their behavior. I also like to think about what a scene would look like if I were watching it in a film, so I love to have strong visuals of a potential room that I can imagine my characters moving through. I think about how a scene would be blocked, and that informs the reactions and behaviors too. This has nothing to do with Pinterest, but you will often find me sketching the exterior or the floor plan of an important location, including major furniture, so that I can more accurately visualize it while I write.

As a Social Media platform: 

I’m just starting to transition my Pinterest into a place that can work as both an inspiration to my writing and a platform for social media engagement, so this list might grow in time. These are ideas I’m already working with, or might try:

  1.  As a place to share how I stay motivated. I’ve been adding to a board all of the images, quotes and encouragements I appreciate and can read through when I need that extra pick-me-up. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll probably see some of my Inspiration Monday images from this board.
  2. As a place to showcase my novel inspirations. Although some of my boards are public now, a few are secret because I’m not ready to share them, or the work they’ve inspired yet. But, once I’m in a place where I’d want to publicize my work, I’d use the character, clothing or location boards I mentioned above, or create new boards that are curated from the others to let others see what my visual landscape was as I wrote.
  3. As a place to let characters “speak”. The movie Gone Girl did an interesting media campaign using Pinterest to display boards “created” by the character Amy, and inspired by some of the details she mentions in her diaries. If you are familiar with the book or film, you might like to see how they did it. I think it’s a very cool idea, and fits perfectly into the persona the character creates for herself, but it is a little creepy, when you think about this character’s true personality. I think it would be interesting for other authors to adopt this idea, so that their readers can have more glimpses into this character’s world.
  4. To showcase cover art. If you’re self publishing, this would be a great way to host a contest, get feedback and also some engagement from readers. If you’re traditionally published, it is a great way to show a visual catalog. Sometimes the cover sticks in people’s minds more strongly than titles, as any bookseller who has been asked to find a book with a “blue cover”. Make sure you follow Pinterest’s rules for contests and also know your audience.  (Both of those reminders come from Reedsy‘s great post giving a step-by-step approach to Pinterest).
  5. To generate images for Twitter. Images and Twitter go hand in hand. Using Pinterest, from your own boards, or what you’re liking, is a great way to generate content for Twitter that can be shared, discussed and re-pinned.
  6. To drive Pinners to your blog. By adding a “pin it” button to your images, or posts, you can let fans pin and save your work, or share it. Unfortunately, this does require a widget, which the free WordPress blog option doesn’t seem to allow, which is why I don’t have one at this time.

Want more tips?

Why not try Pinterest’s brand guidelines for business?

Or Reedy’s Step by Step Guide if you’re really new to the whole concept.

Maybe you want 34 ways to use it?

Are you an author who uses Pinterest? How and why? Follow me on Pinterest and I’d love to see what you’re pinning too! 

 

Inspiration Monday: Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

MLK Jr quote

This is one of my favorite quotes from an imminently quotable man, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It’s Martin Luther King Day here in the United States, which, if you know anything about our current situation, is irony at its most depressing. I don’t want to get into it in an Inspiration post (#BlackLivesMatter), but I do want to talk about why I love this quote.

It comes from his speech “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” which was given in Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968, the day before his assassination, and it is frighteningly prophetic.  He had just been attacked and nearly killed in New York City, and so he is talking about how, like Moses, he has seen the promised land, but might not get there with everyone else. He is encouraging his listeners to keep up their efforts and to keep the movement alive, even though he’s also telling them he will probably die. And even as he talks about the struggles they have gone through, and will go through, and the mace, and dogs and violence against them, he holds fast to his principles, saying “it’s nonviolence or nonexistence”.

This is a powerful speech. Not only because it outlines the economic boycotts they will impose, or its prophetic qualities, or even his rhetorical skill. It’s powerful because of the inspiration and encouragement he gives. And that is why I love this quote so much, because of the truth behind it, and the context in which he says it:

“The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around. That’s a strange statement. But I know, somehow, that only when it is dark enough, can you see the stars. And I see God working in this period of the twentieth century in a way that men, in some strange way, are responding–something is happening in our world. The masses of people are rising up. And wherever they are assembled today, whether they are in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya: Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; or Memphis, Tennessee–the cry is always the same– ‘We want to be free.'”

Even today, over 40 years later, we still face so much confusion and trouble. And we must keep marching forward, arm in arm, focused on that statement, and that goal: “We want to be free.” It’s a beautiful quote, and it means so much to me as I watch the efforts of groups like “Black Lives Matter” and more trying to use their voices and continue this struggle forward.

But I also love this quote for the encouragement it gives to all struggles. I say it to myself when I am stuck and frightened, or worrying too much and can’t see the answer. I remind myself that only when it is dark can we see the light that leads us forward. When it is dark we can see the light shining from the people ahead of us, or the ones who love us so fiercely that they light up with it. And we can see the light of all the good things that we do have in our lives.

We can see the beauty of the stars, and that is a gift too. I begin thinking about the people who watched the stars all those years ago and how far we have come. We have used science to shoot ourselves up into that darkness and learn about the stars and planets that shine down on us. That is proof of progress right there. These are the thoughts I have when I’m trying to remind myself that it’s just one more step, just keep going one more step.

I hope you are encouraged in your struggle today. I hope you take heart from Dr. King, and look at the stars when it is dark. I hope you think for a while about how far we’ve come, and I hope you take a step further today, both in your work, and also in your efforts to make this country one that Dr. King can be proud of.

If you would like to watch the full speech you can do that here.

 

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.

Old & Interesting

I just discovered this website, Old & Interesting, and boy did they nail that title! I could get lost in the articles about washerwomen, tinderboxes and cleaning for a duke in the 17c. to name a few! Everything is so informative, and uses pictures as well as excerpts from diaries and letters to explain or illustrate the article. I can’t decide if it’s a new research tool, or rabbit trail tool, either one, I’ll learn a lot!

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.

Inspiration Monday

 

If we wait until we're ready, we'll be waiting for the rest of our lives -- Lemony Snicket

Today I got an email from an agent I’d queried over the summer. Although she had some positive things to say about aspects of my writing, she passed on the novel. I think her reasons for doing so, and the criticisms she gave are completely accurate, and it gives me some great things to work on in my current project.

While I’m disappointed, I’m not devastated. I think this is for two reasons:

  1. I worked hard on the novel but at one point I let it go out into the world to see what it could see. I didn’t turn it into a precious object so that when others gave me feedback or rejected it, it wasn’t so much a part of me that it was rejecting a baby. I do love parts of it very much, and it’s special to me, but I’m not so blind that I can’t see where it needs work.
  2. It was my first novel and I’m hard at work on others that might be so much better. I let this one out so early, perhaps before it or I were ready. But if I waited, I’d be waiting for ever to see if I would get better. Just like Lemony Snicket says, I’d be waiting my whole life. And I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to see what I and my novel were made of right now. And now I know. It was made of some very good stuff, and some stuff that needs work.

She did say she’d like to see my future work, so there’s always that! In the meantime I need to write. And I need to start compiling a new list of agents.

What were your first failures like? What got you through them and were are you now? I’d like to know!