Posts Tagged social media writers

Feeling Overwhelmed? Social Media Can Make Us Crazy–Part 1

Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons

Image courtesy of Cellar Door Films WANA Commons

Social media is bright, fun, shiny, and it can also feel like the Chuck E. Cheese from Hell.  As writers of the Digital Age we have a much higher chance at success than any writer in history, but we also have more work than any writer in history. And, to make matters worse, spouses, bills, kiddos with snotty noses, dust bunnies and car troubles don’t go away the day we decide to become professional writers.

RDD Can Make Us Nuts

RDD is what I like to call Reality Deficit Disorder. Like the flu, this disease seems to explode January of every year, normally brought on by New Year’s Resolutions. We vow to be 18% body fat, debt-free, have an immaculate house, build a perfect social platform with a bazillion fans, and win the Pulitzer…all by March. We seem to collectively go crazy and forget that we can only do so much.

Many writers experience RDD when it comes to social media. We sign up for Facebook, and build an author page, and link to LinkedIn, and pin on Pinterest until our pinners are dull from wear. Vowing to do everything, eventually we do nothing. We become paralyzed in the face of all we’ve committed to do.

Time to Get Real

Thus, the first step to preventing being overwhelmed is to be realistic in our goals and expectations. If we’ve already blown that, the trick to pulling ourselves out of the tail-spin is to sit down, rework our priorities, and commit to being more realistic.

Goals are written on paper not stone.

Successful people don’t just make a list of goals ONCE. The list of goals is always a living document in need of modification, reordering, or even being scrapped altogether.

Persistence is a wonderful trait. Persistence is noble. But persistence can look a lot like stupid.

Time to Face the Music

I tend to be a person of my word…to a fault. If I promise to do something I will half-kill myself to get it done if need be. But sometimes this is just plain DUMB. I’ve learned that most people will understand if we have to back out of something we’ve promised to do, but we MUST be honest with them and vow to make it right.

Look, Sally. I know I promised to blog every day for a year to raise money for all the starving children in Africa, but I am out of my depth. I overestimated what I can do given the demands of my schedule. I apologize. I was so caught up in wanting to help you, I didn’t think. Please forgive me. Is there anything I can do that might be a smaller job? Can I help you find other bloggers to fill my spot who do have time to blog every day for all the starving children in Africa?

Many times people will be forgiving (probably because they’ve oopsed a time or two themselves). If we just face the problem and offer to be a solution, more often than not, other people will be reasonable. Whey they aren’t reasonable is when we just don’t show up, disappear or dump a mess in their laps without any offer of help to remedy the problem.

And, as a warning. Don’t do this stuff too often. Professionals always need to take time to think before they agree to doing things. I still struggle with this, so as I have one finger pointed at you guys, I have three pointing back at me. Likely, this will be a lesson we continually learn and relearn throughout all our lives (especially Helpful Hannah personalities like mine :D). But we DO have to be careful or others won’t want to work with us because we are, essentially, flakes.

No one expects us to be perfect, but they do expect us to be honest and kind. We can do that. Yes, it is scary. It’s tough facing when we’ve erred, but making mistakes is just part of the game and how we learn. We will learn more from our mistakes than we ever will our failures.

Time to Face the True Causes of Our Angst

Making too many commitments and then (mistakenly) believing we can’t change is one of the major causes of feeling overwhelmed. It’s okay to be flexible.

Fortune Cookie Moment: The stiff oak breaks in the strong wind, but the reed that bends endures.

Remember, the commitment you made to yourself, that list of goals? It can be redone. The commitments to others? Those can be changed too, IF we are brave enough to admit we goofed and courageous enough to make things right.

Go around the leaf.

~Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life”

Have you made a list of goals that is nothing short of ridiculous? How did you come to your senses? Did you feel guilty having to rework your list? Do you struggle with being over committed? Do you struggle telling people “no”?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of January I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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52 Comments

3 Social Media Myths that Can Cripple Our Author Platform

Image courtesy of Jenny Kaczorowski WANA Commons

As the Social Media Jedi for Writers, I am very blessed to be able to speak and teach around the country at various writing conferences. I am always open to learning new methods, and I love hearing other perspectives. Yet, with the good, comes the bad, the ugly and the downright—in my POV—boneheaded observations about social media. My favorites?

Writers are the only ones on social media.

*scratches head* Seriously?

I have heard comments such as these come from even very well-known authors:

Twitter is a waste of time. Only writers use Twitter.

Blogs only attract writers, and writers don’t read a lot of blogs.

Blogs won’t help you sell books.

*head desk*

Since I tend to hear comments like these more often than I care to, we are going to set these myths straight, because believing any of this nonsense is a ticket to Crazy Town, and it can cripple our platform.

Myth #1

Only Writers Use Twitter

Okay, last I checked, Twitter was closing in on 250 million users, and I doubt ALL of them are writers. Too often writers want to blame Twitter instead of looking at their own on-line habits.

If we blame the platform, then we get a pass and don’t need to use it, right? Wrong.

Twitter is one of the best ways for a writer to locate and cultivate a passionate support base. The problem is that writers are too often mistaking their professional peers for their audience. We stay in the comfort zone and only hang out with the people we know and who like all the same stuff we do, and that can spell “platform inbreeding.”

Inbreeding. Yes, inbreeding, and anything involving inbreeding eventually gets ugly. Don’t blame the platform.

Twitter is not Our Personal Spamming Tool to Sell Books

How many of you loooooove spam? There is nothing you love better than interacting with automatically generated messages. What? No takers?

Every time I warn writers off automation, I get some person who wails in protest the same, exact words. “I am not automating tweets, I am scheduling them.”

All right, let’s peel back the euphemism here. Anything that is posted on the Internet/social media automatically without a flesh and blood human being physically present is SPAM. Of course, when I say this, the spammers “marketers” often howl, “But I spend a lot of time crafting those tweets.” Okay, so you are an eloquent spammer. Better?

Here’s the thing, spam is anything automatically generated for the sole purpose of gaining something from the community. Whether that is for that community to buy a book, look at a link or come to a blog or give us their attention, it doesn’t matter, IT IS SPAM.

Oh but I am giving to others with cute quotes or information to help them.

Um, it is called social media. It’s like a giant cocktail party. If I am “talking” to someone at a party and they mention some helpful tips, that rocks. If they keep peeking in the door and dumping off fliers full of tips then disappearing to do more “important things” than talk to me or others at the party?

We call security.

We should never ask of others what we, ourselves are unwilling to give. We can’t ask others to be present on social media (to follow all our links or see our clever quotes) if we are unwilling to be present as well. It’s uncool.

Don’t Blame the Medium

A lot of writers tweet, and that is awesome. But, sad to say, too many writers have become the All Writing All The Time Channel. We tweet about word count and pass on blogs about writing a synopsis or crafting a query. We use #s like #amwriting #nanowrimo #pubtip #indie #selfpub…then say But only writers are on Twitter.

Yep.

If all I talked about was my dog, and I used #s like #canine #puppy #puppylove #woof then complained that cat owners didn’t use Twitter? Yeah, you guys get the point.

Myth #2

Writers Don’t Read Blogs

News flash. Who cares? Writers are only a small portion of the overall population in need of entertaining or informing. Regular people? Regular people LOVE blogs. Most “regular” people feel daunted reading a book. It gives them flashbacks to high school and that dreadful paper on Wuthering Heights.

But blogs? They LOVE them.

Regular people (code for “readers”) love being entertained daily in small, manageable, bite-sized pieces. They often read them on their smart phones while in line or on the train or when stuck at an appointment. In fact, this is precisely why blogs are one of the most powerful tools for creating a dedicated readership.

If readers LOVE our blogs, then they are tickled silly when they can buy an entire BOOK. These types of readers may only buy and read one or two books a year, but who cares if it is OUR BOOK? Blogs ROCK when it comes to creating a passionate author following.

Don’t believe me?

The Bloggess (Jenny Lawson) gets THREE MILLION UNIQUE VISITS A MONTH on her blog. She tried to hold a live book event, and her followers crashed Goodreads. Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond) is another favorite. MILLIONS of people follow these blogs. Any guess why?

These bloggers (writers)…are you ready for this? These writers…don’t blog about writing.

BLASPHEMY!!!! 

No, I’m being serious.

These writers blog about what normal people might be interested in. Guess what? Most regular people don’t care about 10 Ways to Write a Snappy Query Letter and they care even less about Three-Act Structure Made Simple, Writing Witty Dialogue or The Future of Book Reviews. In fact, I might go so far as to say that, the normal person could give a flying fruit fly’s derriere about Understanding Create Space or 20 Ways to Rock NaNoWriMo.

Yet, when I blog about writers not starting writing blogs, I get wails of protest (and two weeks worth of posts dedicated to telling me I’m a moron).

We are correct when we say that writers don’t read a lot of blogs. Why? Because all the blogs in our sphere are the same. Yes, I blog about writing and social media for writers, but that is because writers are my book-buying demographic.

Writers are wonderful and supportive but we are flat tapped OUT. We don’t need another writing blog, and it isn’t helping that other social marketing experts are encouraging this sort of nonsense.

Please do NOT start a writing blog. If you need help learning how to blog, I teach classes about this stuff so check out the WANA International site to get your slot in my next blogging class.

Myth #3

Blogs Won’t Help Us Sell Books

No, bad blogs, egocentric blogs, boring blogs or abandoned blogs won’t sell books. Writers too frequently run out and start a blog with no content or brand preparation. They blog about writing until they wear out, which happens quickly if we are trying to post articles 1-3 times a week.

Certain types of content are just never going to go viral, period. Yet, it is shocking how much time writers devote to content, that by its very nature, will never, ever, ever, ever…ever go viral.

Ever.

Don’t believe me?

All righty. How many of you have been at the regular day job or with “regular friends” and heard about that Korean dance video (Gangnam style) or Surprise Kitty? Maybe you even heard these non-writing acquaintances mention Mentos making Diet Coke explode. How many times have you been in these groups and heard conversations like this:

Oh, Gangnam Style? Sure, I heard about that. Have you heard about the interview with that self-published writer about how she got the idea to pair werewolves with pixies? No? What about the review of that popular indie vampire book? No? What about that post about the when to use prologues? Seriously, Dude. Do you live under a ROCK?

This conversation has never happened. Likely, it never will.

Social media is a powerful gamechanger for writers who learn to use it properly, but we can’t expect to connect with readers (who don’t write) if we insist on only talking about what we are interested in. I have a family member who LOVES sports, and I could care less if baseball, football and basketball held hands and fell off the planet. Yet, this doesn’t stop my family member from talking non-stop about sports.

And it’s annoying.

And self-centered.

And not a great way to make me want to hang out and engage with him.

We all have those people in our lives who insist on talking about only what interests them and it alienates us. Yet, it is so easy for us to hop on social media, and, because we are nervous, shy or insecure, we end up turning into that person we detest.

Writers have been using symbols in various combinations to create magic for thousands of years. This shouldn’t cease the second we start a blog or decide to tweet.

So what are your thoughts? Have you fallen for one of these three myths? Do you have people in your network who make you bonkers with their automation? Any comments or suggestions?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of November, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

Note: I will post October’s winners next week. I nearly got stranded in San Diego and am a tad behind. Thanks for understanding.

At the end of November I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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115 Comments

Good Fences–Setting Boundaries in a World with No Borders

Image courtesy of Norah Wilson WANA Commons

I feel my approach to social media is a lot different than other experts. I strive for a holistic approach. On Mondays I blog about craft to help you guys produce the best “product” possible and, often, on Fridays, I talk about the writer human and give tips for how to develop the character of the professional author. Then, of course, Wednesdays are social media. Yet, these three facets often blend together, and, to me, that is a powerful reflection of the world we now live in.

One of the reasons that traditional marketing doesn’t work well in the Digital Age is that the concept of boundaries has changed. Last week we talked about Personal Space Invaders and how we all resent them, but this week we are going to talk a bit more about that notion of “personal space.” We now live in a world that no longer has the same boundaries. We are steadily becoming the Global Village that Marshall McLuhan envisioned over fifty years ago in his revolutionary work, The Gutenberg Galaxy.

Tribes then Print and then Tribes + Print

If we study the entire history of human communication, we find that Pre-Literate Tribal Human and the Digital Age Human have a lot in common, and the Human of the Typographical Era is fading away.  In the Typographical Age (reliant on the written word), humans were highly reliant on official gatekeepers of information. Information flowed one direction, from top-down. So, in much of the 20th century, we relied on the TV-Industrial complex for all of our news, our opinions, and for recommendations about what goods and services to buy (until the Internet changed all of that).

To understand the big picture, we need to go back in time a bit…

The Gutenberg Revolution

With the invention of Gutenberg’s press, literacy exploded and so did human reliance on written information. The written word fractured the tribal communication system of serfdom and transformed society. We no longer had to be in the village square to get the skinny on what was what. Humans began to rely more and more on the printed word now that literacy was no longer a privilege reserved only for the elite. As a consequence, we drifted apart. The tribe had split, and it seemed it had split for good.

But, in the Typographical Age, as I mentioned, there were gatekeepers. Yes, humans, for the first time in history were facing information glut, but we still had those people in power who could tell us what to pay attention to.

Then came social media and the village square is back with renewed fervor.

As Society Changes, So Does Communication

In a tribal system, we don’t rely on newspapers and fliers, we rely on each other. There are people who always have good advice, great recommendations and who know what is what. In a world that is deluged with information, it is just easier for us to ask our peeps (the other villagers) what they think.

For instance, I ignore most of the news. Why? Well if this were the 1800s then the only news I would get would be what was directly relevant to me. I might hear that Santa Ana was no longer honoring the treaty of 1824 and that conflict was imminent. I might hear that wounded Confederate soldiers were in town and needed care. I would hear if a railroad was going through, but almost every shred of information would have been directly relevant to me or to those I knew and loved. Information could only travel as fast as human, horse, train or boat.

These days information comes instantly from every corner of the globe continually. I have to pull away to maintain my sanity. I cannot equally care about the race for the presidency, school shootings in Colorado, a missing girl found dead in Mississippi, villagers slaughtered in Dafur, or the Russians manufacturing thermonuclear Beanie Babies.

My…head…will…explode.

Too much information will crater me emotionally and psychologically. I don’t withdraw because I don’t care. I withdraw because I have to to stay sane. Humans were not wired to cared equally about everything in the world all at the same time.

This is one of the reasons that experts who recommend we blast out link after link after link are only tossing gasoline on a fire. People are already on system overload and, if we add to their overload problem, they won’t have warm, fluffy feelings for us.

Age of Instant

When the telegraph was invented, the Typographical Age was living on borrowed time. Information could travel almost instantly from anywhere that had a telegraph. Suddenly people in Georgia could get national news right from D.C., or San Francisco. For the first time, humans could get international news while it was still relevant.

This was right about the time we saw the birth of advertisement and the TV-Industrial complex. This system of gatekeepers worked well because it was communicating to a society still bound by Typography (the written word) and not relationships (the tribe).

At the latter part of the 20th century, one device struck a mortal blow to the TV-Industrial complex—the personal computer. The Internet had already been around for a while (the military had been using it), but the Internet alone didn’t have the power to topple the current system. No, so long as we could only communicate via letters or expensive long-distance phone calls, the TV-Industrial Complex ruled unchallenged.

Once the personal computer became affordable and user-friendly, it’s natural partner was the Internet. At this point, the TV-Industrial complex’s days were numbered because, for the first time since before the Gutenberg revolution, people were able to “talk” to one another easily and for free. We started relying on each other again instead of books, pamphlets papers and official gatekeepers of the TV-Industrial complex.

Brave New World

We can see the first aftershocks of this change. The Western world rippled and stretched with a 10.0 magnitude aftershock that toppled Tower Records. The executives were no longer in control of the musicians, thus they no longer could control the music. Shortly after this, another 8.0 ripple took out Kodak. Kodak no longer could control how people shared images. Now? We are in the 6.0 that is shaking traditional publishing.

Yes, each aftershock is smaller because the groundwork for change is already there. We need less “shaking” for the same amount of change.

These “media quakes,” much like natural earthquakes, are taking out the rigid, old structures. Anything that doesn’t bend and move with the ripples of change is going to fall over. There is also another result of all this shaking and destruction.  Old topography is no longer regonizable. We can’t find the streets (paths) that were once so familiar to get us where we wanted to go.

Instead of write a book, query, rejection, repeat 735 times, rewrite 736 times, agent, more rejection, book deal, we have a hundred different pig-trails to take us to our end goal. Yet, the key is we are now far more reliant on each other. We lean on our tribe for emotional support, information, and feedback.

Why did I take you through this brief history of media?

I wanted to give you an idea of how much this world has changed. We can’t use tools that worked in a 1980 world because that world no longer exists. Also, one of the necessary “fallout effects” of all this shaking and global connecting is that boundaries no longer seem to make sense any more. They are no longer clear and this can create problems.

In a 1980 world our boundaries made sense and they had been there for over a hundred years. We didn’t interact with agents all over the country real time. We didn’t talk to other writers all over the world. We weren’t expected to be plugged into a “hive” to “build a platform.” So what’s happened is that we are getting new psychological stress. Humans need boundaries. It stresses us not to know where we stand in relation to others.

When are we being responsible marketers and when are we crossing a line and becoming a personal space invader? How do we set boundaries with ourselves? How do we set boundaries with friends and loved ones who can’t see that writing is working not goofing off?

How do we set boundaries with personal space invaders who want to use our Facebook page to advertise their books? How do we lovingly confront when people get out of line? The upside of social media is we have more access to friends and loved ones. The downside is that toxic people have unprecedented access to us as well, and that can be a nightmare if we are ill-equipped to deal with these types of individuals.

Writers Don’t Exist in a Vacuum

I know that as The Social Media Jedi, I have often served as the Social Media Dear Abby. It is tough to know where we stand and what to confront in the Digital Age. In a world without borders, how do we set boundaries?

I try to be very transparent with you guys and I will admit that I struggled with anger for a long time. I finally realized what the problem was. Yes, I am generally a happy-go-lucky-gal who laughs and smiles all the time, but I wasn’t setting boundaries. When people crossed a line, I told myself and them it was okay when it wasn’t. I wasn’t confronting in love early, so by the time I did confront, I was seeing red. What should have been a “gentle but stern talking to” quickly devolved into a thermonuclear strike followed by salted earth and a curse of seven plagues.

Many of you might fall into the same trap. You are nice, nice, nice, gentle, nice, nice, not-so-gentle, then BOOOOOOM!!!! *screams*

A Solution

Anyway, I finally realized what was going on and found some helpful tools to handle this growing problem. In the Digital Age, we need to master loving confrontation and the art of setting boundaries. I know we all grew up in a world with clear borders and expectations, but that world is buried under a pile of digital rubble and we need to take up the torch.

I go out of my way to help writers in every area of life, so I’m offering a new class I am calling Good Fences–The Writer’s Guide to Setting Boundaries. I have priced this at only $15 because I hope this class will bless you with better relationships, productivity, and peace of mind.

So what are your difficulties? Where do you struggle with setting boundaries? Does your spouse or family refuse to respect your writing time? Do you have a hard time getting off social media? Do you have tips for keeping boundaries with yourself and others? Do you ignore the news and only pay attention to what you hear from friends and family? Or can you keep up with all of it>

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of October, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of October I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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39 Comments

Would Hemingway Blog?

Photo by Yousef Karsh via Wikimedia Commons

Emphatically, YES!!! I know many writers are hesitant to the idea of blogging. It feels like just another social media chore, but nothing can be farther from the truth. In fact, blogging is probably the ONLY form of social media that 1) draws from a writer’s strengths and 2) doesn’t try to fundamentally change our personality.

Yes, as a social media expert Jedi, I will tell you that it’s a good idea to tweet and learn to use Facebook, but I’m also going to tell you something you already know. Most of that kind of social media is NOT natural for a lot of writers. Is it good for you? Yes. It shoves you out of your comfort zone and makes you work an area that will be vital to career success. But, of all the various on-line tools we can wield, the blog is by far one of the best.

Oh, but Kristen. There are already way too many blogs out there.

Yep, and guess what? There are way too many books out there, too, and that hasn’t stopped you guys from writing one, has it? Blogs are a lot like books. In fact, that is one of the reasons they are such an excellent choice for writers. Blogs connect using…words. Same as books. They connect through information or emotion…same as books. If people learn to love your blogging voice, it is no great leap to love your novels.

Ah, but just like books…

Most people who start a book never keep pressing until it is finished. Similarly, most people who start a blog will abandon it for some new shiny two months in. Most people who start writing a novel believe it is easy, and that they don’t need any professional instruction or guidance. Guess what? Same with blogs.

Too many people who start a blog just throw up content without learning what to blog, how to blog, and what makes a blog grow and become successful. This means the competition is not nearly as daunting as some might believe.

So why would Hemingway blog? Well, actually, he did. I am going to paraphrase a story relayed by mega-author and Hemingway expert, David Morrell.

Hemingway was a Blogger Journalist

As a young reporter for the Kansas City Star, Hemingway learned the value of lean, uncluttered sentences. In fact, the newspaper’s style sheet underscored the, “Use of vigorous English…Be positive…Avoid the use of adjectives.” Though Hemingway followed these principles as a reporter, he apparently forgot them when he decided to write fiction. When he moved to Paris and showed Getrude Stein his work, she slayed him for his purple prose. She told him to toss everything and try again.

A few months later, Hemingway met a reporter in Switzerland who expressed interest in his work. Hemingway was so excited he wrote to his wife and asked her bring all of his manuscripts to him straight away. Being a good wife, she packed everything he’d written in a suitcase and hopped on a train…and the suitcase was stolen, taking every shred of Hemingway’s writing.

Hemingway rushed home and turned his apartment upside down, but to no avail. It was all gone. Hemingway almost gave up, but then he thought back to Gertrude Stein’s advice to chuck everything and begin anew. Hemingway rolled up his sleeves and went back to work, yet this time he harnessed his reporting skills and went about his writing in a far more organized fashion, with the verbal discipline he’d learned from the Kansas City Star.

Hemingway learned that less is more, that economy of description can produce clearer effects than descriptions with detail piled upon detail. But, economy doesn’t only mean reducing a description to its essentials. It also means going for so clean a line that adjectives and adverbs become a sign of bad writing. ~David Morrell The Successful Novelist p.117

I have been running my writing contest for over two years now, and I see the same problems over and over with new writers. The prose is bogged down with all kinds of fluff. The sentences aren’t clear and the prose is weak.

Just like Hemingway used his experience as a reporter to strengthen his fiction (which made him one of the greatest writers in literary history), we, too, can use blogging to refine our prose and strengthen our writing skills. There are many great authors who used their journalistic muscles to write great works of fiction. Hemingway, Orwell, Dickens and Twain to name a few.

Blogging is a modern equivalent of journalism, and I believe Hemingway definitely would have blogged had he been a man of a different era. Can you imagine Hemingway tweeting images of giant swordfish he’d caught deep sea fishing? Or posting a video on You Tube of him running with the bulls? Maybe some images on Flikr from his latest safari?

Where was I? Oh, yes!

Blogging Takes Us from Neophyte to Expert MUCH Quicker

Malcolm Gladwell asserted that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert. Add blogging to your repertoire, and guess how quickly you can rack up that 10,000 hours? Blogging will teach you to write faster, leaner and with far more power in much less TIME.

Bloggers Learn to Ship

When you have a blog due, you learn to kill Little Darlings with ruthless efficiency. Bloggers (like journalists) learn not to grow overly fond with sections of prose. We are copy editing MACHINES. We are great at meeting deadlines because we don’t need 42 different opinions to convince us to part with some prose.

HACK! HACK! SLICE!

Bloggers Grow a Thick Skin

Writers who also blog are showing the world they take their profession seriously. We put our work out there, good, bad or WTH?. We open ourselves to criticism, and we learn to take it like a champ and come back swinging.

I’ve met a lot of writers who get defensive, angry or abusive when told their work isn’t a glittery kitten hug. This business is tough, and blogging will whip a writer into fighting form in no time.

Blogging Trains Us for Other Paid Work

Since blogging is so close to journalism, it is easier for us to get paid work writing articles, blogs or even copy work. Bloggers have a BLOG that shows the world that they are serious. Potential employers see a writer who can make deadlines, who can work even when they don’t feel like it. Bloggers, like journalists, don’t sit around and wait for the inspiration fairy. They roll up their sleeves and do what real writers do.

They write.

Additionally, many writers supplement their book income with other work (like articles), and blogging is a great way to get your foot in the door.

Getting Started

So for those who don’t want to blog, that is fine. But for those who do?

Blogging is one of the best ways to build an author platform (mainly because it has us operating in our strength—writing). A blog is far less volatile than other forms of social media. Who knows if we will have Twitter in five years? Twitter may go, but a blog will remain and can continue to grow for YEARS. We don’t have to be a Chatty Cathy social butterfly to be a kick@$$ blogger, and this is really great for those shy introverts out there. In fact, in my experience, you guys make some of the BEST bloggers.

Starting a Successful Blog

A lot of blogs fail simply because writers take off with no instruction, and, because of this, they are left to learn by painful trial and error. If you believe you would like to blog, but you’re uncertain, I’m doing something new. To accommodate those who are still on the fence, I’m now running a Basic level for my upcoming blogging class.

In the Basic class, you get to be part of the WANA1012 team and receive all the forum lessons (none of the live webinars are included). This is a really great place to learn if blogging is right for you (Blogging Training Wheels).

If you’re ready to skip the training wheels and get started blogging, then get your spot NOW. My classes have a history of selling out. I offer a Blogging Bronze, Silver, Gold, and even Diamond, for those who are ready to go all the way.

This is a TWO MONTH class—one month for lessons and one for launch—that you can do in your own time, at your own speed and from home. And since you will be part of a WANA team, you won’t have to do this blogging thing alone, so your odds of success are MUCH higher. For those who want to do NaNoWriMo, we can extend the two months if we have to. That’s one of the benefits of being the owner of the interface :D.

Anyway, what are your thoughts? Those of you who blog, have you seen an improvement in your writing? What questions do you guys have? Thoughts? What other famous writers from history would be cool to see tweeting or posting blogs? Poe? Steinbeck? Shakespeare? What do you think would be their favorite social site and how would they use it? Picasso and Pinterest? :D

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

Oh, and if you love this blog, I would love your support. I am in the running to become a community blogger for my hometown, so I’d appreciate your votes. Just click the link and scroll down until you see my name and vote. THANK YOU! When the zombie apocalypse arrives, I promise to share ammo and Twinkies with those of you who vote for me :D.

Back to the regular contest….

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of September I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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100 Comments

Mythbusting—Three Lies That Could Sabotage Your Writing Success

I see somebody hasn’t made word count. This is gonna hurt…

Now that we are in the Digital Age, I hope it has become crystal clear that a strong social media platform drastically improves our odds of being successful authors. Yet, one thing I keep hearing over and over is how writers simply do not have tiiiiiiiiime to do social media. Yes, we do have time, but it is easy to buy into the lie that we don’t. So, today, we are going to do some myth-busting.

Myth #1—We have to spend hours on Twitter and Facebook to be effective.

Um…that would be a negative. Total myth. In fact, if we do? An angry clown will jump out of our computer and bite off our face. Kidding! No, the angry clown is a total lie. But, it is likely people will unfollow us because we never shut up.

Do you like hanging around people who have this itching need to fill the air with words, no matter how vapid? I don’t care for people who talk to hear themselves talk…namely because they are interrupting me doing all the talking. But seriously. I want people who offer a great conversation. We all do.

Quality trumps quantity every time.

Think back to when you were a kid. Who do you remember most? Often the people who made the most impact on our lives weren’t there 24/7. It was a teacher we had for 9 months of our childhood or a grandparent who lived 5 states away whom we only saw on special occasions. So this idea that we have to smother people to be memorable is flawed.

Myth #2—If we do social media, we just won’t have the discipline to get back to the writing.

There are a lot of reasons that this job is not for everyone. Writing for a career takes an incredible amount of discipline. I firmly believe that the arts have such a tremendously high failure rate due to one simple reality—we artsy types have the attention span of a fruit bat on crack. We love chasing shiny objects. Don’t believe me? Just turn on a pen light and dance it across the wall at a Starbucks. Guarantee you will lure at least two writers and a musician.

As I was saying….OOOH SQUIRREL!

Oh, sorry. Hey, I can be honest. The personality that makes us creative also tends to make us flaky. Those of us who can learn to get our stuff done despite our nature are the ones who will eventually make it to the tipping point where everything falls into place and we can finally make a real job out of what we love.

Social media gives us much better odds of success, and I cannot emphasize enough how important building a platform is. But, at the end of the day, we are in control. Okay well, the aliens are really in control so put on your tin foil hat and minimize Twitter.

I use social media as a reward for hard work. I minimize everything until I make certain goals and then I can go spend 5-10 minutes on Twitter and Facebook (and now WANATribe–the new social site for writers)…3-5 times a day. Morning, afternoon, and evening. I spend about 30 minutes a day on my social media. Little efforts over time add up for big returns.

Myth #3—I have to be self-disciplined to do social media.

Yes…and no. Is it wonderful to develop will power? Yes. Self-discipline can help us in many other areas of our lives, from cupcakes to credit cards. But sometimes we are wise to realize when we just lack what it takes to back away from the shiny thing.

It is okay for us to admit that we are lacking. That’s called maturity. Admitting we can’t do something on our own frees us to look for outside help. For instance, you could hire one of those really scary looking clowns to chase you around the computer if you hang out on Twitter too long.

Hey, it would totally work on me. Just sayin’.

OR…Writer Or Die, Freedom, or Ommwriter are there to shut everything down and MAKE us be disciplined. These services will block out any Internet capability for a set amount of time and you have to REBOOT the computer to get back on-line.

We are often capable of far more than we believe. By nature, many of us (me included) are lazy slackers who, if given the choice, will take the path of least resistance (it has margaritas and cookies). But, here is the thing. I freely admit that I am the reigning queen of Do It Later Land, so I know that I can’t let my feelings have a vote. Here is a horrible truth. If something is contrary to our nature? Then that is likely what needs doing.

Blech…I know.

Social media, like exercise, adds up with dedicated, disciplined consistency. We can do far more than we believe if we just take it one day at a time, one step at a time.

Many writers are spending too much time on social media, namely because they have no plan. They don’t understand branding and how search engines work, so they are like hamsters running in a wheel…a lot of running but no forward progress. My book, We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media is designed to help writers work smarter, not harder. I would also recommend hopping over to WANA International to check out my upcoming classes.

So what are some tactics you guys use to keep social media from taking over your life? How do you carve out time to write? How do you make yourself be disciplined? Can you recommend an affordable angry clown service? (Image above courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of September I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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68 Comments

Top Five Creepy Social Media Marketing Tactics

We are friends? RIGHT? HUG ME!

It is estimated that the average American is exposed to about 3,000 advertising messages a day. Everywhere we go there is yet another ad—billboards, commercials, radio, train tunnels, e-mail, cereal boxes, mail boxes, and even on the golf holes and bathroom stalls.

We cannot escape being constantly pitched to no matter where we hide. How many times have we gone to the gym, just to come out and have sales flyers stuffed under our windshield wipers? Or tried to read e-mail, but had to wade through twenty junk e-mails all selling stuff?

The simple truth is that we are over saturated with marketing, and it is making us sick. Those who continue to pour it on will not be regarded fondly. One tactic some “marketers” are using to get beyond our mental ad filters is to “make their approach personal,” but are they simply going too far?

Personal or Creepy?

First of all, marketing does NOT sell books and here is why.  But this reality aside, whenever I teach writers how to use social media to build a platform, I frequently have to do some retraining due to just plain BAD advice. These social media experts teach tactics normally reserved for Amway salespeople and those with water filters, vitamins or time share for sale.

And we all just looooove those people, right?

There is no substitute for authentic interaction. There are no shortcuts, but that isn’t stopping a lot of writers from thinking that they can get something from others without having to give. Here are a list of my Top Five Creepy Social Media Marketing Tactics Used by Writers…

Creepy Tactic #1–The Twitter BFF-Bot

Please DO NOT set up an auto-response to thank someone for following you and then pitch to them.

Sure, I am right there….

Yeah, don’t bother. UNFOLLOW.

Oh, sure! Let me drop everything to buy your book.

All my BFFs send me automated messages. NOT.

I give kudos for effort but not so much for smarts. Let me get this straight. You cannot even be bothered to talk to me in person, but you want me to drop everything and read your blog, follow you on Facebook, or buy something from you?

Really.

Do I even need to spend more time on this?

Creepy Tactic #2—The FB Fan Group Rufie

Please do not add people to your fan group unless you know them, have talked to them, or have asked permission. We don’t like our Facebook page being rufied into consenting to be a fan against its will.  At least be a little classy and buy it a digital drink first and tell it that it’s pretty.

Courtship, people!

I am constantly logging on to Facebook just to realize that I am now somehow a member of a fan group for an author who I don’t know and who’s never even bothered to say “hello.” I don’t care if you are giving away free books, iPhones or puppies. This tactic is rude, unprofessional and just plain ookey.

Creepy Tactic #3–The Search Tool Cyberstalk

I know Twitter has that nifty magnifying glass that allows us to search key terms, but misuse this tool and it can get you banned from Twitter. The search tool is to help us locate people who share common interests or who are talking about a given topic. For instance, if I LOVE sports, puppies, knitting, skydiving, or puppies that skydive, I can use the search tool to find tweets that mention those key words. This helps me find relevant links, locate hash tag conversations (#puppiesinthesky), or simply talk to and connect with people of similar interests.

This is NOT a tool to cyberstalk others. DO NOT use this tool to find people to pitch your book to.

If I tweet I swear toddlers are little psychic vampires. The Spawn is still going. How many days until school starts?

I DO NOT WANT a reply tweet that says: Hey, I see you love vampires! Mine don’t sparkle, but today they are FREE!!!

Cyberstalking will not make a person on Twitter love us or our book. In fact, it has about the same success rate as real stalking. It is creepy and grounds for a restraining order.

Creepy Tool #4—The Sock Puppet Tweeter

If you don’t want to tweet, then don’t. And if you are going to automate messages selling your book, don’t also automate messages to look like you are actually talking to people on Twitter. We know it’s fake and it’s insulting.

Creepy Tool #5—Fan Page Manipulation

If you like someone, great. “Like” their fan page. DO NOT “like” someone’s page as a ploy to get them to return the favor. We don’t like manipulation in real life from the people we know and love and we really don’t like it from people we don’t know from a hole in the ground.

Yes, social media is social, and people will often respond in kind out of relationship reciprocity, but we need to initiate the reciprocity. We don’t need an e-mail saying things like, Hey, I liked your author page. Why didn’t you like me back?

This is Facebook, not high school.

I know that you guys are trying hard to be responsible, and that’s why I try to approach social media with a bit of humor. If you have made some of these mistakes, I get that there are a lot of “experts” teaching you that these behaviors are okay.

They aren’t. Stop it!

Okay, that’s settled :D.

What are some other creepy tactics you’ve seen on social media? What makes your skin crawl? Am I completely wrong and not seeing the value of these tactics? What are your thoughts? Opinions? Has your Facebook page been rufied? Does it cry and have trust issues? Are you tired of being pitched to even when you go to the bathroom?

Thank you Lynn Kelly for the image via WANA Commons!

I LOVE hearing from you guys!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of August, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of August I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!

I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.

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114 Comments

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