Happy New Year! I hope your 2017 is off to a better and healthier start than mine. This year was less than 24 hours old when I was struck with a stomach virus that left me violently ill on and off (mostly on) for three days. At least it held off until just after the Sherlock season premiere.
It’s nice to occasionally resurrect what used to be a regular feature on my blog, this gathering of sagacious and informative articles from around the interwebs.
Although I’m not convinced that Laurie Gough’s rant against self-publishing could be labeled as either sagacious or informative. Certainly Kristen Lamb and Larry Correia don’t agree.
Over at Digital Book World, Chris Syme offers a four-step program to help authors market their books effectively on social media while Jami Gold is all about helping writers choose the best editors.
Finally, we get some perspective on POV from both Donald Maass and Chris Winkle, and Anne R. Allen explains why she writes first chapters last.
This week, Kristen Lamb delves into the torture of writing a synopsis while Dana Kaye wants authors to stop poor social media practices. Four is our lucky number this week as Donald Maass preaches pacing, Janice Hardy describes descriptions, and Written Word Media covers covers!
Speaking of Written Word Media, they also provide a detailed discourse on what it means to be a hybrid author as well as tips for an effective author website.
Are you a fantasy writer? As of October 12, Tor.com will be open for submissions.
Goodreads is kind enough to send a weekly email alerting me to recent blog posts from some of my writer friends. With my project load and generally frenetic schedule for the past four to five months, it’s been a struggle to maintain my own blog, let alone keep up with everyone else’s.
However, today I took the time to read the latest three posts from Kristen Lamb on her Warrior Writers blog. The first one caught my attention because it’s something that’s been on my mind for more than a few years: Is Facebook Dying? What’s Killing It? In her analysis, Kristen posits that when social media was new, it was FUN and people enjoyed connecting with one another. Further, most people maintained a friendly rapport, but then we became comfortable with this novel method for connecting (and in many cases reuniting) with others.
We all know that it doesn’t take much to ruin a good thing, and if the human race excels at one specific skill, it’s destroying almost everything we touch. Additionally, it only takes a few to ruin it for the majority.
Spend a just minutes on any social media platform and you’ll see what I mean—posts and comments replete with hatred, racism, threats, abuse, derisiveness, and good ol’ fashioned ignorance—especially during election years and most especially during this one. As the old adage goes, there ain’t nothing new under the sun. Humanity has always found a way to quickly turn every method of communication ever invented into a shit show.
In the case of social media, just as it was in the case of bulletin boards back in the 90’s, it’s easy to talk trash when you’re sitting at a keyboard, using your favorite movie, TV, or comic book character as an avatar and posting under a fictitious name.
With anonymity comes ersatz courage.
Here’s an episode from Harlan Ellison’s Watching from the early days of the Sci-Fi channel, when they actually knew how to spell “Sci Fi”. In this segment, Harlan discusses the appalling behavior of computer bulletin board users (remember those days?). Ignore the inane vampire novel ad in the middle of the episode.
Just goes to show, this behavior ain’t new, folks! Technology may change, but human behavior is a constant. Today, people continue their proud displays of disgusting ignorance on Facebook and Twitter (and other social media sites that I do not frequent and probably never will) with increasing fervor.
Kristen compares this adolescent stage of social media to the petulant and volatile demeanor of teenagers, something I’ve often pondered, considering how even allegedly mature adults conduct themselves like juvenile-goddamn-delinquents!
The question is, will social media ever mature beyond this? Probably not, and honestly, I don’t have time or patience for it.
Kristen concludes her post with a theory that Pokemon Go might actually be the next level of social media, and one that could kill Facebook—or at least deliver it a solid punch in the gut. One cannot argue that Pokemon Go is drawing people out of their houses and into the wild. It’s forcing people to interact face-to-face (y’all remember how to do that, right?), providing physical activity, and returning “social” to its original definition.
Now, I’m a child of the 70s and 80s. I don’t need an online game to get me outdoors. I love the outdoors. I love walking, I love fishing, I love the beach, I love state parks. Get me outside as often as possible! However, if Pokemon Go is what inspires the troglodytes to vacate their caves for a few hours, then I’m all for it because most people have a tendency to mind their manners when face-to-face than when face-to-screen.
Kristen follows up her post about the imminent demise of Facebook with Breaking Facebook Dependence–How to Create an Enduring Author Brand. In summary, Kristen explains that social media sites may come and go, but a good blog is forever. She encourages writers to post their thoughts and experiences on blogs rather than social media sites. Not only do blogs “offer an intimacy with authors second only to the books they write”, not only do they “make us leaner, meaner, faster and cleaner at what we do: writing”, but the reach of social media is limited and anything you post there is ephemeral. Most of it is invisible to search engines and it’s gone in a few days after all of your friends and contacts have “Liked” and commented on it and have moved onto the next 50 captivating posts-du-jour from their other social media friends.
Yet, blog entries, if properly titled and tagged, are searchable and will remain as long as the Internet. People can and will continue to find and/or stumble upon your blog posts years later and could potentially become subscribers or readers who purchase your books.
Now, please don’t take this as a string of excuses, but in addition to writing and editing, I work full time in the IT industry. When I come home, I often have a few hours of chores and errands to complete and possibly a 60-90 minute workout to destress and keep myself in shape before I can sit down to work on the current writing project. I’m often up until midnight, and no, I’m not waking up at 3:30 or 4AM to write when I already need to be up at 5AM for work. The only other activity that gets me out of bed that early is fishing.
So I cannot always make the time to blog consistently. I do not blog “two to three times per week” as some experts recommend. I blog as often as I can. Look, if you asked me, “How would you like to use this next hour or two—make progress on your current writing project or write a blog post?” My answer will ALWAYS be “work on the current writing project”. EVERY TIME. It is far more important to me to finish the the next short story, the next scene, the next chapter in the novel, or to research something for a story, than it is to write a blog post.
While I agree with Kristen that blogging makes us write “leaner, meaner, faster, and cleaner”, so does short story writing, so does flash fiction writing, and so does a few rounds with an experienced editor over your novel.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not at all against blogging. After all, you’re reading this missive now. I blog as often as I can and I enjoy it. In fact, I’m writing this blog post over my lunch hour, when I had originally planned to start my next short story, because Kristen’s comments struck a chord.
My point? In order to maintain sanity as writers, we should prioritize our workload. This is nothing revelatory, you all know this. That doesn’t make it any less challening, though, does it? Or any less frustrating.
For example, over the winter, I finally outlined a science fiction novel that had seen minimal progress over the past five years, while I wrote and published other books and stories. Excited that I now had a fully developed plot, I wrote the first four chapters from January to April—then put the project aside as my publisher and I were prepping a new anthology to be released on August 1, but the pre-launch was scheduled for July at Shore Leave 38. It went very well and you can read about it here
Elsewhere in the Middle Eternity is the second installment in a speculative fiction anthology series that I created. I
am not only the editor, but the project manager as well which means I work with the writers and the artist to bring stories, cover art, and interior illustrations together. We financed the project through Kickstarter, so I had to record the video for that, write the blurb, and create the reward levels.
What’s more, it was spring, which always brings with it yard work and one or two home renovations and yes, spending time outdoors!
I didn’t completely put aside writing during all of this. For the past few years, I’d wanted to enter a story into the annual Rehoboth Beach Short Story contest sponsored by Cat and Mouse Press. Rehoboth Beach is a quaint coastal town in Delaware with the feel of an old neighborhood rather than a resort town. I consider it my second home—if only I could afford a house there! Well, this year, the contest’s theme matched a story that had been percolating in
the back of my mind for a year or more so I finally wrote it in April and submitted it in May. Winners will be annouced on August 1, the same day Elsewhere in the Middle of Eternity will be released. Should be an interesting day so stay tuned!
During the month-long Kickstarter campaign in May, my blog was active with semi-weekly author interviews for our anthology, which generated spikes in donations. Since then, I’ve been promoting the book on my blog, of course, but I also heeded Kristen’s advice and began blogging about “high concept” topics like vacations, day trips, museum visits, and even this post about social media and, yes, blogging. At the moment, I have a fair number of followers, but I’m working to build my audience here.
Addtionally, July gave my wife and I a scare as a family member was rushed to the hospital for life threatening complications and again days later as a result of a severe infection.
After all that rambling, have you forgotten about the science fiction novel I was working on? Wouldn’t blame you if you did. Well, I didn’t forget about it and now that the dust is settling on the aforementioned projects and emergencies, I hope to get back to it again…in between editing stories for the third annual anthology to be published by my local writing group next year and the final two Microsoft exams I need to take to complete yet another IT certification.
If it ain’t one damn thing, it’s another…or two…or three…
I’m burned out again just from writing about everything that’s been burning me out all year! As such, it was refreshing to read Kristen’s latest post, Stress & Burnout—How to Get Your Creative Mojo Back, where she explains how and why your mind and body react to stress and what to do about it. I already practice some of the advice offered, such as freewriting. Don’t overthink it, just break away from your current project and write something different. For example, I did that back in June over another lunch hour, and then revisited the piece earlier this week. After some revisions, it resulted in a lovely vignette that will be my submission to the aforementioned writers group anthology.
This was probably the longest blog post I’ve ever written. My apologies, but I hope I’ve directed you to some useful information on Kristen’s blog.
There was once a time when an author’s only true concern was producing the best quality manuscript.
Over the last decade, that has changed drastically with the advent of social media and blogging. Now, writers are expected to have a platform—including a strong online presence—well before their first book is published.
What’s more, unless you’re of the stature of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, no longer can published authors simply sit back and let others do the work of promotion and marketing. These days, the onus is ON US.
Enter Kristen Lamb, social media Jedi and author of Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World. I had the pleasure of hosting Kristen as the keynote at the 2015 Write Stuff writers conference in Allentown, PA where I purchased her book. I was curious to learn more about how to properly leverage social media and my blog to bolster my platform.
In her book, Kristen divides her lessons into five sections, providing a brief history of the publishing industry, the changes that have occurred (and are still occurring), and fascinating insights into human psychology and communication. She also explains why the traditional marketing methods are no longer effective today.
Before delving into specifics about social media sites, Kristen leads the reader through very focused chapters and sections about identifying your short term and long term goals, creating your writers platform, creating your brand, the types of friends and followers who will help writers with these efforts, and what it means to “go viral.”
With those concepts understood, we then delve into specifics about a few of the hottest social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. In addition to providing advice on how to manage your time and content, Kristen also offers tips on social media etiquette, how to avoid conflict and potentially sensitive topics, and handling internet “trolls” who insult and harass rather than politely disagreeing with something you post.
Along the way Kristen’s humor and anecdotes provide entertainment along with education that held my attention and prevented the material from becoming “dry”.
Although I have worked in the IT industry for over 20 years and have a solid grasp of technology, and although I am a published author who is active on social media, I came away from Kristen’s book with insights on how and where I need to improve my approach, especially to blogging.
I only wish I had known about Kristen before I published my first novel in 2009!
This week, Chuck Wendig and Kristen Lamb eviscerate Huffington Post for exploiting contributors. Kathryn Craft encourages writers to consider how much they’re willing to give away.
Eric Wecks ponders a better info dump while Chris Winkle guides us from concept to story and Larry Brooks leads us even further to story structure. Jane Friedman explains the purpose of author websites, and Konrath dissects Lee Child regarding Amazon’s brick and mortar bookstores.
All that, and a little more. Enjoy!
***Please note that this will likely be the last installment of About This Writing Stuff for at least six months as I have become far too busy. My publisher and I are releasing a new anthology in July, I have a novella coming out after that, and I am writing the first draft of a science fiction novel.
Additionally, I need to pass two more Microsoft exams to achieve my MCSE (Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert). I work in the IT field and–as with writing and most other areas of life–continuing education is critical to success and longevity.***