Three bits of Writerly Goodness in October 2012

I’ve been on the road quite a bit this month.  Specifically, from Oct. 16-18, 24-28, and 29-31.  So I hope you’ll forgive the lack of posting.  I did warn you 🙂 Normally, blogging while I’m away isn’t a huge problem, but recently, I’ve been travelling so much that I’m plain exhausted.

I think the cold I caught Thanksgiving Day (here in Canada) is finally going away, but the fact that I got sick at all (first virus in two years) tells me that I’m overdoing it.

So here is the first of two catch-up posts for the month of October.  Tomorrow, I’ll blog on various things that have been happening on the learning mutt side of my life.

We Grow Media’s “Build Your Author Platform” course

I signed up for this in September, having missed the course earlier in the year.  Knowing what a busy few months I’d have ahead of me, I probably should have waited until the next one, but it doesn’t look like things will get much better at work, so ultimately, there was no time like the present … then.

Dan Blank’s course was enlightening with respect to narrowing focus, targeting our ideal audience, and making use of tools like Google Analytics.  The weekly insider calls were productive and encouraged community building within the course.  Unfortunately, these and the specialist calls took place during the day and I couldn’t take part in most of them.

They were recorded, however, and so even though I couldn’t participate in them, I could still reap the benefits of the calls with Joanna Penn, Joel Friedlander, Jeff Goins, and Jane Friedman.  Those calls were worth the cost of the course alone.

I can’t really give much more away without starting to discus the materials in depth and those belong to Dan.  Suffice it to say that while I wasn’t able to participate in October as much as I wanted to, I have the course materials on hand and will make use of them often in the months to come.

Having said that, I think the course is best suited to those with some technical savvy but just getting going, and who also have a product to promote (novel, non-fiction, poetry collection, etc.).  The participants who had no background in social media or blogging whatsoever tended to have greater difficulty, and those like myself, who do not have a recently published work to promote couldn’t necessarily narrow down our focus sufficiently to make the most of Dan’s lessons.

For the former group, I might recommend Dan’s Social Media 101 and Blogging 101 courses offered through Writer’s Digest University.  Links to these can also be found on the We Grow Media site (linked above).

Khara House’s October Submit-O-Rama

I intended to get some submissions done over the course of October anyway, so I thought I’d join in the fun of Khara House’s October submit-o-rama.

The challenges varied from three submissions per week, through to a submission every day of the month, to the alpha-challenge in which you’d do the same but submit to magazines, contests, and journals in alphabetical order.  There was also a name game challenge to submit to publishers according to the letters of your name, and a create your own challenge.

I chose the last and settled on one submission a week.  I cheaped out, I know, but I honestly couldn’t manage more.  Anticipating the travelling I’d have to do in the latter half of the month, I submitted twice in the first two weeks and then decided I’d try, but not kill myself, for the remainder of the month.  That way, I met my challenge and didn’t overwhelm myself further.

I’ve received one rejection so far and the remaining ones are still up in the air.  Fortunately, my rejection included a request for other material, so I’m looking at it as a positive.

Khara had forums up on her site: Our Lost Jungle (linked above) as well as an event page on Facebook.  There were a handful of dedicated but insane writers (my opinion only) who managed 31 submissions in the month through various challenges.  Kudos to them!  They worked so hard and I’m sure they’ll be reaping the rewards for some time to come.

Now most of them are onto the November challenges of NaNoWriMo (national novel writers month) and PAD (poem a day).  I wish them the best and am sure that they will do smashingly!  And of course, our dear Khara deserves praise for putting everything together and giving everyone the kick in the pants they needed to get their work out there!

New York Comes to Niagara

I wanted to attend this conference last year, but ended up not being able to due to work commitments.  So when the conference Web site announced that applications were being accepted, I jumped on board.

NYCtN is an Algonkian pitch conference and writers first have to apply, submitting a short synopsis and writing sample before they are accepted and able to register.  When I made it through that stage, I immediately registered and booked my hotel room. 

Then came the 88-page guide and half a dozen emails with accompanying assignments.  My work was set out for me.

Now I have to make something clear.  My goal in going the conference was just to find out what the heck a pitch conference was, how it worked.  I’m an experiential learner and sometimes reading about something just doesn’t cut it.  So again, to be clear: I had no expectations.  I fully expected to have every agent and editor in the place reject me out of hand.

And I went prepared for that outcome.  This is not to say that I wrote anything but the best pitch I was capable of or that I blew off any of the assignments.  I’m a keener.  That would be impossible.  I just wasn’t pinning my hopes or self worth on the result of the conference.

Until it started.

Once the first pitch panel took place, which I, keener that I am, volunteered for, I was caught up in the hype.  I forgot about my humble goal and suddenly, I felt the pressure to sell.  It didn’t help that I was told in no uncertain terms that my novel was dead in the water and that traditional fantasy of any variety wouldn’t sell to anyone.

Nor was it particularly useful that I was advised to either throw out my created world and place the story in a historical setting (not my novel), or failing that, that I should set aside Initiate of Stone and focus on a more commercial project until my money-making capacity could be well-established and that I could then bring out the snoozer and rely on my reputation to coast me through what would surely be a slump in my writing career.

Please note: this was my interpretation of the advice, not the actual advice given.  You’ll understand if I wasn’t particularly clear-headed about it.

I lived in that illusory and completely self-induced angst for two days until, thanks to a friend, I remembered why I came to the pitch conference in the first place.

I revised my pitch but did not alter my project and I was true to my original intention and to IoS.  I pitched it and received some positive response.  Then I had to disappoint (seriously, the worst thing I can do to anyone in my book and pure torture for me) the person who had done everything in his power to guide me in the direction of success.

Here’s what I learned:

  • A pitch conference is all about the commercial viability of the pitch and its ability to obtain the interest of an agent or editor.  You have to back your pitch up of course, but the only thing that anyone will hear at the conference is your pitch.  For all intents and purposes, your novel might as well not exist.
  • It’s best not to bring only one idea/pitch, and if for one reason or another you only have one, you can’t be invested in it.  If you are, then a pitch conference may not be your best bet.  There are often opportunities to have your pitch critiqued before the pitch session opens.  If one idea doesn’t pass muster, keep pulling them out and throwing them against the wall until something sticks.
  • It’s common to pitch an idea for a novel that you haven’t written yet.  So long as you have the time and dedication to bang it out, this is acceptable, even expected.  I might go so far as to suggest that it’s a good idea to have your novel ideas plotted out and maybe even a few key scenes written, but that you may need to be flexible enough to accept suggestions that will drastically alter your novel.  This is harder to do with a project that you’ve invested months or years in writing.
  • If you’re like me, and reading these pieces of advice isn’t really enough, if you have to experience a pitch conference for yourself and you only have one project, one you’ve invested time in and are attached to, then stay true to your intent and be prepared to hear some things that you won’t want to accept.  Keep in mind that these things are going to be said to you with the best of intentions: to make you a viable career author.  If you’re not ready for that, so long as you understand that and keep all the excellent advice you receive in mind, you’ll be fine.

One way or the other, you and your work will emerge stronger on the other side.

Algonkian conferences have helped many writers achieve success.  Just visit their site and read the testimonials.  It’s a great opportunity that if you’re ready for, you shouldn’t pass up.

Besides, you usually get excellent advice outside the pitch panels and sessions as well.  In this case, Barbara Kyle delivered several sessions on plot and structure and Amy and Duncan McKenzie delivered an informative and entertaining session on improvisational techniques.

I even got some sight-seeing in 🙂

I highly recommend attending an Algonkian conference, or any pitch conference, and found it had the potential to be profoundly life-changing.

Writerly Goodness, signing off 🙂

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On virtual homework and the reading of books

Dan Blank of We Grow Media

So here we are in week two of We Grow Media’s Build Your Author Platform course.

Week one was about developing focus, and I think I did pretty well.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago in my post about Michael Hyatt’s Life Plan document, I’ve done a lot of thinking about my life and what I want out of it.  It wasn’t difficult for me to put into words my plans for my creative life.

This week, it’s going to be a little more challenging.  I have to figure out my writerly identity and brand.  I know what I’ve said about myself on this blog and elsewhere, but this week’s assignment will have me digging deeper.

I have this morbid image floating about in my head …  See, a garden spade is pretty sharp, and I can imagine that digging into my tender heart and mind being a bit painful.

One benefit is that my name is pretty unique, and since I’ve bought my domain and all my SoMe is in my name, my blog, Twitter, Facebook account, LinkedIn account, etc. appear at the top of the results in most search engines.  And if my blog isn’t up there, then one of my poetry books, NEOVerse is.  So that’s a win.

I’ll have to let you know how the branding exercises go.  I’m not a tooter of my own horn.  It makes me squirm, actually.  Hence the painfully-sharp-spade-phobia.

On introversion

I’m an introvert, though I work in an industry that has me putting myself “out there” as a trainer.  My friend, Brainy (pseudonym) had this to say about introversion on her blog this week:

Other people in my work environment likely see me as fairly extroverted because I am very outspoken and I address individuals and groups quite confidently when sharing the expertise that I have accumulated in recent years.  I do a lot of online coaching and desktop sharing with collaborative technology but it’s usually one-on-one now.  I can only sustain the energy required for the group stuff once in awhile and with considerable advance preparation.

I can relate.

She also recommends Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking.  It’s on my reading list.

What else I’ve been reading lately

Last month, I finished Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games.  I’d had the trilogy since last year when I saw the movie with a couple of friends who had both read the whole series and loved it.  More recently, I was urged to take the plunge for two more reasons: 1) my mom had just read the series and also loved it, and 2) Larry Brooks’s eleven-part analysis of the first book on his Storyfix blog (more on that in a moment).

I too, loved the book.  Having seen the movie, read Brooks’s analysis, and a few other reviews/articles on the novel, I was well aware of the plot and events of the novel.  But spoilers never spoil a book for me.  When I know the major plot points, I only enjoy the book more.  I read to improve my craft.

Collins’s prose is clean, her POV engaging, and her craft extraordinary.  Damned.  Good.  Book.

Mind you, I think I might be the last person on the face of the earth to read The Hunger Games 🙂

Brooks’s analysis of the book also lead me to read his: Story Engineering.  I did get a lot out of his book, but it was despite the author’s ethos.  Brooks comes on a little strong for my liking, and I truly resent having anyone shake a virtual finger at me.

For more of my thoughts on this writing craft book, please check out my review on Goodreads.

Ethos, for those who may not know, is the author’s personality as it comes through in print.

My undergrad was in rhetoric, so I’m pretty adept at reading past ethos.  It’s a good thing too, because Brooks does have some great information to share and I have already implemented some of his lessons.  I do get it.  I’m just not fond of how Brooks got his message out.

Currently, I’m reading Diana Gabaldon’s The Scottish Prisoner, which I’m enjoying quite a bit (though not as much as the main novels in the Outlander series), and A Medieval Miscellany.

Will let you know how all of that goes.

Right now, Writerly Goodness needs a wee bit of rest.  A new work-day awaits!  Egad …

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes! Rethinking my online strategy

I’ve been through a fair amount on this platform-building journey, from my first hesitant steps, through my experience of being hacked, and my triumphant return to the blogosphere.  I think it’s time that I took a little more control of my online life rather than letting it control me.

To this end, I’ve retooled my blogging schedule.  I’ll only be posting twice weekly now, Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Tuesdays (starting next week) for my learning and development category, and Thursdays for all things Writerly Goodness (it’s a grab bag folks!).  Fridays will be set aside for any guest blogs and other special events.

The truth is that I really have to get back to my novel.  If I don’t have a product, what’s the point of all this platform development?

Back in April I partook of Robert Lee Brewer’s Platform Challenge.  I’ve learned a lot from the experience and made a lot of online friends through the continually evolving Wordsmith Studio community.

Recently, I also volunteered to help develop Author Salon’s social media campaign.  With working, critiquing, curating, blogging, and hopefully writing, my schedule’s full enough.  I’m learning and growing though, as a writer and in social media.  As Christina Katz wrote, if it’s not painful, you’re not growing.

Actually, what she wrote was:

If you are frustrated to the point of tears or total exasperation, then wow, you must really be taking risks and stretching yourself. Good for you!

Think I’m getting there 😛

For the next six weeks, I’m participating in We Grow Media’s How to Build Your Author Platform course delivered by Dan Blank.  I’m hoping to learn how to make more efficient use of online tools to recapture some of my precious writing time.

Today, however, I want to share some pearls of online wisdom I’ve learned over the course of the past few months:

From Nathan Bransford:

  • When you post something to Facebook or G+, the link that you copy into your status will be embedded.  Once the post shows up, you can delete the pesky link and use the space to say something more apropos of your witty authorial persona.
  • Render unto Twitter that which is Twitter’s.  In short, if you tweet a lot, don’t link your Twitter feed to Facebook.  I experienced the negative side of this earlier this year, when a friend joined Twitter and I saw his half of every Twitter conversation he had.  It was excruciating clutter, but because he was a friend, I didn’t say anything.  He isn’t the “hey, you’ve got a booger in your nose” or a “that dress makes you look like a hoochie mama” kind of friend.  Sorry Dan.

From Kristin Lamb:

  • Don’t spam your friends.  Though tools like Hootsuite make it very convenient to post to multiple social media at multiple times, don’t do it unless you’re there to engage anyone who might respond.  Twitter is about having a conversation, forming a community.  If you’re automating you posts and someone replies to you or retweets saying that they liked it, you have no way to engage them if you’re not actually on line to respond.  Prove you’re not a robot?  Only post/tweet/share when you’re on line.  Got a day-job?  Tough.

Other points of etiquette:

  • Got published?  Yippee!  But I don’t need to see the same post every five minutes.  If I’m interested, I’ll check it out, but I find that half my Twitter feed consists of people trying to promote their books.  It becomes a visual kind of white noise and I tend to ignore those tweets after a while.  Pace your promo posts, and again, try to do it when you’re online to respond to any enquiries.
  • In the same vein: be professional.  In the early stages of any platform building effort, it can seem like you’re not getting anywhere.  It takes time.  Sometimes years.  Be patient.  If every time you post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, G+, or any of the other social media sites, you’re practically begging people to “share, please share” it smacks of desperation.  It’s off-putting.  If you write honestly and put out quality material, people will share of their own accord.  Again, it takes time to build a solid following.
  • If you’re interested in proposing a guest blog for someone and they’ve posted guidelines, treat them as seriously and professionally as you would submission guidelines to a magazine or journal.  Read the guidelines and follow them.  Respect the blogger you want to guest post for.
  • The other side of that coin is that if you’ve entered into an agreement, informal as it may be, to host a guest blog, or to interview someone, treat it with as much respect as a written contract.  If you can’t, for whatever reason, hold up your end of the deal, be up front and address the issues with your guest or interviewee.  If you have to decline after receiving the interview transcript or post, then do so in a timely manner.  Pretend you’re a publisher, because that’s what you’re doing when you host guests or conduct interviews, and treat your guest or interviewee as you would like to be treated if your positions were reversed.

It’s the golden rule.  Be polite.  Be professional.  Show respect.  You’ll be amazed how those three simple phrases will transform your online life and how much more quickly your platform will grow as a result.

Ok.  Kicking the soap box off to the side now 🙂

There might be some additional changes coming in the future as the result of Dan Blank’s course.  I’ve been considering a thematic revamp of the blog, but I want to hold off until I have some feedback.

On that note, if you have any of that for me (feedback) please feel free to comment.

How are your platform development efforts going?  Have there been bumps, or ruts in the road?  What have to done to work through these issues?  Do you have a plan moving forward?  Do tell 🙂

Writerly Goodness, signing off.