When Fiction Writers Blog


When I first started blogging, I was somewhat late into it.  I was cowriting then, but wrote most of the blogs then.  Everything we saw online said “You have to be an expert” and “you have to have a platform.”  I was a fiction writer.  Exactly what was I supposed to do with it?

I could see how the advice related to a non-fiction book writer because they came with those parts as a function of what they were doing in their business.  But fiction writing?

Ah ha!  Writing!

* Sigh * Yeah, I fell into doing writing how-tos for a while.  Surprisingly, it’s a rather boring subject.  There just isn’t a lot of versatility in it.  I’d write on them for about a year and then run out of topics.

Plus, all we got were other writers, not potential readers.

After I broke up with the cowriter, I moved the blog to where you’re reading it now.  Still continued the how to posts, but it was often a struggle.  I did the A to Z Challenge one year using writing as a topic.  I tried to stay away from how-tos, but it was still hard to come up with enough topics, and I didn’t finish.

I took a blogging writing course that was for writers, thinking that would help.  The emphasis of of the course was to find your own voice — but not do how-tos.  The other writers eagerly flocked to everyone’s blog at first, posting comments and eagerly cheering people on.

Mine was the first one they dropped.

It took about two weeks.

At the time I was very frustrated.  What was I doing wrong?

In hindsight, it was probably because I did stop doing the how-tos.  Everyone else still did writing topics in addition to other topics.

But the one thing I did do was use it to figure out how to manage writing time.  Even then, I wanted to write full time, so it would be training.  I tend to write at the same time most days, so I picked a time when I normally wouldn’t do any writing to do posts.

It also cheered me on to writing fiction faster.  I could put out a post almost as fast as I typed.  Why was it so much harder on fiction?  But writing posts helped reinforce in my head that I could write faster.

I also had an additional problem that was a bit of a challenge:  My name.  It’s kind of ordinary, and a lot of other people have it.  At the time, there was another writer with my name who turned up on searches.  But if I kept producing new posts, I would turn up higher in the search.

So I kept writing and trying to reinvent myself.  But I kept writing the posts, kept them mostly to a schedule.  The sheer act of doing the writing and trying to find other topics besides how-tos is how I found my blogging voice.

But the process to get there was really hard.  I kept watching how low the numbers were for a long time and despaired at one point that maybe it wasn’t a good time investment.  I debated giving up the blog several times.  But I kept returning to the problem of my name and that a blog was probably the easiest way to keep my name showing up.

I think that’s a lot like writing fiction.  A lot of writers expect to write one book and have it turn into a best seller so they can kick back and never work again.  The more I’ve written, the more I can see what else I can write.

The most important thing is to write.

Inspired by a blog prompt from The Daily Prompt

What’s the most important (or interesting, or unexpected) thing about blogging you know today that you didn’t know a month ago?

Blogging More vs. Blogging Less


When I first got into social media, everyone said to blog at least three times a week.  This was, according to the mass indie movement, the best way to find readers to read your books.  I never believed that, because as a reader, I don’t run across someone’s blog and go “Oh!  I want to buy a book.”  Marketing to readers has always been a challenge for the big name publishers, because it doesn’t work like other marketing.  Yet, everyone treats it as if it does.

I used to cowrite with a marketer, so I keep seeing that over and over again.  If you need a computer, the marketing’s easy.  Things like size, weight, what software it has, how fast it is.  Fiction defies marketing in the traditional way.  If I write fantasy, how am I supposed to market?  Blog about unicorns?

Despite that, everyone kept saying everywhere that fiction writers had to find a platform and market it.  No one talked about the writing part.

Now the writers are shifting to writing fewer posts, like once a week and turning back their writing.  

The reason I’m not is that I’ve always found it a way to train for the time management side of things.  Like writing, some things have dual purposes.  But I’ve also gone away from the “formulas” all the social media people said I was supposed to do like list posts.

Do you think people have gotten tired or blogging, or just tired of subjects that keep repeating?

When Internet Lists Strike Back


I’ve spent the week in baby steps trying to fix some of my time management habits.  I’d like to write fiction full time in the future, and one of the things I need to get my act together on is time management. The time to figure it out is NOT when I’m greeted with a huge change my own business.

My work has suffered from too many diverse demands.  We’ve had people leave, so manager looks around for a place to plop what they did.  Guess who gets it?  A lot of the new things don’t fit in with anything else, so grouping like things together doesn’t fit together real well. I figure if I can tame this beast of chaos, it can only help me in the long run.

I’ve spent a lot of time wandering the internet in search of time management tips and whatnot.  The Internet is very good at lists because they’re easy to read and write.  But they’ve morphed into this terrible monster.  They lecture.  There’s several sites I’ve run into where it feels like the author gets out the soapbox and proceeds to inform us that we’re doing everything wrong.  All you need to do is follow his steps, and everything will start working properly.

Except that it doesn’t.  How do you work with something when the whole process around you is dysfunctional to start with and your stuck at the mercy of it?

The lists look nice because it feels like you can check them off or that they can be scanned easily.  They started in magazines, and exploded on the internet.  Truthfully, I blame marketing.  Two years ago I was hunting around trying to find things that would help me market to potential readers, and I went the list route.  Every reputable blog on social media talked about using lists.  The result is that we’re getting reduced to the bullet point.

Bring back real substance!

Tweetability of Writing


I’m over on Unleaded: Fuel for Writers today.  A quick preview:

I don’t like Twitter.  One of the reasons, though not the only one, is that it’s too short.  As a writer, I know that some things really can’t be communicated in 140 words or less.  I’ve just spent a week where communication has broken down again and again.  Someone dashed of a vague email from their cell phone or Blackberry.  The short length made it hard to be clear about what they wanted, and I got it wrong.

How is Twitter affecting our writing?  Read the rest.

The Dreaded — Gasp — Writing Mistake


 

Man in a trench coat with hands up
Stick ’em up. You made a fatal writing mistake.

My air conditioner decided to stop working (for the third time), and it’s 85 degrees and 59% humidity.  As a result, I was a bit on the cranky side when I ran across a post on IO9 that was called Seven Deadly Sins of World Building.

Think about that title for a moment.  It’s first thing most people will see, either in a search engine or a Twitter feed.  “Sins” suggest that if you break these rules you’re going to go to the place with the guy with the pitchfork and horns.

Then there’s “deadly,” which sounds kind of threatening, like if I break a writing rule, I don’t just get a bad grade, but some evil spider monster will come after me.

Now I’m not picking on this particular post, but more of a trend I’m seeing that’s rather disturbing.  The social media pundits say that writers have to get out there and pound the internet with expertise.  What’s a fiction writer to do?  There’s no expertise, except to talk about writing.  Unfortunately, this gets combined with another piece of advice on posts, to make numbered lists (and I have been guilty of that, though I’ve stopped doing it).

But writing fiction doesn’t lend itself well to lists, at least not unless rules are being laid out.  So we get things like “Worst Writing Blunders,” “Don’t make these stupid writing mistakes,” and “Writing Mistakes You Don’t Know You’re Making.”  Most are portrayed as if you even cross the boundary of one of these you’re going to earn an instant rejection.  “7 Fatal Writing Mistakes” sounds like goons are going to come after the writer and give him cement overshoes.

Most of the stuff talked about isn’t really a mistake, and in some cases, it’s merely an opinion of the writer.  But it’s wrapped around with the authority, “I’m a writer, and I’m going to tell you what you’re doing wrong.”  Rules have perceived authority, even if the person doesn’t have any.  It also seems like it’s gotten a lot worse lately.  There are no rules for creativity.  It’s about what works.

Getting off my soapbox now and wandering off to research about how many eyes a spider has.

Rule F: writing has to come First


Linda’s Rules of Writing

Four Asian children play tug of war.
Sometimes social media feels like a tug of war with other priorities.  But I made my priorities by writing 75% of these posts over several months.

We’re onto the letter F in Linda’s Rules of Writing of the A to Z Challenge, and on making sure writing gets done First.

There are so many things now that are in a tug of war for our attention: Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Pintrest, you name it.  Writers have been told they need to build their audience, even before they’ve finished the first book.

I took the We Are Not Alone blog course with Kristen Lamb.  One of the striking things was that all these writers got online and started blogging three times a week.  I immediately stopped the recommendation to find link lists and videos because, frankly, it took too much time, and I wanted to hold onto my writing time.  It’s hard enough working around the job.

About 6 months later, I started seeing my fellow WANAs posting that they had to take time off blogging so they could get back to writing.

Writing the book has to come first.  Without the book, all the social media in the world isn’t going to matter.

How have you taken back your time from social media?

 

Not Shooting Yourself in the Foot With Your Online Image


I have a confession: I’ve been going to science fiction conventions since 1976.  My goal for many of those cons were to see actors.  Some of them were nice people and others I wouldn’t want to know.  One I became friends with.  He was always a gentleman and very aware of his image he presented to the world.  At one con, he did an interview for a horror magazine.  So when it first came out at Borders, a friend and I snatched up copies right away.   I called my friend, a little worried because the interview was laced with f-bombs.  We’d both read all his interviews in the past, more than 20 years worth, and he’d always kept it very clean.  We debated about it and wondered if the writer had added the words for that magazine.

Nope.  The actor had gotten to drinking during the interview and said the words himself.  When he saw the interview, he was livid because he’d gotten the writer to promise not to use the profanity.  But the true problem was that he’d said them in the interview in the first place.

On a backdrop of a grid, a gun with the muzzle tied in a knot

There’s been a lot of that online lately from writers.  It’s like people have forgotten … Read the rest on Unleaded: Fuel for Writers.

Cover of the Darkness Within shoing a monstrous face in shadows.My short story “A Soldier’s Magic” appears in the anthology The Darkness Within, available from Indigo Mosaic Publishing.  It features two women soldiers who have to make a tough decision to save a lot of people.

Attack of the Twitter Zombies


A seated zombie tries to pull apart its head, looking for more brains.
Can I give a tweet a one brain review?

The Twitter Zombies out there — they stalk mindlessly through Twitter.  “Twwweeeetttts.  Must send tweet.  Must promote book.  Must promote self.”  And then we, the recipients of these brains tweets, end up with spam (not the kind you eat).

For the last few months, I’ve been overwhelmed by writer spam.  If you put writer in your bio, writers flock to you, and then they send link spam: Writing links; “My book got five stars”; and retweets of other writers’ spam.  It is insane!  How can people think this sells books?

I have bought books based on tweets, but it’s been when someone else other than the author mentions the book — and it’s a real recommendation, not the cheer leading squad of RTers.  But because Joe Writer sends out multiple tweets about his books — no, no, and NO.  I like my brains very much, thank you.

BRRRAAAIIINNNNSSSS

However, all my frustration with writer spam made me think about what I was doing.  That plus a class on social media I took.  The class was focused on the business side, but had the unique aspect of being by people who are still trying to figure it out rather than an expert.

So I looked at my Twitter timeline.  I was surprised as how unfocused the tweets were.  I’m a jack of all trades.  I like a lot of things.  When I was in college, it was, “You mean I have to pick a major?”  I ended up with 94 credit hours and an AA in General Education.  If I went back today, I’d still have trouble picking a major!  Platform may be a challenge for me because of this, so the first thing I did was narrow my focus a lot.  I took it down to three topics:

  1. Science Fiction and Fantasy
  2. Fiction/Reading
  3. Women in the Media
Dead hand reaches up from the group, one finger a bone.
“Retweets! Give me retweets!”

Then I cut the number of linked tweets I send out to 4.  Social media experts say you have to do at least 10 to stay visible, which is probably why so many writers are sending link spam.  Ten was hard to keep up with, so I originally cut mine to 7 — which was still hard to keep up with.  My intent was to find conversations, but that was difficult because one of the hashtags I was on was overloaded with writer spam (the hashtag owners started reporting them as spammers.  We’re now down to about 5 spammers, 3 of which are one person, and the other 2 are RTing her.  Like I said, Twitter Zombies).

But it’s the other thing I did that seems to have made a huge difference in the responses I’m getting with fewer Tweets.  Most people will send out the name of the page or post title as the Tweet, maybe with a short comment.  I used to do that.  But to help keep me from going off in the latest shiny direction, I delete the title and write my own comment about the link.  It has to stand up on its own.  With that requirement, a lot of links haven’t made it to Twitter, but the quality of what I’m sending out is much better.  The links are coming from major blogs I subscribe to and TrendSpottr (that’s from the social media class).  The rest of the Tweets are conversations.

MMMM.  BRAINS ARE GOOD

And the results have surprised me.  Before, with 7-10 link tweets using the post title, I would get maybe one Tweet clicked on, often by one person.  With fewer links much more personalized, I’m regularly getting 5-7 clicks per tweet.  My Klout score’s also jumped up (it had  been declining).

Maybe things are changing.  Sending out so many links might have worked early on, before so many writers got online and starting repeating where early successes were.  Have you reassessed your role in social media?  What things are you trying?

Images are from http://www.clipart.com

Top 10 Blog Posts for May


In case you missed any, here are the top 10 posts for May.

1. Moleskine Hacks for Fiction Writers:  I never go anywhere without my Moleskine to take notes.

2. Is There a Strong Woman Character or Are We Being Fooled?:  We have tons of books with women protagonists.  But do we have strong women characters?

3. Engaging Readers with Social Media:  Check out the discussion in the comments on whether writers should do writer blogs.

4. 5 Lessons I Learned on Finding Time to Write:  “How do you find time to write?” is one of the most common things writers ask.  Find out what I do.

5. 5 Links on Time Management for Writers:  Check out what other writers are doing to manage their time.  There are some great links in here.

6. Writing with the Jellyfish:  On my journey to embracing being a pantser and working with my unique writing process.

Jellyfish floats aimlessly, moving upwards.

7. Technology Hacks for Dealing with Twitter Spammers:  Check out some of the great tools that are available to keep spam out of your Twitter feed.

8. Should You Write with a Cowriter?  The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:  It sounds like a great idea, but is it?  Check out what I did wrong.

9. Triberr Review: Useful Tool or Shiny Toy:   The Triberr owner dropped in for a few comments, so check it out what he says!

10. Balancing Writing and Social Media [UNLEADED]: It’s easy to get locked into “promote, promote, promote” and forget to write the book.

For you:  What subjects would you like to see?  Post in the comments below.

Technology Hacks for Dealing with Twitter Spammers


Have you noticed lately that there seems to be a lot of link spamming on Twitter?  It’s hard to have a conversation when I have to wade through all the links.

At signs floating on the surface of a blue sky

So I get to fight technology with, well, technology with two handy tools:

TwitBlock: Sometimes I find it hard to tell if a Tweep is a spammer or not.  This program uses a rating based common things spammers do.  It gives you a breakdown so you can decide if you want to block someone or not.  Mostly, it’s caught p**n sites, and occasionally, someone will end up on it accidentally because they display spammer characteristics.

Twit Cleaner:  This is probably the handiest Twitter tool I’ve run across.  It analyzes the tweets of your followers and recommends people who should be unfollowed.  It includes people who excessively RT, those who send too many links, and even those who never interact with anyone.  All you have to do is select the ones you want to unfollow, and Twit Cleaner will take care of it.  To give you an idea of how bad this problem is, about two weeks ago, I unfollowed about 100 people for the three above reasons.  I went back in today and reran the report, and I’d accumulated more people who were doing the same thing.

For you:  What kind of hacks have you been using to deal with the spammers?  Any links that weren’t mentioned above?  Post your comments below.