Monday, August 22, 2011

Social Media and The Writer

It's been waaay too long since I posted here, and I blame life, busyness, summer, and my writing (basically, I blame myself). But I've also been busy trying to prioritize and get a handle on the social media part of my life.

Social Media as Addiction
Hi. I'm Sue, and I'm a (recovering) Social Media Addict.

Instant gratification, the incessent pull, the warm, fuzzy connection with real, live human beings who understand your writerlyness ... all without leaving your house? Seriously, it's a wonder more people aren't hooked on the social media drug. But don't get me wrong - I LOVE social media and connecting with people and sharing with other writers. I just love it a little too much. And then there's that whole thing where writers are told You must have a platform and You need to build a network and Who is your tribe? All of which is varying shades of actual importance, but misses the most important thing.

I am a writer.

I did some soul-searching and fear-confronting and found that the most important things to me were: 1) my family and 2) writing. The time for those things needed to be sacred, and everything else had to come after.

Just like losing weight and exercising, this is a lot easier to proclaim your intention than to put into practice.

The E-Revolution
Things are changing quickly in the publishing world, and social media is going to continue to play an important role in people's lives, as well as in the publishing world. (See my Notes from the E-Revolution series for some of the latest goings on). I want to be a part of it, but even more than ever, writing is the thing that makes the difference in a successful author's career - writing quality, writing consistency, writing production. These things are only possible with a singular focus on butt-in-chair time and constantly pushing one's self forward in learning the craft.

Social Media Standard Operating Procedures
I've been reading a lot of non-fiction e-books lately about Author Branding and the Self-Publishing Revolution, but Bob Mayer's Write It Forward finally put all of it in perspective for me. Among many other things (like confronting your fears), he suggested writing a social media Standard Operating Procedure, so that you control your social media usage, rather than the other way around. Of course I didn't have a SOP for social media, so I wrote some. It didn't take too long, but definitely put things in perspective for me. My SOP say things like, Use a Timer, and No Checking During Writing Time, as well as a list of places I want to make sure I visit and participate in (like this one). They also forced me to think about what kind of interactions I was seeking on Twitter, Facebook, Kindle Boards, and all the others. If you find social media adversely impacting your writing time, I highly recommend an SOP to help you focus.

Which is not as easy as it seems.

I have 18 minutes left on my timer. I think I'll stop by Twitter and chat with some tweeps a bit, find a couple cool blog posts to RT, and then pop by Google+ to see what's new and cool there. Plus I need to tweet, facebook, and Google+ my own blog posting today, where I'm recommending a friend's awesome self-published Christmas book (Rick Daley's The Man in the Cinder Clouds).

That will probably use up all my time, after which I will shut down my browser and write. No email checking. No twitter updates. Just a solid chunk of quality time with me and my WiP.

Because I'm a writer.

Do you find your social media usage changing?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why Didn't I Think of That?

When Pokemon first came out, I thought it had to be the lamest thing on the planet. The sort of thing only annoying little brothers could like. Weird little cute anime monster trading cards? I could draw my own and sell them for five dollars a pack, right?

That was before I'd learned anything about writing for kids. That was before I learned the power of a cool concept.

You all know the Pokemon premise. There are little monsters you can catch, identify, carry around with you, and train to fight each other. What kid wouldn't love to do that? It's a game that combines fantasy pets, combat, competitive ranking, and taxonomy. Don't tell me kids don't adore taxonomy. When was the last time you talked to a third grade dinosaur expert?

With a core idea like that, who needs a plotline? And apparently, twenty years later, Pokemon is still alive and well. At least my kids think so.

Cool concepts like these are what gives a story life beyond the page. It's that yummy nugget of fun that makes you want to play the game. At the center of Harry Potter is the idea that there's wizards hiding among us, they have a school where you learn magic, and any kid could get a letter of acceptance. I guess Percy Jackson is the same thing, but switch "demigod" for "wizard." Adults like cool concepts too. I'd still like to have my own light saber. Dang useful thing that would be.

So does your story have a cool concept in it? I bet it does, or you wouldn't be writing it. It might be part of the setting, it might be a character, it might be an amazing plot twist. What is it? Make sure you find it, and then dangle it right in front of the reader's nose. Use it to sell your book to an agent, a publisher, the entire world!

Make us all say, "Why didn't I think of that?"

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Amber Argyle: Events, Winner, and Contest!

Guess what? A friend of mine, Amber Argyle who lives the next city over, has a debut novel coming out! Her book launch party is Monday, September 12 · 7:00pm - 10:00pm in 50 West Main in Hyrum Utah, so if you're in the area...

She's holding an author chat September 19th at Don't miss out!

Amber Argyle: Events, Winner, and Contest!: "Last weeks winner of Witch Song: Christina   Thank you all for participating!   On to the next giveaway of Witch Song: Everywhere you ..."

 Watch for my debut novel, Darkspell, fall of 2011!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Stretching Your Voice

The cabin girl and I helped found a teen writers club in our neighborhood. Every week we get together to listen and give feedback as some very talented young writers read their work out loud.

I start each meeting with a short lesson or writing exercise. At our last meeting we talked about voice. Voice is everything. It's the words you chose and the way you use them. From the very first sentence, voice tells the reader what kind of story to expect.

To give these budding writers a chance to stretch their voice skills, I wrote several different voice possibilities on note cards and had them each choose one at random. Then I gave them the first sentence of one of my favorite books, Enchantress from the Stars by Sylvia Louise Engdahl:

At the edge of the Enchanted Forest there lived a poor woodcutter who had four sons, the youngest of whom was named Georyn.

That sentence, of course, would make you expect a folk tale. But if you read this version, written by the young writer who picked the card Formal British:

At the edge of Derbyshire, in a little forest, there lived one of the mansion's manservants. He was very poor, for the master of Derbyshire treated him very ill, even though he knew the woodcutter had four sons to care for. The youngest, and most eligible as far as wit and handsomeness, was named George. 

You're expecting a Regency period romance. Now how about this one, inspired by Contemporary Teen:

"Dad, why do I have to go into the Enchanted Forest?" Georyn complained.
"You've heard enough stories to know that whenever a princess gets kidnapped or there's a dragon on the lose, they're always looking for the youngest son of the local woodcutter to do the rescuing and slaying."

We also had text book (very boring), horror novel (chilling), mean old lady (hilarious), and a few others. I was really impressed by how quick everyone caught on to the exercise, and how much we enjoyed the results.

Why don't you give it a try? Alter that first sentence into a different voice and post it in the comments. Be sure and tell us what voice you used.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Waxing the Cat Part II

I'm laughing at myself this morning. All summer long I couldn't wait for the first day of school because then I would have peace and quiet and get some writing done.

This morning I sent my older three off to the bus, then walked the younger two down to the elementary school. After a good-bye kiss, and testing to see my bespectacled first-grader could read the board from his seat, I waltzed out the door, a free spirit. Did I go straight home and start writing?


First I went jogging on the beach. Hey, exercise is important!

Then of course I had to shower, but not before checking and responding to some e-mails.

Then I decided to clean and vacuum my room. The pest control people are coming on Wednesday - I can't let them think I'm a slob.

Laundry came next. Also very important.

And some more e-mail.

And by then I needed to fix myself a snack.

Running out of excuses, I decided to call my husband at work and chat for a few minutes.

Now I'm writing a blog post and fighting an impulse to go out and check the mailbox.

WHY DO I DO THIS? Partly because I feel like I have all day, but that's an illusion. I'm killing my day slowly, minute by wasted minute. The other part is trepidation. Can I go in and face the fact that my manuscript isn't yet doing all those things I dreamed it would?

But if I don't get back to work, my manuscript will never do anything.

Bye! I'm off to do some scribbling!