Remember, Social Media is about Being Social

Twitter. Facebook. MySpace. Forums. Messengers. There are a ton of tools out there that fall within the purview of “social media,” and a glut of articles telling you how to use them and what the “rules” are. In one article you might read that you’re supposed to use Twitter this way; in another, you might learn that you should only use MySpace if you’re a musician or under twenty-five.

The one thing that all of these social media tools and platforms have in common is the ability to have good conversation. What is “good conversation”? Well, that’s really up to you to decide, but I can tell you what it isn’t. Conversation does not occur when you talk “at” someone, it occurs when you talk “with” someone. It’s not just about one person’s profile, it’s about sociology and how people interact with one another, which can be challenging to remember because you don’t “see” the person you’re conversing with. You just “see” their comments or their replies.

I know a lot of writers, business owners and other folk out there engage in social media because you have something to sell. That special “something” could be your expertise, your product or your services. I absolutely agree that promoting yourself using these free channels is a great idea, but I also think that the “selling” is a bit overused and the pitch is getting lost and ignored. Why? Because social media is getting over-saturated with promotions that don’t offer anything of value to the reader. Coupons, free trials and such are one thing, but asking people to “buy your book” or “friend me” without doing anything for that person in return gets to be a bit annoying after a while. (Cue *sound effect* thanks to @strangeshe.)

Think this might be you? Take a minute and look at the content you’ve provided in your tool of choice. Are you only promoting yourself? Are you asking people to promote you without asking anything in return? Or are you getting to know the people in your network by following the social “rules of engagement” on that platform?

Oh, no. You just realized that you’re one of those people? Don’t worry! If you feel like you’re stuck in a rut, try engaging people in discussions about topics that have nothing to do with your work or what you’re selling. By establishing common ground with someone, your “followers” and “friends” will get to know you as you and will help you out when you least expect it on-or-offline.

So why not get started today and become your own social media expert. Get to know the people in your network. You never know what kind of conversation might turn up!

The Importance of Chasing Rainbows

rainbow“Chasing Rainbows” is a phrase that describes someone who’s going after a dream that’s impractical and foolish. The phrase has often been used to describe writers who have unrealistic expectations of how well they can write and what they are worth. “He thinks he’s Hemingway, but he’s never published anything before. He’s just chasing rainbows.” “Can’t believe she thinks she’s going to make $100,000 off of her first book, she’s just chasing rainbows.”

No one can catch a rainbow, right?

We’ve all known writers who had unrealistic expectations. By “unrealistic” I mean that they expect to make millions of dollars on an uncompleted project or believe that they’re famous and everyone knows who they are — even though they’ve only written one short story for a free magazine. We’ve laughed at them, we’ve made snarky comments privately, and we’ve all rolled our eyes at them — up until one of them does “make” it. Then we wonder how the heck that happened. Was it luck? Fate? What?

The reason why I believe any writer finds that proverbial pot of gold at the end of their rainbow is not because they were lucky or because fate deemed that they were successful. It’s because they were persistent. Not only did they chase the rainbow, but they did everything they could to find that pot of gold by persistently improving their craft, submitting fiction and non-fiction, networking, etc.

We all know that being a writer isn’t easy, which is why our rainbows are so vital to us. Sometimes, when we talk about what could happen we allow ourselves to believe that it might. It’s up to us then to doggedly pursue those rainbows in the best way that we know how.

So the next time you think a writer is chasing rainbows, I encourage you to take a step back and find out if they’re really wearing rose-colored glasses. All writers need a rainbow, and as long as we’re actually writing? I’m okay with that. How about you?

On Writing a Serial Novel

Violet WarLast Spring, I had announced that I was working on a free urban fantasy website called Violet War. The goal of the website was to promote a series of books I’ve been working on and offer the first draft of the series’ first book (Argentum) for free.

Since starting this project, I’ve found that writing a serial novel comes with its own set of challenges related to the fact that this is a novel of discovery.

In this book, the main character (Sophie Miller) is an exile (think convict) from her magical world. Sophie committed a terrible crime and was later experimented on by the Alchemists then imprisoned by them in a House of Illusion. Those experiments ripped apart her memories, so much so that when the illusion “breaks” she is forced her to deal with the world around her in unusual ways. At first, she doesn’t trust herself but later questions everything she sees.

These questions have turned into information dumps at times, so much so that some chapters rely on discussion rather than action to drive the plot. Fortunately, I’ve been able to catch those moments by sketching out the entire novel from beginning to end. Pacing is really important to me, because as a reader I get very bored when the story doesn’t move, so my chapters are relatively short. They range from one thousand to twenty-five hundred words for that reason.

Another way I’m circumventing those information dumps is by adding chapter breaks which are memories and pieces of info that Sophie knows. Once the “House of Illusion” is broken, she begins to remember bits and pieces of her former life. The things she remembers may seem innocuous at first, but might have a larger impact on the overall story in the end. (*hint*)

Technology has also played a big part in my presentation of this novel. If you look at the physical structure of how Argentum is laid out, you’ll see that there are section breaks in the book. This structure is intentional because of the way this template handles numeric chapters. If I didn’t have a section, then Chapter 10 would have shown up after Chapter 1, which would have made things really confusing for my readers.

I’m pretty excited to have made so much progress on my project this past weekend. This is definitely new territory for me as an author, and I hope you get the chance to read my work.

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