Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Plan Your Writing Year

By: Margena Holmes

Happy holidays! I hope you’ve gotten through Thanksgiving without too much trouble, and Hanukkah/Christmas/Kwanzaa and New Year’s Eve and Day are just around the corner. What’s coming up for your writing year next year? What important dates do you have coming up? Any plans at all?

Start Planning Now

Now is a good time to start planning out your writing year for 2020. What DO you have coming up? Deadlines? Conferences? It’s good to get these things planned out ahead of time so you don’t have any conflicts. I started using a planner this year and it has helped tremendously for deadlines as well as personal events like baby showers.

I use an old school planner notebook to plan out my writing deadlines and what I want to accomplish for the year, but if you’re techy, you can use your phone or tablet. I like to get the pretty planners, and a nice pen, though if you use pencil, you can easily erase if you need to move up or push back a deadline (which I’ve done a lot in the past).

What to put in your planner?

The obvious is deadlines you have. When you plan to have your book finished, sent to the editor, when you’ll be revising, etc. It may seem like micro-managing, but if you have an open-ended date to get your book finished, will you finish it? I base my deadlines on when the next comic cons are in Colorado Springs, so cons usually go into the planner first. I like to have a new book out for those.  Since I self-publish, I need that date so I know when to submit the book and have it printed and sent in time for the Con. Deadlines have a way of sneaking up on you. “Oh, crap, that’s tomorrow?”

Plan for Writing Conferences

Regarding conferences, you’ll want to plan that out to take time off from work if needed, and to make your reservations. It’s helpful, too, if you put reminders in your planner a month or so ahead of time. That way you know what’s coming up. [Don’t forget PPWC2020!]

Don’t Forget Social Media

Do you plan out your social media content? You should! It keeps you engaged with your readers. I Google holidays and national days for each month and plan my content around that.  January 1st is National Bloody Mary Day, February 17th is Random Acts of Kindness Day (I have these in my planner for next year). You can plan a theme for the month, or just randomly post each day or week. If it ties into your book or series, all the better! Social media users like to read about personal things, too, like how you spent your day, or see photos of you at different events.

Contests

Contest deadlines. If you plan on entering contests throughout the year, you will need to know when those are. When to start writing your submission (if needed), the deadline to send it in by, and when they plan on making the announcement of the winners.

Why Plan?

Why plan out your writing year? It helps you stay on track with deadlines, and keeps you engaged with readers. You may not stick to it religiously, but it helps you to know what’s coming up and you can always make adjustments to it, and you won’t be surprised when the Pikes Peak Writers Conference comes up on April 17-19, 2020, almost a month earlier than 2019. Happy planning!


Margena Holmes

Margena Adams Holmes was born in Bellflower, CA sometime in the 1960s. She has always had a love for both reading and writing, writing her first song/poem in 1st grade. Margena is a big supporter of indie authors and will read anything that draws her into the story. She is an observer of life, and many everyday things could (and do!) end up in her writings. Her publications are available through her author page. Contact Margena via email: jedi_anegram@hotmail.com.

Just How Beneficial IS Instagram?

By Jennifer Lovett Herbranson

Are you getting FOMO? The Fear of Missing Out by not being on Instagram? Well if you aren’t using it, you should. It’s the hottest social media platform out there and the fastest growing. According to Statista, Instagram now boasts more than 500 million daily active users. That’s daily. Twitter has only 126 million.  It’s nowhere near Facebook’s 1.5 billion daily users, but it’s gaining, and gaining fast. And Americans report more engagement on Instagram than on Facebook on a daily basis these days.

So how do you take advantage of Instagram as part of your author brand?

  • Use Stories!
  • Hashtags Galore & Engage!
  • Your Feed!

Use Stories.

Stories are showing the most engagement these days. Since you are a storyteller, this one is a no-brainer. Tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. Even if you’re doing a story about pizza (the most common food pic on Instagram), create the story: the search for pizza, the finding of the pizza, the eating of the pizza. Anything can be a story.

There are several ways to create the story.

  • Type
  • Music
  • Live
  • Normal
  • Boomerang
  • Superzoom
  • Hands-free

Type is a simple post with text with creative fonts on fun backgrounds.

Music – add music to your story by choosing the song on this tab before capturing your video

You can go Live and tell the world what you’re up to, just like Facebook Live, only this will fade off Instagram after 24 hours.

You can do a Normal story and create it with photos and/or video. Video is only 15-seconds.

Boomerang is a burst of photos that repeats over and over. Like a wave or jump in the air or opening a book.

Superzoom – really focus on something and zoom in on it Add music to make it sound creepy or funny.

The Hands-free feature just allows you to create video without having to keep your finger on the record button.

Hashtags Galore & Engage!

Hashtags are super important on Instagram so people can find you. Choosing the right hashtags will put you in front of potential readers.

For a regular Instagram post, I recommend only two hashtags in the main caption. Then add up to 30 in the first comment. Make a list and rotate your hashtags so you aren’t stalking the hashtag.

For stories, you can simply add hashtags to the Story so people can see them, or you can add them and then put a sticker or shape over them to hide them.

Distraction and engagement are why people are on social media. The more compelling, interesting, funny and creative your posts, the more people will enjoy them. It’s important to be a presence on Instagram to make it work. That doesn’t mean simply posting photos, slapping on a few hashtags, and then ignoring it. This isn’t a “build it and they will come” scenario. You must engage.

Find the hashtags that represent your author brand, your community, your interests and likes. Then start liking and commenting on those. Be a presence.

Your feed!

There is debate in the Instagram world about the effectiveness of your feed these days with Stories taking off. Tyler J McCall, Instagram Guru and Coach, recommends feed posts only every other day or so and to concentrate on your Story.

That being said, your feed should look like your author brand. What is your brand? What are your themes? The Instagram feed represents the window in the window-shopping metaphor of people looking to find others to follow. If your feed is a jumbled mess, then it’s unclear what you’re offering.

Look at other authors in your genre and see what they are posting. Do they have a theme?

Try celebrities you like. What is their theme?

Sometimes that’s a certain dominant color. Other times it’s a regular pose, like with a book reading or playing with the dog. Other times it’s a certain camera angle. The possibilities are endless, so get creative. Think about your author brand and the themes and messages in your books. What can you out of those to make part of your theme?

Instagram is the fastest growing social media platform out there. If you are considering social media for your author brand and you like photos, I recommend jumping in the Instagram deep end. It’s not as overtly political as Facebook. And it’s not as time-consuming as a YouTube channel. It’s a fun platform and who knows, you might even find some new friends.

Sources:

The 43 Instagram Statistics You Need to Know in 2019

Number of Instagram users in the United States from 2017 to 2023


Jennifer Lovett Herbranson

Jennifer Lovett Herbranson is the founder of Writer Nation, a podcast and Facebook group dedicated to helping writers market their work. With 17 years communications experience, she regularly writes on social media, internet marketing and face-to-face publicity.
You can find her on her WebsiteFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest: @jennylovett

Juggling Multiple Projects

By Catherine Dilts

Eight years ago I received a helpful bit of writing advice. A multi-published author recommended having a minimum of three projects going at a time.

If you’re struggling to complete a story, this may sound like bad advice. Juggling multiple stories can become an avoidance technique.

Writing the beginning of a story involves one type of brainstorming. Endings are a different game altogether. If you’ve never completed a short story or novel, push everything else aside until you get a rough draft finished. Only then will you have an ingrained roadmap required for simultaneous creative trips.

Why should you try working multiple projects?

The Simmering Pot stage:

Let’s presume you have finished a short story or novel. It may be a very rough first draft, or you may plan to submit it soon to a magazine or agent.

  1. Set that story aside for a week. Even a month. When you come back to it, you will see it in a more objective light. Everything from typos to plot holes will jump out at you.
  2. While that completed draft is resting, begin a new project. Those creative juices tend to stagnate if not kept flowing.
  3. You start working, and an idea occurs about the first project. Like a pot on the stove, you set it aside to simmer, but find yourself returning to stir frequently. Resist the urge to do major editing. Instead, jot down your thoughts on a sticky note, in the margins of your manuscript, or in red in the electronic file.
  4. Return to the second project, slamming out a hasty draft. When that’s roughed out, step things up by jotting notes for a third story. Only then do you return to polish the first story.

The Shifting Priorities stage:

When you have three stories going at once, you can allocate attention to the project that best suits your mood or time constraints. You do not work on all three stories every day, or even every month. You can focus on one story at a time. The point is, if you get stuck creatively or time-wise, you have something else waiting for your attention.

  1. Marathons – You may require stretches of uninterrupted time to plot. Maybe you get bogged down in character development or research. Final edits may be when you most need several continuous hours to work. Save your longer writing sessions to do this work.
  2. Sprints – Work or family obligations make it impossible to get in a good brainstorming session. When you have three stories going at once, one may be at a stage where you can effectively work in fits and starts. There are points in my short story process where it makes sense to carry a manuscript around, jotting notes as they occur to me.
  3. Passion – One story jumps to life, consuming you. Focus on that tale until the fire wanes. Remember though, writing isn’t all about the Muse inspiring you with intense creative bursts. Be ready to put in the plodding along hours, too.
  4. You get a nibble. A request to send chapters to an editor. You can drop the other two projects to work on the one most likely to get a contract.

The main reasons I like having multiple projects going:

  1. Your pace of production will increase when you juggle multiple writing projects. Once a project is completed, and pushed out of your creative queue, start another to take its place.
  2. You won’t experience blank page syndrome, that empty feeling when a story is finally really finished. Instead, you’ll pick up a work-in-progress and hit the ground running.
  3. When a story is with an editor or agent, you won’t be as anxious waiting for a response if you’re working on other projects.
  4. When an agent asks “what else have you got,” you have an answer.

You may have experienced writer’s block. Sometimes, setting a story aside can get you “unstuck.” The danger is that you’ll never get back to that story, or writing in general. You don’t want that to happen.

Nor do you want to skitter from unfinished story to story like a frog hopping across a pond. Or like that aunt with a sewing room jammed with piles of fabrics in various states of un-done-ness,  jutting pins and fraying edges a testament to procrastination. Finish your projects – unless one proves to be totally unworkable. I have several completed novels and short stories that will never see the light of day, but finishing them taught me valuable lessons.

The friend who gave me the three project rule is a short story author. I write both short fiction and novels. This technique works juggling a mix of long and short fiction. A short story may cycle through the queue faster, while a novel may work slowly through the process, but it still keeps my production high.

Give it a try. You may find yourself turning out more stories, and at a faster pace.


Catherine Dilts

Catherine Dilts is the author of the Rock Shop Mystery series, while her short stories appear regularly in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. She takes a turn in the multi-author cozy mystery series Secrets of the Castleton Manor Library with two novels, Ink Or Swim and A Thorny Plot. Working in the world of hazardous substances regulation, Catherine’s stories often have environmental or factory-based themes. Others reflect her love of the Colorado mountains. The two worlds collide in the humorous mystery novel Survive Or Die. You can learn more about Catherine’s fiction at http://www.catherinedilts.com/