Rethinking Social Media & Relaunch

!UNDER CONSTRUCTION!

After spinning my wheels for the past year, I’ve come to the conclusion it’s not only time to rethink the way I “do” social media, it’s time to rethink the way I present myself to the world through it.

It can’t be just me who gets overwhelmed by it all and romanticizes the way it must have been for authors of yesteryear. Social media is sometimes demanding, cumbersome, time-consuming/wasting. I’ve heard it called a “necessary evil” for writers on several occasions. But I don’t want my social media to be a “necessary evil.” I want my social media to be as much fun as I want the rest of my life to be. I’m all about the fun, dammit.

But I wasn’t having much fun at it on a professional level, it didn’t feel like I’d mastered any of it (if there is a such thing!) or that I’d found my ideal community yet, though I’ve made plenty of friends along the way. Shouldn’t this all be more cohesive? Why does everyone else seem so much more organized about it than I do?

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With the help of people who know way more than I do about it, I’m renovating and relaunching with more purpose and under a cohesive brand. And I’m excited about it.  With a new book coming out (April 15!), the timing feels right. It also feels like someone has stopped that spinning wheel.

WEBSITE RELAUNCH and BLOG PARTY: Thursday, April 3
hors d’ oeuvres, giveaways, special guests, party games

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What have my Social Media Renovation plans included?

-First, merge my thewhiteforest.com site with this site: Why do I need a static “informational” blog (thewhiteforest.com) and this “interactive” one? Why the extra upkeep? I am no longer simply the author of the White Forest series. My career extends beyond that, so my site should reflect the myriad me’s, rather than the individual books.

-Then, UPDATE the blog theme. This theme, while hot in 2010, has been replaced by a slicker set of theme options. Why not look like the professional I know I am and get with the times?

-Set up the blogs I love in an aggregator! I’ve just signed up with Feedly.com and it is such a relief for all my blog subscriptions to be in one place. Before I would get some subscriptions via email, check my wordpress reader, use comments on my blog to find people, etc, etc. Having them all in one place with a little “hootlet” to share snippets on Twitter is so much more enjoyable. And efficient! I love time-saving devices. Gimme.

-And speaking of Twitter… I used to detest Twitter until I figured out how to make it fun. It’s really about throwing things out to the universe and seeing who responds. And, unlike Facebook, anyone can respond in some way to what you share. I love the group tweeting and live tweeting aspects, sharing with that universe some piece of information or insight gained. If you are scratching your head over Twitter, do what I did and find someone who is really good at it. Whose eyes light up when they talk about it. Buy them a drink and have them teach you how to use it.

-My publisher and I invested in someone to create a graphic and logo that I can use across all my social media platforms in order to bring everything together visually. Brilliant! She worked collaboratively with me to build something that speaks to my personality as well as attracts the kind of people I want in my community.

Take a sneak peek at what we’ve come up with so far on my Twitter Profile. I’m really loving having graphics that are uniquely mine rather than cookie cutter images.

These are just the first steps. The branding will continue across Facebook, newsletters, and other media. There are also other resources I enjoy such as GoodReads and Pinterest. And I’ve made a promise to myself to at least give Google+ a chance.

As writers, we often turn to other writers to help hone our work and see what we can’t. If any other part of our writing career feels stagnant, perhaps it’s time to go outside of our own heads for professional assistance?

I think investing a little money in your writing career (if that’s what you want) can be a great boost. I always tell indie authors, “If you aren’t a graphic designer, do not create your own book cover. Pay a professional (or a talented art student) to do it for you.” I decided to take my own advice when it came to social media and branding.

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What about you? What kinds of social media do you favour and have you been rethinking how you use it? Has anyone else been thinking about branding themselves? 

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Quick and Dirty (okay, mostly quick, but made you look) with a bonus repurposed writing workout

So, no new Writing Workout yesterday because I was here all weekend:

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With people like this:

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Doing things like this:

hair party

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(photo credit to Sander Feinberg for all but hair shot)

 

 

 

 
And next weekend I’ll be HERE.

Doing things like this:

At the Book Signing

Going to panels like THIS.

And readings like THIS.

And parties like THIS.

So, in the meantime, here’s a recycled writing workout I think you’ll enjoy…

YOUR WORKOUT

When you get to what I call the “sloggy” part of your story, when inspiration appears to have left the building and you are dragging yourself to the page, it’s time for some good old fashioned spontaneous writing.

(even if you’re not in the slog, you can still play along)

Pick whatever piece of writing you’re working on. See where you are and think about what comes next.

Step 1) Set your timer for 5-7 minutes. At the top of your page, write the start: The scene that needs to be written is… because…

After you finish with that thought, write This scene needs to be written because… and start the next thought. Keep writing This scene needs to be written because… until you hit something, an idea, and then take off! At this point, no more punctuation. Just write in one long stream of consciousness. REMEMBER to write without stopping, without crossing out, without editing. If you get stuck, you can always start again with This scene needs to be written because

Example:

The scene that needs to be written is the scene where Mabbe confronts Croilus because it gets Mabbe outside of her burl. This scene needs to be written because it’s where Zhay learns that Brigitta was telling the truth. It needs to be written because it’s where Zhay loses it and all his anger about being abandoned by the Ancients bursts forth and he attacks Mabbe but she’s too strong for him and she strikes him down and when that happens the spell seed falls to the ground and they…

Step 2) Set your timer for 5-7 minutes. Pick one of the following as your start line:

In this scene my protagonist learns…
In this scene my protagonist reveals…
In this scene my protagonist proves…

You can also put in another character if that works better for you. In this scene my villain… my antagonist… my protagonist’s mother… feel free to make it work for you.

The important thing is that a character learns or reveals or proves something. This will help move your story forward.

Again, total stream of consciousness, no punctuation, no editing, no stopping. Allow yourself to write the first thing that comes out of your pen. It’s not permanent! We’re getting ideas

example:

In this scene Brigitta proves that she can fight the force of the green zynthia and she believes it has to do with her having both air and water elements now and she discovers that she is more powerful than before and the extra element has made it easier to manipulate her environment and there is no way to give it back and maybe it was her first true element…

Step 3) Set your timer for 3-5 Minutes. It’s time for a “What if” wild flow! By wild I mean don’t discount any thought or idea. Let the What Ifs fall where they may. This is a list that you write as fast as you can. You can simply start with What if… on each line, or use any of the following prompts:

During this scene, what if…
After this scene, what if…
After my protagonist reveals ____, what if…
After my protagonist learns ____, what if…
After my protagonist proves _____, what if…

example:

After Brigitta reveals that she can overpower the zythia…
what if Croilus realizes the prophesy is coming true?
What if Devin and Ferris attack Zhay?
What if Brigitta thinks Croilus is going to attack the White Forest?
What if Zhay tries to kill Croilus?
etc.

Usually at least one lightbulb goes on during this exercise. Just let go and allow the ideas to flow. Write as fast as you can, keeping pen on the page. Afterwards, you can go back and mark items that you like.

You should now be sufficiently pumped to write the next scene. I know I always am.

Have a great weekend!

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A Better Beta Read: Guest Post by Ev Maroon!

Since today is my birthday, I’m taking my Weekly Writing Workout day off. Everett Maroon has stepped up to put a post in my place.

I had the pleasure of working on Ev’s book The Unintentional Time Traveler, which is set to be released at the end of this month. It’s the story of an epileptic boy who begins to travel through time via his seizures, only to find himself in a completely different body—a girl, Jacqueline, who “defies the expectations of her era.” There’s some serious trouble brewing, and when he, as Jacqueline, falls unexpectedly in love with a boy in that past, Jack/Jacqueline is caught between two lives and epochs.

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I really enjoyed working with Ev on his book and invited him to post in my absence. Have a great week!  

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A Better Beta Read by Everett Maroon

There’s a moment in every long form writing project of mine when words transform into vines, twirling around my thoughts like malevolent beanstalks. They obscure everything in the manuscript except the tiniest of details. Suddenly all I can take on is “How does this sentence sound? This syllable? Is this paragraph conveying the tension between these two characters?”

Although we must immerse ourselves in the universes we’ve built, as we drop further and further into our own creations we may stop asking the bigger questions that readers will ultimately require we answer as writers. While we’re parsing through the various nuances of using “threadbare,” “frayed,” or “worn,” and wondering how each conveys its own sense of mood and narration, the reader may be ready for the next plot point and frustrated that we’re dwelling on someone’s dress quality.

Beta readers are great for keeping us honest. If writing is about providing enough detail to sustain interest and leaving enough in the way of gaps for readers to fill in with their active imaginations, then beta reading helps ensure balance. Whatever grand plan we have for the Next Amazing Novel, if we’re losing our audience on the level of readability, none of our intelligence matters, nor the innovative characters, fresh word choice, nor witty banter between characters. Beta reading can tell us if the protagonist is likeable enough, even the flawed protagonist with an Achilles heel the size of Atlanta. Outside readers, at specific points in the revision process, can give us a 30,000-foot reaction to our work.

Framing what we need from them as writers of not-yet-completed manuscripts helps readers give us targeted feedback. I ask beta readers a series of questions that are of particular concern to me, but other authors may have their own preferences for these:

•    Was it interesting? Did you like the voice, the characters, the plot?

•    Does it slow down or move too fast?

•    Did any part of it kick you out of the book—awkward language, a scene you didn’t like, a character who wasn’t believable?

•    Did it have you on the edge of your seat at any point? Did you care about anyone in particular in the story?

•    Did it start fast enough? Did you like the ending, and if so/not, why/why not? Did it resolve enough details in the story for you?

•    Did it ever sound preachy?

•    Did it remind you of anything else you read, and if so, did it live up to that other book?

•    What would you tell me to work on and improve?

Reviews can be framed in any number of ways, but I use a question format because I find that they open up discussion rather than close down what kind of feedback beta readers can provide. They also hint at the writer’s priorities—it’s okay to know one’s strengths and weaknesses, writers—and where one thinks they could use the most help. Beta readers are happy to get a chance to roll these diamonds in the rough between their fingers, but they’re also combing through manuscripts because they’re interested in giving useful advice and responses. Helping readers hone in on what aspects of feedback to provide will help them have a good experience, and get writers the best content in response.

Other things to remember:

•    Give beta readers a reminder, about a week beforehand, when you’ll be sending out the manuscript for review. Don’t get fancy with the font or styles—keep it easy to read and in a format everyone is familiar with.

•    Keep a long window—like a month or so—for them to get back with their feedback. Life happens, and people are busy. Don’t expect to hear back in five hours or a week.

•    Don’t pester them while they’re reading. First, it’s annoying, and second, you don’t want to negatively bias your readers. Also remember that reading to give advice is a slower process than just reading, so they need more time than usual.

•    Thank the beta readers profusely for their time and attention. It’s a great service they’re providing.

Beta readers will likely come back with different, sometimes conflicting advice. If that’s the case, check out this post of mine for filtering through all of the responses.

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5759590Everett Maroon is a memoirist, pop culture commentator, and speculative fiction writer. His first book, Bumbling into Body Hair (Booktrope Editions), is a “comical memoir about a klutz’s sex change” and was a finalist in the 2010 PNWA literary contest for memoir. Everett has written for Bitch Magazine, GayYA.org, RH RealityCheck, Original Plumbing, and Remedy Quarterly. He has had short stories published by SPLIT Quarterly and Twisted Dreams Magazine, and has a short story, “Cursed” in The Collection: Short Fiction from the Transgender Vanguard, from Topside Press. You can find him at trans/plant/portation.

 

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Weekly Writing Workout: Three Ring Circus Part Three – MUST

My post is a bit late this week, mostly because in British Columbia we were celebrating our new holiday: Family Day! Where the Family Day bunny comes down the chimney to hand out turkey wishbones to all the good kids, and we have a walnut cake eating contest. The first one done wins the golden carrot. (Okay, so we’re still working out the mythology around this one, give us a few years.)

In truth we just ate a lot of sweets, drank a lot of wine, and played games.

Onward… to MUST

A few years ago, I was working on a concept for a screenplay: a single hippie mom living out of her van for 15 years with her son decides to try to settle into the “normal” world.

It was really only half a concept, because I had no stakes for her yet. I needed to figure out what she MUST DO OR ELSE.

If you think about it, the entire Harry Potter series can be reduced to this: Harry Potter, a young wizard, must defeat Voldemort, an evil wizard, before he takes over the world. This must might not be so prevalent in the first book, but as it becomes exceedingly clear that if Harry doesn’t defeat him, he and all the people he loves will die. This is the basis for the entire series.

MUST is a great way to discover your story, whether it’s an epic fantasy or an indie dramedy screenplay. It’s HOW I found the basic plot for The Van Goes. I asked myself what was at stake for Shasta (the nomadic hippie mom). I started with – what’s the WORST thing that could happen to her?

Answer: She could lose her son. Not literally, but she could lose her relationship with him, and in this story, those were big enough stakes. 

So, I thought, what if she actually DOESN’T WANT to settle down? What if she wants to keep living nomadically from commune to commune, but HER SON wants to leave the road. He’s discovered computers and masturbation and wants access to technology and privacy. And what if they get in a big fight over this?

The result of this line of thinking: Shasta MUST figure out how to live a “normal and settled” life or else risk losing her relationship with her son.

by Gizem Vural

by Gizem Vural

YOUR WORKOUT:

1) SET YOUR TIMER for 7-10 minutes.

Start with the line: If my Character doesn’t act, she is in danger of losing the confidence/trust/loyalty of . . .

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

2) SET YOUR TIMER for 10-12 minutes.

Start with the line: My Character fears what she must do because . . .

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

3) SET YOUR TIMER for 15-20 minutes.

Start with the line: My Character must do this thing or else . . .

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

And have a great (rest of your) week!

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If you are a blogger who would like to post your own weekly workout exercise with me every Monday, please write to info (at) danikadinsmore.com

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Weekly Writing Workout: Three Ring Circus Part Two – NEED

Quick post today because I have a FULL week ahead. As a matter of fact… I have a full few months ahead of me as I make my way toward the launch of BOOK THREE of my Faerie Tales from the White Forest series on April 15. Can I get a squee?

And from today until April 3, you can enter to win your very own print copy. CLICK the IMAGE below for the GoodReads Book Three Givaway Page:

Ondelle-ARC-cover-web

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Last week I talked about the three ring circus that is my head and gave a character exercise around WANT. Want is pretty easy to figure out because it’s the exterior goal. He wants the girl (or boy), she wants the grail (or tiara), the Detective wants to solve the murder, the Clown wants to perform for Cirque du Soleil.

Want marks the plot of the story, the trajectory the protag (or other character) takes to get this thing. But NEED marks the inner journey. It’s what the protagonist has to realize or face in order to become a better person, to become the person he or she is meant to be. And generally, we want our protags to emerge as better people (or faeries or dragons or giants)

In the movie Gattaca, a character driven near-future sic fi with Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, Hawke’s character  is a “genetically inferior man” who assumes the identity of a superior one (Jude Law) in order to pursue his childhood dream of going into space. That’s what he wants… but what he really NEEDS, what has been eating at him his entire life, is to confront his older brother and prove to himself that he is not inferior. It’s a great story about perseverance, about not letting other people’s views of who you are get in your way.

And as an audience, I don’t think we’d be completely satisfied without that moment. It’s a fist pump “yeah!” moment.

YOUR WORKOUT

1) SET YOUR TIMER for 7-10 minutes.

Start with the line: The inner block my character has, that is getting in his way of being all he can be, is …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

2) SET YOUR TIMER for 10-12 minutes.

Start with the line: If he confronted/faced/addressed this block then…

3) SET YOUR TIMER for 12-15 minutes.

There should be a moment where what your character wants is in conflict with what he needs. Perhaps addressing this need will get him into trouble. In Gattaca it’s when the MC challenges his brother to a swim in the ocean. He could die, they could both die, but he’s going to friggin’ prove himself.

Start with the line:  The moment when my character reaches a threshold, on the other side of which his better self lies, happens when…

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

And have a great week!

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If you are a blogger who would like to post your own weekly workout exercise with me every Monday, please write to info (at) danikadinsmore.com

 

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Weekly Workout: Three Ring Circus Part One – WANT

The other day I was having trouble focusing my thoughts enough to prioritize my day. There was the yoga routine I had been neglecting, the Book Three Lexicon to get to my copy editor, the paperwork to be filled out and mailed so I could stay in Canada, the book launch plans to, well, plan… I equated my mind to a Three-Ring Circus. Too many things calling for my attention all at once.

This made me think about how complex we are, how things we want (I want to be in good physical shape, I want to have a successful book launch party) and things we must do (I must fill out this paperwork or I’ll get booted out of Canada) and things we need (I need to create balance in my life) pull our heads and hearts in various directions, how we can get blocked when there are strong emotions around any of these things.

Today at Three Ring Circus Central I thought we’d deal with the idea of WANT.

What your character WANTS in the outside world is generally in conflict with what she needs. (And with what other people want.) When I speak of “need” in character development, I’m speaking of something the character may not even realize she needs, or something she denies she needs. It’s at the crux of her character arc. It’s the obstacle she needs to find and/or change in her internal world. In the end, it’s what we want for her. (i.e. she thinks she WANTS to become VP of the company, but what she really needs is be more vulnerable with her loved ones)

Sometimes characters get what they need instead of what they thought they wanted, sometimes they get both (they win the race AND they become a better person). Unless it’s a tragedy. It’s sad and frustrating as a reader if our character doesn’t get what she needs.

I am currently reading The Floating Islands by Rachel Neumeier. One of the two protagonists is a young girl in a land where young girls of certain status have no independence. They are not allowed to go to town without a male escort, let alone have a job of any kind. What the character says she really WANTS is to be a chef. But she knows this is impossible because she’s a girl. In facing the obstacles around this, we’ll find out what she really needs.

I have yet to figure that out. There is another force at work in the story that has not completely revealed itself. But it’s snaking its way in enough to keep me intrigued. She is currently resisting this mysterious force, and I know her wants and needs will eventually collide.

YOUR WORKOUT

1) SET YOUR TIMER for 7-10 minutes.

Start with the line: At the beginning of my story, my character dreams / schemes of…

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

2) SET YOUR TIMER for 10-12 minutes.

Start with the line: Directly in the way of what my character wants is…

3) SET YOUR TIMER for 12-15 minutes.

There should be a moment where your character does not believe she will get what she wants (whether she gets it in the end or not).

For this section, start with the line: The moment she realizes she might not get what she wants happens when…

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

And have a great week!

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If you are a blogger who would like to post your own weekly workout exercise with me every Monday, please write to info (at) danikadinsmore.com

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Weekly Writing Workout: Unconfrontable, That’s What You Are

I love to make lists. I’m kind of a compulsive list maker. One kind I make is a list of “unconfrontables.” How do things get on this list? Easy, by not doing them. If I don’t do them long enough, they are labeled “unconfrontable.”

If there is anything I have been avoiding, putting off, sitting around waiting to be fixed, mended, or in some other way taken care of, it goes on the list. Some items are easy, like sewing all the buttons on my pile of things that have lost buttons. Some are daunting tasks, like doing my taxes (an annual unconfrontable for me). Every once in a while I re-evaluate my list to see if I still care about each item. If I confirm that yes, this is something I want done (or needs to be done) and I am not any closer to doing it, it stays on my list. Sometimes I purge things from the list because a) they are no longer relevant, b) I don’t care any more, c) I’m obviously committed to not doing it.

(Eventually I do address the things on the list. Sometimes I have to prioritize them. Other times I do one a day until they are done. At the end of one year a few years ago, I went on an “unconfrontable” binge.)

Once in a while, something gets on the list that isn’t as tangible as buttons or tax paperwork. It’s a conversation that I’ve been avoiding that has possibly fermented into feelings of resentment. Could be talking to someone about quitting a gig or having a long-overdue talk with a loved one. Whatever it is, the way I play it out in my head is never how it actually happens. Darn people for not reading from my script.

Much of the time, though, doing the “unconfrontable” item takes much less time or is less dramatic than my head has made it out to be. And getting through a conversation that has been put off for days, weeks, even months is always a great relief. (But not always good for story conflict.)

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by Rashin Kheiriyeh

What does your character’s “unconfrontable” list look like?
What conversation has your character been avoiding?
What is s/he afraid of?

YOUR WORKOUT

1) SET YOUR TIMER for 7-10 minutes.

Start with the line: My Character has been avoiding __________ because …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

2) SET YOUR TIMER for 10-12 minutes.

Start with the line: My character’s resentment (or anger) looks like …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

3) SET YOUR TIMER for 15-20 minutes.

Write a SCENE in which your character finally CONFRONTS this unconfrontable situation/person. Please don’t make it easy for him/her! Make your character sweat, worry, fret, try to manipulate the situation in their favour, fail miserable, try another tactic, etc.

As usual, don’t have him/her say exactly what he/she means (i.e. don’t be “on the nose” about it). HAVE YOUR CHARACTER ACT FROM THAT SPACE. Question, misdirect, accuse, or something else..

Start with the line: As Character X approaches Character Y …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

And have a great week!

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If you are a blogger who would like to post your own weekly workout exercise with me every Monday, please write to info (at) danikadinsmore.com

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