Five Things Every Writer Should Know About Instagram.

I like to call Instagram the Twitter of pictures.

For those of you who don’t know, Instagram is a picture heavy social media site. It also hosts videos as well. Probably in competition to TikTok and YouTube, but personally, I like it just for pictures.

Instagram is one of my favourite social media platforms. I post so many different types of photos, from personal to business and connect with others who do the same, but it’s my favourite because I don’t have to think of something clever to say, like I try to do on Twitter. With Instagram, I can throw up a picture and leave it at that, and honestly, it’s one of the simplest platforms to use, and like all platforms there are good and bad sides to it, so here are 5 things you need to know about Instagram.

  1. Picture heavy. As a writer, you want to reach as many people as possible and that means you have to expand your audience to include non-writing people as well, and Instagram is a good place to start. I think of it as another way to be creative. You can post pictures of themes that run through your story, maybe of actors or places that you used for character and story inspiration. I sometimes post snippets of my works-in-progress. A visual excerpt of the actual word file.
  • You can link to other platforms. Instagram is owned by Facebook (or do we call them Meta now?), but that doesn’t mean that you’re limited to what you can connect to. Facebook -yes, Twitter – yes, Tumblr – yes, and I have it connected to my WordPress blog, so pictures come up in a side bar. Connecting one social media platform to another an greatly expands the range of your audience and you may pick up a follower or two.
  • Limitation on what you can do with pictures. Apart from a few filters, Instagram doesn’t have a lot of options to fancy up your photos, BUT, you can upload pictures from your computer, so if you do something fancy in whatever paint program you have, you can easily share it.
  • Can use hashtags just like with Twitter. The whole purpose of having social media accounts is to connect with others, and it’s much easier when you use hashtags. You can even follow certain hashtag topics, so anyone who uses ones you’re following, will pop up in your stream, and vice-versa.
  • Very user friendly. After Twitter and a blog, I would suggest (once you feel comfortable) having an Instagram account. Want to post a picture? Click on the icon of a box with a (+) sign, and it will either open a box (on your computer) to drag a photo, or, on your phone it will have all pictures that is in your gallery, and you just pick the one you want. You can do multiple pictures as well by clicking the double screen icon on the bottom right-hand corner.

Instagram has been around for almost twelve years and there isn’t a business site that doesn’t have an account. It’s fun, simple to use, but it can be a time suck as well. There are so many creative ways a writer can use the platform to promote themselves and their work. I’ve mentioned a few in this post, but if you think of others, I’d love to hear it. I’m always looking for a good idea for a picture.

Of Writers and Prose: When obsession is incomplete.

For years, I was obsessed with acquiring a literary agent. I thought it was the only way to become a published author, but shortly after I sent out my first short story, self-publishing became a thing, so I went with it. In the years that followed, my drive to acquire an agent has waned, but the idea did not.

This whole agent thing, it pokes at me, especially when online events happen. It’s almost as though I need this assertion that my writing is good and the only way that can happen is by landing an agent. I know that’s not true, but it’s this little chunk of doubt that persists, and if I don’t act on it every now and then, it festers and becomes toxic.

I’ve written three books that have been turned down. One I eventually put out myself and the other two (which includes my most recent novel) I will probably do the same. I truly thought I had something with my magical realism novel, even got a nibble, but in the end, it wasn’t meant to be, and I must face facts that agents can’t connect to what I write. Am I sad? Maybe a little, but the biggest problem I face now, is accepting this and moving forward.

A small part of the reason I haven’t put out any books over thee last seven years is because I hung on to this idea of having an agent. I’ve worked on other projects, but in the back of my mind, the notion that none of these were any good depleted my love for the project to a point that I had convinced myself that a better idea would come along, and I would put all my energy into that project.

I wrote five novels in the last six years; Down Finnegan’s Hollow, The Possession of Mercy Moreau, two zombie novels, and my magical realism, plus I started umpteen others, but it wasn’t until Eva and Skye that I felt I *had* something and threw my energy back into writing, solely on the hopes that THIS would fulfil an agents wish. Now that it hasn’t, how do I break this obsession? How do I stop lingering over a dream and just start writing for me again?   

Oddly enough, while writing out the first draft of this post, Hubby and I went out for breakfast, and a crow flew across the street in front of us. When I looked up what that meant (because I am superstitious), the information on the web site coincided with what I was writing about.

            The crow is trying to bring attention to unhealthy behaviors that are holding you back. The crow is literally trying to stop your tracks to metaphorically give attention to self-sabotaging behavior that is holding you back. It could also mean that big changes are about to happen in your life, but they will lead to long-term happiness and success. 

So where do I begin? How do I break this mindset? I’m not sure, but this last story is strike three and I’m not going to try again. I love all the stories I’ve written, and plan on publishing them. I’m not sure when, but you will be seeing them in the future.

Hopefully.

Wish me luck.

Five Things Every Writer Should Know About . . . Facebook.

When I thought up this series last year, I had a love hate relationship with Facebook, but over the last little while, between what’s happened with them in the last few months, to the fact that it really doesn’t help writers other than provide a time suck, I no longer suggest Facebook for authors, but it’s still worth a look so here are Five Things Every Writer Should Know About Facebook.

1 – Facebook is a time suck. Unfamiliar with that term? It just means you can waste hours scrolling through posts of your friend’s cat pictures, silly game promos, and the never-ending barrage of meme posts. Facebook, like all other social media platforms, does NOT sell books, and quite frankly, there’s nothing you can do on it that you can’t do on the others. The ONLY reason I’m still on it is because of the friends I’ve made.

2. Facebook does not sell books. There have been numerous posts regarding their paid post promos, but I haven’t heard anything good. Only that they got the author’s money, and the author didn’t get anything in return. I had an author page and was constantly bombarded with requests from Facebook to promote my latest post for a few dollars. I never fell for it because the information I saw from other authors who did, didn’t impress me.

3. Algorithms – Facebook’s algorithms are notorious – good and bad, but it’s the same with any program that uses them. You just have to understand how they work. It takes some time, but you can manipulate them to show you what you want, but you must be vigilant about it. One slip and you can go spiraling down a rabbit hole.   

4. Keeps you connected – the ONLY reason I still have Facebook, is to keep connected with friends. That’s it. I don’t use it for anything else. I had an author page, but I would forget to update it, or my posts weren’t being seen by the amount of people it claimed were following. This is where they make you pay to get your posts ‘seen’ in more places. Personally, if they would just put it up in the feeds of people who followed it, I’d have no problem.

5. Groups: Facebook groups are another plus for this platform. There are groups for just about everything, and it comes with it’s only good/bad points. Social media is about connection and connecting, and at the beginning of its life, Facebook was great at that, but somewhere in the last decade it’s descended into becoming one of Dante’s levels of hell. Which is sad because connection is a cornerstone for authors to sell books.

Facebook groups and connecting with friends is about the only good thing about this program, and I may just write a post on it.

Is there anything you’d like to add to this list? Some aspect about Facebook (good or bad) that I’ve left out?

Of Writers and Prose: Ten years as a published writer.

September marked a full decade that I have been published. So much has changed in the last ten years, and yet a lot has not.

I self-published The Watchtower in September of 2011 because it was too short of a story for agents or publishers. I knew that from the beginning, and I thought it would be an interesting experience to do it all myself. Self-publishing was still quite new and there were a bunch of us who decided not to go the Trad route. It felt oddly liberating to be a part of such a big change in the industry. Authors did well, some even made enough that they could write full time. Maybe that was the lure, but it seemed as though over-night the self-publishing world exploded, and everyone was publishing books.

I put out six books in five years. I experimented with paperback and distribution channels. I have publishing accounts with three different places so I could cover the most ground, and I NEVER, NOT ONCE, put all my books solely in one place. I’ve never seen it as a smart move. Why limit yourself to one market? Yes, I know there’s a Kindle app for Android, but why not just put your book in as many different places as you can? Especially when it’s free to do so?

I experimented with promotions and advertising. I remember when anyone could get into BookBub, but now you have to offer your first born to get a spot. There was the ‘first book in a series for free’ craze, bundle craze, blog hops, rafflcopter, just to name a few. There were a few nefarious schemes like ‘I’ll give you a good review if you give my book a good review’, and downright nasty practices by authors who would get their followers to gang up on another author. It’s the main reason why I don’t go onto Goodreads anymore.

I saw Traditional Publishers scoff at ebooks, then embrace them. Articles about how print books were dying off, then coming back, then dying off again. Same articles were written for ebooks as well. Ten years ago, there were the Big Five publishing houses – Random House, Penguin, Harper Collins, Simon and Shuster, Hatchet, and Macmillan. There were few indie publishers’ and self-publishing was seen by many as ‘vanity’. There are a lot more indie publishers now, many geared toward specific genres, which makes it easier for reads and authors alike to find their audience, and self-publishing is seen as a legitimate career path.

A cottage industry has blossomed around publishing. There are so many editors offering their service, graphic designers doing cover art, and with audio books, voice actors are lending their talent to the author. With an influx of hopeful authors and the possibility of making good money, there were a lot of book scams too. A few scammers would create ebooks so when you got to a certain page (usually the second or third page) it would jump to the end and count as read. These and other scams took a lot of potential money away from real authors, and that’s when I decided to step back for a while.

This is where I am now. Six years after my last release and I feel the need to put something new out. I keep talking about my novels, but I never seem to really do anything with them. I believe it’s time to change that.

Five Things Every Writer Should Know About Twitter.

This post might seem generic or even obvious, but I feel it’s good to remind people just what this platform can do, and try to make it less intimidating. One of the fastest, and most prolific forms of online communication, Twitter came onto the social media scene in 2006, but it wasn’t until 2010 that it exploded. Since then, it has become one of the main ways people get a lot their information—good and bad, and a wonderful way for authors to connect with readers and other authors.

If I had to list in order, the platforms authors should be on, Twitter would be second (a blog being first). Because it’s written, it’s the next logical step for any author who wants to build their online presence, and agents along with publishers are looking for a strong presence, but it can be contentious as well. It’s a good way to expand your author platform: For the new writer, Twitter is the first step into a very large pond. With the majority of posts in real-time, you can get an almost instant feel for the publishing world through this medium. Agents, authors and publishing houses post daily and the best thing, you can interact with them. With all the pros and cons of the platform I’ve put together things every writer should know.

1. Automated Tweets: This is a must for writers when you’re promoting your work. It’s great for when you’re at work or reaching an audience that is awake when you’re asleep. Consistency is everything and automated tweets can help.

2. It’s a simple to use: Sign up, and start tweeting. That’s it. There is a Twitter phone app that allows you to post from anywhere you are. A great thing if you want to give short updates from conventions.

3. Hashtags: Connecting to hashtags allows authors to pinpoint their audience to understand what it is that they’re looking for. Every genre has it’s own hashtag and with apps like Tweetdeck, you can follow as many as you want.

4. Can connect to other social media platforms: Along with automated tweets, being able to connect all your platforms is a time saver. Twitter can connect to most blog programs, allowing your followers to discover another side of you.

5. It’s addictive: Like all social media, you can lose track of time. Not a good thing to be doing if you have other things to do. Some people set aside a certain amount of time to scroll, which is a good idea, especially if you’re at work.

What are some things you like/dislike about Twitter, or is there anything I should add?

Of Writers and Prose: Writing fads come and go, but a good story lasts forever.

The popularity of some genre’s come and go like the ebb and flow of tides. One year vampires are all the rage, and then something else comes along and knocks them by the wayside—but only for a short time, because everyone knows that vampires are immortal, and so is the genre. There’s just one problem; you don’t have a vampire novel to publish, and therefore miss out on the popularity and sales.

Welcome to writing fads, and there’s a few problems. One is having characters exactly like the characters of other stories. Some tropes are a necessity of the genre, but you can always tweak those to make them an original creation. What is it about your characters that make them stand out from others in the same genre? What quirk about them could you explore or enhance? Do they have an interesting habit, good or bad? Small things like this can create interesting plots that could set your story apart from the others, and still be part of the genre.

Fads are something that come up rather quickly, one reason why they’re not really popular with Traditional publishers. Putting a book out with them can take months, even several years, and by the time your vampire story is ready, the moment has most likey passed. Self-publishers have a better chance with fad books, especially if you’re a prolific writer. Just remember, a bad book stays in the mind of readers just as much as a good one.

Writing to fads can be frustrating especially when you miss the current wave, or the market is already saturated, but these trends come in cycles and will return again and again, so don’t give up. Write that vampire, werewolf, or zombie novel, because the trend will return and when it does, you’ll be right there, ready to unleaseh your story on the world.

Five Things Every Writer Should Know About Blogging.

One of the first forms of social media, the blog has been a staple in social media process for nearly twenty years. You can read a short history of blogging HERE, and while articles pop up every few years or so on how blogging is dead, it really isn’t. The fact that many of the originals are still around is testimony to that, and I doubt very much that it’ll go away any time soon. Why? Because blogging is one of the easiest forms of social media, and with this in mind, here are five things every writer should know.

  1. Think outside the blog.

Blogging is a good way to connect with readers, expecially when you write about things OTHER than your work. Readers want a way to connect, either through shared experience, hobbies or lifestyle. Give that to them. You can go into as much detail as you want, but show them that there’s more to you than just a book.

  1. You don’t have to write out long, drawn-out posts.

The goal of every blogger is to have followers return again and again, and one of those ways is to keep the posts short. Several years ago I read an article that stated the average blog post should be around three hundred words, but that can be too short. I aim for anyting between 300 – 500 (FYI, this post is 498). That’s a good length, especially if you’re struggling to find something to write about. There’s nothing wrong with posts being longer, but short, inciteful post were found to be more popular.

  1. Being consistent is key, but don’t over burden yourself.

Keeping to a schule can be difficult, even with experienced bloggers. There are going to be days when you don’t feel like it, or can’t really think of anything to say. When this happens, take some time for yourself. Write fewer posts or take a break altogether. Creative burnout is a real thing and it can carry over to all aspects of your writing.

  1. Blogs are a good way to promote yourself and your books.

Look over other writer’s blog sites and you’ll see links to their work, or information on upcoming work. A blog is one of the few places that a writer can go into detail about their work to a captive audience. After all, they want to know about your books, otherwise they wouldn’t be clicking on your blog.

  1. Connect your blog to other social media to increase your message.

This is one of the easiest ways to maximise your reach. With many social media sites you can save time by connecting them together. Instagram can connect to Twitter and Facebook. TicTok can connect to Instagram and Twitter, and reaching more people with interesting content will draw more people to the places where you’re selling your books.

There you have it, 5 things every writer should know about blogs.

Of Writers and Prose: To swear or not to swear.

Like most people, the odd swear word escapes my mouth every now and then. Okay, who are we kidding, I swear on a daily basis, it’s just a natural thing for me, which is probably why most of my stories have it in them as well. For me, I feel that swearing is a part of a character’s personality, but to what degree and intensity is based on the personality traits of the individual character.

Swearing in stories shouldn’t be about creating shock value, there are other ways to accomplish that, but it should be consistent with your character’s persona. I realized this as I wrote the first draft of my magical realism story. It takes place in the 80’s, and back then, everyone around me swore to some degree, so I included it in the story.

It’s a given that the majority of the populations swears, but whether or not people want to read it in a story is another matter.

Swearing used to denote low intellegence or someone whom society deems an outcast, or someone with criminal or nafarious intentions, but that’s not always the case today. Swearing can be seen as an emotional outlet; a way for your charaacter to release anger or frustration, which begs the question, what happened to make your character so emotional that it caused the strong outburst?

Another view of character swearing; social interactions. Teens swear. Maybe you weren’t one of those when you were younger, but the majority of them do, and teen dialogue in your story can reflect that as much as you want, again, as long as the amount of swearing is consistent with the personality of your character.

As for adult swearing, you can be a little more sophisticated with them. Most adults tend to swear in a more private or intimate situations, as opposed to teens who can lack any descretion and swear anywhere they want. I find most adults swear out of frustration or anger and are less to use such words as an insult. Sometimes, it’s more of a habit than anything else, and the shock value of swearing decreases with age.

Whether or not you choose to put swear words in your dialogue is up to you, but if you’re going for realistic, it’s my feeling that you should have some. It doesn’t have to be the really ‘bad’ words, and if you’re not sure of how to go about it, listen to the flow of real conversations. More often than not, real-life examples will give you examples that you want to imitate.

Are NTF’s the Future of Ebooks?

I came across the acronym a few months back and had NO IDEA what it meant. When I did some research, the idea that this could be put to use for ebooks sparked a great blog post, but when I did more research, I found Huge Howey’s post on the exact same thing, and to be honest, his post makes it easier to understand not only what a NFT is, but how it can be used for creative compositions, and not just for ebooks. Go have a read.

https://hughhowey.com/nfts-for-authors/

The thing I like about his version is this, not only is it difficult for pirates to copy and profit, but if the book is sold to a third party, everyone in the chain of creating this ebook profits. I liken it to residuals actors/directors get from syndication of tv shows and movies. As Hugh points out, it’s not a lot, but at least it’s something.

On the down side, NFT’s are like Cryptocurrency and take a lot of energy to create. Considering how environmentally unfriendly bitcoin production can be, I’m not sure how sustainable this really is. Publisher’s Weekly did an article on it as well, and it brings some doubt as to whether this is just a fad or an investment.

https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/digital/content-and-e-books/article/86104-could-nfts-work-in-publishing.html

I am ALL FOR any way that keeps illegal downloads from taking money from the creator, but not at the expense of the environment, therefore, I am on the fence about this.

Read the articles. What do you think?

Five things Every Writer Should Know: Social Media.

I want to continue with the discussion from a few Mondays ago about social media.

The ‘experts’ state writers are to spend a certain amount of time blogging, tweeting and Facebooking about our book(s), and that it has to be ‘organic’, especially when it comes to Twitter. Problem is, the majority of writers have other things to do during the day, myself included. Goals like this can be a little hard to obtain, but it can be accomplished if you have a solid understanding of exactly what social media is.

Social media is the umbrella term used for online programs that connect people. World-wide there are roughly 15 or so popular platforms (depending on region), that encompass three forms of media; print, video, and picture. While many writers think social media is a pain, it is a necessary evil for this industry, but it can go a little easier if you understand a few things.

So here we go; five things writers should know about social media.

  1. It doesn’t have to be time consuming. 

Did you know you can schedule your posts on a majority of platforms? Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook have options that allow you to schedule, which means you can write out a pile of posts to schedule, which allows you to be consistent with your activity. This is a wonderful tool for writers and should be used all the time and takes some pressure off.

  • Post don’t have to be long. 

 I read an article years ago which stated that the perfect blog post length is around three-hundred words. This is mainly for blog posts, as Twitter already has a character limit. The shorter post are easier on the reader, who may subscribe to dozens of blogs and only a short time to read through them all. I keep mine between three to five hundred words (this one ended up being close to 700) depending on the topic, but it’s a good thought to keep in mind for other platforms as well. I consider short posts a lesson in creativity. Trying to convey what you want to say in as few as possible is a skill on its own.

  • Only do the platforms that you are comfortable with.

There are at least a dozen social media sites on the internet and each has its pros and cons, so do some research before you make an account. What is it you want to do? What kind of content do you want to create? More importantly, how much time are you willing to put into it. Video platforms are time consuming and require a modest amount of money for equipment or programs, while blogging sites are the easiest and require very little in the way of creating content other than writing.

  • There are rules.

Yes, whether you like it or not, there are etiquette rules for social media. Remember, just because you delete something online, doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. Think about what you want the world to see. The link below will take you to a site that can explain it better than I ever can.  

https://www.moneycrashers.com/social-media-etiquette-tips-personal-business/

  • Have fun!

I can’t stress this point hard enough. More than once I’ve stopped doing something online because it became more of a chore than something I looked forward to doing. Hence the reason I haven’t blogged a lot in the last few years. All these platforms are great to connect to people, but they do require some of your time to maintain. You have to want to do it, and have fun while you’re doing it. If it starts to lose it’s appeal or you just don’t feel like doing it anymore, that’s fine. Give yourself a break from it. As a writer, social media is important. Authors need a way to get the word out about new releases, and these platforms are the only way to do it, especially for new writers. This is why I suggested in #3 to only work with a few to start with.

There you have it; five things every writer should know about social media. Join me next week when I take a deeper look at blogs.

Have fun, and stay safe.

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