Posts Tagged ‘ blogging ’

Stupid Questions with LJ Idol’s Gary Dreslinski

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

LJ Idol sign-up banner

For several years now, I’ve been participating in an online writing contest called The Real LJ Idol that is the creative equivalent of the Olympics plus the Iditarod. While I’ve never placed higher than 5th in the competition (and that on my first year competing), I have made countless connections with wonderfully talented, creative and generous writers. I would also say that some of my best work from the past several years has come from responding to the LJ Idol prompts.

This is sign-up week for Season 9, which founder Gary Dreslinski has announced will be the final season. What are you waiting for? Hop on over to the main page, read the LJ Idol FAQ and cast your hat into the ring! The more cannon fodder participants the better!

A couple other people have published serious interviews with Gary in the run-up to Season 9, so I thought I’d just have a little fun. Following in the footsteps of Entertainment Weekly, here are some stupid questions with LJ founder Gary Dreslinski.

When it comes to LJ Idol strategy, which American Idol finalist would be best to imitate: Sanjay Malakar, Adam Lambert or Candice Glover? Please answer in the style of an American Idol judge (past or present) of your choosing.

(as Harry Connick Jr)

I think the critical error of this question is assuming that I’ve watched every season of American Idol. You really need to work on your basics here: the lead-off question is what gets people into an article and can help establish a really one-on-one emotional connection with your reader. There were a few that I missed. Including Adam Lambert and Candice Glover’s seasons. I did see Sanjay’s however, and was following “Vote for the Worst” in their campaign to get him there. So I’d definitely say that no one should attempt to imitate him.

Given that Candice’s album had the worst debut in American Idol history, I would have to go with telling people they should emulate Adam Lambert. He’s probably seen Keith Urban naked!

(as Paula Abdul)

Wha? Is this thing on? *falls down drunk*

Some have said that LJ Idol could be better compared to Survivor or even Project Runway than to American Idol.

I think Project Runway and Top Chef are probably the best comparisons, although the voting is very much modeled after American Idol.

To what non-reality show or shows would you compare LJ Idol? Why?

Game of Thrones. Many people are going to die trying to seize power.

Have you ever dreamt up a plot twist for LJ Idol that was too evil to use? Discuss.

Mass eliminations in Week 1. I’ve had that on my “to do” list since Season 3. I’ve never ended up pulling the trigger on it, because when it comes right down to it, I want people to have a fair shot.

How would life be better if everybody participated in LJ Idol?

They would lead richer, happier lives — full of laughter and mirth. Money would rain from the skies. Poverty and hatred would be completely eliminated as all of humanity put their collective beings into being the best Idolers.

What question should I have asked you but didn’t?

What has it got in its pocketses?

How to Build an Author Platform in 30 Minutes a Day

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

I tried Grammarly’s plagiarism checker free of charge because my cat thought I was ripping off his diction. Can has verb disagreement now?


Recently, an old friend, who’s a fiction author, asked for advice on how to build up his name as an author in advance of sending a fiction collection around to publishers. On a related note, I received a Facebook message from a Philadelphia-area author, asking a similar question. In the writing business, we call that building your author’s platform: in other words, building up a network of potential readers, as well as building up a sense of who you are as an author.

While I have a lot of potential growing yet to do, I’ve been actively working on building my author’s platform for a couple years now. As regular readers know, I am also a work-at-home mom, which means I have to work my writing and career-building efforts into a day already packed with child care and housework. If you follow the advice in this post, you can begin building an author’s platform in 30 minutes or less a day.

 

Planning App

Reminders can keep you on schedule. I know I find them invaluable. I use GTasks (Google Tasks), primarily through the app on my Droid phone. It has a simple, no-fuss interface and allows you to schedule recurring tasks, such as “Post blog entry” for every Wednesday.

 

Author’s Photo

Alyce Wilson with ravenTake or have someone take a decent photo of you to use for your author’s sites. Rather than just taking an Instagram selfie, opt for a camera with a timer that you can use to take a variety of shots. The best author’s photos both look professional and show something of your character. I participated in a photo shoot for a friend at Edgar Allan Poe’s Philadelphia residence. She needed to work on portraits for her photography class, and one of my favorite recent photos shows me with the statue of a raven in the background. I’m going to be seeking another photographer friend’s help soon, since I’ve lost 20 pounds since that photo was taken.


Author’s Site

If you don’t already have an author’s site, your first task should be to create one.

Alyce's Web site

Remember: a Facebook page is NOT a substitute for your own author’s site, in part because its functionality is limited and always subject to change. At minimum, an author’s site should include: a bio page that includes highlights about your writing career and relevant tidbits about you, including a contact email (you should designate one e-mail for writing correspondence, ideally one you can access readily when you’re on the move, such as with a smart phone). You can also include a page with links to your online writings and/or samples or your work (although it’s fallen out of favor to include a complete resume, for security concerns). If you have any published books for sale, include links to them.

Nowadays, it’s also important to include a blog or bulletin board, which you can update at least once a week with thoughts on your writing, personal observations, or links to interesting articles. Keep in mind that anything you post will help to form your public persona, so try to refrain from such impulsive posts as complaining about a specific reviewer, for example.

One of the best places to start an author’s site is on WordPress, which offers free hosting if you don’t already have a hosting company. You can also sign up to get your own domain (which should be either your professional name or something that connects to your writing style or genre). To do this costs only $13 a year.

I use WordPress for this blog as well as for my BelatedMommy blog and online literary magazine, Wild Violet. In addition to the large variety of templates, which allow for almost any format, I love the ability to schedule posts in advance and to incorporate plug-ins to allow readers to share posts easily or subscribe to the blog.

WordPress is the best choice for people who have some familiarity already with creating web pages and blogging. For those with fewer Web skills, check out Wix.com or Biz.nf to create a professional-looking free website. While I haven’t tried their website creator, I would also point you toward Bravesites by Bravenet.com, which offers free websites created through templates. I’ve used Bravenet’s free mailing list manager for Wild Violet for many years and have had nothing but good experiences.

Setting up your author’s site may take several days, if you stick to the 30 minutes a day goal. However, once it’s set up, you can schedule one weekly update (preferably on a weekday) that will take you 30 minutes or less to write.

 

Social Networking

So many social networking sites exist that it can be decide where you want to spend your time. Which ones should you utilize, and how can you avoid becoming overwhelmed?

Alyce's Facebook page

A Facebook page is a good idea, simply because so many people are currently on Facebook, so it can be a good way to reach people like college buddies, family members, and new fans all at once. The process of creating a page is fairly simple; just read Facebook’s guide to creating a business page. Once it’s created, remember to post something at least a week. I primarily include links to my online articles and writings, but it’s also a good idea to post polls or other interactive posts. Facebook gives your posts higher priority on people’s feeds if they have interacted with you recently.

Alyce's Twitter Page

Twitter, with its microblogging — or instant update — platform, can be a valuable tool for connecting with writers, publishers, magazines, and others. For this reason, it’s worth joining. Read through Twitter’s Getting Started Guide for some tips. My advice: download an app like Tweetdeck, which makes it easy to schedule tweets in advance. Spend a few minutes in the morning scheduling tweets, keeping in mind that, just like conversations should be 50/50 listening and talking, you should retweet other users’ tweets or share links to articles and other web content at least as much as you share or promote your own work (and probably more). You ever have that blind date with someone who talked nonstop about him or herself without letting you have a word to talk about yourself? Don’t be that person! Some authors even schedule a whole week’s worth of tweets in advance, scheduling at least four tweets per day, including both links to interesting articles and promotions for their own work. I’d highly recommend following @Mashable immediately and reading their many articles about social networking and Twitter.

LinkedIn can be a good way to connect with other writers on a professional basis. You can do this by searching for LinkedIn groups that connect to your writing specialty. Make sure you read through the recent posts to see if a given group really connects with your interests. The best advice for this site, or for similar networking communities, is to spend 99 percent of your time interacting with people on a personal basis. Offer feedback on writing when asked; participate in conversations; pose writing-related questions. These connections will then be far more interested in your writing endeavors than they would be if you simply jumped into a conversation and shouted out, “I have a new book out!” That would be annoying at a social function, and it’s just as inappropriate here. Here’s a guide to how to use LinkedIn effectively. Stop in at least once a week to read and comment on the groups where you’re a member. You can also post links to your writing via your LinkedIn feed using apps such as “AddThis”  plug-in, available for multiple browsers. I use it with the Google Chrome browser and love its easy functionality.

Other social networking sites that you might consider using include Tumblr, which is primarily a blogging/link sharing platform; Google Plus (Google+), which has become sort of the “anti-Facebook” and is therefore a way to connect with people who aren’t on Facebook; and Goodreads, which is a reader/writer site that  allows you to list and promote your own books, as well as share reviews of other books and participate in communities. If you are maintaining a blog, either a personal blog or an author’s blog, seek out writing communities. Remember, though, that you’ll only get out of it what you put into it: you need to both post and comment on other people’s posts if you want them to remember you. This is why it’s best to schedule some time once a week to actively read and post on your preferred networking sites.

Don’t feel that you need to join all of these sites. Spend your time on the sites where you feel the most comfortable and build connections. You can always add more sites later if you want to broaden your reach.

 

Submit Your Writing

Of course, one of the best ways to build your author’s platform is through having your work published. If you want, you can buy a membership to the excellent writing markets produced by Writer’s Digest (Writer’s Market, Poet’s Market, Novelist and Short Story Writer’s Market, for example). Keep in mind: you can write that off as a business expense on your taxes (as you can any expense related to your writing career, such as web domains or the cost of postage for submissions).

For some free markets, visit: Poets and Writers, Duotrope, Ralan.com (SF), and WritersWrite, which are among the best comprehensive free guides. You may also want to join a free mailing list or two, such as offered at FundsForWriters.com and WritingForDollars.

You might also find it useful to put a short story or a handful of poems up on Smashwords as a free ebook, which could attract new readers.

 

Summary

Building your author’s platform takes time. My best advice: remember that it’s a gradual process and that whatever small steps you take can help you build more connections and introduce your to more potential readers. In order to keep from getting overwhelmed, set just one major task for yourself each day. After you’ve gotten your site/blog set up and have joined the social networking sites you wish to join, set a timer to spend 30 minutes or less on the site(s) where you’re focusing your energy that day.

Over time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how opportunities start to come your way, thanks to the foundation you’ve built.


This post was sponsored by Grammarly.com, the automated proofreader and personal grammar coach.

 

Goodreads Author’s Blog Post

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

I’ve written a Goodreads author’s blog post about how I’ve recently found inspiration, as a writer, from reading “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” Give it a read!

“The sun is new each day.”

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

The title of this post is taken from Heraclitus, and while I am no Greek scholar, it feels appropriate. It’s amazing how much can change on the Internet in six years. My original portfolio site, launched in 2004, was cobbled together painstakingly (if amateurishly) using DreamWeaver. Today, it could look more dated only if it featured blinking images and a background loop of MIDI music.

Back then, I included a blog, “Musings,” on my site at friend’s suggestion, in order to have regularly updated content. Unsure how to embed a blog from another platform into my site, I created new pages each day (again, using DreamWeaver). In 2007, on the advice of a fellow writer, I began mirroring those entries in LiveJournal and have since attracted a following and made new contacts. My personal blog, “Through the Looking Glass,” will continue there. I’ll also include a link on this site to my earlier blog entries.

For this blog, I will address topics related to writing and editing, along with my thoughts on books and other relevant topics. I hope to occasionally entice a guest blogger to share thoughts.

You’ll also be able to view my latest tweets and to peruse (and purchase) my literary projects.

Here’s to a new day in the bright new sun of 2010.

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