So, you want to get your book noticed on social media, huh?

Screenshot: A mermaid holding jewellery while half out of the ocean
Screenshot from the Fantasy Writers Community on Google Plus

If you’ve been playing around on social media for a while and you tend to follow a lot of writers like I do, you’ll probably notice your feed filling up with book advertising.

Some of it will be blatant, some less so, but it’s still advertising, and few people want to see it.

So what’s the solution?

Consider this. My favourite social media playground is Google Plus where I run a community called Fantasy Writers. It has almost 8000 members, and it’s growing rapidly.

When I started Fantasy Writers I was trying to build a helpful and supportive community, not an advertising forum, so I banned self-promotion.

Unfortunately, the issue wasn’t so simple. People ignored the rule or found ways around it, and I spent far more time moderating the community than I wanted to.

In response I created a category and called it ‘Self-Promo Saturday’ for members to get their advertising out of their system, usable on Saturdays only.

It worked a charm. The list is clear of promotional stuff most days, while Saturdays see a deluge of it.

But guess what? The self-promotional stuff gets ignored anyway.

Why? Nobody wants to see advertising.

Even the people who advertise don’t bother to look at what everyone else is advertising and support each other.

And there’s the key.

Nobody cares about your book except you, but people do care about their friends, and friends help each other out.

So here’s the secret to promoting your book on social media:

  • comment on other people’s posts
  • interact with people on social media as you would your real life friends
  • share their stuff if you think it’s appropriate
  • crow about your book victories and achievements on occasion, but only if it’s newsworthy (like a new cover or contract).

With a little bit of luck people will care enough about you to promote your book when they see something newsworthy.

In short, show you care about others and they’ll respond in kind.

And like Forest Gump, ‘that’s all I’ve got to say about that’.

Now get on your butt and write something people will want to share because you’re so awesome!

Find out more about Fantasy Writers.

Good things come to those who persevere

Today I’ve got Justin Woolley here with some great advice on an essential skill every writer should develop. Justin puts much of his success in writing and finding a publisher for his debut novel down to that skill.

Over to you Justin…

Head and shoulders shot of Justin Woolley‘Good things come to those who wait’ might be the worst piece of advice I’ve ever heard.

But ok, while you’re waiting for good things to happen I’ll be over here mashing the keyboard like an infinite number of monkeys.

You see, there’s much advice out there on the craft of writing, some of it good, some of it not, but all of it designed to help you master the nuts and bolts of various aspects of process.

This might be novel structure or showing and not telling or developing characters or building rising conflict while cutting adverbs and killing darlings.

While all that is obviously important, I think the single most important skill a new writer can develop is not related to the craft of writing at all, at least not directly, and that skill is perseverance.

I say that because the craft of writing will come if you work at it.

Take the advice you think works for you. Chuck out what doesn’t.

You’ll hone your skills. You’ll find your voice.

But all that will only happen if you’ve got the drive to persevere.

Writing a novel is hard. Damn hard.

You’ve got to turn up, day after day, and you’ve got to get the words down.

Sometimes the cogs spin like a dream and just like all those infinite monkeys you write yourself some Hamlet.

Other days it’s like hitting your face up and down on the keyboard until your eyes are black and your nose is bloody.

That’s where perseverance comes in.

You need to persevere because you need to finish things.

So many people probably have three and a half chapters of a manuscript saved somewhere in the dingy back-waters of an old hard-drive living in a garbage can and barking indecipherable nonsense at passing files.

Unfortunately unfinished work can’t be edited (and writing is rewriting after all) and unfinished work can’t be published.

Finishing the first-draft of a novel is a significant achievement, it’s the first step toward a completed novel and ask anyone who’s done it, it took perseverance.

So, that’s all well and good you say, but how do I help myself persevere?

Well I’ve found one of the most beneficial things you can do is set yourself a daily word count goal.

Start with 500 or 1000 words, whatever you think you can accomplish in the time you have factoring in however much punishment your face can withstand.

Be realistic but don’t make it too easy either.

You want to ensure you can meet it every day but also setting a goal of six words is cheating.

Consider this little fact brought to you by the magic mathematics: if you write 500 words a day, in 180 days (six months) you will have written 90,000 words.You need to persevere because you need to finish things.

That dear friends, is a book.

Don’t underestimate the small chunks of time you can find during the day to write either.

Maybe it’s on the train to work or waiting for an appointment.

Perhaps you can only squeeze out 100 words, maybe 50, maybe only 20, but the fact that you spent that time on your writing and not staring at your phone matching coloured pieces of candy is exactly the discipline needed to persevere.

The other key reason you’re going to need perseverance is that once you’ve got that book written (and then rewritten and probably rewritten again a few times) and you finally get it out into the world you’re going to get hit with the sledgehammer of rejection, probably numerous times.

This is where you get to flex those perseverance muscles you’ve built up.

When the rejection hammer smashes your teeth in for the tenth time you head back to the dentist, get patched up and put that book out there again.

This sucks. I get that. I’ve been there.

When you’re hunting for your big break, when you’re desperate to catch that first novel sale, when you’re thinking about giving up or just slapping that sucker up on Amazon yourself, you’ve got to dig deep, take feedback on board and maybe rewrite again.

Ultimately you need to know that persevering here makes you a better writer.

This writing game is a marathon not a sprint.

For some of you my harping on about perseverance may sound a bit preachy, or you be thinking it’s not really a skill, but let me just say this, I had to learn to persevere with writing.

I really do consider it a learned skill and sure, while I obviously developed my craft, I think perseverance is what finally got me my first novel sale.

Perseverance will make your writing output higher, it will make your writing better; it will make your chances of success greater.

At the end of the day perseverance is the trait that turns aspiring authors into published authors.

Justin Woolley has been writing stories since he could first scrawl with a crayon. When he was six years old he wrote his first book, a 300-word pirate epic in unreadable handwriting called ‘The Ghost Ship’. He promptly declared that he was now an author and didn’t need to go to school. Despite being informed that this was, in fact, not the case, he continued to make things up and write them down. 

A Town Called Dust: Justin’s debut novel will be published November 13th, 2014 by Momentum Books.

In his other life Justin has been an engineer, a teacher and at one stage even a magician. His handwriting has not improved. 

You can find Justin’s website at http://www.justinwoolley.net/ or on Twitter: @Woollz.

A Town Called Dust

A Town Called DustStranded in the desert, the last of mankind is kept safe by a large border fence… Until the fence falls.

Squid is a young orphan living under the oppressive rule of his uncle in the outskirts of the Territory. Lynn is a headstrong girl with an influential father who has spent her entire life within the walled city of Alice.

When the border fence is breached, the Territory is invaded by the largest horde of undead ghouls seen in two hundred years. Squid is soon conscripted into the Diggers – the armed forces of the Territory. And after Lynn finds herself at odds with the Territory’s powerful church, she too escapes to join the Diggers.

Together Squid and Lynn form an unlikely friendship as they march to battle against the ghouls. Their journey will take them further than they ever imagined, leading them closer to discovering secrets about themselves, their world, and a conspiracy that may spell the end of the Territory as they know it.

The Dreaded Show vs. Tell – Guest post by CJ Davis

Today I’ve got CJ Davis here to talk about his Show vs Tell learning curve. Although it’s a simple concept, it takes a long time to get your head around it.

CJ Davis profile shotOne of my favorite movies of all time is the Matrix.

With the perfect combination of sci-fi, originality and action, the movie stands head and shoulders above most.

Like Neo, the main character from the Matrix who discovers he’s plugged into a virtual reality simulator, I recently had a similar awakening.

No, this awakening was not nearly as dramatic as finding out your whole life is a lie, and you are in fact facing an almost certain death by an evil robot army.

My awakening was more of the subtle kind, but for those who have gone through a similar enlightenment can attest it’s no small matter.

My editor opened my eyes to the dreaded show vs. tell rule, and my reading and writing experience has not been the same since.

The year was 2013 and the excitement of turning in my first novel to my editor had me giddy.

In my naivety, I was certain she was only going to reply with a few grammatical fixes.

Unfortunately, the email I finally received from her was foretelling of all the hard work I had in front of me.

The main focus of her critique was around the show vs. tell rule.

What the heck is show vs. tell I remember thinking.

I looked it up online, and immediately realized I had an enormous amount of work to do.

What is Show vs. Tell?

“Show, don’t tell is a technique often employed in various kinds of texts to enable the reader to experience the story through action, words, thoughts, senses, and feelings rather than through the author’s exposition, summarization, and description. The goal is not to drown the reader in heavy-handed adjectives, but rather to allow readers to interpret significant details in the text.” – Wikipedia

The show vs. tell rule is a very simple concept to understand, but difficult to do.

The most painful part of developing my craft as an author was learning how to write a scene as a “show.”

It took weeks of going back and forth with my editor on how to effectively do this.

At one point, in the early stages, she even suggested that perhaps I should get a ghost writer.

That was a low point for me.

What was very helpful for me on perfecting my show vs. tell writing abilities was working through exercises.

My editor would send me several “tell” phrases, and I would turn them into “shows”.

A couple examples of this include:

He was coming in, and she did not want him to know she’d been smoking.

She quickly grabbed the magazine, which ironically had a cigarette ad with a tough looking cowboy on the back cover, and desperately fanned the smoke out the window.

He didn’t like the coffee, but drank it to not hurt her feelings.

To avoid any ill will, he resisted the urge to make a bitter face after swallowing the mystery liquid she’d given him. It was supposed to be coffee, but he was sure the pool of water collecting on the street on the way in tasted more like coffee than what he just ingested.

After many hard months, and great coaching from my editor, the show vs. tells in my books had improved dramatically.

There is no question; the scenes are more compelling and engaging.  Here is an example from my novel, Blue Courage:

Before (Tell):

Continuing to dangle upside down from the Allosaurus’s clutching jaws; Rajiv didn’t give up. He continued to aggressively swing his blade trying to get the beast to drop him.  Every swing jostled his body and brought an almost unbearable pain to his ankle. The dinosaur appeared to be patiently waiting for his pesky prey to tire before he finished him off. Rajiv was running out of time, as he increasingly lost a lot of blood.

After (Show):

Rajiv grimaced as he felt the bones in his foot crack. Somewhere beyond the pain, he managed to pull his blade free of its sheath and tried to pierce the soft skin near the mouth of the beast. Blood poured from his wounds into his eyes. With a final shake from the beast, Rajiv’s sword flew from his hand and clattered to the ground.

Practice Makes Perfect

Much like Neo when he returns to the matrix, I see the world differently now.

When I’m reading, I see “tells” everywhere, and it always annoys me.

When I’m writing, I can spend twenty minutes on one paragraph, trying to create the perfect “show.”

Shows are inherently harder to pull off, but a necessary craft to master if you want to be a great writer.

Like almost everything in life, practice makes perfect.  Good luck.

CJ Davis is an American writer who lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife and two little girls. By day he is a marketing executive for a software company, and by night he writes novels. His artistic influences include: J.K. Rowling, Suzanne Collins, George Romero, George Lucas, Billy Corgan, Max Brooks, and of course Tolkien, Koontz and King.

 

If you got something out of CJ’s advice on ‘Show vs. Tell’, please check out his book: Blue Courage.

Battle for the Afterlife book coverDeath is just the beginning for Navy SEAL Reese Hawthorne.

After an unlikely encounter with the girl of his dreams during a rescue mission in the drug cartel filled jungles of Mexico, Reese awakens in a futuristic city in the Afterlife.

A formidable, massive wall is the only thing protecting the city from countless ferocious prehistoric beasts, and hoards of ghoulish creatures, known as Lost Souls.

On the eve of a perilous cross-country race across the Afterlife realm between the forces of good and evil, war hangs in the balance on the heals of a loose treaty created hundreds of years ago.

Armed with deadly weapons and their enhanced physical abilities, like strength, vision and quickness–the most gifted warriors, are pitted against each other.

The first side to either destroy their opponents, or reach a distant ancient temple far outside the safety of the city walls, will win an unimaginable power, and change the outcome of humanity.

Reese must do everything he can to stop the forces of evil from winning the race and enslaving every free soul in the Universe.

You can see the trailer at CJ Davis’s Amazon Author Profile (bottom right).

If you like CJ’s advice on Show vs. Tell, you might like Amanda Bridgeman’s advice: How to write a thousand words (or maybe more). 

What’s your Show vs. Tell war story? Let us know in the comment.

I’ll be teaching at Conflux!

A person giving a presentation in an auditoriumYes, you read the title right.

I’ll be teaching  a workshop at Conflux this October.

Why?

Because I’ve been lucky enough to find answers to many the questions I’ve had over the last few years in regard to story, structure and reader expectations, and I’d like to pass some of them on.

I’ve compiled as much of my research as I could into a workshop designed to benefit almost any writer, even those who already know everything (like I thought I did). ;-D

So, what’s this workshop about?

Did you ever get the feeling your story wasn’t working? Or not working well enough?

Perhaps you gave it to some beta readers and their reactions didn’t inspire confidence despite the fact they said they liked it?

I’ve had that feeling, and no matter what I changed, people weren’t reacting the way they were supposed to (i.e., by demanding the sequel).

The prose itself was tight, the characters believable, the world intensely real (at least to me), and the story amazing (I might be showing a little bias).

The point is, the story I saw in my head didn’t translate to the page, and I didn’t know how to fix that.

In short, I didn’t have a story that met readers expectations in the ways it was supposed to.

At every level of schooling I ever attended, right through to university, I was told a story needed a beginning, middle and end, but nobody told me what those parts demanded or how to go about identifying problems or areas that weren’t working.

And that’s what I intend to teach in my workshop – the elements of story – the things that nobody else will teach you because most people aren’t even aware they exist.

So if you’ve got the time, come along and take the workshop.

It’s free for Conflux members and ridiculously cheap if you’re not.

You can find more details on the Conflux website: Planning and Structuring a Novel: A Conflux workshop.

The five key elements of a successful writer, Part 5, Gratitude – Guest Post by Amanda Bridgeman

Today I have the privilege of presenting the final part of Amanda Bridgeman’s guest post on being a successful writer.

I can honestly say it’s wonderful to have Amanda here – her advice on writing is always encouraging, and her understanding of the publishing business is both insightful and grounded in experience.

Gratitude

Amanda Bridgeman sitting on a chairIn my eighteen months of being published, I have met quite a lot of people in the industry and I’m happy to say that most of these people have been awesome.

I’m the kind of person who remembers when someone has done right by me (and there have been a lot), and I also remember when they have done wrong.

I was raised to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, so it’s ingrained into me and in everything I do.

When people support me by retweeting or sharing my posts, I always make sure I say thank you and try to reciprocate with their next promo tweet/post.

I also try to pay it forward and support other authors I may not know.

One trend I’m seeing, particularly on Twitter, is that less and less people are saying thank you, and less and less people are reciprocating when you retweet/repost something of theirs.

Now, I obviously don’t expect a big-name author to say thank you or retweet something, as they tend to have thousands/millions of fans, and that is just not feasible.

BUT, when I see ‘small’ authors who are still trying to climb their way up, who don’t say thank-you or offer support in-kind, well I’m a little disappointed to be honest.

I normally give them a few chances before I decide that my time is best used in supporting someone else who will appreciate it.

So, I guess what I’m saying here is: Don’t ever take anything for granted.

The publishing industry is a small one, so don’t be rude, don’t be selfish, don’t think that you don’t need anyone else’s help.

I guarantee you that being kind and generous, being supportive, and being thankful will get you more places, faster.

If someone is taking the time to retweet/share your book news, they are helping you promote and potentially sell your book, so for god’s sake show your appreciation and say thank you!

And that doesn’t just go for supporting other authors, it applies to everyone in the industry and your readers too. Especially your readers.

Catch the rest of Amanda’s series on the five key elements of being a successful writer:

Aurora Series of covers

Born and raised in the seaside/country town of Geraldton, Western Australia, Amanda was raised her on a diet of Rocky, Rambo, Muhammad Ali and AC/DC. She studied film & television/creative writing at Murdoch University. Her debut novel Aurora:Darwin was published with Momentum in May 2013; the sequel Aurora: Pegasus was published in December 2013; and Aurora: Meridian will be released on 11 September 2014.

 Where you can find Amanda:

The five key elements of a successful writer, Part 4, Understanding – Guest Post by Amanda Bridgeman

Today Amanda Bridgeman is back with part 4 of her guest blog series on being a successful writer – understanding!

Understanding 

Amanda Bridgeman sitting on a chairReading a ‘bad’ review of your work can gut you.

All that hard work, all that heart and soul you poured into your story, dismissed within a few strokes of an angry reader’s keyboard.

But you must never respond to these reviews (even if the things they claim in the review are incorrect).

Just stop and think about the last time you read a book and thought ‘that was crap’ or ‘that was boring’ or ‘that wasn’t my cup-of-tea’.

Or what about the latest film you saw? Did you come out of the cinema and post on Twitter/Facebook ‘That ending was rubbish’.

Or did you post while watching a TV show about how unrealistic that car chase scene was? We all do it.

We all spew forth our criticisms about everything in life and generally it’s an easy thing to do because we don’t personally know the people behind what we’re criticising.

When you become a published author and are placed in the public eye, your thoughts on this will change dramatically.

At least, mine did.

When you experience first-hand public criticism, you tend to shift and adapt your own responses to things with this in mind.

I am more mindful now about ‘shooting from the hip’. I try to think about what I’m going to say publicly on Facebook, twitter, etc, before I say it.

Because I know now what it feels like to be on the receiving end, and I also know that once you say something on social media, etc, it is out there forever.

So when you have a reader/reviewer talking about your book and ‘shooting from the hip’, try to be understanding.

They don’t know you personally, they just, very honestly, didn’t like your book. And again, that’s the life of a writer.

Not everyone will like your book, just the same way that you won’t like everything that you read.

Aurora Meridian cover artIt is fundamental that you understand and accept this.

It is also fundamental that you don’t focus on the negative too much. You must focus your efforts on those that DO love your work.

After all, these are the people you write for, and these are the people who will champion your book.

You need to understand your market, you need to understand the industry, and most importantly you need to understand that not everyone will like your book.

Some authors don’t read any of their reviews – good or bad, but most, just like me, can’t help themselves.

We like to see what people loved about our books, and yes, if you’re serious about being a writer, you will also be interested to see what people didn’t like about your books, as it can be a useful tool in improving your writing.

I read an article on Stephen King once where he said (talking about beta readers), if one person says they don’t like something about your book, then that’s just their opinion.

But if five people say the same thing – you need to fix it. What your beta readers may have missed, the general public might not, and that may just help you with your next book.

Join Amanda tomorrow for the last part in her series: Gratitude.

The five key elements of a successful writer, Part 3, Discipline– Guest Post by Amanda Bridgeman

Amanda Bridgeman graces us again today with the third instalment of her five key elements to being a successful writer. Today she talks about discipline.

Discipline

Amanda Bridgeman sitting on a chairBooks don’t write themselves.

They take a hell of a lot of time (and blood, sweat and tears), so stop procrastinating and get to it!

The best analogy here is with athletes.

The most successful athletes are those that are incredibly disciplined and spend every waking moment doing everything they can to make themselves a better athlete (they train for hours, they watch what they eat, they ensure they get enough sleep, etc, etc).

You must be disciplined and set time aside to write, or to promote, or to learn.

If you don’t then you will never achieve your goals.

Aurora Meridian cover artPersistence pays when it comes to writing, and the only way to get something done is to get something done!

So set yourself a deadline and stick to it.

The most successful writers out there (aside from having a mass of talent), are hard workers.

They are disciplined, they are dedicated, and they dare to dream.

Part 4 tomorrow: Understanding.

Catch up on Amanda’s very first guest blog post here: How to write a thousand words (or maybe more).

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