Marketing is hard…

As we enter the New Year, I do what I normally do, which is sit down to sketch out my plan for the year. Some of that I’ve put here in my last post, some is still hanging out as an outline in my bullet journal, and some remains to be uncovered in the book I’m currently reading, The New Rules of Marketing and PR (more on this, just scroll down a bit.)

One thing that has changed from previous years is that this time, I’ve set up a system of tracking what I am doing which will enable me to identify areas of effort that are performing, underperforming, or actually quite lucrative. My brain does well with systems that allow me to fill in numbers and see, in a tangible way, what I am doing.

Also, I spent some time, money, and effort in previous years on things that did not really do anything except waste all three.

The first thing to do, though, is get some words down. I’m putting off a few submission goals until I complete the two series I’ve got going on now. The intended result is to improve my craft, and build an audience through giving readers a full series instead of just a one-off. (It will also, with luck, demonstrate to any future agents I query that I have the ability to stick with writing a series, which is pretty important in the genre work I prefer.)

I will talk about my Patreon page, which falls in here somewhere and is intended to create a community of storytellers through coaching, but I’ll hit that at length at a later time. Although you can definitely check it out if you’ve been thinking about wanting to write your own stuff. I won’t stop you. 😉

The next thing is to build social media through connections and interactions. I’m under no illusions that I will sell books through Twitter, but again, it’s a way to demonstrate to readers and potential agents/publishers that I am more established and serious about what I’m doing. Connections and interactions are another reason that I’m applying to various conventions and conferences as a panelist and workshop leader. My theory is, if people want to read books or hire someone as a coach, they are more likely to do so if they’ve met that person in real life, and are able to then connect with them (me) online. So I have some shiny new bookmark/business cards, and a couple of dates in 2018.

The last thing, and this is courtesy of The New Rules book referenced above, is taking a look at how I can use content to gain a wider audience. (I realize I’m burying the lede here, but bear with me.) I’m about halfway through the book, but what grabs me as Mr. Scott’s central concept, is the idea that we’ve gone beyond marketing and public relations to a new concept of communicating and interacting on an authentic basis. The book delves into tactical-level concepts and courses of action, but the overall idea is that an author, or an organization, or a corporation, etc., must find a way to engage an audience of both potential buyers and non-potential buyers. (I know, what? I gotta talk with people who have no intention of buying my book?) This communication then shapes the general perception of that organization.

While much of what I write is available on places like Amazon or my publisher’s Web site, or at my Patreon, I wanted to find a way to continue to share content that would be the basis of interaction. And I specifically wanted that content to come from articles and interviews with a wide variety of interesting people doing interesting things. While some of them may be authors, or poets, or journalists, I also wanted to interview nurses, and scientists, and crafters, etc.

When I first started this Web site, I had a page called “Characters and Conversations.” I still entitle my interviews “A Conversation with …” My goal is that in inviting people to come on here and talk about who they are and what they do, these articles will spur more conversation and invite more people to join us.

If you are an author, or someone who works in any sort of capacity with trying to generate interest in, publicity for, or interaction with any sort of organization (or your sole proprietorship), I can’t recommend this book enough. It comes with a lot of great suggestions and stories, as well as a full online presence, and a blog.

I also suggest checking out the Twitter hashtag #bookmarketingchat as well as The Author Biz Podcast. Find what works for you, even if you have to do a little experimenting to figure that out. (Don’t forget to track your data and set your benchmarks!) And if you figure out the magic overnight secret to amazing online book success, feel free to share in the comments. 😉

Happy Writing!

 

Introducing: Scribbler Coach

Good morning! I hope that your week is short and started with a bang–at least for all the folks on this side of the pond, and squished between Canada and Mexico. Which has got to be the most awkward way of saying, “Happy Fourth of July, my fellow Americans.” But hey, that’s what edits are for!

Speaking of edits, I am posting to introduce a new service on this site. Scribbler Coach, an on-site offshoot of The Infamous Scribbler, will offer a full suite of coaching, writing, and editing services. Whether you are trying to figure out how to start, or you’ve gotten halfway and gotten lost, or if you are done and are trying to figure out what to do next, I can help you.

How did this come to be? I started receiving requests from authors and aspiring authors, with whom I worked in various writers’ groups, for extra help on the side. Some of these authors needed a beta reader, others needed help putting their thoughts together for an outline, and some just needed the motivation that a deadline and a willing ear could give them.

Also, as I started introducing myself as an author (a helpful tip if you’d like to let people know about your work), I started getting variations on the response: “Oh hey, I have this great idea for a book, I just …. don’t have the time/don’t know where to start/am not sure if it would be viable/would like someone else to write it for me, how about you?”

And I thought to myself, you know, I can help people with all of those issues–except the last one. If you need a ghost writer, I’d advise advertising on Upwork, because I do not have the time to write anyone’s novels except my own. And even that is tricky.

If you take a look at the Scribbler Coach page, you will find the services broken down with descriptions of and rates for what I am offering, as well as some testimonials from people I’ve worked with in the past. I’ve got a some discounts for students and military/veterans, and as a biz launch incentive, I’m offering every fifth coaching session free. If you like what you see–drop me a line at infamous_scribbler@yahoo.com.

Happy Writing!

#WriteFridays Number … Something … Writing Exercise

It’s been a while since I posted a writing exercise or prompt, but I’m feeling inspired. I sat down with one of the ladies from my writing group, who mentioned that she was having a hard time coming up with a certain part of the plot of a short piece she was working on. She just couldn’t think of what to have the character do, or what part of the plot to develop. I looked around and found a few exercises that might help, but this lady in particular had responded well to a timed exercise previously, so I wanted to add in a personal touch.

So, here is a writing exercise if you are trying to sketch your way through some writers’ block. It may also be a good technique if you are doing some pre-writing and outlining. Hope it helps!

WriteFriday Exercise: Character vs Plot

Character/Plot Exercise

Instructions: Print out or fill in on the document. Before you start, read through the questions to start them percolating. When you have reflected on the character and the questions, start a timer. Give yourself 15 minutes per section for 1-3 with a 1-2 minute rest in between (shorter or longer if necessary.) Once you are done, sketch down a few notes for Section 4. If you start to feel inspired, get back to your story!

Section 1: What is the BEST thing that could happen to your character…

This year?

This month?

This week?

Today?

Right now?

Ever?

Section 2: What is the WORST thing that could happen to your character…

This year?

This month?

This week?

Today?

Right now?

Ever?

Section 3:

What does your character fear most?

Who/what does your character love most?

What does your character hope for?

What does your character need RIGHT NOW?

Section 4:

Take a look at the section you are stuck on. Which of the above make the most sense to use in order to heighten a sense of conflict and let the reader know WHAT’S AT STAKE? Push the intensity as far as you can. And—go!

#WriteFridays Exercise 22

The other day I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, and a few friends had posted about a firm that is developing an “augmented reality” game that shows monsters in your house. Apparently your phone takes a map of your house, and then the game shows you what may be lurking in the shadows.

It took less than a fraction of a second to think of all the places this game could go, and all the myriad of horror movie endings that the twists and turns could bring. Because, you know, Night Terrors. Which brings me to…

Exercise 22: What evil lurks in the heart of your phone… Is it The Shadow? Is it your little brother playing a trick on you? Is it a digital ghost given corporeal form through an ill-advised game to wreak havoc and pursue vengeance on the non-virtual world?

Sketch a quick scene in this sequence. It could be from the beginning (the decision to play the game), the middle (is something going wrong? I think something’s going wrong! SCREAMING!!), or the end (things went horribly, horribly wrong–call the Winchesters!)

As always, when you’re done, feel free to post your results or link in the comments. 😀

If this is what's lurking in my garden, I frankly don't WANT to see what creepy sh*'s hanging out in my hallway...

If this is what’s lurking in my garden, I frankly don’t WANT to see what creepy sh*’s hanging out in my hallway…

#WriteFridays Exercise 21

You know what’s hard? Writing. You know what’s hard to write? Unpleasant things.

Now, I’m not just talking about writing a character’s death. For some writers–actually, for more writers than I feel really comfortable mentioning–it’s par for the course when one of our characters goes to the big literary Elysian fields in the sky.

What I’m referring to is the sort of writing that can give us a protagonist like Humbert Humbert or Doctor Faust–main characters who are straight up evil or downright unpleasant to be around, and yet we still enjoy reading their stories, finding ourselves entranced from the first page to the last period.

There are a number of techniques for making an antihero compelling reading. There’s the “villain with a heart of gold” technique. The “I used to be good until faced with great personal tragedy” technique. There’s the “good person placed in a bad situation who secretly wants to be good” technique. There’s the “unrepentantly bad person who still has one point of redemption” technique.

Whichever technique works for you, it’s tricky to implement, but if you can pull it off, these characters can be some of the most entertaining and intriguing.

Exercise 21: Making The Bad Guy Good Reading. Pick a technique that works for you, and write it at the top of a blank sheet of paper (or your computer screen). Divide your worksheet into two: Character traits and Events. Let your pen wander as you brainstorm your evil character. What makes up his personality (character traits)? What has happened to make him the person he is (events)? When you have enough to get started, sketch out the introduction to the character. A few paragraphs to get started will suffice.

Once you’ve sketched out your scene, find someone who is willing to read it (or share the link in the comments). Would they read more? Would the character entrance them or are their negative traits too negative? Head back to the drawing board and see what else you’ve got for that character. Good guys all the time can get somewhat tiring–let’s see who you’ve got that we can sink our ambivalent teeth into.

Writing bad guys? Or do you mean … my biography?

Writing bad guys? Or do you mean … my biography?

Happy writing!

#WriteFridays the 18th!

This week I started to formally hang out my shingle as a writing coach, and one of the ladies from my critique group took me up on it. We met up, and after discussing the issue that she specifically had questions about, she mentioned that sometimes it was hard to start writing without worrying about the end product. Even with these exercises, she felt pressured to come up with a full story, or something that was already polished.

This is not the first time someone has told me that they get a mental block between wanting to write something–and actually sitting down to write it. So, for this week, I have an exercise specifically designed to break through that block. Below are three mini-exercises. Before starting this week’s #WriteFridays exercise, sit down with your pen and paper (yes, your pen and paper), and a timing device of some sort. Then, read further.

Each mini-exercise includes a prompt and a time. When you are ready, start your timer. The minute the seconds begin ticking, your pen starts writing. Even if you don’t know what to say. Even if you are just writing the prompt to get your ink flowing. Write whatever you want to until the timer buzzes–just don’t lift your pen from that page, or let it rest in one place.

In between each exercise, set the timer for two minutes. During those two minutes, do something away from your desk. Do some jumping jacks. Drink a beer. Wash a dish. Pet your dog. (Just don’t go online … Try to avoid social media. Instead, do something that engages you physically.) When the timer pings–back to your seat for the next one!

Mini-Exercise 1 (3:00 Minutes): It is early Sunday morning. You are barely awake, when you notice, out the front window, a postal vehicle. A woman gets out, carrying a package. She walks up to the door, lays the package on the porch, and hightails it out of there. You open the door and reach down for the package…

BREAK

Mini-Exercise 2 (5:00 Minutes): You walk into your house to find your partner at the kitchen table. Eyes wet and rimmed with red, it takes a moment before he/she can compose him/herself. “I don’t know how to tell you this…”

BREAK

Mini-Exercise 3 (7:00 Minutes): You are walking through an outdoor marketplace, filled with the stalls of local farmers, artisans, and crafters. Some of the stuff seems pretty cool, but it’s hot outside and you’re ready to head next door to a local coffeehouse and grab an iced espresso. Just as you pass the last couple of stalls, an old man with a beer belly and an impressive mullet jumps out in front of you. “Quick, come over here,” he says, grabbing your arm and pulling you into his stall. “I found it!”

Or, you could totally pet your cat. That would be great, too.

Or, you could totally pet your cat. That would be great, too.

#WriteFridays Exercise 10

I’m currently working with my first client for my writing coach business, Scribbler Coach, and so far it’s been a lot of fun. She is writing a novel based on the fictionalization of her life. Many times, when people tell me they want to write a novel based on their lives, I am a little wary. How many of us truly live in interesting times? However, even in rough form, her story hooked me in right away. I’ve sent off my notes on the first 10,000 words, and can’t wait for the next excerpt.

I have noticed one thing about her writing, and this is something that I’ve often remarked on in works where new writers are basing their story on something very close to them — namely, the narrative lacks description of the characters. Given that the writer already has the full picture of the characters in his/her head –because he/she knows them, has lived with them, is utterly familiar with them — they forget that the rest of us need a clue to build our own picture. Thus, this week’s exercise.

Exercise 10: You are a stranger meeting each of your characters for the first time. You meet them just long enough to gain a first impression (physical) and have a quick conversation (mental/emotional). What is the first thing you notice? What is the last thing? What surprises you when they open their mouths? Do they have any small items or props that show their personality? As we meet them again, and get to know them more thoroughly, which of those immediate impressions will be contradicted or confirmed, and how?

Sketch a quick introductory paragraph for one or more of your characters. What about that first impression clues the reader in to the character’s enduring characteristics? What about the first impression may be false due to the circumstances of the meeting? Help the reader build that picture in his/her head.