Summer Writing Mini-Workshop: On Blogging

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Blogging is a fantastic way to get the word (i.e. your work) out, but it’s easy to be torn between what you should put out there for free & what you should hold dear until it finds a home (because once it’s posted, it’s considered published, & you may never be able to submit it anywhere again). This guide should help: https://sarahleastories.com/2016/10/04/15-blogging-prompts/

Twitter, for the most part, is a colossal waste of time. With Twitter, there are too many expectations of reciprocity. You should be so productive creating new content, you don’t have time to reciprocate every like or respond to every comment or thank someone for every retweet; you need actual fans—not just those who follow to get a follow back. Thus, you need readers who aren’t also writers.

Goodreads is great for posting book reviews & connecting with other readers. However, not everyone who follows your blog has a Goodreads account, so post your best reviews on your blog. Get as much mileage as you can out of everything you write. https://sarahleastories.com/2016/10/06/book-review-the-girl-on-the-train/

Don’t write for LinkedIn on a regular basis unless you write boring, businessy articles/listicles that are largely forgettable. I rarely write articles specifically for LinkedIn, but if something I’ve written is appropriate for the platform, I’ll either post it on LinkedIn Pulse or share it from my blog. There is no such thing as too much visibility. Whatever you do, don’t post part of the article on LinkedIn, & then require people to click on your blog link to read the rest. Rather, post a short bio, including a link to your blog, so that if people liked what they read, they might want to read something else you wrote. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/my-own-personal-minimalism-sarah-richards-1/?published=t

Seek out guest posting opportunities. Most of them don’t pay, but it’s extra exposure (which is helpful if your blog doesn’t have many followers). There are opportunities to write about writing, life hacks, & parenting. GetConnect Dad is a sweet site to start with, chock full of awesome content from moms & dads around the world. https://getconnectdad.com/write-with-us/

Instagram forces you to become a better photographer—to produce more original content. It’s bright, clean, & minimal—everything Twitter isn’t. https://www.instagram.com/sarahleastories/

If you’ve ever had any work published in print or online (other than your personal blog), create an online portfolio. A portfolio showcases not just what you know, but what you can do. https://sarahlearichards.journoportfolio.com/

 

For Writers: Time Wasted vs. Time Invested

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Finding the time to write requires figuring out, over time, what is a good investment of your time and what is not.  Here is what I have found:

  1. Trying to write for a publication or contest because it either pays well or the entry is free when you have no interest in the topic, theme, or publication itself, will take more time than writing two pieces you are passionate about for a publication you read.  For example, there was a national women’s magazine on which the short story topic was, “What is the bravest thing you have ever done?”  When I saw the previous years’ winning entries–serving in Afghanistan and other equally courageous things–I thought, well, I got my wisdom teeth pulled without being put under.  Pass.
  2. Don’t write for LinkedIn on a regular basis unless you write boring, “businessy” articles/listicles as passionless as cooking without love, implementing lingo like analytics, logistics, and statistics (okay, sometimes stats can be sexy),  I don’t write articles for LinkedIn, but if something I’ve written is appropriate for the platform, I’ll post it on LinkedIn Pulse.  Whatever you do, don’t post part of the article, and then require people to click on your blog link to read the rest.
  3. Keep virtual clutter to a minimum.  Delete bookmarks you will never use, e-mails you will never read again, etc.
  4. Don’t have more than one account on any social networking site.  I tried to have both an author Twitter account and a fictional character Twitter account.  A lot of time was spent signing in and out, and sometimes, I’d get the two crossed.  I had the character account for a year-and-a-half, and have been repurposing the tweets for my Fiction Fridays series, just as the micropoetry I used to write for Twitter daily ended up becoming my Micropoetry Monday series, so you could say my stint on Twitter helped me become a regular blogger (versus a sporadic one).
  5. Keep track of what you write.  I have a master list of pieces I’ve written (with keywords for easy look-up), and where I have submitted each.  I’ve written so much poetry, I’ve had to divide it up into “anthologies.”  (Submittable is good for keeping track, but not every publication uses it.)
  6. Plan for writing contests a year in advance.  That way you never miss a deadline and you’re always submitting quality work.
  7. Have a submission schedule for the publications you write for on a regular basis. You don’t want to overload a publication with submissions, because they might think you’re just using the “kitchen-sink theory” (throwing everything at them and seeing what they’ll take).  For example, the fifteenth of every month, I submit a poem to a certain publication I adore–one I’ve been published in before.
  8. Twitter is a colossal waste of time, though I still have all my blog posts auto-post, adding the hashtags separately.  There are too many expectations of reciprocity–you need true fans, not just those who follow to get a follow back.  You need readers who aren’t also writers.
  9. Be selective with what television programs you watch.  I only watch a couple a week, and maybe a couple of movies.  Every once in awhile, I’ll binge-watch a television show, but time watching TV is time not writing.  Don’t watch something because you’re bored; write something, for writing is doing.
  10. Read.  You need to read everyday (not just blog posts, even like this one), but the kind of slow reading that draws you in).  I’ve gotten into reading pieces on The Saturday Evening Post’s website.  I’m enjoying what I’m reading, and at the same time, getting a better idea of what they go for.

Doubling up: Maximizing your writing, and more

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So I am getting ready to start summer schoolanother semester of work-study, a class I don’t care about, and Intermediate Algebra, which is very scary indeed.  I made a D in it about 15 years ago, and I allowed my fear of failurethat I wasn’t smart enough to finish collegekeep me from finishing.

Like Buddy Sorrell on The Dick Van Dyke Show, who could make a joke out of any word (including “milk bath”), I can write a poem on the spot about any word, but algebra has always been the bane of my educational existence.

Except this time, I am so close, with only a handful of credits left before I can work as a copy writer somewhere in the medical field.

This time, I will have access to free, on-campus and virtual tutors.

This time, I will have a few hours a day at work to focus on this class I will never use again, but will help me get to wherever I am goingthat place called Career Contentment. I don’t know where that is yet, for I am still following the map, but I have a pretty good idea of what I will be doing when I get there.

My time is more limited than ever now, so I’ve decided to cut most of my weekend posting (I’d just had enough of dealing with self-inflicted “homework” first thing in the morning).  The one exception is a single #SundayInspiration Instagram post (see bottom) with what I hope will be considered “thinking outside the candy box” (https://www.instagram.com/sarahleastories/?hl=en).

I’d forgotten I even had an account until a recent Facebook friend followed me, and I thought, well, I do have one of those phones now, and I can take a shot of virtually the same thing (which will help establish my “theme”).  I’d tried Pinterest, but it’s more for consumers than creators, and I like the cleaner, sleeker look of Instagram.  Pinterest also seems like it’s more for crafters than writers or photographers.  Furthermore, Instagram seems much more personal, more real.  It has a freshness Pinterest does not.

Streamlining your writing process is a form of minimalism, and it can help you focus on the more important aspects of writing (like improving your craft and getting paid).  It’s good to have a social media presence (any publisher expects this if you’re unknown), but the thing that will get you noticed is submitting, submitting, and submitting [quality] work.

Instead, I will be posting two writing “workshops” (basically, writing tips) the first and third Mondays of the month, and two book reviews the second and fourth Mondays (as I will be dropping the Micropoetry Monday segments at the end of the year).  The latter will help me read more (as I’ve been reading poetry this semester, mostly), and the workshops are bits I post on my Facebook author page, so they’re already “baked in.”

This is one way of maximizing your writing.  To come up with brand new content for every social network isn’t worth it, because chances are, your friends, fans, and followers won’t catch your post on every network anyway, so it won’t seem like you’re repeating yourself.

One Instagram post a week is much more doable than six a week on Twitterthat’s too much time taken away from submitting.  LinkedIn is limited, because it’s what I call “businessy-boring.”  I rarely write a post specifically for the network but if something I write works on there as well as my blog, I’ll post the whole piece on there (as people hate being redirected to another site).

LinkedIn is basically Facebook-lite, complete with memes.  All too often, I see “connections” sharing someone else’s quotation.  Have an original thought in your head, for goodness sakes!  It doesn’t do anything for your brand, only the person’s you are quoting.  Though I haven’t been guilty of posting such things, I have been guilty of sharing them.

For me, it’s all about creating content.  The only new blog post I have to create is on Wednesdaysthe Writer’s Digest poetry prompt.  Fridays are taken care of, because the posts are based on my novel, rewritten in verse form (which I’ve decided to make a separate, promotional chapbook out of called Mormons on the Beach).

I plan on spending the writing part of my weekends writing new work, editing existing work, and submitting to publications.  I haven’t been doing enough of that lately, but then when I come home from work and school, my daughter’s just gotten off the bus and I only have about about three hours with her till it’s time for her to go to bed.  I need that time with her as much as she needs my attention.  If I didn’t have her, I’d be spending too much time clacking at my keyboard, my eyes glazed by the glow.

Social media has its place, but it should be used wisely and sparingly.  Though Twitter is the equivalent of a bathroom wall, it isn’t a complete waste of time, as one of my friends hooked up with a local philanthropist through it who self-published her book; I got a guest blogging gig.

As for WordPress, don’t waste time reblogging (people never return the favor), unless you’re reblogging your own guest post.  Don’t waste valuable real estate on your blog with someone else’s work.  Again, this is elevating their brand, not yours.

What’s more, it’s one thing to use stock photos on your blog (I balked for the longest time, but I’m just a fair photographer with a lousy camera), but photography is Instagram’s focus (pun intended).  Strive for authenticity.

The moral of this post:  Write, edit, and submitthat’s the real work.  That social media stuff is a hobby.  A blog is the best of both worldsa hybrid, of sorts.  Someday, I hope it will make me money (either directly or indirectly), but in the meantime, I’m having lots of fun doing it.

2016, A Year in Review (and a few resolutions, too)

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Twenty-sixteen was my best year yet when it came to writing (not so much the number of words, but the number of finished projects, publications, and contest wins).  I’ve decided my minimum is 300 words (Stephen King’s is 2000, but unfortunately, I’m unable to write for a living yet).  If I want to go over that, that’s wonderful, but the overage won’t count towards the next day.  I have to keep myself accountable.

I have several New Year’s Resolutions:

  1. Get more organized.  This will waste less of my precious time.  I have spent part of the last day of the year clearing out my favorites, deleting e-mails, organizing my USB drive, transcribing my notes that are scattered from pillar to post, polishing the drafts in my blog account so I can either “plush or slush” them (this I’ve done over the last week, explaining my prolific posting).
  2. Do more, and by that, I mean trying different things (especially physical ones, liking biking, climbing, etc).
  3. Plan meals so that I never have to wake up needing to cook.  (I hate cooking in the morning; I’d rather have fish for breakfast…and I have.)
  4. Write something using dictionary.com’s “word of the day”.  This will help me remember it far more than simply memorizing it.
  5. Don’t start writing any more books until I’ve finished (and edited) the ones I’ve written.  (This will take all year.)
  6. Keep coupons in the car or purse.  I am just too forgetful.
  7. Don’t respond to outlandish status updates on Facebook or you will be expected to post one.  I’m sorry, but these really piss me off.  Just like the ones that say “If you love Jesus, you’ll share this”, and others of its ilk.
  8. Include, in my daily to-do list, all the activities I want to do with my daughter.  This includes not just reading stories at bedtime, but other books during the daytime.
  9. Make at least one video of my daughter a week.  I’ve slacked on this as it’s harder to edit videos (or take good ones) than it is a photograph.
  10. Wear less black and gray (yes, it’s slimming).
  11. Do different things with my hair (it’s one of our greatest accessories).  I dug out my old crimper (I’m an eighties girl) and got many compliments on my new look; got a snood for Christmas and if you don’t know what that is, look it up.
  12. Work on Christmas gifts all year long (which would include trying a new recipe weekly).

And that’s just the beginning, but it’s a start.

~

One of my proudest moments this year was winning first place (in the same contest I placed in second twice last year) for my story, “The Punch Drunk Potluck”, about what happens when a saucy girl brings pot brownies to a Mormon Church party and spikes the punch.  Let’s just say everyone’s spirits were lifted.  (I will post the link when the online newspaper editor has it up.)

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I was also published in Bella Grace magazine, for which I wrote a narrative poem about the magic of childhood.  The magazine seemed tailored just for me, with its almost “Pollyannish” take on life (Pollyanna being one of my favorite movies).

I also got published in the anthology below.  This site, http://writingcareer.com/, has been a great help to me in finding places to submit.

I wrote for the student newspaper this fall semester, am writing still for a parenting blog (https://getconnectdad.com/?s=sarah+richards&lang=en), and help write and design the newsletter for a local veteran’s organization.

As far as my personal writing goals, I got on a blogging schedule, where I only have to create new content once a week (the Writer’s Digest Wednesday Prompt); for the months of April and November, I successfully produced a poem a day.  My Monday and Friday posts come from what I’ve tweeted out, which I artfully compile.  I’ve started a Facebook page with writing tips and truths (https://www.facebook.com/sarahleastories/), also of which will someday end up on this blog (waste absolutely nothing you write).  All of these things have helped me become a better, and more confident and prolific writer (and it all counts towards my daily 300).

Though I’ve enjoyed this year immensely, I am never sorry to see it go, because every year just gets better and better:  I learn more, I become more.

Cheers!

Sarah Lea

15 Blogging Prompts

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Bloggers, have “theme days” or regular “feature articles”.  It will help you stay on track, as it’s easier to write a continuing series than a stand-alone piece every single time; this will also help you blog purposefully, rather than simply posting whenever inspiration sparks (as inspiration doesn’t always happen on a regular basis).  Serious bloggers should blog at least twice a week, or no less than once, and preferably on the same days.  Make your own deadlines, and meet them.

If you’re not on a regular blog schedule yet (which I highly recommend) with “themes” filling in the slots on certain days, here are some blogging prompts to get you started:

1.Query letters:  I believe these are an art form in & of themselves, and should serve as an appetizer to the main work.  https://sarahleastories.com/2014/01/17/query-letter-to-missouri-life-magazine/

2.Rejection letters:  The good, the bad, and the funny.  https://sarahleastories.com/2014/05/08/an-interesting-rejection-letter/

3.Book reviews:  Analyzing a book and articulating why you liked (or didn’t like) it strengthens your critical thinking skills, which helps you become a better writer.  A well-written book review can often be as entertaining as the book.  If you’re praising the book, try to “sell it”; if you’re not, then state exactly why you didn’t like it. “It sucked”, or “it was stupid”, will never suffice.  Beware of spoilers—think of a book review as a movie trailer.  Whet the appetite, but don’t satisfy it.  https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/30181323-sarah-lea-stories.

4.”Blog your book”.  That said, don’t post 1000-word chapters at a time.  300 (or less) is perfect.  For a 60K word book, at 300 words per post, you will generate more than 260 posts, which you could stretch out over two years time.  However, read this (http://www.rachellegardner.com/should-you-blog-your-novel/) before doing that.

5.Author tribute.  This is different than a book review in that it “reviews” an author’s entire body of work.  As great as it is to find a good book, it’s even greater to find a good author and read everything they’ve read (as many authors are hit-and-miss).

6.Take something cute (or not) & turn it into something dark & sometimes inappropriately funny:  https://sarahleastories.com/2014/02/12/linsey-gordon-had-a-hatchet/

7.Haiku, limerick, or even a 6-word story with a stunning photograph; posts don’t have to be long, just good.  (A great suggestion I once read is that the first two lines of a 3-line poem should be opposites, and the last line should be a surprise that ties the two opposites together in a surprising or unexpected way.)  I often like to do short pieces in series of 3:  https://sarahleastories.com/2014/03/02/nonet-poems-my-geography/

8.Short, personal essay (300 words):  Myslexia (https://mslexia.co.uk/nonfiction/) does this using the ABC’s, which I thought a cute idea.  It’s easier to mine your life for material when it doesn’t have to be a full-length piece.

9.Writing tips:  I share these on my Facebook page Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday:  https://www.facebook.com/sarahleastories/?fref=ts

10.Writing prompts:  I appreciate these, as they are ideal for freewriting practice.  https://sarahleastories.com/2016/03/06/writing-prompt-the-memoirs-of-others/

11.Writing products you like (software, pens, free Kindle books, etc.): https://sarahleastories.com/2016/02/06/5-really-cool-things-about-kindle/

12.Favorite writing blogs (or Twitter accounts).  Mine are (so far):  https://twitter.com/WriterlyTweets, https://twitter.com/GHowellWhite1,  https://twitter.com/tablopublishing, https://twitter.com/writerswrite, https://twitter.com/Grammarly, https://twitter.com/AgathaChocolats, https://twitter.com/WritersDigest

13.Life Lessons:  A list of 10 life lessons (serious or silly) you have learned.  I consider this a “column piece”.  These are so “notebookable”.

14.How-To Article:  Did you know Microsoft Word can “grade your work”?:  https://sarahleastories.com/2015/03/20/writing-tips/

15.One Book, Many Forms.  Every Friday, I post a set of #novelines or #micropoetry from my book  (https://twitter.com/KatrynNolan).  Not every noveline is a true noveline because of Twitter’s character limitations, and the micropoetry is brand new–all of which I am going to repurpose into a pocket book called “Mormons on the Beach”, as part of my book promotion package.  Though you should always keep at least half of what you write under lock and key (until you become Stephen King and can charge for it all), make sure everything you put out there is your best work.

And here is 40 more from an author who has great content and isn’t just all about selling her books:  http://writerswrite.co.za/40-types-of-content-that-will-make-your-life-easier

 

Another Addition to my Author Platform

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After pushing back on the idea for months, I created an author Facebook page.  I had reached the point where I knew I could commit to adding to it twice weekly.  (One thing I will never do is send links to it en masse via direct message on Twitter.  99% of DMs are the equivalent of junk mail, especially if you don’t bother to read my description, which clearly states “No DMs, please”.  I rarely ever read any I receive, and delete most of them on sight.  It’s not that I don’t want to be supportive of other writers, but I don’t like being bombarded with impersonal messages.  That’s what your Twitter feed is for.)

Starting this page was quite a bit of trouble, because several profile photos wouldn’t do, as they tended to chop off the lower half of my head (I had to do some creative cropping).  I also had to make sure my cover photo wouldn’t be partially obscured by my profile pic.  Eventually, it all came together, using my limited online photoshopping skills and neat penmanship (may cursive never die!).

When I hit my blogging stride (posting thrice weekly on a regular basis, as regular, scheduled posting is indicative of a serious writer), committed to writing an original article for LinkedIn once a month (as I am just not as passionate about business/technical writing), and gained a few literary wins under my hat (among other endeavors), I felt I was ready to commit to yet another revolving project.

Please like my page (and engage).  Post your Facebook page URL in the comments section below, and I will return the favor.

https://www.facebook.com/sarahleastories/

 

#Fiction Fridays: #Micropoetry Based on the Book

Every day, I post 3 tweets:  a #novelines tweet (a line from my novel; any good piece of writing has quotable quotes), a #140story tweet, or a #micropoetry tweet, that is pulled from, or based on my novel, “Because of Mindy Wiley”.  https://sarahleastories.com/because-of-mindy-wiley/.  I post these under my fictional character account, https://twitter.com/KatrynNolan.  Every week, on “Fiction Friday”, I will be blogging 5-10 of my best tweets.

 

My goal is to gain a significant number of followers so that maybe an agent or publisher will take a chance on my book–all part of building my author’s platform.

I have to say that tweeting my book (rather than blogging it) has helped me scrutinize the work in a new way.  Words like really, very, that, and just are getting the strike, and if there is a place where one word can be used instead of two, I do.  (Contractions don’t count.)

My goal is that by the time I have tweeted through the entire 210K words (which I figured will be about 5 years), I will have trimmed at least 10,000 words from the final product.  If I haven’t found a traditional publisher in a reasonable amount of time (to be determined), I will be ready to self-publish it through createspace.com (an Amazon affiliate).  Once I have tweeted through the entire book, I will start all over again with new tweets.

I have to say, I have hit my blogging stride by having “feature days”, like #Micropoetry Mondays, #Fiction Fridays, and the midweek Writers Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt.  However, I will still have the occasional “special feature”, or oddball post, as I will never quite be a “hard-theme” blog that only posts on writing.

Mormoni

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”  (Exodus 20:3)

David was my temple,
and at his altar,
I worshipped–
for he was neither spirit nor stone,
but warm flesh,
and a heart deceitful above all things.

In His Name,
much evil had been done.
In the name of love,
such had been done with me.

Twas when I became a Saint,
I learned that the glory of God
is intelligence,
for He knew all there was to know.

1999 was the summer of love,
the spring of a new life,
the autumn of my girlhood,
and the winter of my childhood.

I was harvested from the sand
by God, to become a star,
only to fall from Heaven once more.