Monday, April 30, 2012

Advice for Writers: 031

Let's see what my Internet turned up in the writing advice seas this week.

Perfecting Your First Page: 3 Tasks or Exercises, by Jane Friedman. The first page of a manuscript is the most important page in terms of attracting readers. Jane shares three exercises (plus a bonus tip) to make that first page sing.

How to Discover Your Hidden Remarkable Benefit, by Brian Clark. While this post was written with companies in mind, I think the advice holds true for writers too. Read this post and hunt for your hidden remarkable benefit that will help you stand out from other writers.

Writing a Novel People Want to Read, by Corban Addison. For novelists, this is pretty much what the goal is, right? Corban is a debut author, who just happens to be endorsed by John Grisham. Wow!

Write What You Know...Kinda, by Sandra Beasley. Sandra is one of my favorite writers, so when I see her dishing out advice on the process of writing, I just have to share. Plus, she wrote a piece on truth and poetry in the 2012 Poet's Market--so this fits that nicely (though the article in the Poet's Market should definitely be read as well).

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Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:

April Platform Challenge: Day 30

Well, this is it: the final day of this month-long platform challenge. What could I possibly have in store for today? Actually, not too much, though I will share some possible Next Steps for May and beyond tomorrow morning--so tune in for that, if you're interested, but you're officially done after today.

For today's task, leave a comment below describing your April Platform Challenge experience. Did you like it? Did you hate it? Was it too much? Too little? Were there things you wish I'd covered that I didn't? Do you feel like you're in a better place now than you were a month ago? Any and all feedback is welcomed by me as I try to tweak this whole challenge-making process.


2012 Writer's Market Deluxe Edition

Once you finish today's task, click here to see how to enter your name in the free raffle for a 2012 Writer's Market Deluxe Edition book. I'd recommend sending in your e-mail again even if you did so at the beginning of the month, because I'm a little skeptical anyone who submitted before April 30 completed all the challenges.

And that's it. I hope you'll continue to haunt and comment on My Name Is Not Bob as I get back into my regular content. But that's all, folks--for this challenge anyway. Thank you so much for participating--it's been a whole lot of fun!

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Learn About Platform, the Back Door Way.

This live webinar is set for May 24 (2012) and will be taught by one of my favorite presenters: C. Hope Clark! If you've never attended a presentation by Hope, you'll be amazed by the overwhelming wave of information with which she'll flood you. She's amazing. Plus, all registrants will receive a personalized critique on their personal projects, which is an amazing deal in and of itself.

Click to continue.

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Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here are the most recent:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Day 29

Tomorrow is the last day of this challenge. Yay! We're nearly to the finish line.


Almost there.

For today's task, make a task list of things you are going to do on each day of May. That's right, I want you to break down 31 days with 31 tasks for each day--similar to what we've done through April.

You see, I don't want you to quit challenging yourself once April is over. Of course, you get to decide what the tasks will be. So if you aren't into new social media sites, don't put them on your list. Instead, focus on blog posts, commenting on other sites, linking to articles, contacting experts, or whatever it is that you are going to do in May to keep momentum building toward an incredible author platform.

Somewhere near the end of May, you should have a day set aside with one task: Make a task list of things to do on each day of June. And so on and so forth. Keep it going, keep it rolling, and your efforts will continue to gain momentum and speed. I promise.

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Learn About Platform, the Back Door Way.

This live webinar is set for May 24 (2012) and will be taught by one of my favorite presenters: C. Hope Clark! If you've never attended a presentation by Hope, you'll be amazed by the overwhelming wave of information with which she'll flood you. She's amazing. Plus, all registrants will receive a personalized critique on their personal projects, which is an amazing deal in and of itself.

Click to continue.

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Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here are the most recent:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Day 28

We're down to the final three days of this challenge. I hope it's been a good experience. I know I've learned plenty this month from the group, so that makes me hopeful that even if I didn't teach you anything new that at least others in the group did. Today's task is an easy one, since I asked everyone to join a new social media site yesterday.


Find a post, comment on it, and make sure it links back to you.

For today's task, read and comment on a blog post (MNINB does not count), making sure that your comment links back to your blog or website.

If you remember, this was the same task required way back on Day 6. How far we've come, though it's still a good idea to stay connected and engaged with other bloggers. I know I find that sometimes I start to insulate myself in my own little blogging communities and worlds--when it's good to get out and read what others are doing. In fact, that's what helped inspire my Monday Advice for Writers posts--it gives me motivation to read what others are writing (on writing, of course).

Anyway, click here for some ideas on how to comment on another blogger's blog.

Enjoy today, because I can't guarantee tomorrow's task won't be much more difficult.

[Cue evil laugh]

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Learn About Platform, the Back Door Way.

This live webinar is set for May 24 (2012) and will be taught by one of my favorite presenters: C. Hope Clark! If you've never attended a presentation by Hope, you'll be amazed by the overwhelming wave of information with which she'll flood you. She's amazing. Plus, all registrants will receive a personalized critique on their personal projects, which is an amazing deal in and of itself.

Click to continue.

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Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here are the most recent:

Friday, April 27, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Day 27

Okay, I know I'm not going to make any friends with today's task, but I have to do it. More importantly, you have to do it. That is, you need to push out of that comfort zone (for at least the month of April, which is now nearly over).


Don't close the door on new social media sites.

For today's task, join one new social media site. I will leave it up to you to decide which new social media site it will be. Maybe Pinterest (the surging dynamo) or possibly Goodreads (popular with writers who love to read--aka, the best kind) or even RedRoom (another popular site for authors).

If you're already signed up on all three of those sites, then heck, I'll give you a free pass today--unless there's a new site you've been meaning to check out (and there probably is if you're already a member of so many social media sites). It's my gift to you for being so proactively experimental.

Click here to check out my Ultimate Guide to Social Media.

To everyone who doesn't want another site to join...


I understand your frustration and exhaustion. During a normal month, I'd never suggest someone sign up for so many social media sites in such a short period of time, but this isn't a normal month. We're in the midst of a challenge!

And no, I don't expect you to spend a lot of time on every social media site you join. That's not always the point when you first sign up. No, you sign up to poke around and see if the site interests you at all. See if you have any natural connections. Try mingling a little bit.

If the site doesn't appeal to you, feel free to let it be for a while. Let me share a story with you.

How I Came to Rock Facebook and Twitter


My Facebook and Twitter accounts both boast more than 5,000 followers (or friends/subscribers) today. But both accounts were originally created and abandoned, because they just weren't right for me at the time that I signed up.

For Facebook, I just didn't understand why I would abandon a perfectly good MySpace account to play around on a site that didn't feature the same level of music and personal blogging that MySpace did. But then, MySpace turned into Spam-opolis, and the rest is history.

For Twitter, I just didn't get the whole Tweet concept, because Facebook already had status updates. Why Tweet when I could update my status on Facebook?

But I've gained a lot professionally and personally from Facebook and Twitter--even though they weren't the right sites for me initially. In fact, Google+ is sort of in that area for me right now. I don't use it near enough, but I started an account, because it just feels like a place that will explode sooner or later. It's not like Facebook is going to be around forever.

Click here to check out the Tangible Power of Social Media.

The Importance of Experimentation


Or as I prefer to think of it: The importance of play. You should constantly try new things, whether in your writing, your social media networks, or the places you eat food. Not only does it make life more exciting and provide you with new experiences and perspective, but it also helps make you a more well-rounded human being.

So don't complain about joining a new social media site. Instead, embrace the excuse to try something new, especially when there are only three more tasks left this month (and I promise no more new sites after today).

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Learn About Platform, the Back Door Way.

This live webinar is set for May 24 (2012) and will be taught by one of my favorite presenters: C. Hope Clark! If you've never attended a presentation by Hope, you'll be amazed by the overwhelming wave of information with which she'll flood you. She's amazing. Plus, all registrants will receive a personalized critique on their personal projects, which is an amazing deal in and of itself.

Click to continue.

*****

Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here are the most recent:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Day 26

(Note: If today's task seems a lot like last week's task on Thursday, there's a reason for that deja vu: It's the same task. One goal of this challenge is to build the basic routine of blogging at least once per week. If you're exceeding that, then good on you!)

For today's task, write a new blog post. Include a call to action (for instance, encourage readers to sign up for your e-mail feed or to share the post with others by using your share buttons) and link to it on your social networks. Also, don't forget to think SEO.


Consistency is still your ticket to success.

One of the top rules of finding success with online tools is applying consistency. While it's definitely a great thing if you share a blog post more than once a week, I think it's imperative that you post AT LEAST once a week. The main reason? It builds trust with your readers that you'll have something to share regularly and gives them a reason to visit regularly.

So today's task is not about making things complicated; it's just about keeping it real.

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Get the Final Seat in the Online Fiction Pitch Slam.

I just checked, and there is literally only one seat left for the Fiction Pitch Slam. Soooo... act fast if you want to get feedback from professional editors and two literary agents!

Click to continue.

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Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here are the most recent:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Day 25

One way to improve your platform is to make connections with other folks in your field, whether that field is writing, parenting, running, or rocket science. And a great way to make connections while helping establish your expertise in a field is through the act of interviewing experts. Sooo...


Excuse me. May I ask you a few questions?

For today's task, find an expert in your field and ask if that expert would like to be interviewed. If you can secure the interview, this will make for a great blog post. Or it may help you secure a freelance assignment with a publication in your field. Or both, and possibly more.

How to Ask for an Interview


Believe it or not, asking for an interview with an expert is easy. I do it all the time, and these are the steps I take.
  1. Find an expert on a topic. This is sometimes the hardest part: figuring out who I want to interview. But I never kill myself trying to think of the perfect person, and here's why: I can always ask for more interviews. Sometimes, it's just more productive to get the ball rolling than come up with excuses to not get started.
  2. Locate an e-mail for the expert. This can often be difficult, but a lot of experts have websites that share either e-mail addresses or have online contact forms. Many experts can also be reached via social media sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. Or they can be contacted through company websites. And so on.
  3. Send an e-mail asking for an e-mail interview. Of course, you can do this via an online contact form too. If the expert says no, that's fine. Respond with a "Thank you for considering and maybe we can make it work sometime in the future." If the expert says yes, then it's time to send along the questions.

How to Handle an E-mail Interview


Once you've secured your expert, it's time to compose and send the questions. Here are some of my tips.
  • Always start off by asking questions about the expert. This might seem obvious to some, but you'd be surprised how many people start off asking "big questions" right out of the gate. Always start off by giving the expert a chance to talk about what he or she is doing, has recently done, etc.
  • Limit questions to 10 or fewer. The reason for this is that you don't want to overwhelm your expert. In fact, I usually ask around eight questions in my e-mail interviews. If I need to, I'll send along some follow-up questions, though I try to limit those as well. I want the expert to have an enjoyable experience, not a horrible experience. After all, I want the expert to be a connection going forward.
  • Try not to get too personal. If experts want to get personal in their answers, that's great. But try to avoid getting too personal in the questions you ask, because you may offend your expert or make them feel uncomfortable. Remember: You're interviewing the expert, not leading an interrogation.
  • Request additional information. By additional information, I mean that you should request a head shot and a preferred bio--along with any links. To make the interview worth the expert's time, you should afford them an opportunity to promote themselves and their projects in their bios.

Once the Interview Goes Live...


Link to it on your social networks and let your expert know it is up (and include the specific link to the interview). If you're not already searching for your next expert to interview, be sure to get on it.

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Access a Library of Information for One Price!

This is seriously one of the more exciting things I've seen Writer's Digest ever offer. Unlimited access to more than 80 writing instruction e-books (and counting) for one price. Books on the craft of writing; books on the business of writing; they're all here.

Click to continue.

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Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here the most recent:

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

MNINB Spin Offs

So this challenge has been super exciting. I never know how these ideas of mine are going to play out, and this one has definitely been a winner--not because of anything I've done really, but more because of the great community that has formed and spun this challenge into several different directions.


The #MNINB chat is just one spin-off of this April Challenge.

For instance, we're about to have our second #MNINB chat on Twitter (okay, I totally take credit for planning to have a Twitter chat during April, though I should mention the specific hashtag was suggested by April Platform Challengers). Last week's chat was super informational and inspiring.

Beyond that, there's a very cool MNINB group on Facebook. Click here to check it out. There are some really interesting posts happening there, including guest post opportunities and folks sharing various online tools.

Someone mentioned LinkedIn and Google+ groups as well, though I haven't been able to find those. If you happen to know of these, just let me know in the Comments below (and include a link).

Speaking of the comments, that's where a lot of wonderful information has been shared this month as well. I can't wait to have a moment to breathe and go back through the comments for each day, because there's honestly been so much to find in there. Thank you for that!

Anyway, I just wanted to take a moment to share some of the MNINB spin-offs. Hope to see you at the #MNINB chat. I think they'll continue on Tuesdays beyond April.

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Check out an archive of writing instruction titles at one comprehensive price!

One thing I love about working for the Writer's Digest Writing Community is that I get to share cool products and services all the time. Well, this newest service may take the cake as the coolest thing we've ever offered: Writer's Digest eBooks. I know, I know; you're probably thinking, "What's so great about e-books?" But this isn't a place to get one-off e-books; this is a place to subscribe to an entire archive of writing instruction books for one price. You pay, and you get complete access to more than 80 titles--with new titles still being added.

Click to continue.

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Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:

April Platform Challenge: Day 24

My favorite part of this challenge has been connecting with so many new people and witnessing the way so many have been willing to share their stories and knowledge with each other. It's been incredible to watch a community develop. And as part of that community, it was great to chat with everyone on Twitter last week. Sooo...


Are you ready for another Twitter chat?

For today's task, take part in another #MNINB chat on Twitter. This time around, we'll shoot for an hour-long conversation starting at 8 p.m. (Atlanta, Georgia, time). I'll bring along a few general questions, but don't be shy about asking your own--directed at me and/or the group.

If you can't make the time (for instance, you live on the other side of the planet and will be fast asleep--or you're putting your kids to bed), don't worry. Just use the #MNINB hashtag to pose questions and/or connect with other April Platform Challenge participants throughout the day and the month.

Once you include the #MNINB hashtag in a tweet, you can click on it to see the full conversation linked to the #MNINB hashtag. Over time, Twitter updates the feed with new Tweets (just click on the button that says new Tweets).

If you use a social media caddy like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, etc., you can actually set up a stream that collects anything tied to the #MNINB hashtag.

Anyway, I hope to see many of you on Twitter tonight.

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Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


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How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself.

In the webinar How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself, super freelance writer I.J. Schecter teaches writers how to avoid the most common social media pitfalls, how to respond to others strategically, how to get work for yourself by talking about others, and more.

Click to continue.

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Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here the most recent:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Advice for Writers: 030

Here's what I've found this week for writers.

How to Outline (The Easy Way) Like Janet Evanovich, by Zachary Petit. In college, I learned the importance of outlines for keeping stories on track. However, I've never done an outline like the one used by Evanovich.

25 Things You Should Know About Transmedia Storytelling, by Chuck Wendig. Wendig does a good job at explaining transmedia storytelling and sharing his thoughts on it. If you don't know what transmedia storytelling is, then I suggest you read this post first.

Train Your Muse Like You Train a Puppy, by Rachelle Gardner. I must really be burning out on platform-related content, because I've got a bunch of craft-related posts to share this week. Not that focusing on the craft of writing is a bad thing (at all) for writers.

How to Create Distinctive Character Voices, by L.B. Gale. The title of the post pretty much says it all: This post is about how to create distinctive character voices. Gale provides some interesting insights (and tests) related to making this happen.

Updating Traditional Motifs to Create Fresh Fiction, by Sophie Masson. Masson shares how she updated traditional motifs for her novel The Boggle Hunters, a fantasy adventure novel for middle grade readers. It's worth reading to see how you can take some traditional ideas and spin them in a new direction.

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Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:

April Platform Challenge: Day 23

After today's task is complete, there will only be a week's worth of tasks left. If you're still here and caught up, then go you! If you're a little behind, now is the perfect time to dig deep and make that final push to get everything done. You can do it!


Time for a time management plan.

For today's task, create a time management plan.

You may be wondering why I didn't start out the challenge with a time management plan, and here's the reason: I don't think some people would've had any idea how long it takes them to write a blog post, share a link on Twitter and Facebook, respond to social media messages, etc. Now, many of you probably have a basic idea--even if you're still getting the hang of your new-fangled social media tools.

Soooo... the next step is to create a time management plan that enables you to be "active" socially and connect with other writers and potential readers while also spending a majority of your time writing.

As with any plan, you can make this as simple or complicated as you wish. For instance, my plan is to do 15 minutes or less of social media after completing each decent-sized task on my daily task list. I use social media time as a sort of break, which I consider more productive than watching TV or playing Angry Birds.

I put my writing first and carve out time in the mornings and evenings to work on poetry and fiction. Plus, I consider my blogging efforts part of my writing too. So there you go.

My plan is simple and flexible, but if you want to get hard core, break down your time into 15-minute increments. Then, test out your time management plan to see if it works for you. If not, then make minor changes to the plan until it has you feeling somewhat comfortable with the ratio of time you spend writing and time you spend building your platform.

Remember: A platform is a life-long investment in your career. It's not a sprint, so you have to pace yourself. Also, it's not something that happens overnight, so you can't wait until you need a platform to start building one. Begin today and build over time--so that it's there when you need it.

But for today, just start figuring out how to manage your time, especially beginning on May 1.

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Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


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How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself.

In the webinar How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself, super freelance writer I.J. Schecter teaches writers how to avoid the most common social media pitfalls, how to respond to others strategically, how to get work for yourself by talking about others, and more.

Click to continue.

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Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here are the most recent:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Day 22

For today's task, pitch a guest blog post to another blogger. Writing guest posts is an incredible way to improve your exposure and expertise on a subject, while also making a deeper connection with the blogger who is hosting your guest post. It's a win for everyone involved.


Guest blogging is a great way to build traffic and connections.

If you want to pitch ideas to writing-related blogs, here's my 2012 list of the best blogs for writers to read. There are some excellent blogs to pitch on this list--if your guest post is related to writing. If not, you'll want to find a blog that covers your guest blog topic.

By the way, I'm in a constant need of guest bloggers on the My Name Is Not Bob blog, especially for my Life Changing Moments series, which is about a moment that changes your entire perspective on life. But I also cover a lot of other random stuff too. Click here for details on how to get the ball rolling.

But how do I pitch a guest blog post?
After you know where you want to guest blog, here are some tips for pitching your guest blog post:
  • Let the blogger know you're familiar with the blog. You should do this in one sentence (two sentences max) and be specific. For instance, a MNINB reader could say, "I've reading your Not Bob blog for months, but I really love this April Platform Challenge." Simple as that. It lets me know you're not a spammer, but it doesn't take me a long time to figure out what you're trying to say.
  • Propose an idea or two. Each idea should have its own paragraph. This makes it easy for the blogger to know where one idea ends and the next one begins. In a pitch, you don't have to lay out all the details, but you do want to be specific. Try to limit the pitch to 2-4 sentences.
  • Share a little about yourself. Emphasis on "a little." If you have previous publications or accomplishments that line up with the blog, share those. If you have expertise that lines up with the post you're pitching, share those. Plus, include any details about your online platform that might show you can help bring traffic to the post. But include all this information in 1-4 sentences.
  • Include your information. When you close the pitch, include your name, e-mail, blog (or website) URL, and other contact information you feel comfortable sharing. There's nothing more awkward for me than to have a great pitch that doesn't include the person's name. Or a way to learn more about the person.
What do I do after the pitch is accepted?
First off, congratulations! This is a great opportunity to show off your writing skills. Here's how to take advantage of your guest post assignment:
  1. Write an exceptional post. Don't hold back your best stuff for your blog. Write a post that will make people want to find more of your writing.
  2. Turn in your post on deadline. If there's a deadline, hit it. If there's not a deadline, try to turn around the well-written post in a timely manner.
  3. Promote the guest post. Once your guest post has gone live, promote it like crazy by linking to your post on your blog, social networks, message boards, and wherever else makes sense for you. By sending your own connections to this guest post, you're establishing your own expertise--not only through your post but also your connections.
Now get pitching!

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Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


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How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself.

In the webinar How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself, super freelance writer I.J. Schecter teaches writers how to avoid the most common social media pitfalls, how to respond to others strategically, how to get work for yourself by talking about others, and more.

Click to continue.

*****

Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here are the most recent:

Saturday, April 21, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Day 21

For today's task, try joining one of the social media management tools, such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, or Seesmic.


A social media management tool can make it easier to manage
multiple accounts on multiple platforms, saving you time.

Social media management tools are popular among social media users for one reason: They help save time and effort in managing multiple social media platforms. For instance, they make following specific threads in Twitter a snap.

Since I know that quite a few challenge participants are using these tools already, I think it'd be great to hear from them in the comments below. Which is your favorite and why?

If anyone has previously decided against using social media management tools, I'd love to hear why for that as well.

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Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


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How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself.

In the webinar How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself, super freelance writer I.J. Schecter teaches writers how to avoid the most common social media pitfalls, how to respond to others strategically, how to get work for yourself by talking about others, and more.

Click to continue.

*****

Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here are the most recent:

Friday, April 20, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Day 20

For today's task, I want you to create an editorial calendar for blog (or website). Before you start to panic, read on.


If you don't like spreadsheets, use paper to plot your calendar.

First, here's how I define an editorial calendar: A list of content with dates attached to when the content goes live. For instance, I created an editorial calendar specifically for this April Platform Challenge and "April Platform Challenge: Day 20" was scheduled to go live on April 20 (fingers crossed I can finish this post).

It's really simple. In fact, I keep track of my editorial calendar with a paper notebook, which gives me plenty of space for crossing things out, jotting down ideas, and attaching Post-It notes.

Here are tips for different blogging frequencies:
  • Post once per week. If you post once a week, pick a day of the week for that post to happen each week. Then, write down the date for each post. Beside each date, write down ideas for that post ahead of time. There will be times when the ideas are humming and you get ahead on your schedule, but there may also be times when the ideas are slow. So don't wait, write down ideas as they come.
  • Post more than once per week. Try identifying which days you'll usually post (for some, that may be daily). Then, for each of those days, think of a theme for that day. For instance, my 2012 schedule offers Life Changing Moments on Wednesdays and Poetic Saturdays on, umm, Saturdays.
You can always change plans and move posts to different days, but the editorial calendar is an effective way to set very clear goals with deadlines for accomplishing them. Having that kind of structure will improve your content--even if your blog is personal, fictional, poetic, etc. Believe me, I used to be a skeptic before diving in, and the results on MNINB speak for themselves.

One more benefit of editorial calendars
There are times when I feel less than inspired. There are times when life throws me several elbows as if trying to prevent me from blogging. That's when I am the most thankful for maintaining an editorial calendar, because I don't have to think of a new idea on the spot; it's already there in my editorial calendar.

Plus, as I said earlier, you can always change plans. While I always knew "April Platform Challenge: Day 20" was going to happen today, I originally had a different task assigned to this day. I altered the plan to accommodate the challenge. So I don't want to hear that an editorial calendar limits spontaneity or inspiration; if anything, having an editorial calendar enhances it.

One last thing on today's assignment
Don't stress yourself out that you have to create a complete editorial calendar for the year or even the month. I just want you to take some time out today to think about it, sketch some ideas, and get the ball rolling. I'm 100% confident that you'll be glad you did.

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Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


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How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself.

In the webinar How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself, super freelance writer I.J. Schecter teaches writers how to avoid the most common social media pitfalls, how to respond to others strategically, how to get work for yourself by talking about others, and more.

Click to continue.

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Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here are the most recent:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Don't Worry About What You Don't Know: Some Words of Advice

As many of my regular MNINB readers know, we're in the midst of a month-long platform challenge right now. It's been a pretty incredible experience for me to throw out a task each morning and see how everyone responds. Plus, I love it when my ideas are challenged or improved upon, as well as seeing people offer completely new advice. It's great.


Are you focusing on what you don't know?

Notice that I am not upset when I don't know everything. Also, notice that I consider myself in a perpetual state of learning from others. And after you notice these things, I encourage you to apply the same thought process to your writing, your writing career, and well, your life.

In the comments on this blog, on social networks, in our recent Twitter chat, I've seen writers comment upon how they don't know X, Y, Z, etc., and say how hopeless they feel that they don't know certain things. I understand wanting to learn more, but please realize you will never know everything.

That's not a threat or a put down. It's just completely impossible to know everything (unless you're this guy).

So what can I do?
Here's my best advice: Treat the process of improving your writing skills and building your career as if it is a process. There's no finish line. There's no set in stone checklist of things to complete. It would be nice if such things existed for writers, but the playing field is always changing.

If you treat your career as a process, you'll constantly spend some time learning new skills and applying those skills toward advancing your writing career, while spending a huge chunk of your time writing and producing great content. This is true whether you write fiction, nonfiction, copywriting, poetry, or greeting cards.

The trick is to change your focus from what you don't know and what you haven't done to building upon what you do know and what you have done. It's a small change in wording, but it's a huge difference in mindset and worldview. If you're currently doing the former, try out the latter. I think you'll like the change in scenery.

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Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


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Use social networking tools to succeed in publishing!

Jane Friedman and Alice Pope lead the webinar Using Social Networking Tools to Succeed in Publishing. This webinar covers how to test ideas using social media, learn preferences of editors and agents, stay up to date on trends, build your personal brand, and more.

Click to continue.

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Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:

April Platform Challenge: Day 19

For today's task, write a new blog post. Include a call to action (for instance, encourage readers to sign up for your e-mail feed or to share the post with others by using your share buttons) and link to it on your social networks. Also, don't forget to think SEO.


Consistency is your ticket to success.

One of the top rules of finding success with online tools is applying consistency. While it's definitely a great thing if you share a blog post more than once a week, I think it's imperative that you post AT LEAST once a week. The main reason? It builds trust with your readers that you'll have something to share regularly and gives them a reason to visit regularly.

So today's task is not about making things complicated; it's just about keeping it real.

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Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


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How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself.

In the webinar How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself, super freelance writer I.J. Schecter teaches writers how to avoid the most common social media pitfalls, how to respond to others strategically, how to get work for yourself by talking about others, and more.

Click to continue.

*****

Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here are the most recent:

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Day 18

Another day, another task. This challenge is now 60% finished. Don't lose heart; you CAN finish this and drive on to new heights!


SEO, aka Search Engine Optimization, aka getting found

For today's task, I want you to slow down and think a little about SEO (which tech-speak for search engine optimization, which is itself an intelligent way of saying "what gets your website to display at or near the top of a search on Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc."). So this task is actually multi-pronged.
  1. Make a list of keywords that you want your website or blog to be known for. For instance, I want MNINB to be known for terms like "Robert Lee Brewer," "Writing Tips," "Parenting Tips," "Platform Tips," "Living Tips," etc. Think big here and don't limit yourself to what you think you can actually achieve in the short term.
  2. Compare your website or blog's current content to your keywords. Are you lining up your actual content with how you want your audience to view you and your online presence? If not, it's time to think about how you can start offering content that lines up with your goals. If so, then move on to the next step, which is...
  3. Evaluate your current approach to making your content super SEO-friendly. If you need some guidance, check out these SEO Tips for Writers. There are very simple things you can do with your titles, subheads, and images to really improve SEO. Heck, I get a certain bit of traffic every single day just from my own SEO approach to content--sometimes on surprising posts.
  4. Research keywords for your next post. When deciding on a title for your post and subheads within the content, try researching keywords. Here's a free keyword tool you can use from Google. When possible, you want to use keywords that are searched a lot but that have low competition. These are the low-hanging fruit that can help you build strong SEO for your website or blog.
A note on SEO: It's easy to fall in love with finding keywords and changing your content to be keyword-loaded and blah-blah-blah. But resist making your website or blog a place that is keyword-loaded and blah-blah-blah. Because readers don't stick around for too much keyword-loaded blah-blah-blah. It's kind of blah. And bleck. Instead, use SEO and keyword research as a way to optimize great content and to take advantage of opportunities as they arise.

Anyway, I thought I was going to make today fairly easy, but now I see that I've actually laid out a 4-step checklist of things to do. Feel free to vent in the comments below and call me not nice things on the social media site of your choosing.

And remember, this challenge is now 60% finished. You CAN finish this!

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Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


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How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself.

In the webinar How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself, super freelance writer I.J. Schecter teaches writers how to avoid the most common social media pitfalls, how to respond to others strategically, how to get work for yourself by talking about others, and more.

Click to continue.

*****

Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here are the most recent:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Day 17

A big part of social networking (both online and off) is joining in on the conversation and connecting with other people who have similar interests. Some writers are naturals at this; others not so much (but don't worry, I've been in the "not so much" category more than the "naturals" category throughout my life--so it can be done).


Join the #MNINB chat today between 5-6 p.m.

For today's task, take part in a Twitter conversation. In fact, take part in the #MNINB chat today between 5-6 p.m. (Atlanta, Georgia, time--or EST). I'll be there for the full hour (and maybe a little after) to pose and answer questions. It'll be a great opportunity to connect and practice chatting (if you haven't participated in one on Twitter yet).

If you can't make the time (for instance, you live on the other side of the planet and will be fast asleep), don't worry. Just use the #MNINB hashtag to pose questions and/or connect with other April Platform Challenge participants throughout the day and the month.

Once you include the #MNINB hashtag in a tweet, you can click on it to see the full conversation linked to the #MNINB hashtag. Over time, Twitter updates the feed with new Tweets (just click on the button that says new Tweets).

If you use a social media caddy like Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, etc., you can actually set up a stream that collects anything tied to the #MNINB hashtag.

Anyway, I hope to see many of you on Twitter later today.

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Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


*****

How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself.

In the webinar How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself, super freelance writer I.J. Schecter teaches writers how to avoid the most common social media pitfalls, how to respond to others strategically, how to get work for yourself by talking about others, and more.

Click to continue.

*****

Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here the most recent:

Monday, April 16, 2012

Advice for Writers: 029

Another week full of advice for writers:

An Author Who Markets Her E-Books in Airports, by Ann Okerson. This is an interesting piece about how a romance author uses family and friends to help plug her writing efforts.

Five Ways to Fix a Boring Bio, by Keith Cronin. I love the first way: Do something interesting.

58 Ways to Create Persuasive Content Your Audience Will Love, by Henneke. While this post is on a copywriting blog, the tips are valuable for all writers and bloggers.

Editing Your Life, by Julianna Baggott. I'm a sucker for contemplative blog posts that connect writing with living. Here's such a post from Baggott.

How to Write a Novel in Two Sentences, by Nick Thacker. What a title for a blog post!

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Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


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Check out these other Not Bob posts for writers:

April Platform Challenge: Day 16

Well, we're now past the half-way point in this challenge. In a little over two weeks, we've connected to four social media sites, written at least two blog posts, defined ourselves and our goals, and quite a bit more. Time to hit the second half!


Deliver your blog posts to readers via e-mail.

For today's challenge, add an e-mail feed to your blog. There are many ways to increase traffic to your blog, but one that has paid huge dividends for MNINB is adding Feedblitz to the blog.

As the subscribers to my e-mail feed have increased, my blog traffic has increased as well. In fact, after great content, I'd say that adding share buttons (from Day 7) and an e-mail feed are the top two ways to build traffic.

Click here to view QuickStart Guides for Adding Feedblitz to Blogger, WordPress, TypePad, MySpace, Podcasting.

Though I have an account on Tumblr, I'm just not sure if it offers some kind of e-mail/RSS feed service.

The reason I think e-mail feeds are so useful is that they pop into my inbox whenever a new post is up, which means I can check it very easily on my phone when I'm waiting somewhere. In fact, this is how I keep up with several of my favorite blogs. It's just one more way to make your blog content accessible to readers in a variety of formats.

If I remember, this task didn't take me long to add, but I've been grateful for finally getting around to adding it ever since.

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Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


*****

How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself.

In the webinar How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself, super freelance writer I.J. Schecter teaches writers how to avoid the most common social media pitfalls, how to respond to others strategically, how to get work for yourself by talking about others, and more.

Click to continue.

*****

Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here the most recent:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April Platform Challenge: Day 15

Some people have trouble with platform building, because they carry around the wrong ideas about what they're trying to do. For instance, some writers think they're just trying to push their information out to others. Still others think they're just trying to gather huge numbers of friends and followers. But how I view social media and networking (online and off) is an attempt to make real connections with others like-minded people. There may be moments when you're able to help others; there may be moments when others may be able to help you.


Years before connecting with Laurie Kolp in the real world,
we connected online through my various poetry challenges.

For today's task, make an attempt to connect with at least three new people on one of your social networks. Doesn't matter if it's Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Google+. The important thing is that you find three new people who appear to share your interests and that you try to friend, follow, or connect to them.

As a person who has limited wiggle room for approving new friends on Facebook, I'd like to share what approach tends to work the best with me for approving new friend requests. Basically, send your request and include a brief message introducing yourself and why you want to connect with me.

That's right. The best way to win me over is to basically introduce yourself. Something along the lines of, "Hello. My name is Robert Lee Brewer, and I write poetry. I read a poem of yours in XYZ Literary Journal that I totally loved and have sent you a friend request. I hope you'll accept it." Easy as that.

Notice that I did not mention anything about checking out my blog or reading my poems. How would you like it if someone introduced themselves and then told you to buy their stuff? It sounds a bit telemarketer-ish to me.

Anyway, the assignment today is pretty straightforward. Reach out and make a few new connections that are thoughtful and may lead somewhere new and exciting.

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Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Plus, sign up for free e-mail updates from this blog in the top right-hand corner of the page.


*****

How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself.

In the webinar How to Use Social Media to Promote Your Writing and Yourself, super freelance writer I.J. Schecter teaches writers how to avoid the most common social media pitfalls, how to respond to others strategically, how to get work for yourself by talking about others, and more.

Click to continue.

*****

Need to catch up or re-visit earlier challenge tasks? Here the most recent: