Saturday, April 6, 2013

Floundering (Stevie Libra guest post)

Okay, this guest post is from someone who represents many writers who've taken a stab at platform, felt overwhelmed, and are now floundering (a great title, btw, Stevie). If you have suggestions for time management or just words of encouragement, please include in the comments below. Personally, I try to budget my time, and editorial calendars have worked wonders for my various blogs.

Confession time: I’ve been ignoring my author platform. 

I worked so hard during the 30-day Platform Challenge last year, but I saw the end result as a monster that required daily feedings of intensifying proportions. It was too much for me, but I still felt the need to have a platform. So I decided to dedicate one weekend in March to figuring out what the problems were and how I might address them.
The Maven
Until last summer I had a thriving website/blog on health. I had lots of followers, lots of articles, lots of classes via e-mail, and lots of private consultations. It was lots of work.
I spent hours researching and writing. I was excited about posting twice weekly and my little idea book was bursting with subjects for more posts. I could answer just about any question about why your body wouldn’t do what you wanted it to do. I was the maven.
I dropped it so I would have more time to write fiction.
Not the Maven
I'm not the maven in fiction writing. I'm just now learning the difference between concept and idea, subplot and theme. It’s not the time to imitate my writerly friends and give advice. At this time I’m a sponge, sucking up all the information I can find.
So my first problem was that I didn’t know what to write about. 
If I were a fan of my novels, what would I want to find on my website? Maybe story progress, photos of settings, a bit about characters, some backstory. Funny stories about things that go bump in novel writing.
I’d love to do that in the future, but with my first novel in shambles due to the recent acquisition of plotting skills, I’m not ready to share that sort of thing. But I guess I can share what I’m learning. Hmmm, subject of the next post: plotting.
Finding the Time
Another problem is the horrendous amount of time some people spend writing/reading/commenting on blogs, tweeting, or otherwise cultivating their tribes. If I committed that much time to my platform, when would I have time to work on my novel?
I decided there was probably a place called “Platform Light” -- where I could keep it alive, post monthly so at least my family would keep reading, and then study some of those “Ten Ways to...” articles about increasing blog readership. So I dropped all but the three most useful: my Facebook author page, Twitter, and the website/blog.
Which leads me to those other problems I’m having...
I’ve spent more than a few hours pulling my hair out over services that collect e-mail addresses. They’re supposed to effortlessly disseminate my newsletters and blog posts using their mighty machines. I tried one free company, then another, and couldn't get either of them to work properly. The latest one delayed my posts by a full week. For my health website I used a fee service to do this and it worked brilliantly, but I paid them to be brilliant.
On a more basic level, I don’t like the entire idea of collecting e-mail addresses for a potential newsletter. Why can’t I just use my blog, Twitter, and Facebook to make announcements? Is everyone on Facebook yet?
And the most frustrating problem of all: spam comments on my posts. For every legitimate comment posted I would get ten invitations to do all sorts of things I would never want to do, thank you. My local television station now requires Facebook sign-in to comment on their news stories. I'm thinking that might work for me, too.
Less Hermit, More Platform
So... I think I can potentially solve the problems with e-mails and comments just by turning my life over to Facebook. And I’ve simplified enough in other areas to make me feel comfortable enough with the process so I can spend more time being social.
The last problem, what to write, will resolve in due time. I haven’t fully engaged in the process for several months but I have made the decision to continue with the platform. That’s a big step from where I was just last week when I was willing to dump the whole mess just to relieve myself of the guilt.
What to do to instill these changes into my life? My first action will be to add Facebook comments to my website. While I’m there I can post something about my wild ride into plotting. And then I’m going to sort my three-inch stack of note cards into little piles on the floor and enter the good stuff into Scrivener
Less hermit, more platform.
Stevie Libra only recently began taking the craft of fiction seriously — acknowledging the existence of stories inside that wanted to find expression on paper. In 2011, at the age of 60, her first story came to be written. Now she has four to play with. She and her husband live in Columbia, SC, with the best of family nearby. Along with attempting to keep up a platform and plotting novels, Stevie is on staff to a ginger-colored feline. You can find her at, on facebook (, or twitter as StevieLibra.
Follow Not Bob on Twitter @robertleebrewer
Check out previous Not Bob posts below:


Melanie Marttila said...

Stevie, I think your post is great. One of the things that I've learned over the past year is that platform isn't for everyone. You really have to see how it will work best for you, not the other way around.
There are those that will tell you that unless you're uncomfortable, that you're not growing, but you have to assess where you need to feel uncomfortable. If it's not helping you to develop in the ways that you want, focus your efforts elsewhere.
Writing can be enough of a stretch into the discomfort zone and if that's where you need to focus your efforts, I say go for it.
Try not to feel that you have to platform to write. Several experts suggest that you focus on writing first, then, when you have a product to support, dive back in as a means of promotion and community building.
I've cut my blogging down to weekends. With a full time job, it's really hard to balance everything. Right now, it's working, but I find that I'm still behind on some things. I just can't make enough time for everything. So I prioritize and steel myself not to feel guilty.
Break a pencil in your writing endeavours. Find a place for your online life that fits with what you want to do and accomplish. there really is no wrong way, there is only the way that works best for you.

Unknown said...

A great post, Stevie.
A great response, Melanie.
I write short fiction, essays, and poetry. I've worked at this for a few years, am becoming more polished with every passing day, and as you know that takes time––the writing/revising/simmering/revising again. Then there's the commitment to getting my work "out there."
I've attended writers' conferences, and belong to a writing group. More time. At conferences, there's always the push for platforms. I said no to Twitter for now, butI beefed up my Facebook content. It took time and continues to take time.
I also created a blog, Flying Pages.
I posted twice a week with a healthy editorial calendar worked out. I enjoy what I write for my blog, and I learn from what I write for my blog. But it still took time.
Who's following me, what are my stats, am I commenting enough on other blogs, why aren't more people following me, are my posts diverse yet succinct enough––and the merry-go-round picked up speed. I was hyperventilating.
In the end, I found I had to cut back posting to once a week. I also stepped back a few paces with Facebook. I had to, because I wasn't doing what I should be doing––writing.
I've reprioritized. Like Melanie commented, I'm "breaking a pencil" with fresh writing and polishing the old.
Writing is isolation enough w/o having to feel constricted by additional have-to's, should'ves, and could'ves.
I'm still tweaking the platform process. What is most important, though, is having the freedom to enjoy what brought me to all of this in the first place––creative writing.

DC Gallin said...

Learning how to write fiction is a past time that borders on obsession – a very intimate experience that teaches us a lot about life and how we stand in it as storytellers.

Is it even possible to develop skills as a fiction writer while keeping up a massive on line platform for non fiction?

Thinking about your fiction platform while starting/learning to write fiction is like building the roads before you know how to drive, let alone designed your vehicle to use on those roads.

Personally I don't trust fiction writers with a huge, chatty on-line presence to write engrossing fiction because how can the reader be totally involved in the story if the author was not a 100% drawn into it while writing it ?

See, now I've missed out on a good few words of writing on a sunday morning by commenting here... xx

Linda G. Hatton said...

Stevie, It is easy for me, too, to let social media control my schedule. I have certain writing goals each day and can't be online if I haven't met them. I like the idea of scheduling it in like the rest of the work I have to do, but I haven't done that yet.
Anyway, I enjoyed reading your post. Good luck in your writing endeavors.

Gerry said...

Stevie, you may have just given me the courage to back off from the blog (and everything else platform), at least for a while, without feeling quite so guilty. Everybody who commented has expressed the issues and frustrations so well, too, that I won't repeat. Thanks so much for this post. And good luck with the fiction!

Muddy said...

Yay! I'm not alone with my time management struggles! Stevie, I'm right there with you. I love how you've addressed how overwhelming it can be to manage a platform. Trying to fit in everything I want to do in a day AND write is impossible. I love how you've simplified everything to what works for you. Great job!

Stevie said...

Thanks you guys! I actually wax poetic a few times a month in something that is blogable, though not writerly. Hence the gardening category on my website. :-)