Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Social Media Manifesto III: Facebook

I was a long-time diehard Facebook fan. I loved reconnecting with people with whom I'd fallen out of touch. I had my fan page and my personal page and networked my blog and everything. And I loved it.

But I didn't love the constantly changing privacy policies. And I didn't love realizing that I'd just spent the past hour and a half reading status updates when I could have been -- should have been -- writing.

For me, the last straw of Facebook came when my child's 1st grade teacher took pictures of the kids in her class and posted them on her page. Soon, people were tagging her with my name and links to my FB page.

Now, I don't put my child's picture online. Ever. To me, that just smacks of exploitation. And the paranoiac in me certainly doesn't want my kid's picture tagged with my name. I know there are a bazillion parents out there happily posting pics of every second of their kids' lives. Well, I'm not one of them.

So time-wasting and photo-tagging trumped (in my opinion) staying in touch with a few people, I got off FB. Went cold turkey. Never missed it, found lots of other ways to procrastinate on my writing, and never looked back...

I was happy being footloose and Facebook free until recently, when a client wanted me to administer their fan page. (Which, incidentally, I set up back in the day...). I fought it. I came up with every reason in the book not to. But the client always wins. Since, not surprisingly, one cannot administer a page without being a member, I was dragged kicking and screaming back to the FB fold.

Here, then, in a nutshell is my Facebook policy:
  • I have a personal page, but rarely check in.
  • My page is my name. If you'd like to say "hi," feel free. I'll probably respond.
  • I only add as friends people I know.
  • I have zero interest in anyone's virtual farm, mafia, or zoo. I mean it. Even if it's my own mother: I just don't care. I'm sorry if that comes across as harsh, but I doubt that I'm alone in this.
  • I don't have an official "fan page." In my experience, it becomes just one more thing to manage. 
I use social media to stay informed and to stay in touch. I must constantly remember that it is a tool. It is not my reason for living. I was not put here on the planet to raise my Klout score or see if I can get the most Twitter followers, or blog readers, or Facebook fans. I love spending time online meeting and interacting with the wonderful people I meet there, but my life begins when I pull the plug and get down to the business of living.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Social Media Manifesto II: My Take on Triberr

Confession time: I joined Triberr without fully understanding the implications of joining a tribe.

In essence, Triberr expands your blog influence through Twitter. The members of a tribe have an obligation to tweet about each other's blog posts. It's easy! It's "automagical!" All you have to do it set it and forget it.

Within a few days of joining Triberr, I had over 100 hits on my newest blog post. Yay! thought I. This is outstanding! I understood why so many bloggers consider Triberr the best thing since sliced bread.

But then I started thinking. I bake my own bread. And there's a reason for it: I hate the store-bought, no-attention-given-to-it, sliced stuff.
Photo by Kevin Rosseel

I noticed that my Twitter stream was posting links to blogs I'd never read. Most of which were good. Some, however, were not. One mongo-tribe that I joined has over 30 members! This sounds great: Over 30 people tweeting my blog post! Wowsers! But when I read their blogs -- the stuff that I was reciprocating by posting for them -- I was less thrilled.

Don't get me wrong: a lot of the posts were excellent! I regularly shoutout and RT these bloggers anyway. And I met some wonderful new bloggers, which makes any day seem like Christmas. I was honored to be a part of their tribe. However, not all of the over 30 were created equal.

One guy has two Twitter streams in the same tribe. He writes niche novels and his blog exists only to promote his books. Every single post has the phrase "In my book..." in it. There is no content. It's only sales. Now, he has 10x more followers than I. And he dutifully tweeted my blog post. But his click-through rate is abysmal. Maybe he bought his thousands of followers. Maybe they just ignore his self-serving posts. But it concerned me that I had entered into a social contract with someone so clearly bent on self-gratification.

Another member in the mongo-tribe wrote...er... stuff I won't read. The book currently being touted is all about rape and murder and sadistic yuck. If I won't put that kind of thing in my own head, why would I want to tweet about it as if I were encouraging others to?

Some members posted myriad-multiple times a day. Which means that they were commandeering my Twitter feed. I tweet too much as it is on my own, thank you very much. The last thing I want to do is give free rein to someone even more verbose than I.

And some members, sadly, just didn't write blog posts that I'd ever retweet. Like the ones that only quote glowing reviews of their books. Or the ones that have nothing to do with writing or craft. (It's true, I tweet about more than just writing. But the eclectic stuff I post has been read and vetted by me. I think it's interesting and share it. I don't just share it 'cause I know ya.) Or the ones that review video games. It's fine -- in fact, it's GREAT -- that someone blogs about that stuff. I just don't want to be in the position where I feel obliged to put it out there.

Photo by Agatha Brown
Triberr kind of pushed me over the edge. It seemed so wonderful: new readers! New tweeps! New followers! New friends! What's not to like? But I felt very quickly overwhelmed. On Thursday, I realized that I had spent ALL fr$&!@king day on social media. And zero time writing.

Now this is entirely my fault. Mine and mine alone. I take full responsibility. But as I was mulling over "where on earth did my time go?" I had the second realization that I had auto-tweeted a bunch of my Tribesmates (tribestweeps? tribesmembers? Hmmm...) stuff without even realizing it. And I heard about it from my followers. Because when they clicked on what I sent, they didn't see what they were used to seeing. Which made me realize that I was recommending stuff without reading it. Which is something I hate in others.

So this past weekend I called a meeting with myself. Pulled the SM plug. Spent some time thinking long and hard about what I was accomplishing with all this SM interaction. And I came to the inescapable realization that I am spending more time on SM stuff than I am on writing.

This, I told myself, was unacceptable. I have become the employee who spends too much work time online. Except I work for me.  Not only was my boss unhappy with my productivity levels, but my SM friends were beginning to question my judgment. It was time for serious housekeeping. 

So, feeling that I couldn't in good conscience keep up with my end of the social contract, I quit the mondo-tribe.

This was not a thing I took lightly. I stressed about it for several days, weighing the pros and cons of remaining. I feel badly about leaving: some of the writers in it are fantastic. But ultimately, I felt that it was taking me more time to pick and choose content -- to browse through all that was offered and determine what I wanted to bring to the attention of my followers -- than it was worth.

My biggest problem with Triberr is the thing that most people love about it. I don't like the automation. I don't like looking at my Twitter feed and seeing stuff I've posted that I didn't know about. It makes me feel like I've given free-rein to someone else and turned an imposter loose with my Twitter account. It's the whole homemade bread thing, dontchaknow

This, then, is my Triberr policy:
  • All auto-posting is turned off. No one gets an automatic thumbs up. From now on, I will read all Triberr members' posts before I post them.
  • I'll only tweet about stuff I like. My loyalty to my Twitter followers comes first. My tribe members come second.
  • I'll make an honest effort to list all tribe members and follow their Twitter streams. When possible, I'll RT things they say. But I won't pander to blatant self promoters.
  • I would sooner close my Triberr affiliation than lose writing time. If my Triberr policy becomes too time consuming, then either a tribe, or the whole Triberr shebang, is gone.
 How do you feel about Triberr -- either as a member or from reading a Triberr member's Twitter stream? What's your policy when it comes to auto-tweeting?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Social Media Manifesto I: Twitter Rules

I never wanted to be on Twitter. But a writer friend set me up on Twitter and Tweetdeck while I was at her house one day and I was very quickly sold.

Twitter affords me the opportunity to talk with people all over the world. I have Twitter friends in London, Sweden, Australia, Japan, and Scotland.

Twitter lets me connect with other writers and with readers. It also grants me access to the innermost thoughts of agents, editors, and publishers. Interestingly enough, I find that the Twitter feeds of writers overwhelmingly tend toward the positive, while those of the agents tend to be snark-filled.

Thanks to Twitter, I've discovered new writers that I love and new agents that I admire. I've also run across writers that I wouldn't read if you paid me and agents who are so vitriolic that I wouldn't want
them repping me even if it meant a quick, sure sale. Shortly after I joined, I mused about life lessons I've learned from Twitter. They still hold.

My Twitter Rules:

  • If you mention me (@MuseInks), I'll send you a thank you. And I'll mean it. But if you're one of those who RTs every mention, I'll stop thanking you for the shoutouts. That sort of thing is just a social media vicious circle and it wastes my time.
  • I won't follow you just because you ask me to for the same reason I don't buy every thing I see an advertisement for. Give me a reason to follow you and I will.
  • I don't care if I have a million followers. I'd rather have just a few who read what I say and who respond to me.
  • I don't automatically follow back if you follow me. It depends on your Twitter page (I look at the feeds of everyone before I follow). If you only tweet about something you're trying to sell, or if you never RT, or if you tweet only quotes, or if you never engage your followers in conversation, I won't follow you. Why would I?
  • I personally approve all content in my Twitter feed. I might schedule a tweet for a later time, but not before vetting the content. I won't auto-tweet.
This last rule leads me to my issues with Triberr. More on that tomorrow...

In the meantime, what rules do you have for your Twitter & SM accounts? How do you manage them and make them work best for you?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Birthday Wishes, Awards, and Worthwhile #Writing Blogs

Yesterday was my birthday (cue the confetti shower and the kazoo salute).

Last year on my birthday, I posted my Wishes for Wannabe & Working Writers. I had every intention of revamping the post and proffering it again because everything I said a year ago holds true: I wish you enough...

But birthdays are not about revisiting the past. They're about marking a moment in time and marching forward into the fray of the future with bravery, however misplaced it may be. Earlier this week, JKP at The Manicheans blog bestowed upon me The Lovely Blog Award.

And I didn't get her anything. ~sigh~

The terms of accepting said award are simple: say 7 things about yourself and nominate 15 other blog recipients. (Hmm... There is a very real fear that if I continue to accept blog awards, there will be no secrets left between me and thee. Then the mystery will be gone and the honeymoon will be over. ::sniff::)

Well, since my birthday got me thinking about all the stuff I'd still like to do in life, I figured I'd share my dreams with you. Perhaps my shouting them out to the world will make me more accountable and kick my ever-widening butt to get off the couch and go do them!

So here, in no particular order are a few things I'd like to have checked off my life list when my last birthday comes and some of the things that, IMO, make life worth living:

Wishes & Wants

1. I'd like to ride a bareback, bridleless musical freestyle demonstration that knocks peoples' socks off.  Like Stacey Westfall. (See her in the video below. ~sigh~ Gives me equal parts warm fuzzies and cold chills. It's so lovely.)  I've got it all choreographed in my mind. I know the music, the movements, and the maneuvers. My vision of it is *fantastic.* In reality, however, I'm still in the need-the-bridle-to-control-direction phase.

2.  I want to sit in a theatre with a crowd of strangers and watch the screening of a movie I've written. I'd love to have you join me. I'll share my popcorn.

3.  I want to set foot on every continent and visit at least 50 countries. (Current tally: alas: only 2 continents and 9 countries.) Ideally, such travel includes equitrekking with someone who knows the area. 'Cause everything's better when seen from horseback. :D

4.  I want to be an extra in a movie. Either as an extra rider or as "Uncredited Screaming Woman." You know: the one who, in a grade-Z film screams bloody murder after discovering the approaching zombie hordes? Yeah, that. I want to do that.

Lifetime Loves

5.  I've never met a dog I didn't like and I love everything about puppies: the smell of puppy breath, their petal-soft fur, their innocent eyes, and their boundless optimism. I wish we could give a puppy infusion directly into the veins of every elected politician.

6.  Every day I thank God that I am graced to spend some more time on this planet with my family: my favorite people who encourage my dreams while simultaneously keeping me humble.

7.  I would love to personally shake the hand of the first person to discover how to brew coffee. Seriously. He (or she) was pure genius.

And now I shall pass the One Lovely Blog Award on to some of my wonderful writerly Triberr friends. Some people claim to have "writing blogs" but, instead have "BUY MY BOOK!!! blogs." (I despise those and would never knowingly steer you toward them.) Not these folks. They each have writing-related blogs worth checking out.

*  Amberr Meadows (@Amberrisme) "Like a Bump on a Blog"
*  Trish Gentry (@VaChicklet) "ChickletsLit"
*  Shannon Mayer (@QueryAddict) "Wringing Out Words"
*  Martin Gijzemijter (@MagWrites) "Dinner With God"
*  Jeremy Rodden (@toonopolis) "Toonopolis"

*  Van Heerling (@VanHeerling) "Van Heerling Books"
*  Shannon Taylor Hodnett (@shanonaryder) "Shanona Writer"
*  Lindsay Wheble (@Lyndsay_Wheble) "Tolstoy is my Cat"
*  Martin King (@themartinking) "Martin King"
*  Stef Mcdaid (@Ukeditor) "Write Into Print"

*  Eri Nelson (@dearharts) "Dearharts"
*  Karina Cox (@karina_cox) "Pondhopper Musings"
*  Lisa Goodwin (@LGoodwin80107) "Lisa Goodwin's Blog"
*  Belinda Witzenhausen (@Bwitzenhausen) "Belinda Witzenhausen" (graphics to inspire creativity)
*  Jen DeSantis (@JenD_Author) "A Measure of Madness"

Visit them, and tell them I said "hi!" Oh -- and if you wish, buy their books. I'm sure they wouldn't mind but they won't smack you over the head and hold you hostage in order to make a sale.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Drive Thru Writing #Goals

For the past several years, my friend & neighbor Sheila has had a goal: To drive through the McDonald's drive-thru. With her horse.

Sheila works full-time. She's got kids. Grandkids. In the past year, her mother-in-law who requires hospice care and close attention has moved in to their small farmhouse. She's had horses for years, but she's not what one would call "accomplished." Oh, sure she can ride. She can drive. But she's never shown. She's not one of those horse people.

The fact that she has zero desire to ride or drive competitively has not stopped her from having a goal. When she got Will, her grade Belgian gelding, she announced "I want to take him through the McDonald's drive-through."

Which is 5 miles away, on the other side of town.

There were a thousand and one reasons why she shouldn't reach her goal. It's a long way away, as the horse walks. It's infinitely easier, faster, safer, and saner to jump in the car and turn the key anytime she's craving fries. But where's the fun in that?

Some people laughed with tell-tale condescension when they heard Sheila's goal. They didn't say "That's silly" to her face. They didn't have to. She could tell who supported her and who thought she was nuts.

We writers know a bit of having drive-thru goals. Often, just saying "I want to be a writer" qualifies. Writers quickly discover a thousand and one agents, publishers, and editors who don't share their vision. When we begin a novel, writing "the end" is a long way away, as the plotter plots. It's easier to read someone else's book than to write our own. Ah, but where's the fun in that?

I facilitate a weekly Writing Practicum for writers pursuing publication. Traditionally, when a new writer joins our group, I ask for a backward introduction. "Introduce yourself to us as if it is three years from now."

Wonderful intros from accomplished, New York Times bestselling novelists and wildly successful authors tend to ensue.

"Now introduce yourself again. This time, as it if is one year from now."

We are treated to visions of brilliant writers poised on the brink of publishing success.

"Now, please tell us who you are today."

And we meet the aspiring writer with drive-thru goals.

Nothing -- NOTHING -- is wrong with drive-thru goals. We all have them. So what if no one else shares them? So what if people think our quest is laughable or futile? Who needs the naysayers?

Don't listen to those who tell you life would be easier, faster, safer, and saner if you only had different priorities. Keep your eyes on the prize. Practice your craft. Know the route you want to take. And one day, if you stay true to yourself and to your writing, you'll make heads turn when you make those dreams come true.

All photos courtesy of my dear friend Sheila LeBeau. Taken Sept. 5, 2011.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Guest Blogger Johanna Pitcairn: My Take on the Writer's Block

Welcome, Johanna Pitcairn (@themanicheans)! In addition to being a prolific writer, Johanna is also a lawyer, cat lover, piano player, & tattoo aficianado. "I write about my hopes, my fears, my lost love and my life. I write because I am. Without art, I'd be nothing," she says. To read her work, visit Johanna's blog at The Manicheans. 

I've been writing since I was very young. I knew what to write just by staring outside and letting my imagination run wild. I, therefore, never faced a lack of inspiration, except when I was sick, tired, or too lazy to think. 

My first experience dealing with a writer's block could be compared to your first time meeting a ghost. I’ve personally never had the chance of falling face to face with a haunting spirit yet, but I heard from the Ghost Adventures’ guys that it’s a life changing event, and you don't believe in it until it actually happens to you. I’d rather not encounter a ghost, because I think it’s creepy and totally superfluous. Now the Ghost Adventures’ guys found a really good way of starting a career by scaring good fellows like me, which made me wonder whether I should begin my own show to give the creeps to my author friends about the writer’s block. I don’t imagine I’d be as successful, but who knows? This is maybe the way to go….

The writer’s block requires a lot of mental strength to be effectively defeated. When you're head deep into your WIP and you suddenly feel it coming, you cannot escape from it no matter how hard you want out. 

You find yourself wandering endlessly in the maze that is your mind, looking for an exit that you know exist, but you have no idea how close or how far it’s from your reach. The writer's block is insidious, because it occurs at the least favorable moment and can leave you hanging for days, maybe weeks.  

You have several options to choose from once that unfortunate episode finally strikes you out. You may pull your hair, cry, eat profusely or become anorexic. You also may give up on your writing aspirations because you’re now convinced you simply don’t have what it takes. 

Well, let me tell you one thing: the writer’s block is normal. It will happen one day, I can assure you of that, and you will remember it because it’s truly the most frustrating thing to deal with, but once you overcome it, you feel reborn.  

I don't have tricks, I only trust discipline. I experienced a block a few weeks ago, as I was finishing Part 1 of Vol. 2 of the Manicheans. I don't write with an outline. I follow a certain trajectory but my writing mostly grows organically. I don't like to be bound between plot lines that won't make sense later on. I let my characters steer me into their fantastical world, and much like a good cartoon, they design the story for me. 
Stuck sucks. Photo by Scott Liddell from www.MorgueFile.com

I thought I was strong enough never to feel completely dry, because I always knew what to write about. Yet, the block punched me in the stomach with so much power, I surrendered to it for a while. I ended up completely drained, as if all my ideas had evaporated and left my brain like a miserable and pathetic sponge of nothingness. I knew the only thing I had to do to save my sanity was to regroup, and rethink every detail in my story in order to know where to move next. 

The writer's block will force you to retrace your steps, and you’ll find the right path after walking in circles for hours. 

My way of crushing it was to simply try until the exit showed up. It was exhausting, extremely frustrating and of course, very demotivating. I saw myself playing a 3D video game where I kept hitting the screen walls because I’m so awful at picturing 3D objects, and after many unsuccessful attempts, I naturally started to doubt myself and my ability to write. I hadn’t reached the point where I was ready to jump off the writing cliff yet, but I came close. 

I vented about it to my writers’ friends, and they all gave me the same response: keep writing. So guess what I did: I wrote. Even the dumbest idea can become the key to your freedom. You must let these words come out of you because they're your solution to a better novel. 

I wish the writer’s block was just a product of our imagination. I hate it; it will come again nonetheless, no matter how many ideas I write down my page. No writer is immune to it. Does a writer’s block repellant exist on the market yet? I don’t think so, but you can always search for it. Who knows? Maybe ghosts aren’t real either.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Awards, Honors, Random Facts & Blogs You Shouldn't Miss

Whoa! I am honored -- honored, I tell you -- to learn that in the past week, this blog has been the recipient of not one but two awards.

Thanks, Glitter Lady!
The first is the Versatile Blogger Award, bestowed on Friday from the ever-lovely Stevie McCoy, aka @TheGlitterLady. Her Glitter Word blog is the home of #TuesdayTales flash fiction, as well as other fabulous posts to motivate, educate, and inspire writers of all flavors.

Then, on Sunday, the inimitable Michael Haynes (@mohio73) presented me with the Liebster Award. From what I can tell, it's designed to show love to bloggers who aren't powerhouses, but who have a dedicated core of followers (you know who you are).

The rules are sketchy, but as I understand it, part of accepting the Versatile Blogger Award is telling the world 7 Totally Random Facts about yourself. Part of accepting both the VB and the Liebster Award involves passing the award along to other blogs. The numbers vary from 5 to 15, depending upon whom you believe. In essence, it's the bloggy version of MLM meets a chain letter. Sort of. Because it's more fun and less vicious than either.
Thanks, Michael!

Ahem. OK. So, in an effort to play nice with the generous award committee (because, really, karma does exist, and if one wants to win, say, an Oscar or an Emmy at some point, one should practice gracious acceptance of any and all awards bestowed in the meantime), I hereby proffer the following

7 Totally Random Facts
    Daylight is SOOOO overrated.
    Photo credit: manicmorff from morguefile.com
  1. I am a night owl. Which means that as the day goes on I pick up speed. I can be barely keeping my eyes open at 9 a.m., even after a long, restful night's sleep. But at 10, 11, 12, 1... I'm still going strong. This proved useful when...
  2. I once worked 56 hours straight when I was Head of Proofing at an advertising agency. I did not go home. I did not sleep. I committed nutritional suicide and mainlined coffee. We were on crazy deadlines for several clients and told we couldn't go home till everything was out the door. At this time, I made my worst proofing mistake ever when...
  3. I approved a calendar to go to print that had Good Friday a full, solid week before Easter. By the 40th or so hour, even this night owl was too pooped to hoot. Fortunately, upper agency management forgave the blatant proofing error.
  4. I met my husband while making prank phone calls to the boys' dorm two weeks into my freshman year of university...
  5. After we dated for 2 weeks, WunderGuy asked me to marry him. I was appalled. "Are you crazy?" was, I believe, my verbatim response. I told him to ask me again in a year or so if we were still together. Thank God he did.
  6. I am capable of holding entire conversations made up only of movie quotes and in-joke references, and routinely do so with family and close friends. I often underestimate the annoyance factor of this Sekrit Langwij on those who are not fluent in it.
  7. I once received the following job review. (ahem) "You are an excellent worker; conscientious, dedicated and thorough. But, dear, you have no tact." Sadly, I have not acquired any in the years since.
And now, with my randomness showing, I shall pass the awards along to these blogs that I love, and I know you will too:
  • Food Snots: A flat-out fabulous cooking blog with fantastic recipes. Want to know how to make cupcakes that glow under a blacklight? You'll find out here. Seriously, though, try the Chicken Tandoori. It's excellent. Great step-by-step pics & easy to follow directions. Mmmm! (@foodsnots)
  • 120 Socks: Dublin-based writer Louise Phillips' (@120socks) blog is full of awesome randomness. My hands-down favorite post is How Times Have Changed - Utterly Bizarre, which merits close reading and elicits both hysterical laughter and fervent prayers of gratitude that I live in the 21st century.
  • Bliss Habits: Blogger Kathy (@BlissHabits) lists 13 "virtues of bliss." Every week, she chooses one and dedicates her blog to exploring it in greater detail. This is not a sappy blog. It's insightful, interesting, well-thought-out, and often inspiring.
  • The Musings of a New Englander: Writer Sharon Williams (@NewEngland_Muse) shares her writer's journey, with posts on such things as WWE, "Supernatural," cockatiels, and the writing life. [Special shoutouts and thanks to Sharon for inviting me to join her Triberr tribe. Which I'm still trying to figure out. Baby steps...]
  • Zongrik: Prolific poet and aerospace engineer Bat-Ami Gordin's (@zongrik) blog of relevant, timely poems that make you think and enrich your day. Worth the visit.
So there you have it: complete and total randomosity, plus a few great blogs you may not have known you were missing!

Thanks again for the kudos. It's a joy to pass them along...

    Thursday, September 08, 2011

    "The Rules": A 12-Step Process for Submitting Copy for a Professional Edit or Critique

    Confused about the process for garnering a professional edit or critique of your Magnum Opus? Fear not, intrepid writer! It's a simple 12-Step process. Here are The Rules:

    1. Write something you love.
    I have CREATED! I'm as happy as a pig in a puddle!
    2. Polish it till it shines so brightly you can see your face in it.

    3. Research the websites, magazines, publishers, or agents that want the sort of thing you write.

    There's a great big world out there just waiting for me. I must discover where I fit into it.
    4. Study what they're producing / printing / representing.

    5. Screw up your courage.
    (Alcohol in moderate quantities may be imbibed for crucial courage screwing.)
     Relentless optimism is a bonus.
    6. Choose from three to five websites, magazines, publishers, or agents to approach. Commit to submitting your Bright Shiny Object (BSO) to these entities.

    7. Give your BSO first to a kind but discerning Beta reader. Request honest feedback & comments.

    Tell me what you really thought. Go on. Say it. I can take it.
    8. When criticism comes (and it will), do not overreact. Do Not Cry. Do not quit.

    9.  Take feedback & comments into consideration. Revisit your Bright Shiny Object. Buff it till it gleams.

    10. Send the professional editor or kind critiquer the portions of your BSO you wish edited & critiqued. (No viruses or other computer nasties, please.)

    11. Repeat Step 9. Then send BSO query to entities chosen in Step 6.

    Run like the wind! I hereby unleash you upon the world!
     12. While waiting for news, begin again at Step 1 with new project...

    Did I miss anything? Let me know! Weigh in with your own process in the comments.

    All photos from MorgueFile.com

    Wednesday, September 07, 2011

    Judging Flashes: Part II

    Well, @TheGlitterLady's #TuesdayTales has come and gone. There were a record 24 entries -- and all were well done.

    I have officially decided that judging is only marginally easier than performing a root canal on oneself. I ended up with about... oh... 24 favorites. But one can't just say "everyone's a winner!" Life ain't perpetual kindergarten, yanno.
    Every contest needs a winner. That's kind of the point...

    There were so many good pieces that I ended up focusing on writing-craft things to narrow the field. I made myself get nitpicky about stuff like spelling, grammar, and word redundancy just to help whittle down the contenders. Sadly, this affected some of my first-glance favorites. But it helped me make my decision.

    To see the entries and to try your hand at choosing the "Best" one, visit the Tuesday Tales #5 Challenge. I'll wait...

    See what I mean? They're good, aren't they?

    To see if you agree with my choices, see the posting of Tuesday Tales #5 Winners.

    Judging wasn't new to me. We all do it every day -- though, perhaps, not in as public a forum. But each day I decide whether or not to pick up a book.

    Once I pick a book up, I judge whether or not to read it all the way through.

    Once I've finished reading it, I judge whether or not I thought it well done and worthwhile.

    But I LOVE that car! My opinions are mine alone.
    Something I love may leave another person as cold as a Michigan winter.
    To illustrate: one of my best friends is taking a college literature course. An early assignment was to read Shirley Jackson's classic short story "The Lottery." Which my friend hated.

    First published in The New Yorker in 1948, "The Lottery" was loathed by many. Readers cancelled their subscriptions (never a good thing in a managing editor's mind), the story was banned in South Africa, and Jackson received hate mail for months after publication. Her own family didn't like the story. But it's still here. It has been adapted for television, radio, live theatre, and (weirdly) ballet.

    When I tweeted about the BFF's reaction, responses were predictably mixed. Some remember loathing the story and begrudging the time it took out of their high school lives to read it. Others remember liking, if not loving it. It stuck with them over the years. It bothered them. It made them think.

    I guess the point is, different readers judge a story's merit on different criteria. One person's Thumbs Up is another's Thumbs Down Kill-Him-And-Get-It-Over-With. Our goal as writers isn't to make everyone love us. For starters, that's impossible. And it's not healthy.

    Our goal, instead, is to first write something that we love. Then we can take it and share it with the world. With any luck, we'll find readers who share our opinions and judge us worthy of their time. We're writing for them. The rest can find something else to read...

    Tuesday, September 06, 2011

    Judging Flashes

    It is with extreme humility that I announce how honored I am to be chosen by Stevie McCoy (aka @TheGlitterLady) to judge her #TuesdayTales flash fiction contest today.

    I love flash fiction: super-short complete stories that pack a punch are the literary equivalent of a triple espresso. Or a hit of 5-Hour Energy. Or stepping over an electric fence and discovering that it's still on. They hit you with a jolt that sticks with you long after you're finished.

    According to Wikipedia, "flash fiction" is all about length. 6 words. 55 words. 78 words (Like the current Esquire Short Short Fiction Contest. It's free to enter and open till October 7. Check it out!). 100 words -- like Glitter Lady's #TuesdayTales.

    But thanks to Twitter, "flash fiction" has also evolved to include a time limit. Many flash fiction contests last 24 hours... or less. And to make things fair, they often include a theme, word prompt, word (or words) that must be incorporated into the finished piece.

    Some of my favorite Twitter Flash Fiction contests are Stevie's #TuesdayTales (on Tuesdays) and Tracey M. Hansen's, aka @THansenWrites, #HumpDayChallenge (on Wednesdays. Full disclosure: I'm a previous winner, so of course I'm gonna like Tracey's contest.) I'm sure there are others. If you know of any, feel free to mention them in the comments.

    Really, what was Stevie thinking?
    Perhaps someone dumped a 5-Hour Energy
    into her espresso and then sat her
    on an electric fence? That would explain it.
    Today, I am the Grand Poobah She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed of Stevie's #TuesdayTales. As I said, I'm honored to be chosen.  So, today -- and today only -- I'm going to ask you to stop reading MY blog and go read someone else's.

    Go to Stevie's Glitter Word blog, follow her instructions, discover the Secret Word, and hit me with your best 100. Winner gets bragging rights and a way-cool blog button. Plus, I'm offering a special prize to the winner AND to the writer receiving honorable mention.

    Oh -- and to thank you for reading all the way to the end (instead of cutting out early and skipping over to Stevie's place) -- here's a hint as to what I'm looking for in a knock-my-socks-off entry.

    Labor Day is over. So is summer. School is in session. It's time for kids to buckle down and learn something. Well, we're all students at heart, right? So I'm going to give special preference to entries that make me think. I'm not talking the "Great! I finally get to use trigonometry after all these years" kind of thinking. I'm talking about the "WHOA! I didn't see that coming. But... of course. It's perfect... Hmmm..." kind.

    You know what I mean. I can't wait to read what you come up with.