How I do Social Media!!

Wrote into the wee hours last night. Momentum is a fickle mistress. #amwriting #writersofinstagram #overalls

If you’re a writer these days, you pretty much have to engage in social media in some way or other, unless you are a sufficiently big name that maybe you don’t have to but it’s fun to do so (see King, Stephen and Rowling, JK). But there are a lot of social media options out there, and each one has its own “lay of the land”, so I figured I’d break down each one that I use a lot and describe how I use them.

An opening proviso: While different aspects of my personality tend to show up on each various platform that I use, that’s more by virtue of the nature of the social media things in themselves than some conscious decision I make. I know folks who are active on a number of platforms who expend serious effort in making sure that never the twain meet; folks who are open about their use of, say, Tumblr while uber-secretive of their Twitter handle. And hey, to each their own, but in all honesty, this degree of self-separation always strikes me as more effort than it’s worth. So if you check out what I do on any particular platform and compare it to what I do on another, and you come away thinking, “Geez, that doesn’t seem like the same guy!”, well, it is. It’s just that various platforms are good for different approaches, and therefore different aspects of my personality.

So. First, and for me foremost, we have blogging. I now have two blogs: this one, and my personal blog at Byzantium’s Shores. Why two? Well, when I launched this site, the blog format seemed to be the easiest way of maintaining a site whose content would change over time; I didn’t just want a page hanging out there for no apparent reason. Hence the blog format here. But I also didn’t want to ditch Byzantium’s Shores, because I’m kind-of invested over there: I’ve been posting on that blog for just about 14 years now! It’s got its own life. So I’ve settled on this as a division of content: this site and its internal blog is for content pertaining to writing in general and my books in particular, and that’s it (I mean, within reason). Everything else I might want to blog about goes to Byzantium’s Shores, so that’s where I’ll geek out about Star Wars and post music videos and photos of the cats and the dog and pie-in-the-face stuff and all that sort of thing.

I love blogging, and maybe two blogs is a bit excessive, but I think I’ve got it broken out by “focus” in a way that works for me. And if you’re worried about politics (of which mine are distinctly left-of-center), I post no political content on this site at all, and only rarely on Byzantium’s Shores. (Full disclosure: I’m a staunch liberal in my politics.)

I do have a Facebook page, which you can certainly ‘like’ and I’ll thank you if you do, but in reality, all I use that for is to post links to stuff here! By making pages into a source of monetary flow, Facebook has made its Pages not very useful at all, unless you literally pay Facebook to show your posts to followers. I have little to no intention of doing that, so Facebook is just kind of “there” for me as a social media thing. (My page is distinct from my personal Facebook account. I’m pretty selective about from whom I accept friend requests there; basically I have to already have some notion of who you are and have already interacted with you in some way.)

Then there’s Twitter. I hated the idea of Twitter for years, but then I came around, and now I think it’s indispensable. I honestly love hanging out on Twitter (probably a little too much), and I love followers and whatnot, so feel free to follow me there! I can get a bit ranty at times, but in general I try to keep my snarky side to a minimum there. Politics? Yes, sometimes, but not all that often – maybe 15 percent of the time, tops. I don’t really enjoy political argument, and I’ll usually only tweet about politics when something in the news really gets my dander up. I retweet more political stuff than I generate myself, and even that I don’t do very often. I like talking about writing on Twitter, and various geeky observations. Sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on the “conversational” aspect of Twitter, which is mainly because I can really only check Twitter a few times a day, and usually just for a minute or two. It’s only when I’m off-duty and can have a browser running for a while that I can do any real-time conversing. I am starting to explore the world of Twitter chats, though!

In terms of following people on Twitter: I follow folks I find interesting, and I find them by generic use of the medium. I check what people are like if someone I’m already following retweets something I like, or if I see an interesting conversation going on, or that sort of thing. I don’t blanket-follow people, and I don’t use any “follower management” apps of any sort. I do try to follow people back who have already followed me, but I can be kind of slow about getting this done.

I will also mute people who get on my nerves, as opposed to blocking. Like John Scalzi, I enjoy the idea of people who annoy me basically shouting at the wall behind which I am sitting in my room with my earphones on.

Instagram is my “happy” place. I don’t get political there at all, and I tend to get irritated when other people do. I like sharing photos from my daily life, whether I’m trying to take “good” photos or just snapshotting stuff to provide a sort of pictorial commentary on things. I’m generally good-natured on Instagram, which is why my avatar photo there is almost always me with my face covered with pie. For me, photography is an entertaining diversion. I try to take photos that are as interesting as possible, but I’m hardly a trained pro. I take most photos with my phone, although I do have a nicer point-and-shoot camera that I got last fall before our trip to NYC. Who knows? Someday I’ll be able to afford a nice DSLR camera, at which point I could really see photography becoming a big hobby for me!

What’s especially fun is that there are a lot of ways to post word-based content to Instagram, which is also something I do on a fairly regular basis. But even there, the interplay between visual design and the words used is a fun consideration. I find Instagram a lot of fun! (I’d love it if they would enable HTML links in the photo captions, though, just to make IG a little easier to integrate into the rest of my online life.)

Flickr used to be my primary photo-sharing service, and I still use it a lot, but nowadays, it mainly mirrors my Instagram content. This isn’t all I use Flickr for, but as I began adapting to mobile devices several years ago, Instagram took over because Flickr at the time was not nearly as well designed for mobile use. It’s significantly better now, but there’s a sense to which Flickr is a bit late to the party. Still, I like Flickr’s service and have no intention of abandoning it. I do need to spend some time organizing my photos, though…and that sounds like about as much fun as a long drive on I-80 through Nebraska. (This is not a comment on Nebraska. It is, though, a comment on the I-80 corridor through Nebraska.)

I enjoy Tumblr quite a bit, after being rather confused by it at first. Tumblr is built to make it easy to share content, and it’s quite easy to just sit there, hitting the “reblog” button over and over again. It’s also relatively easy to create new stuff, although Tumblr seems to be a much more visually-oriented service than other blogging platforms. Likewise, Tumblr’s mechanisms for interacting with other users is a bit unwieldy at times. Still Tumblr is fun and offers a lot of flexibility for creative use of the service. I do tend to be more political there than in any other social media platform. If I get a rant in my head about some issue or other, Tumblr’s where I go to let it out. Keep that in mind if you really really really want to avoid my politics. Even there, though, I’d say that my political content is no more than about twenty percent of what I normally post, and at times of slow political news, even that ratio drops.

Let’s see…that about covers them all, doesn’t it? I do have accounts on Pinterest and Linked In, but in all honesty I don’t use them very much at all. I’ve actually started using my Pinterest account more, lately, but I’m still not entirely sure I understand it! Meanwhile, LinkedIn is still the odd thing out. Once in a great while, maybe twice a year, I’ll log on to see what’s going on, but that’s about it. I apologize if I seem like I’m ignoring your attempted interaction on LinkedIn for months at a time, but I just don’t understand LinkedIn and I can’t see where I’m missing out much, and I just can’t be on everything at all times. Likewise, I use YouTube a little, but while I’ve occasionally considered ‘vlogging,’ the fact is…I don’t like the way my speaking voice sounds, and I haven’t figured out yet how to do silent vlogging. So for now, my forays into video will be sporadic at best. However, I do hope and expect that as I get better at self-marketing, I may have to do some video stuff and appear on podcasts occasionally (which is totally a troll for invitations, podcasters of the world!), so I’m just gonna have to get over my speaking-voice hangup.

So those are all of my hangouts and how I use them. How do you use yours?

And feel free to connect! Connection is great. I love connections!

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It’s still #AuthorLifeMonth!

So the AuthorLifeMonth thing on Instagram is still going strong, and it’s been a lot of fun, seeing what other writers are doing with their lives! Here are my posts to that hashtag since last week:

Day Five was “Comp Covers”, which a lot of folks took to mean “rough drafts of our book covers”. Here’s a comparison of the first attempt at the Stardancer cover, on left, with the final, on right.

Day 5 of #AuthorLifeMonth! I'm not sure what "comp covers" means, but it seems to be 'rough drafts' for covers. Left is the first cover design for STARDANCER, and on right is the final design. #books #amwriting

But then someone else told me that “comp covers” refers to covers of similar books in our genre, so here are a couple of those!

Day 5a of #AuthorLifeMonth! Apparently "comp covers" actually refers to books similar to our own in terms of genre, mood, and such. Here are a few for me: the amazing "Across The Universe" trilogy by @bethrevis, and the equally wondeful "These Broken Star

(Yes, I’ve read those, and they are terrific.)

Next came “Fan art”, which left me at a loss, since to my knowledge, nobody has done any “fan art” of anything I’ve written yet, alas! But hey, I’ll get there. Instead I posted this depiction of a girl reading The Fault In Our Stars, which another reader used to show her reaction to reading The Wisdomfold Path.

It's Day 6 of #AuthorLifeMonth! Today is "fan art". I don't really have any fan art yet, but @americaseditor used this little cartoon a while back to illustrate her reaction to THE WISDOMFOLD PATH while reading it. (The cartoon actually seems to refer to

(No, there is no cancer in The Wisdomfold Path, but it does get emotional in spots.)

Next up was “Writing Music”, so I did a quick collage of some CD covers from favorite film scores of mine, in the genres I write (SF, Fantasy, Horror/Supernatural Thriller).

Day 7 of #AuthorLifeMonth is Writing Music! I listen to music a lot when I write. I love movie music, and here's a smattering of filmscores for various genres in which I work. Top row: fantasy and adventure music (lots of this right now for LIGHTHOUSE BOY

For “Awesome Moment”, I went ‘throwback’ to the photo I took just after I typed the words “The End” in the first draft of Stardancer. I’d done it, folks!

Day 8 of #AuthorLifeMonth: Awesome moment! We're going throwback, to the moments after I typed the words "THE END" at the conclusion of STARDANCER. I knew, at that moment, that I was on my way. To where? I don't know, but I'm heading for the second star t

Day Nine was “Challenge Overcome”. For this I alluded to the struggle a lot of indie writers have to endure: formatting our books. Ewwww!

It's Day 9 of #AuthorLifeMonth! Today the theme is "Challenge Overcome". I write writr write, then I edit edit edit, and through all this, I'm OK. Then it's time to format, and I want to set my computer on fire. #amwriting

Day Ten brought us to “Non-author Photo”. This was a fun tag to peruse. I just picked a few of mine and collaged them. I doubt I’ll ever appear pie-faced on one of my own book covers.

Day 10 of #AuthorLifeMonth: Non-author photo(s)! I couldn't pick just one, so here are a few. Featuring overalls and pies, of course.

Finally, we come to yesterday’s category, “Favorite Review”. I couldn’t pick one, so I went my own xkcd route:

Day 11 of #AuthorLifeMonth: Fave review! I can't possibly pick one. I am grateful if every good review I've been lucky enough to receive, and I'm lucky to have enjoyed good beta and proof reading to this point. Everybody is awesome! (But I do need more re

More to come next week! And just for good measure, here are a couple of recent writing-related photos of mine that are not a part of the AuthorLifeMonth tag.

The Angry-looking Purple Writer #amwriting #overalls

Blunt self-honesty is crucial when editing. #amwriting

When readers say they miss my characters! 😍😭 #swoon #amwriting #indiebooksbeseen

Another 5-star review for THE WISDOMFOLD PATH! Why not find out what the fuss is about? Go to forgottenstars.net for more info! #books #sciencefiction #spaceopera #indiebooks #amwriting

Moments like this make it ALL worthwhile. Thanks, @flightofthelionheart! #amwriting

Red Pen Time may be my favorite part of this process. #editing #amwriting

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“We don’t have time to do one thing at a time!”

In a comments thread on another writer’s Instagram feed the other day, the question of how to multi-task as a writer came up. Here is my approach:

Sooner or later in anything written by Aaron Sorkin, somebody will say: “We don’t have time to do one thing at a time!” It’s always uttered in a time of a big flurry of activity, usually by one of Our Heroes, as they gear up for several conflicts at once.

What does this have to do with writing? Well, I have first drafts to write and I have existing drafts to edit. I don’t have time to do one thing at a time!

I used to try, of course. I’ve been drafting an Alexandre Dumas-inspired fantasy novel for nearly three years now, which I code-name (for lack of an actual title) The Adventures of Lighthouse Boy (because it deals with the adventures of a young man who, at the beginning of the book, helps his father maintain a lighthouse). I ran into problems with it, because it was taking a long time to write, and I ran into the point when I really needed to work on edits for Stardancer.

So I shelved Lighthouse Boy (also in part because at the time I was having trouble with its story). Then I edited Stardancer and wrote the first draft of Ghostcop (again, not the actual title). Then I returned to Lighthouse Boy. Then I put Lighthouse Boy aside again because I needed to edit The Wisdomfold Path and start writing Forgotten Stars III and edit Ghostcop and so on. Now, I’m back to drafting Lighthouse Boy.

Oh, and another problem: all those times I shelved Lighthouse Boy, I lost touch with the story, so that both times I returned to it, I ended up starting it over.

Now it’s time to edit Forgotten Stars III, do final revisions on Ghostcop, and…well, it doesn’t really matter.

I don’t have time to do one thing at a time.

So, do I shelve Lighthouse Boy yet again? Knowing that I’m going to have to probably restart it yet again if I return to it? Knowing also that the book is my Big Doorstop Fantasy (seriously, this thing is going to be in excess of 200,000 words), my choices are to either keep on drafting it even while I work on other projects, or let all those other projects sit on the back burner until I get this one job done.

Neither of those appeals to me, because I’m also thinking in terms of my career here. I want to release at least one book a year for a while, which means continuing the Forgotten Stars series (with a probable break of two years between Books III and IV), launch the Ghostcop series, launch another space opera series that I haven’t even started yet, and eventually, release Lighthouse Boy, in what format, I’m not sure. (I’ve been thinking about serializing, but that’s for a much later time.)

I simply do not have time to one thing at a time!

So, then: since I have to multitask by working on projects at the same time, how do I do it? Well, I’ve set up a few rules:

1. Only ONE first-draft book at any time.

This is important because I don’t want any co-mingling of voices from one book to the other. The Forgotten Stars books have a tone that’s different from Ghostcop, and I fear that if I try writing a first draft of two books at once, it will be hard to maintain voice. (It may also be hard to maintain consistency, as I think I would almost certainly wind up favoring one book over the other, and that will simply not do.)

2. In a day’s work, the first-draft book gets precedence.

So far, I’ve been pretty good about drafting every day and also editing every day. But if the choice comes up — and occasionally it does, because this is Life and not just Writing — then I have to do the first-draft work first, before I write anything else. This means that my early-morning writing sessions — the 40 minutes or so I write before I get ready for work, from 6:10 to 6:50 am — are exclusively for drafting.

3. When I have to work on two projects per day, I lower the quota on the drafting project to 500 words a day.

This may sound like too much, but for me, it isn’t. Maintaining a daily quota is very important to me. Without one, I end up slacking too much. Usually my quota is 1500 words a day, if I don’t have anything else going on. But for me, 1500 words takes up a nice chunk of time, and it’s too much time if I also need to do some serious editing. Thus I lower it to 500 words, which hey, isn’t that bad anyway! It’s about one page of text in a mass-market paperback, so if you keep that pace for long enough, you can write an entire novel in a year. (Depending on how long your novel is, of course.)

4. Once I achieve the drafting project’s quota for the day, I don’t touch it again until the next day.

I like doing this because it really guards against burnout and keeps me energized on this book. I find that by not allowing myself to go very far beyond the quota (I often wind up around 650-700 words), it’s easier to jump back in the next day. It’s the “keep plugging away” approach: “Slow and steady wins the race”, or should I say, “gets the book written”.

I do raise the quota on weekends to 1000 words each day, and when I get to a point when I’m still drafting this book but the other projects are either caught up or on hold, I’ll up the quota again until things change.

5. Try not to have both projects be in the same genre.

This is important to me. I firmly believe in genre-hopping to keep fresh and interested and engaged, which is why I will never edit one Forgotten Stars book while drafting another.

6. Do first-round edits on a hard copy of the manuscript.

This is because I think it’s good to get the writing away from the computer and the same desk as always and everything. Whenever I finish a first draft, I print it out and put it in a binder; when it’s time to edit (at least three months later), out comes the red pen and I edit the thing. I do this because I think it’s good to get away from the screen once in a while, and there’s still nice tactile senses to working on paper. Now, I don’t know for how many more years this particular approach will be feasible, but we’ll see.

I can probably come up with more rules, but these are my big ones for when I have to maximize the time I have for the more-than-one-job that I have. It’s all about breaking the jobs down, so I can keep moving the ball forward, and it’s about keeping my writing-brain fresh and not tired from all the work I’m doing. Writing can be very tiring on the mental front, but there are hacks to get around that, and these are mine. I firmly believe that you can work on multiple projects at once (well, not exactly at once, but you take my meaning), so long as you plan things out and take a consistent approach.

What do you think, folks? Any other multi-taskers out there?

 

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It’s #AuthorLifeMonth!

There’s quite a wonderful thing going on in the Instagram world this month! It’s one of those daily photo challenges, but this one — hashtagged #AuthorLifeMonth — is geared specifically to writers, as a way of showing off a little of who they are and what they do. And of course I’m participating! I’ll feature my photos for that tag here, throughout the month.

Day 1: Your Books. Here are mine, on my own shelf! How cool is that.

Day 1, #AuthorLifeMonth: My books! If all goes according to plan, there will be four this time next year!

Day 2: Author Pic. I’ve used a different author pic on each book thus far; this is the one I used on the back of The Wisdomfold Path.

Day 2: My author photo. #AuthorLifeMonth (This is my second author photo, used most recently on THE WISDOMFOLD PATH. Thus far I've chickened out on using a pie-in-the-face photo as an author pic!)

Day 3: Your Last Five-Star Read. This one was a little trouble, because I don’t give five stars very often at all. (I’m talking Goodreads ratings here.) For me, five stars is for those few, rare books that are life-changers; books that would be on the list for books I hope I have with me when my ship crashes on that lonely island. I only have a few five-star entries on my Goodreads roster, and of those, none are ones that I’ve read recently. So I went with my most recent addition of a five-star book:

Day 3 of #AuthorLifeMonth: Last 5-star read. I reserve 5 stars for those books that become part of me. I read this many years ago, but I return to it often. Richard Halliburton was an adventurer and writer from the first decades of the 20th century, and h

That is a wonderful book! It’s perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon of reading.

Day Four: Your WIP. Heh! I have two WIPs right now, one that I’m editing (Forgotten Stars III), and one I’m drafting (Lighthouse Boy). One’s a physical copy, and the other exists as a Scrivener project.

Day 4 of #AuthorLifeMonth: My WIPs. Top is the manuscript to FORGOTTEN STARS III, which I'm editing. Bottom is the Scrivener corkboard view of THE ADVENTURES OF LIGHTHOUSE BOY (not the actual title), which I am still drafting (and likely will be for years

More of these to come throughout the month!

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