Monday, May 19, 2014

BUILD A BETTER BLOG WITH ME, PART TWO: when your is blog out of focus

I'm blogging about blogging again!

Hey there, hi there, ho there, Igniteers! It's Stephanie again, back with part two of the Build a Better Blog set of posts. Last month, I got some great advice from the other Indie ladies, walked through changes to my blog's layout, and discussed how to make your blog look snazzier. But no matter how pretty your blog is, no one is going to take more than a quick look at it if you don't have the content your potential readers are looking for.

After sprucing up the look of my blog with a better layout and catchier fonts and widgets, I had to take a look at the material I was offering. Being a teacher of writing really helped me with this. One of my students' biggest issues as writers is maintaining a consistent focus in their writing. It's not that they don't have great ideas. They do. But they often try to shove them all into one essay (sometimes one paragraph!) and end up with the equivalent of an assignment that reads like this:

It doesn't work in a student essay and it doesn't work on a blog.  I had to rethink my focus. Which meant I also had to rethink my audience. When I started the blog, I had an idea whom I imagined would be reading it. But I thought it was a good idea to check in on who actually is reading it and adjust the focus accordingly.

When I first started the blog as a way to promote myself as a YA writer, I imagined that I would be writing for YA readers (either actual "YA"s - young adults- or adults). What I found was that I seem to be writing for other writers, a conclusion drawn based on comments on the blog, "favorites" and retweets on Twitter, and the fact that some of my posts about writing and writing platforms have been picked up by content-aggregating blogs. I concluded that since my most popular posts were about writing, I should write about writing to and for other writers, especially aspiring ones. 

I'm not going to argue that I took an exhaustive and full-proof survey in order to determine this. There are plenty of other variables that could determine the popularity of posts, like the time of day I tweet about them or how effectively I tag them so that someone casually trawling the web can find them. (See Jessica L. Brooks' wonderful entry here about timing and positing). But for the most part, this assessment seems pretty solid.

After assessing my audience, I knew how to focus and narrow the scope of the blog now.

But narrowing your focus always means that you have to cut something, and in this case, I have to cut out something that I really like writing about, possibly more than anything else: popular culture. I love analyzing the ways that pop culture reflects (and affects) our values about class and race and gender. But much as I love the posts that I wrote about things like the portrayal of adolescent female desire on Bob's Burgers, no one else did, as far as I can tell. So I'm going to focus on writing about writing and do more reviews of YA books and focus exclusively on YA stuff. This means that I will have to make two changes to the blog. First, I won't be able to review and feature books by friends who write NA and more adult fiction and that saddens me. But I can help them elsewhere by being better at promoting their work on Twitter and Facebook and posting reviews to Goodreads and Amazon. Second, as for my beloved pop culture analysis? I can still write it of course. It just needs a new forum (so I may resurrect my first blog about tween pop culture, Smells Like T(w)een Spirit).

So my advice to anyone starting a blog or working to improve the appearance and reach of a blog they already write is to think about your content - what is it exactly that you want to put out there into the ether? And then think about your audience and how a focused and consistent presentation of topics can reach a focused and consistent audience.

If you've thought about these issues and have any suggestions, please leave a comment here.

Until I'm back next month - Happy reading and writing!

Friday, May 16, 2014

The editing/revising process (a gif post)

Hey guys! I'm a day late (but not a gif short... ha ha... um, ahem) for my post, so I thought I'd just throw out some inspiration for ya'll before the weekend gets officially started. Today's topic? Revisions.

By the time we've peeled away the icky-ness of a MS (polishing it until it shines, deleting words, adding the important details), we feel pretty confident in where our work has ended up. This is us:

sugar motta awesome gif Pictures, Images and Photos

We send it off to betas or CPs or editors, et cetera, and they read it, and--thankfully--this is what we get most of the time...

but, sometimes... it's more like this:

Which makes us go:

Enter panic mode, avoidance mode, "I suck at life; time to eat all the ice cream" mode. (Some of ya'll don't get that way and tackle it head on, and to you I say, you have problems! Just kidding. Actually, I applaud you. But this post isn't for you, so...)

This is the point in the process where we have to remember the GOOD NEWS. That's what I'm here to do. Are you ready to be reminded?

1) The fact that you sent that MS off to be edited, or read by betas, or whatever, means you got to this point. You finished your MS!!! Do you know that this means? It means you are THIS MUCH closer to getting your book out into the world! (So much closer than ever before!) Hooray!

2) Finishing an MS is not a reason to cringe! (We tend to forget this when those revision suggestions come in!) It's a reason to celebrate!

So. Before you decide to quit and become a hermit surrounded by cats who use your favorite books as scratching posts and cover you in ten layers of fur while you blather about who you "coulda" been, I'm here to remind you that this--yes, even the revising and the editing and the notes that, at times, are overwhelming--is all GOOD. You're in the homestretch, my writerly friend. THE. HOMESTRETCH.

And to celebrate, we are throwing you a party. SO

You're almost there. You can do this! Time to celebrate your success!

Friday, May 9, 2014

When You Just Need Some Fun...

Sometimes a writer just needs to have a little fun. Am I right, y'all?

You know those fabulous memes you always see promoting upcoming releases, with an image representative of the book's genre, a super cool quote, and some impressive photoshopping that adds elements of whimsy or darkness or whatever emotion the artist wants you to feel?

Yeah. I could never make those. I'm a total technophobe. I still own a flip phone. #TrueStory

But a few weeks back, the Igniteers introduced me to a little website called Picmonkey. You upload your image, and a minimal number of super easy steps, you and manipulate it to add words, bleed out color, or even add little quote bubbles or banners. It's so easy even a technophobe could work it.

And I did. :)

Now when I need a break from drafting/editing/plotting/writerly things, I head to Picmonkey and have a little fun. The Igniteers tell me there are more sites like it that are equally easy to use, but I'm a creature of habit and I sort of figured this one out. So here I stay.

Here are a few of the fun promo images the girls and I have made for ourselves -- some on Picmonkey, some in more advanced editing programs. You'll be able to tell which of us are graphic whizzes (Adrianne) and which of us are NOT (me).

(my homemade image, for Elsker - look y'all, I figured out the computer!!)

(From Nicole Zoltack's White Helleborne)

What do you think? Link us to some of YOUR fun promo images in the comments!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

All Aboard! Edits + procrastination = social media

I'm about to dive in to edits for By Sun and Candlelight, so naturally, I'm finding anything (and everything) not edit-ish to be  super fun and intriguing (yes... even laundry). My biggest crutch in the distraction/procrastination aspect, however, is social media. And boy does it do a great job of sucking time away!

So join me at the procrastination station while we waste a few more productive minutes doing things we don't really need to do. (The best part of procrastinating is when you're actually learning something while procrastinating, so it doesn't feel like you're procrastinating; just taking a different approach to er... approaching that train. Which is what we're about to do.) 

Below are a few infographics regarding social media. They'll help 1) waste time and 2) highlight what works best regarding networking. (Killing two birds with one stone!)

First up: The Best and Worst Times to Post on Social Networks

The Best and Worst Times to Post on Social Networks
Courtesy of Lori R. Taylor at Social Caffeine

Whew! Worn out yet? Wanting to do what needs to be done? No? Well check out this second interesting tidbit, then: 

Info regarding best day to post on Facebook:

When is the best time to tweet, best time to post to Facebook or the best time to send emails or best time to publish blogposts?
via Belle Beth Cooper on buffer

It's interesting to note that Facebook seems to have changed their algorithms again since this graphic was made, so though the graphic itself is probably still current, some of the info listed in the source link above are probably no longer as dependable as they were. 

Third: How to Get More Clicks on Twitter... Regarding branding on Twitter, there are quite a few things that make tweets stand out (this is serious analyzation, here):

courtesy of Dan Zarrella

And, if that info wasn't enough and you're still trying to procrastinate, check out the Indie Ignites Pinterest and Twitter accounts... We would love to connect with you (and, therefore, procrastinate! YAY! Oh, wait. Then we'd be producing less books. Boo.) You can also connect via our individual social media sites by clicking the About Us tab above!

Thanks for the ride, guys! Now I'm off to see if I can find a recipe for peanut butter waffles...