Joining the Twitterverse: To Tweet or not to Tweet?

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imagesCA9LAWG8Just like with Facebook, I always said I would never join Twitter. I stopped saying that in April when I started an account to promote myself as a writer and editor. I always said “Twitter is for Twerps!” Or when I didn’t self-censor myself, I tended to use a less flattering and vulgar T-word. Now I’ve officially become a Twerson on the Twitterverse.

What the heck am I saying? Just using some Twitter terms to spice up my post. It was all gobbledygook to me in the beginning, especially hashtags. I first noticed these popping up on Facebook. Drove me crazy. Now I understand their use. It’s a great way to categorize tweets, especially considering Twitter gets millions of tweets a day.

I’m in no way a social media expert, but I’m becoming a lot more comfortable with this platform. I’ve still got a lot to learn like how to organize people in groups so my feed doesn’t get bogged down.

I’m currently doing some research at the moment (as well as trial and error) to see how Twitter can best be utilized by writers to enhance their platform–might make a good Tuesday Tip.

So for those of you wondering whether to tweet or not, I recommend joining. It’s a great site to connect with other writers, build a platform, and increase traffic to your blog. Do a little research first. View other writer’s profiles to see what’s working for them; learn about hashtags; read up on how to (and how not to) promote your writing.

Since I’m using Twitter to connect with other writers and strengthen a platform, I’d love to connect with you. If you’d like to connect with me on Twitter, or if you are looking for someone to follow, please post your twitter accounts in comments. Mine is @tbetzner. Also, feel free to respond to the poll below or share your thoughts about Twitter or other social media sites.

 

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1We all have our own personal strengths and weaknesses as writers. For instance, my sister is a dialogue guru. Her characters all sound unique, the dialogue sounds natural, and she uses dialogue tags successfully. Believe it or not, my sister and I don’t share talents. My dialogue is not only stilted and sometimes forced, but my characters often go pages without talking to each other. It’s safe to say, this Tuesday’s tip is not going to be about how to write good dialogue–not until I master it anyway.

My point is we all have weaknesses–areas that are holding us back from mastering the art of writing. My tip this Tuesday is to practice what you aren’t good at. It may be you need some practice showing instead of telling, or using active voice instead of passive. You might need to practice writing dialogue, like me. Maybe you aren’t good at describing settings, action scenes, or sex scenes.

Identify your areas of weakness

For some of you, this will be easy. How honest are you with yourself? Let’s be honest, as writers we either think our writing is gold or crap. If you aren’t sure, have someone else read a sample of your writing to locate areas where you need a little polishing.

Research

Find resources that will help you master your flaws. After all, you’d never try to make a car repair or try a new hairstyle without looking up a YouTube tutorial, right?

  • Go to the library. You know, that place that has books. Does anyone go to the library anymore? I’ve found dozens of writing resource guides at mine. I also owe them money. Curse you, late fees!
  • Hire or talk to an editor. Editors can help you resolve grammar, syntax, and content issues.
  • Enlist some help from beta readers. Chances are, if you have a flaw in your writing, your beta readers (not family or friends) were the ones who called you out on it. You can ask them for advice on how to resolve your writing issues.
  • Talk to other writers. Find someone who excels in the area you flop. For instance, my sister forgets to describe scenery. I help her by letting her know, as a reader, what I want to have described.
  • Lastly, never underestimate the power of Google.

Practice

The dreaded P word. We all just want to magically be good at something, don’t we? Well, we can’t be. I’d love to just pick up a violin and start playing, but I’m going to have to practice . . . and purchase a violin and hire an instructor. Off topic. Anyway, say you are practicing writing dialogue, you can draw a comic of your characters and put their dialogue in word bubbles. No artistic skills necessary–just draw stick figures. If you’re practicing writing descriptions, start by writing a description of your bedroom, your office at work, or your cat.

How often should you practice? This is entirely up to you. I recommend a few hours or a day each week–whatever you have time for. Take a few hours to locate a new weakness and polish it until it becomes a skill.

You’ll never get good at something if you don’t do something about it. I could go on tirelessly about my forced, practically non-existant dialogue, or I can find ways to improve it.

Tuesday Tip

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tip#1

Contractions are common place in speech. If you say “can’t” or “wouldn’t” in conversation, you aren’t likely to be called out for being “too informal.” However, contractions are still a little controversial in writing. So, how should you use contractions in writing? There isn’t one correct answer, because it all depends on your personal style, your publisher’s house style, and your audience. You’ll get a lot of contradictory advice from editors and writers. After all, you can’t say contradiction without contraction. Some claim that if you use contractions in the narrative, you have to use it in dialogue and vise versa. Others say you can’t use contractions at all. So what is a writer to do? Here is some advice on using contractions correctly.

Examples of common contractions:

  • I’m: I am
  • Isn’t: is not
  • Can’t: can not
  • They’d: they would
  • Won’t: will not
  • Wasn’t: was not
  • Shouldn’t: should not
  • Wouldn’t: would not

An apostrophe is used to replace all omitted letters.

Example: Do not = Don’t

The apostrophe replaces the extra “o” which is the only sound you don’t hear.

Example: Can not = Can’t

The apostrophe replaces the “n” and the “o” because an apostrophe can replace multiple letters.

Using contractions in dialogue

Most editors and writers will agree, contractions can (and often should) be used in dialogue. They make dialogue sound more natural by mimicking how people actually talk. They can also be used for accents and dialects.

Using contractions in narrative

This is where the controversy starts. There are a lot of people who say you can never, never use them in narrative, but that simply isn’t true. Many authoritative sources have used, or suggest using, contractions in narrative. Famous authors, like Ray Bradberry, have used them. Writer’s Digest uses them. Even the Chicago Manual recommends using them to enhance flow. You just have to consider your audience. If your audience is a college professor, do not use contractions if you want a good grade.The more formal the writing, the less you should use contractions.  If you use them in narrative, make sure you are consistent. Never use them where the meaning could be unclear.

Example: “I’d” could be “I never” or “I would never”

Unless the context is clear, don’t use I’d.

Hint: If you use contractions in narrative, make sure you use respected, legit contractions. The list of acceptable contractions is long, so I’ll just give you an example of one that is not. That contraction is “ain’t.”

Rules for Ain’t

I recommend avoiding “ain’t” except for dialogue, because its usage is generally disrespected. It’s a fairly new contraction, but that isn’t the reason it’s so controversial. Using “ain’t” is confusing, because it has a variety of meanings depending on context. Originally created to replace am not, it is now also used to replace are not, is not, has not, and have not. It just causes more confusing than it’s worth. Personally, I don’t like it. I don’t think it even follows the rules. Shouldn’t it be an’t? Where did that “i” come from?

Common mistakes

Its and It’s

Its is possessive

Example: The cat ate its food.

It’s means “it has” or “it is”

Example: It’s going to rain, It’s been awhile

They’re, Their, and There

There is an adverb that shows a place or position

Example: He went over there

Their is possessive

Example: Their car is in the shop.

They’re is the contraction for they are

Example: They’re a cute couple.

Placement of contractions

Another common mistake writers make is where they place contractions in a sentence, especially when they place them at the end of sentences. They look terrible and are confusing at the end of sentences.

Example: That is what it’s.

Correction: That is what it is.

Example: He is not, but they’re.

Correction: He is not, but they are.

These tips should help you decide if you will use contractions in your own writing and how to use them correctly. Do you use them in your narrative? How about dialogue? I’d love to hear from you.

Tips For Gaining New Followers on Your Blog

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I wanted to share these simple tips with my fellow bloggers. Please check out this blog.

Self-Published Authors Helping Other Authors

If bloggers all share one common conceit, it’s that we’re hungry for followers. We like the idea that people are reading what we post on the Internet, and we’re always looking for ways to make sure that plenty of people discover our work and that they keep coming back. And while there’s no correlation between the number of followers and book sales (I wish there was, though), having followers can lead to some book sales on occasion.

Here are some tips I’ve found useful at one time or another for gaining followers on my own personal blog. Now, there’s no guarantee that any of these tips will be helpful for your blog. At best, a combination of these might be helpful, but that’s for you to find out. Like any technique in this business we try to increase sales and readers, it’s all trial, error, and learning from the past…

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Tuesday Tip

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tip#1Last Tuesday’s tip was about character interviews, which is going to tie into this Tuesday’s tip. Compare the interviews of your secondary characters with your primary character’s interview. Which one is more interesting? If you didn’t answer in favor of your primary, there is a possibility that your secondary characters are stealing the show. Here’s how to spot those pesky spotlight stealers and how to put them back in their place–second place.

Let’s look at a few classic examples of when secondary characters run the show. Most of you are probably old enough to remember Steve Urkel from Family Matters. The nerdy neighbor was only meant to be a one-time gig, but his popularity with the audience won him an appearance on almost every episode. When I was a kid, I didn’t even realize the show was called Family Matters. I thought it was called Steve Urkel. That’s how little the family mattered to me. 

For those of you who don’t remember TGIF (I pity you), you are probably more familiar with Daryl Dixon from the Walking Dead. The silent, arrow-shooting side character is personally my favorite. What’s not to like? He has an interesting backstory, an ongoing conflict with his brother, and the potential for a romance (fingers crossed). In comparison, Rick’s conflicts seem to be wrapped up too quickly or dragged out too long. Who cares if Rick and his family die as long as Daryl lives. Let me know if you see any shirts that say “if Rick dies we riot.”  I thought not.

And who can forget the loveable Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean. Jack was a fun relief from the tiresome storyline of Elizabeth Swann and William Turner. Other fans must have agreed, because William and Elizabeth weren’t even in the final movie. Instead, we get an entire movie centered around Jack–except for the dumb side plots (don’t even get me started on the mermaid).

Before you take all the color out of your side characters in an attempt to regain your protagonist’s glory, remember, interesting side characters are not a bad thing. You want your side characters to be sympathetic and have their own arcs, but they shouldn’t shadow the main character.

So how do you know when a character is taking over?

If you answer yes to several of the following:

  • Does you secondary character have several exotic features?
  • Does your secondary character have interesting quirks?
  • Does your secondary character have too many aspirations/conflicts?
  • Are they really fun to write? By this, I mean do you write most of your scenes from their perspective instead of your protagonist’s viewpoint?

Remember, your protagonist is your primary character. Primary means FIRST. Secondary means SECOND. Now, let’s keep them in order. If your protagonist is standing in the shadow, here’s how to pull them back into the light.

  • Your primary character should be the one with the most at stake. If your main character fails, does he/she lose more than the secondary character? If not, you might want to up the ante. The main character should have more conflicts or at least greater conflicts than the side characters. If the side character teams up with your primary to obtain lost treasure, the main character should be after something more precious than gold. Arguably Pirates of the Caribbean did this well. William Turner wants to rescue Elizabeth Swann from the Pirates. Jack simply wants his boat back. A person is worth more than a boat …ship.
  • The protagonist, not a side character, should be responsible for the resolution of conflict. This means the protagonist destroys the villain or instigates the outcome. Does the protagonist always defeat the bad guy? Not necessarily. Let’s look at Gladiator and Braveheart. In Braveheart, William Wallace doesn’t defeat the villain directly. The king dies of an illness. Heck, he doesn’t even make it to the end of the movie, but his followers are so inspired by his sacrifice they charge the battlefield to win their freedom. Likewise, in Gladiator, Maximus defeats the villain (10 points for villain conflict resolution), but it is ultimately Senator Gracchus who will reinstate the senate and bring Rome back to glory. In both these examples, the heroes die before the end, but the victory could not have been gained without them taking action.
  • Make sure most of the book is told by your protagonist’s perspective. Narration from a side character can be beneficial to learn more about the main character and give away information the primary does not know, but if the scene can be told better by the protagonist, it should be.
  • Make sure your protagonist gets more stage time than the secondary. Keep a list of scenes and record the characters who appear. Go back and count the number of appearances each character makes.
  • Make sure your audience will connect with your primary. Readers need to empathize or sympathize with the character. Usually the main character wants something difficult to obtain. They need a plight, a conflict, a reason to do everything they do.
  • Make sure your main character has a complete arc. Did they change in the end. Did they act upon this change? If they didn’t, this is probably why your main character lost his charms.  An arc is like a lover. The more stale and stagnant it gets, the more you look elsewhere for satisfaction. You might find yourself cheating on your protagonist with his sidekick. Dun-dun-duuun!!!
  • Find out what your supporting character means to your protagonist. All characters should have a purpose. Does he highlight a flaw your main character has, does he help or hinder your main character, are his conflicts connected to the plot? If you said no to any of these, your secondary needs to be changed.

Go through both these lists to identify why your main character is not holding a candle to your secondary character. Is this secondary character more interesting because they have more flaws and your main character is too perfect? Do they have more at stake? Do they have more goals? You might have to go back and redesign your characters. You may even have to do the unthinkable–remove them.

Negativity Not Welcome

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For the last year I’ve had two major projects: writing my novel and removing negativity from my life. It’s no coincidence that these two goals coincide. Negative influences were coming at me from all angles: home, work, the environment, even myself. I’ve spent the last year actively reducing negative objects, habits, people, and thoughts from my life to increase positivity and productivity. It wasn’t surprising that a lot of negativity was leaking into my life from social networks like Facebook and WordPress.

1a1e678327a3a9dee22c8316c6f695a3fdbc7c3532ac5a9cb56543ee860d30bb As much as I’d love to just get rid of Facebook, I need it to keep in touch with relatives and friends who are far away, so I reduce the time I spend on it and utilize the “hide” option. This reduces the stress from negative, religious, or political post that seem to come through the feed on a daily–even hourly–basis. I also stopped following people who have been a consistent cause of stress.

Tackling my paper trail to remove negative clutter took days. My WordPress purge took a minute; I only removed two people, but I stopped following both of them for the same reason. It wasn’t because I got tired of seeing pictures of their cats and kids, or because they’d all but turned their writing platform into a baking blog with their cupcake recipes. Although I don’t encourage the latter, I unfollowed these blogs due to negative content.

One of these bloggers I initially started following because his post were humorous and fun. His post stopped being fun or even funny about five post ago when I noticed all he does is insult other bloggers and writers. Why would someone who uses a blog as a platform for writing spend so much time insulting fellow writers and potential readers? If he wrote a book, I wouldn’t buy it simply because he’s a boastful and pompous narcissist. I think it’s ironic and a tad hypocritical that he spent an entire post criticizing the content that other bloggers write about when all he writes are rants. How is that quality content? Author interviews, book reviews, writing tips, and GoodReads list risk being boring, but I’ll read them any day over a negative, self-righteous rant.

Why was I following him anyway? I have estranged relatives. If I don’t allow just anyone in my personal life, why am I allowing them in my social networks. His posts weren’t helpful, informative, or even fun anymore. If anything, all I got out of reading his last post was a bad mood. I actually dreaded seeing him appear in my feed. Just like my mile-high paper trail, French fries, and bad memories, I just had to …

frozen-imagen-animada

Free from negativity!

Maybe he’s a negative person. We’re all inclined to be due to our brain’s built in negativity bias, which makes us more susceptible to negative feelings. But despite being negatively hard-wired, I’m a positive person. Whether I lose 20 dollars or a loved one, I know life comes with pain and let downs, and you just have to look on the bright side.

To wrap this up, I just wanted to thank those of you who write positive, informative, and helpful content. I will continue to follow you, and hope you continue to follow me. Thanks to you I now look forward to reading my feed again.

I may not have as many followers as the other guy, but I’ve earned and will continue earning my followers with positive, helpful content. In case you are wanting to connect with other positive people, please check out these blogs that I follow. I’m sorry if I forget anyone. These are just a few notables who appear regularly in my feed.

Out of the well http://awrestlingwriter.wordpress.com/

Cate Russell-Cole http://cateartios.wordpress.com/

Jean Cogdell http://jeancogdell.com/

Kristen Lamb http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com/

David Ben-Ami http://fictionallday.wordpress.com/

Kylie Betzner http://litchicblog.wordpress.com/

Mishka Jenkins http://awriterslifeformeblog.wordpress.com/

Ellen Brock http://thewriteditor.wordpress.com/

I want to hear from you. Who are the individuals you follow who give you a constant source of inspiration?

 

Tuesday Tip

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tip#2When we meet someone for the first time, we ask questions to get to know them–unless you’re Toby Keith and you just wanna talk about you. Asking questions is a great way to get to know your characters.  But who do you ask? Characters aren’t real people; they can’t talk . . . or can they? For my second Tuesday tip, I’m going to talk about one way to get to know your characters.

Character interviews are a fun way to discover what you know–or don’t know–about your characters. By the end of the interview you should establish these things: origin, back story, family, physical appearance, talents/skills, personality traits (both good and bad), and goals/obstacles.

You can pretend you’re Oprah Winfrey or Stephen Colbert. Just make sure you are in the character’s mind frame when you answer the questions. The easiest method for a character interview is to prepare the questions in advance and answer them as the character. Helpful hint: use a friend as an interviewer so your answers will be more spontaneous. Below are some questions you should ask your protagonist as well as your secondary characters. Feel free to post your answers in the comment section below, I’d love to get to know your characters.

Start with Basics

What is your name? Any nicknames? Who gave them to you?

What do you look like? What is your most distinguishing feature?

What are you wearing right now?

What do you do for a living? If you could change jobs, would you?

Where were you born? Do you live there now? Where would you like to live?

What impression do you make on people? Does this attitude change as they get to know you?

Do you have family? Do you get along with them?

Let’s Dig a Little Deeper

What is your greatest fear? Who have you told this to? Who would you never tell?

Do you have a secret? Does anyone know?

What is your greatest achievement?

What is your greatest characteristic? Your worst flaw? Does this flaw get in the way of your goals or keep you from being who you want to be?

What do you do when you’re angry? When you’re happy? Which of these do you feel more often?

Are you in love? Have you ever been in love? Have you had your heart broken?

What is your greatest regret?

What is your best talent? What talent would you like to have?

If you were cleaning your house, what would you have a hard time getting rid of?

If you had one day to do whatever you wanted, what would you do?

Who is your best friend? Worst enemy? Which would you like to know better?

What is the worst thing that’s happened in your life? The worst thing you’ve done? Did you learn anything from it?