Monthly Archives: August 2012

How Aliens (and my daughter) Destroyed My Fear of Social Media Marketing

In high-school, long ago, the pressure to know exactly what I planned to do with the rest of my life was intense. All I knew for certain; I wanted to cut my next three classes, and hang out with my awesome boyfriend. As for the rest of my life, my high-school year book states, “Vicki will probably end up owning a unicorn ranch somewhere over the rainbow.” My guidance counsellor administered a ‘potential careers’ test. The result? Farmer. Less than accurate predictions of my future, but indicative of my extreme indecisiveness. I ended up following my parent’s advice, getting a bachelor’s degree in sociology, with a second major in English. The pressure was off, my sociology degree opened doors, and windows. Work was steady, and I made a difference.

But, I wasn’t content. I’d always been a writer. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t writing. I fell into the clutches of Facebook. The consummate extrovert I loved the platform, I stood on the ‘platform’. It became the soapbox, from whence I babbled, and pontificated. My friends and family were entertained. They asked for a blog. Scared to death I took a chance, and wrote for a larger audience. I took those blog posts, and used them as a springboard. I sent off an email to a newspaper, subject line, “I want to write for you!” Yes, I even used the exclamation point. Guess what? They hired me as a freelancer. I was off to the races. This led to participating in National Novel Writing Month. One article beget another; newsprint, magazines, e-zines I did it. I still do it.

Perhaps, it’s my competitive nature, but I believe when you write a novel, you do it with the intention of publishing it. I can’t honestly say I’m doing it for purely artistic, and creative reasons. As you all know, I have a commercial fiction, procedural arson-investigation story to tell, and I want to give voice to my first-responder characters. While, I won’t get into the self-pub/indie-writer versus traditional-pub/down-with-e-books debate I will say I am exploring many options. While looking for a way to publish, then publicize my book, I did venture deep into the world of e-pub, where I ran face first into social media marketing. I took one look, and ran straight back into the arms of a ‘real’ novel; made of paper and cover stock. Complicated, and facinating are two words to describe the world of social media.

So when do the aliens come flying in? Right now. At this point in my shiny new writing career I had a personal Facebook account, an email address, and a parenting blog. Might be time to step into 2012. I was terrified. I knew it would take a lot of work, and a somewhat technical brain. I was not blessed with a technical brain. That’s why I married a rocket scientist. He can program the PVR. So I held off, out of fear. Then one day my five-year old daughter crawled onto my lap, holding my e-tablet. She was playing a game her older brothers frequently play, aliens were everywhere. Her character was jumping, negotiating turns, gobbling up some bits of something, or other. She reached a new level. And, she knew exactly what to do. At five she had the technical savvy to avoid the traps and pitfalls, score points, and get her character home. Lesson learned.

She had no preconceived idea she might fail, or crash the system, or make a fool of herself. Some days she used every second of her allotted electronics time to learn just one move. She’d fail, go back and start over, until the aliens did her bidding; taking small steps, taking her to the next level. When she was really desperate to move forward she turned to her brothers, not letting them take over, but asking for advice. When she was in dire straights her brother, would enter her game, using their desktop computer, to help her destroy the aliens.

I decided it was time. I took everything I learned from those alien attacks, and put it to good use. I set up an email address dedicated to my writing, then a Facebook page (currently researching how to get more people to ‘like’ it). It took a lot longer to set up a WordPress page, as I had to search for a template, choose colours, and set up a photo shoot (I took the photo myself). I joined Pinterest and set up boards dedicated to blogging, and writing. Finally, I registered with Linkedin, and Twitter. I went in with a positive attitude. I lost one blog post three times, or so I thought. It actually posted to all the aforementioned platforms three times. So, I made a fool of myself, and I apologized.

The social media marketing alien is slowly, but surely doing my bidding. I have learned more than I ever thought possible. I’ll admit I’m pretty proud of my decision to tackle social marketing. When I get stuck I tweet an SOS, and someone comes to the rescue. There is so much to learn I sometimes bang my head against my desk, but I’m learning to keep those aliens under control. In fact, I’m learning ten new SMM tricks everyday, and loving it. So, if I do decide to self-pub, maybe I’ll be ready. Thanks to the aliens (and my daughter), one way or another, my first-responders will be heard.


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How to research your way to awesome sauce…

There was a time, not so long ago, I thought I could write a commercial fiction novel without researching. I was going to rely exclusively on creativity, and my less than stellar memory, to get me through. When NaNoWriMo came along in November, I jumped in with both feet. No outline, no plot, just a laptop, and a dream.

As the month progressed I thought, “Hey this is easy.” Okay, I never thought it was easy and I did feel some guilt that the kids went for a month without a bath. Just kidding. Seriously, it was only two weeks at most. So here’s what I brought to the table: no research, buckets of creativity, lack of reliable recall, no outline, and no plot. Yup. What a hot mess of creative conceit I was. I managed 45,000 strung together words. Dramatic, awe inspiring, earth shattering literary genius. Yeah. Maybe not. Try, flat as a pancake, and as boring as a seminar in advanced astrophysics. (Bazinga! Forgive me, my adorable geeky husband!) But that was then, this is now.

Since that time I’ve had the privilege of attending The Ontario Writer’s Conference, where I soaked up validation from every living soul I spoke to. “Is it okay to call myself a writer? I’m only a freelancer, not a novelist…” I sucked back information like writer’s suck back lattes. And I learned. I ended up in a workshop called, Best Evidence: Digging Up the Facts, facilitated by the amazing Susanna Kearsley. She moved deftly between the art of researching for autobiographies, and researching for historical fiction. Here’s what I learned from her and applied to my commercial fiction, procedural fire-investigation mystery – her ideas, as applied to my novel.

1. If at all possible go to the location your novel is set in. See the architecture, eat the food, talk to the people. if you can’t get there research like crazy. Score phone interviews with people. Look at photos, watch videos. Get a ‘feel’ for the place that’s accurate. Don’t base your novel on some hazy memory of a travel show you watched on TV ten years ago.

2. This is the time to get over being shy.After all, if you do publish your book, unless you’re rich, ain’t nobody but you and your mama going to be publicizing it! Set up interviews, and talk to real live people. If your book is about 12 year old girls, then talk to 12 year old girls. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you remember what it was like to be 12. You had access to the Grolier Encyclopedia set, in the faux maple bookcase, in your living room. These girls have access to Google. Bit of a difference. (Newsflash: If you’re writing for Y/A and you don’t know what awesome sauce means, you have some research ahead of you.)

3. Try to record your interviews with people so you can accurately capture their vernacular in your dialogue. If not, with permission, write down as much as possible. And thank them for their time with a note, or an email. (Thank you Captain Young for introducing me to the jargon, and expletive laden colourful vernacular of firefighters.) Don’t promise everyone the novel will be dedicated to them, because sooner or later the thing might actually get published, then you’re screwed up the creek.

4. If you’re writing historical stuff you know the drill. Research it to death. Find the true source. Use librarians, town clerks, priests, ministers, and rabbis. Anyone who keeps records. Buy them coffee, buy them lunch, friend them on Facebook. Do what you have to do to get your hands on accurate information.

So I followed this advice, and my characters expanded. My story took shape, to the point I can fall into the world of my own book. (I wish the author would stop blogging and finish it!) A sure sign I’m headed in the right direction.

 

We’ve come this far, let’s be frank, my novel is beyond awesome sauce, and I can’t wait for you to read it.

In medias res,

Vicki

 

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