Plotting or Pantsing: What is best for me?

And so we come to the last theme of our competition. One last hurrah and then the big vote off. Back when I was thinking up this idea I thought that ending on a reflection about if planning or discovery writing was best was a great idea for platform building. You guys have taken things in an interesting direction and I have no idea what you will do with this one.

Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 29th.

Plotting or Pantsing:
What is best for me?

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to. If you are new to this and joining us late welcome, thank you for joining us, please see week one’s post and the FAQ if you need more information.

Pantsing, for those that don’t know, is where you make up the story as you go and “fly by the seat of your pants”. The opposite is plotting, where you plan the plot out in advance. I used to be a pantser but I am more of a plotter these days.

How to win

There will still be a “best post” and “best comment” but as you might have realised by now, we no longer have a “most comments”. Instead, there will be a “most votes on Reddit” section. This week, and going forward for the last few weeks, the Reddit section will be a special one created for the competition. This is also where the grand, overall, winner will be chosen by you.

Sometime after this post goes live I will be picking out winners. I hope you guys have written something great for me to read (I’ve seen some of them so I know that you have).

How Author Buzz UK is helping writers

This post is all about a new project called Author Buzz UK it can be found at authorbuzz.co.uk and is designed to help writers, bookshops, authors, publishers, and agents connect with readers.

Author Buzz UK was designed to help authors create a solid platform without any more technical skill than is required to sign up for a free account. A fully customised Author Buzz account should definitely become part of your growing author platform.

All of this goodness is offered for free to anyone and all you need to get started is an easy to set up profile. Once you are set up with your profile you will have access to the following resources. If you have a wordpress.com account then you can log right in with that and start enjoying your profile right away.

Talking about running your own blogs, I already have a writer blog set up. The Matthew D. Brown (author) blog is where I post my stories as a serial. You should get over there and give them a read. If you subscribe to the blog you can get an update when I publish new story entries.

Later, as the admin team continue to expand the site’s capability, there will be even more great features open to you. These features are planned but are still being tested and improved.

  • Agents will be able to maintain a profile for their authors
  • Authors will be able to maintain a list of their books which readers can review and, quite importantly, purchase from major retailers.
  • Readers will be able to connect their account to GoodReads and show off the books they have read.
  • Read more about the vision for Author Buzz UK.

It has to be said that, as of writing this article, things are still being set up at Author Buzz. So there will be ongoing changes and improvements. Crucially, this is the stage of development where your input could radically alter the finished product. If your company or your needs as a writer are not being met anywhere else, then your input could help shape Author Buzz UK into exactly what you need.

I would highly recommend that anyone who writes, publishes, or promotes those that do, sign up for a free account and become a beta tester while your opinion has the power to shape the site.

The admin and development staff at Author Buzz are dedicated to the principles of transparency and open creativity. As such they have a dedicated development blog where they talk about both the success and failures that they encounter as they work towards bringing this dream to life. I know this because I am the lead developer in the team.

Thanet Creative Writers already have our own group on Author Buzz. Connect with us there if Facebook is not your thing.

Get on over to Author Buzz UK and create a free account.

The thing I love most about Thanet Creative Writers

This is, if I am honest, the one I have been looking forward to the most. Finding out what about Thanet creative writers (the blog, the group, or the charity) that resonates best with you guys.

Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 22nd.

The thing I love most about
Thanet Creative Writers

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to. If you are new to this and joining us late welcome, thank you for joining us, please see week one’s post and the FAQ if you need more information.

I am particularly interested to see if the fiction writers can turn this into a fiction prompt or if you will write a more tranditional blog post. This posts image was actully taken during a Tea and Chat meeting. You can use it for your post if you want.

How to win

There will still be a “best post” and “best comment” but as you might have realised by now, we no longer have a “most comments”. Instead, there will be a “most votes on Reddit” section. This week, and going forward for the last few weeks, the Reddit section will be a special one created for the competition. This is also where the grand, overall, winner will be chosen by you.

Competition thoughts

There should have been a new entry for this week. I know it is late. There should have been one (or is it two) sets of winners announced this week too.

I’m going to get to that in just a moment. Before I do, would you mind if I rambled on about what I have been so caught up in this last few weeks?

Brilliant, thank you.

A few weeks ago I started working on a new article. One of the big, well-researched ones that I have not written for a while. This one was about the author of the Martian. In the article, I focused on how Andy Wier used his platform to get a book and film deal (in the same week). One of the things that Wier did was publish his work as a serial.

One of the things that Wier did was publish his work as a serial. Serial writing seemed like a lot of fun and something I wanted to try.

As a typical over-thinker, I started thinking not about the easiest way to do this but the best way. In no time at all, I had cooked up a whole batch of ideas. One of those ideas was a project I had been sitting on for years and years – Author Buzz. I had owned authorbuzz.co.uk for a long time and at some point I let it expire.

My chosen domain name was available again so I registered it. But not before I suggested to Thanet Creative Writers that we start a portal for all writers. Both the idea of serial writing and the portal received a positive response and so I went ahead.

chimpanzee_seated_at_typewriter

What I did was create an entire WordPress network (like wordpress.com but just for authors). I then had to start writing and fixing and integrating and coding and theming like a wizard. I am not a wizard. This is much, much harder than I thought it would be.

This is an actual photograph of how I felt while I was doing this.

As a result, I have not kept up with everything. For that, I apologise. It was not fair to keep you guys hanging.

If it is okay with everyone, what I will do is pause the competition for this week. Which adds an extra week for the deadline of our last theme. During the week I will announce our winners and on Monday I will announce the winners of last week (and this week, now). I will also set the next theme ready to publish. In case you want to get writing, here was the sneak peek of what the themes will be. I had planned all twelve before we even started.

We have two themes and the grand vote off to go and I want to give you wonderful writers my full attention while it takes place.

I also want to shout out to Jess Joy for reminding me just how far from the straight and narrow I have wandered lately. I also want to thank not just Jess but AUTHORity, Artimis Blake, Kentish Rambler, L. L. Winder, Neil, and Anstey for your wonderful contributions. Reading your work has been a pleasure and a joy. I truly hope that all of you continue to write after the competition has ended.

Once more, please forgive this interruption. We will get back on track next week. That’s a promise.

What mistake do I make most with writing?

Which mistakes do I make? Which mistakes don’t I make! Seriously, you could probably compile my mistakes into a definitive “A to Z of how not to write”.

Okay, maybe that is something of an exaggeration. But I have made more than my fair share of howlers in my time. More than a few stories have ended up like today’s picture – derailed and broken.

Mistakes are the theme for this week’s competition as we enter week ten (or twelve).

Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 8th.

What mistake do I make most with writing?

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to. If you are new to this and joining us late welcome, thank you for joining us, please see week one’s post and the FAQ if you need more information.

How to win

There will still be a “best post” and “best comment” but as you might have realised by now, we no longer have a “most comments”. Instead, there will be a “most votes on Reddit” section. You can vote on your choice of winner in a special Reddit created for the competition. I strongly encourage you to get in there and cast some votes. Those votes select not only the user’s choice for this week but they will count towards the grand winner in a few week’s time.

Just like the last few weeks, to get “best post” you need to have linked to this post (unless you write something which is unequivocally orders of magnitude better than all the rest combined).

My favourite book ever

If you ask me what my favourite book is I am likely to tell you that it is whatever amazing book I am reading at the moment. That said, I am quite likely to quote you such books as “Purple Cow” by Seth Godin. Our theme this week is favourite books.

Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 1st.

My favourite book ever

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to. If you are new to this and joining us late welcome, thank you for joining us, please see week one’s post and the FAQ if you need more information.

How to win

There will still be a “best post” and “best comment” but as you might have realised by now, we no longer have a “most comments”. Instead, there will be a “most votes on Reddit” section. This week, and going forward for the last few weeks, the Reddit section will be a special one created for the competition. This is also where the grand, overall, winner will be chosen by you.

Just like last week, to get “best post” you need to have linked to this post (unless you write something which is unequivocally orders of magnitude better than all the rest combined).

Five things authors can do to build a platform

Building a platform worthy of attracting publisher attention is no small feat. Here are five easy tasks that will get you in the right direction.

If you have never heard of an Authorial Platform (an author’s platform) before then I highly recommend that you read What is an Author Platform. You might also want to keep the Platform Building Jargon buster handy

1. Have a good blog

A blog or a full website can easily form the foundation of your platform.

Ideally, you should have your own website with your own domain name where you can publish whatever you want (including running a blog).

When you are just starting out, this is often a bit much to ask. Often because of the technical requirements that you have to reach. That said there are some excellent hosting services with very good customer support that will help you through almost all of the steps. So this is less of a barrier if you have a little cash to throw at the problem.

A blog, such as WordPressTumblrmblR or similar can be a good enough place to start. Best of all it they are free and fairly easy to set up. So if you are not yet ready to set up a full website a free blog can be just as good.

All you need to do is decide how many times a week you are going to publish and keep to that. If you only publish once a week (not a bad start) then pick a day for the content to go live. Try and write your post some time before publication day so it is ready when the time arrives.

For ideas of things to talk about, see our platform building themes from the competition we have been running.

2. Connect with others

Almost all of the remaining tips there are to give are in some way social. The first step after setting up your blog is to connect with other bloggers. There are a few ways to connect but they all boil down to showing some attention and communicating:

  • Talk on local forums of Facebook groups
  • Comment on other author’s blogs
  • Chat via email
  • Connect of Facebook
  • Follow on WordPress

Connecting with others gives you a loose assosiation fo fellow writers to bounce ideas off of, to read and get ideas from, and to trade comments with. Think of your network of fellow writer-bloggers as a writers group online.

This community is the first seeds of the community and following that you are trying to build arround yourself.

3. Get the word out

Now you have your community foundation in place it is time to get the word out. There are many different ways to do that and what works for you really depends on who you are and where the kind of people taht are interested in you and your writing might be found.

The only way to figure that out, sometimes, is to suck it and see.

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook (page not group)
  • Tumblr
  • Reddit

Each of those places that you can promote your content has different requirements for success and differing levels of commitment. For example, a Facebook page should have a solid piece of content every single day for maximum effect. When you are just starting out forming a small public group for writers to share their blog posts with each other might be a better way to go; or it might be a terrible idea. These things are not cut and dry by any means.

Figure out what works for you and stick to it.

4. Link yourself up

One trick authors often miss is that they write great content which then vanishes into the archives never to be seen again. Don’t let that be you.

Instead, revisit the themes you have touched on in the past.

Once you have been going a year, if you find yourself short of ideas to write about, look back one year and publish a revised and updated look at the same topic. Not only will most of your readers have missed the first one but the idea itself will be fresh again.

Link readers back to the older stuff when you mention it as part of your new content. The chances are that at least half of your readers will have never seen what you published six months or a year ago.

By linking to other content you provide your readers with somewhere to go after they are done with the page they are currently reading. Why do you think wikis, which do this all the time, are so popular? You can browse those all day, jumping from topic to topic.

5. Don’t stop.

Whatever you do, don’t stop. Keep going.

Platforms take time to establish. That hard work can drain away if you leave your blog or soical media outposts without fresh updates. When you are knee deep in novel creation, you might only manage an update saying how many hours, words, or pages you managed. That’s fine for a while.

If you are working hard for a longer period of time there arre some other ways to keep those plates spinning.

  • Pay an assistant writer to publish content for you
  • Ask your community of fellow writers to provide guest posts
  • Build up a backlog of extra posts for times when you are busy
  • Publish a list of your posts about a single theme
  • Take a few pictures of your pet and post them

There are many one-off posts that have very littleto do with you and your writing and readers will happily accept one or two highly off topic posts every now and then without complaint. The rule of thumb is the 80:20 rule or about 1 off topic post for every 4 on topic posts.

Some writers, when they are working on a new novel will publish excerpts fromt he novel that they are very proud of. Others will grab a camera and read a page or two and put up a video.

There are many ways to turn what you are doing into more content.

Keep going.

Over to you

  • What are your tips for keeping going or platform building?
  • Have you tried something and it just did not work at all?
  • Have you found anything that works really well for you?

Tell us in the comments sections below.

Writers Writing Update: Winners and links

I’ve restarted this opening paragraph a dozen or so times today. Even as I write I am also fighting the urge to delete what I have written and write something else instead.

I want to write a post that looks back on some of the highlights of the competition so far, link out to all the entries that I have found for this week and also brings you the winners from last week’s entries.

That is probably asking just a bit too much from myself. It’s been a busy week and this is the first day where I have had a chance to catch up with things. I’m also a bit torn because we’ve recently started publishing writing prompts and I want to go and play with them too.

If I had wings…

If I had wings, I would probably forget all this and take to the sky. Forget the ground, I’d be up there thinking “man this is so much fun but I need a thicker coat”. Our theme for this week is: If I had wings and could fly. The superhero I’ve daydreamed about being more often than any other is Angel (who does have wings and can fly).

My fantasies aside, let’s look at what you have been publishing.

As far as I can tell, that’s all the folks that have published for this week so far. At least, that was all the ones I found when I checked yesterday evening.

Who do I admire?

If you read the rambling that I write for Thanet Creative Writers, Thanet Star, The Fantastic site, and so forth, then you will probably know that I have a few writers that I utterly adore. Terry Pratchett, Douglas Adams, Neil Gaiman, Iain M Banks, Ted Dekker, and Anne Rice, to name but a few.

In cast you missed it: Last week’s theme was about admiration. Here are the winners.

But first, every last person who entered – just so you know that I did not (or maybe I did) miss anyone out.

Side note: Your blogs are starting to gain traction and I detected the first sniff of spam slipping past the filters. I’m going to write about spam comments soon, I think. Attracting spam, though bad, is often the first sign that you are reaching the world. Keep doing what you do.

We admire the participants

I’m guessing that this topic was not a hugely inspirational prompt for you wonderful writers. That’s a shame as influences are an important topic for writers to disclose but never mind, it’s all good. And I have less to try and pick a winner from (so that’s good for me).

The winners

Winners are found in three categories each week.

  1. Best post
  2. Most comments
  3. Best comment

This week we have one single winner. Which has forced me to go and do some editing to this finish. The awards for best post, best comment, and most comments goes to…

…profbenj.

I did not realise that we had just one winner until I looked at my notes and realised that all three sections had been given to the same person. I was tempted to give the best post to someone else just to split it up a bit but the truth is profbenj has written a most deserving post – “Whom do I admire?” is a newspaper quality personal story with a narrative that catches you up and takes you back through a memory. It also has a deservingly large collection of comments.

Likewise, the comment on Jess Joy’s post leapt out at me as an ideal comment. It showed that the comment poster had read and participated in the post they had read and yet raises interesting questions and adds, I feel, true value to the post. It was not the only comment to do that but this one struck me as saying a lot with a few words. I’m not even sure I can say what I liked so much about it but as soon as I read it I thought “this might be the winner”.

Congratulations to all who took part but particularly to last week’s winner. This week’s winner(s) are going to be just as hard to pick, I can tell that already. You only have a few days so if you have not yet posted. I’d not hang around much longer if I were you.

Why I write in my genre

Here is this week’s theme for the writing competition that also builds your author platform. For full details please see week one’s post.

Week Four: Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 27th.

Why I write in my genre

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to. Bonus points (which don’t count towards anything other than enhanced bragging rights) if you can include both the original Greek classification system and the art history usage of Genre Paintings without it seemingly the least bit forced.

Ideas

This theme was designed to give you an opportunity to share your love of your preferred genre (or genres) with your readers. Talking about the general classification of your work can help you show up on the radar of the type of people that want to read that sort of work. However, feel free to argue that genres are a terrible idea, and show why your genre-busting novel is amazing without them. Or, you know, find some awesome way to spin a fiction around the theme. It’s your blog after all

However, feel free to argue that genres are a terrible idea, and show why your genre-busting novel is amazing without them. Or, you know, find some awesome way to spin a fiction around the theme. It’s your blog after all.

You can probably guess my favourite genre from the picture I chose this week. It was that or an image of zombies.

Don’t forget

Don’t forget to link to this week’s post so your entry is (much) easier to discover. You may find it easier to get more comments if you also share your post to your Facebook friends or on Twitter. There is now a guide to linking (and link sharing), if you need it.

Week One Winners

As I suspected, choosing the winners for this first week has been no easy task. I was assessing not only for writing style and content but the planning and execution of the very hard task of setting up a blog.

There were three winners to identify:

  1. Best Post
  2. Best Comment
  3. Most Commented upon

For best post, I decided to look at a number of criteria:

  • style
  • clarity
  • reading ease
  • inventiveness
  • novelty

As you all had to set up a blog I decided the only fair way to judge that aspect of the competition was to separate it out into an extra bonus section. This week only, there will be four winners. The fourth winner being:

  • Bonus #1: for making a great effort setting up a blog

Things that particularly impressed me

The thing that impressed me most was that you all managed to get set up somewhere to post your entries. For some of you, I know that this was not an easy first step. Just taking part demanded that you step up and get to grips with something new. You all deserve recognition for overcoming the barrier to entry in order to take part.

You have all created praise-worthy first-week entries and blogs. If I was to cover everything we would be here all day so I have focused on one or two things that most impressed me about each one. Forgive me for not linking to all the blogs again. There is a list of all participants here.

The Joy of Words hit the ground running and got their blog post out nice and quickly. This gave the post an enormous head start when it came to getting comments. From the names I saw here and nowhere else, I imagine that this post has been shared on the author’s Facebook timeline.

Braidy Spice mentioned a story she had written and then promised to share it one day soon. This is a great idea. It reassures readers that there is something to come back for and it gives you a game plan for what you are going to write next. I also have to say that her by-line made me chuckle – Writer Without a Clue: The Ramblings of Pantser.

Artimas Blake (Simon) knocked it out of the park with his easy-to-relate-to conversational style. There was a sparkling wit to the way he writes his entry which in many ways reminded me of the better sort of newspaper column. If he keeps up with that style of writing, Simon should have no trouble building a strong following for his Artimas Blake pen-name.

Irving Benjamin is clearly new to blogging software and yet powered through and adapted. Getting stuck in, making mistakes, and then learning from them is all part of the learning process. None of us would write anything if we let fear of spelling, grammar, or style mistakes stop us. Irving’s approach – of just getting in there and figuring it out – impressed me.

Kentish Rambler chose a no-frills blog theme. This can be a powerful choice when you want your content above all else to shine. She clearly has a good eye for what works. Despite a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get set up, she has done an exceptional job. Kentish Rambler has attacked a difficult task with great success. I also have to stop and give praise to a poem which really summed up writing and why I write. I found her post very easy to relate to.

Neil W included inline links in his post. These links were appropriate to and enhanced the context. His links take the reader to somewhere they can read up on the topics he mentions which is a great way to add value to a post. Good links, such as these, provide readers with a good experience. Linking out is a great skill to develop and a solid way of establishing what the connections of your post in the wider world.

Ansteysp, who has a user name I am not sure how to pronounce, chose a theme which is focused on reading above all else. Like Kentish Ramblers minimalist theme, this one too is fantastic for reading. Ease of reading is a big deal and can make it much easier for a blog to really take off and find a solid reader base. I think the big theme and dominant image matched the mood and style of the narrative form used for this post.

The Winners

When I say this was a hard choice, I am not being nice. This was one of the hardest choices I have ever had to make. Even after grading all the posts on a scale of 1 to 5 for different areas, I still had several joint first places. I took a long time over this. In the end, the winner of “Best Post” was a photo finish.

Week One Best Post: Kentish Rambler

When it comes to poetry I am very hard to please. Not only was this post expressive of the theme (as so many were), and not only did it resonate with me, but it was a poem. This post picked up bonus points for being a novel approach to the theme and managed, by a nose, to win out against some very stiff competition.

Week One Best Comment: Neil W

There were several strong contenders for best comment but Neil’s comment was a stand out winner for me. There were a lot of good comments but this one, in particular, I felt really epitomised what giving good feedback is all about. Neil’s comment, along with several others, added a great deal of value to both the blog post as well as, I feel, being good feedback for the writer.

Week One Most commented Upon Post

Here, at least, was a contest point that required only that I be able to count. Jess Joy’s post gathered a lot more comments than any other. I am pleased that I am able to write that this post is a winner because it was a very strong contester for the Best Post slot and, like all the posts this week, it deserved some love.

Bonus Winner: for making a great effort setting up a blog

When I wrote that we would have a bonus prize for best effort, I foolishly thought it would be easy to judge. This was not the case. However, there was one contest participant who I could see was making a lot of effort (and indeed I praised that effort). Irving Benjamin, this one is for you.

And Now: Week Two

Why not congratulate the winners (and other participants) by giving them some comment love.

Best of luck to everyone who takes part with this week’s theme. It’s not too late if you want to join in now – there are 11 themes left to go.

You can find out about Week Two’s theme here.