Is my daughter immortal?

In this week’s Fiction Friday Writing Prompt someone has a daughter that they think might be immortal.

Wow. How did that happen?

Is my daughter immortal?

As always, here are some obvious questions to ask yourself.

  • Who is this person with an immortal daughter
  • What has caused them to ask that question?
  • Is the daughter immortal?
  • Who have they told?
  • What happens next?

Please have fun and we hope this prompted causes a visit from The Muse. If you write a story based on this prompt and post it online please consider linking out to us. Have fun with this and I hope I can read what you write.

My wife is harbouring a secret, what do I do now?

This week’s Fiction Friday writing prompt is all about secrets and keeping them (or not). In this prompt, a wife has a secret and you (or a protagonist) must work out what to do next.

My wife is harbouring a secret,
what do I do now?

Some of the more obvious questions this raises are?

  • Who’s wife has the secret and who are they telling?
  • What is the secret?
  • How did they find out the secret existed?
  • What do they do about it?
  • What happens next?

Have fun with this writing prompt and remember: If you post something your write that was inspired by this prompt, a link is a nice way to say thank you. I hope this gets your creative juices flowing and prompts a visit by the muse.

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.

Have you considered becoming a Storyteller?

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin. Once-upon-a-time there was a person who told a story. That person could be you.

Storytelling is more than just reading out a story that you have written. Stories define us and help us explore the world. They enable us to look at old things in new ways. The storyteller is the artist that guides us on the story’s journey.

Since the first people sat around the first campfire, stories have been told. Although it is an ancient tradition, storytelling is still relevant today. Why do you thing films, books, and computer games exist? Stories are part of who we are.

Everyone has at least one story in them waiting to get be let out. Some of us, have many, many stories. Sometimes that is what drives us to become writers.

Jonathan Gottschall calls us the storytelling animal. In many ways we are, we live in stories. We create stories. We define our world with stories.

Professional Storytelling

Have you considered becoming not just a writer but a storyteller? Perhaps a professional storyteller?

The Society for Storytelling has a number of excellent resources including a guide to Becoming a Professional Storyteller and Telling Tales: A beginners Guide to Telling Stories.

What Great Storytellers Know with Matt Chan is a TEDx video that takes a novel look at storytelling.

If you decide to set up a storytelling event then the Society for Storytelling has a guide on Promoting Storytelling Events. Members of our charity can expect our full support in promoting local events and storytelling is no exception. We’d be delighted to get behind local storytelling events.

Next year, National Storytelling Week takes place from January 27th to 3rd February. So there is plenty of time to plan something (if you want to).

Talking of running events, have you considered setting up a Storytelling club or monthly storytelling gathering? Again, members of our charity can expect our full support in promoting such an event and the Society for Storytelling has guidance on Organising a Storytelling Club.

After all, we are wired for stories, says Lisa Cron.

Have you considered storytelling?

And then the murders began

We have a running joke at Tea and Chat that any opening line of anything sounds better if followed up by the phrase “and then the murders began”.

So for this week’s Fiction Friday writing prompt, take a book (at random, or one of your favourites) and look at the opening line. Take that opening line and follow it up with:

And then the murders began.

What happens next?

If you write something and share it please link to this post and let us know what you came up with. Remember this is not part of the competition but is just to get the creative juices flowing.

My mother is a time traveller

Introducing a new regular section – Fiction Friday Writing Prompts. Each week, on a Friday, we will post a writing prompt focused only on giving you something interesting to write about.

These prompts are not part of our ongoing competition but are just to get the old creative juices flowing.

This week:

My mother is a time traveller

As ideas go this one raises a lot if interesting questions.

  • Who is your mother?
  • Why does she time travel?
  • When did you find out or have you yet to discover the truth?
  • What are the effects of this knowledge (or lack thereof) on you?
  • What is it like to have a mother who time travels?
  • Is she always able to be there for you or does time travel keep her busy?
  • What does your dad think?

Have fun with this idea and please do link to this page if you publish a story inspired by our prompt.

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.

Setting up your author platform

Nothing else will sell your book to an agent or publisher like the idea that you have already set up the marketing and they simply need to cash in on it.

When we talked about getting a good agent and took a look at the advice out there, one of the top points was building a platform. That means gathering prospective enthusiastic readers who would buy your book if it came out today.

A strong platform is like catnip to agents and publishers. It means ready success and, more importantly for everyone, profits.

Creating an author platform is no small task. However, long before your book is ready, there are some foundations you could be putting into place.

In a single post, I could not possibly cover even half of the basics so this is going to be a very broad strokes picture. I will go into more detail on specifics in the future and the chances are that sooner or later I will run a seminar or two on the subject.

So you do not miss out I suggest that you follow or bookmark this blog and like the Thanet Creative Writers page so that you get those updates as soon as they come out.

Building an author platform

This is perhaps the most important single nugget of advice that I can give you – start with something that you completely control.

Facebook, Twitter and all that are great but at the end of the day they are owned by someone else. If you spend all your effort building a platform in someone else’s sandbox and, one day, they close up shop then you have nothing.

There are two things you can control. One on-line and one off-line. Both have legal and security considerations and can carry a small cost but they are worth doing and doing right.

Building an online platform

An online platform should be founded on a website. From here you are going to build a presence as an author. I suggest a setup that allows people to subscribe and allows you to make regular updates.

Those updates are very important. Without them, your site will appear dead and your support will become stale and useless in a matter of months. A great example to follow is Neil Gaiman a popular author who maintains a very open dialogue with his fans.

As part of this site, you are going to need a unique domain name. such as, for example, amazingauthorbob.com (or whatever). I can help with that.

This website should be on hosting that you can directly control. Even if you don’t really understand the ins and outs of it all you, personally, should have access to the files and the database that make up the website.

Hosting is going to set you back a few quid a month. Best value comes from a Linux based hosting deal which offers FTP access, PHP and some sort of database (MySQL for preference). These technologies are likely to cost your host nothing at all so the price of your package will be low. Furthermore, you will be able to run a CMS (content management system) or blog platform (such as WordPress, Joomla, or WebGUI).

Before picking a platform, decide what you want to do with it and then select a platform that does those things really well. You can take a huge number of open source (free) solutions) for a spin at opensourcecms.com. Best of all most of these packages are entirely free if you host them yourself.

If you are not a technical person and find the thought of setting up your own website horrific, it may pay to hire a local geek to do that for you. The chances are, these days, that the average teenager could set that up for you with their eyes closed. Alternatively, some hosting packages come with the option to press a button and have the setup done for you.

The reason for suggesting a CMS or blogging system is that the interface for putting up content is a whole lot friendlier than doing it with raw HTML and CSS files. What’s more, you are in control of the content. Being in control of your own content means that you are free to work on things whenever you have time, rather than waiting for some busy designer to get back to you.

Using an online platform

Now that you have a website with a domain name of your own, you have something that you can put on business cards. Not only that but if you set things up right you also have a custom email address with that domain name in it. Custom email addresses look more professional and inspire trust.

I am sorry to say but from the moment that you launch this platform you are committing to putting out something fresh at least once a week.

Make friends a with a cheap digital camera as photos bring content to life.

If you are part of a local writer’s group, you might consider promoting them. This shows that you are active as a writer and also is reasonably pretty likely to result in reciprocal promotion down the line.

There is one more thing that you need to set up and promote on your site – a contact form. With this you will make connections with possible fans and, assuming you get permission, you will start to build your list.

Building an offline platform

Offline, your best platform is your author’s address book. In marketing terms, we call this your “list”. It is a list of people that you have permission to contact. Ideally, people that will be pleased to hear from you.

As a safety measure do not store this list only in your web hosting. If anything goes wrong with the hosting, you want to keep hold of the list.

I could write from now up to the end of the year about list building, about ways to get people to subscribe to your mailing list, of getting people to sign up for newsletters. Of all that. What it boils down to is networking your behind off.

When you have a book signing, after you are published. Being able to email local fans and get them there will impress the publisher (and your agent) and also get you a lot of credit with local bookshop owners who will be very pleased to have you back next time.

Extending your platform into social media

Now you have the foundations in place, it is time to look at social media. A well established social media outpost represents you, as an author, in the social space but also serves to point people back to your site (home).

Social media users are not at all tolerant of spam – spam in this instance is posting the same thing more than once and also posting very similar things. Mix it up and keep it interesting. Share pictures (use that camera I suggested) as well as links to your new content on-site.

Each site has different amounts of effort required to make it work. Twitter, for example, is somewhat over-posting tolerant and is highly forgiving if you take random days off. Facebook (pages), on the other hand, are extremely intolerant of over posting and goes stale if more than 24 hours are left between updates. Choose what works for you.

Ideally, you are looking to start, not with big numbers, but quality fans or followers. Quality here means: Reacts to and interacts with you.

Try to connect with communities that are interested in the type of book you are finishing.

Conclusion

I could easily write a book about each area that I just covered. There is just so much that could be said. The most important is that building a good platform will make your work easier to get published.

On a side note, you are already doing a lot of free work “for the exposure” so don’t let anyone take advantage of the fact that you are just starting out. Big operations and small will often try to get you to work for nothing more than a link home. You are a professional writer – or will be once published – professionals get paid or at least make an even trade.

Finally, do not let all this distract you from actually writing but try to make a little time to build a valuable platform. You will be glad that you did.

What tips would you add?

Do you have an author website – tell us about it?

Do you promote on social media? Which sites worked best for you?

What this version of Careless Whisper can teach about telling stories

This is Careless Whisper on an acoustic guitar and it sounds amazing.

What has this got to do with writing? More than you might think.

It is often tempting to think that in order to “make it” as a writer we have to come up with entirely original stories, fresh settings, new and different characters and do something that no one has ever thought of before.

However, as demonstrated by the video above, taking a classic and putting it into a new setting can make something entirely great and unique to you.

  • Take Firefly as an example. The old done-to-death cowboy story but set on a spaceship. One of the greatest TV series that ended too soon (in my opinion).
  • What about A.I.: Artificial Intelligence? A.I. is pretty much an update of The Adventures of Pinocchio but set in a post-apocalyptic North America.
  • Edward Scissorhands is just Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein set in 1960s suburbia.
  • The Lion King, songs aside, is more or less William Shakespeare’s Hamlet told in the form of an animal fable.
  • The 1996 film, Independence Day is near enough a reworking of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds with a more modern setting. In both cases, a virus saves the day.

This is something you can do too. Take a classic, strip it down to the themes and narrative mechanics and rebuild it in a new setting.

Don’t copy; reinvent.

For example, what if you took Cinderella’s story – just the core elements – and set the whole thing aboard a pirate ship? Or recycled it in space? Or made it a young boy’s coming of age story set in the 1960s?

For example, what if you took the biblical parable of The Good Samaritan and respun it to tell the story of a white supremacist saved by a Caribbean man and the friendship that followed? You would have the platform to explore what it means to be a good neighbour as well as tell a very compelling story.

Reframing a classic is a time honoured tradition. Here is a list of reframed classics. Here is another list.

Why not try it for yourself? Find a much loved old classic and let it inspire you to tell a whole new story.

Here’s a geeky TV show theme tune on an acoustic guitar to show you anything can be reinterpreted into any setting and, with a little (or a lot) of skill, be amazing.

If you want to hear more amazing acoustic covers the guy in both these videos has a channel full of great tracks like this. Check it out.