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.

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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.

What stops me writing?

This week our competition hits the half way mark and comes with a twist in the tale. 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.

As with every week, there is a theme. As with every week, there will be three winners. This week, however, things change a little.

There will still be a “best post” and “best comment” but there will not be a winner for the most comments. Instead, it is time for us to push ourselves and enhance the platform we have been building with our blogs. Entries that take part in this new section will be given preference in the event of a tie (and let’s be honest, you are all very good).

Additionally, 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. If you need help with links see this post and if you need general WordPress help see this post.

But first the theme, this one is a sequal:

Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 17th.

What stops me writing?

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to.

A bonus will be awarded to any writer that manages to link back to their own “What gets me writing” post (week one) in a way that fits with the post and seems natural. If judging is as hard as it normally is, that bonus could help.

How to really win this week

In preparation to our big finish, you will need to step out of your comfort zone once more. This time, however, it is not such a big step. If you can sign up for Facebook, then you can do this too.

Have you ever used Reddit? You will need an account there. It is free to sign up and free to use (just like Facebook or Twitter).

On Reddit is a section called Thanet Blogs. I created it a few months ago and it has been mostly dormant for a while now. That makes it perfect for our new competition element.

Once you have published your blog post, you will need to post a link to the Reddit. WordPress users, that means making sure you post the public URL and not your private one.

The winner will be the post with the most up votes (down voting by competition entrants is not allowed). Aside from us, anyone who uses Reddit could come and vote. You could, for example, get your friends to come and vote for you. You might want to be sporting and vote for each other too.

If you use WordPress (or Google analytics on Blogger) you may see traffic (that is visitors) being sent to you from Reddit. This is good. Once you are comfortable posting on Reddit you might feel like extending out from the sandbox of this particular subreddit and finding larger communities. Writers of Thanet, for example, or the global Writers, if you are feeling brave. There is even a Thanet Creative Writers (which is just about Thanet Creative Writers).

Getting your links out into relevant places is part of establishing and growing your platform. (The opposite of getting your link in irrelevant places – which is spam).

The answer to the question “what stops me writing?” might now be “reading reddit”. You have been warned.

You will be needed your Reddit account for the total lack of grand prize and the Overall Winner selection at the end.

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.

Three things games could teach writers about writing

Today I want to look at three very specific things that games could teach us writers about the art of writing. Things we should know and yet, somehow, seem to forget on a fairly regular basis.

Each of these three things comes with a video by Extra Credits but when they say “games” or “your game” image they are saying “stories” or “your novel”. You’d be surprised how often the exact same points apply.

Bad writing (in games)

Bad writing makes bad story telling

Before we get to the video which is both short and informative while being entertaining and easy to watch, let us talk about Sci-fi.

Sci-fi is really two entire genres:

  • Science Fiction – what might be possible
  • Science Fantasy – just accept it and have fun

One is about reality and the other is a flight of fantasy with high-tech gear in it.

A stand in for including some sort of high-technology magic, without really understanding what we are talking about, is technobabble. And while a little can be fun, most of the time all you are doing is talking nonsense.

It’s okay to ask the reader to just accept that the doodad in the green box makes the thing happen if you are happy to be writing at little more science fantasy rather than hard science. If you actually have no idea how the science works and really don’t care, then don’t try to explain it to the reader. Instead, you might want to think about showing them the exciting adventure or whatever it is that made you want to tell this particular story.

The video goes into great detail about the difference in writing style and genre between Star Wars and Star Trek and there’s probably no reason for me to cover the same ground. You can watch the video for that. However, let me point out this – The Star Wars original trilogy never explained what The Force was and it did not spoil the series.

Sometimes, in a story, a thing just is. You don’t need to explain what was happening, you just need to let the audience enjoy it.

I see in a lot of writer’s groups in Thanet and online subscribe to a cargo-cult of writing which insists that every last thing must be fully explained and work within a scientific system. Even if that thing is magic.

Sometimes, “a wizard did it” is all the explanation needed. We are not narrating an RPG and there is no need to maintain detailed numeric tracking systems for every aspect of magic, or science, or whatever fantastic element you are talking about. So long as the audience can enjoy the fantastical element of your story and you are consistent about it, you have probably done enough.

Over explaining, especially badly done which only shows that you don’t understand the science yourself, is only going to spoil things.

Guns in games and stories

Guns (and weapons in general) say a lot about the culture of a story

This second video talks about “The American cult of the gun”. I don’t plan to say too much here but have you ever considered the cultural implications of certain choices you make with your story?

In the west, we often write about a protagonist on a quest for the betterment oft he self. To get the girl, to save the day, to be the hero. Likewise, we can tend to see the gun or the car as a tool to achieve personal freedom. On the other hand, other cultures might see the sword or the gun as an extension of the self.

I can imagine that I just lost you. Watch the video and lets talk in a moment.

So what do you think? Do you still see your story in the same way? Or have you perhaps just caught a glimpse of how our culture informs the way we build characters and plots?

When we put a gun in a character’s hand, is it just a gun or is it a representation of his own power in the service of others?

That might seem like a pointless abstraction but that “pointless abstraction” can have profound implications for the character development and even the way in which we will show the protagonist using the gun.

It might be a bit much to extract from this one example the whole concept of how our culture colours ever aspect of our story telling but if this video can help you to start thinking about it, then I have done my job here.

Hard-Boiled games and stories

Why Are There So Many Gritty Video Games (and stories)?

Another huge mistake I see touted in writers groups is that to make a story more mature all you need is to make it more hard-boiled with sex, bad language, and graphic violence. The reality is that this often just serves to make your story seriously lacking in the maturity stakes.

Over the last few years, I have encountered advice from Thanet based writers that insists that it is a good idea to just cut loose with swearing and blood to tell a better story. “The more hard-boiled, the better,” they say. This is categorically wrong.

Hard-boiled writing for its own sake is writing. Just because a good story has blood and violence in it does not mean that putting blood and violence in yours will make it good. Your story will still be as good or as bad as it was before but it will now have more blood and violence and may have suffered as a result of this unneeded inclusion.

There is really only one reason to put blood, bad language, and violence into a story – if it completely makes sense to do so and the story would unavoidably suffer to avoid doing so.

Stories with violence that is completely unjustified are just splatter porn fan-fiction. Worse still adding more “hard-boiled” elements into a story without understanding what they are there for will almost certainly make your story less interesting to read. Boring stories do not sell and no one wants to read them.

That’s not to say that bad language, sex, nihilism, blood, gore, death, and all that should never be used. Like any thematic element to a story, if used well, they can be a vital part of the recipe. Used carelessly and all you have is a story no one will want to read.

Gritty does not equal better.

Over to you

Tell us what you took away from these videos

  • Do you agree with these three lessons that games can teach us?
  • Is there a vital point I missed?
  • What did you take away from those videos?

Tell us your thoughts on these topics in the comments section below.

Writing Competition: If I had wings and could fly

Another week, another great theme for our writing competition that also builds your author platform. 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.

Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 3rd 10th (oops).

If I had wings and could fly

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to.

Take flight with this open-ended theme

This theme is designed to be very open-ended. If you have been writing biographically for the competition then this might be a time to talk about your dreams or, equally, a chance to engage in some fiction. The sky, literally, is the limit this week.

As always, we strongly encourage you to link to this post. This lets your readers know why you are writing this but also lets us know (most of the time) that you have entered this week’s competition.

For winning that coveted most comments award, your best bet is to publish early and then to share it on your Facebook and Twitter feeds.

I wish you all the best of luck and look forward to reading what you write.

Last week’s winners

All things being equal I will be compiling a list of last week’s winners. as you might have realised, this is really hard as you are all very good. I will try to publish that list as soon as I can. That said, this is a busy week for me so there may be delays. If I keep on top of everything, the winners will be posted today. If not… Well, they will be published eventually.

My Genre: Winners

As I think I might have mentioned, I have struggled to choose one winner this week. At last, I think I have picked one but it was not at all easy.

The theme was why I write in my genre – a question that not all professionals can answer. You each approached the theme in a different way and I was deeply impressed with each and every post I read. You are a very talented bunch.

The participants

Below I have listed all the posts that I found. If yours is not here then I did not find it. I checked the pings & comments, the regulars, and the Facebook group. Only four of you commented a link or pinged the blog I awarded you four non-countable bonus points which are only redeemable for bragging rights. (If you need help linking).

Up to this point, there have always been seven or eight of you but some of you took a week off. At least I hope you did because I would feel terrible if I missed anyone out.

Now for the winners. Drum roll, please.

Best Comment and Most Comments

Jess Joy was the runaway winner this week in terms of comment count. Posting something fun and easy to engage with can do wonders for getting comments going. This is a great platform building technique in and of itself.

The most commented post was also the home of some amazing comments. Many of the comments mimicked the style of the post and it looks like you all had a lot of fun with it. So I am awarding Ansteysp the best comment prize.

Best Post

This week I am awarding the prize to Artimis Blake’s “Why do I write in my Genre”. While every single last post was a contender for the prize, for different reasons this post spoke to me where I live. This is purely chance, I think, but as I have to choose just one and it was so very, very close…

From a platform building perspective, this post is very good content because it is something fans and the press can quote easily.

Over to you

Feel free to heap likes, comments, praise, and general congratulations to our winners.

There is no right or wrong answer here, who would you choose as the winner from this set?

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 Two Winners

Late but arriving as fast as I can format text, are the winners for the Week Two competition. The theme was time travel which reminds me, if I don’t hit publish soon I will need a time machine because guests are about to arrive for

The theme was time travel which reminds me, if I don’t hit publish soon I will need a time machine because guests are about to arrive for Tea and Chat. The irony of getting a post out late during Time Travel week is not lost on me.

As always, there were three winners to identify:

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

I am aware that one or two of you are still tinkering with WordPress or trying to figure out how to get started. I have also learned that things that I take for granted like adding a link to something specific is not at all clear for everyone (yet). I promise to write about linking specifically as soon as I can. I put together a WordPress FAQ for those that need it.

Things that particularly impressed me

The quality of the work this week was really astounding. What was I thinking, imagining that I could pick out just a few winners?

Congratulations to everyone who was using WordPress and dealt with the sudden change to the editor this week.

Unexpected plot twists. I saw a real handbrake turn of a plot twist this week. It was so good that I felt it was worth a mention.

Everything I look for in a time travel story was found in one perfect short story. Despite a snafu with the linking making the text a bit hard to read (all blue from links and my dyslexia, not so fun) it was nevertheless perfectly told.

A poem that almost sets up a story not told was the tease we had this week. I want to read the story of good intentions derailed by temptation.

A very honest reflection. Ine of the best ways to write is to be brutally honest. This is a post that typifies that honesty perfectly.

A perfect insight into a writer’s mind. What more can you say? This was a fantastic reflection on the engine of writing. Asking “what if” and filling in the blanks of unknowns. Loved it.

A novel approach to an old topic. This read like some old school sci-fi, a bit rough around the edges, but what a story!

Sci-fi and comedy delivered with a comfortable ease. I liked the way the author self-inserted their own writer persona as the main protagonist. Also, coffee powered time travel.

Poetry with a plot twist. I love the way, in so few lines, this poet plays with several tropes of time travel.

Some constructive criticism

This is aimed at no one in particular but are just some observations that I hope will help you. To be honest, there was so much to praise about this week’s batch of entries that I struggled to find anything to write in this section.

Don’t forget to post

First, and most obviously, don’t do what I just did – promise a post and then utterly fail to get it published. I feel like I should still apologise some more for that. Such a silly mistake.

Centre aligned paragraphs

I saw a lot more centre align text this week than last. It is a topic I address to businesses fairly frequently. This is probably because I have something of a unique perspective on odd text. I am dyslexic and centred text (and a few other unusual formattings) plays merry hell with my ability to read it. (Don’t worry, I am a geek and can get my browser to correct my view for me).

Generally, people centre text when they want it to look balanced, appear to be different, or just want to make it stand out or look “nice”. It might look okay to you but if you raise the reading difficulty of the text by quite a bit.

WordPress users have the Block Quote option which looks like a pair of opening quote marks. That will definitely make the text appear to be different. Other options include italics, bold, a different colour, or full justify. Our WordPress FAQ has more details on how to use these features.

Links

Links are great. Links are how the Web works. Linking to something is like sharing love. It is a great way to build the community around you. I have promised to try and produce a guide to linking. I will be doing that soon.

If you can figure out linking then try to always link to what you are talking about. Some of you do – this is to your credit.

As a side note, links work best if they are added in after the text is written. Put them in at the end, is my advice. This can also help avoid situations where the editor tries to make everything one giant link.

Please note that I never knock off marks for not linking but you will not get as much out of the contest if you do not link out when it counts.

The Winners

Best Post: Ansteysp

OMG, you writers! I honestly had a good reason to give each and every last one of you the prize for “best” post. The batch of posts this week was amazing. Each one typified a great post in some way. It almost came down to my simply drawing names out of a hat – that’s how hard it was to pick a winner this week.

Best Comment: Kentish Rambler

There were several great comments to choose from this week. I spend ages go back and forth between them all trying to make up my mind. You have all really gotten into the whole constructive feedback groove this week. This was a hard call to make.

Post with most comments: Irving Benjamin

The runaway winner for most comments was Irving’s post. You all did a good job of picking up comments and commenting on each other’s work but this post just picked up a few more.

And Now: Week Three

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 10 themes left to go.

You can find out about the Week Three theme here.

Writers’ Writing Competition: If I invented my own religion

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

But first, an apology

I admit I dropped the ball this week. I honestly thought I had everything set up and scheduled but I failed to realise where we were in the week. That is my fault and I apologise. Winners to be announced shortly too.

Week Three: Competition Theme

This is the theme for this week. Closing date to have posted it online is midnight on Monday the 20th. However, if you need more time because of my mistake say so and I will delay judging by a day.

If I invented my own religion

You can write anything you want that fits that theme. As little or as much as you feel you need to.

Ideas

This theme was invented to allow you to show how your twisted mind works as a writer. Although the intention was that it be a biographical topic, feel free to write fiction, poetry, essay, you new cult manifesto, or something entirely crazy.

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.

It is important to realise that unless you link to this post, then ou ping may not show up, and if it does, it will show up in the wrong place.