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Archive for December, 2010

Getting Started With Networking as a Writer

Monday, December 13th, 2010

Earlier this week, one of our members posted this question in the forums:

I understand networking is extremely important especially if you would like to have something published but my question is how do you do this? How does someone like myself build up a network of links and acquaintances at such an early stage?

It’s an excellent question, and I’m taking a stab at it here.

First, as a shameless self-plug, I think forums like WritAnon are a great place to start. You can start finding out more about people, and as you get to know people better, they’re more likely to want to help you succeed.

Next, blogging is a good way to build a following, BUT you have to have a purpose with your blog. There are too many blogs that are unfocused out there, so you want to ensure you’re blogging for a purpose.

What do I mean by a purpose? Perhaps your purpose is to blog using short stories to establish yourself as an author in a particular genre. Perhaps you want to share some area of expertise you have that others do not (I blog about robotics, volunteering, and my family life in addition to running the blog here at WritAnon). Each blog as its own purpose, and I try to write articles that are interesting and focused on the audience for my blog.

Also important for would-be bloggers:  blog on a regular schedule.  It might be once a week, a few times a month, or a couple times a day, but create a schedule and stick to it.  I’d recommend starting light (once a week) and writing more often if you find you have more time and more to say.

If you want to build followers relatively quickly, Twitter is an awesome tool. However, you have to keep using it regularly (at least once a day), or your follower counts will start to drop.  And you have to say something interesting.  “I’m brushing my teeth again” doesn’t count.  “I’m brushing my teeth with an alligator skin toothbrush” might.  Especially if you have a photo to prove it.  Disclaimer: I don’t know if someone actually makes those, but I’d probably recommend against using one even if they did.  Please don’t capture an alligator and use it as a tooth brush.

Lastly, creating your own website that you update often (at least once a week) is useful, especially if you want people to find you by searching on your real name. You can check out my personal site in my signature if you want to see how I do it. I’ll be posting something tomorrow or Saturday for a new article. You then want to sprinkle it here and there on the Internet so people have a higher chance of finding the real you.

As an afterthought, I should also say: don’t try to do too much networking at once. It can easily become a full-time job if you let it.  Social networking should enhance your writing, not take away from your time of working on your stories.

These were my off-the-cuff and slightly edited comments.  What other things should a budding writer should do to build their network?

Elements of a Good Christmas Story

Monday, December 6th, 2010

This year, I’ve felt more in the Christmas spirit than I have in a long time.  It might be because my wife and I are expecting a baby in six short months.  It might be because my neighbors have young ones who are so excited by the prospect of having Santa visit their homes.

And it might be because my heart’s grown three sizes this year.

Whatever the cause, I’ve been watching Christmas movies almost non-stop this weekend as my wife and I transform our home into a Christmas wonderland.  We have lights and decorations on the tree, stockings hung on the entertainment center (no fireplace at our house), and a giant inflatable snowman floating in our snow-covered lawn.

That’s started me thinking:  what is it that makes some Christmas stories “good”, and others swept into the “not gonna watch again” pile?

Element 1:  Good music

All of the movies that I enjoy the most include good Christmas music.

Examples (by no means complete):

Element 2:  Relatable Characters

All of the movies I watched included characters that were relatable.  They made mistakes (getting on a train with a strange man), were not “perfect” according to social standards (Rudolph’s nose), and didn’t always know about what was happening around them (scheduling a Christmas vacation while the kids were away).

Examples (by no means complete):

Element 3:  Snow

Every one of the examples above (and hence the reason why no examples are included here) includes a story where snow is a main element.  There’s definitely something about the cleansing magic of a winter snow that helps people focus on the Christmas season.

Element 4:  Santa

Santa embodies the Christmas spirit, making an accessible character regardless of one’s religion.  I can’t help but want to emulate his generosity in giving presents with no thought of anything in return.  This is part of the reason my wife and I always donate toys around this time so that children we don’t know can have something at Christmas.

While many stories use Santa as a character, there are a few that stand out as being about the big man himself.

These are the common threads I noticed in the stories I watched. Of course, there were also other underlying themes (love, forgiveness, joy), and lots of good character development opportunities, but these pieces seemed to be in all of the movies I watched this weekend.

What other things do you notice in a Christmas story?  Do you notice more the themes of love, forgiveness, and joy?  Are you more focused on the religious aspects of the holiday (this post focused on the secular aspects)?  What do you do to get in the spirit of Christmas?

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