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You’ve worked too hard to quit now. Your story is nearly ready, but now it’s time to sell your novel. Learn the steps to creating a powerful proposal, secrets to pitching, the key elements to your marketing plan, a social media primer and how to create rabid reader fans. It’s time to ignite your career.
Thank you! in typewriter

Google Penalizes Sites that aren’t Mobile Friendly & Other Digital Spring Cleaning

@EdieMelson

I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but here in South Carolina spring is definitely here. And with it comes the inevitable urge I have to throw open the windows and get my house back in order.

But this time of year isn’t just a good excuse to shine up my house, it’s also a good time to do some digital spring cleaning. There are some changes on the horizon that we all need to be ready for, and it’s important to freshen up our social media pages on a regular basis.

So let’s get to work!

Item One: Recent Google Changes

This one’s important, so listen up. As of April 21, 2015, Google began penalizing websites and blogs that are not mobile friendly. And it’s not a small penalty either. When someone searches for something—even on a regular computer—if the site isn’t mobile friendly it will show up much lower in the rankings. Here’s a link to Google’s announcement.

If you’re not sure if your site is mobile friendly, you can use the Mobile-Friendly Test that Google has set up.

For those of us with Blogger sites, we’re in good shape. Blogger is owned by Google and was modified to be user friendly several years ago. But for those with other sites, and with self-hosted sites, I recommend you check and see if your site passes the test

Item Two: Check Your Links

Another thing that can drastically affect your search engine ranking is the presence of broken or dead links on your blog. The negative affects are more pronounced if the links are on one of your main pages. They’re slightly less of an issue if they’re buried within an old blog post.

I recommend taking a few minutes and clicking on every live link on the main page of your site. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but it’s important that these links work. First because of the search engine issue, but also because a dead link irritates and frustrates your audience.

Item Three: Update any Social Media Changes

If you’ve added a new network to your list of go-to social media sites, be sure there’s a link to follow/friend you on it.

Item Four: Tidy Up Your Blog’s Sidebar

It’s easy for things to get out of order in your blog’s sidebar. But these gadgets/widgets are vitally important when you’re growing an online presence. Make certain they’re in the order of importance you assign them.

It’s also important to toss any gadgets/widgets that are no longer relevant. Spring cleaning isn’t just about organizing, it’s also about getting rid of the junk that’s accumulated.

Item Five: Give Your Site a Facelift

Spring is a good time to update the overall look of your site. This could be a minor font color change, or a major overhaul. If you’re thinking about making a few changes, I’d say the time is right.

All of these may seem like minor tweaks. But each one can have a major impact if it’s in disarray. Now it’s your turn. What digital spring cleaning tips do you have to share? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

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3 Reasons Twitter & Writers are a Perfect Match

I remember the first time I ventured onto twitter. It’s an intimidating site, full of unfamiliar terms and strange rules. Beyond that, the more people I followed, the more confusing the newsfeed became. To my untrained eye, all those 140 character bursts were just disjointed and disconnected chaos.

I really didn’t understand how anyone could get anything good out of this network.

Luckily for me, I didn’t give up. I kept digging for articles to help me understand the value of Twitter. And that’s when I began to unravel the Twitter chaos. As I became more familiar with this alien landscape, I began to appreciate why Twitter and writers are a perfect match.

  1. It respects our time. Interacting in 140 character bursts keeps conversations focused and moving quickly.
  1. It helps us write tight. If you’ve spent any time at all studying writing, you’ve heard the advice to write tight. This means eliminating unnecessary words.
  1. It’s a networking superconductor. There is no social media platform out there that is better at allowing us to find connections with like-minded people.

How Connections are Made

So how do we tap into that networking superconductor? First, lets back up and evaluate the reason we’re all working at building an online presence. We are looking to deepen existing relationships and build new ones. But building new ones can be difficult if the only people we interact with are those we already know, either online or in person.

We can get a little bit of exposure to new folks through introductions from our existing connections, but that’s a time consuming way to go about it.

Twitter offers a better way—hashtags.

What if there was a way for someone to search a given social media network by topic and find new, interesting people to interact with? That would be a great way to grow our connections.

THAT, in the simplest of terms, is the purpose behind hashtags.

If I do a search on twitter for the popular writing hashtag #amwriting, I’m instantly able to discover people that I’d never have known existed.

AND if I include the hashtag #amwriting in one of my tweets, people who are searching for writers can find me, even if they’ve never heard of me from anyone before.

When you compose a social media update that includes one or two hashtags that summarize the topic, you are giving folks a way to find you.

For example, I’m working on a new series of Steampunk novels. Because of that, targeting a specific type of reader—one who reads Steampunk. I find those readers within the larger group of people who read science fiction (ABA – secular) or speculative fiction (CBA – Christian).

Here’s a sample tweet I might send out, targeted at those specific readers: 

Step-by-step instructions to help you turn a plain top hat into a #Steampunk masterpiece! Via @EdieMelson http://bit.ly/HoGs3w #Specfic

Let’s break down how I composed this update. I know that the Steampunk community loves to create costumes. So I’m giving them information they’d find useful and interesting.

  • I used #Steampunk so that anyone searching Twitter for others who are interested in this genre can find me.
  • I also included @EdieMelson, because on Twitter, that is a clickable link that takes them directly to my Twitter page.
  • Finally I used #specfic, because that’s the hashtag for speculative fiction to pull in readers who might find this interesting.

If I was targeting the general market reader, instead of #specfic, I would have used #scifi.

NOTE: Use # (hashtags) to denote a subject, and use @ (at sign) to denote a person or organization. With organizations, you’ll find some that hashtag their names and others use the @ sign.

Twitter isn’t the only social media network that has hashtags. You can use hashtags in the same manner on Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram. There may be other networks that also use them, but those are the main ones.

Hashtag Etiquette

Try to never use more than three hashtags in any one tweet. If you can make it two that’s even better. Otherwise you end up looking like a used car sales man. If you’re trying to reach more groups, schedule multiple tweets, at different times, about the same subject and target your groups two at a time.

Always research your hashtag before you use it. Never assume it’s the correct one. For example, I was targeting military families with tweets about my devotional for military families and I thought #military would be the logical hashtag. No, turns out that hashtag is frequently used by those trying to date someone in the military. Not really the demographic I was trying to reach. The hashtag I wanted was #militaryfamily and #deployment. The best place to research hashtags is also the easiest, just type it into Google or the search engine of your choice.

Now it’s your turn to ask me any Twitter questions you have. Or share how Twitter has helped you make more connections. Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments sections below.

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Character Change Trick icon

The ONE EASY Trick to SHOWING character change  

We’re giving our characters an Extreme Character Makeover over the past month – check out these posts (Nailing the Character Change Journey, and the KEY to building character motivation for change).  But nailing true Character change is hard to SHOW, right?  Because so often change happens in the inside. . .or does it?

At MBT, we teach the Story Equation – the idea that all character’s start their journey propelled by a Dark Moment Story, or some event in their past (recent or early on) that has created in their psyche a fear, a lie and a wound.

From there, the character change begins, moving your character from the LIE he believes, toward his Black Moment (Greatest Fear) his epiphany (TRUTH) and finally that Final Battle, or the thing he can do at the end that he can’t at the beginning.

But here’s the problem. 

While all that looks like INTERNAL change, it must be displayed on the page as EXTERNAL action.

So, how to you show this change? 

Here’s the TRICK:  Give your character a FLAW.

See, we all have flaws, and if you look closely at them, you’ll see that they are most often a result of our fears.  A mother fears her children getting hurt, so she overprotects. A man fears failing in his job, so he becomes a workaholic.  A woman fears being rejected, so she molds herself into being someone she isn’t.  A man fears getting his heart broken so he plays the field fast and loose, never settling down.

Our fears create our flaws, and our flaws are visible.

However, as our fears are slowly overtaken by truth, our flaws begin to change, to be healed.

So, too for our character in his journey. When our character begins to develop skills to face his fears, his flaws will begin to be healed.  During Act 2, he makes a choice contrary to his current behavior because his is no longer afraid.  And, after the epiphany, he is able to overcome his flaw and embody his triumphant final act.  He is able to “storm the castle,” or declare his love, or take the throne – whatever action he couldn’t do at the beginning because of his fears.  

But to do any of this, your character must have that Dark Moment Story to start his journey. Without this, you have no greatest fear, and thus, nothing to build his flaw on.  You’re simply picking a flaw from thin air.  In other words, your character needs a good reason for his flaw.

Here’s a bonus trick:

  • Men’s fears often stem from the past, something they don’t want repeated.
  • Women’s fears often stem from the future, or something they are trying to stop from happening (or something they are trying to make happen, because they fear it won’t).

So, when you’re developing the FLAW, look at the FEAR and determine the external behavior motivated by that fear. Then, show your character’s change by seeing the flaw at the beginning, show him slightly overcoming the flaw in the middle, and finally stepping into healing in the finale.

And remember, it all starts with the Dark Moment Story.

Go! Write Something Brilliant!

Susie May

P.S.  If you need help plotting your story, starting your story, or even getting the story on the page, we have a RARE, FREE Open House this Thursday, May 7, 2015.  Get a rare sneak peek at what goes on behind the scenes at MBT, as we continue our Build-A-Book series, diving deep on the Inciting Incident and Telling Yourself the Story!

Click HERE to sign up.

P.P.S  And May the Fourth be with you.

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