Tips and Tricks to Always Have Something Interesting to Say on Social Media

I teach writers how to build an online platform by investing thirty-minutes a day in social media. I do this by utilizing a scheduling program (my favorite is Hootsuite). But, I also caution them not to spend much time talking about themselves, reminding them about Edie’s 5 to 1 rule.

For every 5 social media updates you share on any network, 

you are only allowed 1 about yourself.

Remember, social media is not advertising. It’s a way of connecting with others online. These connections will come into play and be your cheerleaders when you are promoting a book or sharing something you care about. But we don’t start with what’s in it for us, we start with what’s in it for them.

The key to only spending a short time each day scheduling social media updates, is having a ready library of things to share. Today I’m going to teach you how have to have the resources you need—always on hand—for valuable social media updates.

The Basics 

Before you can build a library of resources, you need a focus for your social media updates. Your social media personality needs to have a focus. Just like an unfocused blog, a social media personality that posts about everything under the sun isn’t going to garner many followers. It doesn’t have to be just one things, but it should be well-defined.

My focus for social social media updates covers four areas (yours will probably be something different, but that’s okay. The process is the same:

  • Social media how-to for writers, business owners, non-profits, and ministries.
  • Writing instruction and inspiration.
  • Things to help military families and the communities that support them.
  • Prayer/devotional thoughts.

These are the four primary topics I share about on social media.

I go to three basic places to find things to share on these topics.

  • Blogs and sites I read regularly (I make sure I get email notification when something new is shared on one of these sites).
  • Social media updates that others share.
  • Hashtags and people I follow on social media—especially on Twitter.

I refer to these resources as my library. But they are only helpful if I already have them close at hand. If I have to spend time searching through websites or scanning social media every time I want to schedule updates, thirty-minutes isn’t nearly long enough.

Building the Library

I recommend you take several days and up to a week to build your basic library. I also suggest that you’re always adding to it as you find a valuable site and/or person. I do this in three ways.

1.I take time to research topics I’m interested in and sign up for blog/website updates to come into my inbox every time there’s a new article and/or post. That way, I have a ready-to-hand list of things constantly coming into my inbox daily. I do the research by searching on google.

Here’s how I would research social media:

I’d type “Social Media Tips for Writers” in the search engine box. I’d begin to read through the articles and posts that come up. I would continue to do this with slightly different searches, like, “Blogging for writers,” “Authors and Social Media,” etc. I would look for sites that come up again and again because they’re probably the most valuable.

2. I would spend several sessions—over several different days—scrolling through social media updates (particularly Facebook). I’m looking for other sites people I respect share regularly, and I’m looking for specific accounts that share their own updates regularly.

3. I would search for specific hashtags and accounts on Twitter that pertain to the subject I want to share on social media. To find the best hashtags to search for, I’d again start on Google (yes, Google). I type the following into the Google search box, “Best hashtags for Writers” or “Best hashtags for Christian Writers.”

Once I have the most valuable hashtags, I make a stream on Hootsuite of just that particular hashtag. If you’re not sure how, here’s a post on How to Customize Hootsuite that explains about streams and searches.

As I’m researching hashtags, I’m going to come across some Twitter accounts that have lots of things about social media (one I follow on Twitter and FB is the @SocialMediaExaminer). I would also make a stream for these type of accounts.

4. Next, I look at all the places/accounts/people I’ve found that I can share information from and I cross reference them—looking for them in different places. For example, @SocialMediaExaminer is also on Facebook, so I Liked their page, and they have a blog, so I signed up for email updates when they put up a new blog post.

5. Finally, I make a go-to list either in a spreadsheet or word document. This is a list of all the websites/blogs I can go to if I can’t find anything in my inbox or on social media.

Now you can see why I say a few days up to a week to assemble all this information.

But once you have this information close at hand, you can easily spend no more than thirty-minutes a day scheduling valuable social media updates.

Now I’d like to hear from you. Any questions about the specifics? Tips that you’ve found to help gather valuable social media updates? Be sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Step-by-Step: Storycrafting Process

My brother ran a ½ marathon last weekend.   For him, this is a regular occurrence – he has a wall full of finisher medals from marathons and iron man competitions around the country.  I love seeing him cross the finishing line – so much triumph in his face.

It’s exactly how I feel when I finish a novel. 

I handed him a water bottle as he met us in the finishers area.  “I’d love to run a marathon someday,” I said.

He leaned over, groaning a little, stretching out.  “You might not say that around mile 10,” he said.  “When everything starts to hurt and you think. . .why did I do this?”

Yeah, he’s right.  I amended my statement to reflect truth:  “I’d like to SAY I ran a marathon!”

We laughed, but that’s a little like the conversation I have with aspiring authors.

“I’m going to write a book.”

I love it when I hear people declare this!  I love standing at the edge of a brand new project, seeing the possibilities of the story, the twists and turns, the character growth, the amazing ending.  So much potential embodied in that statement.

And so much struggle.  Because writing a great story doesn’t just happen.  From idea to finished story, each chapter and step in the character journey is wrestled out of our brain (and hearts).   As Hemingway is reported to have said, “It is easy to write. Just sit in front of your typewriter and bleed.”

The problem with writing a great novel is that we want to rush ahead to the good stuff, to the chapters and happy ending without stopping to take the time to work through each step.  But without completing the characterization and plotting, the themematic exploration and developing the storyworld and the tension, it’s akin to me jumping off my sofa, grabbing my old running shoes and leaping into the crowd.

I’m going to die, long before mile 10!

First Scene and Synopsis ImageAnd this is why, I believe, aspiring authors give up around chapter 7. (or before). Because enthusiasm can only fuel us so far down the journey.  Without proper preparation, we’ll fizzle out when we get to the mire of Act 2.

At MBT, we have a Peptalk every Thursday night to encourage and train our members on the craft of storycrafting.  This year, one Thursday a month, we’re building a book together, working through the process step by step.

Last week, we opened up our private Peptalk to the public to take a peek at what we do.  We quickly summed up the process, then talked about how/when to craft the Inciting Incident.  We outlined our goals for Chapter 1, then Rachel Hauck and I shared some tips for getting the story on the page.

And, because we had such an overwhelming response, I thought it might help if we shared the replay.

Get the video replay of the class – Build-A-Book:  Inciting Incident and Getting the Story on the Page.  (You’ll also get the PDF Slides that are rich in the content we talk about.)
 
Quickly, here’s a rundown of the process we cover:

  1. Start with your Story Seed (or idea that sparked the story)
  2. Decide on your Genre
  3. Discover your Setting
  4. Create your Characters
    1. Find the Dark Moment Story
    2. Use the Story Equation (a MBT Tool) to build the plot
    3. Put your elements together in a loose plot (using our grid for story structure)
  5. Ask your Storyquestion
  6. Create a short premise
  7. Create the Act 2 elements (we use a 4 Act plotting structure)
  8. Decide on your Inciting Incident
  9. Craft your home world/Chapter 1 elements
  10. Put together your plot & Tell Yourself the Story

WRITE!

You can run a marathon (aka, write a brilliant novel!)  You just need to plan for success.

Have a great writing week and Go! Write Something Brilliant!

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Susie May

 

Avoiding The Gilmore Girls Syndrome

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of the Gilmore Girls.

I’m watching the series for the fourth or fifth time.

So, all due respect! It’s a fine, quirky show with stellar dialog.

But toward the end, things aren’t as satisfying.

The writers gave Luke a surprise daughter and made him confused about his relationship with her.

So much so, he and Lorelai called of their engagement.

We spend the next season and a half waiting for them to get back together.

And they do! (Yay!) But on the very last show!

We were denied the wedding! The full circle of their relationship.

Same with Rory and Logan.

We endure all of their ups and downs, cheer for them, yell at them, cry with them, then when Logan proposes, Rory turns him down!

Rory, who likes things planned and figured out, who knew she was going to Harvard when she was three, turned down the man she loved for three years.

The one who put her through so much! She actually turned him down.

What? We are denied, again, the cumulation of a Gilmore Girl relationship.

The final scene mirrors the final scene of the pilot:

Lorelai and Rory sitting in Luke’s diner, talking, drinking coffee, dreaming of the future.

I get it. Bookends. Ending the way the story began.

I recommend writing with bookends. Ending the book the way it began only showing the advancement of the protagonist(s).

In my book Sweet Caroline, the heroine enters the story driving a broken down ’67 Mustang toward a broken future.

She leaves the story on a jet airplane toward a bright future.

What if Caroline turned down the jet airplane opportunity and drove out of the story in her ’67 Mustang? Even if she had a promise of a somewhat better future than she did in the beginning?

I think the reader would’ve felt “blah” about the story. “Nothing changed. Nothing really happened. We just went through a series of events!”

In essence, Gilmore Girls ended the way it began. In a broken down ’67 Mustang.

What if the show ended with Luke and Logan sitting at the table with Lorelai and Rory?

What if Rory said yes and Luke and Lorelai were married?

Would it change anything about the “Gilmore Girls?”

Not at all. Those “Gilmore Girls” hooked the men of their dreams. They won! They matured, advanced and achieved.

Instead, we’re back to where they started only 7 years older.

Darn it, I want to go to Luke and Lorelai’s wedding! I want to see Rory sporting a honking big Logan diamond.

So, how does this apply to your novels?

Easy! Your characters have to mature and advance.

If they story opens with your hero and heroine fighting and not getting along, in the end, they have to get along!

I know it seems simple, of course the hero and heroine get together.

But how have you advanced their personality.

Have they had the epiphany?

Did they learn the lie was indeed a lie and embraced truth.

We’ve all read novels before where it doesn’t seem the characters changed at all. Or very little.

So let them change! Let them breathe and grow.

Even if your story is about two sisters, how does their sisterly relationship change so that the bond is deeper and broader?

The end of Gilmore Girls we see and feel they are exactly where they were in the beginning. Boring!

So, your characters have to embrace more of truth and life by the end of the story.

This is what we call “What Can They Do In The End That They Can’t Do In The Beginning?”

As you’re planning your story, even if you’re a pantser, consider, what will my character be able to do in the end he can’t do in the beginning?

In Sweet Caroline, Caroline was able to let go of the man she loved while he dumped on her and take a chance at doing something she wants instead of doing something everyone else wants her to do.

In Once Upon A Prince, King Nathaniel can face his parliament and tell them they need to reverse an old marriage law impacting only royals. He can admit he loves Susanna.

In Princess Ever After, Tanner can admit he messed up concerning his girls and bring them into his life. And heal his relationship with his dad.

See where I’m going with this?

You’ve got to deepen and broaden you character to yes, look like your character but embracing more than life.  Your characters must mature.

How do you do this?

1. Figure out the character’s problem. What do he fear? What’s the lie he believe?

2. Consider what the epiphany might be related to breaking the fear and turning the lie to truth. Like, God does really forgive. Or his father never abandoned him.

3. Then give a physical action to the epiphany. Make sense? Some how you have to “show” how they “do” in the end what they couldn’t do in the beginning. Admit something, do something, accept something.

Homework:

Consider your story. What can your protagonist not do in the beginning that he’ll be able to do in the end.

Happy Writing!

Extreme Book Makeover: Help! Why would someone pick up my story?

Make your reader care with the Story Question!

Why should someone pick up your story and read it – all the way to the end?  We talked the last two weeks about having Story Stakes – or a reason your character should care about your story by giving your character something to lose.  Last week we dissected the difference between High Concept and Low Concept stories (and how tell the difference), noting that High Concept stories are driven by high public & personal stakes, whereas Low Concept stories are fueled by the characters’ inner journeys, or the private stakes.

This week, we’re going to add another potent ingredient to the mix…the fuel for the inner journey of your character, the Story Question.

The Story Question is that question your character is asking as the book opens, ignited by the inciting incident and lingering in their mind throughout the second Act of the story.  All the tidbits of truth your character discovers along the way contribute to the answer they discover at the Aha! Moment of the story, or the epiphany. 

Consider one of the classics – Casablanca.  Rick is a broken-hearted soul who can’t forgive the woman he loves for abandoning him.  He’s become apathetic and refuses to get involved in the lives of those who come to his bar.  Then, one day, his lost love, Elsa walks into gin joint and suddenly…the inner journey ignites. Yes, the external plot drives the story – but it works in tandem with the internal journey.

What is that internal journey?  The road to forgiveness, and even true love.

The story question – Can Rick love again? And, if he does, will it change him into a better man? 

Obviously, this question is at the heart of countless stories through the ages.  One of my favorites is The Count of Monte Cristo.  A man, wrongfully imprisoned, vows revenge on the man who stole his life.  The external journey is his quest to enact revenge.  However, his inner journey is about forgiveness.  The story question – Can a man so wrongly aggrieved, forgive? And could it finally set him free?

The external plot only causes the character to grapple with the big question of the storyOne might say that the entire purpose of the external plot is only to cause the hero to confront the big story question and find an answer, with the hope that because of it, he changes and becomes a better man.

Frankly, isn’t that what life is about?

It’s this inner quest for the answer that drives the inner journey – and thus, becomes the fuel for every external decision your character makes.

So, how do you find the Story Question that will fuel your story? 

First – take a look at your theme.  Love?  Redemption?  Forgiveness?

Then ask – What are you saying about it?  You can love again?  Denying love only makes you bitter?  Unforgiveness is a prison?

Now – turn it into a question that relates to the character.

  • Can Rick learn to love again, and will it free him to become the hero inside?
  • Can the Count of Monte Cristo choose forgiveness over revenge…and if he does, will it finally set him free?

Now, instead of using “Can…” to begin your sentence, try – What if…

  • What if a man, broken by love, has to rescue the woman who destroyed him?
  • What if a man has to forgive the man who stole his life in order to find it again?

Suddenly, you have a story question that you can use for two things…

First:  It gives your story direction and helps you start the story with the character already wounded, already searching.

Recently, I started watching a new series – Torchwood.  Being a Whovian, I’ve always wanted to dive into this spin-off, so I found it on BBC and began to TiVo it.  However, I clearly started in the middle and the first episode I caught focused on Owen, one of the team, clearly broken hearted and tortured over the loss of someone he loved.

As the story opened, we saw him in a bar, picking a fight.  Then, he volunteered for a suicide assignment…only to end up nearly sacrificing his life.  Worse – he’s angry that his teammates saved him.

Intriguing.

If I were writing Owen’s story, I might start the book with this run of events (although shortened), and the rest of the book would be his quest to make peace with himself, find love again and become the hero he is supposed to be.

His Story Question might be (and don’t tell me what happens!) –

  • After losing someone you love, is it possible to be whole again?

OR

  • What if a man lost the one thing he loved and thought his life was over…how could he return to life – and love?

Obviously, the external plot offers plenty of opportunity to explore these questions, and I might make his epiphany be a moment where he truly has to choose between loving again…or dying.  (We’ll see!)

The key is, the Story Question helps set up the home world and beginning sequence of the story.  Then, it fuels all his decisions and creates truthlets…and situations in Act 2 that challenge or offer insight to that question.

But finding the Story Question also assists in…marketing!

See, after you deliver your pitch – focusing on your external story stakes, it’s time to tell the “real” story.  Aka – the Story Question.

Returning to the loose Torchwood example….your pitch might be:

When aliens invade the planet, only one man can save earth. (now, clearly, that is not in that episode…but it could be part of the longer running series).

(And, I acknowledge that is the premise of nearly every episode of Torchwood…or Dr. Who for that matter).

However, to add in the layer of the inner journey, weave in the Story Question:  Our hero, however, isn’t interested in saving the world – not after losing the woman he loves. Will he learn to love again – and is it in time to save humanity?

Stakes will sell you book, and ignite the journey.  It will keep your reader glued long enough to love your character.  But’s It’s this inner question that will keep your reader turning pages all the way to the end.  (Because, frankly, they want to know the answer too!)

Extreme Book Makeover Exercise:  Do you have a Story Question for your novel?  Remember – what is your theme?  What are you saying about it?  Ask a Can…or a What if question personal to your character. 

 

Other articles that might help: 

High Concept vs. Low Concept Stories: http://www.mybooktherapy.com/extreme-book-makeover-help-i-think-my-plot-is-boring/

Creating Story Stakes: http://www.mybooktherapy.com/extreme-book-makeover-your-story-simply-isnt-compelling/

 

Next week we’ll start breaking apart the pieces of a Tired Plot into Acts (Act 1-2-3) and we’ll take a close look at Act 1, and how to HOOK your reader from the first page!

Go – write something brilliant!

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PS – Don’t forget to check out the Frasier Contest to get great feedback on your first scene and story idea!

PPS – want to continue the conversation?  Join our FREE Voices Community.  www.mybooktherapy.ning.com