Support And Sounding Boards – Share Your Unfinished Work

The value of support, and a sounding board, during the writing process can be immeasurable.  While there are writers who keep their work locked in a vault of secrecy until the first (sometimes second and third) draft is finished, I am not one of them. I have never been able to complete a chapter without support, feedback, constructive criticism, and encouragement from advance readers.

Call it artistic insecurity, or call it vanity, but I get a little boost when I hear, “Wow that rocked!”. The enthusiasm of advance readers can be just the kick in the rear you need to keep going. I often (no less than three times a day) and like many other writers think, “Why am I writing this?  Have I completely lost my mind?” The backing and encouragement of a trusted friend reminds my of my motives for writing. I write to be read.

Sharing what you write when you are at the top of your game can come in handy when your self esteem takes a dive, too. Your advance readers can reignite your enthusiasm and excitement. When you face that nasty bout of writer’s block they’re there to push you to keep writing. When the work knocks you on your rear they’re there to pull you to your feet and dust you off.

My favorite thing about the champions of my writing is their never tiring of willingness to brainstorm with me. They don’t mind reading the same paragraph twelve times. Sometimes it’s just a thought or word they share that spurs my imagination. A five minute conversation can turn into three thousand words and a captivating new plot twist.

A true advocate will also spread the word when your work is done. He’ll back it as if it were their own.  Friends will feel a sense of shared ownership and pride in the finished product and be eager to help you market the work.

Without the supporters who spend countless hours reading, critiquing, and loving my work, I’m not sure I could have finished my first novel, let alone plunged into the ones that followed.

What are some of the other ways you stay inspired? Who do you trust with your work before it’s finished? What do your advance readers do for you?

If you haven’t shared your work yet, I highly recommend it, and I guarantee a smile.

The Opinions, Critiques, and Reviews of Advance Readers

I already had this thought bouncing in my head when I logged on this morning. It’s why I logged on to make a post. Before I wrote it down, though, I had to go peek at the headlines of the other blogs I follow, and thought it was funny that Time of Nervous Waiting was sitting out there approaching this from a very different perspective. It’s not really a parallel, more like a perpendicular. (And that, folks, is about all the geometry I know).

Anyway…as I started writing this, I realized it needed to be two posts – one rife with opinion, and the other more advice-based. This is the advice half – you’ll need to hop over to my personal blog to read the opinion half.

When I first get a story idea – when it’s bouncing around in my skull and begging to be listened to – it’s in the format I want it to be in. It’s the story I want to hear, and it’s got the characters I want it to have. Frequently it even makes it into first draft form that way. And if I was only writing for me, it would stay that way forever. To say that I dislike revising my work would be a gross understatement.

But I’m not just writing it for me. I want other people to see my work. I want it to speak to them the way the original idea spoke to me, and I want to evoke emotions and build worlds that allow them to escape, even if it’s only for a little while. That, and I love the rush that comes from seeing my name in print.

That means during the revision process, I have to make changes and tweaks so the story appeals to other readers. I have to clarify things that make sense to me only because it’s my world. I have to edit, refine, define characters, and pour depth into the original thought. I don’t think like other people – everyone thinks differently, I’m not unique in that regard – so that means I need help figuring out what components are missing, convoluted, unneeded, you get the point.

If you’ve ever heard that you should have people read your work and give their opinions before you submit it, it’s true. That’s not advice you can ignore. I envy those writers who have a wide enough circle of friends that they can get honest feedback from people they know in real life. That doesn’t mean mom tells you it’s wonderful and gives you another piece of apple pie. It means George in accounting spends the bus ride home pouring over your words and then says, “Why did your protagonist jump? Where’s the passion in your relationship? And by the way, I absolutely loved your spy agency; it was so real to me.”

Even though George in accounting doesn’t care one way or the other for my angels, I’m fortunate enough to belong to two online critique groups that do exactly that for me. I don’t always agree with their opinions, but I wouldn’t be what I am today without them. Two and a half years ago when I first ‘met’ some of them, I thought my work was ready to go to press tomorrow. Yeah…it wasn’t. I would have gone through rounds and rounds of rejections from publishers and agents and never known why if I hadn’t learned to listen to them, and trust my own instinct about which advice to take and when.

I guess the point is – even if you’re the next George Orwell, William Shakespeare, or Danielle Steele – don’t believe it until you can find opinions you trust to confirm it. It may take some digging, but there are people out there who want to read and give advice on what you’ve written. If there weren’t, you wouldn’t have a market for your story, right? After all, that first draft is for you, the final draft is for everyone else.

Where do you go for opinions, reviews, and critique of your writing?

How NOT To Generate Controversy With A Blog Post

Controversial blog posts are one way to get your readers talking, commenting and sharing the links to your blog which — of course — generates traffic.

But there’s a fine line between encouraging controversial discussion and going completely over the top.

Here are six ways to generate controversy with a blog post that you should avoid.

  1. Insulting your readers. Using words you’d hear on a playground (“stupid-head” … and worse) doesn’t support your argument, and it doesn’t paint you in the best light as a human being. And why would anyone want to visit the blog of someone they don’t respect?

    Liking you is a completely different thing; take Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who calls these right-wing talk show hosts like-able, but plenty of people respect their opinions, or at least care enough about what they say to keep tuning in.

    In short, your readers don’t have to LIKE you, but they should respect you. And calling people names won’t earn you respect from anyone.

  2. Failing to support your arguments. “Because I said so,” may work (for a little while) when your toddler asks you why she can’t have another cookie before dinner or soda pop before bed, but don’t expect your readers to take your word as the truth if you don’t have strong supporting arguments. As a parent, I typically believe in giving reasons for telling children “No.” As a blogger, I give my readers the same respect and support every incendiary post with facts, statistics and/or anecdotes to back up my beliefs.

  3. Disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing. If you truly believe in a viewpoint, it’s fine to voice your opinions. But don’t take the side opposite of popular opinion just for the sake of controversy. You won’t be able to argue it well if you don’t really believe it. And when the argument escalates, you won’t feel good about yourself, defending a point you don’t really believe. Remember, everything you say on the Internet is there, forever, for people to read. Consider how you’re representing yourself and what you’re telling the world about your beliefs.

  4. Alienating your readers. There’s a huge difference between discussing relevant, controversial topics and putting up a post purely for shock value. Profanity and posts that cross the line over what most people would deem “appropriate in mixed company” can alienate your readers. Know your audience. You can be respectful and controversial.

  5. Permitting trolls. Everything I’ve said about how you should act in controversial posts applies to your readers, as well. It’s your blog — don’t permit behavior from others that you wouldn’t allow from yourself.

  6. Letting the argument drone on incessantly. Even the best controversies get old after a while. People begin repeating themselves. Arguments become circular. You can end any controversy politely with a statement along the lines of, “Let’s agree to disagree.” If you absolutely have to, close the comment thread before things get nasty.

Controversial posts are fun to read — and to write. If you follow the “golden rule” and keep it friendly, there’s a good chance that the next time people stop to talk around the water cooler (or, more likely, on Twitter), they’ll be talking about your blog.

What do you think makes a successful, or unsuccessful, controversial post?

Dynamic vs. Static Website Content

When James asked, “Are Bloggers Creating Their Own Sweatshop?” we discussed what a blog is, and what it isn’t. Ok, so our blog isn’t our product, it’s our platform, right? Why put so much time into maintaining a dynamic site? Couldn’t a static website be just as effective as a business card, portfolio, or sales rep?

Yes… & No…

A site’s effectiveness is measured on many scales. One must consider visibility, function, conversion, and return on investment. All of these factors are influenced by your readers and your content.

A Static Site

  • The Business Card
  • If your site offers your contact details and a description of your services/business, it is a business card. But, as with the cards you keep in your pocket, the best way to get your card into the hands of your potential customers and clients is to give it to them. This is 100% “push” marketing. Almost everyone who visits your site already knew about you and what you do. They may even be existing clients/customers.

  • The C.V. or Resume
  • If you’ve added details of your past success, gigs, clips, testimonials, etc. you’ve taken your business card site one step further. Now you’ve got a C.V. or Resume. This is where you not only give your existing contacts a way to reach you but also a way to see what you do. With this additional information they can evaluate your services/products and decide to contact you to get more information or place an order. 80% “push”, 20% “pull”. You’re still doing the majority of promotion but the site is making more conversions and your portfolio will begin to bring “loose change” traffic based on key words (ie. keywords) in your services and products.

A Dynamic Site

Now you’ve decided to step up another notch. This is where you can take one route or the other. The first maximizes your return on investment, it puts in place your potential income streams, and begins promoting product from the beginning. The second is usually done first, because most people don’t realize they need the first to make the second’s ROI (return on investment) profitable or they begin as a hobby and later realize their hobby could make them money.

  • The Catalog
  • Before you develop your blog, I recommend you establish your catalog. A catalog site is not necessarily a list of products with a fully integrated shopping cart. In the simplest terms, a catalog is a showcase of marketable goods and services. Each good/service should have its own sales page, optimized for search with clear calls to action and compelling copy.

    Your products/services don’t even have to be your own. If you can recommend useful things to people who would be interested in your CV/Resume you can affiliate and make money in commissions.

Once you have a solid catalog your site is ready for a fourth dimension.

  • The Blog
  • The purpose of the blog isn’t to sell content. It’s soul reason for being is to give your potential customers exactly what they initially arrived at your site seeking. Your blog content is written in a way that encourages indexing and sharing. You want to maximize your blog’s reach.

    A blog has the greatest potential for “pull” marketing. You can spend less time actively handing out business cards because your customers are handing them out for you. You’re giving each visitor exactly what they want and word-of-mouth fires up with positive reviews and natural testimonials. Friends tell friends, who tell friends, to the full six degrees of separation.

    And, because you update frequently, search engines tell everyone who asks about something you write about that you’re in the know, right now. Search engines LOVE fresh content, in the eyes of those little bots if it’s new its news. If your site was established ten years ago and hasn’t been changed since the search engines don’t come back to look at you. It assumes you’ve said all you’re going to say. It wants to see what people are saying today, not ten years ago.

    And, because you’re giving away your blog content for free, customers are getting what they need, loving what they get, signing up for more of what they want, and giving you free access to the upsell.

Building On Firm Foundations

Blogs have the potential to grow larger still. They break out of blog bindings into networks and communities. Every stage increases visibility, functionality, conversion, and return on investment. But you can see why blogging for free isn’t really blogging for free at all. If you approach your site with the mind of building a marketing platform, you build a business, not just a blog.

Want to take your site to the next level? Yep, that’s the business I’m in. Contact me to find out how to put together, the best showcase for your products and services, the best web solution for your business.

Why do you visit Writer’s Round-About?

To tie into my recent headline post, “Have you considered collaborative blogging? I wanted to talk directly you guys, the readers. What brings you to Writer’s Round-About? What do you want from this blog?

If you’ve already read the collaborative blogging post you’ll know that I’ve been thinking about transforming Writer’s Round-About into a collaborative blog project, but before I make any significant changes I need your feedback.

Now is your chance to guide the direction of Writer’s Round-About so that we’re giving you exactly what you want.

[contact-form 2 “Why WRA?”]

Have you considered collaborative blogging?

Put your hand up if you have a blog you rarely update? *raises hand* If you’re like me then guilt weighs heavily on your shoulders. You’ve got the ‘shoulds’. I SHOULD update more frequently, readers want to read, but we don’t.

I know I’m not the only one because I’m subscribed to a few blogs myself that are sporadically updated. Some of my favorite writers have fantastic blogs but, they’re busy writing the copy that pays. Time is not infinite and sometimes our personal projects get lost in the pipeline of priorities.

Have you got a blog like that? Why? Have you ever considered doing away with your blog and joining other writers in a collaborative blogging project?

Recently I started thinking about transforming Writer’s Round-About into just such a project. Fellow writer’s would be invited to post as it suits them. They would each have their own author page, a full bio, and sidebar blurb with photo and every time they post they get a link to their portfolio website. So they get the promotion of blogging without the pressure of having to update regularly.

Another advantage is the power to reach a larger audience. Writer’s Round-About already has a solid subscriber base and fairly significant traffic. In fact, the support of my existing readers is why I feel so guilty only updating once a week. What if we could bring readers new content more frequently? What if your content could reach an ever increasing readership?

What do you think? Would you be interested in a project like this? As a WRA reader would you like to see posts from a collection of talented freelance writers? As a writer would you like to put aside your solo blog, the guilt of not having a posting schedule, and the loneliness of blogging into emptiness?

Bloggers And The Wall: Breaking Through Barriers

Writers And Bloggers Confront The Wall
After a year of blogging I’ve noticed that growth happens in spits and bursts. There can be long periods of stagnation and during these it becomes hard to keep blogging. This phenomenon echos a challenge writers come across known as “The Wall”. These days, weeks, or even months of stagnation are the hurdle before massive growth. If you keep pushing onward you’ll break through that wall and skyrocket into success, or at least the next major leap forward toward your own perspective of success.

The pro-activeness of each blogger plays a large role in the growth and potential of their blog. A blogger who can settle into a niche and feel comfortable posting a quality blog entry every day might find their blog boom earlier than one who chooses to post every other day or three times a week. If you can maintain the integrity of your posting schedule you’ll find your growth more stream-like and steady.

Committing to a niche with which you remain passionate is a key element in maintaining the momentum and motivation to push through challenges and break through “The Wall”. Understanding your personal boundaries, potential, and resistances will help you know the best way to approach your blogging goals.

Recently, I asked readers Why Are You Here? In my way I was attempting to get a feel for Writer’s Round-About’s audience. Writing a blog is never something you do as a solo except in life and I wanted to make sure what I wrote here was productive. Nobody likes spending several hours a week on a pursuit that has zero potential for growth, it’s the true loathing I have for housework that makes me so certain of this fact.

Reflecting on this time of personal turmoil and indecisiveness I recognize, “The Wall”. It rears it’s ugly head and is familiar at this point since I’m facing it with my current novel-in-progress also. In fact, many of those who faced National Novel Writing Month are perhaps intimate with “The Wall” right now. You might be hitting the 29th of November firmly face-planted into it or are rejoicing in the rush of energy having successfully broken through.

Move Forward, Move Upward, Break Through The WallFor writers and bloggers the solution is the same. The only way to get beyond “The Wall” is to move forward, push ahead, keep writing, keep blogging, and put one foot firmly in front of the other. If your blog feels stagnant, if you are struggling to maintain a consistent posting schedule, if you’re facing the blank page with horror and remorse, if you’re looking back over days or weeks when there have been zero updates, take comfort in the fact that there are others around the world facing the same thing each and every day.

Of course, in the end the only solution is to BIC (Butt-In-Chair). Sit yourself down, decide that you really want to accomplish this goal, and begin. If it helps, return to your Goal Setting Workshop notes to discover why this accomplishment is so important to you. If you haven’t created leverage do it now. Then get back to the grindstone, write onward, move forward. The rush of adrenaline and euphoria is just over that wall.

Break through the barrier with me!

EVENT: Zen Habits Master, Leo Babauta

Tomorrow, Leo Babauta, the brilliance behind Zen Habits and Write To Done is making himself available to answer reader questions. Have you got questions about blogging or writing? Well, you could ask me, but this is a fantastic opportunity to ask someone who really is in the trenches?

With over 75,000 subscribers to Zen Habits and over 5,000 subscribers to Write To Done, Leo knows how to pull readers and captivate his audience. He understands what makes a blog work and how to work a blog to it’s fullest potential.

Tune in Tomorrow: “Ask Leo” Your Blogging and Writing Questions – 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on Thursday (Nov. 20, 2008)

Click here to find out more.

Getting Hits: “Build it and they will come”?

In the ever-expanding universe of cyberspace, one of our greatest challenges is attracting visitors. When it comes to blogging our visitors are a vital element that breathes life into our corner of the cyber galaxy. Visitors will, hopefully, turn into regular readers who comment and offer an interactivity that increases our enjoyment as bloggers. Does anyone enjoy talking to an empty room?

Creating a website or blog simply isn’t enough to carve out your own nook. These days you must get out there and spread the word. There are so many ways to attract visitors and some are more successful than others. What works?

Search Engines: Do you Google?

Search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, are overloaded with sites and web pages. From millions of results it takes a great deal of effort to ensure your site registers in the first few pages. For bloggers interested in gaining the most benefit from their search engine listings I recommend keeping on top of the latest Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques. Terms such as: keyword placement, meta tags, robot.txt etc. hold meanings that could equal significant traffic if you learn to use SEO techniques effectively.

Socializing, Community and Participation

Networking Is The Key To Building Dot NetCommunity participation is another way to develop inbound links. By befriending others in your sphere you can create a social circle on blog rolls, forums, groups and blog comments. It is important to be an active member online because we all learn from each other; constantly expanding our experiences.

Social Media – Connect and Interact

Social Media is one of the newer innovations to bring people together. With websites such as Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, Myspace, Digg, LinkedIn, Del.ic.ious, MyBlogLog, StumbleUpon and many more we link together as a community sharing interests, making new friends and discovering other hemispheres on the web.

Hit and Miss? No More! – Be Valuable

There Is More To Building A Dot Com Then You Might Think!These mediums can be a hit and miss experience when trying to build your brand or grow your blog community. Members are often more interested in what they can get out of their participation. It is important to offer potential readers value but it’s equally important to give value as a community member. When you give to others you’ll find you receive in return.

Never Enough Hours – Finding Balance

With the many pressures involved in ensuring your blog continues to grow it can sometimes be challenging to find the time to factor in all of these elements. Creating content should always be your primary concern because the myth, “build it and they will come” is true to some degree. Without anything other than content you will gain readers, slowly, almost imperceptibly. With great content everything else is optional. Each moment you spend in marketing however will increase the speed of your growth exponentially.

Find a balance and make sure the demands you put on yourself don’t go beyond your boundaries. There is no point treating your blog like a full time job if you already work full time, especially if you haven’t monetized your pages. It is true that with hard work and dedication you could turn blogging into a full-time career but it is often better to start slow, enjoy the process of establishing your readership and create a true bond with your visitors and your topic.

Launching A Redesign!

Rebecca is so pleased to be able to share this new site design with her friends, readers, and assorted visitors. After several harried days of tweaks, graphic design, css coding, and color scheming, Rebecca is proud to release her very first RLS Design template. This version is not currently available for others but it highlights her growing skill with WordPress theme design and customization.

This site offers a couple of new features, and as with many places on the web is ever growing and ever changing. If you notice any bugs or errors, or have suggestions and ideas to share with Rebecca please feel free to email her at: rebecca.laffarsmith@gmail.com