Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Note from a recovering "What if-er"

I used to be kind of big on the "what if's". Large portions of my day could be consumed by thinking about all the possibilities in the future. I'm a dreamer; I consider it a gift. It can also be a curse if it is not kept in check.

There were whole days that I spent worrying about some thing or another and whole days I spent dreaming about who I could become. The realization hit that I was never going to get anywhere if I kept dreaming. Writing and building a business take work. Having nifty ideas for the future is great, but they shouldn't stop you from moving forward in the present. My new thing is to write down the things that pop into my head on a notepad so that I can revisit those ideas when I'm done with whatever I'm currently working on. It has helped me a lot.

Do you have the "what if's"? How do you combat them?
photo: Marco Bellucci

Monday, November 9, 2009

Is Google taking over the world? And, why am I okay with that?

The time has come to talk about Google Analytics a bit more. I know it is a big, scary sounding movement, but it is extremely simple to use, free, SO useful, free, easy to use, useful, free and very simple. In other words, there are no cons, all pros about using this wonderful service from Google.

Google Analytics provides you with free custom reports that show you how people land on your blog or website, where they were referred from (like another blog, a direct google search, a link in an e-mail, etc.). It shows you what keywords people are using to find your blog, how many visitors you have, how long your visitors stay on your different posts and where your visitors are in the world. Google Analytics even lets you know the type of internet connections people use to look at your sites.

For example, I know that 8% of my visitors use Google Chrome, 44% use Firefox, etc. I know that 23 people have found my blog by clicking the link on Jennifer J. Bennett's blog and that those people spend an average of 1 minute and 35 seconds on my site. I know that overall the average reader spends 4 minutes and 18 seconds on my blog and that one reader reached my blog by searching about termites on Google. I also know that my contest post has gotten the most reads in the past month but that my post on being a more or a less was read for the longest amount of time.

Though you may feel this information is odd or more than you would ever want to know about your blog, it can be a powerful tool to reach more people and to build more effective content.
  • Knowing what posts attract the most people can give you a clue as to what people might like to see more of
  • Knowing your "high traffic" days tells you when to post valuable information (like you new book's release date)
  • Reports breaking up your website traffic let you know if the same people are visiting your site day after day, or if you are actually reaching new traffic. Knowing this will help you know when to increase efforts to attract new readers.
You can use Analytics to monitor multiple websites and blogs. Go to to sign up. Once you add a site, they will have you copy & paste some code right above the ending body tag (which is "/body" enclosed in <>) into the HTML of your site. In Blogger this can be found by clicking on the "Layout" tab of your blog, then clicking on "Edit HTML" on the top left. Scroll down toward the very end to find the body tag. Simply paste and then save your changes. Within 24 hours you will know all you want to about your blog.

So, are you an Analytics user? What other tools do you use?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Are you a more or less?

In my vast experience in life (okay, so I've pretty much lived in the same town my whole life) I have come to discover that there are only mores and lesses. Please note: I do tend to make up words and hope that you catch my meaning.

What is a "more"?
A more is someone who generally always gives more than is needed in the situation. This is the father that gives their adult child $100 when they asked to borrow "$50 bucks or so for groceries". This is the writer who constantly has to cut down scenes, cut out descriptions and generally "cut" their ms because they put in more than necessary. This is the overachiever in high school who had a basic presentation due but found a way to incorporate Excel, PowerPoint and Access and make all the other kids feel inferior. This is also the person in the grocery store who is looking for a 15 oz. can of cream of mushroom for a recipe and upon finding out that the store only carries 14 oz. cans, buys two.

A more can easily spread themselves too thin and make a project way more complicated then it is supposed to be. Mores have a tendency to stress when events or projects are relying on them.

What is a "less"?
A less is someone who is not extravagant about anything for the most part. A less is (hopefully) wise to not include too much information or talk too much. They make their point and they aren't prone to exaggeration. This is the matter-of-fact neighbor who tells you point-blank that "you need to water your grass; it is ugly, it's almost dead" but won't stop to make other types of conversation with you. This is the writer who finds themselves going back again and again to add dialogue or scenes. This is the person who has a 3/4 page resume and two line blog posts. This is the guy who played Ben Stiller's Dad in Along Came Polly. Philip Seymour Hoffman's character (Stiller's best friend since childhood in the movie) could not remember hearing Ben's father ever talk ... but in a final scene, when he was really needed, he stepped in and said something profound. This is also the person in the grocery store who is looking for a 15 oz. can of cream of mushroom for a recipe and upon finding out that the store only carries 14 oz. cans, buys one and figures it is close enough.

Lesses tend to let other people take the lead and the blame and can sometimes be mistaken for people who are shy or private people because they don't offer tons of information without being prodded.

So these may be highly exaggerated generalizations about mores and lesses, but, what can I say, I'm a more, I tend to exaggerate. What about you? In your writing, business or life, are you a more or a less?
photo: FranUlloa

P.S. Head over to Lisa and Laura's Blog for a fun contest with an awesome prize (I'll give you a hint, it starts with "K" and ends with "indle"). They've just signed a contract for their book so leave them a congratulations note too!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What to do when you're not at all inspired...

So it turns out today is one of those uninspired NaNo days. I have 50,000 words to write this month and I can't think today. I don't know how to pull off the next scene I'm writing in a fashion that fits my story. What to do? Should I walk away for a while? Write it even if it sucks and go back to edit later? I need help! What do you do when your stuck?

For all you YA writers out there, make sure you check out info. on the Agent-Judged Contest that QueryTracker is having.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Guest Post: Syntax Part 2 with Brittany Laneaux

Good morning all. Brittany is back with Part 2 of her miniseries on Syntax; click here for Part 1. Also, on her blog today she is discussing varying sentence types. Head over and check it out.

Syntax Part 2
So last time we saw that the structure of the sentence can dramatically change the meaning and implications of a story. This time we will see how syntax can be used to physically illustrate a point in the story that you want to convey. Form imitating Meaning…

Here is an example from The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner:

I slowed still more, my shadow pacing me, dragging its head through the weeds that hid the fence.

Faulkner uses the commas and the diction to slow the sentence down and emphasize the meaning. The character moves slowly and so does the sentence. How different would it be if Faulkner wrote “I slowed more still. My shadow was pacing me. It dragged its head through the weeds that hid the fence.” The syntax of this group of sentences does the exact opposite. It suggests anxiety and gives off a nervous feeling. Faulkner’s purpose was not to make the reader feel nervous, but rather sluggish, weighed down, and cautious. Your eyes should be dragging across the sentence in the same way that the shadow drags through the weeds.

Have you been able to include any sentences in your current WIP where form imitates meaning?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Top 3 Ways to Build a Bad Blog that Nobody Wants to Follow

Don't forget to vote!
Today I want to share the things that make a blogger and their blog undesirable to follow in the hope that you too would share with me some of the things you don't like (especially if I'm guilty of them). Our blogs are such an important part of the way we market ourselves that we should be careful not to offend the masses if it is avoidable.

I know you're wondering, so I'll share. My list was inspired by the way Jill Kemerer wrote her How to Unbalance Your Life post.

Top 3 Ways to Build a Bad Blog that Nobody Wants to Follow
  1. Don't be willing to foster relationships with others: so, don't leave sincere comments on others' pages, never ask your readers questions, don't become a follower of another person's blog if you don't have to
  2. Have so many ads on your blog that it is hard to discern what is content and what is promotion: this is a favorite of mine. I usually stay on blogs such as these a maximum of 3 or 4 seconds -- on my slow days.
  3. Include mainly random information at random times: only talk about yourself, don't have content that will be consistently valuable to others, don't post very often and make sure not to include a posting schedule so people will know when to come back.
What are things you don't like to see on blogs? What do you consider bad blogger behavior?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Guest Post: Syntax Part 1 with Brittany Laneaux

Good morning all. Today Brittany Laneaux (an amazing freelance editor) is our guest and she has written some helpful notes for us about syntax. You can also check out Brittany's new blog on which she will write posts every Monday to help us with the craft of writing. Also, don't forget that the contest ends tomorrow at 3:02 p.m. CST. Enter now for your chance to win a cool prize.

Syntax Part One
Syntax is far from just a grammatical term, but people have a difficult time seeing what significance it has in their writing or even how much it can affect meaning in their writing. True masters of the language have learned to manipulate syntax in such a way that it not only shows the meaning behind your writing, but it can even be physically illustrated in your sentences.

Let’s start at the beginning: Syntax is simply sentence structure. Now bear with me if this is too elementary, but we all have to start somewhere. A simple sentence is exactly what it is called…simple. Phrases (prepositional, participial, infinitive, etc…) are added to your simple sentence to include details and to make the sentence more interesting. Syntax is the way you write these phrases and where you choose to place them.

For example, I am going to break down a sentence from Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

Sentence: But George sat stiffly on the bank and looked at his right hand that had thrown the gun away.
Simple sentence: George sat stiffly on the bank and looked at his right hand.
Phrase (Type, just for those of you wondering, Adjective Prepositional): that had thrown the gun away

Where this phrase is placed changes the meaning of the sentence and, therefore, makes certain implications when considering the meaning of the overall story. In this case the phrase is used as an adjective to modify the word “hand” suggesting that it was the “hand” that was responsible for whatever was done with the gun. George, to whom the hand belonged, was not responsible for his own actions.

However, if the sentence was written “George, who had thrown the gun away, sat stiffly on the bank and looked at his right hand,” the sentence would vilify George, not the hand. It would suggest that George knew what he was doing and was conscious of his actions. Written this way, the sentence also conveys a sense of regret or disbelief.

Where you choose to place phrases plays a part in what the sentence is actually saying, so be aware and be creative. Don’t be afraid to play with your sentence, moving things around to create different meanings and emphasis.

I’ll leave you something to chew on…

Here is a great example sentence from “Snow” by Julia Alvarez where she plays with phrases.

Simple Sentence: We rented a small apartment.

Sentence with phrases: “Our first year in New York we rented a small apartment with a Catholic school nearby, taught by the sisters of Charity, hefty women in long black gowns and bonnets that made them look peculiar, like dolls in mourning.”

Regina here. Thank you Brittany for your post. Visit her blog.  
photo: smoorenburg

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fun Friday: What is your escapist book of choice?

Here is yet another shameless reminder about The Really Cool Contest we have going on (that ends on Tuesday, so hurry!) + a hint that next month's contest will have something to do with your website.

Today is Fun Friday; the day we don't talk about anything too serious on the blog.

So tell me, what is the one book (or movie if you have to go there) that you can absolutley escape in? A book that you can pick up time & again, and the world around you actually disappears so that it is just you and those characters, you and that setting. What book does that for you?

When I'm reading one of Joanne Fluke's Hannah Swensen novels, I actually live Hannah's life for the time that I'm in the book. Also, every single time I read or watch any version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, I am swept away by the story. I have a lot of Lizzie in me. So, please share about your "escapist" book of choice.

Next week tune in for an editor guest post that will hopefully get us all thinking. We will be talking about Syntax. I know you can't wait.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

nooks and niches

I know I'm repeating myself but please check out the contest we have going on right now.

Okay, so I know you have all probably heard about the nook by now, but I just have to say that I think the thing is AWESOME (though I don't have it yet, available for pre-order only right now). It is an eBook that has wireless built in, touchscreen, an mp3 player, with a memory card it holds up to 17,500 books, it lets you preview books before buying, lets you read books on your compatible phones, lets you lend the book to a friend for 14 days, you can also read books for free at any Barnes and Noble, load and read PDFs. It lets you take notes, highlight passages, bookmark, store photos, read for up to 10 days without charging, and has a built-in dictionary. What else needs to be said?

Amazon Kindle here. I'm just a bit jealous. I feel like people are going to start buying the nook instead of me and that Barnes and Noble really will succeed in their plan to take over the world. This is not good.

Okay sorry. Had to get that out. Though I've long loved the Kindle, I may be moving on.

On to Marketing & Branding Thursday:

What is your branding statement?
Branding is making yourself known for what you do, above others who do similar things. A branding statement (or your tag line, slogan etc.) is most effective when focused on the benefit to the consumer, not focused on you. Example: let us say I am a graphic artist. The slogan "artist extraordinaire, graphics with flare" is less effective than "art that moves you". "Graphics leader" is less effective than "art for your heart" or some such thing. You get my point. When people point out that they are the "best" or "No. 1" in their slogan it begs the question, "as compared to who?" or "who says?". When you appeal to the emotion or curiosity of your intended audience, you will go much farther.

That being said, what is your branding statement? Okay, now I need to go change mine.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Being an Art Entrepreneur

First off, to be really cool you must enter The Really Cool Contest with Really Cool Prizes for you to choose from.

Second, today is Tuesday so we are talking about strategies for being a successful "Art Entrepreneur"- which I define as someone who engages in the arts in such a way that they are their own business, in need of branding, definition and promotion. Bam. I could work for Merriam or Webster.

Today, I was hoping we could think about continuing education. Lawyers have CLE, continuing legal education, that they have to get every year in order to remain eligible to practice law. I think this is a great concept. I have thus developed the not-so-original idea of CWE, continuing writing education (but feel free to insert whatever in there- dance, acting, etcering). Part of being successful in any business is knowing as much as you can about your business. Most entrepreneurs fail either because of a lack of knowledge about what they're getting into or incorrectly estimating expenses. Luckily with art, we don't have the same types of expenses as other entrepreneurs.

I have taken a few classes as a part of my CWE and I also intend to go to a workshop or two before the year is out. I have learned a lot by keeping up with your blogs and the blogs of agents and publishers as well. I feel I need some more CWE though. Any suggestions? What do you do for your CWE?
photo: dave_mcmt

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Old is New: Inexpensive and Old Fashioned Branding Ideas

When marketing yourself or your business you probably try to think of crazy creative ideas that have never been done before ... I commend that. Standing out among competitors is crucial to success in "this economy".

We've all heard the saying that "history repeats itself" and we all also know that fashions cycle through time. When I was in middle school, the 70s came back. I wanted my mother to buy me bell-bottom pants and other hippy paraphernalia (yes, I just used that word; I don't get to do so often). We've all seen the 80s come back in style, and if you are watching the fashion world now, you are witnessing my favorite eras (the 30s, 40s, 50s) come back in style.

What does my clothing preference have to do with marketing? A valid question astute readers.

Old school marketing techniques are coming back in style and if you start now you can be a leader instead of an eventual participator.
  • Get together a mailing list (in database or spreadsheet format preferably) and start sending out good old-fashioned note cards or letters to your clients and associates - the kind you mail.
  • Instead of sending a thank you e-mail to someone you have an address for, send a thank you card and (prepare for what's coming next...) make it by hand if you can.
  • Bring back customer service. When you are talking to people on the phone or in person (even if they may never do business with you) stop what you are doing, focus on what they are saying, and make them feel as if they are THE ONLY person in the world.
  • Make your brand an experience. When you enter a Barnes & Noble these days you know that you will not only find books, but free Wi-Fi and a coffee shop with baked treats. You can sit down, read a book, sip some tea and eat a lemon raspberry tart. Awesome. In the old days, shops had candy for the children, had plenty of seating room for when you wanted to take a shopping break, etc. Think of something specific to your business that makes it an experience for your clients. Think Ikea.
photo: kevinzim

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Master of The Elements

If you could only be a master of one of the following elements of writing (and just okay at the rest), which would you choose:

character development

What do you feel is most important? Oh, and before somebody hits me with, "I think they are all equally important and must be woven together in a delicate format to make your work stand out," just don't. It would be ideal to be a master of all, and if you are, I salute you. But, for the purposes of this blog post, pretend you can only have one. What sticks out to you most when reading?

I would choose character development. I would want to be able to develop characters so real that you feel like you know them (or like I do when I read a GREAT story, feel like I am them- or could be). I would also choose it because when you have great characters, some of the story writes itself.

What elements of writing do you think you need more work in? For me, I'd say character development and pacing. I'm signing up for a class ... I think. Hence the picture.
photo: alkruse24

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Are you judging me? I'm judging you.

I'm not judging you in a mean evil way, but when I land on your blog or your web site, I, like so many other people am making educated guesses (judgments) about you and the type of person you may be.
I say this to say that the image we leave hanging out there for the whole world to look at is important, very important.

Our skill is not wrapped up in the way we dress, the new shoes we bought for the interview, or our beautiful hair ... but those things do reflect how we feel about ourselves.

As artists, marketing ourselves online, it is important to keep our physical and web presence where we want it to be; we must represent ourselves well. The REALITY is people DO judge a book by its cover, people DO assume things when they land on your blog and the layout is sloppy, people DO make judgments when EVERY time they see you it looks like you flopped out of bed and just stayed like that. Knowing that people do make judgment calls, stop fighting that (if you are), embrace it and USE it to your benefit.

  • If you are like me and you know your website needs change to appear more professional or trendy, then do it (I promise to work on mine this week).
  • If your blog or business card needs a makeover, give it one, now. When you're out there on the web for ALL to see, you'll never know who is looking ... unless you have Google Analytics.
  • If you are like me and you leave the house in need of a comb, or a new shirt, or just a little bit more effort, more times than not, then go ahead and make that change.
  • Set aside a little more money or time for maintenance every month. Take control of the image that publishers, agents, directors, execs and the rest of the world sees.

Let's not moan and complain about the world and how it perceives us, let's take control of that perception by taking care of the things that need it.
photo: notsogoodphotography

Monday, October 12, 2009

Length is just a number

How long should a blog post be? Is there a rule on this? Often times I will read posts from people suggesting that blogs posts should be short, an easy read for the busy people reading them. Some bloggers keep their posts to something you can read without scrolling down on the page; sometimes I get relieved when I see this. However, some of the most interesting posts I've read (such as this one by Bane) are longer yet they grip me the whole time I read them.

This post by Kevin Muldoon gave me the hope that there are others out there who don't mind longer posts. What's your take on it? Do you think there is a general rule we should follow for the benefit of our readers? Do you think that as long as the writing is good it can be as long as we want? What is your general length goal when you write blog posts? Do you (as I do) get nervous when you find you have a lot to say, wondering if anyone will read it all? Do you (as I have done a few times before) just skim a long post instead of reading it?
photo: D Sharon Pruitt

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Tense Conversation Can Get Tense

I juggle struggle with what tense to use in stories sometimes. Most of the time when I start to imagine my story I also imagine the tense and point of view it is told in (example: third person past tense), but there are some stories (sneaky little things) that seem to want to be told a way I'm not used to, or I keep changing my mind on.

When I work on my screenplay there is order in the "tense world"; it all fits because frankly, it has to. When I work on short stories and novels there are plenty of POVs and tenses available. I'm not a huge fan of present tense because it has to be done so well to make for a flowing read. I usually (as in ALWAYS) write in past tense, so deciding on POV is all that is left for me.

The novel that I just finished with another writer (I love you Mums) was written in first person past tense. The only thing is, as I read back over it, I kept wanting to change it to third person. What to do? I've decided that I'm going to make two versions of the doc and read them over to see which one tells the story the best.

Do you fight the POV and tense war sometimes? How do you resolve it? What is your preferred writing style? What format do you like to read?

photo: Faeryan

Monday, October 5, 2009

Target Market vs. Extended Market: Artists and their Audience

I'm back in America!

While I was out of town, I started thinking about foreign markets and promotion in general. The last few decades of business have moved us toward a global economy. It is becoming easier to get almost anything, anywhere in the world (thank you, Internet).
I started thinking about all the places that I would eventually like my books to be sold ... and all the places that I'd like to go to promote the books. Music artists and movie people travel all around promoting their work. They visit small venues in different states and countries and play for small audiences, building fans one by one. This takes patience, determination and belief in the excellence of their project.

Depending on your project (and your pre-existing level of fame) I think that the one by one approach is the best way to establish supporters. It builds lasting connections and REAL fans.

We must define our target market and our extended market for our finished products. For example: a women's fiction writer who just wrote a certain "chick lit" novel may establish her target market as women from age 25-40, who make a mid-range salary, love fashion, and have had a few tough relationships. She then may further define her extended market as all women (and some men) under 60 who may find a few things to relate to in her story.

If she scores an interview with a news radio station that is most listened to by men and women 35+, then she is participating in marketing to her extended audience. If she lands a booth at a "Thirty & Flirty: Single Women Unite" conference she is promoting herself to her target audience. She may get sales as a result of both promotional techniques, but she'll probably sell more to her target audience, and (if her work is good) build fans that will jump to get her next project as well.

What places would you like to promote your work; and who is your target sales audience (not your ideal reader who you wrote the book for)?

Photo: fiskfisk

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Top 10 Blogs for Writers

I'm still out of town, so I thought I'd share something quick and useful with you.

From Michael A. Stelzner's Blog, Writing White Papers, comes the list of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers 2009/2010
  1. Copyblogger
  2. Men With Pens
  3. Write to Done
  4. Editor Unleashed
  5. Freelance Writing Jobs
  6. Confident Writing
  7. Urban Muse
  8. WordCount
  9. Quips & Tips for Successful Writers
  10. Fuel Your Writing

Some of the resources on this list are sites that I use on a daily basis though I would have included Poets & Writers. They have a storehouse of useful information and they give details on contests, grants, and places to submit poetry, fiction & nonfiction. Are there any other sites that you know of, or contribute to, that are set up primarily for writers? Please share them in the comments.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My favorite (recent) posts for writers by writers

So, I'm out of town for the rest of this week. You'll find my posts to be much shorter (yay!) and my commenting to be much less since I won't necessarily have Internet access. Today I wanted to link to some of my favorite posts I've seen around the internet for writers lately.

 photo: Andrew Stawarz

Are there any other good blog posts or articles that you have seen for writers recently? Please share them in the comments.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Real Life Networking for Artists

Branding in a Flash Week is coming to a close. With all the long (and hopefully somewhat useful) posts we've had this week, this one is going to be short.

Monday we talked about the Artist Business Card
Tuesday we reviewed the items needed in An Effective Artist's Résumé
Wednesday we discussed What to Include in a Website and How to Promote It (for artists)
and yesterday we addressed the Rules of Social Networking Online

Today we are talking about the live networking that we do. Meeting people and getting to know them professionally is important. Acting, singing, writing, and many other art forms are not only industries built on skill and excellence, but they are also people industries. It helps to know people, people that you can help and people that can recommend you to a certain gig or agent. Meeting new people and building relationships within our industry and other related industries, should not be taken lightly.

It is something I have not done well in the past, so I decided to try something new. My new list consists of:
  • When I meet people, I tell them what I do and I give them one of my business cards if they appear interested, if they work in a similar industry, or if I think I might be able to help them in anyway
  • I decided to join to local groups in my region: one is for screenwriters of all kinds, one is for mystery novel writers. I have also decided to be a member of a state-wide group that offers writing classes in my city.
  • I have made it my goal to go to at least two related conferences per year. These seem to be a great way to get to know other writers and to learn a lot from professionals in my field.
What "in person" networking do you do? Is it hard for you to walk up to someone and introduce yourself as an actor or writer, etc.? Do you feel you make enough new contacts each month? Is networking a priority to you or something that just happens if it happens?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Keys to Online Social Networking: Rules and Strategies for Artists

We are still in Branding in a Flash Week. Monday we discussed Artist's Business Cards; Tuesday was about Building a Résumé for Artists; yesterday was on the basics of What to Include in Your Website and How to Promote It; and tomorrow will be about In-person Networking, but for today we are discussing: Online Social Networking

The top networks and the number of unique visitors they had last month (August 2009-these numbers were taken from

Facebook: 122,220,617
  • uses standard pages for each member. You can add “friends” on this network and post pictures, videos, notes, and short updates about your life.
MySpace: 55,599,585
  • is similar to Facebook in many ways but has customizable backgrounds so that you can make it look more like a personal/professional webpage. MySpace is not used as much as Facebook (and I do not recommend it over Facebook).
Twitter: 23,579,044
  • allows you to share 140 character posts (called tweets) about whatever you want. You can search comment streams to find people who have the same interests as you. You can include links that drive traffic to your blog or website.
LinkedIn: 14,241,651
  • a site for professionals to exchange ideas and job opportunities. A way to link with others who might be interested in your work and to find others in similar fields.
Ning: 6,112,986
  • is a collection of networks. Individuals can join multiple networks based on their interests and connect with thousands of others who care about the same topic. Users can add blog posts, photos, videos and events to their networks.
These numbers indicate "unique visitors" which means that one person who visits the site multiple times is only counted once that month.

The Eight Keys to Social Networking Online

Be Effective
As an artist who has a busy schedule and a million ideas every day, it is best to pick two or three online social networks (OSNs) to join and maintain. One should probably be reserved for your family and friends while the other(s) can be used to network with people in the same field or to build interest in your brand.

Be Active
Get on your preferred networks more than once per week (I recommend you choose one to visit daily). Update your status; comment on other people’s statuses. Find new “friends” with similar interests. If someone has posted a question you know how to answer, help them out.

Be Unique
Personalize your page if you can. Myspace, Twitter and Ning all allow for different backgrounds and graphics to be used. Try to plant your brand everywhere you can, without being tacky.

Be Cordial
Promote others online as well. If someone wrote a blog post or article that is extremely helpful or interesting, post about it on Facebook or Twitter. If all your posts are shameless self-plugs then people will eventually get tired of you (translation: only your mother will continue to follow you online, if she knows how).

Be Patient
Don’t join an OSN and send out hundreds of friend requests each day (unless you’re Oprah). Take it slow as you begin to post useful content. Find people who are posting useful and interesting content and see who they are friends with, or who they are following. Become friends/followers of a few of these people at a time and expand your network from there.

Be Genuine
It is easy to say things you don't mean when online. You don't have to see the people you communicate with online, so it is easy to flit about the web making insincere comments. People can tell if you really took the time to read their posts; they can tell if you really care about what they're saying. We all know the old adage "If you don't have any real support/advice/interest/thoughts/opinions/feelings to tweet about what someone is saying, then don't tweet at all."

Be Professional
Your online presence is a VITAL part of your brand. Your OSNs are probably not the place to bash people or to talk about your seriously wild & crazy adventures...unless that is part of the image you want to portray.

Be Linked
On your blog, set up links to your OSNs that you want people to befriend you on. Include links on your websites, newsletters and e-mails. The people who are interested will find you on your OSNs and establish a connection with you.

So, what other social networking sites do you know of? Are there specific sites that are good for artists?

Here is one for writers that I've yet to check out:

Also, please leave a comment if you are interested in a tutorial on how to use Twitter.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How to Build an Artist Website and What to Include

Having a professional and artistic web presence is a MUST for today’s artists. If you are anything like me the moment you hear something new, you go to the web to find out more about it, verify it, research it or buy it. (Pretty much) gone are the days where we relied on newspapers and magazines for our news; (pretty much) gone are the days that we turned on the TV to find out what’s been happening in our world. The Internet is an on-demand information resource. Be assured that when you query agents, submit your dance or acting resume to someone, or apply for grants or awards, the people reviewing you and your work will want to know as much about you as they can.

Many agents (who blog) say they search for your name on the Internet when they want to find out about you. Do you know what they would find if they searched your name right now? You should. Lots of kooky and inaccurate information may be lurking there (check out Jill's awesome post on searching for your author name on the web). You should start now (as in last week) building your online presence. If you have a blog, that is an awesome first step. The online tools you should eventually have are: a webpage, a blog (optional, but HIGHLY recommended if you are a writer), a few choice online social networks (Facebook, twitter, or any other platform that has millions of users), and a professional e-mail address. With these things, when someone searches your name (or your chosen nom de plume) they will pull up the things you want them to, rather than random Internet junk.

I’m going to break down how to get a website up and running, what to include on your website, and the basics of promoting yourself online. In the interest of space and time though, you can find my notes on getting a website up, by clicking here (not a lot of technical knowledge necessary to understand this article).

What to include on your website (these things should have their own tab or page)

Home- the page people land on should include a picture and a brief description of what you do. Don't make people guess if you are an actor or a writer or a random crazy person with a website.

About or Bio- so people can start to get to know you better or find something they have in common with you. This section makes you more real and likeable.

Writings/Books/Music/Films/Etc.- include examples of some of your work
-if you are a dancer, include some videos of you dancing or a video of something you choreographed
-if you are an actor include a video of your favorite monologue or a clip from a commercial or film you were in (provided it does not violate any copyright)
-if you are a singer include a video of a performance or of you singing, or just include some songs people can listen to

Contact- a LOT of people forget to include accurate contact information. It is in your best interest to provide ways for people to get in contact with you, should they like your work or have a question. Include an e-mail address that you check daily. Include a form for people to fill out on your website or a phone number for people to contact you. There are few things more frustrating than a website where you can’t find contact information (or the contact info. is outdated).

Photos or Press Kit- As an artist, you will want to include a picture, something people can start to identify you by. You will also want to include high-resolution images of your book covers or album covers. Bloggers/Reviewers will be able to download these photos of you and your work if they want to write about them on the web.

Calendar or Events- if you are really active in your community or if you have upcoming gigs, or classes that you are teaching, include them on your website as a way for fans and potential clients to keep up with you or come support you.

Reviews or Press Coverage- if people are reviewing your work or speaking of you positively on the web, radio, or in print, include it on your site.

Some examples of good author websites:

The basics of promoting your website
“If you build it, they won’t necessarily come.”
I have modified the famous line from Field of Dreams so that it can apply to the building of your webpage or blog. As we all know by now, if you build yourself a shiny page or two on the net, it doesn’t necessarily mean anybody will go view them. You have to actively promote your web presence.

Once your site is built, submit your “www.” to search engines. After submitting mine to Yahoo!, went from not showing up at all, to being the very first selection when you search “Regina Milton”. You can submit your URL to Yahoo! here and to Google here.

Update your content regularly:
Add videos (that rank higher on search engines) and new content regularly. Make sure it is compelling and enjoyable. Ask your friends with blogs to put up a link to your site every so often. These things will help your ranking with search engines.

Become a friend of Google Analytics:
This is a free service that you can use on your website or blog that will allow you to see how many people visit your site, how they got to your blog, how long they stayed on your site, how many links they clicked on your site, and even what keywords they used to search for and reach your webpages. This tool allows you to see where most of your traffic comes from and what your most popular pages or posts are and to capitalize on those things.

-Be a guest on a friend’s blog (make sure they link back to you)
-E-mail your friends and let them know you have a website
-Include your web address at the bottom of your e-mail signature
-Include your web address on your business cards or other promotional materials
-Consider joining sites like or
Which are free social news websites for people to share and discover new content from on the Internet

What other methods have you found useful for promoting yourself on the web?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Branding in a Flash Week: How to Build an Effective Artist Resume

This week we are continuing with are interruption in regular programming to bring you Branding in a Flash. We are in day two of a five-day overview of how/what we need to do as artists to create and maintain our brand and build our Brand Kit. On Monday we talked about: Business Cards & Contact Info.

Today: Résumés (yes, as an artist you still need one!)

Wednesday: How to build a basic Website and what it should include
Thursday: Online social networking
Friday: Real life networking

How to Build an Effective Artist Résumé
Assuming you want a nine to five job, you’ll make a résumé that highlights your work history, accomplishments, education and experience. As an artist hoping to gain exposure, make money, get published, etc. it is essential that you have a résumé as well. It should highlight your accomplishments (in related fields), show off your experience (that is specific to your art) and display your endeavors and knowledge in your art. Even if you don't need to use it right away, building one now will give you something to pull from when you write a CV, short bio, or query letter.

Your artist résumé should be about one page. Some people prepare two versions of their résumé (short and long). Typically when e-mailing out a résumé you will want to select your shorter one so that your readers can scan it quickly. Your hard copy résumé should not appear cluttered and should have a clean look to it. Whereas (depending on what your applying for) it is okay to include some “artsy” elements, remember to always keep it professional.

The categories you include in your résumé will vary based on what field you are in and what you are using the résumé for. Here are some common elements you may want to include:

Name & Contact Information:
Name (or penname/screen name), address (if applicable), phone number, e-mail address (a professional one), website or blog address (if appropriate).

If it is related or if you just want to include it, then do so. This is not necessary on all artist résumés. Keep it simple: degree, school and year.

Honors and Awards (or Grants):
List all related recognitions, mentions, prizes, grants, etc. in a consistent format. Include the name of the organization and the date, in reverse chronological order.

Professional Experience:
List jobs you’ve held related to your field, classes you’ve taught or other experience you feel is related. This category does not necessarily need to be included on the résumé.

Press Coverage or Bibliography:
List any reviews about you or articles that you are mentioned in. Also include television, online or radio interviews in this section. List these things in a consistent format. Artists can also use this section to highlight where their work was used (example: if your song was used in a movie or your art appeared in a catalogue, etc.).

Professional Memberships or Affiliations:
Optional category that lists professional organizations you are a member or officer of, that relate to your field.

As a writer you may want to also include:
  • Published work- list the title, date, and where it was published
  • Classes or other specialized training (for freelance writers)
As a performing artist you may want to include:
  • Classes and workshops or other specialized training
  • Performances or productions and your role in them- list the date and location. A dancer may want to split this up by listing dance performances and choreography in separate categories. A singer/songwriter may split performances, song compositions and their recordings into separate categories.
As a media or visual artist you may want to include:
  • A list of clients
  • Exhibitions/Collections
  • List of work on films, TV, etc. 
In addition to traditional paper, an emerging popular format for you to consider is a video résumé:
A video résumé is a short video (as in a minute or so) of you talking about your qualifications for a specific job opportunity. Communicate your brand and image through your video. By loading it on YouTube, you will be able to link it to your web page or send the link to prospective employers via e-mail.

Also, remember to update your résumé regularly; you will be glad you did. It makes applying for freelance writing jobs, dance opportunities or auditions very simple. You’ll only have to click and send, instead of trying to remember everything you’ve done for the last eight months before sending it.

Here are some sample résumés for you to get ideas from:
Visual Artist
Artsy Visual Artist

Monday, September 21, 2009

Branding in a Flash Week: Artist Business Card

This week we are interrupting our regular programming to bring you Branding in a Flash. This will be a five-day overview of how/what we need to do as artists to create and maintain our brand and build our Brand Kit.

Monday: Business Cards & Contact Info.
Tuesday: Resumes (yes, as an artist you still need one!)
Wednesday: How to build a basic Website and what it should include
Thursday: Online social networking
Friday: Real life networking

Business Cards:

Whether you are a dancer, a freelance writer, singer, or trying to make your living as an actor, you should have a business card. Since you never know whom you might have the opportunity to meet, it is best to always be prepared. For artists who do not run a traditional brick and mortar business (since we are our own business) it can be difficult to know what to include on your business card...or to even see the necessity of one.

Handing out your business card to the people you meet serves two purposes:

  • it shows them that you are professional and serious about what you are doing
  • it gets you in the habit of introducing yourself as a writer or dancer, etc. It is important for you to say and believe in what you are doing. If you won’t be confident for yourself, no one else will do it for you.
As an artist you should have a biz card with:
  •  your best headshot (if you don’t want your picture on your card, make yourself a logo of some sort and include it- a picture or logo will help your card stand out and will also trigger the memory of the person you gave your card to)
  • up to date contact information- your phone number (if you so choose) and a professional e-mail address (not the one from college-
  • web address or blog address (or both- people will be able to look you up and see what kind of work you do)
Business cards save you time and eliminate error in relaying information. If you meet someone who asks for your e-mail or phone number, or who says they may know somebody who knows somebody who can help you (and yes, this does happen), you’ll be able to whip out your shiny business card (hello, professional!) instead of saying "2-1-2-9-8-7-6-5..." or "". If you do everything online and would like to instead build an e- business card that can be sent or linked to, try

Contact Information:
Certain connections prefer to e-mail people while others prefer to call. Hopefully you can make both options available to potential agents, employers, directors, etc.
  • If you don’t want to give out your cell number to everyone you meet, try signing up for a Google Voice number. It will give you a brand new phone number that will ring directly to your cell phone while keeping your cell number private.
  • Your e-mail address should represent you in a professional manner. Many people choose or a variation of that. We will talk about owning your own domain later this week. If/when you do that, you will most likely be able to set up an e-mail address like
A simple (non-cluttered) card that expresses your artistic self in some way is best. Remember that your card is a part of your "Brand Kit" (along with your website, resume, image, etc.) and should be professional. Places like or allow you to inexpensively build and design your card online.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The 7 Rules of Blogging Professionally

Today I'd like your help discovering the rules of blogging as we know them so far. Not for personal or political blogs (which fall under different guidelines) but for professional blogs (set up for your business or to link and promote you to other people that have chosen the same profession).

Time for a completely unrelated but ridiculous picture about rules:

Now, without further ado these are the guidelines that I can think of, that I have learned, or that I have observed/heard from my fellow bloggers:

    1. Post consistently: Whether it be once a week, every day of the week, or Tuesdays and Thursdays, pick a schedule. Your readers will know when to go to your site for updates. If they come back often only to find out you haven't updated...they will eventually stop coming.
    2. Find your niche: What's the purpose of your blog? Did you establish it to connect with others? To promote your work? Define a niche and stick with it.

    3. Post purposefully: If your blog is for elementary school teachers and is set up to help others learn new teaching methods then it is probably best not to discuss the Kanye drama for three days straight. One mention is sufficient...and try somehow to tie it in to your purpose.

    4. Speak well and find your blog voice: Perhaps (just perhaps) your professional blog is not the best place to display your sailor vocabulary (get it?) or talk mercilessly about the things you dislike (the Lakers, the Cowboys). It is however the place to develop your unique voice. Let your character show; people will continue to read/visit you because of who you are and what you have to say. Take for example fellow blogger Marsha, she has established a certain voice that I love to go back to again and again.

    5. Share the love: Visit and comment on other blogs; you don't blog in a bubble. When you reference someone else's blog that you are a big fan of (like my online writing buddy Bethany) then provide a link to their page.

    6. Involve your readers: Ask your readers questions and give yourself the opportunity to learn from them. Poll your readers to see what they find most useful, or what they want more of. A person who is really great at reader involvement is Jennifer J. Bennett who usually asks a question or two with every post (or at the very lest gets you thinking).

    7. Promote yourself: Link to your posts from your facebook or Twitter account. E-mail your friends. Add your blog/website to the listing with both Google and Yahoo! If you go to or you will be allowed to submit your URL (which may look like this - to the Google and Yahoo! search engines. This can improve your visibility when people search for your name, or search topics that you cover on your site.

So, I know I missed a lot. What else would you add to this list of Blogging Professionally?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Axioms, Idioms & Idiots

"Go with what you know. Only write about that which you know most about." by this precept Lord of the Rings could not have been written because who really knows many hobbits, elves, dark lords and elephants? Oh, the elephants were real? You get my point though.

...and I guess Chewbacca would have been the only one qualified to write Star Wars because frankly, none of the rest of us have been to Tatooine...but do you really want to read a book by Chewbacca? He said very few profound things in my opinion; but apparently is not illiterate.

Lastly, though I've never read or seen a single Harry Potter book/movie (I'll wait until all the gasps of horror quiet down), I'm pretty sure that J.K. Rowling has not seen a boarding school full of child witches (forgive me die hard fans for summarizing your favorite story to something so simplistic and probably inaccurate).

Granted, these are all examples of fantasy and sci-fi so of course no one can really write about what they know in these realms...but I think that other genres can have great works written by people with limited experience. That is the power of the imagination.

Have you heard any sayings or received any advice about your craft that you dislike or disagree with or simply don't know where the heck they came from? Also, did you know there were this many supposed origins to the theater term "break a leg"? You have to scroll down to see them

image by

Monday, August 31, 2009

Organization Monday: Outlines

Today I want to talk about outlines. I am trying to find the best way to outline a new new WIP (work-in-progress). Sometimes I just start writing; other times I try to outline the plot, note twists and turns, and record unique story points. Have you developed a method of outlining that works for you? Do you outline per chapter or per scene or do you just make an outline and then split it into sections as you write? My outlines generally only make sense to me and don't look like traditional outlines.

Usually my outlines look something like this:

Chapter 1
   A. Character and Location Introduction   
      Establish characters A, B, and E.
      Establish setting.
      Initial interaction between A and C (the kitchen scene).
   B. Show initial conflict between B and her mother
      B gets the letter with the bad news; mother seems unconcerned
      Mother makes the announcement to the family and seems sincerely sad; B knows it is an act
 Chapter 2
   A. Show possible romantic connection between B and E.
       Establish characters C and D
       Show how E responds in the face of B's bad news
       D tries to circumvent E by the thoughtful gift
   B. Reveal tension between C (B's sister) and D
       Argument at the dinner table

Okay, so I'm thinking you get the point. This is not my actual story, but this is my normal outline style. It works well for me but I'm thinking there is something better out there. We all know that outlines change 587 times or more during the writing process, but how do you start out?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Tightening It Up

In honor of today's topic, this will be a short post.
Jennifer J. Bennett's post yesterday and Rachelle Gardner's post from two days before were both sending the same message...a valuable one. It is all about tightening up your writing and taking out unnecessary words that don't add to the story. I'm a huge word over-user and I need to learn the valuable skill of tightening. Printing words on a page costs Publishers money and before they publish a book it's probable that they are making sure there aren't 22 extra pages.

22 extra pages (x) a few thousand copies of a book(=) lost money (=) not good, in this economy

The important question for each scene, sentence, and adjective is: does it add to my story? If not, it can go. I have some (but need some more) friends who will be honest with me. It may be tough to hear at times but at least I'll grow.

By they week I am moving to a new format so you'll have to be honest with me and tell me if you like it...more on that later.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Platform + Goals

Hello writers and friends. As we attempt to establish ourselves it is important to build a platform. Many of us are already doing what we can. Working tirelessly to update our blogs, connecting with people on social networking sites and building experience in our genre/area. Today I wanted to share with you some advice I got from another writer: submit short stories and other pieces to literary magazines for publication. In doing this, it gets your name out there and (depending on who publishes it) adds a bullet point on your writer's resume.

There is a contest for the month of August that I thought a few of you might want to submit to. You may already have written something you can use. If not, it shouldn't take too much time to write something up.

Glimmer Train Press, Inc. is holding a short story (of up to 3,000 words) competition with all entries due by August 31. Click here for more details.

The following is directly from their website:
  • 1st place wins $1,200, publication in Glimmer Train Stories, and 20 copies of that issue.
  • 2nd-place: $500
  • 3rd-place:$300
Moving on. I have a question: do you stretch yourself by setting word count or page goals per day, week, or month if at all? Do you think setting goals is imperative to success? Who checks on your goals?

Where I'm at with my goals:
Articles: 3 of 5 down for the month, 2 more submitted- waiting for response
Book: geez, I need help here, where's my motivation?
Blog: posting pretty regularly, want to get to a weekday schedule with optional weekends; reading and writing on blogs has really helped and inspired me of late. Thanks to all of you!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Creative Environment

My working space: it is hard sometimes to decide where I will work for the day. I mean, should I work in the room? There is no extra seating so my only option is to sit on the bed. Our study nook still has so many boxes in it that I can't get back there. I choose the room sometimes (mainly when my husband is watching some or the other program on television which I find very hard not to classify as tripe, but we have slightly different tastes).

Perhaps the living room when no one is home (like now)? The big windows provide lots of natural night and my fingers seem in tune with the keyboard. Harmony.

Perhaps my small office nook? I have so much stuff laying around from my invitation making projects that my space is limited. I need to clean up...again.

What I usually find is that I use a number of different spaces. I transfer from one to the other depending on my environment's changes (i.e. family wants something, sun goes down, etc.). I unplug my MacBook and carry it to the next room, dragging the cord behind me like Linus carries his blanket. I feel like Linus in those moments, a cute little displaced child, carrying their most important possession with them. He was best friend, philosopher and theologian to Charlie Brown. Smart kid. It never seemed to matter to him that people made fun of his blanket. I too have a blanket, it is too valuable to me to let it drag on the ground though. My mother made it for me before I was born, I think. She made it adult sized so I could always use it. There's a good Mom for you.

I think that on the days I don't work, I may need to go up to my office and bring my laptop and try to do some work there. I won't be distracted. It might work. Question: do you all work with music on? I can read with music on (though I don't prefer it) but I've never really tried writing with it on.

My husband is a writer as well...he writes music. He says that whenever he finds himself thinking too hard, he stops writing. He thinks his songs should come out naturally, not forced. I tend to agree with his comment for the most part. My best writing occurs when I don't have a lot of transitional thinking time (like "What should I say next?"). My best writing comes when it all kind of makes sense and just comes out. My brain keeps formulating my feelings into words.

What should I write today?
Options: Book, Articles, Random

I guess book. That is the one that scares me most. I will try today to attack it. Hopefully my brain and heart are on good terms and can create something worthwhile.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

For Aspiring Authors Only: a survey to get you thinking & working

Hey friends of art...I made this survey for you (and me) so that we can take an honest look at where we are right now and make goals to get to where we're going. It has oft been said that we are our own worst enemy, and we've talked this week about fear, procrastination and many other intimidating factors. I encourage you to take this survey and be honest with yourself and change the areas that you know need changing. Good luck.

Click here to take the survey now. The survey was created with survey software.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Average Culprit

There is something lurking beneath our creative exterior as artists. There is a force that seeks to bring us down to ordinary.

The Creative Law of Average states that each individual who is creative by nature will at least occasionally be tempted to succumb to the forces of second-rate.

These forces induce artists to put out "average work". Some artists do art as a part time thing; others have made a career out of their passion. Career artists often lose inspiration to complete things in the excellence they once used to when they did it all for fun. Deadlines, "mean" agents or managers and the pressure to live up to the expectations of many can cause stress and produce substandard work. To combat the Creative Law of Average, may I suggest:

1- Keep a picture, phrase or Bible verse in a place of prominence in your workspace that reminds you of why you started doing what you're doing.

2- Keep in mind who you are, what you are capable of and what standard you want to live up to. Write a mission statement for yourself. When you choose art as a career, you are your own business, and you must treat yourself as such.

3- Find an accountability partner and a mentor. An accountability partner should be someone who will stay on you and check with you on your deadlines and goals. If your publisher has given you a deadline, or you have a performance on a certain date, set goals for yourself (way ahead of actual due date) and start your work early. A mentor should be someone in the same line of business. Build a relationship with someone/people who are at a level you want to reach. You can build these relationships in community organizations or online.

4- Help someone else. No matter where you are as an artist, there is always someone else behind you, waiting to build up to what you have. Help another aspiring artist with their music, or offer to critique their writing (whatever your skill set is). Let them know about a great place to build a free website for themselves ( among others) to help with marketing, or recommend them to your stylist. A little bit of guidance can go a long way.