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?