Friday, September 4, 2015

Mission Call!

 By Nikki Wilson

I'm interrupting this blog post to bring you some very exciting news: My daughter received her mission call for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints!  She is going to the Chile Vina Del Mar Mission Spanish speaking!
She is so excited. Mom is already missing her and she's not even gone yet. Now it's time to get her ready to serve. If anyone has tips for getting a missionary ready to go, let me know! Like tips on really comfortable, quality shoes that are appropriate for a mission would be much appreciated.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Helping Our Children Become Better Writers

by Patricia Cates

We are several weeks into school now, and surely all of the mom's out there are seeing the homework start to pour in. I posted some writing helps for teens a few weeks ago, and wanted to make sure and get tips out there for parents of younger children.

Hopefully the advice you find below will help boost your enthusiasm and maybe garner some fresh approaches. Actually the info is quite applicable for middle and high school students as well. Some kids are born with a natural grasp for language and words, and others find putting pen to paper torturous. Either way our children will surely benefit from some extra help from us!

From the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE):

Things to Do at Home

  1. Build a climate of words at home. Go places and see things with your child, then talk about what has been seen, heard, smelled, tasted, touched. The basis of good writing is good talk, and younger children especially grow into stronger control of language when loving adults -- particularly parents -- share experiences and rich talk about those experiences.
  2. Let children see you write often. You're both a model and a teacher. If children never see adults write, they gain an impression that writing occurs only at school. What you do is as important as what you say. Have children see you writing notes to friends, letters to business firms, perhaps stories to share with the children. From time to time, read aloud what you have written and ask your children their opinion of what you've said. If it's not perfect, so much the better. Making changes in what you write confirms for the child that revision is a natural part of writing -- which it is.
  3. Be as helpful as you can in helping children write. Talk through their ideas with them; help them discover what they want to say. When they ask for help with spelling, punctuation, and usage, supply that help. Your most effective role is not as a critic but as a helper. Rejoice in effort, delight in ideas, and resist the temptation to be critical.
  4. Provide a suitable place for children to write. A quiet corner is best, the child's own place, if possible. If not, any flat surface with elbow room, a comfortable chair, and a good light will do.
  5. Give the child, and encourage others to give, the gifts associated with writing:
     
    • pens of several kinds
    • pencils of appropriate size and hardness
    • a desk lamp
    • pads of paper, stationery, envelopes -- even stamps
    • a booklet for a diary or daily journal (Make sure that the booklet is the child's private property; when children want to share, they will.)
    • a dictionary appropriate to the child's age and needs. Most dictionary use is for checking spelling, but a good dictionary contains fascinating information on word origins, synonyms, pronunciation, and so forth.
    • a thesaurus for older children. This will help in the search for the "right" word.
    • erasers or "white-out" liquid for correcting errors that the child wants to repair without rewriting.
       
  6. Encourage (but do not demand) frequent writing. Be patient with reluctance to write. "I have nothing to say" is a perfect excuse. Recognize that the desire to write is a sometime thing. There will be times when a child "burns" to write; others, when the need is cool. But frequency of writing is important to develop the habit of writing.
  7. Praise the child's efforts at writing. Forget what happened to you in school and resist the tendency to focus on errors of spelling, punctuation, and other mechanical aspects of writing. Emphasize the child's successes. For every error the child makes, there are dozens of things he or she has done well.
  8. Share letters from friends and relatives. Treat such letters as special events. Urge relatives and friends to write notes and letters to the child, no matter how brief. Writing is especially rewarding when the child gets a response. When thank-you notes are in order, after a holiday especially, sit with the child and write your own notes at the same time. Writing ten letters (for ten gifts) is a heavy burden for the child; space the work and be supportive.
  9. Encourage the child to write for information, free samples, and travel brochures.
  10. Be alert to occasions when the child can be involved in writing, for example, helping with grocery lists, adding notes at the end of parents' letters, sending holiday and birthday cards, taking down telephone messages, writing notes to friends, helping plan trips by writing for information, drafting notes to school for parental signature, writing notes to letter carriers and other service persons, and preparing invitations to family get-togethers.
Writing for real purposes is rewarding, and the daily activities of families present many opportunities for purposeful writing. Involving your child may take some coaxing, but it will be worth your patient effort.

Things to Do for School Writing Programs

  1. Ask to see the child's writing, either the writing brought home or the writing kept in folders at school. Encourage the use of writing folders, both at home and at school. Most writing should be kept, not thrown away. Folders are important means for helping both teachers and children see progress in writing skill.
  2. Be affirmative about the child's efforts in school writing. Recognize that for every error a child makes, he or she does many things right. Applaud the good things you see. The willingness to write is fragile. Your optimistic attitude toward the child's efforts is vital to strengthening his or her writing habit.
  3. Be primarily interested in the content, not the mechanics of expression. It's easy for many adults to spot misspellings, faulty word usage, and shaky punctuation. Perfection in these areas escapes most adults, so don't demand it of children. Sometimes teachers -- for the same reason -- will mark only a few mechanical errors, leaving others for another time. What matters most in writing is words, sentences, and ideas. Perfection in mechanics develops slowly. Be patient.
  4. Find out if children are given writing instruction and practice in writing on a regular basis. Daily writing is the ideal; once a week is not often enough. If classes are too large in your school, understand that it may not be possible for teachers to provide as much writing practice as they or you would like. Insist on smaller classes -- no more than 25 in elementary schools and no more than four classes of 25 for secondary school English teachers.
  5. Ask if every teacher is involved in helping youngsters write better. Worksheets, blank-filling exercises, multiple-choice tests, and similar materials are sometimes used to avoid having children write. If children and youth are not being asked to write sentences and paragraphs about science, history, geography, and the other school subjects, they are not being helped to become better writers. All teachers have responsibility to help children improve their writing skills.
  6. See if youngsters are being asked to write in a variety of forms (letters, essays, stories, etc.) for a variety of purposes (to inform, persuade, describe, etc.), and for a variety of audiences (other students, teachers, friends, strangers, relatives, business firms). Each form, purpose, and audience demands differences of style, tone, approach, and choice of words. A wide variety of writing experiences is critical to developing effective writing.
  7. Check to see if there is continuing contact with the imaginative writing of skilled authors. While it's true that we learn to write by writing, we also learn to write by reading. The works of talented authors should be studied not only for ideas but also for the writing skills involved. Good literature is an essential part of any effective writing program.
  8. Watch out for "the grammar trap." Some people may try to persuade you that a full understanding of English grammar is needed before students can express themselves well. Some knowledge of grammar is useful, but too much time spent on study of grammar steals time from the study of writing. Time is much better spent in writing and conferring with the teacher or other students about each attempt to communicate in writing.
  9. Encourage administrators to see that teachers of writing have plenty of supplies -- writing paper, teaching materials, duplicating and copying machines, dictionaries, books about writing, and classroom libraries of good books.
  10. Work through your PTA and your school board to make writing a high priority. Learn about writing and the ways youngsters learn to write. Encourage publication of good student writing in school newspapers, literary journals, local newspapers, and magazines. See that the high school's best writers are entered into the NCTE Achievement Awards in Writing Program, the Scholastic Writing Awards, or other writing contests. Let everyone know that writing matters to you.
By becoming an active participant in your child's education as a writer, you will serve not only your child but other children and youth as well. You have an important role to play, and we encourage your involvement.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Breaks are Good

By Kathy Lipscomb

I recently went on an editing binge. Every moment that my children didn't need me, I pulled out my laptop and did some hard core edits. I rewrote chapters, I strengthened characters throughout, I fixed minuscule details other's noticed but I hadn't, and more.

I thought when I had finished, I could jump into the next book with the same vigor.

But I'm so tired.

I decided to take a break instead. I've only been on break for less than a week, and I can feel my desire to write returning.

I'm on my fourth book (reading).



I've Netflix binged more than I'd like to admit. Heh heh...



I've spent extra time with my kids, playing puzzles and reading more books than we normally do.


                                   [Pretend I have a picture of my disaster house here.] :)


I crocheted gifts for friends with kids. Like an Anger hat for my friend's baby:


 Or a dress for my other friend's baby on the way:


This one is my favorite. I made a TMNT Hat/Mask for my son's friend's birthday, but then my son wanted one too:



My two year old is so cute. And oh hey, you can see some of the mess in my house! :)

Anyway, my point is--Breaks are good.

What do you do on your break from writing?

Monday, August 31, 2015

This Post is Potentially Awesome

by Kasey Tross

The other night I was in the shower (the place where all my great epiphanies occur) and I was thinking about how I was a little bit frustrated with my two older kids. My son is the oldest, and he takes archery lessons, and is in fact on our local Junior Olympic Archery Development (JOAD) team. He practices with them once a week and periodically competes in tournaments. During the school year we had him on a regular home practice schedule of twice a week, but over the summer we've slacked off a bit.

When he's competed in tournaments, he's always placed- 1st, 2nd, or 3rd. Some of those tournaments were entered in hopes (in MY hopes) that maybe he wouldn't do so hot and it would be a wakeup call for him. But so far that hasn't happened, because apparently, he's really naturally talented at archery and the pressure of a tournament just makes him even better.

 My boy in his last tournament- solid 3rd.


So in the shower I couldn't help but think- How much better might he be if he were actually putting in the effort? I mean, just a little bit of effort each day with his strength training? I can only imagine how he might blow past the competition with ease.

That would be really fun to watch, and even more fun for him to get to experience.

Now my daughter. My daughter has been doing gymnastics for a year now. Like her brother, she seems to have a natural talent for her chosen sport, and moved up from the beginner's class after just 4 months and is now in the intermediate class. She loves gymnastics- at any given point in the day if she is not being forced to do something else, you'll usually find her practicing her handstands, cartwheels, round-offs, and splits in the living room.

That's my girl there in the middle.


But. The backbends. She just can't go from standing into a backbend.

Her coach has talked with me about this and has shown us some stretches she can do to increase the flexibility in her shoulders (turns out that's where the issue is). But when she's bounding around the living room, do you think she stops to stretch out those shoulders? Nope. And it kills me- each week in class I watch her improve on the bars, improve on the beam, but when it comes to doing anything that requires those standing backbends- it's a precursor to the back handspring- she looks like she's back in the beginner's class.

So that night in the shower I thought, What if she just did those stretches for just a few minutes each day? Just a little bit each day- such a simple thing- and I just KNOW she'd get it. Think of how much more fun it would be for her once she'd mastered that skill!

And then, as the hot water ran down, I had that funny, kind of niggling feeling in the back of my skull, that feeling I have come to recognize as the Spirit, sort of jumping up and down raising his hand and saying, "Um, hey! Over here! Yoo-hoo! I have something to say about this!" I sighed (usually when this happens I've learned to expect that I'm about to have some kind of less-than-comfortable inner epiphany) and said, "Yes, you there in the back?" And he said, What about you? How are you not living up to your potential? As a mother, you can clearly see the small changes your children could make to live up to their potential. What small changes does your Heavenly Father wish that you would make to live up to yours?

Yep. There it was.

Here I was beholding the motes in my children's eyes without batting an eyelid at the beam that was in my own. And I'll bet you can guess what it was- writing.

That's when the next whisper started: Just 15 minutes a day is all it would take. You have it in you. You know it's what I want for you. It's what you want for yourself! It's where your natural talent lies- you have this gift for a reason, you have so much potential and it's just wasting away there, unused, forgotten behind trivial things like Facebook. Just think of how you'd feel with that first published novel. Just think...

Well. That's hard to argue with.

So for the school year (which starts next week) we are going to institute a family Talent Time- just 15 minutes a day during which we will each work to improve our talents and live up to our potential. My son will be strength training, my daughter will be stretching, and I will be writing.

15 minutes. That's all it takes to live up to your potential.

What can you do for 15 minutes today?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Size 5



9096879-Scared-man-running-away-with-grimace-in-his-face-wearing-jeans-shirt-and-tie-Stock-Photo

By Beckie Carlson
I've always been very self conscious about my weight. I was a twig in high school, always bumping my hip bones an corners of walls an such. I had bird legs and protruding collar bones, but I always focused on that one area I couldn't shrink. The motherhood bump.
I remember the day I was able to fit into a pair of jeans that were size 5. This was a huge accomplishment for me. I was 5'8-1/2 and thought it was important to have the waist size of a girl 5'5 at best. I don't know which super star to blame for my twisted idea of 'perfect size' but I do remember Dana. She was a model in high school and wore size 5, so that must have been my motivation. Looking back, I don't remember much else about her except her fateful words, "I wear size 5". It became my goal.
The jeans were beyond tight. I could get them on and zipped up by laying on my back and doing a weird sort of jump-grunt dance. Who cares if I could walk or sit down? I wore them with pride...stiff legs and all. It was the day of the big choir concert; the day everyone would notice if I wasn't wearing size 5 jeans. I was finally going to fit in and be like all the cool girls. I was SURE they ALL wore size 5. That's why they were cool, right?
I was in the Honor Choir. That meant we got to do more than just sing. We had "choreography" with our songs. Born in the U.S.A. was one of our high energy songs. We started at the back of the auditorium and ran to the front while we sang. It was a lot of fun! It went awesome until I had to run up those stairs to the stage. I hadn't tested the size 5 jeans for running...these were posing jeans at best. Imagine running up stairs, stiff-legged, quickly. I did it, almost. On the last step, I didn't manage to get my peg leg up high enough to advance and I fell face first towards the floor. Here it came....my moment of size 5 glory, quickly turning into my high school nightmare.
An angel from above, named Curt (I think), grabbed my arm as I descended and pulled me up and along with him as he ran. No one even noticed my near death. The song went on, my jeans stayed on, and my moment of size 5 glory stayed in tact. In my mind.
In reality, no one cared what size jeans I wore. No one looked at me and said in awe, "she's size 5...she's cool!" The truth is nobody even noticed me in high school. I realize now that not being noticed isn't such a bad thing. Kids can be mean, and being noticed usually ends up with a target being put on your back with "kick me" under it. Blending in is okay.
Now that I'm an adult, I don't care about sizes anymore. That doesn't mean I don't care about my body and how I look, it just means I dress for me. I started a new diet to feel better, not look better. I exercise (on occasion) to have fun or spend time with people. I eat right because junk food makes me feel like crap. I look at my sisters in awe because they have drive to work out and stay fit, but I don't let it reflect back on my self image any more.
We all have strengths and weaknesses and personalities and needs. I'm happy with who I am because I'm an original. I'm size me. Cause I said so.
Photo credit: www.123rf.com

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Scripture Study and a Thought

By Jewel Leann Williams

Hello. My name is Leann and I have a confession I need to make. I have a child who...

HATES to read.  (Audience gasps)

Yup. He has said multiple times in the past two weeks, that 

READING
               IS
                 STUPID
                           AND
                                 BORING

Can you believe it? 

So I've been trying to find ways to engage him. He wants to be a scientist, so I've tried that angle. I printed out a bunch of stuff on Albert Einstein, which he found interesting enough to read for, oh, five minutes, and then declared it was stupid too.  Books that his siblings like, he does not. I imagine it is because it doesn't come easy for him, so he doesn't want to do it. Whatever the reason, it is already causing me headaches, because he has to not only read daily for 30 minutes, but he also has to write a pretty comprehensive book report every grading period. So, I've been trying everything I know to do, to help him. 

The other day, I was reading my scriptures, during one of those admittedly rare times when I can do so without "MomMomMom  I need water, let me play onyour phone,Abby'stouching me can I have a fruit snack....." echoing around me. I had out my paper for notes, and I had been praying and pondering about how to help my family, my non-reader especially. I was reading in Mosiah and immediately this verse stood out:   

3 And he caused that they should be taught in all the language of his fathers, that thereby they might become men of understanding; and that they might know concerning the prophecies which had been spoken by the mouths of their fathers, which were delivered them by the hand of the Lord.
(Mosiah 1:3)

It hit me that this scripture is 1)something I can give my son as a reason to read, and 2)this can be my mantra for when I want to give up on teaching my children.  Trust me, with the new school and their love of homework, I really want to give up about 750 times between 3:30 pm and 5:30 pm. It is important to be taught/learned in the language of our fathers, to become men/women of understanding, and also in order to learn the Gospel. It's not just for school/reading addiction enablement. 

Something else that keeps coming to mind with regards to reading, more specifically addresses our Book of Mormon studies. It's a promise that originally was spoken by Elder Marion G. Romney, but was echoed and expanded upon by President Ezra Taft Benson:

I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase, mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to that counsel. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity—the true love of Christ—will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness. (436)      

What a promise! I love that President Benson adds that parents need to be reading the Book of Mormon themselves as well as with the kiddos. It's not enough to just be having our nightly Book of Mormon reading. I have to be studying it myself in order to avail myself of this promise. 


I am so grateful for our living prophets and for the Book of Mormon. When I am lost or struggling with things like a kid who doesn't want to read (still trying to wrap my head around that), or whatever it might be, I know I can go to my scriptures and find answers. I know that Heavenly Father uses the scriptures to provide answers to my prayers, because he did that for me this week. 

PS, here's a link to a great page I found about WHAT to teach our children from the Book of Mormon. I found it while looking for the exact words of that promise I quoted above. 

Friday, August 28, 2015

It's Beginning to Look a Bit Like Christmas

by Mare @ ADVENTURES IN THE BALLPARK
 
Look what arrived at the Ballpark recently! It's Christmas in August!

Interestingly, today is my birthday, and it's a fun gift to myself to share this with you.



An e-book I've been working on for four years was completed last month. It's now available here: THE 12 DAYS.

I had a crash course on e-publishing over the spring months, and by the grace of God and unending support from our technology wiz daughter, the story I've been encouraged to share for a long time now has a venue. For someone who still has trouble working her cell phone, this is a colossal feat. Thank you, thank you to all who heard me talk about this endeavor for years.

A bit about this baby: Over twenty years ago, our family was anonymously given 12 days of surprises over the holiday season. The daily gifts were small and simple, but precious. The following year, we gave the 12 Days project to someone else. We have been doing this every year since.

The book explains how the project is executed and offers over 100 gift ideas (home crafted, baked and purchased), based on the lyrics to "The Twelve Days of Christmas" carol (doves, rings, dancing ladies, pipers, drummers - it's crazy fun!) It shares how receiving this gift so long ago changed my heart about holiday giving, and it has testimonies from recipients of this gift - how it blessed them.

If you are tired of and frazzled by the holiday chaos that accompanies Christmas (I was) and are looking for a way to create a different atmosphere in your home during the month of December, this book is for you. If you want to teach your children in a very hands-on way that Christmas is about giving, not consuming, this book is for you. If you want a fun, sneaky, holiday adventure, this book is for you. If you want to learn how to make Octopus bread, here's the book for that.

I'm so grateful for readers and followers and anyone who has been kind enough to ever finish a post of mine. You are the peeps I most want to share this with.

This ebook is under 10 bucks - less than two cups of fancy coffee at Starbucks - and in the spirit of birthday giving (and early Christmas giving), I'm giving away a copy of The 12 Days to a random commenter (I'll draw the name out of a Christmas stocking.)

Just answer this question: what is your favorite holiday tradition? (the food, gift exchanges, Christmas services, caroling, fighting with shoppers over bargains, etc.) Also leave an email address where I can contact you. I'll choose a winner Monday (the 31st) evening at 6 p.m. EST.

It's beginning to look a bit more like Christmas....



Where Did My Time To Write Go?

Since school has started, I’ve found that writing has been pushed to the back burner of my life. In between planning  lessons for my kidos, grading their assignments, and completing the school district’s required professional development, I barely have time to read much less write. This is heartbreaking for me. Writing is very much a skill that has to be practiced and honed, and the thought of losing something I’ve worked so hard to gain is gut wrenching.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been in this situation. I think the trick is to purposefully set aside time for it. Like a long distant relationship, it will take a lot of work and commitment. So I’ve come up with a plan.

1.       Write a little bit every day. It can be a page, a paragraph, or an entire story, but some writing has to happen every day. A little is better than none.

2.       Surround myself with writers. A community of people who are continuously writing and encouraging you to write is inspiring. Seeing them improve will make you want to improve.

3.       Have a friend keep you accountable. When you have someone who is willing to lovingly nag you, you are more likely to write, if nothing else but to make your friend shut their trap.

4.       Have an end goal in mind. If you have a deadline and an overall goal, then you have something to strive for. It’s much easier to let things fall by the wayside if you don’t have a goal.

5.       Set up a reward for yourself. While the thought of being published and seeing your name in print should be reward enough, we are of an age of instant gratification. Giving yourself a little treat if you write every day for a week will perk up your writing habit. Not to mention, you deserve it!


Here is to another great year of learning and writing! Have any of you felt this way? Please let me know if you have any tips or tricks that could make finding time to write easier. We could all benefit!

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How to Choose Your Next Writing Project

by Katy White

I'm not entirely sure how this has happened, but I've found myself project-less, with one MS freshly sent off to my agent and another making the critique partner rounds. Yet, my three year-old has just started preschool, and my baby is in that pre-crawling, content phase. In other words, I have actual free time and nothing to write. I have plenty of ideas, but I'm struggling to choose between them.

In case any of you find yourself in a similar predicament, here are the conversations I've been having with myself, for your viewing reading pleasure:

1) What project do you think about most in your idle time?

I have two projects that I go between most frequently. I'll call them Tom and Gwen.

2) Which idea makes you most excited?

Hmm. Excited? That's actually a different book altogether, one I'll call Elmore. The idea of Elmore makes me want to squeal from coolness.

3) Which project do you think would resonate most with readers?

Uh, depends on the reader? Sorry, that's a copout. Gwen could pack an emotional punch, but Tom could be the kind of book to really stick with someone. If I do it right.

4) Which will push you the most?

From a creative perspective, probably Tom. From an emotional perspective, Gwen.

5) Which is most unique in relation to the current market?

Tom or Elmore.

6) Which fits your current mood?

Tom.

7) Which idea is the most ambitious?

Tom.

8) Why aren't you writing Tom?

*Gasp* Shut up! You don't know me!

9) I am you. Why aren't you writing Tom?

I'm scared, okay? It just feels big and requires a ton of research into kind of seedy, dark things that I don't normally open myself up to learning about, even though it will definitely serve a purpose from a storytelling perspective. It's the kind of story that could be super duper rad. Or it could be a dull, weird flop, and I don't want to write a dull, weird flop.

10) So...you're going to start writing Tom, though, right? Because you can do hard things?

Gosh, you're bossy.


Now that you've had an unfortunate glimpse into my psyche, how do you choose between projects?


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Taking on Social Media like Bond, James Bond


by Celeste Cox

For some of us, and quite possibly all of us writers, social media is a feared concept. An it-must-not-be-named that we promise we will work on, but never really do. It’s the monster you know is living under your bed but are too afraid to face. You hope that as long as you feed it every so often and never directly look at it, it won’t gobble you up in the middle of the night.

Well, believe it or not, you don’t have to be gobbled up to be successful with social media. Nor do you have to spend every waking moment linked to it. If you have an understanding of your brand and audience you can be successful and even enjoy meeting the monster too. Not only that, you can be like the Bond of social media—yes, that Bond, James Bond.

Your Brand

Whether you’ve already written your novel, you’re in the process, or you’ve just begun, it’s important to know what makes it unique. To start, ask yourself:
  • Why should an audience invest in my novel?
  • What is my novel specifically offering them? Ex: Knowledge, romance, entertainment, thrill, a mixture?
  • What rating should my audience expect? Ex: If there’s violence, is it mild, heavy, extremely graphic? G, PG, R?
  • What’s the style and tone of my writing? Ex: Sarcastic, literary, first person, third?
  • Even the formatting is part of your brand. Ex: In Jack Weyland’s novels the internal thought is always italicized.
The goal is for your reader to hear your name or see your novel, and know what to expect. Your name and novel should evoke certain thoughts and feelings for the reader. Ex: The name, Stephen King suggests a novel that is strange, scary, mysterious etc. A Stephen King fan would be confused if they picked up King’s latest novel and it were about a ballerina torn between love and her career. The most important thing to remember is to be consistent.

Your Audience

Now that you’ve got an understanding of your brand, it’s time to find the audience to match it. It’s a common misconception among writers that the bigger the audience, the better. True, a bigger audience could mean more sales, but not if the audience could care less about you or your book.
Imagine a scuba diving instructor at a Steampunk convention. He’s trying to sell his how-to book on the proper use of scuba diving equipment. Yes, there’d be a lot of people there, but it’s unlikely the scuba man sells a single book. (Unless of course his scuba gear is based on the 19th century and is powered by steam—now that would be something!) Point is, you need to start with an audience you are 80-99% sure will be interested: your target audience.

How to find and research your Target Audience:
  1. Find novels you feel are similar to yours and study their audience. Don’t waste time on the big fishes. For example, if your novel is a paranormal teen romance, don’t immediately look to Twilight fans. That audience is too broad, but you can bet it started with vampire fans and lovesick teens before it became what it is. Find novels that are emerging from the woodwork. Ones that are getting more and more reviews among a smaller, specific crowd.
  2. Read the reviews voted most helpful. Take note of what the readers liked and didn’t.
  3. Go to the authors’ social media accounts and study what the fans are saying.
  4. Understand them. They are your target audience and your potential fans. You are writing or have already written for this audience. Think of them as your investors. They are the readers more likely to take a chance on you and your novel.
SOCIAL MEDIA

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking once you put yourself out there you’ll be surrounded with that awful sound that means no one cares: silence. Maybe it’s already happening. But now you know your brand! You understand your audience. And you can face anything. Think of yourself like James Bond just receiving your gadgets. Now here’s how to use them.
  1. Be interesting. If you haven't gone on any great adventures lately, that's fine. You don't actually have to be James Bond. Interesting things are things people don't normally see. Anything ranging from an image, quote, article, your own thoughts. Keep it fresh.
  2. Images are your friends. People are more likely to look at them than text. Instead of excerpts of your novel on their own, add that sentence or paragraph to an image. Like a meme, for example. If you aren’t familiar with any programs to put text on an image, an easy and completely free place to do this is at http://pixlr.com. Don’t waste too much time making it pretty though. As long as the image is somewhat interesting and eye-catching, it will do.
  3. Anything funny. People like to laugh. If it’s consistent with your brand, try to bring humor into your posts. And don’t panic if you’re the opposite of funny. You can always share and re-re-tweet what others have posted, though you shouldn’t only rely on that tactic, which brings me to,
  4. Be original. You’ve studied your audience to try to understand them, not to completely transform yourself to be like the authors they already follow. A carbon copy is never interesting. You want to show your audience that you’re offering them something they’re likely to be interested in, while giving them something different: you!
  5. Be helpful. People love to learn new things, especially if the information will help them in their pursuits.
  6. Be relevant. An article on getting published won’t be as helpful if it’s ten years old.
  7. Take Notes. Check out which of your posts received the most response. Try posting more of the same and continue tweaking things accordingly.
  8. Remember your brand. Anything you post should reflect your brand. You can have a variety, but if your novel’s genre is horror and you’re constantly posting pictures of baby animals and Disney princesses, your audience will be confused and wander off.
  9. Socialize. There’s a reason it’s called social media yet so many of us only post things with a comment and a like here and there. It’s not enough. You don’t have to engage with everything, but if you find something helpful or interesting let the person know. When you help a fellow author out, they are more likely to do the same. You might even call it networking.
And there you have it. A quick guide to taking on social media. Just remember to be consistent and have fun with it. And when it feels overwhelming and you just want to lock the door and run, remember that you are James Bond. Okay, maybe not. But you are a writer, which means you deserve to have your work read and people deserve to read it. 

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