What is Thunderclap?

Thunderclap is a promotional opportunity not limited to writers but can be for events, artists of all kinds, and anything really where you need to get word out. There are different packages offered, but the basic one is free, so it is no cost for you or anyone who supports you, but what exactly is Thunderclap?

Before I explain what Thunderclap is, let me illustrate what social media is. The internet is full of noise of people posting about every detail of their lives and every thought they have. It’s a loud and noisy place. It’s really hard to get word out. I often compare it to being in a crowd and saying something. You can yell all you want, but if you’re the only one saying whatever it is you’re saying, no one is going to hear you. Sure, some might notice your attempt and look at you strangely, but they’re not quite sure what it is you said because of all the noise of the crowd. However, if a bunch of people start saying the same thing, people take notice. This is where Thunderclap comes in.

The important factor with Thunderclap is the social reach of everyone who supports a campaign. Using Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, everyone has a different group of followers/friends. When someone supports a Thunderclap campaign, they’re allowing Thunderclap to post on their social media platforms (you can choose which platform you want used) a one-time post written by the creator of the campaign. This is posted only once, and that is on a specific day and time set by the creator of the campaign. In other words, if you sign up with Thunderclap to support someone’s campaign, Thunderclap will not continue to post random things on your platforms. It will only post whatever you support. Let me break it down:

James’s social reach is 489 people.

Kasey’s social reach is 952 people.

Nathan’s social reach is 1,204 people

And Sandra’s social reach is 1,321 people

Now, Hannah is the creator of the campaign, and her social reach is 692. She is friends with James, Kasey, Nathan, and Sandra, and when Hannah begins a Thunderclap campaign, all four of those support her campaign. This gives her a social reach of 4,658—a number she wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for everyone’s support.

When you create a Thunderclap campaign, you have to choose the number of supporters required in order for the campaign to be launched. You also set the date by which you must have that number (or not) for it to be launched. The least amount of time recommended is two weeks. If you fail to get the number of supporters you chose within the timeframe that you chose, the campaign will not be launched at all. The least amount of supporters you can choose is 100. The next amount is 250. And it goes up from there.

Now, how do you make a Thunderclap campaign successful so that you reach the number of supporters you need in order for the campaign to be launched? First off, share it with your family and friends and ask them if they’d support it. Don’t expect too many of them to do it because they’re unfamiliar with Thunderclap and may have some reservations, so you will need to look elsewhere. There are Thunderclap groups on Facebook that you can join and post your campaign there, but it’s a ‘clap for a clap’, meaning they’ll support yours if you support theirs.

However, the most successful way I’ve found is to have a good support group around you prior to any promotions. For instance, I have a Facebook group of almost 500 people (at this time). They’re fans of mine, and they’re big supporters for what I do. When I discovered Thunderclap and created my own campaign, I shared it in that group, and I tagged a bunch of people I knew would back my campaign. Within 6 hours, I had reached my goal of 100 supporters for my campaign although I had a month before my campaign went life. Once you’ve reached your goal, you can overshoot it and continue getting more and more supporters. The main trick is informing people what Thunderclap actually is and asking for volunteers that you could tag when you want your campaign to be supported. Once you get a list of people, create your campaign then share it, tagging all those people who volunteered, and encourage them to share as well.

You have to push this. You can’t just sit by and hope that someone notices. Social media is far too fluid, and posts sink into oblivion all the time. If you want it to work, you need to work it. Don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. When I’m pushing a Thunderclap campaign, I make it like a game or a sport. I aim for 10 supporters at a time, and each time we get more supporters, I announce it in the thread, “We’re at 45 now! We need 5 more to 50! We can do it!!” This gets people excited, and they want to be a part of the movement which makes it succeed.

And that is what Thunderclap is, and it can be found here: www.thunderclap.it.

What is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo—I cannot believe I hadn’t written a post about this yet! Allow me to remedy that immediately. First we’ll discuss what NaNoWriMo is, what sort of things you can write, and what it means to ‘win’, but then I’ll mention some tricks of the trade.

NaNoWriMo stands for the (inter)National Novel Writing Month, which is a free challenge that takes place every November. There are two branches of this—the official NaNoWriMo site and the Young Writers Program. The official site challenges all writers to write 50,000 words in 30 days, but in the Young Writers Program writers are able to set their own reasonable goals for the month. Many schools have adopted the Young Writers Program into their system to encourage young writers to write since the challenge takes place during the school year, and the site offers many tools for educators. The official site is much more independent and had forums where individuals can interact and regions so people in the same area can get together and write.

The official site: www.nanowrimo.org

Young Writers Program: www.ywp.nanowrimo.org

Now though, with that introduction out of the way, what are you allowed to write? What can you count for the 50,000 words? It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, script, blog posts—whatever you want it to be (although if it is poetry or a script, you’ll have to write a lot to reach the 50K word count goal), but it has to be written starting November 1st. You can’t just use some old writing you’ve done before just to reach the word count goal. Technically that’s cheating, and yes, even if you did that, no one would ever know—except you, and it’s totally up to you.

How does one win the challenge of NaNoWriMo? What chance do you have to win since there are over several hundred thousand writers participating? Well, good news is everyone has the chance to win because you’re not competing against everyone else. You’re competing against yourself. If you reach your word count goal within the 30 days, you’re gifted with a WINNER’S certificate, which you can print out and brag about your achievement. You’re also given discount codes for numerous writing tools (Scrivener, Aeon Timeline, Createspace, to name a few), but mainly you earn bragging rights and the accomplished feelings that you can write that many words within that timeframe.

Usually on November 25th, validation opens on the site. If you’ve written your 50K words, you copy/paste everything into the validation box, allow the computer to calculate the words just to verify the word count, and if it concludes you indeed have 50K words (or more), it will send you on to the Winner’s page. No one will read what you wrote. No one will see it. No one can steal it. Note: sometimes the program you use to write in may have a different word count than the validation of NaNoWriMo. It’s always a good thing to write a thousand or two thousand words over just to be safe.

Now though, with all the official stuff out of the way, just how do you tackle NaNo? Some people plot their stories ahead of time very carefully. Other people completely wing it. There is no right or wrong way to do it. There is only the way that works—and that way is different for everyone. However, it is a good idea to know what story you’re going to write before November comes.

There are 30 days in November, and the calculations have been done that to reach 50K in 30 days, you need to write 1,667 words a day. Personally, I like round numbers better, so I aim for 2,000 words a day. Depending on my speed of writing that day, I may split the 2,000 words into two sections: one thousand at one time and then another thousand another time, or—if I’m having a slower day or just a busy day with real life—I will split the 2,000 words into four parts: 500 words for each section.

When you’re considering NaNo, and if you have a busy life and lots of commitments, it’s a good idea to know how many words you can type in 15 minutes. This will give you a general idea how long it’d take you to reach your word count that day. For instance, it takes me 15 minutes to write 500 words, so that means it will take me an hour to write 2,000 words, so technically I only need an hour a day in order to complete NaNo. Figure out your pace ahead of time and stick to it as best you can.

NaNo Tip: You can play tricks on your own mind when you’re doing NaNo. Say your goal is to write 2,000 words a day, but the first day you write 2,500 words. Technically, this means you’re 500 words ahead. The following day though you could get away with only writing 1,500 words which brings you total word count to 4,000. That’s a good even number, right? But then in the evening before you go to bed, you hammer out a few hundred words just to get ahead and bring your word count to 4,500. It looks and feels as though you are ahead, but in reality you only wrote 2,000 words that day. You have that little cushion in case a day just totally gets out of control leaving you with little time to write other than the 1,500 you wrote earlier. Just a little trick that might help!

If you need help, there are forums here: http://nanowrimo.org/forums And you can find just about everything there.

If you want to connect with fellow NaNo writers and do Write-In, you can find regions here: http://nanowrimo.org/regions

However, if your region isn’t very active (or even if it is active), and you really want more immediate interaction as well as *word sprint/word wars, you may join the Facebook group of NaNoWriMo Participants here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/NaNoWriMoparticipants/ It is an impressive group of over 21K people, and it is very active, resourceful, and encouraging though it has its moments of insanity. This group is active all year round.

If you’re interested in a more quiet but still active and inspirational group, you’re welcome to join my own Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/AuthorKellyBlanchard/ It is there where I post a lot of pictures that may inspire scenes in your story or even your characters and much more and try to encourage writers.

All in all, NaNoWriMo started as a small writing challenge, but now it is an international writing community, and many NaNo books have been published. You may find an incomplete list of those published works here: http://nanowrimo.org/published-wrimos.

Word of warning though, just because you complete NaNoWriMo, that doesn’t mean your book is ready for publication. It might not even be finished. This is where the community of NaNoWriMo off-site is useful because it’s around all-year and is a tremendous support and resource and can help you every step of the way.

On a random note, it is possible to reach 50K words in a week. It’s even possible to reach 50K in three days, and yes, as impossible as it may sound, it is possible to reach 50K words in one day. I’ve seen it done though I would not recommend it.

And that is NaNoWriMo. It is a free competition though it’s encouraged that people donate to support it because it is free, and it’s an awesome community. If you’ve always wanted to write but just never took the time, this might be exactly what you need to get you started. For those who always write and love writing, this is the one time when writing isn’t such an isolated task although throughout the year there are two challenges known as *Camp NaNo, but that has its own unique traits. NaNoWriMo is a fun and creative event. Every writer should participate in it at least once just for the experience.

Note:

*Word sprint/word war: These are challenges writers present one another. A select time is set (usually 15 minutes), and you have to write as many words as possible in that pocket of time. You’re racing against time, against each other, and against yourself to see who can write the most words written. It’s just a game we writers play with each other to motivate one another to write. This is extremely useful when you’re begin in your word count and want to get caught up.

*Camp NaNo: Usually takes place during the months of April and July (although the months have changed in the past, so checking the site during spring/summer is a good idea: http://campnanowrimo.org/ ) Unlike the official contest, with Camp NaNo, you may set your own goal with word count. Also, you are given the chance to be in a virtual camp with fellow writers where you’re given a chatroom where you can chat, brainstorm, and keep track of each other’s progress.

What is the Alphasmart NEO?

What is an Alphasmart NEO? Well, here’s a picture:

 

AlphaSmartNEO

 

But what IS it? An Alphasmart NEO is basically a modern day typewriting without the paper. Here are some facts:

Pros:

No internet connection.

Light weight.

Body: slim but sturdy (if you knocked it off a table, it’ll be fine).

Connects to computer using USB cable.

8 files which have the capability of holding up to 10,000 words = 80,000 word-novel before you need to worry about transferring anything to the computer.

Saves IMMEDIATELY as soon as you type something—anything.

QUICK on/off (press of a single button).

Can print directly from NEO via USB cable.

Run on AA batteries.

Battery life: 700 hours.

Reasonably priced (can be found for less than $100 on eBay).

 

Cons:

No backlight to the screen (meaning you can’t write in the dark).

No mouse or touchpad. You use the arrow and certain specialized keys to maneuver around the file. It takes some getting used to, but then it becomes second nature.

No longer manufactured but can be found on second-hand sites such as eBay, etc.

 

NOTE:

People WILL honestly ask you what the NEO is! But this also gives you a perfect opportunity to promote your story because people are like, “What is that?”

“Oh, it’s an Alphasmart NEO. I’m writing my story on it.”

“You’re a writer??”

“Yep!”

“Wow! I’ve never met a real life author before! What’s your book about?”

It also acts as an extended keyboard should anything happen to the keyboard on your computer. Connect the NEO via USB, and you have typing functions once more! One time when I was in the middle of a semester in university, the spacebar on my laptop died. However, I had my NEO, so I connected it to my computer, typed up the report, and then printed it out in time for class. That was a huge relief.

So there you have it–a basic understanding of the Alphasmart NEO.

Now, there are two versions of the NEO (NEO and NEO 2). I’ve had both, and the only difference I could tell was the NEO 2 is black whereas the NEO is more of a darker olive color. The NEO has a sister called the Alphasmart DANA. This has more than just typing capabilities and has different programs and can connect to the internet. The catch? Less battery life. Because the DANA has a backlight for the screen, its battery only lasts 20-24 hours compared to NEO’s 700 hours.

Since the Alphasmarts are no longer being manufactured, there is a new tool being developed called the Hemingwrite. I don’t know much about them other than the appearance and their starting price, which is over $300. I don’t know anything of its battery life or capabilities, but here’s a picture of it beside an Alphasmart DANA, but you can find out more about the Hemingwrite here: Hemingwrite FAQ.

dana-wireless-vs-Hemingwrite1

(The Alphasmart DANA on the left. Hemingwrite on the right)

Personally, I like the Alphasmart better because it has proven itself irreplaceable to me. I’ve taken it on all my trips (because it’s easier to pull out the NEO and begin writing than to pull out a laptop, turn it on, and wait for it to load up). Whenever I feel like getting away from my computer without being tied to a power cord, I take my NEO.

To put it simply, if you want to write without distraction or if you like to travel and don’t want to damage your laptop in any way, the Alphasmart NEO will be your best friend. You can find it for less than $100 on eBay here: Alphasmart NEO on eBay. Now, if you do buy it on eBay, be aware that some sellers may not include the USB cable needed to transfer your work from NEO to computer, but don’t worry. A normal printer USB cable will do. It will look like this:

USBCable

Now, say you have the NEO and the proper cable, and you have writing you want to transfer over to your computer. Do the following steps:

  1. Turn on your NEO and make sure you’ve selected the file you want to transfer over.
  2. Plug the cable into the NEO and the computer.
  3. Open the document on your computer where you would like the writing to be placed. If you’re adding on to a story, scroll to the bottom of the document where there is no writing.
  4. Press SEND on the NEO, sit back, and watch the words quickly scroll across the document on the computer as if writing themselves. Go, get some coffee while you wait for it to finish

Now, I’m sure there’s another way to do it, but I’m not that techie. This is the way I’ve figured out that isn’t too complicated, and I like simple.

No, I’m not a salesperson, but I’ve been asked about the Alphasmart NEO enough times that I decided to create a blog post specifically about it because its easier to share a blog post link than to type up my knowledge of the NEO each time the question comes up.

If you get a NEO, I hope you the best with your writing adventures! It is a wonderful writing tool.

What is Wattpad?

For the last month I’ve been posting a medieval fantasy story of mine on Wattpad, and it seems to be working well for me. A lot of my followers on Facebook ask me what exactly Wattpad is, and though I’ve only been using it for a month, here’s a simple explanation: it is a safe place to post your work, build a fan base, and get feedback. Of course, there are precautions you should consider.

The first question on everyone’s mind is, “If I post it online, can someone steal it?” And the answer is ‘yes’. If anything is online, then someone somewhere will get creative enough to figure out how to steal whatever they want. No amount of protection will prevent it. However, having said that, your work is protected by copyright on Wattpad, and if you find someone stealing your work, you can report it to Wattpad. Also, I’ve learned that you cannot select any text of a story in order to copy and paste it elsewhere (I was trying to point out an editorial error to an author when I discovered this). This means if someone really wanted to steal your story, they’re going to have to type it up word-for-word or get creative some other way. As the saying goes, “Where there is a will, there is a way,” and unfortunately that goes with theft and plagiarism as well. This may frighten many of you away from ever posting anything online, and that is your decision.

Another question that is asked when I describe Wattpad is, “If I post my story on Wattpad, will I still be able to publish it with a publisher?” The answer to this is ‘yes’ and ‘no’. First of all, if you’re self-publishing, then you have nothing to worry about. You can publish it whenever you want. However, if you’re determined to go the traditional route with publishing, certain publishing houses may absolutely refuse anything you’ve posted online, but then again, other traditional publishers scour Wattpad for successful stories and sometimes offer the authors contracts based on the success of their stories on the site. Yes, this is extremely rare, and you shouldn’t aim for this. Instead, you should view your posting on Wattpad and gaining a following as proof to any publisher that you do have an audience and that your book will sell. A publisher may see this and be more prone to consider your work due to the backing it obviously has. You simply need to consider which publishing house you really want to publish with and determine if they have a requirement that bars any manuscripts that have been posted anywhere online.

Now with those questions out of the way, let’s discuss the pros and cons of Wattpad. Let’s talk about the downside first because I like ending a post on a more positive note.

Cons:

Due to the fact that Wattpad is open and free with no filter to sift through its content, stories posted there may be in any stage of writing. It could be the very first draft or close-to-the-last draft or anywhere in-between. Most people on Wattpad don’t have editors, so some stories are riddled with editorial errors while others are pretty clean. You’d just have to accept this and understand where they are in the stage of the story. You can always point out errors, but I recommend doing so privately just to be considerate. Sometimes at the beginning of a story, there will be a disclaimer, “This is the rough draft! I apologize for any errors you see!” This allows us, the readers, to be a bit more forgiving.

A second downfall of Wattpad is, because stories can be posted at any stage of the writing, a lot of the stories are works in progress. This is cool as the story continues and you interact with the writer because maybe you can influence the story. However, a lot of times the writer may lose interest in the story and stop writing altogether. This is a fate worse than our favorite character’s death—an incomplete story. What is the best way to counter this? Write the story beforehand—complete it—and then post it on Wattpad, chapter-by-chapter. It’s less stressful that way, and you can update it more regularly.

Pros:

To summarize the advantages of Wattpad in two main reasons: author/reader interaction and platform building.

When you publish a book, one of the things you encounter is the general feedback of your book as a whole, “It was a very intriguing story.” or “All the characters were very realistic. The struggle was difficult, and yet it was masterfully handled.” And then you could get a paragraph or two as a review, which is still a summary of your story. While all that is wonderful and much appreciative, Wattpad offers writers the unique opportunity to experience the story with the readers—chapter-by-chapter.

You see, with each chapter, you’ve poured a bit of yourself into it. You’ve struggled with the words, the sentences, maybe even argued with the characters and cried or shouted in glee when you’ve finished the chapter. You’ve snuck in little bits that tie in with the future of the story—foreshadowing, and you really want to know if anyone catches it. With Wattpad, you have the opportunity to get feedback from your readers throughout their journey through the story. They tell you their suspicions about characters, “I don’t think he’s bad, but he does have his own agenda…” Or they tell you how they had perceived a situation, “I thought he was hiding from his brothers because they were villains, but apparently not…” So on and so forth. As they discover more and uncover more about the different angles of the story, they share their excitement, and this is thrilling and makes the entire writing, revision, and editing process worthwhile. To me, it’s the best part of writing.

Throughout this, while you’re interacting with your readers, you are actually building a platform for your work—a fan base. These are people who will buy your book once you’ve published it because not only do they know your work, but they also know you, and that is unique.

Other than posting your story faithfully, there are other things you can do to broaden your scope, and that is reading others’ work, and commenting and voting on the chapters. Start dialogue with other authors. Get to know one another and come to support each other. You see, the ranking system is odd. While someone could get 100 views in a day and over 20 votes for their story, their ranking could sink into the 100s. However, the moment you begin viewing other stories and interacting with them, the ranking has a tendency to jump above 100. The higher your ranking is, the more exposure your story gets on Wattpad, so that means more people can see it, read it, enjoy it, and continue the cycle of goodwill. Is this a foolproof way of getting a higher ranking? No. The ranking system is very confusing, but due to the experiments I’ve done trying to figure out the system, this is the best way I’ve determined to at least keep the ranking above a hundred.

Will you automatically become a bestseller once you publish your book if you’re popular on Wattpad? Maybe—maybe not. I can’t guarantee that, but you do have better chances if you did participate with Wattpad than if you didn’t. Just keep in mind the risk you take when posting anything online.

So try it out, and feel free to follow me. You can find me here: http://www.wattpad.com/user/Kellannetta I tend to follow those who follow me. Whenever I want to read something on Wattpad, I usually go to my Followers first to see what they have, read, comment, and vote. Hope to see you on Wattpad!