Should You Create a Facebook Page?

Facebook offers a unique tool for artists, writers, businesses, and anyone looking for an audience. This is the feature of a ‘Page’. The difference between your personal timeline and a Facebook page is, you don’t have to be friends with everyone on your page in order for them to see the content you put out. They ‘Like’ your page, and poof! They’re part of your audience. You can post whatever you want without worrying about what others may say or think because, honestly, there isn’t much interaction on the pages. People who’ve liked your page are your captive audience until they decide to unlike it.

Now, of course, there’s always a catch, and the catch here is that you can have 500+ likes, but only 25 of those people will ever see your content on their News Feed. Why? Because Facebook is like that. Facebook tries to encourage more interaction by telling people, “If you like, comment, or share posts from the pages you’re on, you will see more content from those pages.” Otherwise, you, as the creator of the page, can pay to have your content boasted in order to reach a wider audience.

So, why all this talk about Facebook Pages here on my blog? Because a lot of writers ask, “I’m not published yet. Should I create a Facebook Page?” Despite all its flaws and inconsistencies, my answer would be, “Yes.” Why? Consider a Page as the first steppingstone in building your online presence. It’s easy. It’s relatively simple, and you don’t have to worry about breaking some kind of rule (as you might in a group or so) when posting your content. Consider this as your place to discover who you are online, how you like to present yourself, and how you’re going to promote yourself. It’s like the playground to marketing. Yeah, whatever you post, real people will see, and some might respond. You get to learn how to flex your marketing muscles, “Okay, this works…and that doesn’t work. People like this, so I should do more of it.” And so forth.

Not only that, but a lot of times publishers these days will ask you if you’ve established a platform (aka fan base). If they see your page with over five hundred or a few thousand Likes, that will make you look better to them because they can see that even before you finish your book, you were working the market.

Okay, so you got yourself a page now, and you’re probably staring at it asking a few questions:

  1. What am I supposed to post?
  2. How often am I supposed to post?
  3. How do I get people to like my page?

To answer the first question, “What am I supposed to post?” you need to determine what the Page is specifically about. Is it about you and your journey as a writer, or is it about a specific book you’re writing? I highly recommend you make the page about You as a writer because in that way it will be all-encompassing of your work, so you won’t have to host multiple Pages to cover all your books.

Now, once you’ve decided what it is about, you can begin posting. You have a captive audience, but you want to keep it in mind with the general theme of your page. Here are common things people post on their Pages:

  • Photos (things that inspire)
  • Quotes
  • Snippets from your story
  • Tidbits of your day regarding writing (e.g. “My characters have go COMPLETELY off the outline!!!”)
  • Share other people’s work to promote and help them
  • If you have a blog, post link to the blog posts
  • If you’re posting a story online, post links to the story
  • Do giveaways
  • Ask questions
  • Share your accomplishments, fears, and tears with your followers
  • And so much more.

Now, on to the second question, “How often should I post?” The answer is simple: every day—multiple times a day if you can. You see, the more you post, the more visible you are to your followers, and the more chances they have to interact with you, and that, in turn, can bring you even more followers. But don’t stress out if you can’t find a lot to post about. Post as things come to you, and try to make it natural.

The third question asks, “How do I get people to like my page?” First off, make sure your page is attractive to people. Give your page a unique, eye-catching banner (sometimes called a ‘cover’).  Make sure the banner is something that will catch people’s attention rather than deter them. Once I saw a banner that was covered in roaches, and I’m sorry, but no–I don’t do bugs. Just seeing that banner guaranteed that I wouldn’t click ‘Like’ on that page. So make sure your banner is something a bit more warm and inviting.

How do you create a banner? If you know an artist who’d create one for you, approach them with the request, but be willing to pay because that’s the courteous thing to do. If you want to try creating a simple one yourself, try this link: Timeline Cover. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s free, it has all the right dimensions, and they don’t include a watermark on the final product. I always click on ‘Start Designing a Facebook cover’ (upper right hand corner), and then select the blank background option, so I can just work from scratch although you can use whatever they have to offer. Just know you’re not going to get absolutely high quality work from this because it’s extremely limited with tools, but it’s an affordable alternative when you don’t have the personal artistic skills and can’t afford an artist to create it for you. When creating your own banner though, be sure you have the rights to the pictures just to be safe. To do this, look up stock photos.

So, you’ve made your page attractive with a brilliant banner, but how do you get people to your page to like it? The easiest way to get likes is to announce to your FB friends and family that you have a page, and that you’d appreciate anyone and everyone who heads over to it and gives it a like. Outside of that, you shouldn’t go to someone else’s page and say, “I liked your page, so go like mine.” That is rude, and 99.9% of people won’t return the favor.

Now, a tactic some people have used with me is private messaging me a sincere, personalized note in which they really appreciate the content of my page, and they’ve liked it, and they ask that I take a look at theirs. They may or may not ask me to return the like. However, because they’re sincere and took the time to really look at my page to see what it was about in order to craft a personalized message, I’m more prone to go to their page and like it. This only works if it’s an honest message and not something vague like, “Hey, I like your page a lot. Would you mind liking mine?” While that’s nice (because you didn’t demand a like), taking a moment longer on the person’s page to discover what it’s really about and putting that in the message goes a lot further: “Hey, I just love the pictures you share on your page! Very inspirational! I’ve given your page a like. Would you mind checking out my page? <insert link>” This is one way to get some likes.

Another way to get more likes is to join groups that are related to your craft (if you’re a writer, writing groups, artist—artist groups, etc). There may be some marketing or promotional groups you can join as well. Remember: always follow the rules of the groups because you don’t want to spam and get kicked out. If you’re uncertain of the rules, contact an admin and ask for permission to share your page. Many groups will have a specific day set aside for such promotion because they don’t want the group spammed all the time by people constantly sharing their work.

Now, once you find these groups, if you jump out and say, “Hey! Like my page!”, don’t expect many likes. Why? They don’t know you. You need to establish a presence within the groups before expecting anyone to follow you. To find out more of how to do this, take a look at my earlier blog post about The Etiquette of Self-Promotion.

Remember though, your page is nor your personal Facebook Timeline. The page is not where you post pictures of your pets, children, or anything personal—unless it’s directly related to your craft. Keep your private life private…unless you want everyone to know about every element of your life.

So, should you create a Facebook Page right now even if you’ve never published a book and haven’t even completed the book you want to publish? If you want to create one, then yes—go ahead. Even if you’re unsure, remember that you don’t have to share your page immediately. It’s not like people all over the internet will see it as soon as you create it. You can take your time molding it into what you want before inviting anyone to view it.

Creating a Page is easy. Building a following takes more time, so you need to be patient and dedicated to it. Might as well start now.

If you’d like to see my Facebook Page, you may find it here: www.facebook.com/AuthorKellyBlanchard. I post a lot of pictures that could inspire settings or characters for stories. Occasionally I post quotes as I come across them, and I talk about my own writing experience when something thought-provoking or humorous or exciting happens. It would be good to see you there!

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The Author’s Obligation to the Reader

I texted a friend once asking her if she had ever read a book where there was a good scene but it could have been written so much better. Within a minute she texted back, “Chariot scene in Ben Hur.” I was surprised by her response on two levels: 1) she responded so quickly and didn’t need time to think, and 2) she had a scene in mind and didn’t require any clarification. No hesitation. No uncertainty. She had been looking forward to that scene since she began reading the book, and she had high hopes for its potential, but it disappointed her. 

I realized writers have an unwritten contract with the readers. As soon as the first word is put on the page you are promising two things: to complete the story and to use all the elements you bring into the story to make the tale memorable.

Having the story completed is always a given. If it’s published and in your hands, it has to be finished, but how many unfinished documents do you have in your computer? I know in my computer I have two main files—Finished and Unfinished, and the Unfinished is a lot larger than the Finished file. You may come up with a new story idea and write it until you get stick. As long as no one else sees it, that’s all right. You have no obligation to the reader. Your obligation to the characters and the story itself depends on your belief in them.

Now the second point was my surprise that my friend had a scene in mind and knew exactly what I was talking about. Imagine you’re baking in the kitchen. You have the following ingredients:

flour (a solid character)

eggs (the plot)

butter (great scenes)

sugar (witty, good-humored dialogue)

cocoa (dark twist)

baking soda (climax builder)

salt (truths come out)

water (everything’s resolved)

and as well as your mixing bowls and spoons. Separately they stand alone and have different purposes, but to make a chocolate cake, you have to measure each one specifically and stir the mixture. You can’t just say, “Let’s do a cup of salt!” and you also can’t just throw all the right measured ingredients into the bowl without stirring it and say it’s a cake.

When you write the first word on the page, you’re promising the reader, “I swear to deliver this story as clearly and accurately as humanly possible. Every element I include will be mastered. The climax will not disappoint. The results will be satisfactory, and the story will be memorable.”

Writing without studying and practicing different kinds of scenes and mastering different elements is like signing up for a marathon when you’ve never trained a single day in your life. You might survive, but it won’t be pretty, and you’ll probably never do that again.

So, when you sit down to write a story but especially a novel, be ready to deliver. “What if the scene I’m writing is boring or difficult? Can I skip it?” Some people do, but I don’t recommend it. There’s a reason why it’s boring or difficult. As the author of the story, it is your duty to look at the chapter and determine why it’s dull and unexciting. If you’re bored by it, your readers will be bored by it as well, and when they’re unamused, they put down the book and never finish it. You don’t want that to happen.

Why is the scene boring? How can you make it more interesting? It might be a scene where two characters are discussing a detrimental consequence of an action, and there’s nothing you can do to make the scene more exciting—except maybe add a flare of personality in the characters, or add a third character who doesn’t get along with one or both of those other two and has a wicked sense of humor or doesn’t understand the seriousness of the talk. Little things like that can make a boring scene pass quicker and be more entertaining.

Now, if a chapter is difficult to write, it could be because it is emotionally trying, or it could be because you’re not quite sure what you’re doing. You know what needs to happen, but you’re not sure how it’s supposed to happen, or you might lack confidence in writing that specific type of scene. If it’s emotionally trying, that is good. All that emotion you’re struggling with is rich, so channel it into your writing. Don’t be afraid of feeling, don’t be afraid of your struggle. People relate to emotions, and when they sense the emotions are authentic, it will touch them, and you want that. Take it one step at a time though. Don’t push yourself, but simply allow yourself to feel, and write it.

However, if you’re struggling because you have no idea what you’re doing (with a fight scene, for instance), then you need to pause and reconsider what exactly you are doing and how it’s important to the story. With the first draft, you may wing it for the sake of writing it and moving on with the story, but don’t be satisfied with this when you come back to it during the revision process. Take time to study your problem. Come to understand where exactly the problem lies. If it’s a fight scene, it could be because you don’t know how fights really work. If it’s a battle scene, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of the chaos that you don’t know how to cover it. Come to acknowledge the root of the problem. There is no shame in that. Next step, do research, ask fellow writers for help, read books with similar scenes and study how those authors handled the scenes.

Remember, you have an obligation to deliver the story to the fullness of your ability. Don’t think, “Oh, they won’t care,” or “They won’t notice,” because you will be wrong, and your story will be a disappointment. Writing is a craft. You must master it if you truly wish for your story to be memorable or an epic escape.

The Etiquette of Readers Part 2: Beta Readers

Last week we identified and discussed the role of Casual Readers. Now we’re going to focus on the more popular role of a Beta Readers.

While Casual Readers tend not to be writers, Beta Readers are usually on the path to becoming editors and are writers themselves. First thing to recognize about Beta Readers is there is not a one size fits all. You may not agree with someone’s method of critiquing because they’re looking at it all wrong, and they’re always negative, and you just can’t seem to do anything right. If this is the case, try getting another Beta Reader, but always do a trial run with them first. Send a sample of your writing, see how they critique. If you two seem to get along, then work from there.

With Beta Readers, it is up to them whether or not you send your work as a complete manuscript at one time or chapter by chapter. This is something the two of you must discuss. Simply be aware, the more you send, the longer it will take to get anything back to you. It is also important to remember that you should have revised and edited your work at least once before sending it to a Beta Reader.

With a Beta Reader, it is important to understand one thing: their job is to tear your work to shreds. Yes, this is difficult. It’s hard. It’s painful. However, it is important. This is also preparing you for when your work must go before an editor. It’s helping you understand your work better and develop thick skin.

Now, on this topic, there is something very important to realize. If you have people read your work, and they stop at a certain point and can’t read further, you must investigate—not only where they stopped but from the beginning all the to that specific point. Look at description, dialogue, character development, scene setting, plot development, writing style. Are the characters cliché? Are they too perfect? Are they relatable? Is there a moral issue in the story that’s causing the problem?

Most people won’t tell you why they didn’t like the story because they don’t know. Some might know, but if you’re stubborn and stuck in your way when it comes to writing, they’re not going to be very honest with you because it takes a lot of time and energy to explain to you the problem.

I don’t volunteer to read anyone’s writing anymore. If I can’t finish a story, I find out exactly why that is, and it’s usually more than one issue, but this one issue brings up this other issue which breeds another one and so on and so forth, and the writer is left thinking, “I can’t write!” And I’m respond, “No, you can! You’re very good at it, and you wrote an entire story which is an awesome accomplishment!” but then I’m lost at how to encourage them to step back, have faith, and tackle things one at a time.

If you’re confident in your writing ability and believe the story you wrote is important for the world to know, then nothing can tear you down. Yes, there are people out there who want nothing more than to completely rip writers to shreds. It doesn’t matter how much effort you put into something or the importance of certain elements and specific scenes, they don’t care. I don’t understand those people, but when I encounter those people, I don’t bother to justify my writing or explain myself. They have a right to their own opinion, and no matter how many times I revise my work, it won’t make them happy, so I just nod and tell them, “Thank you. I will take it into consideration,” but then I’ll go back to my story and set the criticism before the characters and listen to them protest loudly, “Why would I do that?! What would my motives be? That makes absolutely no sense. No, no, and no!” And they cross their arms, threatening me with Writer’s Block if I even attempt to revise in the suggested manner.

This is why you must know why you wrote everything in the story, why it’s important to see how the pieces connect.

However, there are some unofficial guidelines we can all use.

WRITERS, if you give your work to a Beta Reader to critique, expect them to do several things:

  1. They will read your story from beginning to end in a timely manner.

  2. They will make notes on everything that jumps out at them.

  3. They will ask questions.

  4. They will point out errors.

  5. They will not correct or change anything for you.

  6. They are not your brainstorming buddies (unless agreed upon otherwise).

  7. If a Beta Reader cannot complete your novel for lack of time or simply disinterest in the story, you should not be offended but find another Beta Reader.

  8. You must remain professional.

  9. Honesty is key.

BETA READERS, if you volunteer to read someone’s work to critique it, there are a few things you must recognize:

  1. You are obligated to read their entire work and critique it in a timely fashion.

  2. If you cannot complete their work, you must inform the writer of this and explain why.

  3. Do not volunteer to read someone’s work out of pity especially when you’re disinterested in their story.

  4. Look for positive aspects of the story as well as the negative.

  5. You must remain professional.

  6. Honesty is key.

Now notice, I said Writer and Beta Reader should ‘remain professional’ and that ‘honesty is key’. WRITERS, your story may be your baby, but when you’ve reached this stage of your story, you must distance yourself from it and become professional about it. This makes any negativity toward your writing easier to accept and to view objectively rather than subjectively. BETA READERS, being professional while you work allows you to do your work properly without fear of the author lashing out at you and blaming you for your criticism. Even if that were to happen, you can take everything in stride and carry on.

Honesty is the most important element in this process. Writers must be straightforward and honest with their Beta Readers of what they expect from them and when they need the story’s critique completed and returned to them—set a deadline. Beta Readers need to be able to say ‘no’ when they have too much on their plate or when they feel their style of critiquing will not work well with a specific author. Beta Readers should be able to express their opinion without too much concern of how the writer will react since the writer should react responsibly.

Are these hard and fast rules? No. They’re completely unofficial, but they could help to eliminate stress and frustration on everyone’s part. You may approach this subject any way you want.

To summarize: while you are writing or in the middle of revising and editing but need encouragement, find a Casual Reader (or several) to be your cheerleader. Once you’ve revised several times and are now ready for the next step, find a Beta Reader and understand everything is about to get serious, so be professional, and keep honesty between the two of you. This will help you face the harsh realities of publishing.

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Follow me on Facebook: www.facebook.com/AuthorKellyBlanchard

A Method of Revision

Last Saturday I hosted a Facebook event discussing approaches to revision, editing, and proofreading. If you were unable to attend, I will dedicate the next few posts to discuss those three different topics. Before you send your work to any editor, agent, or publisher, it is important to go through the steps of revision, editing, and proofreading. “But that’s what editors are for!” Yes and no. Editors edit to the standard of the market, but if you do everything in your ability to make their work easier, they will love you. Besides, it is the responsibility of a writer to improve their own work and not depend on others until absolutely necessary.

First up is revision.

When I decided to attend university, I did so with one reason in mind: learn how to revise and properly edit. Several of my classes were workshops where I had to evaluate others’ work and have my own work assessed. Although the class itself didn’t teach a method on critiquing, I learned my style of critiquing. By learning how to assist others, I discovered how to see the faults in my own writing and to address them.

With revision, it’s about gut feeling. First thing you need to do is reread what you wrote. Don’t try to fix anything during the initial reread. However, if something doesn’t feel right, highlight it, and make a note of what you think your initial gut feeling on the matter. I’m currently rereading the fourth book in my historical fiction series, and notes look something like this:

…In the council hall Baldwin conversed (NOTE: suddenly Baldwin is in the council hall when he was just on the wall?) with his war council over the finer points of the plan when a trumpet sounded.

It’s as simple fix that requires adding a few lines to clarify the transition of the scene without making Baldwin appear to be a teleporter in the medieval times, but I’m not focusing on fixing the problem right now. I am trying to get an overarching view of the story.

When rereading, ask yourself questions. When you come across a part that makes you think, “Wait—what?” Then record your puzzlement. Example taken from my book:

Even Countess Agnes (NOTE: was Agnes here all this time? Insert her presence earlier) gave her son a strange look along with all the other war council members, and she wasn’t in the discussion.

Now, when you reread everything and took notes, open a new document. Title it something so you can differentiate between the two drafts. Since I tend to write book series, each series gets it own folder, and within the folder, each book gets its own folder, so I title my drafts something like, 3Draft4thBook. That way when I go to that book’s folder, I can just look at the number of documents I have saved there and the numbers and immediately tell how many drafts I have and pick the latest one instead of hunting down the most current one in a file containing 25 different drafts of the same book.

Once you have the new document open and ready to go, select from the beginning all the way down to your first note. Copy that then paste it into the new doc. Then tackle the problem that you had noted. Doing it in chucks like this helps you not feel so overwhelmed when your story is 100-600 pages long, and you also don’t have to worry about messing up or losing any sentences you liked because you always have the original document elsewhere.

What happens if the note I made tells me I need to insert a scene earlier on?” Skim through your draft and determine where would be the best place to insert such a scene if you haven’t determined it already. This can be difficult especially if your scenes are tightly knit together, but it’s worth loosening a few knots to make the story better. However, instead of trying to untangle that mess and make it work immediately, open yet another document. Here, just write that scene out unrestricted as you imagine it. Once it’s written, take it back to where it should go in the novel and smooth out the transitions If the new scene isn’t working but is causing even more problems, consider removing it. This is when revising feels a lot like being a surgeon—opening parts up to arrange, insert, or remove different parts.

During revising, organization is key. If your story is over a hundred pages, you are dealing with a leviathan, so you need to keep track of what you’re doing and take a methodical approach. Otherwise, you can get overwhelmed, and you don’t know if you’re making any progress at all because it feels like nothing has changed. It’s better to take smaller steps and make definite progress rather than take everything in running strides while making little or no absolute progress.

Is revision the time I should work on improving the quality of my writing?” No—actually, it’s not. Okay, yes you can, but that is what the Playground Experience is for. If you aren’t confident in your own writing ability by the time you have a story you want to publish, then you should go back and study it closely and ask yourself, “Why am I not happy with it?” You might be naturally insecure and require a lot of outside approval on your work before you’re confident in your writing ability, but it does need to come from within. You need to have written the best you could at that time as I said in my previous post, and you need to know that you did your best instead of just skimming over the description, dodging the dialogue, brushing over the character development, and not really diving into the heart and soul of the plot of the story. If you know you gave it your all, and you know you didn’t try to take the easy way out, then be confident. Your writing (and mine!) will always need improvement. The writing style of every single writer in the world must continue to improve, morph, and develop. Otherwise, it becomes old, dull, and boring, and you always want life in your writing, and the only way to live is to continue exploring and learning.

So should you focus on the quality of your writing during revision? If you’re unhappy with a scene and think you can write it better, then rewrite it. If you’re uncertain about a scene and think you can write it better, then rewrite it. If you’re uncertain about a scene but don’t know if you can write it better, try rewriting it but don’t lose the original version of the scene. All these rewrites should be in an altogether different document than the actual draft.

One final note because this links with editing, which we will discuss in more detail next week. As you’re revising, determine if each chapter is important. Does each scene or chapter advance the plot? What is the reason for each one? If you were to take out one chapter, would the story be crippled and limp along, or would it run smoothly even in the absence of that chapter? Every chapter and every scene must serve a distinct purpose for the story and not merely ‘character development’. This is why developing character throughout the story is better than devoting a single chapter just for character development. It’s like this, if Hancock hadn’t asked Katerina to look into the situation about Armistead, Katerina wouldn’t have gone to Zizka. If she didn’t go to Zizka, Zizka wouldn’t have told Draven to fix the situation, and if Draven didn’t send people to fix it, the reader wouldn’t have found out what was really happening, and so on and so forth. Every scene builds upon the last, and the story is constantly moving forward. If you have this, the story structure will be very tight and concise, and that is what you want.

So with revision, always reread your work first, take notes, then tackle it one section at a time. You may have to remove parts of the story, insert new parts, or arrange parts altogether. Be patient with yourself, and make sure each chapter and each scene moves the story forward.

Now, there are different ways to approach revision, but this is one way. Perhaps you will find it helpful. Next week we’ll discuss editing.