Book Review – Likeable Social Media by Dave Kerpen

Book Review – Likeable Social Media by Dave Kerpen

Dave Kerpen has a rather interesting book here.

Likeable Social Media

Likeable Social Media by Dave Kerpen
Likeable Social Media by Dave Kerpen (cover image is from Amazon)

This book was required reading, as a part of my Community Management class at Quinnipiac University.

And it made for an excellent read.

For Kerpen, a lot of social media success comes from listening to, and then surprising and delighting customers and potential customers. Are your posts what they are interested in? If you received this post, would you bother clicking on it?

Case in point for surprise and delight

In May of 2015, my husband, parents, and I went to a Mexican restaurant in my parents’ town. We have eaten there before, but not so much that they know our names or our usual orders or the like. My husband and I don’t visit my parents too often. And he visits them even less than I am. To the restaurant, even if my parents are repeat customers, my husband and I surely don’t look like repeats.

There was a short wait until we got our food. Without prompting, we received a little appetizer, which mainly consisted of little breaded and fried mashed potatoes, configured a bit like sticks. There were three bits of sauce in different colors. The potatoes and sauce, most likely, were leftover odds and ends. It may have taken the chef all of ten minutes to make the dish. I didn’t see anyone else getting the appetizer. We thanked the server. The appetizer tasted good.

We were served our food, and you’d think that would be the end of it. But it wasn’t. We didn’t order dessert. But we received a plate of flan and four spoons anyway. No one asked us; we just got the flan (it tasted really good). We weren’t charged for either little extra.

These twin activities impressed us, so much so that I’ve even linked back to the restaurant. Win-win!

Surprise and delight your customers. Or, as I’d like to say, where’s their flan?

Being Likeable

By no coincidence, Kerpen named his company Likeable Media. From its positive name to its obvious association with Facebook, the book and the company are all about creating positive and meaningful experiences for customers and potential customers. Kerpen begins with listening and with careful, accurate, and specific targeting. E. g. not all women in their 50s have the same interests. He strongly urges marketers to dig deeper. He also encourages them to have empathy for their customers. Is a post interesting? Would it be welcome to the customer base? The first fans should be preexisting customers, with perks for the really rabid fans. Another skill to master: engaging in a true dialog. This means not just accepting praise, but also effectively and expeditiously responding to complaints. It also means owning up to your mistakes when you make them.

Honesty

Kerpen advocates authenticity, honesty and transparency in dealings, and promoting an exchange by asking questions, which goes right back to listening. From listening, comes the surprise and delight. Did the restaurant hear us complaining about slower than normal service? Possibly. The appetizer and the flan certainly helped to quell those complaints and win us over.

Because he’s talking about social media (and not restaurant service), Kerpen’s flan moment doesn’t just cover coupons and offers. It’s also the sharing of stories as social capital. Some of this includes stories of the company (e. g. how a product was invented that spawned an industry). But it also encompasses the stories of the customers themselves. Imagine being a soft drink company and asking customers who drank your soft drink during their first date to share their love stories?

Finally, rather than hard selling, Kerpen exhorts marketers to simply make it easy to buy. Good products and services will always have customers. Generally, you don’t need to massage demand. But you do need to make it easier for customers to open their wallets.

A terrific, breezy read, well worth your time.

Rating

5/5 stars

Facebook versus Forums

Facebook versus Forums

What hath Facebook wrought?

Facebook versus Forums smackdown!

Facebook, as anyone not living on a desert island knows, is a juggernaut of massive proportions. It is the 800 pound gorilla of the Internet. And it is rapidly changing our interpersonal interactions, both on and offline. So one of those areas is in the area of Internet forums.

Facebook and a forums site like Able2know

Facebook hits all forum sites and not just A2K. For years, I have been seeing drop off on a lot of different sites. It doesn’t seem to matter whether they are large, generalized places like Able2know, or small niche sites devoted to something like Star Trek. In addition, I hear about this same kind of drop off from other community managers, even for things like maternity/new mother sites.

Everybody get in the pool

So there are two generalized kinds of interactions (there are more, of course, but hear me out, okay?). One concerns the shallow end of things. You trade information about weather and generalized health inquiries. It’s political sound bites and the zippy pop song.

The other side of things is deeper. Because here is the in-depth political discussion where you really get to the heart of the issues. It’s the detailed information on a health condition or even how to make a soufflé or plant an herb garden. It is the symphony. And online, just like offline, it is a far rarer bird, for you need time to develop that kind of trust. Furthermore, truly, you have to devote some time in order to have such a conversation in the first place.

Swimming with Facebook

Facebook fulfills the shallow end of online interactions extremely well. It is very, very easy to catch up on a superficial level with High School classmates or the like. The Star Wars groups, for example, ask basic questions like “Who was the best villain?” George Takei has mastered these kinds of interactions (although, in all fairness, he also writes occasional longer notes). Because these constitute the quick hits that people can like and share, all in the space of less than a quarter of a minute. It works very well for mass quantities of information.

Facebook versus Forums – where Facebook Wins

Topics about one’s favorite song go better on Facebook than on forums as they are a quick hit and posting Youtube is simple. It’s colorful and, just as importantly, it’s pretty easy to pick and choose when it comes to interactions there, despite changes in privacy settings. Other basic interactions (remember a/s/l?) are seamless or don’t need to happen at all. Partly this happens due to Facebook’s real names policy. Also, more people tend to use their real photograph and their real (generalized) location and age than not.

Facebook versus Forums – where Forums Win

What Facebook doesn’t do so well is the deeper end of interactions (the extensive political discussions, etc., and/or it does not do them well for a larger group of people or over a significant period of time or for a longer or wider discussion. All of the deep discussions go unsaid. Topics about elections outside the United States (particularly if Americans participate in said topics) are handled poorly, if at all. When it comes to the deeper end of the interactions pool, Facebook is just not a good place for that at all. Another consideration: a lot of people still find that Facebook moves too quickly for them.

Swimming with Forums

For the deep end, you need forums. You need to get to the heart of the matter. Arc of a Diver Facebook versus ForumsAnd that takes time, a luxury that Facebook often does not afford, as it scrolls by in a blur. Instead of mass quantities, forums can fulfill a very different niche by instead concentrating on quality interactions.

Forums offer, even for people who use their real names and are fairly transparent about their interactions, a chance to use a persona. Because Facebook far too closely parallels to our real lives. There’s just so much posturing you can do about being a famous rock star when your High School cronies are also there, and they remember holding your head when you had your first beer.

The Endless Online Christmas Brag Letter

And Facebook, while it can be a refuge for people to truly show they care for each other (in particular, in the groups, or using notes), is more often a place where people instead get a chance to preen and show off. Like something? Then hit like! Don’t like it? Then either scroll past it or click to hide it, or even report it as spam or as being threatening. And apart from the latter, the person posting the image, anecdote, status, etc. is none the wiser when it comes to your reaction.

But with the forums, even if you do not use your real name, your opinions are still out there, for all to see, whether it’s about global warming or the Designated Hitter rule.

There is room for both types of interactions. Facebook versus forums doesn’t have to pick a winner. The Internet is a mighty big tent.

Book Review: Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk

"Book

Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook is a bit too cleverly named, but the premise is an interesting one. Essentially, what Gary Vaynerchuk is saying is, little bits of content and engagement which reach your potential customers are the setup for the big finish (which is not really a finish, actually) of a call to action and an attempt to make a sale.

The other major premise of the book is that all platforms have their own native quirks and idiosyncrasies. Therefore what is reliable on Pinterest, might fall flat on Facebook. What is killer on Tumblr might get a shrug on Instagram. And what is awesome on Twitter might bring the meh elsewhere.

Breaking Down What Went Wrong, and What Went Right

The most powerful part of this work was in the analysis and dissection of various real-life pieces of content on the various platforms. Why did something not work? Maybe the image was too generic or too small or too blurry. Or maybe the call to action was too generic and wishy-washy, or the link did not take the user directly to the page with the sales information or coupon. Or maybe there was no link or no logo, and the user was confused or annoyed.

While this book was assigned for my Community Management class, the truth is, I can also see it as applying to the User-Centered Design course at Quinnipiac. After all, a big part of good user-centric design is to not confuse or annoy the user. Vaynerchuk is looking to take that a step further, and surprise and delight the consumer.

Give people value. So give them what they want and need, or that at least makes them smile or informs them. In the meantime, show your humanity and your concern.

And work your tail off.

A terrific read. Everyone in this field should read this book.

Rating

5/5 Stars

Book Review: Strategic Planning for Public Relations

Book Review: Strategic Planning for Public Relations

Book Review: Strategic Planning for Public Relations
Book Review: Strategic Planning for Public Relations

For a Strategic Planning class at Quinnipiac University, we were required to read Ronald Smith’s Strategic Planning for Public Relations.

And so it was … okay.

In all honesty, I do not expect public relations textbooks to be laugh riots or thrill rides.

However, one area ended up being rather frustrating.

On page 95, Smith writes, “… goals are general and global while objectives are specific.” On pages 93 – 94, he writes, “Strategy is the organization’s overall plan.” And on pages 225 – 226, he says tactics are the visual elements of a public relations or marketing communications plan.

What Are You Saying, Mr. Smith?

First of all, to my mind, I saw great deal of overlap. Hence I feel that much of the book could have been better condensed. And essentially, I feel, the strategic planner or public relations expert wants to follow an organization’s general goals. For example, an organizational goal could be to get more exposure.

Plus they want to achieve this with special attention to specific objectives. Such as, they might want to increase awareness by 6% during calendar year 2017. And then add the nitty gritty of tactics. E. g. the strategic planner might believe they can accomplish this by tweeting every other day following a particular plan. And that seems more or less to be it. However, it did not take me over 400 pages to tell you that, now, did it?

However, in all fairness, there were some good parts in the book. Furthermore, the sections on SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and PEST (political, economic, social, and technological factors) analyses were very good. And you do not have to be in the public relations field in order to be able to use that information. But man, it could sure use some editing.

Rating: 3/5 stars.

Book Review: Stephen King On Writing

Book Review: Stephen King On Writing

For my social media writing class at Quinnipiac, we were required to purchase Stephen King On Writing although it turned out to be an optional work. I think the work was decent.

Book Review: Stephen King On Writing
Cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

A lot of people seem to fall over themselves with praise for King. Me? Eh, not so much. I would say, though, that this is the best thing I have read from him.

Nuts and Bolts

One area that I feel he handles well: the question of how meticulous attention to detail needs to be. On Pages 105 – 106, he writes,

“For one thing, it is described in terms of a rough comparison, which is useful only if you and I see the world and measure the things in it with similar eyes. It’s easy to become careless when making rough comparisons, but the alternative is a prissy attention to detail that takes all the fun out of writing. What am I going to say, ‘on the table is a cage three feet, six inches in length, two feet in width, and fourteen inches high’? That’s not prose, that’s an instruction manual.”

Agreed, 100%. I see far too many fiction writers getting into far too much detail, and it’s maddening. Readers are intelligent (generally), and can follow basic instructions. However, the writer needs to provide the framework and then let the reader run with it. Otherwise, it’s an instruction manual, as Stephen King states.

And the corollary is also true – for writing which requires meticulous instructions and step by step information, woe be unto the writer who decides everybody knows what a flange is, or a balloon whisk, or EBITDA. Or any other term of art known more to insiders than to the general public.

Stephen King also exhorts would-be writers to read a lot and write a lot. Basic information, to be sure, but it makes good sense. Without practice or comparisons or even attempts to copy, none of us would learn how to properly craft prose.

What the Hell Did Adverbs Ever Do to You, Steve?

Here’s where we part ways.

King writes, on Page 124, “The adverb is not your friend.” On Page 195, he clarifies his statement:

“Skills in description, dialogue, and character development all boil down to seeing or hearing clearly and then transcribing what you see or hear with equal clarity (and without using a lot of tiresome, unnecessary adverbs).”

It’s funny how he makes the above statement with the use of the adverb clearly.

I see his point, and I’m not so sure that a lot of aspiring authors do. The gist of it? Make sure to choose your words well. A part of this is what editing is for, but it’s also to be able to best get across your point(s). You can write –

She waited nervously.

Or

She waited, drumming her fingers on the table until her brother told her to cut it out or he’d relieve her of the burden of having fingers.

The second example is more vivid. It shows, rather than tells. But sometimes you just want to cut to the chase. There’s nothing wrong with that. Adverbs, like passive voice and other parts of speech and turns of phrase, are legitimate writer tools. They can still be used.

In all, a decent work, albeit a bit redundant in parts. I didn’t want to read the memoir portions of the work although I can see where they would interest others.

I bet this guy is going places.

Review: 4/5 stars.

Complex evil characters

Complex evil characters

Janet-Gershen-Siegel-Adventures-in-Career-Changing-Complex-Evil-Characters
Complex Evil Characters

For complex evil characters to work, you’ve got to give them some screen time, as it were. Because a paragraph or two simply will not cut it.

Backstory

Since evil characters are a certain type of character, it pays to give them a backstory as deep and rich and meaningful as the ones you give to your hero characters. Hence, just as you do with your hero characters, think about where and when they were born. Do they have siblings? Do their parents still live? Maybe there were early signs of trouble. Could they have been abused or neglected? Did they abuse weaker, younger siblings, or animals (both of those signify deep mental disturbances)? Perhaps there is trauma.

Motivation

So, why is this particular character evil? What drives their behavior? Because real human beings don’t just do bad things for fun, what gives? Are they seeking vengeance for something? Did they lose their own true love, their fortune, their family, or their home? Maybe they were horribly humiliated.

Means

And for your complex evil characters to do their thing, they need some way of getting it done. Hence an impoverished character would need funds, probably. Or a disabled character might need someone else to be the muscle. And a famous character might simply pay someone else to do their dirty work.

Means for characters can potentially also be about weaponry. Your French medieval society would only have rudimentary use of gunpowder (Joan of Arc lived during a time of gunpowder use but didn’t necessarily use it herself). However, your evil character might just be a jerk or a person who calls others names. If that’s the case, then you should know which slurs were used when.

Opportunity

Your complex evil characters have limitations if they live far from your other characters. However, modern or future characters can attack in cyberspace. Or maybe they can attack over the phone or via letter if you go back in time.

Comeuppance

Not every character gets punished, just as not every real-life criminal is caught. How do you want your story end? Or do you maybe want to open up the possibility of a sequel?

Rehabilitation.

And even in prison or under a doctor’s care, not everyone changes their ways.

Revenge

Your complex evil characters might want to avenge, well, nearly anything. And even if you used that as their motivation before, it doesn’t mean you can’t use it again. It can still work.

Takeaways

Complex evil characters can be memorable. Just ask Hannibal Lecter.

The Conquest of LinkedIn – Your Network

The Conquest of LinkedIn – Your Network

Your Network is important. So you’ve decided to join LinkedIn. And you’ve even posted your resume. That’s great! Now what? What do you do about your network?

This is icon for social networking website. Th... Your Network
This is icon for social networking website. This is part of Open Icon Library’s webpage icon package. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may have already received an invitation or two to connect. Or you may be starting to realize that having a resume out there isn’t enough. You’re right. You need to forge bonds with others.

So, who should you link to?

The short answer is: everyone.

The long answer is also: everyone.

Two Schools of Thought

Now, there are people who will disagree with me, and such is their prerogative. However, the truth is, when you’re looking for a job, you tend to need all the networking help you can get. Your dentist. And your former college roommate. Your brother-in-law. Because a traditional network goes beyond just former colleagues and classmates. It branches out and eventually begins to include people who are friends of friends. The same is true online.

Finding Connections Among People You Know

So one thing you can do is, open up your address book to LinkedIn and allow them to send a networking invitation to the people in it. Your present and former colleagues are probably either already on LinkedIn or are contemplating joining. Most will be receptive to your invitation. And as for your family, they will probably also be fairly receptive to linking. Even if your cousin is geographically remote and in a very different industry from yours, that does not mean that the connection is a complete waste of time. As for the other names in your book (your babysitter, perhaps), use your own judgment. Personally, I think you should ask everyone, but I can see where someone might balk at asking everyone they’ve ever known to link to them.

And that’s all right, but you may have unnecessarily cut yourself off from potential opportunities. So, what’s next?

Growing Your Connections List

Beyond the people you know, there are not only the people they know, but also people who you want to link but you don’t know them yet.

What? You don’t want to meet new people?

Then, with all due respect, why are you on a networking website to begin with?

I don’t mean to sound flip. But the concept behind networking is to, well, network. So that means you need to meet people you don’t know, and go outside your comfort zone a little bit.

Objections?

But, you say, they’ll know my name and address. Your name, yes. As for your address – no, not unless you’ve got it in your online resume. And you shouldn’t have it there, although at least your general location can most likely be inferred, given where much of your network lives. Yet to that I say, so what? Your address is on your mailbox, and in the telephone directory. It can be found in tax records and vote registration rolls.

It is not hard to find. And you are neither hiding it nor better preserving your identity or your privacy in any way by not opening yourself up to this kind of linking.

So, link. Indiscriminately? Not exactly. Avoid known spammers. And, if someone you’ve linked to turns out to be a spammer, drop and report them. You don’t need to be tarred by that.

LIONs

And, how do you attract people? Should you be just messaging people, willy nilly? No. Instead join any LinkedIn LION group.

What’s a LION? It’s a LinkedIn Open Networker. This will signal to people that you are open to networking with anyone but a spammer. Too many invitations? Just leave whichever LION group you’d joined. You can always rejoin later.

Targeting Connections at Target Companies

Who else? Try connecting with people working at companies you’re targeting. And, if it’s a very large company, try narrowing your connection requests to just people in the departments, and/or with the job titles or descriptions, that you are directly targeting.

The Art of Asking for a Connection

How do you ask for a connection? There is a ready-made note that LinkedIn pops up for you. It’s fine, but you should modify it. First, call the person by name! I don’t want to positively respond to a generic note – do you? So, call me by name! What else? Make sure you thank the person.

Anything else? One last thing – tell the person why you want to link with them. It can be brief, just one sentence is fine. You want to link to me because of my work at a particular company? Then say something like, I’m interested in linking to you because of your work at ___ company. Want to link to me because of a job I’ve had? Then write something like, I’d like to link to you because I’m looking to become a ___, which I see you’ve already done. Understandably, these notes are not too terribly exciting, but they are short and to the point and they get the job done.

Downsides

Be aware that, if you are dinged enough times by people who say they don’t know you, you’re going to have a much harder time trying to link later. So, proactively go out to link with the following people:

  • Friends and family
  • Current and former colleagues
  • Known LIONs and
  • People in companies you want to get into, but only if you send them personal notes and do so sparingly.

Who should you allow to link to you? That’s easy – anyone but a known spammer.

Grow your network. Here’s an area where size really does matter. Quality matters, of course, but quantity is going to open a lot of doors as well. Like it or not, an impression is made by a large network. So go plant those seeds!

Next: Offline Meetings.

Getting inspiration from science

Getting inspiration from science

Science

Science is one of the cornerstones of our existence. So are your characters scientific? Do they f’ing love science? And even if they don’t, it can still inform what they say and do.

Discoveries

First of all, there is an enormous amount of inherent drama in trying to discover a cure for a disease. However, sometimes things go another way, where a seemingly serious breakthrough ends up having a rather different application. So consider minoxidil, which is used to treat baldness. It was originally developed to be a drug to treat high blood pressure.

And research, with all its successes and failures, can spark drama.

Chemistry and Physics

So chemist characters can do everything from creating potions on the edge of magic to working in pharmacies. And your physicist characters can study the cosmos. Or maybe they build nuclear weapons, and experience all sorts of doubts and moral crises due to that. Furthermore, any of these characters can teach at the high school or collegiate (or graduate school) levels.

Biology and Geology

Maybe a biologist character could unleash a plague or study alien creatures. And a geologist character could warn of an impending volcano eruption (this would be a vulcanologist, actually), or maybe help find fossil fuels.

Medicine

Beyond finding cures, doctors also handle people at their most vulnerable. And they see the weak, the sick, the dying, and the naked. So some physicians find humor in the absurd, like in M*A*S*H. Psychiatrists can work with the insane or just the troubled. And that can spill over into marriage counseling, or helping people figure out how to come out of the closet.

Takeaways

So whether your characters are blinded with science or just need to get a sprain treated, scientific observations and pursuits can often inspire great writing.

White Space is not your Enemy by Kim Golombisky and Rebecca Hagen, a Book Review

White Space is not your Enemy by Kim Golombisky and Rebecca Hagen

White Space is not your Enemy by Kim Golombisky and Rebecca Hagen is a beginning design book. And I purchased it because I definitely need assistance with design. While I (at least I think I do) have something of an understanding of which color goes with which, it is sometimes difficult for me to make something look good. Seeking some inexpensive professional help, I turned to this book.

Practical Help

White Space is not your Enemy by Kim Golombisky and Rebecca Hagen

So apart from the obvious title, the book offers tips on color combinations, font selection, focal points and even how to prepare a document for a professional print job. And the chapter on design sins really resonated with me. I have seen poorly designed advertisements (both online and offline) and websites, and have never really been able to adequately articulate just why they were so hideous. So now I can.

Exercises

The exercises in the back of each chapter seemed, I thought, somewhat superfluous. However, I did find myself beginning to look at designs with a more critical eye. For example, I noticed a print advertisement where the background photograph was of varied colors. Some were light, some, dark. The print, however, was pure white, and cut horizontally along the middle of the photograph. Hence this would have been fine, except the copy crashed straight into a white space, so some of the print was invisible. Which part? The company’s name. Epic design fail.

Foolproof

Another extremely helpful chapter: the one on the “works every time” layout. This layout is all over the Internet and all over print media, and for good reason. It is, essentially, a full width photograph or other graphic across the top third of the screen or page, with the remaining two-thirds divided into two vertical columns for text. A cutline (caption) goes directly underneath the visual (if appropriate; some visuals don’t need a cutline), with a more prominent headline directly below that.

Break up the columns into paragraphs and beware widows and orphans (one or two short words on a line). Place tags (these aren’t Internet meta tags), which are the logo, company name and small nugget of information such as the URL or physical address, in the lower right-hand corner. In addition, round it all out with generous margins all around. Voila! An instant beautiful (albeit somewhat common) layout!

If nothing else, that chapter has a greater value than the price of admission.

Learning Creativity

Creativity cannot, truly, be taught. But the peripherals around it can, such as how to gather ideas and nurture them, and how to place those ideas together in a coherent format. It’s like teaching pottery and smithing but not cookery: you get enough so that you can set the table, but not nourish anyone.

For that, you need to be an artist. And that, sadly, no book can ever teach you.

Rating

5/5

Beta Reading, Part 2

Beta Reading, Part 2

For beta reading, part 2, let’s take a look at the actual feedback process. But first, let’s get the mechanics out of the way.

Practical Mechanics

When beta reading, you are generally only using a few possible programs. Here’s how to best use them:

  • When using Microsoft Word, go to Review and then select Track Changes. Use this feature to add Comments as well. If using Word, it helps a lot if the writer is using styles and headings. If they don’t know what those are, Google is their friend. Styles make it easy to change a font size on the fly if a publisher demands a different one for querying. And headings make it easier to find where chapters break.
  • When using Google Docs, turn on Editing Mode.
  • For any other programs, you may do best to just ask the writer to save the piece into Google Docs. Why? Because it will be easier for you. After all, you are doing them a favor. You aren’t being demanding if you ask for some consideration in this area.

What Sort of Feedback do they want?

This might feel like it should be obvious, but it’s not. Abusing the author is, of course, out of the question. You certainly should be honest in your assessments. At the same time, though, consider the following two sentences.

The main character is boring.

or

The main character is not very interesting.

These two sentences mean nearly the same thing, but the second one is a bit gentler. Consider this: even the worst of stories is somebody’s baby. Don’t be a jerk to the writer. This holds true even if you really want to burn their computer to assure that they never, ever write anything again.

And I have read stories like that.

Fixing Problems

Every reading is different, but there are a few basic issues which a manuscript might have.

Technical Issues

Your writer doesn’t know how to use dialogue tags. They argue with you over how to write out numbers. Punctuation and capitalization feel wrong, but you just can’t explain why. This one is easy. Call in the authorities. Grammar Girl is an easy, breezy read. Just cite it, with a link. Or try Strunk & White for something more formal. Get really fancy with The Chicago Manual of Style. Don’t forget, American English differs from British English, and there can be some nuances with Canadian or Australian English as well. Normally, it’s a logical fallacy to appeal to an authority. But in this instance, it will save everybody’s time.

Inconsistencies

Is the character dark-skinned on page 3, and fair on page 78? Point these out immediately. For some inconsistencies, the writer may be able to split the difference. Maybe a short character got tall because they grew.

Padding

This is a big problem with NaNoWriMo novels. And for good reason! You are rewarded for being verbose. Hence ask the writer – is this scene necessary? Is this level of description vital to the plot? Characters are analogous to actors in a film. The main ones are leads, then comes the supporting cast. And then come the extras. The leads need a lot of description, assuming that’s not some sort of spoiler. The supporting cast gets some description, but not as much as the leads. The extras are sketched. And the same is true for scenes. Scenes which drive the plot are leads.

Transitions and other necessary scenes that aren’t plot drivers are relegated to supporting status. These can be red herrings and blind alleys in a mystery. Or the more minor obstacles thrown in the way of true love in a romance. Or they can be the scenes depicting local color, and expository paragraphs.

Truly minor scenes are extras, and they can also be extras if they are a part of a more important scene. For example, if your two police officer characters go to a coffee shop to discuss the case, then their discussion is probably a lead. But the color of the walls of the coffee shop, or the barista’s snappy comeback? Those are extras.

If a story feels overly long, then it’s probably been padded. Work with your writer on how to streamline those parts of the narration.

Sketches

I am guilty of this one, mainly because I am often working to get the idea down on paper. This is another thing which can happen in a NaNo novel. The time limit can push a writer to elide over certain transitions. Same rules apply. If it’s a lead, then you need some meat on those bones. For supporting, it depends. Further, if every scene feels like an extra, then it’s hard to figure out what the work’s focus and plot really are.

By working with a three-tiered scene and character system, both you and the writer can focus better. If Betty the Barista is important, then the story really needs to focus on her dark eyes, her jaunty beret, and the rose tattoo on her left shoulder. If she’s just seen in passing, then she probably doesn’t even need to have a name.

Above All

Be kind and patient, as well as you can. These problems may take the writer some time to fix. Be encouraging! But if it is just not working, then don’t hesitate to cut the cord.