Categories
Career changing Community Management Opinion

Community Management – Handling Yourself as a Good Netizen

Handling Yourself as a Good Netizen

Are you a good netizen?

I have been managing Able2know for over fourteen years.

It is a generalized Q & A website and the members are all volunteers. I have learned a few things about handling yourself online during this time.

Chill Out

  1. There are few emergencies online. Take your time. I have found, if I am in a hot hurry to respond, itching to answer, it usually means I am getting obsessive.
  2. When it’s really nutty, step away from the keyboard. I suppose this is a corollary to the first one. Furthermore, I pull back when it gets too crazy-making, or try to figure out what else may be bothering me, e. g. I haven’t worked out yet, something at home is annoying me, etc. Being online, and being annoyed, does not equal that something online caused the annoyance.

Be Clear

  1. All we have are words (emoticons do nearly nothing).
    Handling Yourself as a Good Netizen
    what are words for? (Photo credit: Darwin Bell)

    I like to make my words count, and actually mean exactly, 100%, what I write, but not everyone hits that degree of precision in their communications. I’ve learned to cut about a 10% degree of slack.

  2. Not everyone gets you. You might be hysterically funny in person, but bomb online, Netizen. Or you might feel you’re a gifted writer, but you write to the wrong audience. You may be hip for your crowd, but hopelessly out of it in another. This is not, really, a personal thing. You can either waste your time trying to get everyone to love you or you can recognize that you didn’t convert one person and move on from there. Choose the latter; it’ll save your sanity every time.

Keep Chilling Out

  1. Be Zen. E. g. I’ve found the old, “oh, you go first” kind of thing smooths the way a lot. I am not saying to not have your say and let everyone else win all the time. It’s just, ya kinda pick the hill you wanna die on, e. g. what’s really important. Stick to those guns. The others, not so much. E. g. getting into a shouting match and kicked off a site due to your hatred of the Designated Hitter Rule – even on a sports or baseball site – falls in the category of you’re probably overreacting and being really, really silly. I doubt that that is a hill most people would try want to die on. But defending your beliefs, fighting prejudice, etc.? Those are probably better hills.
  2. And the corollary to #5: controversial topics are controversial for a reason. They get under people’s skin and make them squirm. Be nice; don’t do that all the time. So try to engage people in other ways, Netizen. There are plenty of people on Able2know who argue a lot about politics. I am not a fan of arguing politics. But we also get together and play Fantasy Baseball (talk about your Designated Hitter Rule). Or we swap recipes, or pet stories, or the like. But then, when a forum member gets sick or becomes bereaved, people who just argued till they were blue in the face turn around. And they virtually hug and offer tributes, prayers (or positive, healing thoughts) and words of comfort. And this user multidimensionality warms the heart. Over the years, people have gotten better at it. If someone’s really bothering you, it’s possible that, in other contexts, you’d get along. You might want to see if you can find some common ground, and other contexts.

Sing Along with Elsa and Let. It. Go.

  1. Know when to stop, or even let others have the last word. When I am really angry, I usually just withdraw. However, this isn’t a surrender. Instead, I’m tired and life’s too short. You do not become a smaller, or less worthwhile person, and you haven’t lost (whatever that really means, particularly on the Internet, fer chrissakes) if you walk away and wash your hands of things. Netizen, you are entitled to call it quits on an argument or discussion.

Finally, I hope you learn from my insanity and my mistakes. Life’s too short to let it get to you too much!

Categories
Book Reviews Career changing Personal Work

Writing

Writing

Writing rules.

Writing
The Nano Rhino says… (Photo credit: mpclemens)

The Before Time, Where There was Weeping and Wailing, and Gnashing of Teeth

One aspect of my career transition consists of writing a lot more.

And I found that I had truly missed it.

Sure, I had typed tons and tons of stuff before. But a lot of it covered such thrilling topics as documenting queries, or making lists of terms used by public service officers. It very rarely encompassed topics with wit, or style. And I certainly did not have permission to make up any of it.

NaNoWriMo, I Love You

I had known about NaNoWriMo for a while, but hadn’t thought I had anything to offer.

In 2013, I woke up with an idea during the last week of October. I created a wiki and an outline for it, and signed up.

And I wrote. And wrote.

Then about halfway through the month, I had finished. By the end of the month, the story was edited.

Now the Real Fun Begins

Because, yes, it was published.

It was and is the right thing to do, and the right path.

In addition, it feels fun. And it feels exciting. It feels like it’s a fit.

Furthermore, it does not feel like something where I’m stretching to fit into someone else’s idea, or parallel someone else’s vision. And I certainly don’t feel like I was going through the motions. In addition, it does not feel like ho-hum, same old-same old.

Furthermore, it releases a pent-up inner artist who was shouted down by pretty much everyone I knew for way, way too long in my life. And that is exceptionally freeing.

It feels right. And it feels honest. So it feels free. It feels good.

And it feels like it’s about damned time already.

Categories
Book Reviews Career changing

Book Review: The Elements of Style, by Strunk, White, and Kalman

Book Review: The Elements of Style, by Strunk, White, and Kalman

As a part of the Quinnipiac social media writing class, we were required to purchase and reference The Elements of Style (illustrated) by William Strunk, E. B. White, and Maira Kalman.

Rather than just reference this work, I read it from cover to cover. And it turned out to be an easy read, considerably more comprehensive and better than I had remembered.

Simple Rules

Simple rules emerge in clear and concise prose which never talks down to the reader. It contains all of the rules that so many people should known, and should have learned years ago. Yet these days it seems that so many people just plain don’t know.

Case in point: forming possessives. Therefore, on Page 1 the guide just says, “Form the possessive singular of nouns by adding ‘s.”

That’s it, no more.

Information about punctuation remains equally succinct. Hence on Page 15, the guide says,

“A colon tells the reader that what follows is closely related to the preceding clause. The colon has more effect than the comma, less power to separate than the semicolon, and more formality than the dash.”

Easy to follow and remember, the above two sentences tell more about colons, semicolons, and dashes than I think I learned in most of my formal education.

Furthermore, language comes across as something knowable, with rules and formal logic. This is instead of what English can sometimes seem like, e. g. a messy stew of words from all over the world. The work gives the English language structure and predictability. Both of these things make it a lot easier to know the rules.

Book Review: The Elements of Style, by Strunk, White, and Kalman
The Elements of Style (illustrated)

There is but one thing left to say, and the Elements of Style certainly says it.

Write better.

Review: 5/5 stars.

Categories
Career changing Content Strategy Social Media

Feeding the Content Monster

Feeding the Content Monster

Content Monster?

I don’t mean the happy, contented monster. Because that one wouldn’t need any feeding.

I mean the concept of adding content regularly.

I enjoy writing about as much as, perhaps, any blogger. But Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | Content Monstersometimes the words just don’t come. And, in the meantime, you need to be pumping out content!

C’mon, chop chop! What the devil is wrong with you? Why aren’t you yammering, 24/7, like you’re supposed to?

Egad, it’s enough to put you off your feed. Or, at least, put you off blogging.

Case in Point

Content Monster
Write (Photo credit: spaceamoeba)

I used to write for the Examiner.

So I was supposed to post every month. And I did. I liked having an active status there, even if it was fairly marginal by the end. It’s not like I was buying groceries with my big earnings from there. And, truthfully, they did pay me one time. It thrilled me at the time. These days, I get an actual salary for my musings. Hence a pittance from the Examiner, while considerably better than a kick in the teeth, stopped cutting it.

And it was not enough for them, anyway. Instead, they would send me a reminder every two weeks.

Whining

This being constantly reminded never gave me content ideas. Going to their content idea bank never gave me ideas, either, although I knew they tried and did not fault them for that. I tend to zig when I should be zagging (or perhaps it’s the other way around). And, in the meantime, being prodded every fortnight never made me a happy blogger.

Instead, it made me feel like I was listening to a spoiled, petulant child who was dissatisfied with what I had provided, and only wanted more, more, more!

I gave you a Honda. And now you want a BMW? Cripes. Leave me alone, content monster.

Today

I still have to feed a content monster with a shovel. But at least I have other people to feed me ideas. Thank God.

Solutions

So far as I’m concerned, there are three real solutions for feeding the content monster.

Make a list, brainstorming, of everything that could possibly, ever, be associated with your topic

This list will change as time goes by, as you evolve, as the sun sinks slowly in the west, etc. etc. Refer to the list often, and record when you’ve written about a particular subtopic.

Let’s take my old weight loss column from back in the day. The list included things like carbs, aerobic exercise, running 5K races, shopping for clothes, etc. If I last wrote about clothes shopping in 2010, I could write about that activity again.

But if I last wrote about it last week, though, then forget it. So I would need to cast about for something else. Keep updating the last, even splitting out larger topics if appropriate. The subject of clothes shopping could divide by season. Or write one post just devoted to buying a swimsuit.

Strike while the iron is hot

That is, if you’re feeling inspired, don’t just write the current  blog entry. If you’ve got the time, write the next five. Just go until you run out of gas.  Any blogging software worth its salt provides the ability to schedule posts in advance. Take advantage of this.

Repurpose, repackage, reply, rethink

Go online. Look at others’ takes on your topic. There are few new topics under the sun. Someone has written about your topic. I can practically guarantee that. And that’s fine. Just don’t out and out plagiarize. But I don’t see any laws against referencing someone else’s blog or article on a topic and then expanding on it.

Upshot

Nourish the content monster when you can, for there will be fallow times, and you must prepare for them. And, when it works for you, even silence can be golden. After all, if you’ve got absolutely nothing to say, who needs to hear that?

Categories
Career changing Social Media

What Do You Look Like Online?

What Do You Look Like Online?

This post is a riff on a rather old post, Do You Know What You Look Like Online. Essentially, the question is, if you were searching for someone

Look Like Online
English: Graph of social media activities (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(someone just like you, perhaps), what sorts of judgments would you make? What seems off? What’s being suppressed, which should be promoted, and vice versa? Is the picture clear or fuzzy?

The gist of that article is, take control of your information, keep it as a uniform brand and check it every month or so. The corollary to this is one from Shama Hyder Khabani, which is, essentially, don’t spread yourself too thin. Concentrate in only a few places.

My Own Information

Absolutely agreed. When I google my own last name, 32,900 hits come up. And, fortunately, my own website is in the top 2 spots (Yay, SEO!). My Entrepreneur profile (writing I do for work) comes up as third. Fourth is Twitter. Fifth is my LinkedIn profile. Further down the first page yields my two Facebook profiles, then my Amazon author page. And then something from a site called MuckRack (huh?). Finally, there’s my author profile at Businessing Magazine.

Another Angle

Putting my last name into quotation marks yields only 8,420 hits. All of the same usual suspects come up on Page One of the results. And nothing is too weird or scandalous. Even MuckRack, which essentially just scrapes for your name, doesn’t have anything bad. Hey, Yahoo! Finance published me!

How Accurate is the Information?

To my mind, checking and rechecking every single month might just be a bit excessive. Is there a need to keep your profile accurate? Sure. Flattering, or at least not damaging? Yes, particularly if you are looking for work. But to keep it sterile and perfect, as you scramble to make it perfect every moment of every day? Eh, probably not so much.

But…

I would like to think (am I naïve? Perhaps I am) that potential clients and employers will see the occasional typo and will, for the most part, let it slide unless the person is in copyediting. I am not saying that resumes, for example, should not be as get-out perfect as possible. What I am saying, though, is that this kind of obsessive and constant vigilance seems a bit, I dunno, much.

Will the world end if I accidentally type there instead of their on this blog? And, does it matter oh so much if I don’t catch the accident immediately? Even when you consider that I’m a writer. After all, I should know better, yes?

I mean, with all of this brushing behind ourselves to cover up and/or perfect our tracks, and all of the things we are leaving behind, where’s the time and energy to make fresh, new content and look in front of ourselves?

Clean Up Your Presence

To me, there is little joy in reading a blog post or website that looks like it was put together by someone who’s barely literate. But there is also little joy in reading sterile, obsessively perfect websites and blog posts. A little imperfection, I feel, is a bit of letting the ole personality creep in there. Genuineness – isn’t that what the whole Social Media experience is supposed to be about, anyway?

I refuse to believe – I hope and I pray – that a bit of individuality isn’t costing me potential jobs or the company potential clients. And if it is, then that saddens me, to feel that, perhaps, there is a lot of lip service being paid to the genuineness of Social Media but, when the chips are down, it’s just the same ole, same ole.

Genuineness is great. One you can fake that, you’ve got it made? Gawd, please, say it ain’t so.

Categories
Career changing Writing

Advice for Dealing With a Rejection

Dealing With Rejection

Rejection stinks. There’s no two ways about it.

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Quill | Rejection
Rejection may stink, but not writing? That’s a lot worse.

Here are three things you can do if you have received a rejection from an agent or a publisher.

Mourning

1) Mourn. Yes, mourn! It kinda hurts so allow yourself to feel hurt. But! Put a time limit on that. As in a week. Then consider yourself done with mourning what was.

Leave it!

2) Stick it in a drawer for three months, minimum. Let it go and move onto other things (another good reason to work on a lot of stuff at once).

Review it!

3) After the magical three months (or more) have elapsed, take out the file and the rejection slip.

Objective Considerations

Consider a few objective things: (a) was it the wrong genre for that publisher? Then be more careful next time and keep track of which publisher accepts which kinds of works. (b) was it not submitted correctly? Then take the time to do submissions right. Do they want an attachment? Then send one next time. Do they want just the pitch and three chapters? Then send that. Do they just want the pitch? Then only send that. You get the idea. (c) Did you submit to more than one publisher when this one said they didn’t like that? Then don’t do that again.

Subjective Considerations

Also consider subjective things: (a) did they not understand what your story is about? Then you need to work on your pitch/blurb. A writers’ group is a great place to do that. (b) did they say they had trouble getting through your story? Then you need to edit that sucker. Never mind if you already did. Edit again. And consider working with a pro editor. They are pricey but that is for a good reason. If you absolutely cannot afford a professional editor, then you need to hack away at your work yourself. So determine whether scenes or characters can be combined, as a start. Go back to beta feedback (you did work with beta readers, right?) and figure out what you hand waved away and work on what they told you to do. Because they were probably at least partly right. (c) did they say it just wasn’t for them? Then figure out why. Maybe they got three other moose detective stories before yours. Or maybe they’re closing the imprint you queried to. Maybe they’re just swamped.

Moving On

Most importantly, keep the fires burning. Keep works in five categories:

  1. Idea stage. You’re just kicking this one around.
  2. Outlining stage. If you don’t outline, then consider this the ‘serious ideas’ stage.
  3. Rough draft writing stage. Get it on paper or pixels.
  4. Beta reading/editing stage. Polish that prose and alter your work in response to feedback.
  5. Querying stage/publishing stage. If you’re self-publishing, then this is just the publishing stage.

The mourning, etc. I listed above? Call it stage #5a, or #4a if you really need to go back into the guts of the piece.

Your writing is worthwhile, even with a rejection. You can do this.

Categories
Career changing Inspiration

Senses

Senses

Our senses shape the real world, so why not the fictional one as well?

Adventures in Career Changing | Janet Gershen-Siegel | Senses

When we talk about the senses, what do we really mean? And how can our thoughts about them lead us to writing inspiration? To begin, let’s look at them in order. This is more or less in order of how important many people feel they are. However, your list’s order may vary.

Sight

First off, when we talk about sensations, we inevitably go to sight. Sight is likely the first sense ever evolved by us (probably about 600 million years ago, at the time of the so-called Cambrian explosion). Hence it is important and a lot of our brain power is devoted to it. But what does it mean to write a story based upon sight? Since our vision is fairly sophisticated (as opposed to that of, say, flatworms), that can encompass shapes, colors, or sizes, or even perceptions of textures.

Hence why not write a story where the scene steals the show? Or one where the narrator is a static object, such as a tee shirt or even a computer? Another idea: write a story based upon a color.

Hearing

When we think of hearing, inevitably we consider music, but we can also think of the sounds of voices or even the mundane sounds of life. When you write, think about how people sound. Do they speak with accents? Are they loud? And what are their pitches and tones? Could some characters sing soprano, whereas others are basso profundos? Maybe someone is a horrible singer. In addition, a lot of us know someone whose voice goes up at the end of sentences, even when they aren’t asking anything. Why do they do that?

Other sounds can be of interest, such as barking dogs, running water, or the gentle hum of a space heater. What about explosions, or creaking doors? Nails on a chalkboard, anyone?

Why not write a story where the sounds are the main focus? Or one where music flows through the action, or one where silence reigns supreme? The film A Quiet Place has taken that idea and really run with it.

Touch

Touch and, by extension, feelings, can make a great topic for storytelling. Think of hot and cold, or various degrees of comfort. Touch connotes everything from caresses to slaps. Feelings naturally make us think of emotions. So maybe the reaction ends up being more important than its cause. Or a character’s depression or their nervousness or contentment become the focus.

Why not write a story where touch steals the show? Or one about odd touches like itchy sweaters or dog bites or the rain beating against a character’s face?

And when it comes to feelings, why not let them take center stage? A story based upon anger will compel in one way; one based on humor will compel differently.

Smell

Smell has a number of great synonyms and near-synonyms which add nuanced shades of meaning. When something reeks, it has far different connotations from when it has an aroma or a bouquet. Aromas also link us to some of our deepest and oldest memories. When smell becomes part of a story, that often adds more realism. Because there’s nothing like saying a planet smells like wet dog to immediately put you there.

Why not let smells take over? How about a story told from a dog’s point of view? Or one connecting an aroma to a memory (Proust did that!)?

Taste

Because taste is dependent upon smell, we can often lose a lot of our sense of taste if we have a stuffed nose. For writers, taste can add a feeling of home to a story. Or a story can feel very alien if a taste is particularly odd. The taste of chocolate or ice cream might add pleasant connotations. Yet the tastes of blood or bile will take those away just as quickly.

Why not give taste the spotlight? How about describing a meal on another planet? What about the taste of blood or coffee or a dollar bill?

Takeaways

Want to know how to add believability to a scene? Cover three senses at the very least. Most people go with sight and sound as no-brainers, but what about adding something else? The taste of a lover’s kisses, the smell of a soldier’s old boots, or the texture of a prison uniform can get the reader right into a story.

Categories
Career changing Inspiration Personal

Personal Writing Process

Personal Writing Process

 personal writing process
A personal writing process is personal!

My personal writing process may or may not help you. After all, mine differs from, say, Stephen King‘s. And while he is a bestselling author several times over, that still doesn’t mean his method is better than my own.

Furthermore, his method will not work for me. And that’s not a failure on either of our parts. Because we are, simply put, rather different writers.

Plotting

For longer stories and novels, I find planning to be essential. And this can take the form of everything from an outline to some random notes. Either way, though, I create what I refer to as a ‘wiki’ although I am the only person who contributes to it.

‘Pantsing’

The term ‘pantsing’ refers to flying by the seat of your pants. So essentially you write with very little idea of plot or structure. And the intention is to fix it later. For the most part, I write shorter stories this way. However, they might be part of a larger overall story arc. Hence the actual writing might end up a tad haphazard but the scene or scenes fit into a greater whole, which has been planned.

See, I’m a planner. Usually.

In the Middle

Sometimes, I’m in the middle. Mettle was a lot like that, where I had a detailed outline for the first three quarters or so and then I had absolutely no idea of how to finish the piece.

There’s also the act of going in the middle by writing a far sparer outline. That’s another idea, to know the arc of the chapter and maybe even the first and last lines of it. But nothing else. So you have both the planning and the flying by the seat of your pants.

Story Arcs

Currently, aside from the Obolonk stories (which are still deep in beta reading hell), the only real series and arcs I write tend to be fan fiction.

Easter Eggs

One piece of my process is the addition of Easter eggs. Stories include the following (usually – Untrustworthy has very little of this, due to the nature of the story):

  • Boston, somehow, although sometimes it’s just an accent.
  • Somebody named Shapiro (a cousin had this as her maiden name, but I also think of the character from Stalag 17).
  • Jews, and often not just Shapiro. They aren’t necessarily terribly religious. But they are there all the same.
  • Dreams, but I am relying on them less as a crutch these days. Characters have inner lives but that’s not necessarily front and center in a story anymore.

Takeaways

Planning can’t really be avoided. Even if your personal writing process is 100% pantsing, you usually end up paying for that with a lot more time spent editing. This does not mean that planners don’t edit! Of course we do. But the scenes are better ordered or at least they should be. So that can save on editing time.

This is what works for me. It may or may not work for you.

Categories
Career changing Promotions

Optimizing Twitter

Optimizing Twitter

Now that you’re on, it’s time to start optimizing Twitter.

Adventures in Career Changing - Hashtags and Optimizing Twitter
Adventures in Career Changing – Hashtags and Optimizing Twitter

Lists

What are lists on Twitter?

You may have noticed people who have a rather different follower to following ratio than you do. What do I mean by that?

Let’s say you follow 100 people. And 1000 people follow you. The ratio of follower to following is 100:1000, or 1:10. This is fantastic. Celebrities often have ratios that look like this, or even better, where they might be following 100 accounts but there are 100,000 people following them.

Newbies often end up at the other end of the spectrum, with 1000 people they are following and 100 are following them, for 10:1.  If you want to just read for the most part, this is perfectly fine, except it doesn’t mark you as a thought leader.

Now, most people don’t sit down and calculate ratios. But they do glance at profiles. Sir Patrick Stewart, for example, might be following some 200 people but he’s followed by 2,000,000. Hence people will really notice if he starts following them.

Does he (or any other celebrity, major or minor) have a sparse news feed? Probably not. Because he might be using lists.

Go to the profile of someone you want to follow but, instead of hitting follow, pull down on the gear wheel and select Add to or Remove from Lists. Your lists will show up, and you can add someone to several at a time, or make a new list. You can even decide whether you want your list to be public.

Go to your own profile (e. g. click on your profile rather than your settings) and you’ll see whose lists you are on.

Why use a list rather than follow? You’ll still see that person’s tweets in your feed, but your ratio won’t change. Furthermore, a public list tells everyone what you’re interested in. How about lists for indie authors, agents, or publishers?

You can also follow others’ lists. Maybe someone will find yours to be definitive and will follow it.

Who to follow

Who should you follow on Twitter?

Sometimes you want to publicly follow someone, rather than add them to a list. So long as you keep these people special, then this is perfectly great. I tend to keep friends as open follows and anyone more business-related on lists. But you may prefer otherwise.

Follow fellow indie writers (this is a community, after all), or publishers, or agents. Consider who can help you, and who you can help, and follow accordingly.

How to hashtag

What’s a hashtag, and how do you make one that isn’t lame?

A hashtag is a means of searching on Twitter. Hashtag something as, say, #amwriting, and click on that, and you’re led to a slice of Twitter of everyone who used that hashtag. Hashtags don’t look good if you use a ton of them. Don’t just indiscriminately hashtag! Also, keep them short. #ILovePuppiesAndDolphinsAndUnicorns is probably not going to be something used by anyone else, or at least not that frequently. But #ILovePuppies is pretty popular.

Experiment by searching before you hashtag. Beware, your innocent-looking hashtag might already be coopted for an unexpected usage. Just do a search on #NeverForget or #IStayedBecause and you’ll know what I mean.

Categories
Career changing Promotions Publishing

MSWL (Manuscript Wish List)

MSWL (Manuscript Wish List)

Have you ever seen the #MSWL hashtag on Twitter? It stands for Manuscript Wish List.

So, what the heck is a Manuscript Wish List?

What do publishers and agents want?

MSWL | Manuscript Wish List
Manuscript Wish List (#MSWL) can go on all year on Twitter.

Agents and publishers have seen it all, or at least they think they have. They are on the lookout for something new but not so new, if that makes any sense.

Huh? you ask. Originality is important, yes, but the main objective for both agents and publishers is to acquire works which will sell. Does your work have a coherent buyer persona, or ideal reader? Does it fit neatly into one or two genres? And what about works which are harder to define? What do you do?

If Manuscript Wishes were horses …

For #MSWL, at any time during the year, agents and publishers tweet about what they are looking for. Pay attention to their verbiage! Usually it’s something like Looking for cowboy version of The Hunger Games. If your manuscript fits the bill, answer them. If not, don’t waste their and your time.

This second MSWL site seems less ‘official’ but still has good information.

A tip: if you’re answering an #MSWL, add something about your genre, e. g. #SF for science fiction, or #Romance, etc.

Above all, be sure to have fun with it. Who knows? It just might work out for you. However, there is a chance that it might not. In the meantime, you’ll keep getting better at presenting your work and, by extension, yourself.