All or Nothing At All

I have had to sacrifice some Erotic Fiction to the Gods of Quality this week: the idea is still 100% sound but my execution? Not so much. However, I am planning some space to shove it into Thursday’s WiP Extravaganza, and so it will see the light of day at some point in March. It also makes me realise that I ought to carry on this series, but not at the expense of anything else. Therefore, I have decreed that April will be Short Story Month, and at least one thing I write during that period will be entered into a Contest.

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I already have some stuff on the table, but as we don’t have March scheduled as yet, it is going to have to wait. That’s been a bit hamstrung today by me spending close to four hours in the car as a taxi service in the snow, but I’ve made some solid progress, which means I am confident everything will be ready to roll on Thursday. Also, Novel Progress is STILL GO. That’s looking really positive, as it happens. I’m not ready to pitch this yet, not until it is done and I’m happy with it. After that, it is going to get sold for all its worth.

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Optimism and creativity remain high. This should hopefully lead to some random shiz occurring in the next few weeks (looking at you, output from Experimental Poetry.)

Even if it is cold outside, I’m keeping the grey matter ticking over nicely.

NaNoWriMo: Next Steps

As we discussed what seems like years ago, the plan with this year’s NaNoWriMo was never just to get to 50k words and claim success. There’s a lot to do, and I’ve been chipping away at the total since I claimed victory. The key this time around is that NaNo have provided new tools to allow people like me to set realistic goals for completion, well past the November cut-off point.

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This tracker is great, and really very forgiving (as I’ve had to reset once due to time constraints.) It gives the Christmas period some distinct focus, when I’m normally just wandering around in PG’s gaming. I had planned to be finished by now, but then there was a ton of unavoidable RL stuff and now starting I have a month from next Monday’s a decent shout at the re-do. It also gives me time to pick through the work with a critical eye, rather than simply rushing to completion.

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These trackers will be a real boon, because there is the ability to encourage other works to completion given a standing timeline. If I can make the process work with Contractus, I’m absolutely going to do the same with other work. For that fact alone, these new trackers have the potential to become an indispensable part of my writing routine.

Breathe In

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I’m here on a Friday to celebrate what has been a successful month for this little site. Starting on Monday is the very real possibility of multiple posts a day and a really rather packed schedule all the way until Christmas. Having already pre-warned you about Think-Tober, I went away and made better graphics, and that will begin via Instagram on Sunday. I suspect there’ll be a compilation of seven days worth of posts in this medium at some point across the weekends in October too.

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We’re still behind a bit, but once October’s Book of the Month titles are posted on Monday along with the last of the outstanding acrostics, there’s no excuse to keep up to date. This month will also see an alteration to Patreon tiers in an attempt to attract more interest, plus some subtle changes to the concept’s major remit. I’d planned to reassess every three months, so this part of my plan is still on schedule. Looking ahead, the Book of the Month will be taking a one-month hiatus in November to accommodate my participation in the 2017 NaNoWriMo event.

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I’ve written on and of for NaNo across five years, but only the last two have been serious efforts. This year, the plan is to come up with something I will turn into a potentially saleable novel. That level of completion and professionalism has, as yet, eluded me, but I believe I’m in a decent position this year to make that a reality. To make sure I’m utterly focused, rethought and re-organised Patreon content will launch again December 1st. Everyone who is currently a Patreon will also be getting an exclusive (and personalised) Christmas gift, as a thank you for your continued support.

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Until then, you can expect an increase in the amount of poetry being written, original works appearing and all sorts of other TOP QUALITY GUBBINS.

GSME #14 :: Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps)

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It is time to get my writing aspirations back on track, and that meant today some serious thought over why I’m here and what’s happening long term with blogging as a future. This morning, a simple objective was publicly set:

There is a plan for this, that will play out across the week. I make no lie that it will involve incentives. This is a harsh reality in which we live, and I am well aware that to promote any ‘brand’ means getting dirty, providing sweeteners to help highlight what you do. I watched this play out across a weekend of ‘vintage’ bicycle festival: you pay to ride, and countless companies throw free stuff at you in the hope that you’ll like it enough to take the plunge and become a long term consumer. Our rider bags for Eroica were stuffed with alcohol, cosmetics and other gubbins. Free beer was offered during the ride, and when you completed. All of this has a purpose: buy into the lifestyle. That’s what I’m doing here, and if I’m up front about that, there’ll be no confusion.

The problem is, right now, that I’m not really terribly happy how Twitter’s platforms are being altered in order to make the company more relevant. We’ve spoken at length about the issues with analytics (that is still going on) but today my web-based platform of choice altered for good. On the back of last week’s ‘cleaner’ redesign (which owes a lot to the Android version of the UI) a fundamental change came into play that it took a while to work out. However, thanks to one of my most trusted followers, the answer was incredibly simple, once it became apparent some fundamentals have altered in Tweetdeck’s filtering functions.

At 5pm this evening, random tweets started appearing in my timeline from people I did not know. More importantly, these were accounts I did not follow, but in many cases had direct relevance to stuff I’d been discussing in my own timeline. The ultimate indignity was when Teresa May appeared, out of the blue, ON HER OWN ACCOUNT (that I’m positive nobody on my timeline would ever retweet). A sneaky switch to Hootsuite to check it wasn’t just a glitch showed promoted tweets are now appearing in their timelines, where this was not the case before. More significantly, it then became apparent what the issue was: these were cleverly picked posts being presented as ‘retweets.’ The thing is, unless I can see who’s retweeting them, or unless they are quoted, there is no way I can associate them with anyone I know on my feed. Once I worked out these were what Tweetdeck considered as a ‘retweet’, the filtering is a no-brainer.

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One click of a button and the noise effectively vanished. It is now apparent that Twitter’s not mucking about with trying to promote new followers: by presenting ‘retweets’ that match the same content I’m talking about? There’s a better than average chance I’ll follow someone. The key here is, of course, these messages are anything but random. They were carefully targeted, just as that alcohol and other products were at the weekend. The problem with me, sadly, is that I won’t ever play that game if you don’t ask first. Just giving me everything and hoping I’ll click won’t work. In that regard, I will probably need to make sure I start using my own personally curated lists going forward so I can avoid all the noise. Today was a salutatory lesson in what a company will be prepared to do in order to make their product marketable.

Personally, I want nothing to do with it.

GSME #11 :: Personal Jesus

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I should apologise for being a couple of days late with the Guide, but as history can show this as being Monday when it is in fact Wednesday, I doubt there’s too much of a fuss to be caused anyway. Health issues have inevitably derailed my progress, but they’re also a powerful means of driving social media. If you didn’t know already, drama generates interest.

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Let’s be honest here: I’d rather not have all this fuss and bother right before one of the most important periods of my life, but the Universe does like to mess with your head at the most inopportune of moments. Therefore, my views last week were exclusively driven by the fact I’ve become my own news story, like it or not. I could choose to read these figures in an number of ways, but at this point I’d just like to think that more people than normal care about my welfare, and that’s where we’ll stop. The better news, if we look at the graph on the right, is that I’m keeping close to exceeding a 2% engagement rate.

How am doing that is part of a structured change to my Tweeting habits.

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This Tweet has a picture, from my phone, of me waiting in the Hospital to see my surgeon on Monday night. If I’d have posted it *without* the picture it would have received less interest, because what the image does is make this less about having a conversation. The image, like it or not, draws you into my story. That’s why SnapChat and Instagram are as immensely useful and compulsive as they undoubtedly are as tools for generating traffic: the brain, in most cases, reacts more favourably to visual stimulus. This means that if I post something with a GIF attached, more people will read it, as is the case with a screenshot or a photograph. Once upon a time mobile download limits might restrict this as useful, but as WiFi becomes de rigeur and mobile devices become portable newspapers and magazines as well as gaming rigs… use more pictures.

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On the flip side, one well worded, concise and honest tweet is worth an entire blog post.

Picture + personal affirmation, in this case, results in a 9.3% engagement rate, if you didn’t believe me when I said that pictures sell. On the flip side however, being overly personal can turn people off. There’s the individual on my feed for instance who’s almost permanently ragging on their ex-partner for being horrible, and although there is a continued measure of sympathy for the situation, that person does go on Mute when it all gets too much. As is the case with life, balance is everything.

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Finally, you don’t need pictures, a personal dilemma or the end of the World to engage an audience. With the right words, a bit of thought and some planning, you can use Twitter to write blog posts, by ‘threading’ a series of tweets together with an appropriate picture at the top. This method of communication is proving increasingly useful for me, and I’ll be making the most of the format going forward. This week, there’s not much else to report really, and with an operation scheduled for the 16th, it will be a little quiet around these parts on Monday anyway.

Time to go practice what we’ve learnt and be ready to start again once all this drama is over.

Blogging For Noobs :: Think

You have a ton of posts all ready to go after the last portion of our Guide, and now you want to publish them all in one hit. This is where I put up the single finger in a kind yet firm manner and say NO, do not do this with your work. The temptation in the early blush of creativity is to share everything immediately. This is perfectly normal and I see it happen all the time: the problem then comes a month later when you’re struggling for stuff to fill your space and creativity appears to have evaporated. That’s why this time around, I’m going to ask you to wait, and start planning ahead. Remember that blank calender I left you with last time? Here’s where the fun of Learning to Organise begins.

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I’m going to be rebranding this site next month as the Internet of Words (for those of you paying attention) and that means that I need to do a couple of things before that happens. Once I’ve followed my own previous step and worked out what will qualify as content, I’ll need a week to make sure that I have graphics for everything made and ready, and there are spaces in the web design to accommodate what I’m doing. That’s the 14th to the 19th for me, which is my Pre-Planning and ‘Back End’ phase. In that time I can also write posts in anticipation of my launch (June 1st) but not publish them until I know my redesign is working properly. In your case, it could just be getting yourself comfortable with blogging to begin with, and you have a week of playing with layout and posting until you’re comfortable with both.

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I’ve then scheduled a Testing Week, which will basically act as my migration period for all the old content, deleting the stuff I don’t want to keep, and getting everything ready to roll. As you can see, after my launch date I’ve got a load of +1 and +2’s marked: the latter indicate days when I’ll introduce a facet of the site, the others marking down that for the first month, I want to generate a post a day. To do that will require me to organise in advance, to have ideas ready to roll, and once I obtain that early impetus it will be important to ensure I have a plan. That’s why I’m writing on Post It notes, scribbling in a notebook wherever possible, and keeping track of things I think are important or interesting going forward. It is why this weekend will be devoted to thrashing out many of those scribbled notes into fully-formed topics to form part of my site.

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The key, of course, is to have a lot of content to go, but there are days when I undoubtedly do my best work from a cold start. Today was a case in point: I didn’t expect to create a logo or start a Twitter account for the redesign but both of those happened. I’d simply planned to day to explore the possibilities of both, but you’ll learn in time how inspiration strikes, and when to make the most of it. This is where organisation truly becomes invaluable, because in those creative-rich days, if you can get words down they can be kept and scheduled for days when you’re out of ideas. It also means you are never totally beholden to your site either, and can take holidays or time off without it appearing you lost interest in the project.

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You will find, as time goes on, that if you set aside a set time each day to write, this will also aid enormously with productivity and creativity. For me, I do my best work on non-fiction before lunchtime, whilst fiction always works better in the evening. That means I’ll be able to balance my time effectively around other stuff and still aim for a set result at the end of each week. You may wish to plan ahead on a spreadsheet programme, and there are plenty of time management tools/apps that can help you out, but for me I am at my best with a Moleskine Diary, pen, pencil and ruler. In fact I’d be utterly lost without them now. My planning for the week is either done Sunday night or Monday morning, and this dictates the entire workflow for the next seven days. Find the system that works for you, and don’t be afraid to mix and match until you’re comfortable with the result.

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The biggest trick however is not to panic when you’re out of ideas. That’s why you have a notebook, its why you plan in advance… and its where Social media can save the day. Current events, personal interests, what other people are talking about, the latest complaint/beef in your friends circle… all of these are potential topics to start a blog post. For me, I have a ton of projects in various states of completion to consider, a vast array of topics on the Internet of Words that all have a potential place in my planning: but the trick is not to obsess too much about all the possibilities. I’ll be picking a couple of the best ideas to work with at the start, and we’ll go from there. Once the framework is established and has run for a while, I can look at analytics to see where the interest lies, and work from there.

Organisation really is everything if you want a professional looking site. It also doesn’t all have to happen straight away. Just because I’ll be doing a post a day means it will stay that way. We’ll see how things work, and the trick in these early stages is to listen to other people very carefully. Many will give you feedback, and if it isn’t great, you’ll need to be ready to act accordingly. Next time, we’ll talk about how you keep people interested whilst they read, because that will matter long term just as much as your content.

GSME #6 :: Fade To Grey

As is sometimes the case in Experiments, this week hasn’t exactly gone as I’d planned. However, before we begin, let’s look at the old Engagement scoreboard:

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There’s a few things to mention, most notable of which is that in the last seven days I didn’t use CoPromote at all and still the numbers are up. That will change this week, as I’ve almost built up 100k ‘credit’ to use on something worthwhile, but it is as much about writing a decent post to hook people in to reading long-term as it is just churning out rubbish, which seems to be how some people view Twitter to begin with. The plan going forward had been to boost myself using Twitter’s own range of ‘advertising’ tools and last night I cleared a block of space and time to do just this.

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The range of options is pretty decent: I can, it appears, pay money to get followers (recommended for accounts with an audience of under 1000, I’m told) plus be charged in any myriad number of ways. This was the first thing that put me off: what I could manage for the cash I have available was woeful at best. Obviously the more you pay, the better your chances of reaching people, though it would be unfair to say that’s the only way this works, because it isn’t. An awful lot of Twitter’s advertising however expects you to not only specifically identify and target an audience, but understand how that works to begin with, and I can see this putting off huge numbers of potential smaller users.

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The fact remains, that if paying a tenner A DAY for what might only be seven clicks is not, it must be said, the optimal use of my cash. In fact, if I’m honest, CoPromote’s reach function did more than that, and I pay $19.99 a MONTH. The only difference is what is promised in terms of Impressions, and I can make that happen myself via persistence and little grey cells. Maybe this is part of the reason why Twitter as a company fails to make money but continues to win in terms of being the most organic and accessible of mediums. Perhaps if they tweaked their selling model for smaller sellers, there might be an upswing in interest.

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It doesn’t take a genius to understand how the basic principles operate, but the work involved for me in identifying a niche audience (which is effectively what I am, like it or not) is not currently worth the return. If I were a Warcraft streamer, however, this could have some genuine merit, or indeed if I was trying to sell my product in a larger market. In that regard, and because I know a number of people have been waiting to see what I think of this, I’d say it may well be worth the effort if you have the cash to back it up. It will also help if your market is well known, and can be easily targetted using specific keywords. I have so many applicable keywords right now for what I do, and as I currently refuse to refine those terms? This is a service I can happily leave well alone.

In fact, you’ll probably get far more out of this completely free guide to optimising your account than is ever going to result from a small business using Twitter ads. As is also the case with Facebook, these companies seem to only be interested in those prepared to spend big in able to make their point, and that effectively prices me completely out of the marketplace. More importantly, I get to help out a friend by granting her post a few extra views, which I’d far rather do than chuck money at a huge company that doesn’t seem that interested in my business to begin with.

Sometimes, your answer means not taking the obvious route.