Brevity

twitter-execution

Silk’s Post #156 — Has there ever, in the long history of the written word, been a more diminishing, devaluing trend than the imposition of the 140-character tweet as the arbitrary standard for social media discourse?

Has written expression been stripped of all its depth and nuance, and reduced in the Twitterverse to simplistic word belches? Slogans. Headlines. Blurts. Clichés. Inanities masquerading as deep thoughts. Rabble rousing provocations. Nyah nyah nyah taunts. (I’m looking at you, Donald Trump).

Anything worth saying requires more than 140 characters, doesn’t it? Is the world’s written expression in danger of being reduced to captions and emoticons? Is the richness and beauty of wordcraft being abandoned by an impatient audience trained to salivate for the next thing instead of the real thing? Is the literary sky falling?

Brevity is the soul of wit has become the watchword of tweeters, bloggers, copywriters, politicians, pundits, comedians, and others who use words as their professional currency since The Bard assigned that line to Polonius in Hamlet. Was Shakespeare wrong, or was he prescient?

As is often the case, Shakespeare’s subtleties tend to get lost when cherry-picked phrases are appropriated to serve a modern purpose. A little context: these ironic lines spoken by the foolish chatterbox Polonius, who thinks himself the smartest guy in the room, couch news of Hamlet’s madness to his parents, the King and Queen, in a gust of unnecessary and self-aggrandizing claptrap which demonstrates the speaker’s inability to take his own advice on brevity:

My liege, and madam, to expostulate
What majesty should be, what duty is,
What day is day, night night, and time is time,
Were nothing but to waste night, day and time;

Therefore, since brevity is the soul of wit,
And tediousness the limbs and outward flourishes,
I will be brief. Your noble son is mad …

Yet, no matter how ironically delivered, the truth of the gem hidden in an almost throw-away clause lives on in proverb. And there’s good reason for that.

Brevity is hard to achieve.

Writing short is much harder than writing long. Doing it well – that is to say achieving brevity while conveying meaning, beauty, truth, in short: wit – is the hardest of all.

I have a confession to make. I used to be an advertising copywriter. I don’t mean I did it in between more noble gigs or bouts of unemployment – I did it for decades. It was my career. And if you can separate what I learned from its commercial context, the gem of truth in that experience is that writing great advertising – with its rigid, Twitter-like restrictions on length and format – is hellishly difficult.

Want to know why there’s so much truly horrible, cringe-worthy, throw-your-shoe-at-the-TV advertising? That’s why. It’s hard. Only truly talented writers – people who can understand a human desire, capture a resonant thought, and stir a genuine emotion using a minimum of powerful words and imagery – are capable of creating great ads. And these writers, as even a casual acquaintance with the media makes perfectly clear, are rare.

At the risk of turning from the ridiculous to the sublime, look at poetry as another example of the challenge – and power – of brevity. Who has ever written a haiku? I see a lot of hands going up. Anyone who’s ever taken a creative writing class, or been a bookish teenager in love, has probably written a haiku.

Now the punchline: who has ever written a good haiku? I realize it’s sometimes hard to tell the difference between a good haiku and a lame one (which should be a clue in itself). Yes, the exotic format does tend to make all haiku poems seem profound. But they’re not. Many of them are nonsense. (You can probably see by now how I’m working my way back to Twitter.)

I asked at the beginning whether the corrupting influence of tweets – essentially packaged word snacks – are killing our hunger for, and skill at preparing, full-course word meals. Are we dumbing down our communications in a way that risks dumbing down our ability to think, to use our full array of synapses to understand complex ideas and appreciate subtle nuances in written expression?

Scary question.

But maybe that’s the wrong way to look at it. More words don’t necessarily translate into more meaningful words. Maybe the existential challenge still is learning to convey more meaning using less words.

Brevity is the soul of wit – “wit” in Shakespeare’s context meaning intelligence, wisdom, perspective (with appreciation, in dramatic terms, for life as simultaneously both a tragedy and a comedy). In just 26 characters, he nails the writer’s challenge of capturing the “soul” – the essence of the conflict-laden human condition – in the most concentrated, evocative language possible.

It’s an art so difficult to truly master that it remains a rare commodity. I believe it’s a skill that needs to be cultivated and practised by all writers, whether they turn their hand to poetry, essays, short stories, novels, speeches, or, yes, even the modern vernacular of advertising and social media.

Can you write well? Good! Can you write short? If you tweet, that question answers itself.

Now try conveying a page of meaning in a single paragraph. Or a sentence. It’s fantastic mental and creative exercise. It might even turn you into a poet, and help keep the literary sky from falling.

Surrey International Writers Conference – social media

Joe’s Post #116

Ok, so there’s like twitter and linkedin and tumbler and blogs and youtube and something called vines and snap chat and *head explodes*.

dressupNow, understand that I grew up in a world where we had to actually get up off the sofa to change the channel from Mr. Dressup on the CBC to whatever the heck the other channel was, where our phones were connected to a wall, where computers that now fit in our iphones filled entire buildings, and where we read newspapers to get our news.

So all this new technology and social media is a bit of a challenge, especially for a writer trying to figure out how to expand his online presence.

Fear not! On Friday, I had a lot of this explained to me.

I want to thank Sean Cranbury, Sarah Wendell, Chuck Wendig and KC Dyer for helping demystify it all and make it all seem possible.sarah So let me condense what I learned. First from Sarah Wendell. She said simply, remember this is SOCIAL media. Be social. Be authentic. Be generous. Be consistent.

It’s the generous part I’ve not done a good job at. Being on social media is about connecting and I think I’ve been more about entertaining (even if I failed at it) than connecting. I’ll try to do better.

She also said that writers may have to find their readers in different areas of social media. Joining a FB group that talks about Justin Bieber would be a great place to go if you want to sell a book about the death of an annoying boybrat. Ok, just kidding, it would be a great place to go if you were writing about him, but less so if you were writing and wanting to comment about the state of affairs in Iraq.

See, every form of social media has an audience. Know who that audience is. Within that media, there are groups. Find those groups. But don’t just connect to sell a book. Connect to connect. Connect to be social.

ce9f6e7f0564dc2ff07723effcd89b2c_biggerSean Cranbury said the same thing when I had the great pleasure of chatting with him for 20 minutes.  His advice, give to the community. The writing community. The reading community. The book community. Make a difference in people’s lives.

Be social.

Hard for an introvert to hear. Harder for one to do.

But I’ll try.

Lastly, when the three titans gathered on a panel, we all were given more boat-loads of great advice. Let me share a few of them.

  • Be the best version of yourself online.
  • Don’t ever buy mailing lists, make the connections yourself.
  • Follow, watch and see how great communicators do it. On twitter, try following comedians. They’ve learned how to be funny in 140 characters.
  • Social media should never be an obligation. Do it because you want to do it. If you don’t want to, then hey, don’t do it.
  • Listen.
  •  Promotion is not a dirty word. Sometimes it’s nice to know when you have a book out or what you’re reading. It’s ok. Just don’t do it as your only thing – then it’s just noise.
  • Talk about other people’s books more than your own. Be authentic.
  • On FB you are the commodity. No problem with that, just realize it.

I hope that helps out a bit. All of this is a good place to start. I still have a lot more to learn but somehow it doesn’t seem that scary anymore.

Blogs to check out:

Felicia Day –  http://feliciaday.com/blog (from The Guild). Funny. Honest.

Sarah Wendell – http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com. So much cool stuff here and a great example of a successful blog. She’ll make you lol for real.

Chuck Wendig  – http://terribleminds.com. Love him or hate him, he’ll get you thinking and laughing.

Sean Cranbury – http://seancranbury.com (and a host of other links accessable from his website). A wow site.

Best Twitter recommendations… all the above. Plus John Oliver. Sarah Silverman.

New word of the day. Dickbar (thanks Sean Cranbury). Ok a second one. Doxing. (It’s basically punishing people you disagree with online by publishing their home addresses for everyone to see.)

Some of the best tweets, check out #siwc14 or siwc2014:

Submit your work. You’re already unpublished; the worst that can happen is that you stay that way. quotes

“It tastes like dead Druids.” Scotch, with ”.

Information Doesn’t Want to be Free, ‘s keynote at cc:

Have a great writing week!

Tomorrow I write!

 

 

 

 

Surrey International Writer’s Conference – part 1

Joe’s post #115

surrey IWCThe day is finally here. SiWC 2014. I wish I could have attended all the days, but I couldn’t so chose to hit up one day in particular. Friday.

I had a mission.

Learn more about social media. Bug people about social media. Tweet something. Figure out if I actually tweeted something. Read someone else’s tweet. Say tweet 20 times.

Oh and have a bit of fun and learn something new from Don Maass.

My first thoughts of the day were, why did I have to have a crappy cold right now? My second thought was is everyone having as hard a time as me figuring out how writers use social media effectively? I mean, really, none of this should be hard, so is it just my age, my deteriorating brainage or is it really kinda complex?

Well, I had the right people to help me understand it. I’ll talk a bit about them in the next post, cuz, you know, I’m like that. In my novels, I’d call it a hook. Here, it’s just me being a bit of an asshat because I want to give everyone an idea of the SiWC experience.

So, yeah, for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t nervous at all. Nothing to pitch. No agents or editors to see. Just me learning and having some fun.

Having not registered ahead of time, I had to get in line to buy a day pass, a huge extra- large cup of Timmies in my hand. (Double-double, thank you very much). Day-passers are kinda like brussel sprouts at a turkey dinner – I’m not sure anyone really wants them. Case in point, we don’t get dinner.

Sigh.

I do like a good dinner.

IMG_6038[1]I got my high-tech name badge and fancy wrist band and marched off in search of a blue-pencil mentor.

For those who don’t know, the blue pencil meetings are a chance to sit down with someone who’s ‘been there and done that’, and made a living at it. Usually you bring a bit of writing and let them read it so they can help you better understand what’s working and what’s not. Sometimes you leave in tears, sometimes with great insights.

In my case, though, remember, social media focus. So I lucked out and found an opening with, oh, crap, almost gave it away. No, I’ll tell you tomorrow.

After signing up at the blue pencil, I went to listen to the opening keynote speech in the grand ballroom. With minutes to spare before the speech, I took a look at my thick-as-a-yearbook guide. It had a great title, the guide did.

This day we write!IMG_6037[1]

Which I love, but which was probably not exactly accurate for the day. Or the next 3 days. Maybe these 3 days we listen and then, THEN we write. Dammit! (I would have added the dammit for sure.) I’m honestly not sure anyone got a lot of writing done, but the idea still works.

I may put that sign on my dog to remind me what I have to do.

Anyway, if you’ve never been to SiWC, it’s quite the thing to walk into a ballroom filled with writers. The only odder thing might be a room filled with cosplayers or lion-taming tax accountants.

It’s a huge room filled with people, the vast majority women, who have gathered to learn more about writing, to discuss what they are working on, to connect with the writing community, and maybe even pitch a book or two to agents and editors.

Old, young, tall, short, hats, no hats, suits, shorts, t-shirts, glittering black blouses, sandals, high heels, tattoos… man, if you ever wanted to get some great characters for a book, you just have to go into that ballroom, but more than all of that, it’s a room full of people who say, proudly, I’m a writer.

I barely had time to look at the guide once before the event started. Having gone a few times before, one of the highlights in the morning is always Carol Monaghan.  (In the evening, it’s singing with the always Scottishly charming Jack Whyte.)

IMG_6018[1]Carol is just one of those people who lights up a room, someone who never seems to take herself to seriously and always finds something funny to talk about. She was in fine form today and started the conference with a laugh.

Then came the keynote speaker, a veteran agent named Peter Rubie, who was funny in the way only the English can be funny. He noted that the best stories are about people, not plot, that this is (and will always be) a subjective business (saying that some people love caviar, but he hates it, so no matter how great that caviar is, he’s not going to like it at all), and that procrastination and not actually writing can be successful ways of actually writing. Hey, I told you he was English, they think differently, but my takeaway from his speech was this…

He told us to ignore what everyone tells you about writing. Have fun. Write what you love to write.

I loved to hear that because my next project is likely going to be a pure labor of love.

So,  tomorrow, the whole social media smack down. Wow, did I ever learn some cooooool stuff.

 

 

Writing and social media – the mysterious Twitter

Joe’s Post #113

twitterAh, Twitter. What a confusing creature you are to me.

I’ve had you explained to me a whole bunch of times, but your hashtags and retweets and quoted retweets and sorting out the good from the spam, well, it’s a lot to ask of me. To kind of quote the very wise Pooh bear, “I’m a bear of very little brain and this new tech stuff bothers me.”

But yes, I’m back to trying to understand and use Twitter. In theory, it should be a thing I love. Something quick to read. Nothing too taxing on my small brain. A few links. Even the odd picture. But no, it’s something I’m struggling with.

However, I’m taking on being a bit more active in the Twitter-verse.

Why?

I’m an idiot.

But also I want to understand it so I can increase our 5/5/5 social media presence. Even if I eventually don’t go the Twitter route, I still want to, you know, get it. I want to live in the year 2014 and not hide out in 1980 when the world was simple and rad.

So here are my challenges.

  • How to find interesting people to follow (and who’ll be interested in anything I have to say?). It’s tough to read through people’s bios and figure out if there’s a connection. Maybe that’s the wrong way to go. Maybe I need to just spam everyone.
  • brienneI don’t want this to occupy my whole time. I want this to be quick. Easy. I can’t forsake writing to be the king of Twitter. Or the court jester of Twitter. Maybe that would be my title in Game of Thrones. “Good morning, Brienne of Tarth, I am Joe of Twitter.” “Where is Twitter?” “It is nowhere and everywhere.” And then shakes her head and she stabs me with her sword.
  • I want to figure out a way to get people to read my blog via Twitter. I thought of putting ‘naked women’ in my titles but wouldn’t that just drive pervs to my feed? They’re not exactly my target audience, some of my posts to the contrary.
  • I don’t want to wake up feeling like I have to feed the beast every day. It’s a lot of work and guilt that I don’t need. But I do realize that the beast has to get fed, so I’ll kick up my game with posts.
  • I am old, and new things are tough for me to learn. Eating pie is easy. I’ve done it a ton before. But learning something new and all techie and complicated, yeah, not my favourite thing. I have to be able to overcome the inertia of doing the same-old-same-old and overcome the confusion and terror of learning something hard.

So, anyone know how to make this easier? I hear wine helps.

In other news, the journey to a new book begins, like Silk and Paula and Karalee have posted.

Here’s the new running update.

This week, call it week 1

Ordered and received a book I’m going to dissect to learn how to write my book. I won’t copy it, but I want to understand the beats and pacing better.

foylesOrdered and received Foyle’s War DVDs. I’ll be writing a story set in WW2 and I’ll be doing all kinds of research, but for me, seeing something, looking at the fine details, is the best thing I can do.

Outlines Done – 0

Pages written on New Book – 0

# of pies eaten – 1 (ok, one slice, but it was amazing)

# of new friends made on Twitter – 86

# of new friends I imagine will read my Twitter feeds – 86

# of new friends on Twitter who will likely read my posts – 3

# of times I thought about giving up writing and becoming a lion tamer – 3

Courses I’ve signed up for – 1 (wordpress)

Days to SiWC – 14

 

 

Social media

fb

Joe’s Post #91 How much social media is too much, how little is too little?

It’s hard to figure out how much time to spend on social media. Am I building an audience or is this just narcissistic me shouting at the world to pay attention to me, dammit, pay attention?

Karalee wrote a great post about Twitter and I was lucky enough to hear her thoughts and advice on that form of connecting with people.

gotThing is, I love connecting with people and groups online. Hello, Game of Thrones fans! ‘Sup fellow writers. What’s happening, Sandra Bullock, why the restraining order, why, why, why?

But it’s like research. It can consume your writing time. Two blogs a day takes time. Adding the links to other media takes time. Making posts on Twitter, well, you get the idea.

And time is the one thing I’m short on at the moment. That and chocolate. But I can go buy chocolate, I can’t buy more time. So, if I’m to get my book started on the 14th, if I’m to finish it up in three months, AND still blog AAAAND still get queries out, and help my writing friends, and be a good parent, and a good partner, then something has to give.

It may be a bit of social media.

*****

Days Until Game of Thrones Starts: None. It was amazing. Love the Hound. Love this too, I laughed my ass off… (spoiler alert) GOT Honest Trailer

Days Until I Start My Next Novel: Date has been set. It’s April 14th. That’s, errr, next week!!!!!!!!

Blogs Written This week: 14 new ones. Maybe more. I kinda lost count.

Queries out this week: 0 (See, this obsession with social media has to stop)

Rejections for the last week: 0 (has to be bad news. I may need to move the 5 out there to 5 rejections)

Queries Still Out there: 5

Hope Meter: 70/100.  Up +20. Loving that I have a few more readers on my blog. LOVE LOVE LOVE blogging. Thanks for my fellow 5/5/5 writers for letting me go nuts on this site.

Seven ways for writers to use Twitter

Karalee’s Post #71 — I met with my fellow 5Writer Joe this week. He asked me to share what I knew about using Twitter. It’s not that I know a lot, rather my husband David Greer is a computer geek that has embraced social media of all kinds since, well, forever. He’s an early adopter and for some reason Joe feels that since I live with a geek, some of the geekiness will rub onto me.

It has in some ways and I want to share what I know about Twitter and how writers can use Twitter in an interesting and engaging way (rather than it being a complete chore) that also increases your profile and the number of potential readers for your books.

Within the last year Twitter put the brakes on the automated following and unfollowing programs many people were using to obtain literally thousands of new followers in a short period of time. I had used one of these automated programming interfaces (API’s) too and the number of followers seemed to be what everyone was after. But, to me, it didn’t make much sense since none of those “people” knew me, or me them. Thousands of tweets flew by on my timeline every day and I really didn’t know what to make of them and how they could help me with my writer’s profile in a marketing sense.

So how do I interact with all these followers, and without API’s, how do I continue to gain followers?

Talking to my geeky husband that is also a marketing expert, he enlightened me that I need to let the Twitter world know who I am on a regular basis and offer something that is interesting and useful to my followers.

How do I do that? Does that mean that I need to be more selective in who I follow? These are my helpful hints you may want to consider:

1. Find the type of people that you want to follow and that you want following you. Twitter search subjectFor writers that could be agents and authors, but it is also important to follow people that have other interests of yours such as gardening, photography, pets, etc. This encourages more potential readers for you. To find them, do a search in Twitter and look at profiles and follow people that interest you. Note: this does take time.

 

 

 

 

2. Tweet something interesting every day. Many people develop a tag for themselves such as  using a quote, sending a picture, a daily suggestion, etc. This is one way to let your followers get to know what you like or how you think, etc.

3. Twitter your own blog posts.

4. Read other people’s blogs and discover ones that interest you and are professional and well-written enough for you to want to tweet them. You can set up an automatic tweet for all the new posts from their blogs. (My geeky husband did this for me. Thanks!)

Note: you can also set it up to automatically Facebook to your friends too.

 

 

 

 

5. Reply to people that retweet and/or favorite one of your tweets. These messages are found under Twitter’s ‘Notifications.’

twitter notificationsThis is a great way to establish a relationship with individual followers. In turn it encourages them to retweet your information to their followers, which increases the potential for more followers for you, etc, etc.

 

 

 

 

 

6. Retweet your follower’s tweets that interest you. This helps to connect with your followers too and adds to the potential for new followers (refer to number 5 above). For writers this is a great way to connect with agents, and if they are using Twitter as a connection point in the social media world, they will become aware of you.

7. Take time every day or so to look at the profiles of new people following you and see if you want to follow them too. To find your new followers, look under ‘Notifications’ as in number 5 above. Also look under ‘Me’ and scroll down and have a look at ‘Who to follow’ since the Twitter app suggests people with similar interests.

To help make tweeting a habit for you, you may want to check out Becky Robinson’s blog called Weaving Influence. In her Resources section she has a book to help you increase your Twitter traffic and it is also available on Amazon.

Product Details

Becky works with authors and leaders to increase their online influence and promote their books too.

Happy tweeting!

 

Hey, you! Wanna buy a book?

books

Joe’s Post #30 — The last thing I want to do is paint myself as some sort of expert on this subject. I’m not. I’m just Joe trying to figure this out like everyone else.  But I do have a process. It may not be for everyone and I welcome any and all advice to improve upon my chances of success.

So, sit back, grab a drink and let me lead you into that vast and cobwebbed labyrinth that is my mind.

For me, querying is by far the hardest part of being a writer. It terrifies me. I want to slink under the bed and hide from the scariest monster of all: Rejection. Oh, I have no problem pounding out a novel, no fear there. Nor do I fear rewrites or tossing out vast swaths of my manuscript to write a better story. I don’t fear critiques, spiders or people saying I write like a 2-year-old on dope.  But faced with a query letter to write then SEND, boy, I tell you, it’s a tough one for me.

To quote Nicholas Sparks “Above all, a query letter is a sales pitch and it is the single most important  page an unpublished writer will ever write. It’s the first impression and will  either open the door or close it. It’s that important, so don’t mess it up. Mine took 17 drafts and two weeks to write.”

Yikes!

But there seems to be some sort of correlation between getting published and writing queries. Apparently my psychic powers are not enough to wake up an agent in the middle of the night and get him or her to call me and say, send me your manuscript.

So, I nut up and begin.

First up, for today, finding an agent. There are many great resources out there, but Nathan Bransford is certainly one to check out. He says it better than I ever could and he knows it from both sides, the writer and the agent.

SKFor me, I begin with research. The first ones I have queried have been agents I’ve met at conferences or workshops and didn’t throw up on. Then I progress to agents that I find from my favourite authors. I read the acknowledgments. Make notes. I mean why not send to an agent who represents an author and genre I like? Stephen King’s agent, however, has not replied. I think this is to be expected.

For research beyond that, there are many avenues including a simple google search, but I chose querytracker, the Association of Author Representatives,  Preditors and Editors, Agent Query.com and perhaps the greatest resource of all, Publisher’s Marketplace.  These sites, and there are others, but these sites combined give me a pretty good idea of who wants what and how they want submissions done.

But those resources, as good as they are, aren’t everything. The agent I queried yesterday, Barbara Poelle I found from reading Writer’s Digest. She answered 14 Questions You’re Too Afraid To Ask Literary Agents.  Funny as hell (she seems to share my same sense of humor) and (from Publisher’s Marketplace) “She loves unusual literary fiction with a commercial edge, thrillers, and anything with a great voice.” Perfect, I thought. I’m unusual, I wrote a thriller and I wrote it with a great voice. So I sent her a query.

Now, when I write my queries, I want them to be as personal as I can make them. I will never say, Dear Agent. I will use their name and pray to God I spell it right. I won’t spam out the same query to all agents, I will tailor it to the agent based on a few things. I’ll research them as noted above, I’ll read their blogs (and man, there are some great blogs out there), I’ll check out the authors they represent, I’ll read their twitter feeds and I’ll do a basic google check. This also helps me determine if indeed the agent is right for me. If someone is looking for Highlander erotica primarily, no sense in sending them a book about detectives in the desert who don’t wear kilts.

And then I send out the query. I hold my breath. Move the mouse over the ‘send’ button. Close my eyes. And click. (Or, in some cases, put it all in an envelope and toss it in the mail box.)

It’s still terrifying. I won’t deny it. Before I send off any queries, I am the greatest writer of all time, funny and handsome and charming and so sure that everyone will want to read my novel. But querying puts my book out there. I risk not being the greatest writer of all time (though I still may be funny and handsome and charming).  I risk a blow to my self-esteem.  I risk not being read, the worst thing that can happen to a writer.

But it’s the price I have to pay to get published.

And honestly, at this point, being a new writer, the best I can hope for is that someone is willing to take a chance on me – that I’m taking this very seriously, that I can write, and that I can tell a good story that people will want to pay money to read.

Wish me luck.

Next week, a query I wrote for fun. To relieve the stress a bit.

How did it get so late so soon?

Courtesy Debug Design

Courtesy Debug Design

Helga’s Post # 27 — “It’s night before it’s afternoon. My goodness how the time has flown.” So said our beloved Dr. Seuss.

As the weather and by extension people’s moods improve day by day, so does the volume of junk mail fluttering into our mailboxes. Most notably, glossy catalogues about the new spring and summer fashion, and lovely outdoor furniture adorned with sexy models that can’t be more than sixteen years old (don’t these marketing gurus realize that women make most of the buying decisions?)

I usually take the whole lot and dump it unopened or unread in my yellow recycling bag. I do this because I want to buck the trend. According to statistics, the average person (in North America) spends eight months of his or her life reading junk mail. Smack me on the head! Eight months?

Eight months that could be spent writing a novel. A reasonable time to complete a solid, four hundred-page novel.

But that’s just the beginning. How else do we fritter away our most valuable commodity, time? How many sequels could we write if we transform said squandered time into writing? Here are some examples. Trivia to be sure, but a tongue-in-cheek eye-opener all the same.

The average person spends, in his or her lifetime, three years in meetings, over one thousand sick days in bed, seventeen months drinking coffee and soft drinks, two years on the phone (I would argue that is very conservative; think ‘teens’), twelve years watching TV, three years shopping, one year looking for misplaced items, five years waiting in line, an infuriating twenty weeks on hold waiting to speak to a human in call centers, and nine months sitting in traffic.

Time we could spend writing! Not all of it avoidable, like being sick, but without doubt the TV and phone time is something we do have a modicum of control over.

So I’ve been thinking how I could harness some of this wasted time. To confess, one of my many bad habits is pushing the ‘On’ button of the remote after waking up. Just to catch the news. Time managers would tell me to stop that. By the time I am done with the headlines, I will have watched at least twenty minutes of commercials. Not good. Most is trivial anyway – really, do I need to know what Justin Bieber is doing? Or what professional athlete got arrested?

Changes were in order. I now get out of bed without news on TV (I can catch those later in the evening). Thirty minutes saved every day just by getting rid of one bad habit. That’s a lot of writing time.

On to the next time waster, one that many writers can identify with: E-mails.

Since this post is about how to waste less time, I don’t want to waste more time stating the obvious. Instead, here is what to do to stop this colossal squander: Pushing the ‘Unsubscribe’ button. Relentlessly. Who really needs all this electronic junk mail? I managed to live very well without it cluttering my in-box, so why bother with special offers on anything from… well, you know, the sky is the limit. So if anyone claims they can’t find time to write because they get many hundreds of emails per day, it’s tempting to say, get a handle on it. I realize, emails are a great tool for people who are making a living in a marketing job, but the rest of us? Control it. Don’t be a slave to your own in-box.

Because that’s time you could spend writing!

But wait, there’s more. Of course there’s Angry Birds, a no-brainer. Moving on, there’s one huge item that time managers of the not so recent past have ignored, but are catching on fast and furiously. You probably guessed it: social media.

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I can’t even begin to guess how much time gets frittered away  starting the day checking Facebook and Twitter, and LinkedIn and whatever. Substantial, valuable time and mental energy. Sure, it’s tempting, it’s like listening to gossip, and it has all those pretty pictures. But really, let’s be honest. How much does it add to our education, our knowledge, our quality of life? Surely, that time would be better spent reading a good book, or doing research for the novel we are writing? I’m not saying social media has no value. It does. It allows us to share information with lightning speed and it builds communities. It has many benefits, worthy of future discussions. But for the purpose of this post, all I want to share is that I had to control it rather than allowing it to control me. I hope that I have succeeded (I  check my FB and Twitter just before bedtime. That way it  doesn’t rob me of my writing time).

If, after all the ‘wasters’ there’s still time left in the day, you haven’t counted the minutes spent on your cell phone. You can find an astounding statement on WikiAnswers.com: Four. Not minutes. The average person spends four hours a day on their cell phone (admittedly, it sounds improbable).

There is tons of advice on how to avoid time wasters. One such site that caught my eye as I prepared for this post is Inc.com.  Three items resonated with me:

–       You live online. Wasting time on Facebook. Playing with apps. Emailing and texting.

–       You network randomly. Relationships are critical to success. Networking and schmoozing are key to forming relationships. But randomly connecting with thousands of strangers online won’t help one bit.

–       You troll for Twitter followers. If you’re Ashton Kutcher or Kim Kardashian, that’s great. Otherwise, it’s nothing but a distraction–a complete and total waste of time.

Not everyone will agree.

What does all of this mean for my commitment to submit my completed manuscript to my critique group in time for our retreat? I had to seriously prune my time wasting habits to make the most of what matters most to me.  If I can stick to it, I should be able to harness my energy and a good chunk of time to spend on what’s important to me. For what I am. A writer.

Then again, I have to ask myself, whom do I write for? Because here is one more (my final) statistic: The average American adult between eighteen and sixty-four watches television five times more than they read.

A sobering thought. And while I think about it, I will take out a few minutes on my favorite time waster. Because, in spite of all the wisdom stated above, as John Lennon used to say,

“Time you enjoy wasting, was not wasted.”

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Transfixed by transmedia

Paula’s Post #6  – If you checked out Silk’s post from yesterday, you’ll already know that the 5writers came away from this year’s Surrey International Writers’ Conference with our collective heads swimming with new ideas.

For me, the highlight of this year’s conference was the emphasis on social media as a necessary tool for writers.

Now I take it as a given that if you are already following this blog, you have more than a passing knowledge of the basics of social media: WordPress, facebook, twitter, Linkedin and perhaps even Pinterest.

Even before the conference I had signed up for all five of these social networking sites, so I was feeling pretty smug. Convinced that I was already social networking savvy. Convinced I was already a ‘modern writer’. A connected writer. A writer ready to take on the world and promote my blogs, my books and myself.

But wait, (as they say in the late night tele-pitches for Ginzou knives and other obscure products) there’s more. Much more. A frightening amount more. Or so we learned from Vancouver’s own social media guru, conference presenter and all around cool guy, Sean Cranbury.

But wait! That’s not all. At this weekend’s conference, we also learned a strange new word:

Transmedia.

As Joe would say: “What the heck?”

Here on WordPress, when I type the word “Transmedia” I ended up with those little dotted red lines underneath. The little dotted red line that mean that you have spelled a word wrong, the little dotted red lines that mean that the WordPress dictionary doesn’t recognized a word that you have used. In other words, in the world of WordPress, the word “Transmedia” doesn’t even exist.

But wait, there’s more.

The word “Transmedia” not only exists, it is, apparently, a word that we as storytellers should know. A word that, dare I say, we must know if we are to survive and flourish in the creative community.

The SIWC conference brochure listed the Transmedia course as:

“Transmedia, Audience Engagement and Franchise-Building: The Future of Storytelling”.

I’ve reproduced the blurb for the workshop directly from the SIWC’s description of the course:

Every area of entertainment media is rapidly evolving and there’s never been a better time to be a content creator. No matter what form your creativity takes, the future of storytelling lies in building a unique world and set of characters and then purposing the stories that spring from them across as many platforms as possible. Taught by a guy who’s truly obsessed with this stuff and working with various IP owners to evolve their content along these lines, this class will explore the core principles of transmedia storytelling and world building, techniques for engaging and motivating an “active” audience, as well as the emerging app space and virtual worlds/mark.

Now I was intrigued! Especially since the ‘taught by a guy’ guy was Luke Ryan, a pretty big name in Hollywood: Executive Vice-President of Disruption Entertainment, ex-studio executive at New Line Cinema, Paramount/MTV Films, and MGM. Another pretty cool guy.

By this time, I’d already attended Mr. Ryan’s very thorough and entertaining course on ‘Writing for Television’, so I knew he was a dynamic and generous speaker. During that presentation, my fingers raced across the keyboard of my Mac, trying to keep up with the deluge of information Mr. Ryan provided on this topic. So I was pretty keen to check out his subsequent offering on Transmedia, whatever the heck that might be.

I cannot possibly, in the limited space allotted to my once a week blog post, even begin to tell you all about Transmedia. What I can tell you is that the future of storytelling, whether you are an author, screenwriter, or film-maker, is now about cross-platform promotion of ideas.

Now I can already hear some ‘rustlings’ in this virtual room we share, rustlings that remind me, (ever so politely of course), that cross-platform marketing already exists. That it has done so for ages, since Star Wars anyway, if not before. Why, what about all those little Star Wars figures that McDonald’s included in their ubiquitous ‘happy meals’? What about all those Star Wars Lego sets?

Why, of course you are right. The Star Wars numbers are not insignificant. A recent article on the 24/7 Wall Street blog pegged the value of the Star Wars franchise at 30 billion and growing. That’s ‘Billion’ with a “B”.

So what’s so new about “Transmedia”?

Well, according to Mr. Ryan, the difference is that the Star Wars franchise ’emerged’ after the release of the film, that these ‘post-release’ products merely capitalized on the success of the film.

According to Mr. Ryan, in today’s brave new world, authors and other ‘creators’ of creative content should begin thinking about “Transmedia” at the very outset of their projects. Should be thinking about how their project could be promoted and distributed on a variety of platforms. How their product will capture the attention of an agent or editor or producer in a world where the competition is stiffer than a James Bond shaken, not stirred, martini.

I don’t have all the answers. But right now, I’m transfixed by the topic of Transmedia, and since attending the SIWC conference, I think all the 5writers are beginning to worry a lot about Transmedia.

Drat!

As if we didn’t have enough to do! Thanks a lot, Luke Ryan!