Monday, 26 November 2012

Interview With A Blogpire... Starring Aimee L. Salter

G’day, everyone, and welcome to another installment of Interview With A Blogpire. Whether you’re a writer, an aspiring blogger, or that person who found my site by Googling ‘slug wedgie’, this post has loads of successful blogger tips on building an author platform, and with any luck you’ll find them as useful as I did. So read on and enjoy, (or visit my post, Writing, Wedgies and Hollywood Slugs, if that’s your thing).

Who needs Adobe Illustrator when
you've got Powerpoint and Paint?
Now, to business. My guest today is the amazing Aimee L. Salter of Seeking The Write Life. Her blog has almost 90 000 hits so far, nearly 600 followers on Google Friend Connect alone, and she’s recently joined the hugely popular YAtopia team, too. I went looking for her secret to success, and now I’m bringing the interview (in two parts for the price of one), to you…

Hi Aimee, and thanks for agreeing to my interview. First question, what would you say has been the most popular style of post/content for you?

Without a doubt, the most popular posts I write are ones that give practical tips for self-editing or improving writing technique. Anything that benefits writers who are, obviously, my audience on the blog.

There are many other blogs out there doing similar things. Any idea what makes yours stand out?

I think a lot of bloggers offer over-arching advice or concepts for learning, but not as many give writers tips they can act on specifically and immediately.

I think, like me, most writers want to make their books better. So anytime they find content that helps them do that, they get excited about it.

What do you do when you haven't got anything like that to post, especially if you’re trying to keep a regular blogging schedule?

I try never to blog for the sake of blogging (i.e. ‘filler’), but it has happened. If I’m really stuck, I try to find something funny or useful that someone else has v-logged or blogged about and promote their stuff instead.

There have been times that, due to Real Life Happenings I just have had the time to blog. At those times I’ve either reposted old, useful posts, or just apologized and told everyone when I’ll be back on board.

And does this combination of useful content on a regular basis mean you've got so many active blog visitors that people are always interacting with your stuff?

I definitely get traffic that I don’t “seek”. I.e. there are always one or two tweets floating around offering links to my blog, or people telling their friends. I do get some traffic from google searches (probably only about 4-5%).

“Comments are sporadic, but often when I’m posting about an “issue” (i.e. sexual content in YA fiction), we’ll get a really good and comprehensive conversation going. 

Most of the time my comments are just people either agreeing with what was said, or adding to it. A lot of my regular commenters have been around my blog for quite a while, so they just jump in when they find something useful, or think they have something to add. It’s nice. I feel like I am getting to know these people. As writers, at least.

Last of all, (for now), you have a background in branding - so do you have any specific branding strategies to share?

Branding is a word that gets thrown around a lot, usually by people who associate branding with logos or design. However branding isn’t logos or design. Logos and design are merely tools used to help your “brand” be identified quickly. A “brand” is a set of perceptions that people associate with a person, name or business.

As a writer you have two options. Either you “brand” your stories (i.e. write all of your books in a similar genre, using similar plot structures, etc) or you brand yourself.

Branding yourself is virtually impossible to do until you’re already known. Branding yourself means making yourself someone people want to be around or emulate. To do it right, you have to achieve something other people admire. Then you have to manage that success with aplomb.

It’s very difficult to do well for any length of time, mainly because when people gain a fanbase (as opposed to a platform) they often start to believe their own hype and become somewhat narcissistic online.

I’ll put my hand up and say I’m working on branding myself. I want people to associate my name with honesty, useful advice, humor and integrity. I want people to see my name on a blog or a link or a book and immediately assume it will be good-quality, interesting content.

I’m just tipping into that arena now. But the big test will come when I’m actually published. If my book doesn’t live up to those impressions, all the work I’ve done building a foundation on my blog will be for naught.

Remember: a “brand” is a set of perceptions that people associate with a person, name or business. If I create the beginnings of a brand now, via my blog, then don’t live up to those perceptions in my writing career, my brand is destroyed.

But no pressure.

To be continued…

(This week!)
(So follow the blog to stay in the loop, and if you can't wait a few days, check out my last interview with a Blogpire, starring the fabulous Brenda Drake!)

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Murderous Mabel, Thanksgiving Thursday, and What Inspires You?

For today’s post I’m joining in not one but two blog hops, so read on to grab the linky lists and meet up with some new bloggers! First of all, I bring you, a murder-mystery about stamps...

I write this as part of the Thursday’s Children blog hop, a weekly 'what inspires you' meme hosted by Rhiann Wynn-Nolet of A Nest of WordsThe thoughts, trivia and tidbits she comes up with are absolutely fascinating, so don't forget to check it out. Now technically what inspired me this Thursday actually happened a few weeks ago, when I posted this tweet to promote my latest blog post:

Katherine Amabel ‏@KatherineAmabel
Effective blog content doesn't necessarily include your week at the community center learning about stamp collections:

and then this popped up as a reply:

Rhiann Wynn-Nolet @RhiannWynnNolet
@KatherineAmabel Lol. Unless it inspires a pageturner about a stamp so prized numismatists will kill to possess it #crazedcollectors

Inspired? You bet I was. (Once I Googled numismatist, of course). And the next thing you know, a whirlwind of creativity took place:

Dodgy screenshots brought to you by me, the incompetent blogger. J

And there you have it – a piece of improvised collaborative flash twitter fiction (or the script for an entire series of Days of Our Lives). It was also a wake-up call to the fact that one of the greatest sources of inspiration out there is other writers. I’ve probably overlooked that a lot in the past, seeing writers as sources of feedback and advice but not necessarily ideas, and now I’m thinking maybe we should aim for more conversations like that. At best, we’ll get a novel out of it. At worst, at least it makes us look busy when it’s time for housework.

So here’s an idea for you – there’s a snowglobe on my desk. Is it smashed? Full of miniature people? A murderer’s calling card? Tell me in the comments! And while we’re on the subject of being thankful for our writing comrades, that brings me to the Thanksgiving blog hop hosted by the amazing Brenda Drake!

Clearly what I’m thankful for are other writers, bloggers, critique partners, patient-family-members-who-read-your-first-draft-before-you-realise-it’s-painfully-cringeworthy-and-shouldn’t-ever-be-read-by-anyone-including-yourself, and all the wonderful people supporting us. One such person is Aimee L Salter, who has agreed to be interviewed this week for my Interview With A Blogpire series, which features successful bloggers and their tips for building author platforms. So stick around for that, and in the meantime you can check out my first Interview with a Blogpire, starring Brenda Drake herself. How neatly wrapped up is that?

P.S. Linky links!

Thursday's Children Blog Hop

Friday, 9 November 2012

A Tale Of Totally Epic

This is not a review, since I cannot find fault with this book and therefore would come across as utterly bias. It’s not a study, an essay, an exploration or any of the things this book deserves, (and, unsurprisingly, has been subject to for decades). This is an entreaty, to writers everywhere, to get yourselves a copy.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

For me, just reading those famous words was a thrill. Charles Dickens’ classic, A Tale Of Two Cities, was finally mine to discover. I expected everything people say about his work – pages of exposition marring an otherwise entertaining storyline – but I was wrong.  The showing instead of telling was at times breathtaking. The use of original, detailed descriptions for emotions, settings and beats (actions that break up dialogue), put our modern day clich├ęs to shame.  The mystery and suspense built upon itself with more strength, complexity and eventual closure than anything I’ve ever read before, and I’m genuinely afraid I’ll never enjoy anything as much again.

Everything a writer must do is hidden within these pages, but don’t think you can’t be won over as a reader too. What with murder, romance, satire, mystery, drama and the cold reality that this was based on genuine historical events, it’s no surprise that I found myself laughing, crying sobbing into my own snotty jumper sleeve, and holding my breath as I read. Having said that, I do believe writers will gain the most from this book, and since it’s clear I could rave about this for hours if I let myself, I’ll just leave you with some examples of what I’m talking about. And if you’re still in any doubt, just remember that if you’ve got an e-reader you can download this for free in about two seconds, so go do that. Now.

Examples. (Because I’m a nerd and I love ‘em!)

  • Using ordinary settings to foreshadow the mood of the novel:
It was a large, dark room, furnished in a funereal manner with black horsehair, and loaded with heavy dark tables. These had been oiled and oiled, until the two tall candles on the table in the middle of the room were gloomily reflected on every leaf; as if they were buried, in deep graves of black mahogany, and no light to speak of could be expected from them until they were dug out.

  • Omnipresent narration:
The wine was red wine, and had stained the ground of the narrow street in the suburb of Saint Antoine, in Paris, where it was spilled… one tall joker… scrawled upon a wall with his finger dipped in muddy wine-lees— BLOOD.
The time was to come, when that wine too would be spilled on the street-stones, and when the stain of it would be red upon many there.

  • Showing instead of telling, using the (now-cliched) beat of someone blushing:
A light, or a shade… passed from his face as swiftly as a change will sweep over a hill-side on a wild bright day…

  • Symbolism (knitting being both a tool for characterization and a recurring metaphor for the oppressed class’ growing desire for revolution):
They knitted worthless things; but, the mechanical work was a mechanical substitute for eating and drinking . . . if the bony fingers had been still, the stomachs would have been more famine-pitched.

And there you have it. Rant. Over.