Sam Sykes

Details, Details

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Since I didn’t write a proper writing post done on Monday, I’ve decided to write one today. I’ve also posted my latest confession over at The Parking Lot Confessional.

Details, Details

While at the Phoenix Comicon this weekend, I learned a really good piece of writing advice.

You know how you get an idea for a story and you start researching and you keep researching and you do all this research and you totally geek out on the research? And then you start writing, and you’re compelled to include every shred of detail you learned while researching? You could fill pages and pages with the minutia of clock making in Victorian England. Or the migratory patterns of African swallows. Or infantry movements during World War I.

But bogging down your book with all of that detail would be B-A-D bad. Not to mention B-O-R-I-N-G boring.

Because, while research lends credibility and veracity to our work, too much detail slows down your narrative and causes the reader to get impatient with the story.

Leanna Renee Hieber, Sam Sykes and Aprilynne Pike all agreed a good strategy for wanting to use all of that research is to go ahead and write a first chapter full of all of the details you love. Knock yourself out. Indulge. Get it all on the page.

Then start the story with your second chapter.

(Aprilynne says she writes two chapters for herself before starting the book with the third chapter.)

When you revise, cut the first chapter (or first two chapters), knowing that nothing you cut has to ever really be thrown away. Save all that research and detail and description for use at a later time or in another book or to frame on the wall because you love it so much.

As someone who often struggles with first chapters, that was a real lightbulb moment for me. I hope you found it helpful as well.


Sci-Fi Social Media

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On Mondays I usually talk about writing, but…well…today I’m not. Today I’m going to share what I learned this weekend about social media.

[insert raucous applause here]

If you haven’t gathered yet from my recent posts, I attended the Phoenix Comicon. One of the panel sessions I attended was called “Sci-Fi Social Media”. The blurb in the program read:

Is your favorite author a Facebook friend? We look at how Sci-Fi notables are using social media tools — Twitter, podcasting, blogging, Facebook, Myspace, etc. — to build fan connections and communities around themselves and their works. Panelists: Jack Mangan, Michael Stackpole, John Scalzi, Aprilynne Pike, Leanna Renee Hieber, Sam Sykes.

Only good things could come from such a lineup, right?

Here are the bits of wisdom each author shared on all things social media. Hope you find them as useful as I did.

Jack Mangan

  • Use social media to make connections, not just promote
  • Be professional
  • Don’t feed the trolls
  • If you don’t want to share the names of your kids for safety reasons, make up online names for them
  • Buy a domain name for every book you write

Michael Stackpole

  • Sampling your work online is vital
  • Don’t be the depressingly honest author, sharing all your rejections and hardships; the audience wants to hear the romantic side of being a writer
  • If you read like a loser on your blog, you’re going to make your readers feel like losers for reading your blog
  • The only time to respond to critics is if a reviewer projects your thoughts (e.g., “this is what the author meant”); you can respond to set the record straight
  • If you respond to criticism, write your response and have it reviewed by someone else before posting; then remain professional and detached
  • Own what you do; know the trouble you might cause and what your response will be
  • If you’re concerned about privacy, set up separate personal and fan pages at Facebook
  • Ask others to help promote what you’re doing on your site
  • Have your own website and blog there
  • Get store software to sell your work
  • If someone plagiarises your work , contact the ISP hosting the site and have them deal with the infraction of their policies

Aprilynne Pike

  • If you obsess about the number of followers or friends you have on Twitter and Facebook, control is not in your hands
  • Set boundaries
  • You can’t do everything and do it well; choose which social media outlets you want to focus on and don’t worry about the others
  • Social media can be a time suck; decide how much time you’ll devote to it, how much you’ll interact, how many people you’ll follow

John Scalzi

  • Don’t have that desperate freaky new-author smell online (Buy my book! Buy my book!) or be self-congratulatory; instead, include information that is not related to books to make your audience feel comfortable; this leads to hand selling
  • Set boundaries
  • Be personable, but not personal; leave out the intimate details
  • If you talk about someone else on your blog, get their permission first
  • If you do something wrong, just say you were wrong and apologize
  • “Don’t fling poo at the monkeys, they’re better at it”
  • You’re not responsible for the fantasy version of you that lives in the reader’s head
  • Write the fictionalized/idealized version of your life
  • Make it clear there is zero tolerance for trolls on your site; set yourself up as the grownup
  • It takes years to build a following
  • Do the thing you’re comfortable with, whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, blogging, etc.; there’s nothing worse than an uncomfortable blog
  • When you use social media, have fun and be smart about it

Leanna Renee Hieber

  • Contact book blogging communities and ask them to review your book
  • Karma in all things: don’t spew your vitriol into the world; don’t respond to bad reviews
  • Set boundaries for what you’ll share as well as what you’ll take in
  • Just starting out, you’re building a following; don’t gets caught up in the numbers

Sam Sykes

  • In today’s market, debut authors must have an internet presence
  • The best reason not to respond to reviews is the readers read your response as well
  • Be genuine; if you’re not genuine, the real you will come out eventually
  • Satisfied readers are quiet; if people are angry with you, they’ll tell you
  • Don’t be intimidated; if you have something to say, say it

The  panelists agreed on Michael Stackpole’s final piece of advice:

When using social media, be passionate and be sincere.

Combo post: Stuff I Love, Pics of the Day

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I’ve been at the Phoenix Comicon all weekend. Right now I’m in a room waiting for a session to start, and listening to two other attendees debate whether or not Peter Jackson made the right choices in his Lord of the Rings movies. Mostly, they’re lamenting the absence of Tom Bombadil.

Which brings me to today’s combination post of Saturday’s and Sunday’s topics. Stuff I love, shown in photos.

Cuz here’s the deal: turns out I kind of love the Con thing. I can hear my husband snickering even as I type. Seriously, this weekend has made my geeky heart squee with joy. It’s akin to the feeling I got when I went to my first writers conference. Like, Hooray, I’m surrounded by a bunch of neurotic writers! My people, I have found you! Here at Phoenix Comicon, I can indulge my inner geek to whatever extent I’m comfy with, and there is no judgment. If there is any judgment, it’s probably that I am easily and quickly out-geeked by just about everyone here. And that, I think, is awesome.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting some really good info on social networking. But for now, Here are some pics from the Phoenix Comicon. Some of them suck. But still, you might see some familiar faces.