Wednesday, April 25, 2012
When something good happens to us, we all like to brag a little and get a pat on the back. That's human nature. But as in elementary school, there's always that kid who always does things to draw attention to themselves. Look at my new car, followed by fifty pictures of their car. Look at my new haircut, my shoes, my motorcycle.Oh look, here's my winning bingo board. Okay! Enough already. Being social means sharing and congratulating others, posting about their success and giving someone else a pat on the back. Besides, it's damn hard to pat your own back!
2. Buy my book, pills, seminar tapes
Have you ever met someone at a party and within seconds of introduction, they proceed to pull out their latest multi-level vitamin packet and ask you if you want to go into business? Or the old friend who hasn't seen you in ages, but suddenly is your BEST buddy and comes to your house with a large suitcase of brochures and samples? Same thing happens with social networking. You're all jazzed. That kid who sat behind you in third grade and stuck gum in your hair just friended you. You're like, what's been going on? How's life and they're, "Buy my book, buy my pills, buy my get-rich-quick tapes, buy, buy, buy." You unfriend, unfollow, unlink them. Bye, Bye, Bye.
3. The Snitch
This is the gossip. The one who's always stirring trouble. You can sniff them out a mile away. That ferret way they have of scrunching up their nose, as if something stinks, not knowing the only thing that smells is their own breath. Well, the social networking version is the one who stirs the pot online. You know what so and so just said about you? Oh, remember twenty years ago, and you thought she was your best friend? Well, this is what she really thinks of you. Even worse, this poisonous pill uses the "authorities" to gang up against their enemies, marking all your posts "spam" and reporting you as a "spammer" or a "bot". Whenever I get a private message saying something about someone I figure they're also getting a message about me. Delete and block.
4. Passing viruses
There are good sneezers, of the Seth Godin persuasion, and horridly unhygienic sneezers. Look what someone posted about you, click here. Embarrassing pictures of you, click there. I can't believe it! Free iPhone, click everywhere! Hey kids, don't stick your clicker into every link. You don't know what you'll catch.
Yes, we all want lots of friends and lots of followers. But seriously, if you already have a million followers, what's the chance you'd interact with me, a tiny guppy in the proverbial ocean? Even worse, there are all sorts of hucksters and con artists selling you thousands of friends and followers if you'd just click that link. You know what? I've never clicked that link. See #4.
Here's the guy who thinks every drip from the leaky faucet of his life is of supreme interest to his followers. Hey, look what I found between my teeth. My dog just peed on my laptop, wah!!! I just played Farm, Barn, Swarm, Darnville, please, please, please help me find that gold coin, cow, birdie, ten nails and a tin can. Oh, wow, look at that set of T&A. hey, hey, hey, play with me... tap, tap, tap. Blasting the same message ten times an hour in case you didn't see it. Well, guess what? I didn't see it, because, um.... I've filtered you out.
Everyone's got an uncle. You know the guy, the one who wears the mismatched socks and butts into every conversation with some off the wall comment? Yes, crazy uncles are online too. They're the ones who derail threads, spam other people's blog comments with off topic URLs, and thumb up everything and post remarks like "Cool", "Nice job!", "So funny", without bothering to read the thread: whether it's the death of your pet ferret or the comment about how you hate people who butt in with stupid remarks.
So, are you guilty of any of these sins? What are some of your pet peeves about social networking? Is it okay if everyone's doing it?
Wednesday, April 4, 2012
1. A Good Story to Tell
This is a basic requirement. Why would a reader devote hours to a story that meanders without a goal, populated with one-dimensional characters that speak with the same voice? Your story should move the reader and resonate with his emotions. It should have a structure that pulls the reader along with an interesting plot that follows well established storytelling patterns: a beginning with a hook, a series of escalating try-fail cycles in the middle, followed by a dark moment and a climax, ending with a satisfying resolution. Whether happily-ever-after or tragic, the reader must leave fulfilled by a damn good story.
2. Edited and Polished to a Spitshine
Nothing kicks a reader out of your story faster than tripping over typos, grammatical errors and amateur sentence construction. Do you and your readers a favor. Have your work either professionally edited, or take the time to pore over grammar books and study the levels of editing: structural, content, copy, and proofreading. A few of my pet peeves? Overuse of introductory present participial phrases, autonomous body parts, head-hopping, and misplaced modifiers.
Don't overlook book formatting. Being self-published is no excuse for surprising font changes, crowded line spacing, paragraphs without leading indents, or a shoddy cover that looks like Uncle Bob pulled it together with a child's first paint program.
Just because you're a self-published author does not give you license to behave like a kid in the playground. Readers do not expect Stephen King to roll up his sleeves and join in a brawl about a one-star review, nor do they think J.K. Rowling would get her friends to send e-mail defending her decision to kill off Voldemort. Being a published author means being a public figure. And that means taking lumps with grace, shrugging off the vitriol tossed at you in reviews, forums and blogs. True, no one likes to receive criticism, but never respond to a review even if the reader completely misunderstood your book, or confused it with another author's book that is diametrically opposite to yours. Commiserate privately with friends, or fuggedaboutit.
What can you do to beat the expectations of today's savvy reader?
- Take classes to learn the craft of writing: story structure, plot, characters, dialogue, setting and description. See SavvyAuthors.com for reasonably priced courses.
- Join a critique group. See my post The Best Online Critique Group.
- Hire or find help for editing. See Choosing an Editor and My Self-Edit Checklist
- Don't go it alone. Join author communities that can help you learn book marketing and offer cross promotional opportunities. The WorldLiteraryCafe is the premiere community connecting readers and writers.