Jan 27, 2013

4000 Followers - The Cult of Twitter


Normally, all I have to look forward to on the 26th of January is the birthday of my best pal Andrew. It's fun, sending my annual message celebrating his impending entry into the archaelogical record (see? he's old! lol...right? *high five*)

*tumbleweed*

Yeah, ok. Anyway, this year a different milestone was reached and I felt I should comment here on my blog. I got my 4000th follower on Twitter!

Sure, I'm no Kanye, Bieber or Taylor Swift with a bajillion crazy, foaming at the mouth lunatics waiting to find out what I'm having for dinner but somehow, I've grown a small following.

Now, for those of you who don't know much about Twitter, I should point out that not everyone follows you for your dazzling wit or access into the deep, dark recesses of your mind. Some of your followers might not even be real people. You've got spammers and psuedo-accounts, you've got those who just want you to "follow-back" and some who follow you so you follow them and then they unfollow you! Yes, the world of Twitter is a fiendish place.

I made a concerted effort to create a following of some sort on Twitter, as a way to help promote my books and hopefully learn something along the way. I had no real idea what I may or may not achieve with my account in the long run but I was determined to make it work for me. What actually happened surprised me.

Seeking out like-minded people: writers, bloggers and goofballs meant that I discovered that I was not the only crazy fool out there. I didn't expect much in the way of meaningful interaction beyond asking or answering questions and yet, I found other writers who seemed happy and willing to share moments of their time helping the newbie out, or trading wisecracks or just offering some words of support. 140 characters at a time.

In return, I've tried to establish myself as someone approachable and helpful, willing to pay forward the good will extended to me. Has it helped with my books sales? Yes, I'm sure it has but I'm not shifting hundreds of ebooks a month. Instead, I think Twitter has made me a better writer. I've learned a lot from my peers and, by getting involved in their writing, I've had my eyes opened to my own shortcomings as a writer and given me that kick in the arse I needed.

So, if you're a writer and you're not sure if Twitter is for you, I'm telling you it is. Come find me and say hello: @SpartaGus and I'll point you in the direction of some awesome Tweeps.

And just for the record, Andrew gets his own back on February 5th as I take another arthritic step towards decrepitude.

Aye, you can send cake!

Tell me what you think of Twitter...


GSY


Jan 18, 2013

Bright Lights #4 - Megan Paasch


Twitter can oftentimes be a mass of anonymous faces flashing by on your timeline. If you're trying to build a following, to serve your purposes as a writer, there will be many people you barely interact with. Plugging books and posting their new blog, they remain relatively unknown to you. Occasionally though, as you strive to interact, one may tweet back. 

Megan Paasch is, in her own words, a writer, wife and frazzled mother of 2. Crafty knitter, chatty geekazoid, worshipper of avocados & Medieval history nut. (That's the actual blurb from her Twitter profile). I've followed Megan for a while (that's twitter speak, and not the admission of a crazed serial killer) and so when I decided to launch this series of interviews it was a no-brainer for me to ask her to drop by and share her opinions and insights on writing. 

As you are about to find out, Megan is smart, funny and passionate about her writing. And although she doesn't have a book out...YET, she can be found on Twitter here ~~> Megan on Twitter and she has a blog you should check out here ~~> Rhymes with Smash!

Megan Paasch...Steampunkin' (ask her!)

Q - Hi Megan, tell me a little about what you're working on at the moment. 

Hi Gareth, thank you for having me on your blog. This is my first interview, and I’m pretty excited about it!

I have two pieces that I’m currently working on. The first is a modern fantasy (title still undecided) about a college student, Charlotte, who gets mixed up with the Fae and harbors an elemental. Also, she might end up destroying the world if she isn’t kept in check.

The second is a novel that I started for NaNoWriMo 2012. It’s called “Midas Touched,” and I can’t say too much about it yet as it’s still in very rough draft form (which is an understatement). I will say that it’s an urban fantasy about people with enhanced talents and the girl that gives them those talents.

Q - What did you take from your NaNoWriMo experience? Positives and negatives.

NaNoWriMo was fantastic! It taught me discipline and helped me let go of worrying about perfection in a first draft. During NaNo, you don’t have time for perfection. You get the story out, and worry about fixing it later. This was a both a plus and a minus though, because in the end, I found the plot got away from me because I didn’t plan enough beforehand. This is partly due to the fact that joining NaNo was a last minute decision. I do have a scene or two that I can salvage, and I don’t see the writing as a waste in any way. If nothing else, I got to know my characters – what works for them, and what doesn’t – and I found out what I don’t want to do with the plot. So really, not so much of a downside after all. I will definitely be doing it again.

Q - You're a busy mom of two young children, how do you make the time to write? Do you set a schedule or grab the moments when they come?

Both. I try to write every afternoon when my 5 year old is in school and my 2 year old is napping, but I have to be flexible about it. Sometimes the 2 year old falls asleep in the car after dropping off the 5 year old, and won’t nap when we get home. I also try to write a bit in the evening, but I’m not as productive then. Another trick I’ve learned is to keep the laptop open on the kitchen counter, and just pick away at the story, a sentence at a time, whenever I have a minute.

Q - Do you have a special writing zone?

I don’t. I move around a lot. You know how cats will rotate their favorite sleeping spots every few days or so? That’s how I am with writing. I need to switch up it every now and then or I find my concentration starts to wane. I have no idea why.

Q - What kind of story interests you? Do you read the same stuff you like to write?

I love the classics, fantasy, and sci-fi. I write fantasy, and I’d like to write sci-fi someday as well. I’d have to go back in time to write classics though. (Maybe I have! But I couldn’t tell you because it would disrupt the space-time continuum. We don’t want that to happen, now do we?)

Q - What is it that draws you to the genres you enjoy?

I love stories that have a bit of the unusual and fantastical. When I escape reality, I want to REALLY escape it. I also like that feeling of possibility – the “what-ifs.” What if I had a dormant super power that was just waiting to be activated? What if supernatural beings really did exist and walked among us like regular people? What if we found a wormhole to another planet? Fantasy and Sci-Fi really trigger my imagination, and I love that.

Q - Where do the ideas for your stories and characters come from generally?

I honestly don’t know. They just sort of pop up when I’m not looking for them, usually when I’m listening to music, driving, or doing the dishes.

Q - The common mantra given to writers is "write what you know", does this apply to your writing in any way?

With my first book, it does. The locations are all places that I’ve lived and know like the back of my hand. I also have a layman’s knowledge of Celtic mythology to draw upon (though I’m not using much of the traditional lore, the idea being that Fae culture has changed much over the centuries, just as human culture has). As for “Midas Touched,” I’m having to research quite a bit, as it takes place in locations I’ve never been (so far. This may change), and is dealing with subject matters with which I’m not as familiar. It’s proving to be quite a challenge, but I’m up for it.

Q - When you're writing, how much do you feel you have to adhere to certain limitations based on the genre you're writing in?

I don’t worry about it. I write the story as I feel it needs to be told.

Q - Have you thought ahead about Beta Readers and Editors? Self-publish or Traditional Publish?

I have a few people in mind who might be willing to beta, and a few others who have already done some alpha-reading for me. I haven’t thought much about editors, as I’m not to that point yet. I do know I want to try and publish traditionally first, but I’m not against the idea of self-publishing either. Self-publishing looks like such a daunting task though, and I find it a bit intimidating. But I’ll see when I get there.

Q - What do you think are your particular strengths as a writer? Dialog, action, description...what are you most comfortable with?

I love writing action scenes. They’re my absolute favorite parts to write, and I’ve received some great feedback for them. I have a lot of trouble with description - especially character description. It’s something I’m working on.

Q - What compels you to write, drives you to keep going, even on the days you'd rather just throw in the towel?

I honestly don’t know. I think I just have to. I get twitchy if I’m not working on something.

Q - When did you start writing?

I’ve toyed with writing most of my life. I used to write stories when I was little. They’re pretty hilarious to look back at. I started taking it seriously and calling myself a writer just this past year, though.

Q - Did anything or anybody inspire you to write?

Two of my teachers in elementary school were huge on writing. I’ve always said I’d dedicate my first book to them. I still plan to do this. My parents as well: they fostered my love of books and writing from a very young age.

Q - What is the reaction to those around you, family and close friends, about your writing?

Everyone has been hugely supportive and excited. I’m always being asked how the writing is going, and if there is anything they can do to help. My husband, especially. He’s my sounding board for all of my plot snags and ideas, and has been very encouraging.

Q - Are you nervous about putting your work out into the world?

Yes, very. Extremely. I’m feeling butterflies right now just thinking about.

Q - What are your thoughts on the uses of Social Media (Facebook, Twitter etc) for writers. Has it helped in your development?

I only use Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family, but Twitter has been fantastic for writing. Yes, it can be a bit (understatement) distracting, but there are so many other writers on Twitter, and you can learn so much just by talking to them. Also, Twitter writing sprints – those have been a great way to stay focused and get some work done.

Q - You also have a blog. Is that something that benefits your writing or do you blog for completely different reasons?

To be honest, I started the blog because when I joined Twitter, it seemed like every writer had one and maybe I should too. But it hasn’t been until recently that I’ve felt I’ve had much of anything interesting to say on it. It’s a work in progress, and I’m still getting a feel for it. I think in the long run, it will be beneficial.

Q - Do you have any current favorite authors/books?

I’ve read a lot of Terry Pratchett and Jasper Fforde over the last few years. Also Rick Riordon’s “Lightning Thief” series and Suzanne Collin’s “Hunger Games” trilogy. That last one is the series that actually tipped me over the edge from “likes to toy with writing,” to “Darn it, I’m going to get serious about this writing thing right now!”


Q - Do you suffer writer's block? 

Occasionally, yes. I find that usually means my brain needs a day or two off. As soon as I stop forcing it, the block goes away.

Q - How important is it for a writer to also be a reader?


Reading is essential! You can take classes on writing and story structure, and those are helpful, but you learn the most by reading other books.

Q - Library or Bookstore?

Both! Although, I’ll admit, I buy most of my books online these days, simply because it’s hard for me to get out and leisurely peruse anymore. I like libraries for research and the quiet writing environment.

Q - Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what do you listen to?

Sometimes I find that music helps me write, and sometimes I find it too distracting. When I do listen, I prefer instrumental only, although there have been cases where I’ve been able to write while listening to lyrics. Soundtracks are great.


Q - Do you have any advice for other new writers?

There are times when you’re going to be discouraged, and times when you’ll think you’re not up to the task. But writing, like anything else, is something that takes practice. Just keep at it. Read about other writers, and all of the things they went through to get published. Every writer was once where you are now. Also, use your instincts. Some techniques will work well for you, and some won’t. There’s no right or wrong way to get your story from your head to the page, as long as it gets there.

And finally - You're are going to be stranded on a desert island (for a wee while) but I'm going to allow you to take 1 book, 1 piece of music, 1 movie, a bowl of your favorite dessert and 1 person you'd like to share the island with for a while (alive, dead, fictional or real...it matters not) What are your choices...and if you want to elaborate...tell me WHY?

Person: My Husband, for obvious reasons. Also, he has a head full of wilderness knowledge, having been an Eagle Scout, so he could probably keep us alive.

Dessert: Fudge brownies, hands down.

Book: I know you’re expecting me to pick a book for entertainment, but I think I’d have to be practical here and bring along a book about how to build ships using palm trees and coconuts so that I could escape. What, you say that book doesn’t exist? Well it should! Fine then, maybe “Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell” by Susanna Clarke, because, not only is it enjoyable, but it’s really long and would keep me entertained for a while.

Song: Ashley MacIsaac’s version of “Sleepy Maggie.” I never tire of it.

Movie: “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”

Thanks again to Megan for stopping by my wee blog. And now that you've enjoyed her interview, go say hello on Twitter and tell her the Spartan sent you.