Although technology can be very empowering, it can also be a huge time sink. Anyone who’s been sucked into that black hole of “just a little web research,” only to emerge dark eyed, emaciated and unshaven (especially the ladies…) several days later will attest to the eon-gulping world of the web/social media. Einstein’s theories say that time slows down near a an extremely large mass or when traveling close to the speed of light – but he didn’t mention internet time dilation!
The problem is that there’s just so much to look at. Like the tale of “The Elephant’s Child” many of us are filled with that “satiable curiosity” and find it hard to resist that urge to click. Just.One.More.Link. Hell it’s like peanuts, only worse. The ultimate in “got the nibbles” syndrome, the Satan Mekratrig of time-sucks.
So what do you do?
Well, you could try determination and plenty o’spit, but sometimes focus needs a little help.
So, first thing. Switch off the TV, radio, phone, cellphone or anything else that can lead to distraction. Then switch off the internet.
OMG!!! I can hear the gasps already. Switch.It.Off? But I NEED it.
Okay, you have a choice – do you want to write distraction free or spend the next thirteen zillion hours looking at cute pictures of babies dancing with cats? Take a deep breath. You probably don’t need to actually switch it off, but rather control it. Here’s how I do it.
If you’re running a “modern” operating system on your computer like Windows/OSX/Linux. Then you can almost certainly set up a new user account. Set one up now and call it something creative like “Writing” or “The Muse” or “Mighty-Lord-Asheronix-Who-Smites-The-Distracted.”
Doing this gives you a completely fresh desktop with its own settings, wallpaper, style etc. When you set up this account make sure you give it no password (or at least a very simple one). Also set your regular account to have a password that’s complex enough that you have to think a little to get it right.
Once you’ve done that, delete all the shortcut icons on your desktop leaving only the ones directly related to writing. Mine, for example, has just six icons. Scrivener, SmartEdit, Calibre, Firefox and a couple of custom pieces of software I wrote to help me. (Tip: if you’re in your “writing” account, you may need to switch back to your regular account temporarily to get rid of some icons).
So what you’ve done is created a distraction-free environment especially set up for your writing needs. Also, because the writing account has no password and your regular account has a complex one, you’re less likely to be tempted to switch back.
Now take control of the internet itself. There are many ways of doing this, from installing apps to control when and where you can access other programs to browser plugins. How you do this will depend on what level of distraction you suffer from. For me a simple browser based-block was enough.
I use Firefox as my browser and found a free add-on called Leechblock. This allows you to control what sites you can access and when. On my writing account I blocked all sites except a short “permissio” list. If I type in the URL for anything else like Twitter or Facebook it blocks the request and takes me to my writing website as a reminder. Importantly, set a complicated password for accessing the blocker too; I recommend a random one that’s almost impossible to remember. This way you won’t feel tempted to switch it off “just for a minute.”
Other browsers have the same features available, either by default or through addons/plugins. Do a search for “how to block websites” or “web access control” and the name of your browser and you should find them pretty easily. Note also that blocking the sites on your “writing” account won’t block them on your regular account, so when you switch back you’ll have full access again.
Now, pour a big steaming cup o’coffee. Sit down and start writing in distraction-free bliss.
Create a new user account (Windows): http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/create-user-account#create-user-account=windows-7
Block site (Chrome): https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/block-site/
How to block (Internet Explorer): http://www.guidingtech.com/3274/block-certain-websites-internet-explorer/
Although I talk about focusing on writing here, the same ideas can be used for other activities. If you have any tips of your own, please leave a comment.
My new novel is set around a hundred years into the future, with human colonies established in space within the solar system. I want to make the space travel plausible ,so I’ve been researching interplanetary travel times, planetary and asteroid orbits. It’s taken quite a lot of work as I haven’t been able to find any good resources that allow me to easily see how things “fit together”. It’s a bit like writing a thriller set in New York and not being able to find a decent street map.
What makes it worse is that everything in space moves in three dimensions and not only that the relative positions change with time. Imagine writing about New York in ten years time and Grand Central Station isn’t next door to the Hyatt Hotel any more, or that Brooklyn is now in Florida!
NASA’s Jet propulsion laboratory provides a huge amount of this type of information through its databases, but the interface is a little slow and cumbersome (you can only see one orbital track at a time) making it a bit of a trudge to find everything; so much so that I’ve actually been contemplating creating my own 3D visualization tool. But after several days poring through numerous orbital tracks I’ve found what I need.
Much of what I’ve researched won’t make it into the novel. It;s just to ensure that it’s (reasonably) realistic. I’m assuming certain extrapolations on propulsion technologies but other than that it will reflect reality.
It would be a lot easier to write fantasy (anything goes), and even much of today’s science fiction seems to be more “fiction” than “science” (let’s just assume pigs can fly). It would also be a lot more straightforward to write present day thrillers where you know where everything is and it doesn’t really change much.
Although this research is for my next novel, I’ve realized that it’s also relevant to the first one in the series that I’m currently editing. Book one is Earth-based but there are a couple of details that the newer research impacts on albeit only slightly so I ‘ll correct these in my revisions.
My research week has happened in the shadow of the NASA Dawn probe reaching orbit around Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. This is a historic achievement (the probe, not my research!) being the first time anything has been placed in orbit around a dwarf planet and also the first time a space probe has orbited two extraterrestrial objects – first asteroid Vesta and now Ceres itself. Although not central to my writing, it’s still thrilling to know that as I’m working these real life events things are unfolding, providing me with even more inspiration to “get things right”.
An author interview? Gulp. Please be gentle with me, it’s my first time.
Kat at Pukah Works invited me to do an author interview on her website after we chatted a few times on Twitter and Facebook. We initially met through the indie writer section on Goodreads and she has been a great friend, passing on numerous tips on how to better approach social media – something that’s really not my forté.
The interview is full of insights and hidden secrets about my writer’s life; deep, dark secrets that should never be revealed except in private over a warm cup of coffee heavily laced with Baileys.
Author Interview – David M Kelly http://wp.me/p4Uq5a-jg
Thank you Kat!
Mayrum Casteneda, the legendary founder of the Authority, is a relic from a bygone age who definitely doesn’t suffer fools. She might just be the only person who can help, but is the solution buried too deep?
This post was written by fellow writer, K. Caffee, who has published “Out Of Darkness” and “Remember The Shadows,” the terrific first two novels in her “Followers Of Torments” series. A big thank you to her for generously contributing this post and providing me with a great deal of help as I try to figure out the ins and outs of social media.
Everyone has probably heard that you have to have a blog. That you need to be involved on multiple other social media platforms, and that you need to be active. Coming up with good content for your blog can be tough. Coming up with content for those other platforms can be even tougher – especially when those platforms are short to mid-term information sites.
Blog content is your bread and butter. Take your time to develop a sound theme to present to the world. Sure, when you first start the idea of generating content is going to be daunting, and you will probably wander all over the place while you work on developing your voice and blogging style. Don’t worry about this, yet.
Take the time you need to develop your blog. Don’t skimp, and don’t try to take short cuts. As I said, this is the heart of your platform. As you begin to refine where you want to go, it may be a good idea to begin developing a page for your own reference. This doesn’t have to be published, or even available to your followers. What you want to list here are your posts that are relevant to what your author’s “brand” is – articles about your characters, articles relevant to your work, articles about the work itself, and if you reach out to other authors or artists – list those projects here as well. . It is an organizational tool for you to use when re-purposing your content for other platforms.
Once you have established your theme and blogging style, not to mention your blogging schedule, then it’s time to start thinking about other platforms. If you’ve been building on those along the way, you are already ahead of the game. I started with just my blog, so that is the path I’ll be describing.
The easy way to develop Facebook content is to have your blog flow through to either your author’s fan page, or to a dedicated author’s profile. You do not want to mingle your personal page with your author’s page. As you grow your fan base, you will start losing the ability to interact with your friends and family. Right now, I have an Author’s page only. I may decide to set up a dedicated profile, but it is not worth the effort, because I have such a small following.
Reusing your blog content on Facebook is a convenient way to gain people’s attention, and draw them in. Since most links will have the first sentence or two displayed, along with a link when it shows up, this gives you a ready made post. However, you will want some other original material to show up here. Just to reward your Facebook fans for being… well… fans.
That is a post all by itself.
Because twitter has been my fastest growing following, and has generated the most interest in my work, I am going to focus on this platform quite heavily. For starters, you will need to decide what type of tweeter you want to be. Do you want to use image tweets, or text tweets
- Image tweets – use pictures with text on them to get across some of your message. This is a very convenient way to post about upcoming books, blog posts, or provide longer quotes. After all, an image is supposed to be worth a thousand words, right?
- Text tweets – Your basic, every day tweet. Anyone can write them, anyone can post them. These are the most common type of tweet.
You’ve decided which type of tweet to go with – at least to start. You can always mix and match later as your skills develop. What you will need is at least 30 high content blog posts. You can probably start with less, but it will make the scheduling part a bit more difficult, depending on your blogging schedule. You will also need at least one third party tweet scheduler. I prefer hootsuite, though I also will use tweetdeck. I did this because tweetdeck does not offer any analytics, and hootsuite does. Also, hootsuite has a paid version that allows you to bulk upload your tweets when you are ready, but the free version is extremely versatile while you are getting your feet wet. The only down side that may send me out looking for other options is the fact that hootsuite does not allow you to post pictures from their platform.
- Tweetdeck – I use this one for the limited number of image tweets I have. Most of these are pure self-promotion, so this is not a major part of my tweet schedule.
- Hootsuite – text base tweets, and the main platform I use to schedule from. It can also schedule into your Facebook feed if you so choose.
Now, down to the nuts and bolts of how to make all of this come together.
- From your blog, select the high content tweets. To make it easier, you may wish to copy the links out to something like notepad, excel, or word. Personally, I like to use notepad.
- Write the interest sparking text of your tweet. Necessary for either picture or text based tweets. Keep this in the 30 – 40 character range if possible
- Decide what type of schedule you want to tweet on. When I first started scheduling, I sent out 2 tweets per day for a total of 12 tweets. I alternated the tweets every hour, and had a “dead” time between 11 PM CST and 4 AM CST. As I gained more comfort with scheduling, I extended my times until I started at 2 AM CST. However, I noticed I wasn’t getting engagement all day. I have since changed to rotating through 8 tweets with each tweet going out 3 or 4 times per day. I still have a “dead” time between 10 PM CST and 2 AM CST. Eventually, I will probably forgo this, and develop my schedule to run continuously.
- Copy your tweet into the tweet box, and run the link through the link shortener. Since twitter does not allow exact duplicate tweets, each time you send out a tweet, you have to change something. For tweets containing links, this is easy – the link shortener provides a different link every time it shortens, even if it’s going to the same URL. (Cheater’s way of getting around the duplicate issue.)
- Fill in your schedule, and you are good to go. I choose to try to keep at least 2 weeks of tweets scheduled.
- Make sure to spend a little time every day on twitter in person. Yes, you’ve got your tweets scheduled, but the human interaction is very important. It keeps twitter from flagging your account as a bot, and it lets your followers know that you are a real person.
In closing, reusing your blog content is a great way to create content for multiple platforms. For most, the blog will have the slowest growth. When you select content to reuse, keeping it fresh is almost as important as keeping it quality and consistent.
Each platform needs something to let your followers there know you appreciate them. For me, I choose to use selections from my blog that are at least a week old. I tend to post something every other day at a minimum, more often if I have guest posts, or book reviews. So, pulling from the older posts provides regular content that is probably new to my followers on twitter. However, my blog followers get the “breaking” news first, and have a chance to comment, like, or ignore it before anyone else. I have one series of posts that I send to Facebook and not twitter, so the two platforms do not have the same content posting all the time. Only the day that a post goes “live” is there simultaneous content. However, twitter’s constant babble swamps out the post almost before it’s posted, and Facebook can lose the post within a few days. So, when I resurrect it a month or so down the line on either platform, it is still new.
How do you reuse your blog content? I’m always interested to learn new ideas and incorporate better strategies over on Pukah Works.
To see more from K. Caffee and checkout her books, you can find her at:
FB : https://www.facebook.com/PukahWorks
Invented in the 1960s by the massive UK book retailer W. H. Smith (How I fondly remember many hours spent in their store in the town where I was born!) the ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is now used virtually everywhere that books are sold. If you want your books to be taken seriously, your book needs one. If you want your books to be sold in stores, you have to have one.
ISBNs are volume specific; if you sell an ebook and a print version of your book each should have its own number. How you obtain them depends on where you are. In the U.S. and U.K they are controlled by private companies who charge for blocks of them to be issued. Here in Canada they are controlled by Libraries And Archives Canada (LAC), a federal government branch that provides ISBNs for free (after registering with them) – a very civilized approach to my way of thinking.
I signed up for an account with LAC a few weeks ago and after a brief waiting time was approved and provided with the ability to create my own ISBNs. I had to try it out immediately and created one for my upcoming short story collection “Dead Reckoning And Other Stories“.
Though I am usually highly skeptical of all things bureaucratic, this was one of the rare exceptions. The process was quick and simple and required only small amounts of head-scratching, unlike my now redundant EIN.
That’s it! My shiny new ISBN!
If you’re setting up a print edition of your book you will probably want a bar code for the back cover. A search on the internet reveals several sources but here is a nice simple (and free) generator that allows you to download the result in a number of formats – and here’s the result
Just added my book trailer to Vimeo. The collection will be out in July .
Although Google provides some good and useful products, their behavior in the last few years, using their power to spy on everyone and everything they do makes them extremely frightening. Their motto may be “do no evil” but they seem to be missing that by a wide margin from my viewpoint. As a result of this I’ve spent a little time largely de-googling myself. Of course, the big killer app for google is the one that started it all, web searching. So synonymous with searches that we actually talk anout “googling”for things rather than searching.
If like me you’re concerned with privacy and want to get out of the google trap, or maybe you just want to metaphorically poke ‘em in the eye with a sharp stick. Here are a couple of alternative search engines.
Both these sites produce excellent search results and I’ve been using duck duck g o as my “go to” search engine for a couple of months now on a daily basis. The big addition here is that, unlike google, they don’t track your searches so you can breath a bit easier.
Of course, the irony here is that google will probably bury this post in their search results so you’ll never find it
I just uploaded the book trailer for my upcoming collection of science fiction short-stories to YouTube. Due out July 2015.