Throwback Thursday – Be the change

Protest signI’ve had a lot on my mind this week. Too much actually. I find that the words are blocked and I’ve frankly run out of time. I am re-posting something I wrote back in 2014 which I feel is even more relevant today.

I was out-of-town for the last several days and was catching up on my reading when I came across a post written by one of my favorite bloggers. In her article she asked the question, do you ever involve yourself in a cause that doesn’t personally affect you?

Source: Be the change

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That Vs Which: Self Editing Tip and Reason Number 501 Why it is taking so long to finish my next novel

I do not blog daily – my hat’s off to those that do – but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t happy enough to receive The Writer’s Daily Companion by Amy Peters as a gift several months ago. It’s like having my own daily prompt generator without the distraction that is the internet.

Somedays it’s a story prompt. Other days it is more of a workbook for improving your writing. For example, one of the Daily Companion’s lessons of the day was the difference between that and which.

It’s been a while since I published my first novel, An Uncertain Faith, and though I don’t obsess over the reviews nearly as much as I once did, I have never forgotten one review suggesting my writing could be removed if I didn’t use quite so many ‘thats.’

Imagine that.

To be clear, I was very appreciative of that particular feedback. Until I read that review, I had no idea that I said and wrote quite so many thats. Of course, now that it’s been pointed out to my attention I see that the reviewer might have a point. Then again, when you are writing books that are supposed to contain tens of thousands of words, it should be understood that a few words might just be repeated.

I also know my other half will forevermore lovingly point out future overuses of the word that – much to my dismay and embarrassment. (To be fair – I probably have it coming)

The tip is to remove the word that from a sentence. If it doesn’t make sense, the ‘that’ stays in. If it does – leave it out.

To be clear, I was very appreciative of particular feedback. This sentence doesn’t work. Therefore – hurray! I get to leave the ‘that’ in there.

Therefore, if I follow my own tip, I should edit my paragraph as follows:

To be clear, I was very appreciative of that particular feedback. Until I read that review, I had no idea I said and wrote quite so many thats. Of course, now it’s been pointed out to my attention I see the reviewer might have a point. Then again, when you are writing books that are supposed to contain tens of thousands of words, it should be understood a few words might just be repeated.

It’s better, but the next thing to obsess over is whether the word ‘which’ might be better.

That is a restrictive clause, while Which is an unrestrictive clause.

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For non-English majors like myself, this means asking yourself if the sentence would still is accurate if you were to cut out any text following either qualifying word.

for example, if I cut out the “that are supposed to contain tens of thousands of words,” the last sentence of my paragraph would read like this:

Then again, when you are writing books, it should be understood a few words might just be repeated.

The statement is truthful and accurate. Therefore, my edited paragraph is:

To be clear, I was very appreciative of that particular feedback. Until I read that review, I had no idea I said and wrote quite so many thats. Of course, now it’s been pointed out to my attention I see the reviewer might have a point. Then again, when you are writing books, which are supposed to contain tens of thousands of words, it should be understood a few words might just be repeated.

The downside of this tip is I have to go through my work in progress with a fine-toothed comb, in order to tighten my writing before I send it off to the professional editor. This has been no quick and easy process. But I have to say the reviewer who first gave me the tip has a point (and thank you to all who have ever shared a review) and I look forward to being on the other side of edits soon.

And that’s all I am going to say about that.

 

How to quickly add some serious credibility to your business or your brand

How to quickly add some serious credibility to your business or your brand - www.alliepottwrites.comI love quotes. I love reading them. I love using them in my posts as a way to flavor my thoughts with another voice. The trouble is it sometimes takes me ages to find the perfect complement to whatever topic I happen to be writing on at the time.

Then there are the follow-up problems.

How to determine whether a quote is legitimate or not and who really said it? Take for instance the story about the valedictorian in Kentucky who attributed a quote in his commencement speech to one US president only to change its source moments later as a joke that wasn’t viewed as funny by some members of the crowd.

Stories like that prove that no matter how meaningful, empowering, or thought-provoking a quote’s message is, the quote’s mouthpiece also matters. So I try to be careful how I use them.

“With great power, comes great responsibility” – Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben (or was it?)

Up until now, my go-to source has been sites like www.brainyquotes.com and www.tinybuddha.com for when I am need of some additional zen. Both sites have nice keyword searching functions and I’ve created more than one post based entirely on a quote of the day, but there is no way of knowing for sure that the person cited is the first person (on record) to have ever said it. Hence the follow-up homework problem.

I have since found a new way to incorporate direct quotes straight from the source into the world of my other writing jobHARO. HARO stands for Help A Reporter Out (www.helpareporter.com) and it is a free tool for journalists (bloggers, podcasters, and authors too) that helps you find potential sources for upcoming articles.

The rules for journalists, bloggers, and podcasters are pretty stringent as they require your website or media outlet have an Alexa (yes, Amazon’s Alexa – because she’s EVERYWHERE) rating of 1 million or less. This score based on your site’s traffic. However, authors can use the tool to find sources for their books without a media outlet, but it can only be a request for less than 300 words and you must have an estimated publication date as well as a publisher (though I didn’t see anything that said it couldn’t be self) to be considered.

Sadly though, there is no “student” reporter program.

However, if you do meet their guidelines all you do is submit a query outlining your question, what you are looking for in a source, and when you need a response back. You need to be as specific as possible when describing your preferred expert to ensure you get the best sort of response for your platform or outlet. Once your query is approved by HARO, it is then sent out as part of several email blasts that go out throughout the day.

Help Wanted

image courtesy of http://www.flickr.com

But guess what, you don’t have to be a rockstar journalist or multimedia darling.  To use HARO to earn some extra cred for your book, business or brand, all you have to do is sign up as a source.

“And so it became that the quote lover became that which she loved: the quoted.” – so say I, from the book of me

The downside of signing up for the service as either a journalist or a source is the number of emails. There are so many emails. Three per day, and opting out is a frowned upon. But all those emails are filled with reporters just begging for potential interviewees, which are then broken out into various categories. HARO also offers paid plans to help filter by keyword if the emails start to get to you.

While you, as a source, can’t pitch your book, blog, or business outright, you can position yourself as an expert in your field based on how you answer the reporter’s questions. Then if your answer, or pitch, is accepted, you can get featured giving you access to a much larger media outlet, and access to your potential target audience without having to know a guy who knows a guy who knows a gal who used to babysit for the local section’s current editor.

Oh, and at a maximum of 300 words, it is a lot easier (and faster) to do than guest posting.

Though, seriously if you want to write a guest post sometime, that’s cool too.

Camping ahead of a subtropical depression – what’s the worst that could happen?

Camping ahead of a subtropical depression - what's the worst that could happen? - www.alliepottswrites.comThe crunch of gravel in between pelts of rainfall. That’s what woke me up. Dawn was still far away as evidenced by the lack of light that penetrated through the thin fabric of our tent.

Though the hour was late, my eyes were wide open and sleep would not be returning soon. Had the noise outside been only a dream? I strained my ears.

Crunch.

The sound of rocks being turned underfoot was unmistakable and could only mean one thing – our campsite had an uninvited visitor.

Careful to not make too much sound, I shifted while I recalled the grounds manager’s warning from earlier that day. “Make sure you put your foodstuffs in your car and lock them up at night,” she’d said. “A bear has been hanging out not too far away.”

Had we not secured it all?

The patter of rain on the tent’s rooftop increased, though a second tent frame, covered by a tarp, hung over the campsite’s picnic table. The storm wouldn’t be driving our uninvited guest away.

Or is it guests?

The view behind Moore Cove Falls, NC

The view from behind Moore Cove Falls, NC – If only I’d been listening to this

Her Royal Highness, who had rolled her body into a ball next to my knees snored. If something dangerous was out there, she’d know it, right?  I told myself, followed by Some guard dog she’s proven to be. Still, I was glad enough for her lack of consciousness at the moment having no desire to invite any more of the wildlife’s attention than we already had with an over defensive response.

The rain continued to fall. Thunder rolled in the distance. I held my breath – and listened.

Drip. Drip. Drop. The storm began to taper off without a recurrence of the gravel’s crunch. Had our guest moved on? I couldn’t tell.

Her Royal Highness woke and went to the edge of my sleeping mat where she began to cough and make a retching noise sure to wake the other sleepers. The mountain air must not be agreeing with her tummy.

I looked at the ceiling. Tap. Tap. Would this rain ever end? I looked at the window. I hadn’t dared unzip the flap before. My husband shifted – fast asleep – oblivious to it all.

Her Royal Highness’s retching continued.

Was I willing to risk taking her outside or was I willing to sleep in a tent one more night christened with her sick-up?

Her Royal Highness moved to the tent door, facing away from the picnic area, and touched the corner with her nose. She’d cleverly managed to figure out how its zippers worked earlier in the day to the delight of our children and appeared to be willing to do so again. Perhaps the choice wasn’t entirely mine to make after all.

Her Royal Highness Goes Camping - www.alliepottwrites.com

Her Royal Highness enjoys camping in style

Hoping to hope not to bump into our uninvited guest (who’d only grown larger in my imagination by the second), I ran out with her into the night’s storm, staying close enough to grab her shoulder and force her back inside if I so much as heard a twig snap from the area on the other side of the tent. Rain soaked my shirt as Her Royal Highness stopped coughing and began to sniff around.

I waited.

She took a few steps forward, squatted, turned around and ran back inside.

All that fuss for that?

I followed her in a flash and zipped the door and its flimsy protection closed once more. I huddled under my blanket as Her Royal Highness sprawled out across my legs.

Drip…Drip… The drops of water fell softer – lighter – and somehow sleep managed to find me once more.

Even so, I was the first to wake the following morning. I opened the flap and stepped toward the picnic table – sure and yet uncertain of what exactly I might find.

A box of pre-packaged brownies lay on its side with the corner of the box ripped open and much of its contents removed. While we had taken our cooler to the truck the night before when the rain began, we must have missed it under the table.

I heard my stepdad, who had camped with us, tell my boys the damage was from a raccoon. That was smart thinking on his part, I thought. The boys wouldn’t make us leave our vacation early for a raccoon. I whispered to my husband. “I heard it last night. Sounded big. Like a bear.”

I started picking up. A pile of paper plates, still in their plastic wrapper, had been turned upside down. Something had tried to open the package. I took the plates to my husband to show evidence of the visitor’s claw.

Except that’s when I noticed it was not one claw mark, but two.

Two tiny holes from claws attached to finger-shaped paws.

Paws belonging to creatures who like to wash their food.

Creatures who must like to eat their snacks on plates too and animals who had most likely experienced the fright of their night when Her Royal Highness and I suddenly appeared out of nowhere in the middle of a downpour. I guess my stepdad hadn’t told my kids a story after all.

We joked about the party those raccoons must have had that night while we spent the daylight hiking. When evening came, we made sure to do a better job of securing our belongings. We’d learned our lesson. If the raccoons did come back they would find their party hosts much less accommodating than their native surroundings.

We had a great time and thanks to all that rain the waterfalls were spectacular. Had the lack of sleep, the late night visitors, or storm put me off camping again like this in the future? Absolutely not – we’re not exactly backpacking. After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

Looking Glass Falls, NC - www.alliepottswrites.com

Can you imagine having this in your backyard? (Looking Glass Falls)

5 Basic Things You Learn After Starting To Write Full-Time

5 Basic Things You Learn After Starting to Write Full-Time - www.alliepottswrites.comI haven’t been in my new position as a full-time writer long, but I am already learning a number of things about the process, especially as to how it pertains to online media – like how bad I am at it on this site (in terms of monetization, rapid audience building, or anything else you can think of when you try to come up with ways to actually making a living off writing outside of selling books, which is a whole story for another day), even when the writing itself was good.

For one, I don’t use nearly enough H2 tags in my blog posts, or headers for those not as versed in HTML lingo. Apparently, readers like to see big bold text so they know which words I spent hours upon hours tirelessly crafting are okay for their eyes to totally skip over.

That being said:

Be bold

Readers bypassing lengthy intros will jump directly to the text immediately under the header, so feel free to repeat yourself. Chances are they didn’t read it the first time you alluded to something in the opening.

Explain the benefit in clear and simple terms

You might think you are offering your readers a great value in sharing your story. After all, you are giving the very generous gift of your writing time when you probably should be spending that time on the last book in your science fiction trilogy or … I don’t know … relaxing (I hear that’s a good thing) and asking only that they give you minutes of their time or a comment or two in return. As a result, you might think the benefit to the reader is clear but is it? Is it really?

Don’t forget about SEO

Google and all its AI helpers scurrying about in the background like long, long web pages (as in hundreds if not thousands of words), filled with short, short paragraphs (5 lines and under will do) prominently featuring your primary keyword. They can be difficult to please like that. There are all sorts of other rules to follow for true SEO, but I’m still learning those.

End with a call to action …

Want to connect? Leave your contact information. Want them to sign up for your newsletter mailing list which had never been sold to third parties, and never will be, but also now is forcing you to create this whole privacy policy thingy in order to be GDPR compliant instead of writing a longer post? Tell them. People like instructions. Except for anarchists. But then again, you should never expect to please everyone.

Seriously – comment – sign up – or connect. I love to hear from you.

… but also leave them a reason to come back for more

Until next time.