Triple F: Running Near Empty?

It’s almost the weekend. Did you have a good week? To add a bit of brightness (or maybe more, depending on how things went for you), it’s Triple F today, aka Fabulous Fiction Friday. And a prompt.

I was inspired by looking at my battery-powered mouse for my laptop. It was flashing red, instead of glowing a constant green, which means less than 20% battery power before it conks out completely. I also remember reading a kinda scary story about a Facebook friend of mine in New Mexico who nearly ran out of gas on a point halfway between two towns–and she had 2 or 3 kids in the car with her. She made it, but man was it a scary experience.

That also brings up the issue of stakes in fiction to be sure–something important to fight for, and something to win or lose for the main character in a story.

I also like to think of fiction as a bit like life, because every experience your character has should make them different (something I’m still working out how to make happen in a way that doesn’t make it look like I’m using a sledgehammer).

So for this week, your prompt is:

Your character is about to run out of something important.

We’ve got a teeny plot point, and almost nothing else–you’ll have to work out gender, backstory (which will involve the stakes and what/why the reader cares about them), and what-have-ya on yer own.

Not to mention what the character is about to run out of, and why that’s important.

Dana is about to run out of orange juice. No big deal. If Dana is a chef and she has a pastry/flambe/something due tomorrow for a competition and she needs orange juice, things are more interesting. And if she’s planning on sending the first payment for her oldest son Kent’s college tuition, things ratchet up a little more…

Mitch is about to run out of lubricant for his hyperdrive on his old ST 3450 spacecraft. Everything’s fine until he hears a creaking noise. Now, what if everything got tuned up just last week? So if it’s not because he’s blowing off routine maintenance, what could possibly be the problem here? And does it have to do with the interplanetary diplomat he’s transporting on a top-secret mission?

(This is also how you can turn a seemingly boring story, quote, or fact into an email or blog post–stakes and relating it to something else).

Anyway, too much maybe for a Friday, and that’s enough to get the mental snowball rolling, I figure.

August has just made it in here. Yay! We’re less than one week in, and things are proving very interesting for me, that’s for sure.

Make it a great weekend, with good memories, all right?

Until next time (and week),

Ty

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How You Can Use Wallpaper to Improve Your Writing

How’s it going? Yesterday I noticed something interesting that I think will help you a lot with your writing (fiction, email copy, what-have-ya), depending on what you’re facing.

Let’s get to it.

I live in a house in the country. It’s nice, and I don’t know when it was built (’50s or ’70s, I thought, maybe earlier).

It’s got two stories, and like 99% of two-story houses, it has a staircase (with stairs of course) that connect the two floors.

There’s wallpaper in the stairway area, and most of it’s smooth, so it’s no problem. But on one part of the staircase’s wall, it looks like the wallpaper was stretched over some wood or something. What’s underneath pushed the wallpaper out so it’s not flush with the rest of this wall, but it’s not broken or anything like that.

And since I know less than nothing about construction (other than houses are built by people out of neat stuff), I have no idea why this is.

I do know that this is like writing.

When you’re writing fiction and copy, sometimes things just don’t flow right. That’s why a good something to do (that I know I need to do more of, you know how that goes–I use my own spoutings for inspiration), is to read out loud.

More than once.

Maybe in front of someone else, so they can hear you.

So you can pick up the verbal clangs. And the bumps, and the weird stuff that sounded fine when you first got it down, but sounds odd now.

Just like there’s a place for major overhauls and sweeping edits, there’s also a place for tiny tweaks and smoothing out.

Sometimes it’s difficult to know what you need (and that led to another couple of revelations about editors and their work, which should be the subject of another post).

That’s all for now, though.

If you have experience with tiny edits and fixes (or houses with weird-looking walls), drop me a line in the comments.

Tomorrow is Triple F. Be sure to stop by.

Until next time,

Ty

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Where’s the “!”?

How’s it going for you so far this week? An article popped in my email from Google Alerts a week or so ago (which should be the subject of another post, but we’ll move on for now).

Anyway, the article asked whether people should stop using exclamation points at work in their emails. Turns out this thing was a personality piece about how women behave in the workplace, so I was taken in a totally different direction.

Here I’m going to go into where I thought they were going with it.

Yes, I think we should stop using “!” in work emails, sales emails, any other type of email, and probably fiction too. Why?

It’s the only piece of punctuation that screams “Here I am!” and also tells readers you don’t trust them. Since it’s the text equivalent of shouting, it also gets tiring after:

“What are you doing here!”

“I don’t know, I just thought I’d stop by for a visit. I’m so excited!”

…And so on, so forth.

And I didn’t come up with this idea–Renni Browne and Dave King did in Self-Editing for Fiction Writers. But I couldn’t figure out where, despite scouring the book.

I don’t personally have a problem with “!” because of that book, but other writers (or readers) might. That’s not to brag–it’s just that I learned early on to treat “!” as a rabid raccoon–something you don’t want to get close to or interact with unless you absolutely have to.

If you want to make the case that exclamation points are common language (like reading a gossip rag to get a feel for how certain people like to be persuaded), you can.

I prefer not to use them because action words, tags, and what-have-ya can do the job a lot better than !!! can.

And if you want to drop me a line in the comments to jaw about exclamation points, you’re welcome to do that, too.

Until next time,

Ty

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Why in Business and Life, Money Isn’t Enough

How’s it going? We’re just under way here for the month of August, and I get to do the blog post on the first of the month bit (nothing special, it’s just exciting for me because of the possibilities that every month brings everyone, including me and you, of course).

Let’s get to it.

I’ve become slightly more active on LinkedIn, doing posts and status updates there, as some of you might know.

Yesterday I talked a teeny bit about mindset, and that if you didn’t like it, why should you change it.

I didn’t say “how,” which was the whole point.

Humans need a reason why for everything, usually. Either it’s given by someone else, like a parent or teacher (“if you don’t brush your teeth you’ll probably end up with none”) or figured out on our own.

Prospects need a reason why, too. A reason to read, a reason to buy, a reason to trust, a reason for everything.

And you can give it to them–if it lines up with something they want in their life that you can offer, that’s great.

I also didn’t go into detail, because everyone has different reasons for doing or not doing something.

I will say one thing, though. Money is never enough. I mean it’s not enough of a reason to keep you going, especially if you flop early on when you’re trying something out to make money. On the other hand, helping people have a better life is a good reason. Or caring for and providing a future for your children. Something outside yourself.

I don’t mean to be rah-rah–everyone needs money, and it is a prime motivator. But doing something only for money can put you into unfavorable or dangerous situations (writing under an insane deadline about a product or service you don’t like or approve of, for a client who you wouldn’t give the time to if they asked, kind of thing).

Writing and editing is something I fell into. I liked to do writing, and I didn’t have some grand plan to get all these things moving (something I’m a bit embarrassed about for some reason or other).

But I did find out that I can use those skills to entertain people and help them make more money (not necessarily both skills or in that order), which is cool.

And if you do get stuck figuring out these things, it’s not written anywhere I know of that you can’t give something else a shot. As long as you’re not giving up in your mind, and you dive deeply enough before deciding something isn’t a fit before moving on, you’ll eventually, with guidance and determination, find something that works for you.

Make it a great, productive August 2017.

Until next time,

Ty

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Flop, Focus, Flop: A Plan for Writing Success?

How was your weekend? Today is the last day of July 2017, which is interesting (mostly because August will be here–which has been strangely cool as far as weather the past several years).

Let’s get to it.

The ends of months (and sometimes years) get me all nostalgic. All that’s pretty strange because I haven’t lived very long at all–I’m not 95 or something like that, looking to go back to the 1950s (although being able to buy one washer, dryer, and fridge my whole life would be great, that’s for sure).

When I think about how time passes, I try not to think about missed opportunities, because I know “coulda shoulda woulda” is no way to live–not by a long shot.

But sometimes I fail at that. There are times I’ve brought up mistakes I’ve made in my business or personal life with others (mainly about flops I’ve written or things that I’m not an expert at yet).

All the fiction rejections I’ve had, the failed promos, the fact that my email list isn’t set to where I want it to be, and on and on.

It’s destructive…it really is. I can’t change any of it–not the stuff in the past. And I don’t want this to be some rah-rah type thing either–I know everyone needs encouragement, but the dark side is, everybody fails sometimes (if I say it here, I know I need to say it another 50 times to myself, don’t worry).

For some strange reason, the writer who’s telling you this is the same one who wrote Give ‘Em a Ride Down the John.

It’s just me trying to encourage myself (and you too), to move away from where you don’t want to be, toward where you do.

That’s why I did a teeny bit of fiction revision last week. And why I’m up for the second round of a copywriting/business challenge even though I went through a similar program put on by the same dude. I’m trying to take focused action.

Because I also realize when I’m 35 or 40 or 52, I don’t want to be where I am now. Knowing I want to be somewhere better is the tiny first step–the small second step is a plan, and the huge third step is the guidance/mentorship/what-have-ya to get you there.

All the other steps are the flops and refocusing.

At least that’s how it seems to me.

Until next time,

Ty

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Triple F: Heard This, Meant That?

How’s your week been so far? Mine’s been pretty good, what with getting slightly more traction inside LinkedIn, linking up with other writers, and what-have-ya.

Let’s get to it.

If you’re new, you don’t know that today is Fabulous Fiction Friday (and now you do, so you’re not new anymore, which is entirely okay). And all that means a prompt for you, and me having fun with that prompt.

I was all hot to trot to write a post on LinkedIn about exclamation points in work emails, about how they have almost no place there or anywhere else (for reasons I’d reveal, and probably will do here and there, at some point), just like the article was going to say (or so I thought).

Turned out it was an article about women in the workplace. Which means I got the buzzer for being totally wrong (like when people screw up on Family Feud). All because I thought I knew what was going to be talked about.

So for this week’s Triple F, we’ve got:

A character is in an embarrassing situation because they thought something they heard or read meant something it really didn’t.

All right, and now we fiction (sometimes used as an action verb around here). There’s zero backstory and almost no plot to speak of, so you’ll have to do those, plus gender and how that all mixes in, on your own.

I wasn’t thinking of something like a text that says “I’ll be there at 8:00,” but you can if you want to. Or maybe the hazards of the auto-correct function (the bane of my existence ever since I tried texting or typing anything on a smartphone–I sound like I’m 105).

Or more along the lines of:

Chelsea goes to a planning meeting at work–to sketch out new thrusters for space vehicles to reach Alpha Centauri–only to find out that the “planning” has already been done, and they just need funding. How could we turn this into more than lugging sketching equipment somewhere for nothing? Is this taking time away from Chelsea’s other project–maybe a business she’s thinking of starting? Are businesses legal in this universe? There’s an interesting take for you…

Or maybe Ronnie goes to bed thinking “the deadline is next week” means exactly that, and he’s sweating his super-charged sweat glands out thinking about it, and what his boss really meant is “we’ll be planning out the deadline for next week.” A couple words Ronnie didn’t hear–and now he wasted time he could have used for tinkering with his time-travel ring (because he wants to see what life is like in 1840–because the best way to research something is in person).

Well, that’s enough to get the mental snowball rolling, I figure.

July 2017 is about over…Tuesday is August 1st. And I’ll still be here, don’t worry about that (closing out July on here will be pretty cool).

Make it a great weekend, with good memories, all right?

Until next time (and week),

Ty

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Without This, LinkedIn Thinks I Don’t Exist (It Seems)…

How’s it going? I realized a little something yesterday, but it didn’t fully hit me until later.

Let’s get to it.

Yesterday I posted for the first time on LinkedIn. Just like a Facebook status update, even though I was more detailed then that. And this wasn’t inside a LinkedIn group, either.

It hit me as a bit weird because a day or two ago, I went to see my LinkedIn publishing activity feed…

And the space was completely blank.

It was like LinkedIn didn’t know I existed. And that’s my point. Engagement is how LinkedIn knows I exist (even though you know I exist, and so do people who know me from the rest of my life).

Without that engagement, I’m faceless and nameless to the LinkedIn platform (the way I see it), even though I have a profile on there.

I’ve been on LinkedIn for years, just never used it. I dinked around in my head with using it or not. (What should I do? Where should I post? And on and on.)

I have to get out there, out in front of prospects with the budget and dough power to hire a copywriter. They can’t tell me they need help if they don’t know I exist. Yeah I’m in the directory, but according to LinkedIn, I’m not involved very much.

And yesterday was the start of me changing that. I’m involved on Facebook a lot, but I decided to throw LinkedIn into the mix after hearing the advice of someone who’s having good success with it.

What about you? Are you super-involved on social media for your business (and fiction is business too)? Drop me a line in the comments.

And tomorrow is Triple F. Be sure to stop by.

Until next time,

Ty

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One Habit that Virtually Guarantees You’ll Never Run Out of Writing Ideas…

How’s it going? I was struggling a bit to think of what to write, and then I realized I should never have a problem with that, at all (no writer should). As long as they keep one regular habit, though (most likely the one that made them take up writing in the first place).

There are different ways to use this one and I’ll go into some of them.

Just to get to it and kill the suspense, this one habit is actually…

Reading.

For a lot of us (fiction writers or copywriters), reading is what got us hooked on the written word in the first place. Writing (free or paid) was a simple hop from there (I mean where you want to take your writing–some people only write for fun).

I read fiction for kids, posts inside Facebook business groups, posts from my friends about losing stuff, or memes, videos, or what-have-ya, the list goes on and on.

And all those ideas are stored in my subconscious, which can process information (according to some) at 400 billion bits per second. Is that true? Not sure, but I can say if I want to write a story about a cute cat on a laptop who likes to steal CDs to play with, I can do it.

Or subject lines based on a favorite book of mine, or a quote from a book–I can do that, too.

I can take inspiration from someone’s pets, job, background, family, last party they went to, latest post on Facebook or Twitter, the person they last connected to on LinkedIn, and on and on. And it’s all conveyed to me by reading about it (not to mention all the business and how-to information I read–I don’t know how much info actually travels through my head in one day, but it’s probably a lot).

So if you’re stuck for an idea for a plot, a lead for a sales letter, or what-have-ya, just ask yourself if you can take inspiration–any little bit–from the last couple of things you read.

You may be surprised where you end up.

And I’ll do my best to remember to take my own medicine.

Until next time,

Ty

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Do You Have This in Common with the Most Interesting Man in the World?

How’s it going? I can’t remember I forgot to write about this…

Several weeks ago, I went to South Carolina for a wedding. I didn’t mention that while I was stuck in the hotel, I got to watch an interview on the Hallmark Channel with the Most Interesting Man in the World (the Dos Equis beer guy, Jonathan Goldsmith).

He said something that really surprised me. He got the call from his agent about this audition, and he was seriously going back and forth about it. He said something to the effect of “So there I am, in a KOA campground, in my truck, no hot water, and I’m thinking ‘Can I really do this?'”

He even called his agent to refuse the audition again, and she said “If you don’t go, you’ll never forgive yourself.”

And he beat out dozens of other dudes (none of whom were older Jewish dudes from the Bronx, apparently).

I think he had to tell them a story about how he arm-wrestled Fidel Castro, or what-have-ya.

This was super-interesting to me, because that humanized Most Interesting Man in a way more than you’d think–and I started to like the guy–genuinely like him, even though we’d never met.

Self-doubt is something everyone struggles with–some more than others, and some of us are still wrestling with it.

For some it’s a lack of skill (it seems like those people don’t struggle with this). I’ve been over a lot of different perspectives on this lately, and one thing that’s made sense to me is that self-doubt = lack of self-confidence. Not skill. Not smarts. Confidence.

And I’ve said this about 8,000 times to myself, and I need to say it 10,000 more, trust me. If you don’t believe in yourself, nobody else will. He did something in spite of having doubts (in himself–that’s different than taking on client work you shouldn’t or ignoring warning signs/bells/whistles, which is the subject of another post).

One good solution to this is action, more and more of it. Targeted action. Another one someone suggested to me is mentorship or more focused training–if that’s what you need.

What about you? Do you have self-doubt you’re struggling with? Or have you smashed it under your writerly boots? Drop me a line in the comments.

Until next time,

Ty

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How Being Parked in a Bed Can Help You Make Your Characters More Interesting (and Prospects More Interested)

How was your weekend? Mine was pretty eventful, based on what I normally do (which I’ll get to in a minute).

Anyway, let’s get to it.

My aunt was in the hospital, so yesterday several family members packed into a car and went to go see her (including an uncle we picked up along the way–he did agree to go with us, don’t worry).

I thought it was pretty cool going to the capital of Wisconsin to poke around a little bit–it’s a place I haven’t been a bunch of times before. Since my aunt was in the Army, she was in a VA hospital especially for military folks, so we went there (and there was this cool elevator, that I wish I had taken a picture of–it had numbers, but the floors were named after military branches–did I mention it was cool? Of course I did).

After getting off the military-branch elevator in the parking garage, we found out we could have just walked 25 feet outside the garage itself to get to the main building. Ha.

The patient of the hour was in good spirits, despite being hooked up to a load of machines. She had had breathing difficulty and checked herself in, only to find out her lungs and heart had fluid around them they needed to drain off.

Life for her had to be really boring right then. Stuck in a tiny room with walls so close together I could stretch my arms out and touch both of them (not the part where the bed was, the part people would normally go in and out of). Not a lot of people to talk to, other people coming to check this, check that, pull here, prod there.

But taking this kind of trip, for me, was a lot different from the same old, same old that I do most weekends–which is basically nothing, then mow the lawn, and then more not too much of anything after that.

Which is my point for today.

Life can be boring–especially for your characters and/or prospects. We try to cut out the boring parts in fiction, for sure, but to make characters more real, they have to be there, even if they don’t actually make it into the story.

And if you write copy (emails, sales pages, what-have-ya), you can capitalize on boring stuff–especially if you know that your prospects are trying to get away from something boring (or if their pain in a constant in their life, just like yard work is for me in mine).

If you can point out boring stuff, that’s commonality–and everybody loves that, especially if you zero in on something that everyone generally loves (baby animals) or hates (yardwork, sometimes other work, being stuck in traffic).

My aunt seemed fine, considering. Today they had to do more tests on her, but I’m figuring we gave her a bit of a bright spot, which was nice (and the ice cream for patients and their guests/visitors didn’t hurt either, believe me).

Until next time,

Ty

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