Writing Discussion

Thoughts on Author Branding

The great (and terrible) thing about the internet is that you never know where your tweets and posts are going to end up. If you’re aiming to build an online presence, it’s probably smart to approach social media with a game plan no matter how small your following.

As a former small business owner, I think about this probably too much. It’s not quite the same as building a business brand. It’s actually a lot easier, because you’re not trying to build up anything but yourself.

First off, what is author branding?

It’s simply the impression you give to people who encounter you. Your author branding is made up of your social media presence, the look of your blog or website, what people can find on Google, and how you present yourself.

Whether you know it or not, you already have a brand!

But what about ‘authenticity’?

Authenticity is a feeling people get that you’re being yourself and being genuine online. If you’re sharing things or talking about things you care about, you’re on the right track.

I find it helpful to think of my professional author self, versus my private self. My professional author self is still me, but it’s not all of me. It’s the same as how you might act differently at work, versus the way you act with your friends.

So how do you actually control/shape your author brand?

It’s all in in the way you choose what you share, and how you share it. To paraphrase Jess Keating (who had some of the smartest things to say about branding in her WriteOnCon presentation): you can treat it like steering a ship in a general direction rather than worrying about every small thing.

You should consider what you are comfortable sharing, and what things are important to you. Do you want to call attention to injustice in the world? Do you want to squee over k-drama because it gives you all the feels? Do you want to uplift other writers or offer advice to those just starting out? If you’re unsure, pick three main subjects you can post about regularly.

Things I consistently share: books by diverse writers, writing tips, and baking. I usually err for sincerity over sarcasm (because I don’t think it always translates well on Twitter). So I suppose my brand is carb loving writer Theresa, who values diversity in publishing, and maybe isn’t super silly, but is still (hopefully) friendly.

There is can be a visual component to branding (the look of your website or the tone of your Instagram posts), but it’s not the most important part of this unless you’ve got books coming out soon.

But author brands change over the years, because both people and their circumstances change. So don’t sweat it. You can always try something new if what you’re doing isn’t working for you anymore.

Setting Personal Rules for Social Media

And so, once you’ve decided what parts of yourself you want to share with the world, it also helps to set some rules so that you don’t put a foot in your mouth. You also need to think about what is good for your mental health and the boundaries you need to protect yourself too.

I can’t tell you what rules to set, but are a few of mine:

  1. I will never tweet if I’m angry, upset, or sad. I give myself a cool down period before responding to something that I feel strongly about. I will give myself at least 4 hours, but the next day is better. By then, usually calmer heads have joined in the conversation, or I have calmed down enough to think things through. (Rule)
  2. I will not retweet an article or thread unless I’ve read the entire thing and I think that I have understood all it’s contents. If I feel like something is off about it, or some part is confusing, I will not tweet it. (Rule)
  3. I try to boost marginalized authors and opportunities for marginalized authors. I can’t always keep up, because my social media time is limited, but I will if I spot them. (Boundary = accepting I can’t always keep up with social media)

So really… author branding isn’t some intimidating thing at all. None of this info here is about follower counts or building a platform to sell books, it’s just about who you are and how you are presenting that to the world.

Do all authors of fiction need a web presence? Nope! But, I still believe social media helpful for meeting writer friends, and a website is useful if you expect agents/editors/clients to look you up.

And if you want to burn bridges, make sure that you do it on purpose 😉

Extra Reference

Are you unsure what your author brand is? Post links to your social media or websites below and I’ll try to give you my first impressions.

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Q&A, Writing Discussion

Keeping Organized During Revisions

I’ve got a lot of friends in the revision trenches these days, and oh boy it isn’t easy keeping an entire novel in your head for months on end. My trick is that I don’t. How do I keep track? WELL FRIENDS, I use a spreadsheet. I know, I know, boring right? But it works! And colour coding… and and…

Anyway, here is a sample Edit Tracking Worksheet that I use for revisions. You might know the story 😉

There are likely as many ways to edit a manuscript as there are writers, but I’ve found this method helpful for me, especially when switching between projects. What chapter did the birthday cake disaster happen in? I can just look it up. The spreadsheet is really just a listing of what happens in each scene, what day it is, and who is there.

I create the editing tracker after the first draft is done, but you can absolutely write it as you go. For each draft, I create a sheet in the Excel file. I keep the records of my old drafts, in case I need to go back and find a scene I cut out of a previous iteration of the book. The first page is always the latest draft.

Column Breakdown:

  • Ch – The chapter
  • Sc – The scene
  • Scene summary – One line or two about what happens in the scene
  • POV – Point of view character. This is only important if you have multiple view points.
  • Notes – Things I have to go back and fix / add / pay attention to in the next draft. I write these notes as I go, and don’t fix previous scenes until I start the next draft (in case my ideas change). You might want to fix them as you write. You do you!
  • Other Characters – Who else shows up in the scene. It helps me keep track of who is introduced when, and so I don’t misplace anyone or that character I killed off reappears unexpectedly (because *cough* it happens).
  • Day – Helps keep track of time. This is especially helpful for plots that have a compressed timeline. I sometimes even note if it’s morning or evening.

Optional Columns:

I use these to diagnose plot problems, and I change these to be anything I’m worried about. You can add whatever questions you like!

  • Goal – Conflict – Resolution – New Goal – Helps me identify what a scene is lacking (a sense of purpose, why it’s happening, or tension).
  • Emotional Beat – Helps me keep track and so that there are a variety of emotions and that I don’t repeat myself.
  • Who made the choices? I sometimes have a problem with character agency. Too many chapters where the main characters are forced to act instead of choosing a course of action can signal a problem.
  • Type of Ending? This one I’m just experimenting with, because I have trouble ending my chapters in the right place. It been helping me figure out if my chapter endings make a reader want to read on. Endings can be either a Promise (Something’s going to happen later), a Twist (Something new just happened), or a Resolution (The villain promised in chapter 1 finally appears). Naturally, promises and twists build up tension, while resolutions allow a reader to take a breath, before you ramp it back up again. A variety is a good thing!

Colour Coding Fun

  • Highlighting new scenes. Any the new scenes added to a draft are highlighted in yellow, so that when I do the next draft I pay closer attention it, because it likely requires more editing than any older chapters which have gone through a couple rounds of edits already.
  • Edited scenes. If I’ve edited a chapter I’ll colour the chapter and scene boxes so that I know it’s done. This is particularly helpful if for some reason I’m not editing chapters in order.
  • Action vs Quiet Scenes. Sometimes I’ll colour code my scenes red for action or blue for quiet, so that I can see the overall pacing of the novel at a glance.

Extra Extra!

You can physically print out the outline and cut it apart row by row to rearrange things until the plot sequence is just right, and figure out where any new scenes might go the next draft. I find that at least for me, I like to see it all laid out at one time. I also use a lot of tape and it ends up looking like some giant magical scroll that might fall apart at any moment. YMMV.

MS Word tip: If you make your chapter and scene breaks headings in Word, and open the Navigation Pane, you can actually drag each section around in the pane if you need to switch things around. No need to copy and paste! The Navigation pane also makes finding Chapters and Scenes in your manuscript really easy if you’re referencing your spreadsheet.

Okay, any questions? How do you organize your revisions or multiple projects at once?

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