Tag Archives: Network

October 2016 Status Update

By Chris Hutton

          My blog and its subject matter is still a work in progress. It probably always will be. I have now spent nearly a month stumbling through social media, my brand, and my writing platform (this blog and other writing communities such as Scriggler). I do feel that I have come closer to an understanding of my method and of my path forward, but there is still much to be tested. So this week, rather than exploring a general writing topic, like the value of partnerships, the need of support networks, and the importance of social media in gaining an audience, I’m keeping its simple. Consider this the first in an ongoing series where I update on the state of my brand and my writing – a quick review of where I was and where I am now, what has been done and where I’m headed.


THEN:

          A month ago, I was doing my usual – working on a gazillion projects. The list is ridiculously large considering my minimal free time having both a full-time job and being a parent.

  • Finalizing a partnership contract with a writing colleague to move forward pitching some television pilot ideas as a writing team
  • Adjusting the Arcas script, for my upcoming comic, to meet certain rating criteria
  • Working on a horror novel
  • Collaborating on a science-fiction novel
  • Reviewing my latest pilot for rewrite notes
  • Watching every episode of iZombie and taking scrupulous notes, while preparing to write a spec episode for contest season
  • Doing absolutely nothing with social media, branding, or the internet in general


NOW:

          Thinking to where I am now, my first thought instinctively, and with a pessimism common to many writers that I know, travels to what I have not done. I haven’t finalized my contract, I haven’t finished my horror novel, my collaboration on the science-fiction novel has reached a necessary hiatus, my pilot rewrite has been placed on hold, and I haven’t finished rewatching and taking notes on season 2 of iZombie. It would seem at first glance, that other than my progress with Arcas, I am no further now than a month ago.

          That line of thinking is a load of bull. In the past month I have:

          This may not be where I want to be, but I tackled social media head on and began branding myself and that’s a big and necessary step. Additionally, even with all of the time that went into creating those channels and getting them up and running, I found time to complete a new short story and those three blogs. I think I’ll cut myself some slack on those things that I have not finished.


PROGRESS:

          So I’ve completed a few things over the past month, but as my audience you’re likely already aware of that. With that being the case, what’s the difference between where I’m at now and my progress? Well, basically what’s done versus how far along I am in other tasks. We’ve talked about what is done, let’s look at what is moving.

          First off, I created a brand, but where does it stand?

Facebook

  • Established an audience of 127 persons around my official page
  • Established an audience of 17 persons around my comic’s official page

Twitter

  • Gained an audience of 487 followers

Instagram

  • Built from scratch to an audience of 106 followers

Scriggler

  • 3 followers
  • Posted one story
  • The story has been admitted to one club
  • The story has been seen on this platform by 505 persons
  • The story has climbed to #12 on the Story charts for September posts

My blog

  • Has been visited by 133 unique users
  • Has had 492 pageviews

          Admittedly these numbers are low, but they did all hit my initial targets for month one, save for the Arcas official page, and I hadn’t even heard of Scriggler until near the end of September, so I’m ignoring those follower numbers for now. Additionally, my story post to that community has done well to climb up so fast, so on that front, I’m considering it a win for my branding.

          Next up, my writing. I have a few works in active progress such as:

  • Drafted the first ten pages of my next comic book idea
  • Finished two of three parts in an original science-fiction short story, Inflow
  • Am moving forward with my partnership contract
  • Have around 35 pages of the Arcas graphic novel illustrated by my collaborator and colleague, JC Thomas


NEXT STEPS:

          So what’s next?

          Over the past month I have been gaining an understanding of my social media strategy. I’ve been testing it, building on it, tweaking it, and I expect that I will continue to do so, but I have gained some understanding on a path forward for this blog. I will vary it with regular Monday and Friday posts, along with occasional Wednesday posts.

Mondays – new stories

Wednesdays – samples from upcoming works for publication (when available)

Fridays – blogs

          The blogs themselves will vary. Once every month to two months I will draft a blog encouraging support of peers and colleagues currently working on projects / or having finished projects to which I would like to draw attention. I will also draft a status update each month, like this one, to keep my readers up-to-date on my current work. Finally, I will fill in the remaining Fridays with topical posts on writing, comics, tv, film, and other creative mediums, and with guest blogs from collaborators when appropriate.

          In regards to my social media channels, I will continue to test marketing strategies and work on growing on my audiences. I would like to double each channel’s audience by my next status update, but will be focusing primarily on twitter growth during this initial phase of brand-building.

          Additionally, I aim to post two more stories to the Scriggler community, each after they have received a minimum of one week exclusivity on my blog.

          Moving on to my writing – the whole point of all of this. I aim to:

  • Finalize my partnership contract
  • Finish the Inflow short story
  • Draft a new horror story
  • Draft two more stories or begin another serialized short story
  • Resume work on my iZombie Spec

          I don’t know why, but for some reason, I’m feeling uncharacteristically optimistic that this is all doable.


Conclusion:

          Anyway, that’s that. Where I was, where I am, my progress with my current work, and my plan for the month ahead. Maybe you find this useful. Maybe you’ll want to skip these updates in the future. Your call, but they keep me grounded. As one of my favorite television writing professors used to always say, “Onwards and Upwards!”

          Happy Writing, All!

Social Media Explored By A Social Media Luddite

© Udra11 | Dreamstime.com – Social media

By Chris Hutton

          I have been eager to write all week. The second half of my Martian short story Inflow is begging to be told. I’m also eager to cleanup my house, read some new books, and just spend a little time with my family. So of course I find myself engaged in an endless exploration of social media, and while I believe myself to have some modicum of talent in media, I award myself very few points for my social skills. I am blindly blundering into the world of Facebook, Twitter, and that biggest mystery: Instagram, all the while stumbling through the dark grasping and trying to feel my way back to safety, as if edging my way through some insane hall of mirrors. And yes I mixed metaphors there.

          Essentially, I know crap when it comes to social media. I can find my way around Photoshop and digital software, maybe do some basic web design, etc., but when it comes to posts, likes, tweets, and whatever other insane messages are sent into the social ether, I might as well be a Luddite.

          But building on a theme from partnerships to support networks to just plain networking, I inevitably find that if I want people to read my work, if I want a publisher to take me seriously, and, moreover, if I want to actually one day be a “professional” writer, then I have to not just wade into social media, but dive all the way in. In this age of self-publishing where one person’s serialized web novel, becomes a self-published book, and then a traditionally published novel, and a best-selling one at that (I’m looking at you Andy Weir and The Martian), or another person’s online fan fiction becomes a modern day pop culture phenomenon (Fifty Shades of Gray), I have to admit to myself that to get recognized now, you pretty much have to have a pre-built audience. How do you do that? Social media, of course.

          And apparently you can’t just set up an account and expect the readers to come to you. No, there’s real work to do.

          So, over the past three weeks, I’ve set to work building my brand. I’ve created a professional Facebook Page for myself as a writer, a Facebook page for my upcoming graphic novel, converted my unused Twitter account to my writing Twitter account, created an Instagram account, created a blog, and joined an online writing community. And even that is just the beginning.

          You can’t just have accounts. You have to learn the method of the medium. How do you engage on Facebook? On Twitter? On Instragram? What builds an audience? How do you even get an audience started? How do you keep them engaged once you have them?

          These are all important questions, and hell if they haven’t plagued me for most of September 2016. So I set down and thought about what type of writer I am. I’m a genre writer, focused on horror and science-fiction. I inserted that in my bios where I could, made sure my background imagery reflected it for each account, and have tried to include corresponding hashtags into my posts to draw in readers.

          Even then, content is king. Let’s say my readers know that I write character-focused horror and science-fiction with a love for exploring individual psychologies, especially atypical ones. Great, but the audience still has to have something to read.

          That leads me to editorial calendars. I can’t just generate content the day of a posting. No, I drafted out a map from September through December. I laid out general guidelines, and altered them as test engagements showed gaps in my programming. In the end I settled on the following:


Mondays – Promotion of a new story from me (which requires I write a story every week)


Tuesdays – I make recommendations on books or comics that I’ve enjoyed and hope that my audience will like, and post an image to Instagram that looks at the daily life of being a writer.


Wednesdays – I talk about events or comic book issues that are launching that might be similar to the topic matter I’m tackling in Arcas.


Thursdays – Generally these are news days. I scour the web for articles on Science, Technology, Science-Fiction, Horror – things my readers might like – and I post an image to Instagram that looks at the daily life of being a writer.


Fridays – I promote my latest blog about writing (one more thing I have to generate)


          And that’s the skeleton, because apparently one or two posts a day don’t cut it, since for some reason one’s entire audience is not online at the same time every day, and you have to hit numerous times in hopes that a fraction of your audience sees your posts. Thus I spread out those promotions at different times over every one of my professional channels. Beyond that, I plug in random article posts, I retweet things my audience might enjoy, and I look for random happenings that might fit my brand.

          Yet again, these posts have to vary. Some should include links, others just be insights. Some should have pictures, some not. The visual layout of the posts have to have variety, and flavor so as to not bore my audience and hit them over the head with the same thing again and again.

          So wonderful, I have a basic content plan that requires two original photos a week, one original story a week, one original blog a week, one recommendation a week, one event to promote a week, random news and support opportunities that I can promote, and anything else that I can think of, bearing in mind that all of it must be suitable to lovers of sci-fi or horror writing.

          Once again, however, you’re left with the issue of gaining that audience. So that brings me to my personal networks. I reached out through my personal Facebook to every contact that I have and invited them to my pages. I searched for friends on every channel that I’m using and followed them. I search repeatedly for fans of science-fiction, horror, comics, writing, reading, space, Mars, etc., looking for people I don’t know that might like my work, and I follow them. And on and on. And then I make sure that for my biggests posts, I also share them on my personal accounts directing people to my blog or my writing community, or my other professional pages, so people who missed the invite but might be interested can see my work.

          But following and reaching out to friends isn’t enough. You have to build an audience that is beyond your actual social sphere. So I respond to every message I receive over any channel. I call people out in posts, I look for opportunities to start social media conversations, and generally try to engage as directly as possible, wherever possible. I retweet, I like, I share, all of it, because I like the material, and because practically-speaking, that is the hard work necessary to engage and build an audience.

          Yet with every day that goes by, I learn more about each and every channel, and I realize I really know nothing. Apparently there are whole websites devoted to helping you find audiences, like this one: https://manageflitter.com/. You can find potential persons to follow, you can see who has followed you back and who hasn’t, what accounts are spam, etc., so that you can clean up your feeds – and that’s just for Twitter. Also, there’s this other thing with creating lists so that can view different twitter feeds by topic areas… I haven’t even started exploring that one yet.

          It looks as though, I’ve just hit the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

          Hell, for a closer look at twitter engagement alone, see this article by Dmitry Selemir.

          What’s the point of this, you ask? It’s not about what I’ve done. It’s about the part of writing that we as writers often forget, one of the many things we overlook. If we want to be read, we have to get our content out there, and we can’t wait for that big deal or that big break – we have to make it for ourselves. The days of the hermit writer, if they ever existed, seem to be no more. Yes, I can still engage my audience from the comfort of my writing cave, but I do have to engage them. We all do. What’s more, that audience doesn’t exist until we reach out and find it, craft it, mold it, and let people know that we exist. Thus I’m writing free stories for the first time, forgetting about traditional publishing, forgetting about waiting to be signed, and just putting out my work, and hoping that the audience likes it as much as I do. That’s what we have to do as writers to get read.

          So if you’re still struggling for your big break, like I am, please don’t wait for it. Start engaging. Delve into whatever social media networks you can, and have a plan. Have a brand. And follow it. Be reliable. Be varied. Promote your peers. Find your audience. Engage your audience. And give your audience content, because that is what we are here for – that is we do: create. Yes, it’s a lot of work to build a brand, and mine is only now starting, but if we want to be read, and not just by our significant others, friends, and family, then we have to put in the hours to get our work in front of the right eyes.

          I hope that this doesn’t seem too cynical, self-serving, or unauthentic. It’s not. I am struggling to build a brand while maintaining authenticity, avoiding automated follow programs and automated messaging programs, crafting all my posts myself, and meaning every word that I type. I hope that any writer building their brand is striving for that authentic engagement. But the reality is that we have to build an audience, and engage them, in order to ever be read. And that’s what I want – to be read. Plus, I really am bad at this social thing, so tackling social media is something that I have to methodically plan – not something that comes natural for me (but my social foibles are a topic for another day).

          So anyway, I hope this isn’t too much of a rambling mess, and that if you made it this far, that you found something useful in my journey, some nugget of wisdom or moderately decent advice. It has to be hidden in this post somewhere, right?

          Anyway, Good Luck, Everyone, and Happy Writing!

          And while we are on the topic of social media, follows and likes are always appreciated.



Facebook Writer Page
Facebook Arcas Page
Twitter
Instagram
Scriggler
Blog

          Finally, if you have any tips, let me know, because this is all still very new for me, and I’m just beating my head against the wall trying to figure it out. Thanks, again!

Support Networks

Marielle Woods on set – one of the many creatives I admire and encourage you to support

          Last week I wrote about the value of partnerships in writing, from the partnership between a writer and a reader, to partnerships with editors, collaborators, and co-writers. This week I want to look at a similar topic: supporting the arts, which in itself is another type of partnership – a network of supporters partnering with a creative to help spread awareness for, and enable, their creative endeavors.

          While I address this network from the perspective of a writer I would argue that is equally applicable to any type of artist be he or she a musician, a painter, an illustrator, a writer, a director, a photographer… the list goes on. That being said, for ease I will primarily reference this type of network in so much as it supports writing since that is the perspective from which I have derived my experience with it. No offense to other creatives is intended.

          Often as a writer I find that I want to buckle down and write that next manuscript and push everything else to the periphery. That next work of fiction, that next story, dominates all else. The thought of investing my limited time to supporting others, diverting it from that primary focus of creation, can be easily cast aside as a luxury for another day. It is not that I do not want to support my peers so much as it is that I want to write and it is easy to forget all else while in that drive, especially when I also hold another full time job, am raising a young daughter, and, like everyone else, am simply juggling the typical responsibilities of everyday life.

          Currently, even with that drive to create, and multiple original stories battling for my attention, the majority of my writing time pours into blogs, tweets, Facebook posts, and other brand strategy documentation (a necessity to be discussed later). In other words, at the moment my writing is dominated by the business side of writing – building an audience, planning, proofing contracts, and prepping pitches and cover letters in attempts to be read. It is disheartening when so much valuable and often meager writing time is invested in the these necessities of what it is to be a modern writer instead of working on that latest work of fiction that is pounding at my skull demanding to burst forth and be heard. I imagine that many, if not all creatives, struggle with this balance.

          To cut to the chase (since I’ve already spent way too long in the build up), writers and other artists can easily get lost in the struggle for time and neglect supporting their peers.

          To my fellow artists and creatives, I urge you, don’t do this.

          Just as you might be struggling to get your work read, your music heard, or your film financed, so are your peers. We are all in this battle together and without our mutual support of each other the world will be robbed of many deserving voices fighting to be heard. We must support each other.

          This is easy advice to give, and likely to hear. It is much harder to live by it. Admittedly I have neglected this responsibility for many years, providing some support, but rarely with the fervor it deserves. Yet there is good reason to try to curb that tendency, to reach out, to network, and to prop each other up.

          Maybe that is simple to see, but I’ll sketch out a few of my quick, if verbose, thoughts on why we should make this effort.

1) Firstly, it comes back to last week’s discussion on the value of partnerships. As John Donne wrote, “No man is an island, entire of itself.” We do not operate, nor benefit from the delusion that we operate, in isolation. We are better for the whole of our networks, our peers, our partners. These relationships challenge us, improve us, and make our work better. Our writing has little, if any, meaning, devoid of partnerships, of readers with whom we share our ideas. If we don’t support our peers, if we don’t build and encourage those connections, then we deprive ourselves of the benefit of those partnerships.

2) Secondly, pure and simple, we all need support and need to provide that support. Partnerships improve our work and that network brings in the value of being part of a larger whole, but even aside from being a part of that network, we can’t just act parasitically upon that relationship. For one, that type of behavior will be quickly noticed and the network will fall apart, but two, if we want our own creative work to reach an audience, we need to support the work of our peers, become a part of the larger network, and in so doing not only will we help our peers, but we open ourselves up to them, encouraging that support back. We become a part of the larger, we expand our audience, our reach, and we strengthen our relationships. With that strength support will come.

3) Again, along the lines of avoiding using your network parasitically, supporting that network also must come from a place beyond our own desire to feed off of it and benefit from it. I live by the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I don’t come to this from a religious place, it just is the heart of how I believe people and society should act. It is a moral commitment. If you appreciate the support of others to your own work, if you desire that support, how can you ask for it, or even deserve it, if you’re not being that positive change in the world and providing that support yourself without the expectation of it in return. Find people whose work you value and support it just as you would wish others would do for you.

4) My personal odd morality aside, it just feels good to help. Sometimes we can forget that. Perhaps you get bogged down in your work, you isolate yourself, and you forget to help your fellow creatives. It happens to all of us, but even just sharing a friend’s work, buying something they’ve written, or supporting their crowd-funding campaign, at least for me, invariably brings about a good feeling, a joy in the knowledge that you tried to help in whatever small way that you can.

5) As an added bonus, as you help more, as you give more without expecting, ironically enough you might just find yourself building future collaborations. That is the byproduct of a strong network, and those collaborations can lead to many exciting journeys. But if you don’t try, if you don’t immerse yourself amongst your peers, if you try to hide in your writer’s cave, you’ll miss out on all of those opportunities.

          So, anyway, hopefully I’ve made some sense amidst this rambling. Now get out there and support your peers. Maybe some karmic return will come your way, maybe it won’t, but at least you can feel good for trying.

          And on that note, it would be silly to discuss support networks without offering out some support of my own. So, here are some of my friends and colleagues whose work I admire greatly, that I encourage you to check out (legally (no torrents) – a matter that deserves its own blog at a later date), and hope that you enjoy.

Let’s go show some support for others trying to bring the world quality entertainment.

Collin Kelly:
          An amazing writer whom I had the pleasure of meeting many years ago in college, Collin Kelly writes with Jackson Lanzing, and together they created and contributed to numerous quality comic properties over the past few years. Please check out their work including:

Hactivist Vol. 1 & Vol 2.
Joyride
And work on various DC properties including Batman & Robin Eternal and Grayson.

          Like their work? Please follow Collin, Jackson, and their frequent collaborator, the excellent artist, Marcus To on Twitter: @cpkelly, @jacksonlanzing, @marcusto

JC Thomas
          JC is a comic artist with whom I have the pleasure of collaborating. I am ecstatic to have his support as an artist, and am constantly thrilled with his work.

Ninja Mouse
The Gates of Dawn
Twitter

Kiran Deol:
          Writer, Actress, Comedian, Documentarian, she is powerhouse talent, whose sharp wit and candor is always appreciated. If you can catch her stand-up, please do. Otherwise, follow her at the links below.

Twitter
Facebook

Marielle Woods
          Marielle is a talented producer and director, with whom I worked many jobs ago back in my reality television days. She is currently working on fund-raising for a short film, Do No Harm, examining the dilemmas of a combat medic attempting to hold onto his humanity while facing the dilemmas of war.

Indiegogo campaign
Vimeo channel
Twitter

Michael Shaw Fisher
          Michael Shaw Fisher and I attended the same writing program at USC, sharing many classes together. His writing has always proven to be brilliant, and he has since gone on to prove himself an amazing playwright and actor, whose productions have won awards year after year in the Hollywood Fringe Festival. If you ever have the chance to witness his work on stage, take it! His current production is SKULLDUGGERY: The Musical Prequel to Hamlet, which will run in Los Angeles September 30 – November 5, with previews September 23rd and 24th.

SKULLDUGGERY
Orgasmico Theatre Company

Michael Meinhart
          Michael and I became nemeses, and close friends, working on numerous marketing projects together between 2010 and 2013. He has a passion for his music and visual art that cannot be rivaled, and is the lead singer, songwriter, and frontman for Socionic. They are currenty finishing their Orenda Rises tour and will be playing again in Los Angeles at The Whiskey A Go Go on Saturday, October 15th.

http://socionicband.com
Facebook
Twitter
Youtube
Instagram
http://socionic.bandcamp.com

Nadjib Assani
          Nadjib and I attended the same undergraduate program at North Carolina State University where I was lucky enough to witness some of his early work on his passion project, Legends of Onile. Working in both comics and sculpture he is crafting a beautiful tale worth your support.

Legends of Onile

Nate Ruegger
          Nate and I attended college together at the University of Southern California. He is a talented writer and director and I am always thankful to have him as a reader. He is currently in pre-production to direct a short horror film, Trust Me: A Witness Account of the Goatman. Learn more at:

https://nateruegger.com
Trust Me: A Witness Account of the Goatman
Twitter

Happy Writing, All!