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Create If Writing - Authentic Platform Building for Writers & Bloggers

Create If Writing is a weekly podcast for writers and bloggers dealing with authentic platform growth. Kirsten Oliphant interviews experts to find out how they are building email lists, connecting through Twitter, and using Facebook groups. These practical episodes are balanced out with inspirational interviews from successful writers and bloggers who have made it big and want to share the struggles, the creative process, and tips for reaching your goals whether you are an author publishing books or creating an online presence through blogging.
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May 28, 2018

In this post and podcast episode, we'll be diving into the idea of writing rules and when you can break them. I was honestly surprised with where I landed on this. Keep reading and see if you agree!

We've all heard that phrase: "Learn the rules; then you can break them." Or something like it. But how do you know what the rules are? And when can you actually break them?

 

This post contains affiliate links, which means I may earn a commission if you purchase something by clicking through. 


WHY THERE AREN'T REALLY WRITING RULES

We live in a time period where things are much more open. Language is changing and has been affected by social media and texting. (Don't feel too upset by this because language is always changing. People were mad at Shakespeare in his day. It's not a new problem!) 

There are also different schools of rules. Personally, I adhere to the Chicago Manual of Style for my punctuation and grammar. While others might use the MLA or AP or something else. These don't all agree! (It's a good idea to find out which of these your particular niche uses so you can also adhere to the common guide in your niche!)

RULES & EXPECTATIONS

The rules we will be talking about today are really more of expectations that your readers have for your particular genre, niche, or medium.

When you write a query to an editor and you have two spaces after a period, they may not read your manuscript. PERIOD. They are too busy to read everything and this choice gives them an easy out to toss your manuscript.

When you buck the expectations and the rules, you are sending a message. Usually that message is- I'm ignorant OR I don't care. Neither is a good thing.

Writer in another group talked about just not understanding why people care about punctuation and spelling. "It's about story," she argued. But readers won't read your story if there are tons of errors. It tells people that you are careless and that you haven't taken the time or effort to do the bare minimum.

Same with covers. Constantly in writer's groups, people are saying things like "What do you think of my cover?" And when the responses are, "Hire a designer," they say "No." Cover matter. Period.

They sell books. They set expectations. They keep people from buying books.

LESSONS I LEARNED ABOUT RULES

I personally was surprised (as a rebel) to find freedom in following the genre rules. I started writing clean fiction under a pen name in December. I'm a writer by instinct first, so I wrote, then realized that I had messed up some big conventions and expectations. Namely that one of my short stories didn't have a Happily Ever After ending. THEY MUST in this genre.

Typically these books also switch back and forth between the perspectives of the two characters falling in love. I normally like a close third narration sticking to ONE character. This was hard for me.

Both were actually hard--I like resolution, but not necessarily happy endings. I also like my choice for sticking to one character.

FREEDOM WITHIN THE FRAMEWORK

But I found that when I started writing within what seemed like strict confines, I wrote better. I wrote faster. In fact, I've published two full novels in 2018, with the third coming out in June. In addition to two short stories in December. I wrote almost 30k words this past week. I believe MUCH of this had to do with the freedom and framework I found in sticking to the conventions.

REFRAMING THE RULES

If you are struggling with rules (like me), see if you can reframe. This is a way of sort of tricking your mind by giving something another name and a different association.

Call the rules expectations. Call them a framework or best practices. Do what it takes to help wrap your brain around finding and sticking to the rules that you need to for your niche, genre, or medium.

Just know that for most of these things, you need to fit into expectations if you want to ever SELL things and connect with an audience.

WHEN YOU CAN BREAK THE RULES AND BUCK EXPECTATIONS

It's important to note that rules can be broken. New things can emerge. Now we are talking about disruption. Disruptive innovation is when something changes in the market that makes a huge impact. Brand new markets for different kinds of customers.

Netflix is an example. They first disrupted the video stores and shut them DOWN. Then they doubled down on streaming and within a few years, TV will be totally different. (My opinion.) 

As content creators, writing an unexpected blog post or type of book is more a micro-disruption. You might choose to do something outside the rules and find great success because of the contrast. But generally speaking, if you want an audience and/or money, you should know the expectations and do your best to meet them.

The three times you can break the rules are when you are:

  1. Famous
  2. Genius
  3. Lucky

Those are typically the only ways that breaking the rules will mean success. You're famous and already have an audience of raving fans, you can do whatever you want.

You're a genius and you happen to stumble upon disruptive innovation that WORKS and changes the game.

Or...you're lucky. You happen to break a rule at the right time or get in front of the right audience or have some crazy stroke of luck. Often there is hard work behind luck. But sometimes there is just...luck. It just happened to work, even though it shouldn't have.

DO NOT BASE WHAT YOU DO ON THESE OUTLIERS.

You can't look at what someone famous does and say, "Well, breaking the rules worked for THEM." If you see someone breaking the rules successfully, chances are they are famous, a genius, or lucky. You'll do best to stick to best practices, not base your decisions on the outliers and minority finding success breaking the rules.

BREAKING THE RULES CAN BE SELFISH

When it comes down to it, if you are breaking the rules because you feel like you need to for your art, you are being selfish. You are putting yourself ahead of your readers.

You might say that you're writing for art, not for money. That's fine. But following the rules is NOT just about money.

Expectations and rules are a gift to your readers. In some ways breaking the rules isn't just about art, it's about YOU. You are thinking of YOURSELF first when you break the rules. Readers have expectations and they may be best served when you follow the expectations of your niche or genre, whether that's clean romance or the kind of blog you write or even within podcasts.

GO OUT AND CREATE CONTENT YOU LOVE THAT SERVES YOUR PEOPLE WELL. 

I'd love to hear in the comments if you agree/disagree with this idea of freedom within the rules or my strong statement that breaking the rules can be selfish! {ducks head waiting for tomatoes to be thrown}

 

LINKS I MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE-  

Emma St. Clair - my pen name for clean romance

Two free short stories by Emma St. Clair - referenced as not fully adhering to conventions

Two spaces after a period

Bad reviews given to famous works

Disruptive Innovation

The Writing Life - being open to cover changes by Robert Kugler

Tim Storm & Storm Writing School

KDP Rocket - a tool I use for keywords (I'm an affiliate and happy user!!)

Go On Write - great affordable covers (I use his branding package)

German Creative on Fiverr - affordable cover designs

Write to Market - book by Chris Fox

May 14, 2018

Writers don't write in a vacuum. Or...they SHOULDN'T. Writers need writing groups and communities of other writers to help support, teach, encourage, and promote. We need each other! Keep reading to find the why and the how.

Successful writers don't write alone. 

Okay, let me qualify that. Successful writers may write alone, but they don't WORK alone. They have writing groups and writing communities, both online and offline that help them to achieve their goals. (This is true of bloggers as well and podcasters and any -ers that you want to toss in here, I'd wager.) We need community. And the depth of community we create determines our success.

BOOM.  

WHY WRITERS NEED WRITING GROUPS AND COMMUNITIES

During the recent #cockygate, I saw a few big takeaways, no matter WHERE you fell on that whole mess. (If you don't know what that is, check out a smart and funny summary and then some legal stuff.) Here are the big things I saw from that. 

Writers in Community Get Inspired, But Don't Copy

I think the impetus (from my understanding) of the author going for a trademark was the fact that other people were copying her books in title and cover because they were successful.

Y'ALL. Do your own thing! Pay attention to what other people are doing. Watch them. Study them. (I know I do!) Then apply what you learn to your OWN WAY OF DOING THINGS. You do you. 

Writers in Community Don't Hurt the Community

Trademarking a common word sets a dangerous precedent. Sending emails about changing things like book titles and covers (which isn't always a small expense) is NOT helping the community. 

There are two opposite poles-- doing what's best for you and doing what's best for others. As a writer in healthy community, you should be in the middle. Helping the community helps YOU. But it shouldn't just be about them either. Find your happy spot. But don't hurt a community, because you NEED them. (More on that later.) 

Writers in Community Don't Become a Mob

While I think the trademark action wasn't the best for the community, neither was the community turning into a mob a good thing. I never like the mob mentality. Often it acts first and thinks later. I think the backlash to #cockygate was ugly. Surprising? No. But ugly, VERY much. 

Should writers band together? YES. Marie Force is a great example, being at the helm of the Indie Author Support Network, which is banding indie authors together. The goal is to be able to reach out to companies like iBooks and Amazon with concerns, bringing the force of over 1000 authors with them. That isn't a mob. It's a mobilized, logical force. 

When we turn on each other (even thought I totally get it sometimes), we aren't helping the community as a whole. What if that same mob turned on YOU? Think about that before you join an emotionally charged group. 

HOW TO FIND GOOD WRITING GROUPS AND COMMUNITIES

I would recommend that you find writing groups of various sizes. I have a few one-on-one people that I go to for the most personal and vulnerable of things. I'm in a few larger groups of a few hundred and then some larger of a few thousand. I'm missing the in-between of one to hundreds, which I think is super important. I'd love to have a group of about ten or less. These sizes allow for different trust factors. 

But what should you look for in writing groups? 

You should absolutely look for groups where people:

  • are honest
  • speak kindly
  • have your best interest at heart
  • know what they are talking about

I've seen writing groups that fail at one or several of these, and they are a  MESS. If you have an honest group that isn't kind and doesn't have your best interest at heart, it's horrible. If you have a group that is kind but doesn't know what they are talking about, that helps NO ONE. I think these are the four most important things. 

A FEW GOOD WRITING GROUPS

Here are a few of my favorite writing groups, with a bit about each. 

Create If Writing - Yup, this is my group. And it's epic. We talk about platform-building, our writing, blogging, social media, and have share weekends. Oh, and we celebrate small wins. Big wins too. But small wins matter. 

I Am a Writer - This group connects to Write Now, the podcast from Sarah Werner. She is kind and generous and cultivates community that is so helpful!

20Booksto50K - This is a behemoth group and may be intimidating. Especially if you are new and drop in just to ask questions that have been answered in full a LOT. Go listen. Read. Watch. 

If you want more on Facebook groups and why they are particularly important and what is changing about them, read this post on what you need to know


Do you have advice for finding great writing groups? Or have a writing group I should add to the list? Leave a comment to let me know! 

Apr 23, 2018

If you haven't heard of GDPR, get ready. Like the term "data," you're going to be hearing this buzzword a LOT. I've got several posts on it already and will likely have more to say. In this post and podcast episode I'll share why all this data talk is significant, why we need to think about it to not be smarmy, and tips for GDRP compliance.

I'm also running a free workshop this week on Freebies + GDPR you won't want to miss. REGISTER NOW!

 

WHY DATA MATTERS

Did anyone else catch all those memes and silly videos about Congress questioning Zuckerberg? Many of us laughed at that, but here's the thing: were you surprised by anything he said?

Like maybe how Facebook might be tracking you on a website that's not Facebook even if you don't USE Facebook?

Here's reality: Data has long  been overlooked and it's about to change.

People haven't realized how precious data is and the common user of the internet has very little idea what is being tracked and how. These data conversations are really GOOD because they are forcing transparency.

I think this is going to have massive ramifications and this whole data buzz word will be around for a while. It also may have long-reaching impact on your business, if you are doing things like running Facebook ads or having a website or email list. I think that there will be some pushback from the typical users who may not like that your blog is storing their info or sharing with third parties.

Oh- you didn't know your website was doing that? Let's look at what it IS doing.

WHAT DATA YOU MIGHT BE STORING

If you have Google Analytics on your site, the Facebook tracking pixel, or run advertisements with third parties, accept comments on your blog, or have comment forms, you are collecting data.

How much depends on what you're using. Even if you don't KNOW it, you are tracking data.

If you head into the back end of your blog, you'll find that commenters have email addresses stored on your site. That's data that you've collected and GDPR says you are responsible for it. WHAT. Same with contact and other forms on your site.

It goes deeper with Google Analytics, even though that typically is using ip addresses and has lots of anonymity (from my understanding). And if you have the Facebook pixel on your site or are using Google ads or other advertisers, you may be sharing your readers' data with third parties EVEN IF YOU DON'T KNOW IT.

So if this sounds creepy to you at all, you'll understand why I said that there is going to be long-term fallout and some people are really going to balk at this.

DATA, GDPR, AND BEING SMARMY

Y'all know I'm all for not being smarmy. So in one sense, I LOVE that this is being brought to light. As bloggers and people using the internet, we need to KNOW that we are storing data. We should know what is being tracked and we should be up front about that with our readers.

It's not smarmy if you don't know and don't tell your readers because you simply didn't know. However, as this data conversation continues, ignorance will not keep you from potential fines or from being responsible for the data you're (unknowingly) collecting.

I like that now we are creating some accountability.

I don't always like some of the specific ways this is playing out with GDPR, but I think that we are moving in a good direction by making all of this more transparent and honest. It's not going to be the wild west of data anymore.

Now you know and knowing is half the battle. The other half is doing something with that knowledge. So let's get into specific tips for GDPR compliance.

TIPS FOR GRPR COMPLIANCE

Here are a few very actionable and fairly simple items you can do:

Get the GDPR COMPLIANCE plugin. This will add a checkbox for consent on your comments and also any forms on your site.

Update your privacy policy. I know...BORING. There are templates out there, so you might find a good one, but if you want to be SURE you're covered, I'm an affiliate for the products over at Businessese. They JUST updated their privacy policy to have GDRP compliance.

Add a banner or overlay asking consent for cookies. I used a widget called EU Cookie Law Banner that I found in my Wordpress site under appearance/widgets. Likely you will see this banner floating along the bottom. I updated it with custom GDPR language. You can also check out the free option from Cookiebot...but I found it a little more robust than I think (hope) is needed.

Find out what your email service provider is doing. If you are not using a trustworthy email service provider, this is the time to switch. Under GDPR, you are the data controller, but a lot of the heavy lifting will fall to your data processor. You are responsible, but they do a lot of the tech stuff. Email them to ask. I know that Convertkit, Mailerlite, and Mailchimp have things in place and have already heard from a sad listener who is losing tons of subscribers because of her email service provider and GDRP.

Sign up for my free workshop on GDPR and freebies. I think this is going to be one of the biggest areas of impact, so I'm going to dive DEEP into what this looks like. If you are using freebies, lead magnets, or reader magnets to get people to sign up for your email list, you need to come. (If you don't know what those things are, read my post on freebies.)

Sign up for the workshop HERE!

 

Links mentioned in the episode:

 

I hope you found these tips for GDPR compliance helpful and that you are not too freaked out by the whole data situation and what you are collecting and what is being collected by other people when you go to mom blogs on the internet, for example. This is the world we live in!

Apr 9, 2018

It's no secret that I go on a lot of writer's retreats. Well. For a mom of five pretty young kids I go on a lot of writing retreats. This post will explain why, how, and how you can DIY a writer's retreat on a budget!

You may be familiar with the idea of writer's conferences (and blogger conferences!) as an important part of community and growth for many writers. I am a conference JUNKIE and have attended tons. But I don't think people talk enough about a writer's retreat and how to make one possible for YOU. 

I try to take 1-2 writer's retreats per year, completely by myself. As an introvert, this is luxurious.

And if that sounds terrifying to you, you can also do a writer's retreat with other people. This post is more geared toward the single-person retreat, but you can apply some of the ideas for a partner or group retreat.

But let's take a step back...WHY are writer's retreats a good idea?? Then I'll share some of my tips for planning.

BENEFITS OF A WRITER'S RETREAT

While conferences have many benefits like learning, networking, and getting new ideas, retreats are all about the work. Specifically, pulling away from the normal day-to-day in order to focus on the work. 

Retreat actually means to withdraw, which is how I think of a writing retreat: I'm withdrawing from the normal tasks, plans, and people to focus solely on the work of writing

But writing retreats do more than just help you focus. Here are some of the benefits of a writer's retreat: 

  • Completing a task or project 
  • Refreshing yourself and recharging
  • Harnessing a single-minded focus

On past writing retreats, I have completed editing manuscripts, built courses, finished off tasks I couldn't seem to get done otherwise, and written drafts of novels. For me, these retreats are one of the only times I get multiple, uninterrupted hours of work on projects. It allows me to finish things, but also to access a focus and energy that I typically don't in my 1-2 hour blocks during a typical week. 

I balance out the work (which I find refreshing in and of itself) with other inspiring things like being in nature, reading books, painting, pampering myself, and sometimes hanging out with other people. 

I return feeling refreshed and accomplished, ready to re-enter the typical grind and schedule. As an introvert, the recharging of a day or two alone is incredible!

HOW TO PLAN YOUR WRITING RETREAT

As I mentioned, you don't just have to write on a retreat. If you have other nagging tasks that you can't ever seem to complete, finishing those might help remove the mental burden and strain, enabling you to write better.

On my retreats I have finished editing and uploading podcast episodes and show notes, edited and formatted books, and built out whole courses. 

The important thing is to know what you hope to accomplish going in. Just like at home in your day-to-day, you need to prioritize if you want to complete things. Put the first things first. What could you NOT do in your normal life? Or, what would be the BEST use of that time? 

Make a list of the things you REALLY want to finish, then those that you HOPE to complete (or at least work on). I also make sure that I have some life-giving other work, like books loaded up in my kindle or in print versions, great music, and maybe some plans to step out a bit. Even on a retreat, I sometimes need a retreat. 

You might even make a list of things you WON'T do. Perhaps you will ignore social media for the time or you aren't going to check email. (Unless those are included in your priority tasks!) Go somewhere without wifi so that you can ignore the internet altogether. 

(As a humorous note, I didn't intentionally add showering to the list of things I wouldn't do, but that's how it worked out on the last retreat I took. I stayed in a tiny house with an outdoor shower and a sudden cold front dropped the temps to the mid-30s. I returned home from the retreat rested...and a bit smelly.)

Once you know what your plans and priorities are, this might actually help narrow down where you go. If you're on a serious budget, you may have to choose place first or place based on price, whereas if you have flexibility, make a plan and then pick the best place. 

BUDGET-FRIENDLY TIPS

With five kids, saying we are on a budget doesn't quite cover it. So how have I been able to afford 1-2 writing retreats a year? Here are my tips. 

Be determined. If you REALLY feel strongly about having a retreat, you have to make it happen and give it the priority it deserves. Because I feel like these are incredibly important, I've shared that with my husband, who totally supports me in this.

Between his help and my parents, I didn't pay for childcare, which would have been the biggest expense otherwise. If you don't have kids, that's one less cost/concern, but if you DO, you must try to your spouse or support system understand why you need a retreat and then ask for help. 

Check first for free options. I have done several retreats house-sitting for friends. Put a call out on Facebook or other social media (if you dare) to ask if anyone has a place. Look for someone who has a garage apartment, guest room, RV, vacation home, or simply works long hours and has an empty home.

Several times I stayed with a friend who had no kids and who worked until around 9pm at night. That gave me tons of daytime hours and then we often hung out for a bit at night. If people know that you are someone who wants to take retreats, they may consider letting you know when they travel and have an empty home. 

Use VRBO or AirBNB. I cannot say enough about these sites and how incredible they've been for my travel. You can choose simply a room in a house or look for a tiny home or other cheaper option. If you want an inspiring location, you can find that, but if you just need a space to work that has wifi, you can look for that too. 

Pro Tip: Be sure to check the cleaning fee. Some places that are $30 per night have a $30 cleaning fee, which ends up making it as or more expensive than other options. Also do make sure there is wifi if needed. 

In December I stayed at a tiny home in the country with cows right outside my door. It was amazing! There was no TV, so I simply wrote. When I needed a break, I headed into the small town to eat something or just look around. 

You never know what you'll find on these sites, so if you haven't tried them, definitely see what's in your area or nearby. 

Pack food. If you are on a super tight budget, you could bring your own meals if possible. Even if you stayed in a Motel 6 or something with a mini fridge and microwave, you could buy frozen meals for a few dollars a piece. Anything you get at a grocery store would likely be cheaper than eating out, so do check for a place that has the kitchen options you need.

Be food frugal. I wrote a post on my lifestyle blog about the best foods for family travel, and that might be good to check out. Almost every fast food place has a dollar or value menu. Breakfasts as dinners are often a great choice. 

I tend to treat myself to at least one nice meal (can I get an Amen from people who love eating alone at restaurants??), but otherwise stock up on things from the grocery or dollar menu. 

Take what you get. My ideal writer's retreat would be on a beach, have lots of wine and great food, and maybe be for like a week. Typically I get one night, maybe two, sometimes in a guest bedroom eating salad from a bag. IT'S STILL AMAZING. And maybe one day when my kids are older and I'm making bank, I'll be writing from a Greek Island. 


Have you prioritized having a writer's retreat? What would you do if you had a day or night to yourself to write? 

I hope that these tips help! If you feel like it's something that could never happen for you, I would encourage you to make it a priority, get the people who support you on board, save up or plan a super budget-friendly option, and MAKE IT HAPPEN. 

Do you have any other tips that I missed? Share here in the comments or in the Facebook community!

Apr 2, 2018

It's time to START. Why you need to stop listening to fear and join the conversation.

Evergreen Platform School 

http://createifwriting.com/algorithm 

$49 through the end of April 2!

AFTER April 2, use code podcast to get 30% off.

Apr 2, 2018

In a departure from the norm, I'm sharing a modern-day Easter parable with you! 

music by http://bensound.com

Mar 19, 2018

Hey, guys! I wanted to share why I've missed a few episodes lately. First: my computer crashed in a most epic way. But it's okay! It's back now...but then I got sick. You can hear it on this episode, but it hurts to talk and I have asthma, so I can't even. But hopefully it will be back. Soon. 

For now, know that my platform isn't just about the podcast! It's about the PEOPLE. And that's YOU. 

So please connect with me where we can talk like people: 

http://createifwriting.com/community <- FREE Facebook group

http://createifwriting.com/quickfix  <- FREE weekly email 

http://createifwriting.com/algorithm <- FREE training on how to algorithm-proof your platform

 

And if you'd like to see what I've been up to lately, you can see my new book that just came out from my pen name. It's clean romance, which is a happy, sappy love story. 

http://createifwriting.com/coldfeet <- READ the book here

 

I hope to be back soon! But until then, connect with me where the people are! 

Feb 26, 2018

I've written about how to create binge-worthy content, but today it's all about how to create viral content. You know: the kind that everyone keeps sharing like hotcakes until your blog catches fire? That kind. Let's dive in!

Going viral. I'd really love to know what comes to mind when you hear those words. Good thing? Bad thing? Something you've experienced or just hoped for? My question to you today is this: If you knew how to create viral content, would you?

The easy answer might be yes. Because who doesn't want a viral post! But today I'm talking with Paula Rollo of Beauty Through Imperfection and Quick Blogging Tips about how to create a viral post, the downside no one talks about, and how to take your viral post into a binge-worthy post.

Listen to Episode 128 - How to Create a Viral Post

 

 


HOW TO DEFINE VIRAL CONTENT

First up, what IS viral content? It depends who you ask. There is full-on viral posts, which are the kinds of posts that take off and go worldwide. That's rarely what we get to see. Viral is often used to mean a post with a much higher reach than the normal for you, OR a post that has massive reach.

Paula's encouragement was that you NOT compare yourself to others or feel like you'll never hit that massive reach. Consider what's viral for YOU. Aim for a post that has significantly more reach than your normal post.

THE DOWNSIDE OF A VIRAL POST

People don't often talk about the downside of viral posts. But you should realize that more eyeballs on your post can mean a few things. Here are a few negative sides when you create a viral post.

  1. If your post isn't on brand, it's not super helpful
  2. If your post is controversial, you will get the trolls
  3. If your post isn't something you're willing to stand behind, it's not helpful!

I would say that you should always ask yourself before hitting publish: What if this goes viral? You don't always know if it's going to happen. You probably aren't going to get into that category of worldwide attention. But...if you did, is this the hill you want to die on? Is this post a great representation of you?

Viral posts can bring unwanted attention. And if your posts goes viral, but isn't the kind of thing you usually write about or is one of those one-off posts that doesn't fully represent you, it's not going to be super helpful.

If you wrote about something that's controversial or that people disagree with (which could be anything these days), you may also get ugly comments or people sharing your post because they HATE it. You could get angry emails or other negative responses. The more your post gets shared, the more likely you'll face criticism.

THE UPSIDE TO A VIRAL POST

On the plus side...when you have a post go viral, it gets tons of eyeballs on your site. Some people will meet you for the first time and these new readers that might become raving fans.

The best-case-scenario is that you have a post that's close to your heart and your brand go viral. That will bring the right kind of readers to your post.

HOW TO CREATE A VIRAL POST

Viral posts aren't often the how-to posts or the ones that solve a tangible problem. Yes, those can take off and be read and shared. But the posts that get people sharing and sharing and sharing are the ones with an emotional connection.

When you resonate with readers, they will share your post. So if you want to reverse engineer a post to go viral, you need to start with one emotion that you're hoping to evoke in readers.

You'll need to find an image that somehow relates in feel or in the content to that one feeling. You can use stock photos or your own photos, but again--your looking for connection.

As for your headlines, you can consider something like the Coschedule Headline Analyzer (also great for email subject lines!) and consider what would motivate someone to click.

Your framing and description matter as well. Framing is how you introduce the post when you are sharing on social media. The description is usually the meta description that you create when you are setting up the post in SEO for Wordpress by Yoast or whatever tool you use for SEO and metadescriptions. (I do this in Yoast and also in my Social Warfare plugin.)

TIPS FOR WHEN YOUR POST GOES VIRAL

If you have a post go viral, you want to do the best job you can to optimize the post.

Feb 19, 2018

This is a new (hopefully) annual feature at Create If Writing. Consider this my State of the Union Address, where I share my goals for the Create If Writing community. 

THE STATE OF CREATE IF

This episode and post will share with you my heart for Create If Writing this year. I'm going to walk through my goals for Create If Writing, my goals for 2018, and the offers (free & paid) that I'll have for you this year.

Watch the video in the Create If Writing group! (You'll have to join first. Then either revisit this link, or look under videos.) 

Create If Writing Goals

If you've listened to the podcast, you can say this along with me: Create If Writing is for writers, bloggers, and creatives who want to build an online platform without being smarmy. 

To break that down...

I want to help you connect with the perfect audience, grow that audience, and make more money doing something you love, WITHOUT using smarmy and sleazy tactics. 

2018 Goals for Create If Writing

I want to help you guys with a few big things this year. Here are my specific goals: 

  • Help my community publish (specifically self-publish) their books
  • Help my community promote and market their books & blogs
  • Help foster and grow the existing supportive, amazing, and helpful community 

Until more of my kids are in school (which will be fall of 2018), I'll be holding back a little on the bigger programs and retreats and other ideas that I have. 

Free Offers

I have a TON of great content on this site, such as the free planner, the Free Email Course, and, of course, this podcast, and the weekly Quick Fix (my epic Friday email). 

Paid Offers

Can I say something about paid products for a sec? I want to be clear that I consider the paid products and services I have as OFFERS. This means that I have paid things and I'm holding them out to you. If they fit for your needs and budgets, YAY! If not, that's totally fine. Refer to the free offers I just mentioned. 

Books on Amazon

You can find all of my books on Amazon (and sometimes a few other places). These are great, affordable ways to learn. All three of these have very practical information for you!

  • Email Lists Made Easy for Writers and Bloggers
  • Creative Collaborations
  • 31 Small Steps to Grow Your Blog 

FIND ALL OF MY BOOKS ON AMAZON

 

1-on-1 Coaching

If you want to jump ahead, working with me one-on-one will provide you with clarity, an action plan, and a confidence to move forward. I have various packages and am happy to create something custom for you. I've worked with nonprofits, writers, and bloggers to help them clarify their message, set up their email lists, and streamline their brand. I only take 2-3 clients per month and am currently booked out through mid-March. 

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT MY COACHING PACKAGES

The Create If Community 

If you'd like more advanced help, but want something more long-term and love the idea of community, you should consider the Create If Writing Membership Community. This is a paid membership including a 40+ video content library, monthly Q&As, and the best Facebook group you could imagine. I'm closing this at 50 members or by March 1, whichever comes first. 

The feedback I hear again and again from members is that this is their safe space, their happy place, and that the members have become real friends. I love that!

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE COMMUNITY MEMBERSHIP 

 


A WORD ABOUT RECALIBRATING 

If you are like me and you started out with a plan that's already off-track by mid-February, don't despair! Just recalibrate. 

My kids LOVE to jump on our scale at home. I mean literally. So this nudges it off the true zero. When you go to weigh yourself, it doesn't start at 0 anymore. With my non-digital scale, you just turn a little wheel to reset back to zero. Easy!

Do the same with your life and your goals. 

If you are off-track, don't beat yourself up. Don't feel ashamed or frustrated. RECALIBRATE. See what you need to adjust and just keep moving forward. 

Questions? Want to connect? Shoot me an email: kirsten at kirstenoliphant.com or join the community and reach out there. 

Feb 12, 2018

Learn how to create binge-worthy content that keeps people coming back for more!

To connect with the community, head to the Create If Writing Facebook group!

Feb 5, 2018

This episode is a little different from the norm! No real show notes and not a lot of practicality...just some encouragement for you to keep on running. Unless it's time to rest!

To join in the conversation with our community, sign up here: http://createifwriting.com/community

To keep in touch via email with weekly updates, sign up here: http://createifwriting.com/quickfix 

Jan 29, 2018

I've been talking about Facebook groups since episode 16 of the podcast, but here on episode 125 I'm sharing how to create a Facebook group with the latest tools!

With all the recent hoopla with the updated Facebook algorithm, there has never been a better time to learn how to create a Facebook group! I love email lists because it can create a really direct line from you to your fans. But when you create a Facebook group, you are fostering the ability for your fans to talk with each other.

You can check out my previous resources on Facebook groups:

 

WHY YOU SHOULD HAVE A FACEBOOK GROUP

First of all, a Facebook group is NOT for every person, brand, blog, or business. Not sure if a Facebook group is right for you? Consider whether you have the time to manage a community and if you want to be more engaged with your audience. If you don't have the time, definitely don't create a Facebook group! This is not the kind of thing that you can set and forget.

But if you don't have the time and think you should start a group, here are some reasons you rearrange your time and priorities!

Facebook Groups Tend to Have More Engagement Than Pages

This doesn't HAVE to be true, as one of my group members shared her page, Amish Country in Ohio 101, which has over 8,000 likes. Lue told me she runs it LIKE a group, encouraging and taking part in conversations. It also isn't a means to an end for her--the page IS the thing.

For most people, sparking conversation on a page can be difficult. Groups allow a more safe space (especially if it's a closed group) and conversations happen more naturally there.

Facebook Groups Tend to Be More Visible in the Algorithm

Though you won't see EVERY post from a group you're in, being active in a group means that you will see that group's posts WAY more in your feed.

For now. Facebook says that it's interested in Facebook groups now, so I suspect a lot of changes will take place in the coming months or years. (Read more about Facebook changes HERE.) Get going while it's working! Build community with your fans that will last beyond algorithm shifts or whatever else Facebook tosses at you!

Facebook Groups Build Powerful Community

I love the way that my group has created a sense of community. I've heard people say that their email list is their community. In a way that's true. As in, those are your people. But the real community doesn't happen until you get all those people in the same room where they can meet each other.

TOOLS YOU CAN USE TO BUILD YOUR FACEBOOK GROUP

  • link your page and your group
  • post as your page or your profile (I've personally seen less interaction on posts from my page)
  • you can ask questions as people join the group
  • insights about your group
  • can welcome new members- Facebook will suggest it on the right sidebar in your group when you have new members & it will tag them and you can edit the message
  • one group has topics to organize posts - some people use hashtags to organize things, but this is better (not available in all groups yet)
  • header size for groups has changed - update when I have it (link talking about the different sizes)

TIPS FOR STARTING A FACEBOOK GROUP

  • don't "invite" people -- it's actually automatically adding them to the group without permission
  • turn off setting where others can add people (get notifications about people wanting to join)
  • keep showing up. treate people well. Be valuable and personable and present.
  • ask the questions - pain points, let them know about your podcast
  • pin post with who you are
  • don't focus on fast growth or numbers, but people. the whole point

HOW TO BEHAVE IN A FACEBOOK GROUP

  • always check the group rules -- usually in the About section, in a pinned post, or even in the header image
  • don't use other people's groups as a springboard. Make connections, but don't piggyback on what someone else built.
  • don't teach -- create long posts sharing biz lessons
  • don't drop your affiliate links
  • don't ask people to pm you so you can give affiliate links
  • know that groups have an owner- some more central than others
  • be in fewer groups and really invest
  • don't overly cross post or say you're crossposting
  • don't like for like
  • be wary of share groups and what it's REALLY getting you
  • find promo threads that work and do those
  • DO NOT DO NOT DO NOT ask for market research in a group (ex: "Would you be interested in an Instagram course on creating branded images? Comment below!") and then private message all those people or get their emails and tell them.
  • overall: connect with people. let it happen naturally. don't be a vulture, circling the group waiting to get some value and money and people from it.

If you haven't created a Facebook group, consider if this might be a great way to connect your community with each other and to up your engagement. 

Jan 22, 2018

"Forget Facebook pages. I'm just going to create a Facebook group."

"I'm not using a Facebook business page. My personal profile gets way more interaction."

"My Facebook page drives most of my traffic. I'm scared my income will dry up along with my pageviews."

These are the kinds of things I've been hearing since Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement about the new Facebook update and what this would mean for seeing posts from a Facebook business page in the newsfeed.

People are panicking. Many people are peddling specific advice about what you should do. Rumors are rampant.

So how DO you handle the new Facebook update and make a Facebook business page work?  Let's dive in!

Read the Facebook newsroom announcement HERE and Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook post HERE

HOW FACEBOOK UPDATES MAY IMPACT YOUR FACEBOOK BUSINESS PAGE

The big Facebook update in 2018 is all about engagement. According to Mark Zuckerberg, engagement is the holy grail and passive scrolling needs to stop. (I really hate people telling me what to do, first of all, so you can read more about my thoughts on this aspect HERE.) No one knows exactly what this means. We can take some clues from the announcements, but realize that we are all making inferences from a pretty vague statement.

What we KNOW:

  • Facebook will prioritizing friends and family over posts from pages and brands.
  • If you aren't creating engaging content on your page, you will most affected.
  • If you are creating engagement content, you shouldn't see as much of an effect.
  • Paid promotions (ads) will still take place.

 

 

WHY YOU NEED TO MAKE A FACEBOOK PAGE IN 2018

More than any other question I've heard in the last few weeks (and even years, since Facebook pages stopped having great organic reach in 2013) is: Do I even NEED a Facebook page if no one will see my posts?

  • People still expect you to have a public presence on Facebook and will look for you there.

Whether you are an author or a blogger or a more traditional brand, the Facebook business page is similar to a blog in that it is the public face for you. (To be clear, a Facebook profile is what you create first on Facebook, where you can friend people. A business page is an optional add-on where people can like your page.)

Even if you just create a page as a sort of bookmark with basic info, photos, and a pinned post sharing that you primarily hang out on Instagram, you should have a page. How much it figures into your strategy is up to you! (To create a strategy for your social media, check out my free planner!) 

  • Facebook prefers that you have a business page for business reasons.

In the Facebook Terms of Service, your personal profile is not to be used primarily for commercial reasons. Your Facebook page is precisely for commercial reasons. The key word is "primarily."

Facebook can decide what is too much selling and promotion. This means you should be careful! Facebook could, at any time, kick you off from violating this. Then you cannot have a page (you have to have a profile to have a page). You cannot create a new profile under their Terms of Service. You're done.

Use your profile for business with great caution. That said, the line between business and personal is much fainter than it ever was before. There are so many more bloggers who blog about their personal lives and entrepreneurs living a different lifestyle where business and personal are not so clearly separated. People in your personal life may want to read your blog and know what you are up to professionally.

You can also follow people's personal profile. This means that you can choose to see someone in your newsfeed that you aren't friends with when they post public things to their timeline. I know some large people (Mark Zuckerberg included) who have big followings on their personal profile, even if they don't have pages. I have a hard time thinking Facebook would allow this or have this feature without some business or promotion.

  • Facebook business pages have great ecommerce tools that profiles don't have.

You can much more easily sell and promote yourself. The Facebook page is also where you can run ads. For ads, it doesn't even matter that your page has a small number of likes. You can target anyone on Facebook, not just people on your page.

HOW TO MAKE YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE WORK IN 2018

Here are some of my tips for getting interaction and engagement on your Facebook page. Keep in mind that these are GENERAL principles for engagement on Facebook pages. To reiterate: these are not new ideas with this latest Facebook update since we don't know specifics.

  • Stop like-for-like Facebook threads. 

If you don't know what these are, these are posts in Facebook groups where someone says, "Hey! Here's my Facebook page. If you like my page, I'll like yours. Leave it in the comments!" Or: "This is a Facebook page like thread. Leave your page link below and go like every other page in the thread!"

This sounds really attractive because numbers are so shiny. They are social proof. Likes are evidence that we are, after all, LIKED.

Except they aren't. This practice, while super easy, is a shortcut that hurts you in the end. Remember that we are about ENGAGEMENT. Those people liking your page in those threads probably don't actually LIKE you. They just Facebook-liked you. This means that you have dead weight on your page that won't engage with your content. When people don't engage with your content, Facebook shows it to less people in the feed.

ONLY use these kinds of threads if it's a like-pages-you-actually-like thread. Not a like-everyone thread.

  • Stop sharing me, me, me posts.

I hear so many people complaining about the lack of reach on their Facebook page. No one sees their posts and no one engages when they do. But so many people simply use their page to promote their blog, books, or business. They are not CREATING engaging content, yet expect people to engage with it anyway.

While this is a Facebook BUSINESS page, we don't engage with faceless companies. We engage with PEOPLE. You need to think like your audience and think about what serves them (and also meets your goals). If you want engagement, you need to think about what causes people to engage.

Simple, right? But it's much harder in practice. This involves creating a content strategy (again- my free planner would help with that!) and posting more times. It means maybe pulling back on promoting our own blog posts and books. It requires more work.

  • Don't use engagement bait.

Just before this announcement, Faceook gave a very specific update to say that they will squash engagement baiting posts. These are the kind of spammy posts from pages just trying to game the system, asking you to vote with comments or likes or the different reactions you can use.

The problem is that some of those same things were used by great pages and people creating real interaction! I love the "Share how you feel today in a gif" posts! They are super fun. Now you have a bot that Facebook has fed trigger words to keep those kinds of posts hidden in the feed. Which means even if you are trying to create engagement in a meaningful way, you could get caught in the bot.

 

HOW TO SPARK ENGAGEMENT ON FACEBOOK (OR ANYWHERE ELSE)

Work on your calls to action - Itchy copy where you frame links, ask for things in ways that won't trigger the engagement bait bot

Create a copy bank of great Facebook posts - Start keeping a folder of screenshots or a list of great Facebook posts you love so you can get ideas for what you can do. Study what you see that has great engagement. Craft your own kind of content that is similar.

Pay attention to what's working - Go into analytics and keep track of what is working and what has been working. What kind of posts inspire comments and shares? What posts have a lot of likes? You need to be much more intentional now than ever.

 

CREATE A FACEBOOK PAGE STRATEGY

The biggest thing you can do to make your Facebook business page work in 2018 is to be STRATEGIC. You need to be intentional if you want to see your page succeed in the face of Facebook updates.

What are your goals? You need to map out your overall goals, then how Facebook fits into that. Then you can plan a content strategy for what you'll post when. For more on planning a strategy, see my post on Planning in Reverse!

 

 

Jan 15, 2018

When is the last time you thought about the writing process? Or, more specifically, YOUR writing process?

The older I get, the more I know myself and understand how to tweak the writing process to fit what works for me. The writing process could really be called a system, the way we think of systems in business. Systems are simply the process, method, or course of action to get a desired result, especially consistently over time.

When we get to know ourselves better and how we work, we can tweak our writing process to work better for us. We write more, better, faster.

Check out Derek's video where he shares a small box with big ideas, plus some of the secrets of his writing process! (Then come on back for more on process.)

For more great, daily content, I would highly recommend subscribing to Derek's channel! He's really ramping it up this year and sharing a lot of behind-the-scenes looks at life as an entrepreneur. 

LOOSE STEPS OF THE WRITING PROCESS

You could break down the writing process in any number of ways, but I'm going to put it into four very loose steps:

  1. Collect ideas
  2. Write judgment-free drafts
  3. Edit ruthlessly
  4. Rest and then perfect

For the first two, you need to be really kind and generous to yourself, but in the last two, you must be ruthless. Let's break that down!

COLLECT IDEAS

The enemy of the writer is the blank page. This very common saying speaks to the fact that writers often struggle with the start.

It makes me think of the law of inertia, which states that an object at rest will remain there. Objects in motion will continue in motion. That start can take a lot out of you.

BUT WHY?

Often the start is difficult because we don't have ideas. Or we aren't sure where to begin with the ideas we have. This is when we can fall prey to distraction or what Stephen Pressfield calls the Resistance in his book, The War of Art.

You can help your start along if you have ideas. The page may still be blank, but your BRAIN isn't. The problem is that we aren't always as observant as we should be and we don't think about collecting ideas like we should.

Derek shared a few ways that he collects ideas on the run in his video. Here are some things that you can try!

You could: 

  • Keep a box for notecards with quotes
  • Have a notebook handy at all times
  • Download an app that's easy to use for notes like Evernote or the notes app

If you are constantly observing and stockpiling ideas, you can avoid so much trouble at the start! Once you have an idea, it's time to move onto stage two.

WRITE JUDGMENT-FREE DRAFTS

I feel strongly that in the drafting process, you need to get out of your own way. You don't judge your ideas but let them flow. At least (and especially) in the first drafts.

  • Create a vomit version
  • Write drafts by hand (which slows you down and may help clarify)
  • Write down the page (kind of like making a list of ideas, scenes, descriptions, bits of dialogue)
  • Don't have judgment in your drafts

When you edit during your drafts and restrict the flow of your free-flowing thoughts, we may miss out on something that is in the back of consciousness. Connect with the page. No judgment.

If you're still struggling with this, two thoughts. The first? Do what works for you. But...the second: don't write this off too quickly. If you haven't tried letting it all out and are used to editing as you go, just TRY this.

Consider Upworthy. You know, the site with all the viral posts that were all over your Facebook feed a year or two ago. They write 25 potential headlines per post. Check out this Slideshare from Upworthy, particularly slides 33 & 34.

Without letting out your bad drafts, you're missing something.

Oh, and according to editor and author of the Story Grid, Shawn Coyne, you shouldn't edit this at all until you COMPLETELY FINISH.

(I don't always agree with that, but I'll save why for another day.) 

Now you've got some content on the page. It may or may not be good, but it's THERE. Time for stage three.

EDIT RUTHLESSLY

Now that you have words on a page, you're going to do the hard work. You will be critical and judgmental. You are going to go back to those words and cut things and rearrange things and find what doesn't work and fix it. You need to be ruthless.

I really loved how Derek put this in his video. He talked about how we all assume people care about us and our story. BUT THEY DON'T. It's our job to make them care, especially right at the beginning of our content. 

Personally, I do something weird. I'm SUPER MEAN to myself in edits. I write mean and awful notes to myself. If someone else wrote these things to me, I wouldn't want to write again, but I can do this to ME and it oddly inspires and empowers me.

Being ruthless doesn't have to look like actually being mean to yourself. But it does mean being hard on your words.

You will: 

  • Take out unnecessary things
  • Check that the flow works
  • Have a goal and ask if your writing accomplishes this
  • Listen to other people's common criticisms
  • Be ruthless - IF you are writing for other people

As for that last one, your WHY matters as you edit. If you are writing a diary or a passion project, you can be self-indulgent. You may not edit at ALL. If you are writing at all for an audience, you MUST be willing to die a little.

You need to find the balance of writing what you love, but still serving your people well.

You're almost done. Next up: the final touches.

REST AND THEN PERFECT

This final step of editing is where you go back and really make everything perfect. I should point out that these four steps are not a literal four-step process. I go through many rounds of editing in the editing process. I may also go through several rounds of polishing. Here's what polishing might include:

  • Let it rest before you polish
  • Find GOOD readers
  • Listen to advice, but filter it

Polishing is when you will find the genius and the magic. You still might hit that point when you hate it (or is that just me?), but you'll find that this is when you move into a work you're pleased with and ready to publish.


I want to stress that I don't spend a lot of time for EVERY kind of content. I spend the most time going through this process in my longer-form content like novels. Some blog posts get more editing and attention than others. I also tend to write more cleanly in the first draft of a blog post, so that my first drafts are pretty publishable.

With a blog post, I collect the ideas, potentially outline (usually on paper), and then write a pretty clean first draft that I will edit through once or twice.

Do you know YOUR process?

 

Jan 11, 2018

"You're doing it backwards."

Does that sound like a good thing...or a bad thing? Usually when someone says that to you, what they mean is that you're doing it wrong. You are going about a task in the wrong order.

But when it comes to making goals and accomplishing them, the best way is to work backwards on purpose. You need to look at your big goal as Point B. You are currently at Point A. Then work backwards to think about the steps in between to bridge the gap. If you look at your Yearly Content Guide and the daily planner printable sheets, this will make much more sense! Let's walk through the process.

1 / How do YOU Work?

Before you can really start planning effectively, you need to take some time to figure out how YOU work. You don't want to waste time on methods that don't work for you. I'll give an example to make this more clear.

When I was in college, I wrote a ton of papers! I can't begin to think about the hundreds of pages I wrote and the all-nighters that I pulled. But it took me 'til my senior year to realize that I wrote papers BEST when I finished them a day or so in advance.

Giving myself that cushion of time meant that I wrote in a leisurely, focused way. I had no frantic, stressful moments. I didn't pull all nighters, fueling up on Mountain Dew and Twizzlers. I wrote faster and I wrote BETTER when I made my own personal deadline ahead of the imposed deadline.

That doesn't mean I cannot work well under pressure. In December I started writing under a pen name, Emma St. Clair, and wrote two short stories in the sweet romance genre. (You can check those out here if you like light and fluffy non-steamy romance.) I cranked out two stories and published them within the space of two weeks.

And the effort was a success! I garnered 26 five-star reviews for Four Days of Christmas and have a new email list of over 100 people and am still making sales and money now in January.

What I've learned about myself is that I work better with self-imposed goals and deadlines, not ones that someone else forces me into.

Questions to Ask:

  • What time of day do you work best?
  • What work space works well?
  • What stresses you out?
  • What circumstances make the work easy and fun?
  • How do you like to write-- pen & paper, computer, typewriter?

Before you can plan well, you need to know yourself well. This isn't as easy as you'd think and it may change according to the season or circumstances. Ask yourself questions about the ways you work and make note whenever something stresses you out OR has great results.

2 / Working Backwards

My whole Yearly Content Planner shows you how to work backwards. It starts with looking at your goals, your stats and analytics from the past year (I keep this simple, so don't freak out if you don't like numbers), and then moves into weekly and daily planner printable sheets to give you laser focus.

As an example of what this looks like, say I want to write 8-10 books this year. (Which I do.) This means that I need to write a book every month or so (if I'm working in a 10-month year, which is my plan).

I can then get super specific and think about how much time I need to give my cover designer, how much time I need to format, how much time I need to give my editor, and how much time to write the book itself. When I take that backwards, I can plan out just when I need to do what based on the tasks involved and how long each one takes.

If you want to increase your pageviews from 5k a month to 50k a month, you'll have to look at what current traffic sources you have and how many posts you write per week. Then you have to create a strategy for creating content and for promotion that would scale up your pageviews that much. When you're trying to grow, typically you can do two different things (or a combination).

How to Scale Up

  1. Deepen the content you already have - make what you have do more for you.
  2. Widen how much content you create - do a lot more of what you're already doing

Chances are you'll do a little of both, but it's worth thinking about this to pick a focus. Would it help you to get more pageviews if you wrote five times a week? Or repurposed content and promoted the heck out of fewer posts and the ones you already have?

With books, I could spend more on AMS ads or Facebook ads or increase the price of my current books. Or I could write more books quickly and promote them to up my income through having lots of books for sale.

If you aren't sure, try things to see! But once you see what's working, double down on that! Look at the end goal and then ask yourself if all of your actions and investments of time and money move you toward your goal...or not. Cut what doesn't. Do more of what does.

3 / Asking for Feedback

It's always a good idea to ask people you respect and trust for feedback. This might be other people in your industry who are knowledgeable or it might be people who like that content. As in, you could ask other indie authors your questions about a book and you could also ask indie readers who are not authors. Both are helpful.

But when people give you feedback, you need to be willing to TAKE IT. Sometimes we don't want to hear the truth or we are unwilling to give something a shot. We hold on tightly to what we love, even if it doesn't work.

Don't. If fifty people tell you that your book cover sucks, you should trust them. Get a new cover.

Feedback may not work in every step of your planning, but is an important part of finding what works. You need to get out of your own head and let other people share their experience and understanding.

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