Category Archives: Commentary

Bullet Journal Guidelines for Writing Goals

Every year, I create a new annual bullet Journal to help me plan out my writing schedule. There I set out my yearly goals and I keep a running todo list of tasks for each day. In the past, I would set up a simple monthly tracking section at the start of each calendar month and then write in my daily todo list each day, setting up the spacing and size on an on-going basis. I also set up outlined spaces at regular intervals in my bullet journal to practice zentangle sketching. I followed this format for five years. I created organic looking, illustrated bullet journals that I found pleasing to look at.

While this system worked for many years, last year I discovered that I was not keeping up with all the illustrated spaces and the constant changing of daily headings, spacing, and other artsy things was slowing me down. I found that other than the monthly heading, I did not fill in any tasks at all during December.

Something had to change. I am writing more than ever these days, articles for my blog and Medium, poetry, short stories, and more than one novel per year. I also have a robust social media system in place. My old artsy bullet journal simply was not keeping up with my day to day planning.

PLANNING GOALS

I wanted to set up yearly goals, but I also wanted to set quarterly goals for myself so that I could track my progress through the three novels I wanted to complete and set aside time for two writing challenges that I participate in annually.

I wanted a way to track not only my daily word count, but when I used dictation vs a keyboard, how often I spent in revision/outlining and how many days I spent in writing poetry.

I wanted a system where my daily task days were already set up so I spent less time in creating the spaces in my journal and more time in writing content. I also wanted to remove the art from my journal. Instead, I would set up a separate art journal for my various art projects.

My chosen notebook had to be fountain pen friendly since I wanted to continue to use my favorite Platinum Procyon fountain pen as my main writer. My ink of choice is Noodler’s Black. My new journal needed to play well with these. My choice this year is the Seven Seas Dot Grid with 68 gms Tomoe River Paper. It has a sturdy black cover and lays flat when open.

SYSTEM

As part of my new streamlined concept, I did not place an index in my bullet journal. I find that since I tend to keep things organized by month, it is easy for me to thumb back in my journals and discover the information I need. However, I did number my journal before starting so I had those as a reference. So I started with a simple title page that has my name and the year and a Future Log where I could write in future events such as conferences, speaking events or science fiction conventions.

I have a page to write in my yearly writing goals for the year. Here I list how many books I want to write, and general writing goals I wish to meet. I keep the goals loose and try to not pile on too many. I wish to keep my yearly goals to be obtainable.

This year, I also created a page with quarterly goals. I broke down the projects in the yearly goal page and assigned them to a quarter of the year to work on. This gave me a general idea of when to set launch dates for novels, start and stop dates for projects, etc.

Another year spread in my bullet journal is a yearly tracker for word count by day, if I’m writing via dictation or if I’m writing via keyboard, days that I’m either outlining or researching and finally a place to track if I wrote poetry or not.  I wanted to keep better track of when I was actually creating new poems.

Next, I move into the month sections. This area will be for the rest of the notebook. Between the yearly section and the monthly one, I leave several extra pages in case I decide I want to add something new mid-year.

I start each month with a simple title page that I place the name of the month. I used to turn this into an art project, but this year I settled for writing the month with large brush letters and placing a circle around it.

I have a couple of trackers that I start each month. The first one is my writing log. I write the numbers of the month in a vertical column in the center of the page. For each day of the month, I write down what writing projects I worked on that day to the left and events on the right. It gives me an at-a-glance look at my production of the month. I don’t keep word counts here. That goes into the yearly tracker at the front of the bullet journal.

My last tracker is more for fun. I write down what television series I’m watching, movies I saw, or books I’m reading. I also keep a list of writing-related items I’ve purchased. It is a handy place to write down my monthly goals to remind myself where I am. I find these goals by referring to the quarterly goals I wrote at the front of the bullet journal and assign tasks from there to the month.

Once the monthly trackers are in, I set up spaces for my daily todo lists. I create seven-day spreads on two facing sheets of paper. This gives me plenty of space for lists, notes or whatever I need to write down to be accountable for my day. I make an effort to not get artistic with it. The key this year is to spend more time on writing projects and less time on getting fancy with my planner. I am finding that setting up this space at the start of the month instead of doing it as I go has saved me much time.

Planning via a bullet journal is a powerful tool for any writer or poet. Being able to stay focused on your writing goals, track your progress on a quarterly and monthly basis, are all key elements in getting your work done. By keeping all your information in a single book throughout the year, you can easily see where you are and where you are going.

Scifaiku Poetry Workshop at Janet Goeske Center

Poetry is special to me. I am a published poet of many years and I specialize in scifaiku poetry. This is science fiction themed haiku. This past December, I had the pleasure of teaching a scifaiku poetry workshop in Riverside, CA.

The Janet Goeske Center hosts over 200 classes for the active seniors of its area. The instructor of the literature class, Celena Diana, has been teaching literature at the Center for the past eight years and her class is ongoing and open to members there. She invites readers for their Tuesday Literary Series.

Celena had invited me to be a speaker to her class back in 2018 and we scheduled ahead of full year before I arrived. She told me I could read any of my work to the class. Most of my writing peers had read from their prose. I asked if I could read poetry and talk about the local poetry community. She agreed.

I started the workshop by reading a selection of poems from my new poetry collection “The Planets”. Followed by several of my longer science fiction themed poems. After the reading, I passed around a stack of my scifaiku art prints as a sort of “show & tell” item. These are illustrations of the scifaiku poetry I sell across the United States at various science fiction art shows.

The artwork was a prompt for a long Q&A session. We discussed: journaling, fountain pens, creating artwork with your poems, places to publish science fiction poetry, where to find inspiration, etc. I did not have to pick and choose who to talk to, their teacher handled all that. It made my job easier and it seemed to give confidence to the students.

I finished the Q&A by telling the story of how I became a poet. In “The Poet In Spite of Herself” I explain the accidental way I stumbled into a scifaiku poetry workshop at a local science fiction convention. There I wrote my first scifaiku poem and sold it on the spot. Being budding poets themselves and unsure if they could write a poem in this unique form, the story gave them the confidence that anyone could write scifaiku.

This led to the workshop. Instead of slides, I have a large paper poster board that can folds into a triangle so that it pops up on its own. My analog slides are pre-made for the class. On the back of the poster board, is a functioning whiteboard that I use for brainstorming during the class. I use this because most of the time I am teaching small groups without access to audio/visual supplies. Since this was a large class of 20 with a professional whiteboard on the wall, I ended up using the larger provided whiteboard. The workshop started with explaining the parts of scifaiku, the form that the poetry takes, and how to brainstorm ideas via my method of generating phrases that become the final poem.

I found the group to be exciting to teach because they were a highly creative group of writers delighted to discover a new form of poetry. The class ran longer than the one hour I had been scheduled for, but their teacher told me to go ahead and finish because the students were engaged. At the end of the session, I asked the students to write their scifaiku poem and we would share the poetry after the break.

While the students grabbed a cup of coffee or a snack, I signed a few books, had several further discussions about poetry and illustration before we resumed the workshop. I asked if anyone wanted to read the poem they wrote. Six people raised their hands. The poems they recited were excellent! I was so pleased. As a teacher, you don’t always know how well your class will respond to the course. Evidently, I made a favorable impression. Their teacher Celena kept telling her students to submit their work to their group anthology or to a manuscript they were collating with her guidance. They were excited about poetry and kept telling me what a fun time they had. I had a great time with them too!


I enjoy teaching and prompting poetry in my local area. If your writing group is in the Los Angeles area, I am open to teaching my poetry workshop to your group. Contact me via my website if you are interested.

20 Useful Subreddits For SFF Writers by Wendy Van Camp

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Social Media is the place to ask questions and make connections. As a writer, many of the magazines I publish in or authors/editors I meet are via connections on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. One platform that I also visit for this purpose is Reddit. It is a huge platform of over 520 monthly readers and has a million or more active “subreddits” to choose from. How I like to use the platform is to choose among the subreddits and subscribe so that they appear on my front page dashboard. This is the default page you see when you first sign into the website or use their mobile app. I do not view Reddit as a place to promote my books, although I’m sure there are subreddits you might be able to do a book plug here and there if you are so inclined, but I do view it as place to forge new connections and tap into the knowledge bases of fellow science fiction writers and fans of the genre.

Below is a listing of subreddits that I feel might be useful for a writer of Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror. I hope you’ll give them a test run.

AskScience (/r/askscientists)
This is not a community of writers, but of physicists, astronomers, mathematicians, doctors, biologists and more. They have strict rules about where they source their information. If you are looking for science advice for your stories, this could be a great resource to tap.

AskScienceFiction (/r/asksciencefiction)
If you have ideas for a story and what advice about how plausible it sounds to science fiction readers, this might be the place to go. It seems to be a fun group too!

DestructiveReaders (/r/destructivereaders)
This is a critique group who are known to be tough on the writers who post their work, but if you are looking for in-depth reviews or to see critiques of other writers work to gain pointers, this is an interesting group to follow.

Etymology (/r/etymology)
For all you budding Tolkiens out there, this subreddit is about learning word histories and developing languages. A real must for fantasy and science fiction authors.

Fantasy Writers (/r/fantasywriters/)
A hangout for writers of fantasy books. They also have a discord channel if you feel like chatting in real time.

Fantasy Worldbuilding (/r/FantasyWorldbuilding/)
This subreddit is dedicated to worldbuilding, both fantasy and science fiction. It would be a great place to bounce ideas and gain advice.

Imaginary Landscapes (/r/imaginarylandscapes)
This is a motherload of inspirational fantasy and science fiction images and scenes. If you have writer’s block, this place might ease you back into creativity.

NaNoWriMo (/r/nanowrimo)
Being a former ML of Nanowrimo, I always like to point out places for fellow wrimos to find support during their writing sprints. Look for this group to be the most active during the month of November.

NoSleep (/r/nosleep)
The content of this active community is created by both amateurs and pros of the horror genre. Favorite stories are upvoted and trophies are given monthly and annually for the best offerings. One of the fun aspects of the group are that all the responses to the stories are as if they are real. If you write horror or enjoy reading this genre, this is a place to subscribe to.

PrintSF (/r/printSF/)
A place to discuss published SF, novels, short stories, comics, images, and more. This is more of a science fiction fan group, but as a writer, I find it invaluable to follow what is popular with readers.

PubTips (/r/pubtips)
A subreddit of publishing experts where you can post query letters for community critique.

ScienceFiction (/r/sciencefiction/)
For fans and creators of Science Fiction and related media in any form.

SciFi (/r/scifi/)
For fans of Science Fiction, or Speculative Fiction. SF movies, books, and TV shows.

SciFiWriters (/r/scifiwriting)
This community of speculative fiction and science fiction writers is filled with discussion and critiques for those who write science fiction.

SelfPublish (/r/selfpublish)
This is a place “for writers to discuss the process of self-publishing, share experiences in the ‘industry,’ and read up on self-publishing news.”

Worldbuilding (/r/worldbuilding)
This group is filled with great artwork and ideas in world creation. Most of what you find here are images, but there are world building discussions as well.

Writers (/r/writers)
If you want to talk shop with fellow writers of all genre, this is a good place to visit.

WritersGroup (/r/writersgroup)
The critiques of this subreddit are not as intensive as the ones on DestructiveReaders, it is more of a constructive peer-review. While the subreddit is not as active as some groups, it is still worth taking a look at.

WritersOfHorror (/r/writersofhorror)
In this active community, submit your horror-genre stories and scenes for critique, ask for advice from the community, or share interesting finds related to the genre.

Writing (/r/writing)
If you want to find fellow authors and talk shop, the first place to stop is a place called “writing”! This is not genre specific, but for general craft questions, it is a great place to begin.

Author Platform: Using Facebook by Wendy Van Camp

author platform using facebook
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

The author platform is an important part of being a modern author. Your platform is how new readers find you and become intrigued by your writing. It is the way returning readers keep track of your events and your new books, stories, and poems. It is how your readers discover your book signings and other promotional events.

Your website and newsletter are the first tiers of your author platform. But social media can supplement these two powerful tools on the internet. The main social media outlets you should consider are Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest. I also recommend Medium. This article will discuss using Facebook as part of your author platform.

Facebook can be divided into three different categories. Your personal profile, an author page, and an author group. Each part has a unique use and you don’t necessarily need all three parts to function on this platform.

YOUR FACEBOOK PROFILE

When you first signed up for Facebook, the first account you create is your Facebook profile. This is your personal account that needs to have your real life name. It is also a place that you should set to be private for yourself, your family, and personal friends. Facebook will only allow you to have 5000 followers on your personal account. This might seem like a lot in the beginning. All too quickly, you will use up that 5,000 follower limit if you use your profile as a promotional device for your books. I’ve found over the years that the personal profile functions best as a connection point with writers, magazines, and other personal areas of interest.

In my case, if I have not met you personally or if you are not related to me, I do not add you as a friend on my personal Facebook profile. I also keep my conversations there under a privacy filter. You want to remember that all people on the web are not your friends. Anyone can read your public profiles. This could mean people that you do not want to know personal details about you could read your information. Remember the security of your personal information is important.

I mainly use my personal account to access groups on Facebook on a variety of subjects. I belong to groups devoted to science fiction and fantasy books where I keep up on tropes. A couple of writing societies where I learn more about writing craft. Facebook is a place of many great connections that have been invaluable to me as a writer.

YOUR FACEBOOK AUTHOR PAGE

As an author, your first task on Facebook after you set up your profile should be to set up a Facebook author page. This is a public page that you will use to talk about your writing. I use my Facebook page to post links to articles, stories, and poems that I publish in various online magazines. I promote the books and articles of my friends. Occasionally, I run promotion posts for my books and write general comments about my writing process.

I make a point to not show the emotions of my day to day life. I don’t post about my pets or life activities. I keep all discussion and links on my author page about the subject of writing. I try and not allow the author page timeline to be a time suck either. Facebook doesn’t show my posts to many people and I’m not willing to pay to “boost” my posts. I still believe that having the author page and making sure a few posts go on there each week is important. Most readers will expect to be able to find you on Facebook. If readers come looking for me, I want them to find relevant information that could prompt them to travel on to my website.

What you should use your Facebook page for is to host a Facebook launch party for your books. A Facebook launch party consists of several authors showcasing their books while you act as a moderator to the entire event. You will arrange for contest prizes for people who sign up for your newsletter. You will use the launch party as a vehicle to announce your new up-and-coming book. If all the authors make an effort to invite their personal profile friends to the party, you can have a significant crowd see everyone’s books.

Other than using your page for a launch party or to announce your blog posts and other writing, I would not use Facebook in any other way. While it is true there is a robust ad system that can be utilized to sell your books directly, promoting blog posts and short stories are not worth the money. Facebook ads are useful, but only if you can budget a large amount of money and have a book that is popular enough to make back that money in sales. These ads do not require a page to purchase, you could do it from your profile and bypass having an author page altogether if all you want to do is run ads for your books.

YOUR FACEBOOK GROUP

The final way to use Facebook is to start a Facebook group for your author brand. This group would be about your books and characters and be a place where your fans can chat with you directly. Some authors use the group to post excerpts from their works in progress and gain critiques from their readers. Other authors host online events in their groups. It can be a dynamic way to interact with your reader base. However there is one drawback, a Facebook group takes a great deal of time and energy to manage. You will have to deal with trolls and disruptors in the group. This can be draining on your creative time. While some authors are outgoing and thrive in this sort of environment, introverts may want to stick with only having the Facebook page. This is less intensive to use. It is the method that I personally have chosen.

In conclusion, the best parts of your author platform are your website and your newsletter. Both of these are assets that you own entirely. A Facebook author page is important to have because most people will expect to find you on Facebook. Make it easy for them to find you and find a way to your website and blog. Have links to your website and blog on your Facebook author page and have a sign up for your newsletter. If you use WordPress for your blog, WordPress can be set to automatically post a link of every new post on to your Facebook page. This makes populating posts into your page easy and effortless. In this way, Facebook and a Facebook author page will be an asset as part of your author platform.

Using Twitter For Your Author Platform

Using Twitter For Your Author Platform

Twitter is a powerful tool for an author to use as part of their author platform. It is a free and easy to use announcement platform that can be tailored to supplement your book launches, let your readers know where your latest article or story has published, and a great way to show support to fellow authors or causes you love. Many people like to use Twitter to stay up to date with the news of the day or to follow people that interest them, but that should all be done on your personal Twitter account. As an author, you should have a twitter account that is linked with your blog and other writer social media outlets that serve more like an announcement feed and remains free of personal comments except for those related to your writing process or about your stories and work in general.

Signing up for Twitter is free. Simply log into the social media website and select a name for your new Twitter feed. This name should be either your author pen name or your website name. It needs to be a name that your readers can recognize and connect with you as an author. My Twitter is @wvancamp. In retrospect, I should have chosen to use my blog’s name instead because this matches my website, but being a beginner I chose to use the account I’d already started for my personal use. When this account took off, I did not wish to change to a new name and start over finding new followers. Don’t do what I did. Choose your name more carefully.

Once your Twitter account is set up, you need to start finding followers. One way to attract and keep followers is to constantly have new content appearing in your Twitter feed. These tweets could be writerly quotes, links to various posts on your blog, links to articles you feel might be interesting to your readers, or other miscellaneous information. The key to remember is that your feed needs to be 80% content of other people and 20% content of your own. Remember, you do not want to be considered a spammer. make sure that the information and links that appear on your Twitter feed appeal to the sort of readers you want to attract to your platform.

On my Twitter feed for No Wasted Ink, I have set up certain systems to automatically post to my Twitter feed. For instance, via WordPress, every post that appears on No Wasted Ink automatically appears as a link on my Twitter feed. My Facebook page is set up the same way. Whenever I post on my author Facebook page, a link to that post appears automatically on my Twitter feed. Finally, I use a free account on HootSuite to schedule post to appear on my Twitter feed based on days and times that I choose. I use HootSuite to promote guest posts, author interviews, and essays on my Twitter feed. I also promote the stories and poems that publish on Medium or in independent magazines online. In bulk, I write out the tweets ahead of time and HootSuite trickles them out, one by one, at the designated time. In this way, my Twitter feed is always active even when I am busy living my life or writing my stories. There will be times when I’m at a writer guild meeting when one of my neighbors will stop and stare at me. They will have gotten a tweet on their phone from me, yet I am seated beside them listening to a lecture alongside them. Usually, once they figure out what is going on, they smile.

Another part of my Twitter feed comes from a third-party service called Triberr. There is a free version and a paid version of Triberr. In most cases, the free version of the program is all you will need for your author platform. Triberr organizes its users into tribes. Each tribe is lead by a single leader who chooses the theme of the Triberr tribe. I seek out tribes of fellow authors or tribes of Science Fiction and Fantasy readers and writers since this is in tune with the sort of readers I wish to attract to No Wasted Ink. Once I find a tribe I like, I apply to it and wait to be accepted by the tribe’s leader as a member. This can take some time but is well worth the effort. Once I am accepted as a member, I scroll through that tribe’s post and choose the ones I would like to promote on my Twitter feed. I checked them off and this puts them into a queue. My Triberr is set up to automatically post all the articles I have chosen to Twitter. You can set it up to drip post every 20 minutes or up to five hours. I tend to not have these posts drip to quickly because I don’t like to use up my queue of posts to quickly. But if you have a large number of tribes and wish to promote other people more fully, then setting your drip to be more often could be a good idea.

This combination of automatic posts from my website, Facebook, preset tweets from HootSuite, and Triberr all create a robust Twitter feed that attracts readers, keeps them informed as to what I’m doing as an author, and entertains and informs them. In this way, not only do I keep most of the readers that subscribe to my Twitter feed, but new ones find me every day.

One last thing you should know about Twitter and using it as an announcement platform for yourself as an author is that you need to keep your list active and pruned. Twitter is set up so that you need to be balanced between the people you read and the people that follow you. When you first starting to build your list you can add as many people as you want until you have 2,000 followers. After that point, Twitter slows you down with an add limit. You can only add proximately 10% of your feed at any given time to your Twitter followers. What this means is that if you follow people who are not following you back, eventually you will not be allowed to follow new people. Would I like to do is always add people who are following me. Then once a quarter, I use a free service called Tweepi to locate people I follow who are not following me back and remove them from my following list. Remember, this is an announcement list. If the follower is not following you back, they are not getting your message and are useless to you. Another thing I look for among my followers are people who have not posted on their stream for six months or more. I consider these followers to be inactive. I also remove inactive followers from my Twitter feed.

I hope that this has given you a better understanding of how to use Twitter as part of your author platform. While Twitter is only one part of your entire platform, it is one of the more important social media services you should be tapping into. If you are an Indy Author, Twitter gives you an easy way to promote your books and stories to a wide readership. If you use hashtags and Triberr, you can expand your reach significantly. For traditional authors, many book publishers look at the following potential authors can provide in support of their books. Having a large Twitter channel in addition to your website and newsletter can prove to be an asset for your consideration by these firms. Remember, some automation to simply your posting can make Twitter easy to use and not take up your valuable writing time.