Category Archives: Commentary

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.

Podcasts For Writers by Wendy Van Camp

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Photo by israel palacio on Unsplash

Convention season is upon us and like many authors, I’m scheduled to appear at several conventions and conferences during the summer and fall of this year. One of the items I pack when I travel is a DAP, a Digital Audio Player. I like to keep my music and podcasts separate from my phone so that I don’t drain my phone battery and gain a better quality of sound. I don’t upload audio books, although that certainly is an option, I tend to prefer books on my ereader when traveling. If there is one constant of being on the road, there are always plenty of wait times involved. Waiting for a flight, long hours of driving on the road, standing in line to listen to a favorite author read, or just something to be mellow within the hotel room are all times when a DAP makes life more comfortable.

This year, I’m trying out a Hidizs AP60 player. Not only does it have a decent quality of sound, but it has Bluetooth capabilities that allow me to patch into my car stereo. I prefer it to my old Apple iPod Touch both in sound quality and size. I also love not having to deal with iTunes. I pair it up with Media Monkey to organize my music library and Stitcher to keep me up to date with podcasts. The unit has a comfortable weight, a sturdy casing, and an easy to read display.

I have discovered several new podcasts to listen to this fall and I thought that I’d share them with you. Some of them are craft related, some are about marketing tips, and others are author interviews that touch on the writer’s inspiration. All are free to download and in my opinion, of excellent production values.

Grammar Girl
“Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer’s Digest’s 101 best websites for writers multiple times. She is also an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame.

Grammar Girl provides short, friendly tips to improve your writing. Covering the grammar rules and word choice guidelines that can confound even the best writers, Grammar Girl makes complex grammar questions simple with memory tricks to help you recall and apply those troublesome grammar rules.”

Creative Writing Career
“Turn writing into more than a hobby, make it your career. Stephan Bugaj (Pixar’s Brave, Wall-E, The Incredibles), Justin Sloan (Telltale’s Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, and Minecraft: Story Mode), and Kevin Tumlinson (Citadel, Lucid, The 30-Day Author) give you their advice on writing for books, movies, video games and more, and occasionally try to sound smarter by having on amazing guests.”

Reading And Writing Podcast
This is a podcast featuring interviews with authors from many different genres. At a glance, I noted several authors that I would love to listen to in my own genre, so I have cherry picked this one for the authors that interest me. On the website, the podcaster has listed all the interviews by genre, so it is easy to find authors in the genre you love to read.

Write Now With Sarah Werner
I am fascinated by Sarah Werner as a podcaster, she has quite a strong work ethic! Werner records two regular podcast series, the “Write Now” and one called “Coffee Break”. Both are well produced and feature both writing topics and interviews with authors. She has a third audio project called “Girl In Space” which is a science fiction serial. All three projects can be found at the same URL and all are free to download.

Very Serious Writing Show
“Writing advice from people who know and people who don’t. Practical skills meet ridiculousness as I talk with some of the best writers who are willing to actually be on this show with me, and get their input on how to live the writer life.”

I am intrigued by this podcast with a humorous bent, but I believe it may not be producing new episodes at this time. The last time stamp I saw was from last year. Still, the samples I listened to are good. I’m willing to listen to the back catalog for now. Maybe they will return!

Fountain Pens in the Creative Process by Wendy Van Camp

Fountain Pens In The Creative Process
Background Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

I love fountain pens. Sometimes I think I’m the ambassador for using these pens in life. I’ve introduced them to my friends, to my husband, and to many of the writers in my circle. Making converts everywhere I go. What is so great about them? Well, for me, they not only make the writing I do easier, but they help me when planning my short stories and novels.

I discovered the fountain pen back in 2013. At that time, fountain pens were not cool. To use one invited stares and derisive comments. The pens drew me because my cursive writing had fallen into disuse and was unreadable. I took up journaling to counteract this, reasoning that if I wrote one entry a day in cursive, my penmanship would improve. The more I wrote with the ballpoints, the more my hand cramped. I googled about writing and learned that fountain pens need not press onto the page as you write. You hold them at an angle that is more comfortable for the hand. You could write more words and for a longer time with a fountain pen than with a ballpoint. I had to try it.

The inexpensive Chinese model I bought to find out if I would like writing with a fountain pen was easy to write with. I loved the feel of the pen in my hand, the myriad of ink colors to choose from, and that I could select different nibs to change the way my words looked on the page. I went from using a standard medium nib to a fine nib and to an italic nib, which is a smoother version of a calligraphy stub nib. It was fun! I became hooked on the pens as a hobby.

Within a year, I graduated from the $2 Chinese pens I had to fine tune before using to the $30 pens with smoother nibs and out of the box writing quality. My current “beater” pen, the one I use most often in my office is a Lamy Safari in Lilac. I use Noodler’s Black ink, which is archival and “bulletproof”. I own many colors of inks, but basic black is my main color for the creative process and record keeping. I also use a Platinum Plaisir for autographing my novels out in the field. It is a pen with a cap that keeps the pen from drying out for a long period. My readers love seeing the pen and it makes the autographing process a little more special.

Do I love fountain pens because they are an aid to my creative process as a writer, or do I use paper notebooks as a writer because fountain pens are fun for me? My process of writing developed at the same time I started my fountain pen hobby, so who is to say? I use fountain pens mainly in the brainstorming process of stories and poems. I find that the shorter the project, the more likely I will use the pens during the creative process.

For poems, I create them almost entirely via fountain pen and paper. There is something about doodling all those words on the page to find the perfect fit in my poems. I can switch out the colors to fit the mood too. I store the finished poems in a traveler’s notebook to take with me to open-mic readings. Something about the matching of paper and leather seems quite bohemian.

When writing short stories, I keep an ARC notebook, which has excellent quality paper for fountain pens. I write out ideas for my stories and create handwritten character sheets, outlines, and maps. Once I develop the story enough, I move it onto the computer where I do the drafting.

Finally, there are my novels. I use fountain pens and notebooks when I’m brainstorming ideas for a novel. I create a limited “novel bible” of character sheets, locations, and objects that I can take with me when I go out drafting. I draft on an Alphasmart digital typewriter. Once I complete the first draft, I move the manuscript into Scrivener for revision.

As the years go by, I continue to incorporate fountain pens and paper into my life. I sketch and ink the drawings with a fine fountain pen. I continue to keep a journal to chronicle my life and I keep a bullet journal to keep my writing tasks in order. I experiment with using fountain pen inks as washes in my artwork. I feel that writing with fountain pens has enriched my life. Perhaps they could do the same to yours.


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