Stopping Traffic

Dan's pic
Your humble host.

Blog traffic is always different on a holiday weekend

I made what I thought was a great post on a Sunday, and I tweeted about it because I wanted it to be read. I can usually expect a high volume of retweets on Twitter and a subsequent high volume of traffic to my blog.

Nope.

I had just launched the newsletter, too, so I was like, Oops, I guess people don’t like the newsletter SO MUCH that they’ve stopped reading the blog!

And the ones that were clicking through to the blog were leaving almost zero comments. (Comments had been very high; dozens a day.)

I knew it was a holiday weekend – MLK Day was that Monday – but I forgot that things are ALWAYS different on holiday weekends.

And it almost doesn’t matter what the holiday is.

25 eBook Tips COVER authorSSS
Click HERE to get our free marketing book to build your author platform

When I worked at a Fortune 500 company and had to do recruiting, ads never did well on holiday weekends. People are doing different things on those days. I developed a wide definition of “holiday” – and there’s basically one every month. We all know (or should know) that everybody is doing things a little differently during Christmas; you ae buying presents and going to parties and putting up a tree! Your writing schedule suffers but your overall schedule is different, and blog traffic shows that, too. Traffic peaked in October, was a little less in November (Thanksgiving is a BIG holiday that takes people out of their schedules) and of course December has Christmas, as I just noted, which screws up almost one whole month and a part of the following month.

Here’s a list of traffic-interrupting holidays. Many are small hiccups but a few are MAJOR traffic slowers:

January – New Year’s Eve/Day. The reasons should be obvious. Everybody’s partying! But it’s still basically “The Holidays.” January also has Martin Luther King Day, and because it’s a 3 day weekend, expect things to be a little different in your blog traffic. Things get back to normal around the 15th, with a hiccup on MLK weekend. MAJOR.

February has Valentine’s Day. A hiccup.

March has Easter, another biggie (but not like Thanksgiving; it’s maybe 1/3 of the Thanksgiving traffic drop) and also St Patrick’s Day – in case your hangover from New Year’s had slipped your mind. So, a minor major (Easter) and a hiccup (St. Paddy’s).

April – while not a holiday, tax returns are due on April 15 and people might be busy.  Or unhappy. It’s more of a hiccup, if that.

May has Cinco De Mayo, for a little more hair of the dog. (It’s not as big as the other drinking holidays, though.) But Mother’s Day is known for travel and upsetting schedules. (Or just being upsetting. It never works out like you think it will, does it?) Then at the end of May is another a three day weekend, Memorial Day. So you have a big hiccup for Cinco De Mayo, a minor major for Mother’s Day weekend, and a MAJOR tremor for Memorial Day weekend.

June has Father’s Day, which doesn’t affect anything, really. Certainly not like Mother’s Day. Not even  hiccup, but I don’t want dads feeling neglected.

July has Independence Day, the 4th of July. That’s another party based 3-day weekend, and folks travel a LOT at that time of year. Do not be alarmed if your CPs disappear and your blog traffic dies. People are on vacation. You should consider doing that, too. It’s usually a MAJOR.

August – not really any holidays, but people vacation a lot in August. Traffic will be slower almost all month. Plus, parents are getting ready for back to school. Some hiccups, but nothing worry about in general, just usually a slightly slower month overall.

September brings ANOTHER 3 day weekend and drinking/socializing with family cookouts, Labor Day. Again, expect traffic to be different. It’ll be a minor major.

October has Halloween, which didn’t seem to affect traffic but it’s worth being aware of it. A hiccup.

November. Do I need to say it? Thanksgiving, baby! Stuff some turkey and stuff your belly but don’t check your blog traffic numbers because it will be miniscule. A MAJOR major.

December has Christmas, which starts affecting things by the 15th and continues through New Year’s, the 31st. You know what I’m about to say.  A triple MAJOR. The majorest.

So what do we do? Well…

None of this means you shouldn’t blog or advertise or whatever on these weekends, just that you need to be aware that people are behaving differently at those times.

  • Blog traffic drops and comments drop a LOT at those times. Don’t panic. It’ll come back. If you were doing a good job before, odds are you’re still doing a good job.
  • Book sales may be slower. For some budgets, that means don’t advertise cos you won’t get your usual return. For other budgets, it means spend MORE so your revenue doesn’t slide. (If book sales were good, expect them to get better!)

Now, I doubt you’ll save this “calendar” or even remember next Memorial Day that things were projected to be slow for a few days. But you MIGHT want to advertise and do certain promotions AROUND those dates if you can.

Know your business and what affects it.

Like I should have.

 

 

What Am I Supposed To Be Doing On Goodreads?

Dan's pic
Your humble host.

I’m going to tell you this little story for several reasons. It’s a sad cry for help, yes, but in a good way. Also, I’m a pretty honest guy, depending on who you ask. When I’m clueless, which is rare but it happens, I’ll probably admit it.

(Recently, we discussed building your author platform HERE, and how to auto post your blog HERE)

I don’t usually do it so publicly…

 But what the heck; I ask you guys to open yourselves up in your writing even though it’s scary; here’s an example of opening yourself up to ridicule for the sake of getting an education.

 

See? After a while, opening yourself isn’t that scary. Nobody is gonna punch me in the nose for posting this. Probably.

 

They may laugh

 

Okay, ready?

 

So I joined Goodreads a few years ago because I was supposed to – you know? Like starting that blog? And getting on Twitter? Well, Goodreads was yet another thing I was supposed to do as a new author.

(We discussed Goodreads recently HERE but it’s time to rally the troops! As authors we are missing the boat on this one)

Goodreads profile pic
That’s me! (This is the new profile. No, you don’t get to see the old, horrible one.)

Anyway, I put up a (mediocre) profile and listed my books…. And that was about it.

 

drunk
A visual representation of my Goodreads activity for about 2 1/2 years.

I was essentially inactive from then until about 2 weeks ago when I decided to get re-involved. I had accumulated about 30 friends on Goodreads by then, maybe fewer, really; I don’t remember. It wasn’t a lot. Could have been ten. Doesn’t matter.

But since we’re supposed to attack one new social media every so often. It was time to look at Goodreads.

 

I went to my author profile on November 25, 2015, updated it, clicked on a few other things – and BOOM, people started friending me.

 

NO idea what I did.

 

I added a few hundred friends like three hours. I didn’t click things to do this, it just happened. I mean, I clicked some things originally during the profile update stuff, but I didn’t keep clicking things. (These are technical terms, in case I lost you.)

 

Next day there were more people who had become my Goodreads friends.

500 Goodreads friends 11272015 b
This was TWO days later, on November 27, 2015

A few days later there were a LOT more.

616 on Goodreads 11292015 b
November 29, 2015

And it kept going…

700 Goodreads 12022015 B
December 2, 2015

Today we hit 900.

900 goodreads friends 12092015 b
That’s good, right?

I have NO IDEA what I’m doing. Or did. No idea what I did.

 

But that’s not the point.

I’m pretty sure it’s not like a golf score, where lower is better…

But…

I need to know what I should be doing with these folks. Interact, yes – how? What do you do there? Market to these folks? Sure! How – what is the right way?

 

SOMEBODY is being effective on Goodreads. Let’s find them and get them here to explain it in a guest blog post. (I have books to sell, and GR is the world’s largest book club.)

 

  • If you are on Goodreads, friend me. “Dan Alatorre” – that’s me. You’ll recognize my smiling mug on the profile page.
  • If you are clueless about Goodreads, too, REBLOG this and let’s find a friend of yours who’s not.
  • If you are active on Goodreads, tell us a little about what you do there in the comments section.
  • If you find a good article that explain how authors should utilize Goodreads, think about doing a guest blog for us. Or link to the article in the comments section.
  • If you know people who market effectively on Goodreads, track them down and use enhanced interrogation techniques to get them to fill the rest of us in. (It’s not torture and it’s not illegal. Allegedly.)

 

From what I understand, Goodreads is a little bit of a different animal. You don’t post about “buy my book” there. Or maybe you do – I don’t know. But I sure don’t want to piss off 900 people figuring it out.

 

That’s where you come in. There are a lot of you, so if we all work on this we’ll come up with the answers fast. You weren’t expecting homework? Think of it as a writing challenge. (I don’t know how it qualifies as a writing challenge, but work with me on this one.)

 

Meanwhile, you guys have books you’ll want recommended to these 900 friends of mine. You’ll want reviews for your books. Well, so will I, from you and your friends, when I put out my next book. So we can all help each other eventually. But we gotta figure it out first.

 

It’s time to figure out Goodreads!

 

And as always, when we do, we’ll learn it together.

.

00 Santa DanREBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

 

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

 

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

 

 

BEST CHRISTMAS FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE EVER

00 Santa Dan
Ho, ho, ho!

If you wanna get right to the challenge skip down to where it says “FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE!”

 

It is Christmas time! And as most of you know, there are a lot of Christmas specials on TV.

And most of them suck.

 

Honestly, A Mom For Christmas? Look, I liked Olivia Newton John as much as anybody back in the day, but who needs to see that?

 

Nobody.

 

But throw in a few desperate B-list stars and some drunk, unemployed writers and BINGO, another “new” cookie cutter holiday story. Even if they’ve redone it a dozen times over the years.

 

Yawn.

 

This is YOUR chance to change all that!

 

It occurred to me that a bored person with a computer could probably do better than these TV executives! And, hey, WE have computers! And alcohol! Plus, doing this challenge is better for YOU than shopping/decorating the tree/spending time with the in-laws.

 

FLASH FICTION CHALLENGE!

 

Did you see that coming? So here’s the deal. First of all you go to this website

http://www.kitt.net/php/title.php

 

And get six titles. Pick ONE to build your Christmas Themed Flash Fiction story around.

 

The definition of flash fiction is: whatever you want it to be. So sayeth Wiki:

“Flash fiction is a style of fictional literature or fiction of extreme brevity.[1] There is no widely accepted definition of the length of the category.”

 

 

Basically I’m looking for something around 1000 words. It can be less, it could be more. If you’re closing in on 3000 words and you haven’t really nailed it yet, think about some editing. Funny, romantic, erotic, mystery, drama, that’s your call. (Keep it PG if you post it below; if you go R or harder, just the link will do.)

 

THE RULES

 

  1. You write 1000 words more or less on the now-Christmassy topic
  2. Post it on your blog
  3. Reference us on your blog and this challenge so your regular readers don’t think you’ve gone batty.
  4. Post your link to your story here in the comments section.
  5. You have until Friday 12 noon EST, on 12/18/2015, that’s Tampa Florida US of A time, for those of you who live elsewhere.

 

Here’s a bonus for reading to the bottom. IF you participate in THIS challenge, you will get a few days’ advantage for the NEXT writing challenge! Yeah, that’s it. I can be Grinchy sometimes. Ask around.

 

READ the entries by everybody and let me know which ones you like. That could influence the judging. Just sayin’. We’re not giving prizes. The display of your amazing talent is its own reward.

 

GET AFTER IT!

.

Dan's pic
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

 

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

 

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

 

 

Remember: The READER Doesn’t Know The Characters Are Okay!

At a few key places in The Water Castle, I really built up the tension – and it works. Nail biter stuff.

The reader is tense, the character is tense…

Hell, I was tense.

(I discovered a little trick, that whatever I wanted the reader to feel, I had to make a character feel. We’re in their heads after all, as readers, so if they are biting their fingernail and creeping slowly holding their breath, we tend to do that, too. I mean, you have to paint it right but that’s a big part of it. That’s also why, if your MC likes/dislikes/trusts/loves/hates another character, your reader will, too – if you allowed the reader to know and like the MC first.)

But

At a few other places that should have had tension, the story didn’t deliver it.

(Yet; it’s the first draft.)

Stacie’s friend is suddenly hauled away by Spanish soldiers from the 1600’s to the dungeon. Sure, Stacie gets nervous, as does the friend, but neither gets super upset.

 

Um… what was I thinking?

 

Two things. One, I know her friend doesn’t get hurt. Because I wrote it. I know she’s okay and not to worry too much.

 

That wasn’t intentional; I was excited to get on to the next scene – where some big time drama was about to happen. (That’s number two, of the two things.) There’s a big cliffhanger ending to that chapter, too. It totally rocks. Stacie… I don’t know. She was in the way. Stand over there; I’ll get to you, Stace.

 

That’s because I know nothing bad happens to Stacie or her friend.

 

I have to remember the reader doesn’t know that, and build it up.

 

That’s why first drafts are shit. But luckily, we get to make second drafts. In that version, I’ll add the necessary emotion, and then the big drama scene will be even bigger.

 

What are some of the mistakes you’ve caught between your first and second drafts?

.

Dan's pic
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

 

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

 

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

Whaaat??? TWO Flash Fiction challenges in one week?

Dan's pic
Your humble host.

Sure, why not?

 

Let’s learn to write a blurb!

 

We all need to do it, and practice makes perfect!

But.

Let’s write one for a book or movie we all know, to learn the process. Because while we’re all slapping down words in volume to build a story, a blurb is baiting the hook to get readers to read the story. Completely different.

 

It’s a tease, a sales pitch, a… baited hook.

 

In her book Gotta Read It, Libby Hawker says there are 5 steps to a good blurb.

  1. A Character, who
  2. Wants something, but
  3. Something stands in her way, so she
  4. Struggles against that force, and
  5. Something important is at stake

 

We’ve seen something similar to this before.

In December 2013, Digital Book World’s Beth Bacon posted “4 Easy Steps To An Irresistible Book Blurb” Which we used to make some fun  stuff

(1) Situation.

(2) Problem.

(3) Hopeful possibility.

(4) Mood, tone or spirit of the story.

 

The next things Bacon recommends are:

  • Make it short.
  • Make it dramatic.

 

Readers want tension in a blurb.

If your blurb doesn’t hook your readers, they’re going to assume your book won’t hook them either.

 

And we did some of that for my new story. But like anything else, the more you practice it, the better you’ll get.

 

Let’s try it. Write your own blurb for a well-known movie or book. We will probably all come up with something similar, but we can see who’s we like the best. Vote for the best one by clicking LIKE or just saying you like it. (Write yours before looking at the other ones, or just go ahead and improve on somebody else’s, no problem.)

 

Here are your movies or books:

1 Titanic

2 Hansel And Gretel

3 Schindler’s List

4 The Little Red Hen

5 Jurassic Park

Savvy Stories – Oops! How did that get in there?

6 Chicken Little

7 Tom Sawyer

8 Noah’s Ark

9 The Hunt For Red October

10 The Terminator

 

Use the Random Number Generator, HERE  to select your story. (Spin again if it gives you one you don’t know.)

randomnumbergenerator2

Pick one and have at it. I’m curious to see what we come up with, and I’ll be posting my latest BIP (Blurb In Process) for The Water Castle soon!

 

Invite your friends to play along, especially if they are good at blurbs.

.

Dan's pic
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

 

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

 

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.

Still Stuck? How To Unstick Your Unmotivated Writer’s Brain And WRITE

burned out womanSometimes a story gets stuck. That sucks, because we’re the ones who drove into the tree, but it happens. (This is not a post about that.)

 

When the story is fine but the writer is stuck, that’s different. That’s a mental thing, or an organization thing, or whatever, but if you are stuck and unhappy about it, here’s another method to re-engage your motivation.

 

BTW, if you have read my other piece about this and NOT tried EVERY solution offered, DO NOT complain that you are still stuck. You will miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

 

1 finish line c
You’ll get there.

First, don’t worry about “finishing” the story. That’s a thought too big for your unmotivated brain right now, like trying to swallow your whole Thanksgiving dinner in one bite.

 

Instead, let’s work in reverse.

 

(Ooh, math. Already, writing your story sounds good, doesn’t it? You’re welcome.)

 

How many chapters do you estimate you have to go to finish the story? I used about 1 chapter per plot point.

How many words per chapter? I use about 3000.

How long does it take to write a chapter? That depends, but you know and I don’t, for you. Using me, I’d say 3 days per chapter DEPENDING on if I have some plot points I have to work out or logic problems, etc.

 

In my fantasy romance story, The Water Castle, if Philip marries Gina and stays in Florida, he dies a year later in an Indian raid. If he doesn’t marry her and goes back to Spain, he lives. What was the option if he didn’t marry her and stayed in Florida? Oops. I guess I’d better make Spain mandatory. But then he’d live regardless. Oops. So he ONLY stays if he marries her, otherwise he has to go back. Staying is defiance. Okay. And she can’t go with him to Spain? Oops. Nope, I guess not.

 

See? All that thinking will stop the writing!

 

woman-stressed-pulling-hair-out

Anyway, if I have 6 plot points remaining (Philip has the meeting, Philip goes back to castle, Gina sees the book, Gina breaks up with Philip, Gina and her mom reconcile, Philip leaves, that’s about it.) 6 plot points. None of those is probably a whole chapter but let’s say they are.

 

6 “chapters” x 3000 words per chapter, at 2 chapters a week for normal speed = 3 weeks until I’m finished. (Again, your mileage may vary)

 

Add 50% to 100% for holiday interference and I’d say 6 weeks. Six weeks from now is, what, early January?

 

Okay, now I have to decide WHEN I’m going to write. (If you do not have a set writing time, there are ways to find time and schedule time HERE and HERE) For me, it’s usually 4am to 6am, plus 1 hour in the early evening and a few after dinner evenings, plus 3 hours on Sunday morning and 3 hours on Saturday afternoon, plus ALL DAY BLACK FRIDAY. Otherwise, whenever I can, since holidays mess things up.abacus

 

* Crunches numbers *

 

Yes, I can meet that January 7 deadline.

 

Now, if I finish before January 7, I will feel really good, but just knowing January 7 is when it’ll likely be finished, that’s GREAT. All I have to do is ensure I get my 2 hours in each morning.

 

Walk through that exercise for yourself. Be realistic, not ambitious. You’re not going to become SuperAuthor just because you wrote down some numbers.

 

Break down the numbers and have a weekly goal, with a daily estimate. A weekly goal might be 6,000 words but there will be days when I don’t write 1000. Maybe I’m rereading or reviewing – and my critique partners can usually tell when I haven’t. So I’ll go for a weekly goal but after 2 weeks if I’m only hitting 4000 words a week, guess what? REVISE THE DEADLINE or increase the weekly word production, or both.

 

0 punch
Don’t do that.

Right now, you’re beating yourself. I’d adjust the deadline. If that means March 31 and I hate it being that far away, I’ll get motivated – but the idea is to have a system to get where you want to go because right now you are NOT getting there without a system right now, are you? The system you’re using ain’t getting it done!

 

THEN take your plot points and list them:

Philip has the meeting,

Philip goes back to castle,

Gina sees the book,

Gina breaks up with Philip,

Gina and her mom reconcile,

Philip orders castle destroyed and leaves

 

Then take your favorite one and tell in 1 paragraph what happens in that part, or why it’s your favorite. Just sum it up. A few sentences may be enough, but feel free to explain the intricacies or details you want to hit.

 

Then, do that for the other points.

 

o spark
Feeling it yet?

Even if you wrote one paragraph for each of 6 plot points, you’d have written probably 1000 – 1500 words, and probably re-sparked your interest in your story. I defy you to write 1000 words on a story you love and NOT get restarted on it. But if you don’t, then set it aside and start something new. Maybe short stories or Flash Fiction challenges.

 

Me, I’d FORCE myself to write if I had to. I have written and discarded tens of thousands of words for The Water Castle. There have been a few strolls down interesting paths before the big ending that were later discarded. There was supposed to be a big dragon chase that evaporated. It’s all clay until it’s baked into a pot.

 

HappyChild_large
Me! Me! Me!

But if the story has left you, it’s okay to dance with a new story – as long as you don’t marry the new story. You don’t need 20 stories lying around that are half finished (and if you DO have 20 half-finished stories laying around, consider partnering up with others to finish them. Co-authors. Give ‘em your outline and notes and publish the thing, then split the royalties.)

 

They say if you have to wait for a muse, you’re a not a writer, you’re a waiter. Do you want that? How does that feel, to say that about yourself? You don’t want that.

 

Nobody wants that.

 

That’s why Hemingway said bite the nail every day and write. (Although he did shoot himself.) Sometimes it’s work. Build those writer muscles so next time it’ll be easier! You are not a quitter!

 

AB19725
You’ll get there!

I think breaking it down this way will help you see what you want to work on. You know what happens in the story; you just need to get it down. Also, as the end gets close, it’s hard to finish, so don’t let that get in the way. Finishing is difficult the first few times. You’ll be sitting there wondering if you tied up all the loose ends. Don’t. Just finish it. THEN worry about that stuff. Because clay. You can add to your story or change it. You can’t edit a blank page.

 

Write SOMETHING EVERY DAY, or even just reread a favorite part of the story. Do these exercises. Pretty soon the old fun feeling will be back.

 

And you’ll be writing again!

 

If YOU have ever been stuck, what worked for you? Tell us!

.

Dan's pic
Your humble host.

REBLOG me! Or SHARE this post on Facebook and Twitter! See those little buttons down below? Put on your glasses. There they are. Click them. The FOLLOW button is now in the lower right hand corner.

 

Got a QUESTION? ASK IT! Hit the Contact Me button and I’ll see what I can do. (I have lots of smart friends.)

 

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the hilarious upcoming novel “Poggibonsi: an italian misadventure.” Click HERE to check out his other works.