Thursday, August 13, 2009

Refining the Plan

Okay, so now you have the basics. You've figured out the form your web presence will take (e-newsletter, blog, etc.), and you've picked your brand keywords and have started to design your graphics with those in mind.

What is next?

The hard part. So far, it's been a lot of fun, but now is when we must make some judgment calls. And those aren't always easy.

We've talked some this week about how to avoid pissing people off online. That's such a fundamental, basic, no-brainer starting point that it sometimes surprises me we have to remind people of this at all. Except maybe it's not such a surprise. People are diverse and moody creatures. Even the best of us have bad days. If you're having a bad day, take a deep breath, eat some chocolate, and remind yourself that your mood will pass but your internet writings will linger indefinitely. It's the nature of the beast.

What if you're having a great day, but someone attacks you? Or says something stupid? Or somehow punches your buttons?

Step back from it. They're the ones having the bad day. Not you. It says more about them than about you. Always take the high road -- not just because the view is better from up there, but because it's a better defensive position. If you are always gracious, charming, thoughtful, and kind, then people will be shocked (and rightly so) that anyone would want to come after you. In the end, the mean people will only look meaner, and the mud they sling at you will miss by a wide margin.

If you slip up and get into a public argument or post something you regret -- and it happens to all of us at one time or another -- get out of it as graciously and as quickly as you can.

So. Where are we on our guidelines? Don't insult people. Don't pick fights. If someone picks a fight with you, be gracious and forgiving. If you slip up, be a bigger person and admit to it. Remember that there's more at stake than winning a point against an opponent. Your public image is on the line.

But these are easy things, right? What about decisions that don't hinge on ugly behavior?

This is where your keywords can help you. Let's say, for example, that you write crime novels and your keywords are chilling, taut, and emotional. You've designed a blog and website with lots of icy colors (silver, white, ice blue, a bit of black or blood red) and sharp-edged graphics. You're going to do monthly articles on forensics, including interviews with people who work in criminal investigations. You might also post some true crime files.

In this case, should you ever post pictures of your kids on your blog?

Your quickest response might be a firm no. But pause and consider. Do your children's activities ever fit in with your theme? Halloween costumes. Science projects. Book reports on mystery novels. Any of these things might support your theme and allow you to incorporate material that might not otherwise fit your plans. The point is to be selective, and to select material that works.

Let's try another example. Actually, we'll do two again because that seems to spark some good discussion in the comments and helps you really pull the taffy.

Option One:
You write warm, sunny women's fiction with mostly happy families and low-conflict plots. Your keywords are supportive, warm, and nurturing. In real life, your next-door neighbor's house was broken into in the middle of the day. Your neighbor was raped and slaughtered. It's a sensational crime, and it leaves you terrified. Can you write about this in your monthly newsletter? If so, how do you approach it?

Option Two:
You write young adult and middle grade novels. Your keywords are funky, playful, and giggly. Your website has lots of games and puzzles and riddles. You're taking an extended vacation at a nudist colony for swingers. Can you post information about this on your website? If so, how?

Have fun!
Theresa

17 comments:

PatriciaW said...

One more suggestion: Think twice before commenting. Did others already say what you plan to say? Is it really vital for you to get in on the discussion on a hot-button topic? Think...

Christina G. said...

Option 1: I would find a twist on this so more people can relate. Like maybe you mention on your site that a woman you knew personally was killed in your area, and now you're having a hard time falling asleep and feeling safe. You could ask people for suggestions of their favorite calming teas, or for advice on books that make them feel happy and safe when they can't sleep.

Option 2: You can hold a contest on your site. You're going on vacation in the Continental U.S. to a state where Hannah Montana once toured, and where the shopping mall could count as its own town, and where some important historical documents were once written. First three to guess correctly win a signed copy of "Freaky and Fantastic Friday."

Dominique said...

Personally, with both options, I'd say leave it out. Both of those topics have their place, and neither's place seemed to be in the websites described. I try to craft my web persona remembering the rule "When in doubt, leave it out." It saves one from saving things one might later regret.

And when it comes to arguments or disputes on the internet, I try to remember the old adage, "Never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel." The kind of person who goes around spoiling for a fight is the last person you should be fighting.

Stephanie, PQW said...

Great stuff to chew on. I'm so glad you made the point about feelings fading and ink lasting. People forget.

Option 1: It is possible to include this in your blog/website. Write about the tragedies that occur in the world and the difficult return to balance.

Option 2: Here you could take a creative spin on fashion and style and start a discussion about what in clothing, or the lack of, constitues style.

Jenny said...

Whatever you decide, make sure what you write on your blog isn't dull. This sounds obvious, but I have dropped more blogs than I care to remember because the blogger drones on about trivia without ever telling me why I should care.

You're telling a story when you blog about your life. If the story doesn't hook the reader in the first paragraph, you've lost them. And may have lost them as a buyer too.

Whatever you write, remember that it is always about the READER--entertaining them, informing them, confronting them. It isn't about you. If you forget that and start blogging e about what color slipcovers you're thinking about buying for the family room, you can lose me fast. At least, if you you have to mention the slipcovers, ask me what color I, constant reader, would recommend.

Edittorrent said...

One of the fascinating things about judgment calls is that it can lead to varied answers like the ones we're getting here today. Lots of good ideas and insights!

For Option 2, I like the idea of creating a game for kids that revolves around the idea of clothes and style, but I think you would have to be very careful in how nudity is presented. I also like the idea of talking about traveling without reference to the nudist camp or swingers club. (Yes, I know not all nudists are swingers. I was just looking for an example that would not be age-appropriate.)

Theresa

Murphy said...

Option One:
I think you could write a post on this if you presented it to your audience in an appropriate manner. It isn't like we all live in a glass bubble and expect perfection and stability all the time. Now, if you presented yourself as warm-sunny site and then wrote about horrible things happening all the time - that's different. For this once or maybe even several times over the course of a year I don't see the wrong in it. If I were going to get people sharing ideas, possible solutions and exchange their experiences - I wouldn't start off with inciting incident right off the bat (how'd ya like that for a little writer lingo) - I’d put it out there in general terms. A big gray area like:

Have you ever had something happen close to you that put you into a panic? Where you were afraid to walk home by yourself late at night and once you got inside you were terrorfied to turn out the lights? Recently something like this happened to me and... I would go on to explain about my feelings - fears - and what ,so far, I had been doing to overcome them...then I would wait until other people brought up the things that bothered them. Who knows? Maybe I'd be commenting too and could eventually share the intimate details but really, at the end of the day, do the details matter? What was I trying to get out of this discourse? Being able to tell my audience a salacious bit of news or was I trying to work through my own horrible feelings? I would hope that I’d recognizing that others probably had similar experiences in their lives and I could benefit by listening to their stories and the processes they each went through to deal with them. Just my 2 cents...

I really wasn’t going to comment on this as I liked the other comments posted,:) but I saw the words nudist camp and swingers CLUB and I had an instant visual of the much beloved and now infamous Mantasy post. Connecting those dots I was thinking - hey? Where’s Wes? I know he’s around here somewhere.:D
Murphy

Wes said...

Hey!!!! I was minding my own business trying to soak up some smarts from the posts. I am not writing a mantasy!!!!! (He tells himself.) I guess I'll get the real answer after editors evaluate my submission which will be sent soon. Murphy, you are a trouble-maker!

Murphy said...

...I know.

Edittorrent said...

Talk about things on the web that linger forever. That Mantasy post is sure one of them! lol

Theresa

JewelTones said...

For Option 1 -- I don't think I'd go into details, but I can see relating a story of how such a crime pulled people together, showcases the absolutely amazing connections and depths of emotions and how tragedy can pull strangers together, heal wounds between people who never thought they'd speak again, and how "little gestures" of kindness/compassion can mean a lot to someone when they're at their lowest.. and then have people relate back personal gestures they've received that stayed with them through the years. I'd focus on the human emotion, love and caring that comes from tragedy rather than the crime/tragedy details itself.

Option 2. I'd totally leave out anything about nudist colonies and swingers. It's not relevant for children and certainly touchy if you're website. I can see the legal nightmares there or the ticked off parents that would be in touch with you and your publishers should they see something they don't like. But I can see talking about the general tourist sites of your destination, doing some kind of trivia quiz on it, touching on local history that involves mysteries or historic puzzles -- lost treasure, shipwrecks, famous people, unknown historic reasonings like the heads on easter island, crop circles, etc.

JT

Mystery Robin said...

I'd just like to say for the record that while I do write about my kids on my blog, I'm of the opinion that pictures of kids should never be posted.

Especially, if you're trying to drive traffic to it. This = eyeballs of people you don't know, but who (feel they) know you.

Especially if you write about crime.

Maybe erring on the paranoid, here, but just my two cents, as a mystery writer and a mom.

Murphy said...

Theresa:
Classics never die!

Gayle Carline said...

Example One, I'd definitely include somehow. If my keywords are supportive and nurturing, then I'd discuss how the community can support and nurture this family going thru a tough time.

Example Two, um, no. The kids don't need to know this, not because there's something wrong with it, but because I predict your keyword of "giggly" will take on a whole new level after the kids know where you're going.

Gayle
http://gaylecarline.blogspot.com

Jami G. said...

The Option One actually happened to a local family. I never went to the blog, but there have been newspaper articles about it. Apparently, a local mom had a large-readership mom-blog and then her and her husband almost died in a private plane crash. Her sister took over the blog and it turned into a medical progress blog. The newspaper articles made it sound like much of the original readership felt like they knew the woman and thus were interested in following the blog even after it changed form.

So, no matter the readership, if people feel like they know you, there might be some leniency.

Jami G.

Caroline said...

Option One: Support is for those who need help; warmth is for those lost in the cold; and nurturing is for those who are growing and need guidance.

I feel like number one could certainly be discussed in that context, because the author who has brought sunshine to so many people needs a little sunshine herself. Not to mention the family of the victim- it might be possible to mobilize her fans to do something for them; host a memorial service, or something. Focus on the emotional impact of the event, leave the lurid details out, and include a call to action.

As to Option Two: I'd leave out the nudist swinger club part, for the same reason that I wouldn't end my blog posts with, "And now I'm off to sleep with my husband!" It just doesn't seem topical. Now, if you were a young adult author that had keywords like relationships, sexuality, exploration- maybe then.

Leona said...

Let's just say.... I'm with Murphy Cyber stamp is put into play once again...

And the mantasy article may never go away. It was too great.

Wes... Murphy's a fun, lovable, trouble maker... LOL Good luck on NOT writing the all dreaded mantasy.

I do have one thing to say, though. As writers, we tend to use the word for stress release and our imagination to help cope. If you really feel the need to write about something, you could start another blog. Let your readers know the content on new blog is mature, sensitive, etc. They then have the choice of reading it or not. That way too, if you are a YA writer, you have warned the readers and parents that the other blog is not for young fans. IDK, maybe it wouldn't keep out litigation, as I have no idea how that area of the law works. But it would at least give readers the option to not read something different than what they expected or wanted from that author.