Under Attack!

I did something that I’m kind of intimidated about.

The Screenwriting subReddit (Screddit) threw down a challenge to write a full screenplay every month.

Screddit Attack is a spin off of the now defunct Script Frenzy. Except we’re opening it up to one hour drama’s as well as half hour comedies. To make things fair, writers who wish to write a 30 minute show must write two within the month. It’s a contest against yourself and a way to get all of us to start writing!

“A script in a month?” you say. “Every month?” you say.

Ah, but there are prizes.

courtesy of dailydesigninspiration.com

For every month that the challenge is successfully met, you get a ribbon. Next to your name. On Reddit. In different colors, depending on how many months you accumulate.

So now the truth comes out – I will do anything for colored ribbons.

Even write a screenplay in a month.

DIY Writer’s Retreat

Once you start inviting writing gurus to send you weekly emails, you will find yourself facing a number of invitations to part with cash. Some of these money-spending opportunities are extremely helpful, depending on what you need at this point in time and where you are in your career.

One invite that never fails to draw my salivating interest is for writer’s retreats. A week away in a beautiful place with yoga classes and creative prompts, and no responsibilities but to write.

Doesn’t that sound like the definition of bliss?

Chances are, if you’re still in the ‘build’ phase of your writing career, you don’t have a couple thousand bucks to dispense on a week of bliss. Or maybe you do and you’re cheap. Which is basically my situation.

So what’s the cheapster to do when her writing piles up and Puerto Rico beckons? What we always do when we want something without paying for it. Do It Yourself.

No money, no problem. Hole up and write.

No money, no problem. Hole up and write.

With three quarters of a screenplay, a serial or novel, a short story languishing for want of research, a couple Ebooks, and an idea for a kids’ travel book weighing on my creative mind, I’m overdue for some serious writing time. So the plan is to devote three days of this week to writing.

No email. No errands. No cleaning. No phone calls. Just me and my computer and my notebook.

I hesitate to put this plan out there in Internet Land, only because my grand plans have an infamous history of falling apart. Undramatically, but tragically and completely. Leaving me with nothing but a list of good intentions and a guilty conscience.

But I am making an exception for scientific purposes. I’ll state my hypothesis, spend the week in experiments, then report next week with my conclusions. I flatter myself that this process will benefit other writers as well. So if a week away from life as you know it is just not in your budget this year, consider joining me on a DIY Writer’s Retreat.

Important considerations when planning one’s own writer’s retreat:

1. What is my goal?
Yes, writing, but more specifically, which writing. I listed four or five projects above, but no way will I touch all of them in three days. Better to choose one and go hard. The more specific the goal, the better.

I intend to finish the rough draft of my screenplay. That’s basically 40 pages. Just rough, no editing or tweaking. Not even spell-check. Just one pass to stretch it out to a full length.

2. Preparations
If all I’m doing is writing, that means I won’t be able to go grocery shopping. So I’d better do that first.

Depending on your personality, it could be helpful to come up with a rough schedule. For me, it’s hit or miss – a schedule could really help me focus, or it could send me into a panic of lethargy. So I’ll keep it low key: exercise in the morning, do some writing. Take a couple hours’ break for lunch and a book or movie, then write some more.

Nooooo pressure.

I do have a store of inspirational quotes and books and videos in the event that I lose motivation and wake up in the middle of a House marathon surrounded by origami rejects. A little Bret Lott or Anna Quindlen will get me back on the straight and narrow.

3. Go Somewhere
Just because I can’t afford Puerto Rico doesn’t mean I can’t day-trip to San Francisco. Or Phoenix. Or Starbucks.

Again, this is a matter of preference. I enjoy spending time in my little baby apartment, but it can get noisy during the day, what with the children and the skaters and the bird. My neighbor has a bird that squawks hellishly for approximately 2 hours every day.

I’m really good at ignoring stuff.

As long as I have music as white noise, staying home will probably work fine for me. But it could be fun to kick off at a coffee shop, so I can savor that feeling of starting something new and exciting.

4. Soften expectations
As much as I want to spend three days only writing, the bald fact is since starting this blog post, I’ve thought of calendar items for every day this week. Why don’t I write stuff in my calendar? This is a separate, but contributing, problem.

So in reality, it will probably be like 2 days and 3 afternoons. But that’s life. It’s DIY. We make exceptions.

But in the end we have this beautiful thing that we made, and it’s all the more satisfying because it didn’t cost a cent.

Off we go, busy writers. To create and to explore. Godspeed.

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Day 15: Make Some Friends

The winding Sea-to-Sky Highway

Back from vacation, and on with the writing challenge! Happy Summer, everyone.

We’ve invested some time by now in getting ourselves involved in social networks – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and most recently, Google+ (which I confess I haven’t revisited since). Well, let’s break down the big network of society into the individuals woven into said net.

Namely, friends.

Day 15: Connect with at least three new people on one of your social network sites.

So, where to begin?

Twitter would be the simplest and most straight-forward path – the 140-character profile usually drives users to stick to the important stuff, which is handy when you’re looking for specific interests that relate to your own. And it’s easy to follow said users. And in my experience, 8 times out of 10 said users will follow you back.

Facebook, on the other hand, could be a little trickier. Facebook users tend to be more oriented toward keeping up with family and friends, and depending on the user, could be resistant to connecting with strangers. Then again, depending on how active they are, Facebook could be a lot more  likely to yield meaningful interaction if you’re allowed into the inner circle.

LinkedIn connections used to be impossible to make without a bona fide acquaintance with the object of your socialization. Or at least an email address (if you fibbed and said you were friends), but now supposed ‘friends’ don’t need any proof of friendship, and if you don’t want to be that dishonest, you can just click the option for ‘I don’t know this person’. So chances are, if you rewrite the automatic “Dear blank, I’d like to add you to my network on LinkedIn” invitation copy into something that actually introduces you and why this person might want to know you, it could work out well.

Again, it all depends on how active your prospective connections are on each site.

I’m brand new to Google+ so I don’t even know how connections are made there. Anyone want to chime in on this?

So having weighed all the options, I think I will go with Facebook. There are a few friends of friends I’ve wanted to meet, and this is a good kick in the kiester to give it a try. What’s the worst the can happen? They’re totally turned off by my charming self-introduction and proposed invasion of their Facebook privacy, and forever think black thoughts at the very mention of my name.

Big deal.

Let’s go make some friends!

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Day 14: Get Social – Google Edition

Day 13 of Robert Brewer’s 30-day writing platform challenge was to link your blog post in Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. I did that already. So let’s spring ahead to another online socialization exercise.

Day 14: Start a Google+ account

This has been on my to-do list for months, but frankly the idea of keeping up with one more social network is daunting. Not to mention the unsettling pervasiveness of Google… when your search engine knows who you are and essentially links your online activity with a variety of services, things can get a little creepy. Perhaps I will just give up the illusion of authenticity and just blatantly self-promote.

So why do I feel like I’m being absorbed into a cult?

Well, it’s done now… trouble is, I don’t know anyone on Google+

Except Robert Brewer. Following! Anyone else?

Day 12: Encourage Conversation

A good hostess knows how to keep a conversation going. She presents a topic and invites comments.

That’s sort of like what we do as bloggers – unlike authors, whose work is done and separate from their person, a blogger is right in the midst of their creative work. We draw readers in and encourage them to stay and participate. Interact, if you will, with our writing.

Today’s exercise from Robert Brewer’s platform-building challenge hinges on the second half of this relationship.

Day 12: Write a blog post and a call to action

In which a ‘call to action’ is an opportunity to connect via social media or previous blog posts. Offering readers other ways to engage, beyond this one post that may have randomly popped up in their feed reader. It’s another way of communicating, “Come on in, take your shoes off, have a drink. Make yourself comfortable and tell me about yourself.”

Sit down and visit for a spell.

To read more about Robert Brewer’s writing challenge, and how I was enticed to follow along, take a look at my first post on Day 1: Get Back in the Box

I’d love to have you come see me in the Twitterverse, Facebookland, or LinkedInville.

Twitter: @cortneywrites

Facebook: Cortney Writes

LinkedIn: Cortney Matz

Any thoughts about this post? Leave a comment and join the conversation!

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Day 11: More Sharing

Sharing buttons again! But today we won’t be encouraging others to share our posts – instead, we’ll be sharing posts we like and want to pass along to anyone who may be reading.

Day 11: Find a helpful article and share it with your social network

Technically I have been doing this every day for the last 10 days, since every post I write in this challenge begins with Robert Brewer’s 30-day challenge. But in the spirit of the challenge, I welcome a new opportunity to build platforms and grow in writerly wisdom.

Robert’s reasoning is good; with all this platform-building, it’s easy to take our social networks for granted as a collection of eyes that we must continually put our content in front of. Today is a reminder that our people are well-rounded connoisseurs of content, with a palate for everything from dancing babies to economic projection infographics. Let’s share good stuff of all kinds, not just what we’ve generated ourselves.

Of course, we are still platform-builders, so being a bit strategic in what we share is called for. I’m building a platform to do with writing and storytelling. Specifically, I seem to have drawn a following of writers looking to connect about writing. So I want to share an article that will be helpful to this particular crowd of mine.

To that end, I found a very interesting article in Writer’s Digest’s e-newsletter today. My task is to share it on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn (at minimum – linking to it here is going a bit extra).

I was drawn to Brian Klem’s article, 7 Tips for Turning Your Blog into a Book, because I want to do just that. Blogging is an exploratory exercise, and I’ve discovered several story ideas as I’ve typed away at WordPress the last couple years. Maybe not novel material, but certainly a short e-book could be cobbled together from my Except When It Rains series of fiction and also last year’s road trip travelogue.

If you have a blog, there’s a high likelihood there’s a book in there somewhere—or at least the beginning of one. Don’t let that book go to waste. Turn your blog into a book, or “book it,” as author and book designer Joel Friedlander likes to say. Repurpose your blog content into a book.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Please enjoy these helpful thoughts on blogging with a book in mind, or mining your blog for book content. I definitely did.

Day 10: Finding Yourself

We made it to Day 10, y’all! Ten down, twenty to go – and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m 1/3 of the way through Robert Brewer’s challenge to writers, helping us build a writing platform over 30 days.

Today’s task is not about going to Europe or quitting your job to eat/pray/love. No, this job involves a much more defined search. As in Google.

Day 10: Do a Search on your Name

Starting with Google, then Bing and Yahoo, followed by several other options for extra credit.

It’s handy in times like these to have a unique name – there appears to be only one other Cortney Matz on the internet, and her web presence consists of a Twitter account. I, on the other hand, have fairly saturated the internet with websites, social media profiles, video accounts, and press releases. Google returned about 6 pages of links related to me in some capacity before I started hitting redundancies.

Did you know that your comments on blogs and Facebook pages will appear in searches? I guess it makes sense – they are public forums. I’m glad to say I’ve never posted anything I’m ashamed to see turn up in a search. But still, it’s a little strange to find a story I wrote in 1998 showing on page 4 of my Google search.

For the most part, my results were unsurprising. My website came up first, followed by my LinkedIn profile and Twitter account. Only Bing listed my Scribbles blog, though – and that was nowhere near the top of the list. I guess I have some optimization to do for this puppy!

All three search engines pegged me with MySpace on the first page! MySpace, for crying out loud. An account I started years ago and haven’t done a blessed thing with since. It’s kind of embarrassing if anyone actually clicks through – I only have one friend, and it’s Tom, the came-with-the-account friend.

Like I said, didn’t do anything with it. I guess I should delete it.

Anyone know how long it takes for webprints to disappear…?

Day 9: Tweet Back

I don’t know many of the people I follow on Twitter, so oftentimes I feel I’m tweeting into a vast abyss with no guarantees that anyone will see – let alone care about – what I wrote. So the occasional response I get is hugely gratifying.

Wouldn’t we love to give that gratification to our fellow tweeps? Oh, good.

Day 9: Respond to at least three people on Twitter

So, I hopped on Twitter and wrote back to the first three posts I saw:

@DannyManus Lazy Saturday takes on a whole new meaning when it’s doctor ordered.
@cortneywrites Did it ruin it for you?

@WritersDigest Writing retreat on the Greek isle of Ithaca this summer
@cortneywrites *drooling*

@ASouthernYankee Today I discovered that if you argue with the groceries in your shopping cart, the checkout line magically clears.
@cortneywrites Nice

There they are. My responses. Tweeted them right out into the abyss. No acknowledgment of said tweets has been made in the last 13 minutes, but that’s okay. You know, my readers. You know it all.

If it were easy to build a platform, everyone would do it. At least I have 94 followers, even if they don’t always read my tweets. I guess that is the reason we keep writing… so we have something to engage readers with once we’ve pulled them all together.

Day 8: Get Linked In

More social media! Facebook: check. Twitter: check. LinkedIn… up next.

Day 8: Create a LinkedIn profile

Robert doesn’t have a lot to say about LinkedIn, other than to recommend getting on it, and then he asked for advice from readers. In my experience, LI is one networking site that seems to have a split opinion. Half the people love it and extoll the multitudinous ways for industrious folk to do business by connecting with friends of friends and answering questions about which they have expertise. The other half is there because they feel they should be.

But now what?

I’ve been on LinkedIn for a few years, and have taken the time to fill out my profile pretty completely. I have 129 connections, 5 endorsements for my work, and when I have new episodes of the chocolate show I post links there.

I’ve connected with a few folks I wouldn’t have met otherwise, and had one interesting email from a cable station (which didn’t go anywhere), but otherwise it’s been a pretty dry fount.

I’m sure it is beneficial for the sake of legitimacy to have a profile on LinkedIn. It’s kind of an online resume with accountability from all your connections to back it up. Plus there are lots of professional groups to participate in, and new job opportunities within your network are emailed to you regularly.

All that to say, I’m on the fence.

Any thoughts? Have you played with LinkedIn and found it a helpful tool? Let us discuss.

Join the link!

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Day 7: Facilitate Free Publicity

When God created the world, he rested on the seventh day. That’s sort of what I’m doing with the writing challenge, because all I had to do today was copy and paste.

Behold, I have buttons! Look to your right – just slightly to the right of this post, top of the sidebar. See it? Share buttons! This is today’s accomplishment.

Day 7: Add Share Buttons to your blog or website

Share buttons are basically free PR. Who hasn’t read an article or blog post and posted it on Facebook or emailed it to a friend? Who wouldn’t love to have their article or blog post circulated voluntarily by readers via the world wide web?

I have a love/hate relationship with share buttons. They always turn out looking funky, and some javascript varieties can go berzerk and take over your entire screen. Yet when you have those moments where you think, “This is great, I should pass it on to so-and-so,” the share button is hard to beat for ease and efficiency.

Thank you Robert Brewer, for opening my eyes to the Add This button! SO easy. It literally worked on the first try.

All you do is go to addthis.com and click the ‘Get the Code’ button, choose the format you want (little buttons? big buttons?) and which kind of blog/website you are working with. They’ll walk you through the rest. Once you have your buttons installed, then it’s time to play. If you want to have your mind blown, click the + button. Up pops eleventy-seven options for social media sites on which you may share.

Okay, it’s actually 321 social media sites, but still… who knew there was such a wide world of sharing beyond Facebook, Twitter and Google?

Go get it, you won’t be sorry.

Quick shout-out to new followers, JordanForty, DiniAndrianiPotas (I can’t read a word of your blog, but your photos are lovely!), Ooa Revo, Tali Norfali, Anna, and MonaD’E! I look forward to getting to know you all as we blog together and build our platforms.

Thanks also to Kirk, who suggested adding Share buttons at the end of each blog post… that is a bang-up idea.

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