1. Define Yourself as a Writer

    For the first day of this challenge, I want everyone to take a step back and define yourself as a writer. Don’t worry about where you want to be. Instead, focus on who you are, what you’ve done, what you’re currently doing, etc.

    Below is a chart I’m using (with my own answers). Feel encouraged to use it to help you define yourself as a writer. Also, feel free to include your answers in the comments below–or just say something along the lines of “task completed” if you’re shy.

    Name (as used in byline): Robert Lee Brewer

    Position(s): Senior Content Editor, Writer’s Digest Writing Community; Published Author as Poet; Freelance Writer; Blogger; Event Speaker; Den Leader – Cub Scouts; Volunteer/Mentor – Methodist Church

    Skill(s): Editing; creative writing (poetry and fiction); technical writing; copywriting; database management; SEO; blogging; newsletter writing; problem solving; idea generation; public speaking; community building; teaching; mentoring

    Social media platforms (active): Facebook; LinkedIn; Google+; Twitter

    URL(s): www.writersmarket.com; www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides; www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules; www.robertleebrewer.com

    Accomplishments: Named 2010 Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere; author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53); speaker at many writing events around the country for more than a decade; edited several editions of Writer’s Marketand Poet’s Market books; former MVP of HS cross country and track teams and conference champion in multiple track events; undergraduate award-winner in multiple writing disciplines at the University of Cincinnati, including journalism, fiction, and technical writing; BA in English Literature from University of Cincinnati with certificates in writing for Creative Writing-Fiction and Professional and Technical Writing.

    Interests: Writing (all genres); family (being good husband and father); faith; fitness (especially running and disc golf); fantasy football; reading.

    In one sentence, who am I? Robert Lee Brewer is a married Methodist father of five children (four sons and one daughter) who works as an editor and plays as a writer, specializing in poetry and blogging.

    *****

  2. Set Your Writing Goals

    For today’s platform-building task, set your writing goals. There are some people who believe in just charging blindly forward, but I believe in taking a moment to consider goals. And here’s why: It’s hard to know if you’re finding success if you don’t know what you’re trying to achieve. Or put another way: If you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you’re there?

    So put together a couple lists:

    • One list should be short-term goals. These are goals you can accomplish within the next year. It’s okay to get ambitious, but try to keep them semi-reasonable. For instance, if you’re an unpublished writer, winning the Nobel Prize in Literature is probably not a reasonable short-term goal. But maybe getting published in a literary journal is.
    • The other list should be long-term goals. Feel free to knock yourself out with ambitious goals here. Dream a little. But also include reasonable goals that you might accomplish eventually. As an example, I once set a goal of getting a full-length collection of poetry published, and it happened 18 months later!

      Here are some examples of my writing goals:

      These examples are only some of my goals. Some are too crazy to share with anyone but my wife.

      Short-term goals:

      • In October, complete the October Platform Challenge.
      • Finish judging the 2015 April PAD Challenge on my Poetic Asides blog.
      • Submit one packet of poems per week through the end of 2015.
      • Start assembling the Writer’s Market 2017. (Call for submissions here.)
      • Start assembling the Poet’s Market 2017. (Call for submissions here.)
      • Lead workshops at Blue Ridge Writer’s Conference in April 2016.
      • Etc.

      Long-term goals:

      • Publish second full-length poetry collection.
      • Raise 5 happy and healthy children into 5 happy, healthy, caring, and self-sufficient adults.
      • Continue to learn how to be a better husband and human being.
      • Become debt free and financially independent.
      • Win Poet Laureate of the Universe honors. (Create the post if it doesn’t exist yet.)
      • Might as well throw in a Nobel Prize or two, right?
      • Etc.
  3. Start a Writing Blog

    For today’s platform-building task, start a writing blog. You can use Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, or another platform if you wish. To complete today’s task, do the following:

    • Create a blog. That is, sign up (if you don’t already have a blog), pick a design (these can usually be altered later if needed), and complete your profile.
    • Write a post for today. If you’re not sure what to cover, you can just introduce yourself and share a brief explanation of how your blog got started. Don’t make it too complicated.
    • Share your blog URL in the comments below. I’ll go through and create a list of blog URLs, so that we can easily find, follow, and friend each other in the blogosphere. It’ll be great!
  4. Claim Your Domain

    For today’s platform-building task, claim your domain name. I’ve never made this a task in the past, because it costs money to register a domain name. Rather, I’ve strongly encouraged doing it. However, I think it’s so important to have a stable piece of online real estate–and the price is really so minimal–that it has to be a requirement for a writer platform.

    Why is it so important? Let me share the story of my former boss and current friend Jane Friedman. You see, there are two Jane Friedmans in the publishing world (probably more), but my Jane Friedman is the one who claimedJaneFriedman.com and twitter.com/JaneFriedman and facebook.com/JaneFriedman and, well, you get the picture.

    (Editorial aside, my Jane Friedman is also the Jane Friedman who started this blog AND the Jane Friedman who is leading the webinar below.)    

  5. oin Facebook

    For today’s platform-building task, join Facebook. If you have an account already, great! Read some of my tips below on how to optimize your Facebook account. If you don’t already have an account, go to Facebook.com, sign up (it’s free), and complete your profile.

    Once you’ve accomplished this, check back here for tips below on how to optimize your Facebook account. You’ll start out ahead of the curve.

    *****

    Social Media for Writers

    Find Success With Social Media!

    Do you want to build a following and sell more books? Learn how in the 60-minute Social Media for Writers webinar, led by social media gurus Tee Morris and Philippa Ballantine.

    Beginning with set up and ending with best practices and online etiquette, writers will learn:

    • A friendly, accessible approach to mastering the various social media platforms
    • Strategies for drawing the attention of prospective readers
    • How to build an audience and sell more books
    • How to create an effective social media persona
    • And more!
  6. Join Twitter

    For today’s platform-building task, join Twitter. If you’re already there, great! Share your handle in comments below. I’ll try and collect them all into a post sometime in the next week or so. If not, got to http://www.twitter.com, create an account, complete your profile, and share your newly created handle in the comments below.

    *****

    using_twitter_to_boost_your_writing_incomeUse Twitter to Boost Your Writing Income

    Twitter won’t do everything for a writer, but a writer can definitely benefit from smart use of this social media platform. Learn how much a writer can benefit in freelancer Tim Beyers’ Using Twitter to Boost Your Writing Income webinar.

    In this webinar, writers will learn:

    • How to meaningfully engage other people and be a resource.
    • How to land an assignment for a major publication by following the editors on Twitter.
    • Case studies of freelancers who have scored jobs on Twitter.
    • And more!
    • Make your Twitter handle your byline–if possible. For instance, my Twitter handle is @RobertLeeBrewer. Remember Jane Friedman from a couple days ago? Hers is @JaneFriedman. Makes it easy to locate you if you can do it this way.
    • Use an image of yourself. Remember: Building your writer platform is a kind of branding. You want people to be able to recognize you–not your pet or children–when they’re searching for everything you online.
    • Make your profile bio snappy and relevant. You might want to use a version of that sentence you wrote for Day 1’s task. Incorporate humor if possible. I connected mine to my employer and publisher.
    • Follow users who can benefit you. I’ve put together a list of the 50 best tweeps for writers to follow last night. Use it to get you started. Follow other writers, publications, publishers, organizations, etc.
    • Share regularly. If you can do a post (or more) per day, great. But if that’s too overwhelming/addicting, just try to post or share something every 2-3 days. Again, just to show that you’re using your account.

    The Twitter hashtag for this challenge is #platchal. If you include this hashtag in your tweets, you can see what others are posting (if your account is set to public).

    Need an idea for a Tweet? Why not link to each day’s challenge?

    Join Twitter

    For today’s platform-building task, join Twitter. If you’re already there, great! Share your handle in comments below. I’ll try and collect them all into a post sometime in the next week or so. If not, got to http://www.twitter.com, create an account, complete your profile, and share your newly created handle in the comments below.

    *****

    using_twitter_to_boost_your_writing_incomeUse Twitter to Boost Your Writing Income

    Twitter won’t do everything for a writer, but a writer can definitely benefit from smart use of this social media platform. Learn how much a writer can benefit in freelancer Tim Beyers’ Using Twitter to Boost Your Writing Income webinar.

    In this webinar, writers will learn:

    • How to meaningfully engage other people and be a resource.
    • How to land an assignment for a major publication by following the editors on Twitter.
    • Case studies of freelancers who have scored jobs on Twitter.
    • And more!

    The Golden Rule of Platform Development

    One of the most common mistakes I notice writers making in developing their writer platforms is that they start the process off by asking for others to do things for them. Here are a few common scenarios:

    • Writer new to Twitter goes around following people and sending messages to the effect of, “I’ll continue following you IF you follow me.”
    • Writer comments on another person’s Status Update (or their wall) on Facebook to promote their book–or their most recent blog post.
    • Writer comments on a blog post only to say something like, “Follow MY blog,” or “Read MY blog post.”

    Don’t be THAT writer. Instead, follow the golden rule of platform development: Treat others as you would like to be treated.

    Yes, it’s okay to write a blog post when your book is accepted for publication AND when it’s actually published. It’s also good form to share the news on your social media outlets and any other method possible. But…

    If that’s the only thing you do, you’ll become known as “That Writer Person Who Always Talks About His/Her Book And Nothing Else All The Time,” or TWPWATAHBANEATT for short. And no one likes to be around TWPWATAHBANEATT, even TWPWATAHBANEATT gets tired of ceaselessly promoting his/her book.

    Instead, be an author who talks about their book sometimes, but a person who knows how to talk about other relevant stuff as well. Everyone likes that person, who has an actual name, not just an impossible-to-pronounce acronym.

    Create an Editorial Calendar

    For today’s platform-building task, create an editorial calendar for your blog. Before you start to panic, this is a pretty simple task that can be accomplished with a computer or even a pen and paper.

    Here are tips for various blogging frequencies:

    • Post once per week. If you post once a week, pick a day of the week for that post to happen each week. Then, write down the date for each post. Beside each post, write down ideas for that post ahead of time. There will be times when the ideas are humming along and you get ahead on your schedule, but there may also be times when the ideas are slow. So don’t wait: Write down ideas as they come.
    • Post more than once per week. Try identifying days you’ll usually post (for some, that may be daily). Then, for each of those days, think of a theme for that day. For instance, my Poetic Asides blog always has a prompt on Wednesdays, sometimes has a poetry market on Mondays, interviews on Thursdays, and so on.

    You can always change plans and move posts to different days, but the editorial calendar is an effective tool for setting very clear goals with deadlines and accomplishing them. Having that kind of structure will improve your content–even if your blog is personal, fictional, poetic, etc. It’s helped me a great deal over the years.

    Include Call to Action in Blog Post

    For today’s platform-building task, make a new post on your blog and include a call to action. There are any number of calls to action, and my blog posts always include them.

    Here are a few examples of calls to action:

    • Ask people to comment on your post. Don’t get discouraged if the comments don’t flow immediately, but getting people to communicate in the comments of your blog is a great way to foster community and engagement.
    • Link to other articles outside your site. Think about Day 8’s task and apply it to your blog. Of course, you’ll want to add your context to why the article is relevant on your blog, but calling people to read another article is a call to action.
    • Link to other posts within your blog or site. Look at what I did in the previous bullet point. I linked to a previous post in this challenge. That link is a subtle call to action that’s saying, “Click on me.” When it’s relevant, it’s a win-win for your readers and your blog/site traffic. You’ll notice that I also link previous posts at the bottom of each post, as well as linking to my Twitter handle.
    • Share products/services (if relevant). I should say “if relevant” at the end of everything platform-related, and it gets tricky promoting books and services. If you don’t have anything to sell (like a book you wrote or a course you teach), then I’d advise against sharing products or services at all. But part of your eventual goal is to create a platform that allows you to communicate with your target audience and find more success. There’s nothing wrong with that.

    Research Markets

    For today’s platform-building task, research markets for getting your writing published. Of course, I’m going to suggest checking out the latest Writer’s Market, because I edit that book. But there are some other methods to researching markets that don’t involve a trip to the bookstore or library below.

    But first, you need to know what you’re researching:

    • Magazines and online publications. Any writer who does shorter form writing (like poems or prose that has fewer than 8,000 words) will want to investigate magazines and online publications as possible places to publish their writing. Unless you write picture books, that is. Some longer form writing may also find a home in publications.
    • Book publishers. For this market, writers need to assemble a book-length work of writing, whether it’s a collection of poetry or short fiction or an entire novel or how-to book.
    • Literary agents. For fiction and nonfiction writers who wish to get published by one of the major publishing houses that only accept agented material, well, literary agents is the way to go. There’s actually a great agent blog on this site hosted by Chuck Sambuchino (check it out).
    • Contests. For some writers, contests is a way to break in. They’ve helped propel many a career, but enter with caution. Many charge entry fees, which can add up quick, and the competition is usually tough. Enter contests that will provide a great deal of visibility if you win and that offer some sort of premium if you enter (like a copy of the winning book or subscription to the magazine). Then, you can still have something even if you don’t win.

    *****

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