I learned a lot during October 2015 with the October platform challenge created and hosted by The Writer’s Digest and Robert Lee Brewer.
Here’s what I learned:
Day 1: Define yourself as a writer.
It was all about figuring out under which name you’ll be writing, what your accomplishments are, what your online presence is and who you are as a writer.
Though I’d love to write under my full name and surname on all media platforms, there are restrictions on most on how many characters you may use. So to make it easier, my blog and twitter handles are miladyronel (more on that choice in a later post).
Here is my answer:
Ronel Janse van Vuuren is the author of early reader, young reader, MG, YA and NA magical realism novels. Most take place in a world (Faerie) of her own creation that connects all her stories.
Three of her poems were published in the 2015 CANSA anthology Brose Genade. She’d also won a few short story competitions.
[Update: Ronel Janse van Vuuren is the author of New Adult, Young Adult and children’s books. Her stories are filled with folklore and mythology from all over the world. She blogs (https://ronelthemythmaker.wordpress.com/), tweets (@miladyronel), plays on Pinterest, dabbles on Google+, participates in NaNoWriMo, and writes on Wattpad (@miladyronel), INK and writing.com (@miladyronel).]
Day 2: Set your writing goals.
It was about setting long and short term goals for one’s writing. It helps with envisioning where one would like to be at a certain point in one’s writing career.
|Short Term||Long Term|
|October 2015 – complete October platform challenge.||Publish all stories about Faerie (all Saphira, all Christi, all Kate and new ones that have no name yet).|
|November 2015 – complete entire NA novel in NaNoWriMo competition.||Turn Adventures of Saphira the Faery Dog into an anime series.|
|Blog every weekend.||Have all novels translated into a lot of languages.|
|Enter – and win – more short story competitions. = write more short stories for portfolio.||Build a proper following on blog and twitter.|
|Tweet more often.||*Take over the world.|
Some of my goals may seem a little, well, super villain but it’s all about that can-do attitude that Pinky and Brain have. It helps to take away the sting of rejection that all writers face at one point or another.
Day 3: Start a writing blog.
Every writer should have a blog. Creating one is what this day’s challenge was all about.
I already have a blog, so I didn’t have to do this challenge.
Day 4: Claim your domain.
Claiming your domain name makes it easier for others to find you. It also optimises SEO. And if you don’t claim it, maybe someone else will.
Obviously, I didn’t claim mine. Perhaps one day when I switch from this wonderful free blog to the self-hosted kind, I’ll splurge on buying my domain name. But for now, I’ll rather spend my time and money on my writing.
Day 5: Join Facebook.
Joining Facebook can be a great way to network.
But, one has to choose which social media networks one wants to be on and can maintain regularly. Having an abandoned site could just result in a useless SEO result – which could make people think that you’re dead or, worse, disinterested in building your platform.
I already have more than enough places that I have to visit online. I don’t have time for Facebook.
Day 6: Join Twitter.
Following others who can possibly benefit you on twitter is a good way to get noticed by their followers. It could lead to new followers of your own who share your interests.
I’m already on twitter. I like how I can connect with other writers all over the world. I even followed/ am followed by illustrators, marketing gurus, bands, reviewers, other writers, literary agents and publishers.
I don’t just tweet about myself and my writing. I tweet about what can help other writers; inspirational quotes; retweets of what I liked with a comment if appropriate. I’ve found that those who only tweet about their books and how people should buy it immediately tend to make me feel a little like Majin Buu (from DBZ – when he blows out steam through the vents in his head).
Day 7: Respond to three tweets.
Retweet and comment on someone else’s tweet. And NOT by telling them they should buy your book or follow you. Interact. Be human.
Basically what I said above with how I use twitter. I found that treating people the way you would like to be treated, works a charm. Robert Lee Brewer said that having ten strong connections is a lot better than having a thousand faceless followers. I agree. Though, I should add, following people you admire (even if they don’t know you exist) is no crime.
Day 8: Find and share a helpful article.
Finding helpful articles and sharing them with your target audience can be tricky. Who is your target audience when you start building your platform?
On twitter, most of my followers are writers. So, I share links to whatever I found helpful. Usually links to other blogs with the handle of whomever owns said blog. Somehow, those are the tweets that get the most retweets and favourites…
Helping others is always good karma. Whether in reality or virtual reality.
Day 9: Create an editorial calendar.
Planning ahead can really help. First, you have to decide on the frequency of your blog posts (once a week or every day or every other day or whatever).
Writing down ideas or even whole posts can really help out when life gets in the way. Or NaNoWriMo… This is one of many posts I wrote in October so I won’t miss any writing time in November.
And that’s where creating an editorial calendar comes in handy. I really recommend it.
Day 10: Include call to action in blog post.
Either by asking people to comment, adding links to other sites, adding links to other posts on blog or by offering services/ products (if relevant).
I’d learned from reading other blogs that asking a question at the end of a post works quite well. And when applicable, I add links to previous posts or to other websites. It works.
Day 11: Link to post on twitter and Facebook.
It’s all about publicising your blog on other social media networks.
This WordPress site asked me during set up if I wanted to do something like that. So my blog immediately, automatically publicises itself with each new post.
I don’t retweet any of my own tweets. I don’t like to be pushy. And I don’t like it when others are pushy with their writing. Taking time to read something – even that extra retweet – takes valuable writing time. If I turn all Majin Buu because someone pestered me to read something, I simply won’t read it. So why would I do something to someone else that I don’t like being done to me?
So I only publicise a post once. That’s it.
Day 12: Read a post and comment on it.
Using the list of bloggers of the October platform challenge, one had to read blog posts and leave comments. Thoughtful comments.
I had a bit of a problem with this task. Everyone on a wordpress.com site was easy to read and to comment on. All the others expected one to fill in crazy long forms with lots of personal information. Including the Writer’s Digest blog – which is why I didn’t officially take part in the challenge.
I’m a private person. It’s difficult for me to be googleable. Filling in forms that I have no idea how they’ll keep the content private is a NO from me.
I’m sure it was difficult for others to comment on WordPress sites if they are from another blogging host. Perhaps someone should create an app to make it possible to comment on every site using the profile one has for one’s blog…
On the plus side, I did make a few new connections with like-minded writers. And that was the time it took to go through the list (which had a few, let’s not say scam sites).
Day 13: Take part in a twitter chat.
Using hashtags is ideal to find whatever you want to chat about. Trending topics is also a good place to go.
Though I always add a relevant hashtag to my tweets (#NaNoWriMo for everything to do with the November writing challenge) it doesn’t always result in someone commenting on it. Maybe because I don’t actively seek out chats… I’ve had a few short chats in the past, but I don’t think that was what Robert Lee Brewer had in mind with this task.
Day 14: Create a time managing plan.
One has to know how much time one needs to spend on building one’s platform. And how much time one needs for writing. And, of course, the realistic amount of hours there are in a day.
I wish there were enough hours in the day to be on various social media platforms, constantly exchanging information and have time to write all the stories whirring/whirling/buzzing in my head.
I attempt to tweet at least every other day. I manage my blog on weekends. The rest of the time is for writing. In October I even left an official letter to all my friends on Woes that I would be away until December (just so they won’t worry about me).
When creating a time managing plan, one has to prioritise writing.
Day 15: Step away for your writing.
This task was about taking a day to just write.
My favourite task.
Day 16: Join Google+.
Robert Lee Brewer wanted everyone to try out a social media network outside their comfort zones. Mainly because something new may be all that’s left in a few years. Remember MySpace?
I didn’t do this task, of course. I don’t want an abandoned site of mine to appear on a search engine result when someone’s looking for me.
[Update: I am now on Google+. See the sidebar for the link to my profile.]
Day 17: Include an image in blog post.
Adding an image as a header makes things more personal and increases SEO. Plus, people like pictures.
Mine is a photo taken in Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in Gauteng. I like how the path winds through the woods, a pond and a bench next to it as it goes up to a hill. It’s a metaphor for writing: the journey is much more important than the destination.
Though, the photo/ picture/ banner on your blog doesn’t have to be a metaphor for anything. It can simply be pretty.
Day 18: Contact an expert for an interview post.
I’ve read a lot of blogs where they feature interviews with experts/ other writers. And I do get the appeal. Though I didn’t complete this task in October, this is something I’ll investigate in 2016.
Day 19: Research live events.
Live events are to energise, educate and connect writers. Most of the live events I’d like to attend are in a different hemisphere an on different continents. For now, I’ll concentrate on the online kind.
Day 20: Search for yourself.
Using Bing, Google, Yahoo or whatever one had to type in one’s name and press search.
Using Bing, I found more results actually about me than others who share my name and surname. Google didn’t do as well.
Of course, I also had to search my twitter/ blog handle to get more results. If it weren’t for my long surname, I could’ve had one term to search and it would’ve made the SEO results better. Thankfully, I’ve linked all of my social media networks. So if you’ve found me on one, you can probably find me on the others without having to use a search engine.
[SEO update: nearly a year later whether you search for me as miladyronel or as Ronel Janse van Vuuren pages fill up with relevant search results.]
Day 21: Research markets.
This is for getting your work published. Researching literary agents, publishers, magazines, competitions and what-have-you.
I’ve always relied on The Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook (Bloomsbury). And search engines, of course.
Building one’s platform requires having one’s name out there for others to find it. Preferably with a sample of one’s writing. (E.g. a short story.)
This year I took part in quite a few short story competitions. (See Accolades page at the top.) For most of those competitions, I haven’t heard back yet because they take months to decide. Yet I don’t regret taking time to relearn the art of short story writing: it’s helped me get a new perspective on plotting and genres.
Day 22: Make three new connections.
Seeing as I make a dozen or so new connections every week on twitter, I didn’t feel compelled to do this task. Broadening my connections on my blog… I did make a couple of new ones just by commenting on their blogs. Mission completed.
Day 23: Think SEO.
This task was all about optimising that SEO by thinking on how you titled your blog posts, etc.
Adding hashtags when appropriate is how I’m completing this task.
Day 24: Write a blog post.
I do this every Saturday. Task done.
[Update: as from July 2016 I blog on Tuesdays (Twisted Tale Tuesday), Thursdays (Folklore Thursday) and Sundays (everything writing related).]
Day 25: Pitch a guest post for another blog.
I’ve seen how this can work for other bloggers to have their work in front of a new audience. Usually this results in new followers on their own blog.
I’ll do this one when I actually have something of worth to tell a whole new audience.
Day 26: Make a task list.
Basically, you had to create your own version of the October platform challenge for November for yourself.
Day 27: Get social.
Doing whatever it takes to be more socially active on whichever social media network you prefer.
Day 28: Join Goodreads.
It’s the place to get reviews for your book.
I’ll join once I’ve actually published a book.
Day 29: Join another social media site.
I get it. Trying something new each time. But, for the reasons I gave earlier, I won’t.
[Update: I’m on Pinterest.]
Day 30: Step away for your writing.
Awesome task. A day for writing…
Day 31: Leave a comment.
All participants had to do was to leave a comment on the Writer’s Digest No Rules Blog. The comment had to be about their experience of the October platform challenge.
I would like to mention that I found this challenge via my subscription to Writer’s Digest newsletters. And I would also like to thank Robert Lee Brewer for sharing his advice and knowledge via this challenge.
I enjoyed this challenge. Though the only way I participated was with a few tweets with the hashtag added to it, I did find a few new social media friends that have the same interests I do. Maybe if I spend more time to get tech savvy, I’ll find a way past the barriers I encountered during this challenge.
Until then, I’ll just write.
I do not know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. – Bill Cosby
How about you fellow scriveners: do you have a writer’s platform? What does it look like? Do you measure your success by it?