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Random Stuff & Social Media

I thought I'd take a little detour from discussing the craft per se and talk about random stuffmy life, social media, my writing goals and the like. Skim the icons and read what interests you.

It's the middle of July. My son, the one with autism, has a half-day class for the next few weeks designed to work on his social skills and prepare him for middle school. His twin will be transferring to middle school, too, but from a home school setting. (Yup. I'm one of those weird homeschool moms.) In about six weeks, all three kids will be in public school, at the same time, for the first time in four yearsmy oldest a freshman in high school! I will miss them, but I will have some peaceful days to write. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.

(Anyone want to buy some slightly used curriculum???) :P

I'm getting a handle on Twitter and, I must say, liking more than I thought I would. Once I realized what Twitter can and can't do and adjusted my expectations accordingly, it grew on me. 

I'm up to 800+ followers and gaining about 100 per week without even trying. Occasionally I'll go through a list of someone's follow-ees and follow the tweeps who look interesting, but mostly I just follow back those who follow me, and then maybe one of the people their profile suggests. You know, that little window that usually opens up when you click 'follow.' 

Businesses trolling for clients or tweeps who require TrueTwit verification need not apply. I won't follow back.

In an effort to interact more, I started thanking each new follower personally with a tweet—something people seem to appreciate. I also thank folks for @mentions and for retweets unless they're benefiting from the original tweet. I schedule tweets sometimes, but I try not to go overboard with that. What disappears in a feed of 500 looks like spam in a feed of 25. In fact, that's one of the problems with Twitterthe variation in follow list size and how that affects what each person sees.

I still like (the free version of) Hootsuite for managing Twitter. This app has a URL shortener right in the tweeter, allows me to save and schedule tweets, and allows me to form different tweet streams (feeds) by things like @mentions, direct messages, keywords (aka #hashtags), and select groups of tweeps.

If you're friendly and we have something in common, you'll likely make it into my 'short list.'  That way your tweets don't get lost in the speeding, main Twitter stream that flows more like white water rapids. :)

The one thing I'm still falling short on is surfing the main stream and taking time to retweet more for others. Unless the tweep in question is very well known to me and trusted, I vet ALL links before I retweet. That takes tiiiime.
As for my blog, the biggest news is my Follower gadget is working again. (Cue balloon drop and streamers. :P) As some of you may recall, I lost it on the day of my blog reveal, right after I'd gained 60 followers the very first month. To get Follower back, I had to build a whole new blog, import all the content, and then fiddle with the blog names and blog addresses until the new one had been renamed to match the old. It was a lot of work, but it was worth it.

I'm trying really hard to schedule posts ahead. (Right now, they're scheduled through the first part of September.) This saves time in the long run by giving me weeks-long stretches when I can concentrate on other things, like writing. All I have to do is proof them a day or two before launch day and make last minute adjustments. I can even reschedule them if something else comes up. 

I've also joined Alex J Cavanaugh's Insecure Writer's Support Group. It's been a great way to meet other bloggers, and it's one less blog post topic to come up with every month. Thank you, Alex!

And I know I've said it before, but...I'm still not visiting other blogs as often as I'd like. Once the kids are settled into their back-to-school routine, I plan to iron out some sort of schedule for hopping the blogs more regularly. Maybe Alex will tell me his secret. :P

As for my writing, I'm working on my historical romance, Come Back. I write whenever I can, but this summer, that has been very little. Watch for a jump in word count after school starts. ;)  I plan for this to be my debut novel. Then I'll go back and whip my first two WIPs into shape.

Two writing related things I found that might be worth your time to look into are:
  • Windows 7 (and apparently several earlier versions, too) has a speech to text feature that allows you to speak instead of type. I discovered this while reading reviews of Dragon Speaking Naturally voice recognition software. To find this, go to your start menu and type 'speech to text' or 'speech recognition' into the search box. I don't know if I'll find a use for it, but it's nice to know it's there. For no extra charge. ;) 
  • I found a free (for now anyway) software download that helps you edit your writing. It's called Smart Edit, and you really have to read the whole web page to see all it can do. It alerts you to things like cliches, adverbs, overused phrases, excessive dialogue tags, and misspellings that your word processor didn't catch. Just be sure to save a copy of your work before you use it. It can mess up certain formatting.

    I'm still on my crusade to banish Captcha (aka word verification) from blogger blogs. Two things that will drive visitors away from your blog (besides overly long posts like this one :P) is not setting your links to open in a separate window and not turning off the word verification for blog comments. And be aware regarding Captchaonly your visitors will see it. Your blog won't require it of you. For more info, see the post titled I Am Not A Robot!.

    Sorry I was so long-winded this Wednesday. I didn't set out to be.

    What's been going on with you? 
    Any new finds, fun plans or writing news?


    1. I wish I could spend more time with Twitter. I've heard Hootsuite mentioned before.
      Thanks for joining the IWSG! You'll meet a lot of cool people that way.

      1. I like Hootsuite, although I do want to test out Tweetdeck at some point - just haven't found the time.

        What I really want is to know your secret for getting around to so many blogs so quickly. ;)

    2. I'm trying to spend more time with Twitter myself. In fact, I'm determined to finally create some lists and sort out the people I'm following this week. My twitter is growing less manageable every day, so I need to strike while the iron's hot!

      I'm with you on the blog-hopping as well! I really need to make more time to visit blogs. I feel bad when I realize I've let one of my favorite reads slip to the wayside.


      1. Hootsuite can definitely help you manage Twitter. I have friends who swear by Tweetdeck, too.

        Thanks for stopping by. :)

    3. Woohoo! Keep up the social momentum. :D

    4. Melissa, this was a great post. I learned a lot and I also feel we have some things in common, such as a blog that needed rebuilding (I managed to crash my entire web site and had to have my webmaster reconstruct it), new to twitter, never enough time to read other blogs, and definitely don't get enough writing time.

      i'm surprised at the number of people who follow me on Twitter, but I have not yet learned how to accomplish the goal I had in mind when I joined. I wanted to connect with young writers to make them aware of the writing opp I have to offer. Like you, I'm still learning and I seldom have the time it takes to learn!

      I don't get near as much time to write as I would like either. I've been working on a historical romance for way too long now. Someday I will get it finished.

      As for visiting other blogs, I get to read a few every week, but probably only about 10% of all the ones that come into my inbox. Once in a while, like this morning, a post really grabs me and I leave a comment.

      I will definitely read your I am not a robot post. I can't leave half the comments I would like to because of that stupid thing!

      I wish your children the best in public school and hope that works out well for all of you. Now that you'll have more writing time, I'll look forward to reading that historical romance when you get it published!

      I will definitely follow you on twitter! I'm @pattishene. See you there!

      1. Wow, Patti, thanks for the kind comments. I'm blown away you actually took the time to read the whole post. LOL :D

        I'll look you up on Twitter. Good luck with your social media endeavors and with your writing. :)

    5. I'm a follower again! Yay! This post is SOOOOOOOOOO informative! Wowsa! I just downloaded that cool SmartEdit thingy, hope it works! I really need to set a goal for Twitter for myself--that thing overwhelms me :)
      So happy for you and your family--all three kids in public school for the first time--big accomplishment! I hope it works out well for all of you :)
      I came here to thank you for the Magic 8 ball Meme and figure out what to do for that and learned a ton of stuff! So double thank you!
      And I'd like to interview you for Falling For Fiction :)

      1. Ha! Well, I guess my wordiness was a good thing after all. ;)

        Thank me for tagging you? As long as you're not hiring a hit man to track me down, I'm good. hahaha :D

        As for the interview, gladly. I'd be honored. :)

    6. I think I'll forever be a twitter noob. This is the first time I've heard about Hootsuite but I'll check it out. But boy do you have a lot on your plate right now. Good to hear you will be gaining some time for yourself once the kids are in school. I can't wait for mine to go full time, but I have to wait until the new cafeteria gets built (long story). And it's interesting you mentioned Windows 7 and the speech to text feature, I know a blogger who may be interested in that and I'll send him your link. Enjoy your weekend and I'll be scanning Twitter for your tweets! (:

      1. Hope you have a great weekend, too. Thanks for visiting! :)


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