Reblog (My Experience at RavenCon)

Just a quick reblog from my newly started author site (looks kind of like this site, right?). I recently attended RavenCon, this was my experience. Give it a go if you have the time.


I’m walking through the darkened courtyard of the DoubleTree Hotel in Williamsburg, Virginia, trailing just behind Chris Kennedy. The sun has dropped from the sky, much like my morale after sitting in on a panel where one panelist plugged their book eighteen times. I know this because I kept tally. Eighteen. Putting this from my […]

via Fear and Loathing at RavenCon 2017 — Corey D. Truax

Moved in: Hello Virginia

home-sweet-home-1456862578eiX.jpgAt long last I have moved into the new house and am sinking back into a normal schedule. *maniacal laughter* This is my fifth or sixth military move, and let me tell you, this one was a kick in the poop shoot.

Regardless, the house is now painted, baby-proofed, and mostly unpacked. I felt bad for the garbage collectors because I had a mountain of broken down cardboard boxes and packing paper stacked into the stratosphere in front of the driveway.

Other technical difficulties included: transitioning my business to a new state, building a companion author page to this one (located here), going 2,000 pounds over the weight limit for household goods (whoops), and attempting/succeeding to move a 200 pound desk and other miscellaneous furniture up a flight of stairs…two story houses are the worst.

study.jpg

My new home office—where the magic (insanity) happens.

I wrote a post a while back about how environment impacts writing. Some people are flexible and can write at a rock concert, and some people need a perfect little nook. I seem to fall into the latter category. But I have my nook now and am looking forward to judo chopping all the work that has been piling up.

A big “thank you” to J.R. Handley for stopping by the house and bringing over a housewarming gift from his family. Talk about a warm welcome to Virginia. Not only did we eat lasagna until our stomachs almost exploded, we also plotted out a short story for an upcoming anthology. We will be co-authoring the short story, so that should either be really mind blowing, or make people weep uncontrollably. Maybe both?

Wastelander Cover.jpgI mentioned my companion site, that is where I am going to start keeping updates on Wastelander, other book projects, collaborations/co-writing projects, and my author updates. I’m not dense enough to think everyone who comes here for writing tips gives a hoot about my hack fiction — but if you do, be sure to swing over for updates on that front.

All right, moving forward. Time to start doing what this page was meant for: writing tips. Please stay tuned and thanks for bearing with me during this overly long move. Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always — stay sharp!

 

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Blogging: Building Your Platform

 

thor-with-leaf

Thor sorting leaves. He knows where to find the good ones.

It’s been too long since I’ve been able to update! I’m writing this post in my bedroom/office/box storage room. Yes, the prolonged move is taking forever, but I will be off to a new state and house by the end of the month. Fortunately (or unfortunately), that means you’ll be hearing a lot more from me in the near future. Oh, Thor is walking/running now…so yeah, busy times!

Today I wanted to take a moment to announce a milestone on the QE page. I’ve met and surpassed 1000 followers! Oddly enough, the last 200+ followers have come during a period of non-activity on my page [insert excuses: moving, baby, editing, writing, stay-at-home dad, military spouse].

So how did the blog continue to generate activity without me at the helm being proactive? I mean, does my blog even need me anymore? Has it gained self-awareness? I wish…

thanksBefore I get into the platform building section, let me say “thanks!” People talk about followers just being numbers. You’ll only make X number of sales from X number of followers. It all seems so impersonal. Speaking from my experience, I’ve received awesome emails from people checking in on me and the family, gained clients,  found collaborative writing partners, joined a Legion, uncovered fellow editors (key wielding clones), and I’m very humbled and appreciative of these relationships. Sales are one thing, meaningful relationships are something much more. So again, thanks for reading and coming back for more.

Building the BlogNow that I’m done gushing, let’s talk brass tacks.

I wrote a how-to post about blogging before: Blogging: What Works for Me. I wrote that post in July of last year when I had hit 400 followers. People were curious about my process, and I’m always happy to share. In it, I offered some tips about how to craft your writing and your activity to increase viewership. Towards the bottom of that post, I wrote a very short paragraph titled, Technical Mumbo Jumbo.  It seems some of that technical hoopla is more essential than I realized.

The technical aspects of your blog are what allow you to reach beyond WordPress and start generating views from search engines and other sources. In the last two months, where I only generated a few posts, those 200+ followers were likely due to me taking advantage of some of the features within WordPress. It’s also due to the type of content I ordinarily post.

Looking at my site analytics I’ve noticed a massive amount of views are being generated from search engines. This was planned. *maniacal laughter* Here are some ways to make your blog more visible outside of WordPress and gain more traffic.

evergreenWrite Evergreen Content. When I say “evergreen,” I’m talking about the shelf-life of the post. Some posts we write are author/editor/blogger/life update posts. For many, it’s a given you will want to reach out to your readers. “I’ll be here at this convention” or “Check out my new release.” There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just that those posts won’t be the workhorses on your page. In terms of search engine visibility, unless someone knows exactly what to type, they likely won’t stumble into those posts. The workhorses are the posts that don’t have a fuse or timeline.

There is little chance someone who’s never been to or heard of this page will type into Google, “Quintessential Editor Barnes and Noble Rant.” There is higher likelihood someone might search, “the herald archetype.” Both of these searches will bring up posts from this blog on the first or second page of Google, but one (the archetype post) is far more likely to pull a reader because it’s a logical search term.

The Barnes and Noble rant was a needed outlet for me to express my disdain, but it has little real usefulness to people.  On the other hand, posts about aspects of writing are tools people actively seek out. While your blog may not be centered around writing, finding ways to write content with no shelf-life and high applicability is a good move.

Your Blog Headline is Important. I didn’t realize this at first, but after studying the stats on my page over the course of the last eight months, I can’t refute the numbers. Writing and publishing clever headlines makes me smile, but they have little application outside of WordPress Reader. In fact, they can make your content nearly impossible for someone to stumble into from the endless sprawl of the interwebs.

harry-potter-newspaperThink of your blog headline like an internet search term. While the blog headline may be clever and will snag fresh readers taking advantage of the WordPress Reader, after a few weeks or months it will be buried. Yes, people can utilize tags and categories to find your posts here on WordPress (if they scroll long enough). However, search engines are a much bigger ocean and require more precision.

For example, I wrote about how to anchor readers using setting. I wanted to use a really clever headline for the post. Instead, I went with the very bland Setting: Anchoring the Reader. If someone types in “how to anchor a reader with setting” or “anchoring a reader with setting,” this post is usually on the front page of most search engines. The words a person might use to find this information with a search engine can be different, but the headline contains most of the words they would use.

Know the difference between a category and tag. Tags are the golden ticket. Not only will they allow people in WordPress Reader to narrow down their search and stumble onto your content, it also factors into search engine results. If you couldn’t tweak your headline to nail the topic entirely, you will want to add those missing words, individually, into the tag. Also add tags that are applicable to the topic.

For this post, I’ll likely have [writing, blogging, how-to, advice, WordPress, headlines, understanding, categories, tags, fiction, non-fiction, Corey Truax, dad]. You’ll notice dad there, it seems WordPress dads are always looking for kindred spirits so I always leave a breadcrumb trail. If you’re an author/editor/business person, it never hurts to toss your cats-dressed-vintage-photo.jpgname into the tag of each post. The more posts out there with your name on it, the more likely someone doing an internet search of your name will stumble into your blog.

[Here be rumors and unsubstantiated banter] I’ve read that some users will flood the tag area of their webpage posts. So let’s say you write a post about knitting sweaters for kittens. Some people will copy and paste more than 100 related and unrelated words into the tag field hoping someone searches for a topic and walks into their trap. In my opinion — you kitten sweater knitting maniacs — that’s a good way to ensure an unwary person never returns to your page. I’ve also read that certain search engines will boot your post from their search results if the tag seems like spam. [Here ends the trail of kitten tears]

labyrinthCategories Keep People on Your Page. Categories are how you organize your page. We don’t want readers to feel like they are navigating a labyrinth. I started with five or six main categories. One of them was “Writing.” This was a mistake because it lumped too many posts of different types into one giant category. If someone clicked the Writing category, a massive list of blog posts popped up. Some may have been what they were looking for, some weren’t. I broke “Writing” down into more precise categories: Conflict, Setting, Description, Dialogue, and so on. When I did this, repeat views from a single reader skyrocketed. Alas, some people who came to the page didn’t care about every aspect of writing.

If categories are a new concept for you entirely, WordPress has a page dedicated to explaining what they are and how to make them work for you. Check it out here.

You can really take advantage of your categories by using the widgets included with WordPress. Widgets offer different options that display navigation tools. If you are unfamiliar with widgets, WordPress has a page for you here.

That’s it for today. The last bit of advice I’ll give is this, take the time to understand how to leverage the tools I talked about above. It’s heartbreaking to see people grinding away so hard and not getting readership. Especially when their blog page is how they generate business. Implementing these small tweaks will add two minutes to your process — at most. Those two minutes will ensure your webpage is easy to find, navigate, and use. And heck, maybe your page will achieve self-awareness.

question-markDo you have any tips that have worked for you? Do you understand the bizarre search engine algorithms? There a few more tools I have under my hat, but this post is already well beyond my 1000 word cap. If there’s enough interest, I can write another one with some extra bits of info. Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always — stay sharp!

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Closing the Door & Opening it Back Up

door.jpgIt’s been a couple weeks (maybe more) since I’ve posted. Fear not, I still pull breath. I’ve had a supremely busy month. Stephen King talks about the need to close the door when you work. Well, I didn’t just close it; I bricked it up.

I don’t have a lot of options when it comes to leveraging time. So when a 100k novel came along that needed a structural edit, I had to break the schedule to make the deadline. Unfortunately, this blog was one source I had to slice away.

hourglassThis last month, I’ve been toiling away on that 100k novel. My contract didn’t stipulate a timeline. The understanding was it would need to be done around Christmas. The timeline got moved forward to the first week of December.

Editing takes time (especially structural editing), and this blog is what I had to sacrifice to find more of the precious stuff. The good news is I finished the structural edit, and am now breezing through the final copy editing phase. I plan to be finished early next week. Then time, those precious grains of sand, will stop slipping through my fingers so quickly. On a positive note, the author was thrilled with the results of the structural edit — I hope sales reflect his enthusiasm.

Side rant, have you ever wanted to move to a new state during the holidays? Yeah, me neither. Regardless, this seems to be the way of things. Or, maybe we won’t be moving until January…

moving boxes.jpgYes, the life of the military spouse is one of constant questions and inconsistency. I probably won’t know with 100 percent certainty until a week prior of the move date. This knowledge will preface an explosion of moving boxes, bubble wrap, and packing tape.

Let’s not even talk about having to dissolve my editing business and move it to new state to prevent being taxed by two states/cities at once…sigh

What about my own work? What of Wastelander? Well, the second I signed a contract to edit, my client took precedence. While normally I can divvy out the schedule, this was not one of those instances. I was barely able to finish the contract in time. With the heavy lifting of the structural edit out of the way, I now have the flexibility to write again (my books and this blog).

So, what’s happened since I’ve been out? Thor turned one, our families came to visit, my wife’s 12-hour shift rotation was extended, my friend MLS Weech prepared to get his book out into the world (Kirkus Review & Red City), I realized we’d be moving sooner than we thought, and I drank 27 gallons of coffee.

birthday bay.jpgAll said, it’s been a productive month, albeit a busy one. It’s also been a month where I have felt particularly isolated. I have lots of writers/bloggers to catch up on reading. There is a comfort in coming back here and seeing the cyber landscape remains basically unchanged.

I posted a while back about the schedule I would be keeping here on the QE page. Obviously, that didn’t work out. From now on, I’m just going to play it by clock. As this blog is often a reflection of my life, it can be assumed the future will be dotted by chaos explosions of activity followed by moments of eerie silence.

For those of you who were kind enough to email me, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your concern. I will be responding to those emails over the course of the next couple days. I’m excited to hear about what I’ve been missing out on in your lives.

All right, I’m all shared out. Future posts will be about writing, editing, and tomfoolery — promise.

nano.pngSpeaking of writing, how’d the NaNoWriMo go? Any of you manage to kick your word counts in the teeth? While this is always a chaotic month for those who partake, I do enjoy browsing the interwebs and seeing the mountains of ~50k books of varying quality and content. The sound of tables creaking as slush piles grow is echoing through the universe. Hopefully you let your book marinate a month or so, give it a rewrite, then edit it before you publish.

That’s it for today, I’ve got words to edit and coffee to drink. Now that I’m through the crucible of deadlines, look forward to more frequent posts. Truly, I’ve missed our collaboration. Until then, keep reading, keep writing, and as always — stay sharp!

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The Time Paradox (Revamping the Schedule)

hourglassI posted my daily schedule a while back.  Due to the ghosts in the time machine, I must adjust and move forward with purpose.  Before I spell out the new schedule, I want to take a minute to discuss why the schedule must change.

When I started this blog page:

  1. I was writing a single book.  Now I have finished writing this book and started a rewrite.  Additionally, I am writing a novella, three graphic novels, and the discovery draft of another separate book.
  2. My baby boy was napping three or more hours a day. Additionally, he wasn’t mobile.  Now Thor naps for about half the amount of time and is moving at the speed of babylight (which is slower than a walk and faster than a crawl).
  3. I was working as a freelancer on websites like Upwork and Freelancer with limited success.  My clients were few and far between and many of the jobs were very short.  Now I own my own editing business. It has generated some awesome clients and a decent workload.
  4. My wife was working “normal” Navy hours.  Now she is working 12-hour shifts.

No Breaks

For these reasons, I must adjust the schedule.  It should be noted that I owe the success of my business to this page and the time I devoted to it.  I also owe this page for introducing me to so many brilliant people. This QE website has been a lightning rod of creativity and self-growth for me.

Personal ramblings aside, let’s look at the new schedule.

Monday:  Book blurb day or a new post.  I’ve read more than thirty books on writing since I started this page.  Every now and then I toss together a collage and write a blurb about a book. (My “reads” category contains examples.)  It’s not really a review, but an insight about the content of the book.  Again, this is my way of offering you all the resources I can and populating the page with useful content.

Tuesday/Sunday: Off days.  I wanted a couple days of the week to spend my allotted blogging time reading other blogs and commenting.  If I continue posting every day, I simply don’t have enough time to reply to comments and reach out beyond my own page.

Wednesday: Feature Wasteland Wednesday and/or author news.  Wastelander: The Drake Legacy publishes next year, but it’s the first in a very long Wastelander series.

As I will start the publishing process early next year, I want to make Wednesday a day to also share news about what’s going on with me professionally (failures, successes, conventions I’m attending, etc).

I‘m also working with some amazing authors as an editor.  I want to spotlight them here as well, when possible.

Thursday: A new and glorious post.

Feature Friday.jpg

Feature Friday.  This is one my favorite additions to my page.  I will continue taking a day each week to highlight other bloggers who are generating insightful content.  If you are sitting there reading this and thinking, Hey! He’s talking about me.  Contact me and I will add you to my reblog list.  I am fortunate to have great readership here at QE, and if my success can propel others, it’s a small way for me to give back.

Don't Know what to Blog

I have also decided to allow for reader contributions on Fridays.  This was a suggestion made to me by P.A. Kramer.  The more I thought about it, the more I loved the concept.  This is a great way for bloggers to take advantage of my readership and get some eyes on both their content and their blog pages.  Again, my goal has always been to bring like-minded people together.

I will only post submissions that are centered around some aspect of writing. Ideally, the content should be around 700-1000 words in length.  If images are included, they must be non-copyrighted images (I can generate images if needed).  Contact me if you have a proposal.

Saturday: Re-post day.  Recycling previous posts will help people new to the site or to WordPress connect with my older content.  It also helps me.  It allows me to continuously edit, improve, and add links to my archived material.  I learn a lot from my discussions with all of you, my work as an editor, and my labors as a writer.  I want to be sure my past posts reflect newfound knowledge and continue to be relevant.

That’s the new schedule.  Let’s see if this one sticks or not.  Until we cross quills again, keep reading, keep writing, and as always—stay sharp!

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Floating Heads and Writing Desks

floating heads.jpgHave you ever heard of floating head syndrome?  I’ve heard it called talking head syndrome too.  It’s when the characters in a book are exchanging dialogue, but the author rarely mentions where the speakers are or what they are doing.  Without these little descriptive beats sprinkled in it feels like the characters are floating in the void while having conversations.

It’s a tap dance we do with the reader.  Give too many beats and the dialogue doesn’t flow, don’t give enough, and the reader doesn’t have a clue what the characters are doing while they are talking.  There’s a few ways to tackle the problem.

First, read the dialogue aloud and see how it flows. Next, you could also open some of your favorite books and look at how the pro’s did it.  If you are still undecided, ask someone to read a chapter or section. Once they finish, ask them what the characters were doing in the chapter.  If they’ll oblige you, ask them where the characters were as well. If the reader just shrugs their shoulders in response—it might be time to tweak those beats.

While this is good to know, it’s not why I’m writing today.  Sometimes I feel like we are all floating heads when I read blogs.  Even my own.  “Who is this writer?  Where are they writing from?  Is this blog written by a person or a futuristic artificial intelligence?” Corey wondered as he swiveled in his black office chair.

writers desk

So today I thought I would share where this blog gets written from—my writing desk.  It’s a normal desk, in a normal house, manned by a normal adult male.  However, it has the ability to let me reach out and touch the other side of the planet with my words.  It’s also the place where I create worlds, and if I want to, destroy them.  Pretty neat.

[Editor’s Update]

Writing Desk.jpgI wrote this post months ago and things have moved about in my study.  I didn’t like the cramped feeling of being surrounded.  The photo below is my new setup. It lets me spin about in my chair like a madman without bashing my legs. I also like how much it opened up the room. I wrote a post about how a writing environment can alter your productivity a while back.  This shift really bolstered my own process.

Whats your writing desk look like?  Do you have one?  Or are you a mobile master taking your work with you wherever you go?  Until tomorrow.  Keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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The Golden Hour: For Writers

golden hour.jpg

Take a basic course in photography and you will likely learn about the Golden Hour.  It’s a special time right after sunrise, or before sunset, when the angle of the sun casts brilliant reddish hues over everything.

I remember my photography instructor gushing about the amazing possibilities this little window of time would provide.  I was attending the Defense Information School at the time learning how to be a Navy journalist.  I recall thinking, “I came to learn how to write, not take pictures of random nonsense!”  My younger self didn’t realize how much photography would grow on me, and it became more than just a part of the job—it was something to fill my free time.

camera-1240219_960_720.jpgSo when people ask me when the best time to write is, I always think of the Golden Hour. While writing is different than photography, they are both art, and they both require the artist to show up.

The thing with the Golden Hour is you can charge your batteries, pack multiple lenses and filters, strap a tripod to your back, and lug it all out to the perfect location, but there is no guarantee you will get a single usable image.  Maybe clouds roll in.  Maybe you just have a bad day and don’t get an interesting angle or inspired shot.  Maybe you just sit there and get lost in the moment and don’t take a single photograph.  But every now and then, as long as you keep trying, you will get that one photo that takes your breath away when you open it up to edit.

Writing is the same way.  While you don’t need to wait for sunrise or sun fall (or lug heavy gear), you still have to be present.  On any given day, you may find inspiration or you may flounder.  Those mental clouds can roll in and ruin even the most perfectly planned day of writing.  If you stay consistent and keep hitting those keys, eventually “it” will happen.  You will have a moment of perfect clarity.  A moment of pristine mental light.  In this Golden Writing Hour (or maybe multiple hours if you’re lucky), all those rough days will be worth it.  The result, well, it might just amaze you more than any photograph could.

The Editor[Editor’s Note]

This is one of the first posts I generated here on QE.  Since then, I’ve taken a book with a handful of chapters and finished it (and edited a couple others).  During that time, there were more cloudy days than golden ones.  The lesson I learned is bounce back.  For me, that’s the ability to forget about a lackluster day and treat a new one with an open mind.

With that being said, when those golden days shined, they changed my book in big ways.  On some of those golden days, I didn’t write within the manuscript at all but simply remapped and re-outlined sections to enhance the story.  I saw additions and concepts that weren’t fully formed solidify.  Honestly, I attribute this to simply being present.

This is why I encourage those I collaborate with to at least take a small amount of time each day and write.  Even if it isn’t to tackle the ever-looming word count, progress comes in different ways.  Sometimes, all it takes is for us to be present and willing.

question-markThat’s it for today!  It’s fun for me to re-read and give some of these older posts a second life, and it’s also interesting to think about where and what past-Corey was doing back then.  Do you have a Golden Hour in your writing life?  Do you have a method you use to help you bounce back from a rough day?  I’d love to talk about it.  Until tomorrow, keep reading, keep writing, and as always – stay sharp!

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