The Guinea Pig Diaries
Hello. Today is Free-for-All Friday and my topic of choice. Many of you are following this blog to learn more about writing or social media. I want you to know that all my methods were rigorously tested on other writers before being offered to the general public. For instance, my colleagues and I would place a log-line at the end of a maze, and if the writer could find it, she was allowed a second cup of coffee. We generally avoided experiments involving electroshock namely because writers are masochists, and most of them liked it. Thus, we tried to focus on postive rewards. We also tested various methods of plotting. Which ones made the writers spontaneously break out in hives or lose all their hair? Did the writer curl into the fetal position when made to outline? When placed in a puzzle, could the writer pick a single genre? Of course some caffeinated beverage was always placed at the end so the writer would have a reward for staying on task.
These critters sacrificed so that future writers could benefit (No writers were permanently harmed. Okay, maybe one or two, but they were odd to start with).
Piper was one of my first guinea pigs and today she wanted to share her story. It has been an amazing experience to watch her grow as a writer and blogger over the past ten months and, if anyone deserves to share their tale, it is this gal. She has not only applied all the lessons taught about writing, but she has used all the methods I teach to build and grow her now very popular (and FUNNY!) blog; Piper Bayard—The Pale Writer of the Apocalypse. She is a belly-dancing writer (actual photo below).
Here’s her story:
My Life as a Guinea Pig
When I stepped off the plane in Dallas for the DFW Writers Conference last April, I had no idea that I would arrive an aspiring writer and leave…a guinea pig?
I met Kristen where you always meet the people experienced in life and writing—out on the dark porch where the “bad girls” go to smoke and drink. As a recovering attorney, I knew that was where I would find the real action at the conference. Sure enough, there she was, slinging her Texas drawl with New York speed while gesticulating with her wine glass and expounding to a group on why “a girl who finds out she’s a fairy, and, oh yeah, she has daddy issues,” sucked as a logline.
To be honest, I’ve spent most of my life being a character and living stories rather than learning to write them, so I had no idea what a logline was. This woman was either dazzling with brilliance or baffling with bullshit. But, either way, she was good at it, and, most importantly, she wasn’t picking on me, so I stuck around. By the time she finished emitting her Death Star blast on the unsuspecting fairy writer, I knew what a logline was. Sadly, I also knew that mine sucked, too. But more importantly, everyone listening knew why our loglines sucked, and how we could fix them. Kristen was blunt and unvarnished in her delivery, but her assessments rang true. She was all about making us better writers.
Screw my ego. I needed to learn what she was teaching.
The next day, I stuck to Kristen like a burr in her fetlock, taking her classes and listening as others asked her questions. She said scary words like “blog” and “hashtag,” and insisted that Facebook and Twitter would change my life as surely as the microwave had changed the TV dinner. (Yes, I’m that old.)
Now, just to give you the full picture, when it came to computers, I could usually get the O-N/O-F-F switch to the O-N position and send an email, but only if that email didn’t have an attachment. Blog was cousin to the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Hashtag was the corned beef on my shirt after breakfast, and Facebook was a place with people who were looking for me, and not to give me a cyber-hug. And this woman was saying I had do all of them?
I tried to inhale deeply, but my best efforts were rapid and shallow. I wondered if the tote DFWWC gave me would be as effective to breathe into as a paper bag. Then the worst happened. Kristen glanced over the heads of the people I was hiding behind and asked, “Do you blog?”
Suddenly, as I stood there quivering under her laser gaze, my legs shrunk and hair sprouted all over my body. I snatched some garnish from a passing caterer’s tray and fought an overwhelming compulsion to seek out a Nutri-log to hide in. What was happening to me? I tried to ask, “Umm. . . . What’s a blog?” but all that came out was, “Bweep, bweep, bweep!” That’s when we both knew. I was no “aspiring writer.” I was her guinea pig.
She said, “Type up your bio and send it to me.”
What was that she was holding out? A honey treat?
“Uhh. . . . ok.” Bio. Familiar word. And I didn’t even have to research it to write it. Oh, sure, I was daunted at being in the fairy writer’s hot seat, but what the hell? You ante up or you get out of the game. So I took my best shot and wrote a nice, safe, no-one’s-going-to-argue-with-this biography.
Kristen’s response? “Booor – iiiing. You are a fiction writer for God’s sake. I can’t understand why people who write 150k words of pure lies feel like they have to tell the truth in their biography. Use your imagination and try again.”
So I did. I sent her 350 words of pure, unadulterated BS that was swimming around in my head at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a SCUBA trip, and she told me, “That’s more like it.” Yea! A win!
“Now you need to start a blog.”
“Bweep, bweep, bweep!” There was that four-letter word again. I chewed open a pillow and pawed madly through the fluff. That’s when I knew I had a choice to make. To be, or not to be?
In 20 years of teaching belly dancing, I always told my students, “You’re a dancer when you decide you’re a dancer. No one gives you permission but you.” It’s the same with writing. There is no such thing as “aspiring.” There is only doing.
So I got a copy of Kristen’s book, We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media, and I took the plunge, a large pile of Timothy hay beside me to graze through while I worked. And you know what I found out? If you can talk, you can blog. Blogging is just talking to people. It’s probably the easiest writing you could ever do. Find something you like to talk about—not yourself—and talk about it. With the Internet for research, you can even talk about it knowledgeably.
You know what’s happened since this guinea pig started blogging? I now say, “I’m an author,” with confidence. I now take my own writing seriously, and so do my family and friends. And when I’m chatting with folks while I’m out and about in my day, I say, “You know, I was just writing about that. . . .” Which is a great excuse to give them my business card. In no time, I found my blog voice, and now, I’m even on Facebook and Twitter. Yes, me. The O-N/O-F-F switch girl. If I can do it, you can, too.
The ubiquitous body hair receded, and I replaced the half-chewed door on my closet. (Don’t hassle me. I couldn’t find a Nutri-log my size, ok?) I even started feeling pretty comfortable with this social media thing. Then Kristen did it again. . . . “Would you like to write a guest blog?”
“Bweep, bweep, bweep!” I just need to gnaw this chair leg for a while.
My profound thanks to Kristen Lamb and Warrior Writers for adopting me from the Writer Shelter.
What about writing has you hiding in your Nutri-log? What do you do to face your fears?
All the best to all of you for more time writing and less time nibbling furniture. . . . Oooo! Is she holding a strawberry?
Thanks Piper for sharing your story. I hope you guys go check out her blog, and feel free to send me your own story to highlight in the next Guinea Pig Diaries. I want everyone reading this blog to always feel encouraged. Knowledge is power and you do have control over your destiny.
Until next time….
Check in on Monday for Novel Structure Part 8!
Give yourself the gift of success for the coming year. My best-selling book We Are Not Alone–The Writers Guide to Social Media is recommended by literary agents and endorsed by NY Times best-selling authors. My method is free, fast, simple and leaves time to write more books! Enter to win a FREE copy. Check out Author Susan Bischoff’s blog.