Waiter, there’s a Troll in my Blog!

February 13, 2014 in #AmWriting, Thursday Writing, Writers by Angie Capozello

Writers, by nature, tend to be sensitive souls. They pour their heart into every word, lovingly polish each phrase and hold the final piece up to the muse to bless.  And the muse says, ‘It’s beautiful honey! I love it!”  But sadly, the rest of the world is neither so kind, nor so careful of your feelings.  And while honest critiques can be good for a writer, there will always be those who feel the need to tell you what they think whether you asked them to or not.  These gutter slimes take advantage of the anonymity of the web to verbally assault you  - they leave nasty, personal comments on your blog, they try to bait you into pointless arguments on chats, they trash your book on Amazon -  these, dear writer, are Trolls.

vacuumSo what do you do if you have a troll infestation?  First off, don’t reply to them.  Nature abhors a vacuum and so do trolls.  If you ignore them they will often wander off to find an easier target.  Remember, they want to wind you up, they get off on making people miserable, so don’t give them any fuel to work with.  On your blog, you can always apply the Mighty Sword of Comment Deletion.  It works, and it’s fun to do.  Hah, take that Troll!  (Imagine Errol Flynn as Robin Hood while you delete, I know that makes the Muse feel better, she’s a fan of his…work…heh.)

But sometimes, even if you get them to go away their hurtful comments stick with you.  We all have that little scared voice inside that says, what if they’re right, what if my story really is that bad?  Fear not dear writer, there are fun and easy things you can do to patch up your battered ego, and even come out the better for having encountered your personal boogeyman.

Here is my patented 3 step method to recover from Troll attacks:

The Zen Approach

Try to think of trolls with compassion – the enlightened soul realizes that pouring out vitriol is what this poor, benighted troll needs right now.   There must be some pain in their life, some deep seated hurt inflicted on them that goads them to behave so badly.  And you understand, you’ve lashed out when life has poured salt into your wounds.  You, the zen Buddha saint in training, know that this person is not angry with you, nor do they hate you, it is instead themselves that they are at odds with.

Whoa, deep, eh?

Sadly, I am not usually quite so enlightened.  When someone is being an a** I immediately want to borrow a hat pin from the Muse and play pin the tail on the donkey.  Which brings me to step two:

The Comedian

PrintTake a moment to contemplate the lighter side of trolls.  Just who whizzed in their wheaties today? Did they wake up to find their pooch dry-humping their leg?  Did the cat hork a hairball onto their lap?  Go ahead, let your muse have some fun at their expense.   Don’t let that lady-like exterior fool you, she packs a wicked sucker punch. And when you see those nasty-grams in your inbox, just remember:   Opinions are like a**holes – everybody has one.  Some are just louder than others.

Right, let me just hand the hat pin back and get the Muse to stop giggling madly so we can move on to step three:

Use Your Trolls Wisely

The muse is really into recycling.  Everything in life is grist for her mill, and trolls are especially good when reduced, reused, and re-characterized.  If you ever wondered how to make your antagonists more antagonistic, keep a file with notes about trolls. Real life is filled with petty jerks, and the world your characters inhabit should have them too.  Just remember, no naming names.  Lawyers have these fun little toys called libel and defamation of character – avoid them at all costs.  Your muse is creative though, I’m sure she can find ways to use their character traits without going into recognizable details.   Odds are if something makes you cringe or grit your teeth, you can use it to gain sympathy for your main character and build tension in your story.  Keep your eyes open for trolls, they may be the inspiration for your next really juicy villain.

Okay, that’s enough from me, what do you do to deal with trolls?  Share your ideas in the comments section, let’s try to make Troll an endangered species!

~Angie C.

*Graphics copyright Angie Capozello

The New #Amwriting Member Directory

October 1, 2012 in #AmWriting, Community News, Guest post by JM Strother

The Amwriting logo in a wooden picture frameWe are very happy to have a special guest here today. Johanna Harness, founder of the #amwriting meme on Twitter, has stopped by to share some of the changes you will find on the new amwriting site, which officially reopens today. Specifically, she dropped in to discuss the new member directory. After reading this post be sure to follow her link over to the site itself to read about other exciting changes, and to wish her the best on the new and improved #amwriting. ~jon

The New #Amwriting Member Directory

by Johanna Harness

The #amwriting hashtag started just over three years ago on Twitter. As our membership grew, I set up our first web page: a membership directory. It was a simple enough idea. I collected short bios for our members and published each as a post on our website. Anyone who used the hashtag was welcome to send me a bio. As the community grew, I quickly found myself overwhelmed. Even with a volunteer helping me, we couldn’t catch up.

So we changed. We set up a multi-author blog where members could post their own information. As a result, our author bios jumped from one hundred to nearly six hundred in a matter of months. Success, right?

Well, yes and no.

We were growing and that was fantastic. Unfortunately, giving everyone access to the dashboard created a really unstable blog. By August of this year, it was clear we’d have to shut down for a month and rebuild from the ground up.

One of our key priorities was creating a solid membership directory. Starting in September, I began pulling a small group of #amwriting peeps all over the internet, trying out the features of one site after another.

For our membership directory, our criteria didn’t seem that demanding:

  • Each person should have a page with a photo and room for links and a complete bio. It should feature the author and really make the person look good. (I was amazed how many author bios appeared as tiny little entries below huge advertising banners. Yick.)
  • We should be able to customize the information requested from each person. (More than one service charged significantly to even alter the wording, while some services wouldn’t allow any changes at any cost.)
  •  We wanted a good search function. In other words, we didn’t just want to search on the title of the biography, but also the contents. If I’m looking for other fantasy writers, I should be able to do a search for “fantasy” and see a list of those authors. If I want to see if anyone else mentions Idaho, I should be able to do a search.
  • Export. Oh wow. I had no idea how difficult it would be to find someone willing to provide an easy export of data. If we ever decide to move to another site, we should be able to take our data with us. That seemed obvious to me.
  • Cost. While we are happy to accept donations, we are committed to making this service free for all. I’m a teacher and a writer. I can absorb some expense, but many of the sites seem to have been developed with corporations in mind. I didn’t even bother dragging my team to most of the directory services discovered.
  • Terms of Service. By the time we found a site that could meet the first five conditions, I just prayed the TOS wouldn’t be horrible. At the very least, let it be in line with other membership directory services.

I’m very happy to say that we finally found a new home for our membership directory: http://groupspaces.com/amwriting.

In all, the directory is only one change of many taking place this month. For a full review of all the changes, please see today’s post on The Amwriting Blog (http://amwritingblog.com/wordpress/archives/15142). Or, if less talk is more your style, jump right into the action at the new #amwriting site: http://www.amwriting.org.

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Photo of Johanna Harness, founder of #amwriting.Johanna Harness writes middle grade and young adult novels in both Northwest and fantastic settings–often forgetting which is which. She homeshools her kids, explores out of the way places in Idaho, and hangs out with other writers in the #amwriting community she started on twitter.

Name That Horror Movie Contest Suggestions

October 20, 2011 in #AmWriting, Contests, Dot Org, Tips and Suggestions by JM Strother

A blow up Frankenstein monster in a back yard.Thanks to everyone who dropped by #AmWriting this week to read my Name That Horror Movie Contest preview story, “Lady In White.” I had a lot of fun with it and I think my readers did too. That’s really the point, having fun around Halloween.

One unexpected twist for me was the sheer number of horror movie titles that were in my story. It really added to my enjoyment to discover one after another, many I had never even heard of before. Seems I have some movie watching to catch up on.

One issue that did come up is that with the open-ended nature of this contest it may be darn near impossible for readers to guess your movie title. To avoid reader frustration I have a few suggestions.

  • Unless it is painfully obvious try to keep the words of your title together in your story. I did that in “Lady In White” – the movie title was “Rear Window.” The important line came near the end, when I figured the reader would be more engrossed in the story than in hunting for a title. “The woman in white screamed again and Randy bolted down the corridor, straight through the rear window, taking panes, frames, and draperies with him.”
  • Try to avoid single word titles, as there are so many of those out there nearly any word in the story is a likely guess. If you do use a single word title it might be sporting to let your readers know that up front in order to narrow down the likely candidates a bit. Not using my own advice, my earlier preview story “Room With a View” is woven around a single word title. So far no one has guessed it.
  • You may want to offer hints. You can do this right up front to give everyone an even chance, or offer some hints later if it seems your readers are completely awash. For “Lady In White” I ended up giving two hints before someone successfully guessed the answer. As to “Room With a View,” the same hints I gave for “Lady In White” apply. It may be more often considered a suspense movie, and the phrase, “Good Evening” might come to mind.

These are all just suggestions to give your readers a better chance of connecting with the ball (hey, it’s World Series time – I had to work a baseball metaphor in somehow – Go Cards!). If your story is already written don’t feel like you need to change a thing. But if it seems like you’ve completely stumped your readers have mercy on them and offer up a hint or two. Remember, even though there is a nice prize pack associated with the contest the point isn’t so much winning as it is to have fun, for both readers and writers alike.
~jon