The director Luc Besson (Fifth Element) is using Instagram to document every step of making his next film, Valerian.
Besson's Instagrams show storyboards, costumes, blue-screen action, and more.
You can take a look here: https://www.instagram.com/lucbesson/
If you click on the individual images you'll see a title or description by Besson and comments from visitors to the site. As of this writing, he's on day 87.
The TV show VEEP has created an off-screen world for its viewers to play in. It could serve as a model for a fiction author wanting to market their novel and keep their readers engaged, especially if the book in question is part of a series.
First, here is some of what VEEP has been doing, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter:
A scan through Selina's tweets and followers reveals a micro-Veep network on Twitter, including Jonah Ryan (@realjonahryan) and the name of the Timothy Simons character's campaign website, which has now hit the web: Jonah Ryan For Congress.
After announcing his run for Congress last week and playing some of his TV ads on Sunday's episode, the Jonah Ryan hub has all the makings of an actual campaign site, allowing fans to watch the ads, download his campaign poster and even donate to the campaign (an attempt to do so prompts a very Veep-like response).
The social media network reveals show secrets as well. Amy Brookheimer, Charlie Baird, Tom James, Senator Bill O'Brien and even journalist Leon West are also show characters with accounts — and it's West who uncovers one of the biggest mysteries of the season by revealing the actual dirty tweet that Selina accidentally sent during the third episode.
HOW PROMOTING BOOKS IS DIFFERENT
There are two key differences between a novel and a weekly series. One is that there is no "real time" with a novel since different people will be reading it at different times.
The other is that a TV show already has attracted lots of viewers, whereas a novel by a writer who doesn't already have a fan base is just kind of sitting there, waiting to be discovered. Having lots of social media elements doesn't mean anything if nobody knows about them.
HOW IT COULD WORK ANYWAY
Let's look at the second problem first. Having a range of interesting social media elements is still relatively rare, especially among authors. That could make it newsworthy.
For instance, let's say your protagonist has a blog and comes out against Donald Trump. The angle in your press releases could be, "Even Fictional Characters Are Appalled by Donald Trump." It would be more of a story if you could corral a few fellow authors who have character blogs to join you--or to start a feud between the characters.
Will this catch the interest of The New York Times? Probably not (although you never know). But I'm sure there are popular blogs that would pick it up and mention the name of your novel.
Next, what about the fact that your readers are not all reading your novel at the same time, making it impossible to release Tweets and other social media messages in real time? If it's an ebook, the solution could be to include links to simulated Tweets and Facebook messages. If somebody is reading Chapter 3, they can click on a link within the book to see the messages related to that point in the story.
GETTING THEM TO COME BACK FOR YOUR NEXT BOOK
If your novel is part of a series, you could include some simulated messages that preview what happens in the next book in the series. That could help motivate people to buy the next one as soon as they've finished the current one.
ps: If you haven't seen VEEP, give it a look. It's pretty funny, although real-world politics trumps parody these days (pun intended).
An article in the New York Times by Laura Vanderkam suggests maybe we need to re-think our attitude toward time.
She spent a full year noting how she uses her time in half-hour blocks. Even though she has four children under the age of 8 and a career, her conclusion was, "the stories I told myself about where my time went weren't always true. The hour-by-hour rhythm of my life was not quite as hectic as I thought."
This is in line with studies that show we tend to overestimate how much time we spend working. In one case, people estimated they were working 75 hours a week but actually it was 50.
Before she analyzed her data, Vanderkam thought she probably was working 45 to 50 hours a week; in fact, she averaged 40.
She suggests tracking your time for at least a week to get a more accurate picture of how you're actually using your hours. It might show that you're getting more sleep than you think, or that you are not working as much as you think--it or could reveal the opposite. Either way, it might suggest some adjustments or at least make you feel less frazzled.
One thing is certain: everybody's time runs out.
It reminds me of the line from Shakespeare's Richard II: "I have wasted time, now time doth waste me."
But what constitutes wasting time?
Looking out the window and daydreaming, or not looking out of the window and daydreaming?
Writing a book that may never get published, or not writing a book just because it may never get published?
Going out with your friend for a coffee or a beer--or not going out with your friend for a coffee or a beer?
Only you have the answer.
Technology allows us to bend reality in many ways. One example:
One of Kanga's more promising ideas is a "Disneyland dementia village," with a fake butcher and grocery store, based on a Dutch model where dementia patients live in a Truman Show-esque village that mirrors outside life as closely as possible and savings are made through automation.*
Kanga is an artist turned materials scientist, and I'm not sure whether this idea is a dream or a nightmare. Of course, creating an illusion in which people suffering from dementia are comforted is a worthy goal. But what came to mind when I read this is that it will soon be possible, with the help of artificial intelligence and virtual reality, to create just about any fake version of reality that you wish.
Do you yearn for 50's America--you know, no bothersome civil rights, and the little lady is happy being a homemaker? Come live in Eisenhower Estates! Episodes of "Father Knows Best" and "Leave It to Beaver" loop on your television, there's a virtual 1957 Chevy Bel-Air parked in your driveway, and the sound of a dozen dads mowing their lawns wafts in through the window.
If you prefer the 60's, welcome to your new home at Hippie Heights. The Grateful Dead (holograms) are playing a gig in your back yard! That's a fine collection of tie-dies on your washing line, and the smell of patchouli oil and you-know-what permeates the air.
Still under construction: Mullet Manor for fans of the 70's.
Perhaps today's young people will want to end up in Kardashian Korners, where there's dysfunctional family fun 24/7.
Maybe it's just a progression of bending reality to our preferences, as we can do now by getting all our news only from Fox, or MSNBC, or The Daily Mail...and while we're distracted, the powers that be can carry on as usual.
As you may be aware, recently all of my websites were hacked and the home pages replaced with an image of an evil grinning cat. My tech consultant says hackers must have had a way of getting into the server (which was at Hostgator--I've switched now, but I don't think any hosting company is immune). Almost all the sites are back up and functioning, but this morning I ran across a very clever phishing ploy that nearly got me.
It was from a friend and the subject line was "FYI [and the name of a project he did on which I had some input]".
The body of the message repeated this information and there was a document attached. When I clicked on it, I was sent (apparently) to Google with a message that included my name, saying that I'd been signed out of Gmail and needed to sign back in with my password. I looked at the address of origin and it said accounts.google.com. The graphics were right and there were no mistakes in spelling, etc.
The body of the message repeated this information and his phone number, and there was a document attached. When I clicked on it, I was sent (apparently) to Google with a message that included my name, saying that I'd been signed out of Gmail and needed to sign back in with my password. I looked at the address of origin and it said accounts.google.com. The graphics were right and there were no mistakes in spelling, etc.
Probably if I hadn't been hacked so recently I would have gone ahead but I realized that if I'd actually been signed out, I shouldn't be able to open any of the other emails. I clicked on another email. It opened.
I emailed my friend and, sure enough, he's been hacked. It was the most realistic fake I've seen so far.
I do have double sign-in on Gmail--in addition to the password, I have to enter a code that they send to my phone, so I'm not sure whether the hackers would have had a way around that, but I don't really want to find out.
Hackers are getting more and more sophisticated, so if you have any doubts (or even if you don't), it's worth double-checking!
I've spotted some amazing new tech devices in development that not long ago would have belonged in science fiction.
One is an instant translator in an earbud, called The Pilot. There are no wires or cables and it works even without wifi (probably via a smartphone app). It translates whatever someone says to you.
For now, the languages that will be covered are English, Italian, Spanish and French but other languages will be added.
If you've ever used Google Translate (which is free), you'll know that these will not be grammatically correct translations, but good enough to make sense of what someone is saying to you. Or about you, if they think you don't speak their language (I think of my cartoon as taking place in Paris).
I guess if you're communicating with someone who doesn't speak your language you'd have to carry around an extra earbud for them to use, otherwise it's going to be a one-way conversation. Even so, what a boon for people who travel.
Skype is working on a similar process that will translate what the other person in your Skype conversation is saying; at the moment, it seems to be available in beta form only for Windows users.
The Pilot crowdfunding campaign will start on May 25, 2016, on IndieGoGo, with a probable early bird price of $129, going up to $299 when it's actually available, toward the end of this year.
You can find out more at the Waverly Labs website: http://www.waverlylabs.com/#_overview
It's worth noting that not all products that use crowdfunding actually see the light of day. Some have failed to deliver, and the early buyers lost their money. Others take a lot longer to be available than predicted--one that I funded was a year late.
I've written once before about how gradually the meaning of the term "the elephant in the room" is changing. It means something with a large presence that doesn't get talked about.
However, more and more I see it used this way (from a recent promotion for a webinar):
Jordan shares with us how YouTube is the elephant in the room. What does he mean by that?
That's pretty much the opposite of the meaning, and I realized that it's taking the place of the 800-pound-gorilla, which was the previously popular phrase for something powerful.
Elephant vs. gorilla--advantage, elephant.
What's sexy is new ideas, breakthroughs, innovation. This paragraph from Farnam Street Brain Food newsletter reminded me that maintenance matters, too:
Capitalism excels at innovation but is failing at maintenance, and for most lives it is maintenance that matters more — "We overvalue innovation; we undervalue the routine work that keeps the built world going. Innovation is “only a small piece of what happens with technology”. Most of what happens is repair and maintenance when innovation becomes infrastructure. Just as we celebrate innovators, so we should celebrate maintainers, “those individuals whose work keeps ordinary existence going rather than introducing novel things.”"
I think this applies to individuals as well as to society as a whole. For instance, there are lots of little things you need to do in order to maintain a writing practice, and they're not sexy or new. They include keeping good records, keeping up with what's happening in the field, getting enough sleep, exercising, and remembering to stand up and move every hour or so.
It also applies to continuing to write when you get to the hard parts, avoiding letting your inner critic stop you, and finishing and rewriting what you already have instead of moving on the more appealing choice of starting something new.
We'll never win a prize for doing any of those, but they help pave the way for the possibility that we will create something good.
People sometimes ask me how I found the publishers of my non-fiction books. In recent years, I've had two publishers: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, which now is part of Hachette, and Pearson.
In both cases, the process was the same: I asked.
I sent Nicholas Brealey a query letter, he invited me to meet him here in London, and he published my two writing books, Your Writing Coach, and Your Creative Writing Masterclass. It was a very personal process and a real pleasure to work with Nick and his staff. After selling his company to Hachette, he stayed on as a consultant for a year but now is leaving. I'm not sure what adventures he has planned next, but I hope our paths will cross again.
In the case of Pearson, I noticed a small article indicating they were starting a new line of business/personal development books. It mentioned the name of the editor, so I got in touch with her and briefly described a book I had in mind. Again, that led to a meeting here in London. They wanted a slightly different direction so I adjusted my outline, and they published Focus: use the power of targeted thinking to get more done. It was selected as the W. H. Smith Business Book of the Month and sold very well. It now has more than a dozen foreign editions.
Pearson asked me whether I'd be interested in writing Marketing for Entrepreneurs and also doing cartoon illustrations for a line of the other books in that series. Unfortunately, those books came out just as the economy went into a tailspin and I got the feeling that Pearson never put their full weight behind the books.
However, they were also receptive to my pitch for a book I'd been thinking about for a long time, Creativity Now, and published it in a very nice color edition with glossy paper. That one now exists in a number of foreign editions as well.
At Pearson there was a lot of turnover during the few years I worked with them, and maternity leaves played a big role. They were all pleasant to work with, but I missed having one consistent point of contact.
Anyway, the moral of the story: Ask. They may say no, but if you don't ask, they can't say yes.
How do you make your writing come alive in the minds of your readers? Here, in a four-minute TED-Ed talk, Nalo Hopkinson shares her thoughts:
One of my challenges in writing prose is coming up with good descriptions, because in screenwriting (which has been the bulk of my work) you tend to keep descriptions extremely short and don't get much into how things feel or smell. Before we can describe, we have to see (and smell, and hear, and feel). Visual perception is the topic of this five-minute illustrated TED-Ed talk.
The speaker is Amy Herman, who teaches, police officers, FBI agents, nurses, medical students and others how to develop their observational skills. Her main tool is art from all over the world.
(The "full" version of this lesson on the TED-Ed site is exactly the same)
Amy Herman has written a book called Visual Intelligence. The subtitle is "Sharpen your perception, change your life." Well, I guess getting really good at describing characters and settings could change a writer's life. I haven't read the book yet, but I'll return with a review when I have.
Next Post: How to write descriptively - Nalo Hopkinson
Today almost all of my websites were hacked by an Indian hacker. He removed all of the content and put a rant on one of the home pages about people hacking Indian websites.
My hosting is with Hostgator, and they have a backup service...but what I didn't realize is that there is a limit to the amount of data they back up. I hope there's a way around this but at the moment it seems that if you go over that limit, they don't back up any of your data. I recommend that you check your hosting service's policy to make sure you don't end up in a similar position.
If you have subscribed to my online screenwriting course, that site is also down but I have the files and will reconstruct it if we can't restore it. That would take some time, and I appreciate your patience.
I have a tech person looking into this to see if there is a solution.
Yesterday, an emergency root canal, today this...Tomorrow...well, maybe something good for a change!
I'm always interested in studies that can help sedentary types like most of us writers remain in good health, and this time there are two encouraging results, one about exercise, one about chocolate.
One study found that even one minute of vigorous exercise has measurable positive effects. That's not to say you need to exercise for only a minute a day, but it does suggest that you need not be a slave to the treadmill...and that a solid couple of minutes of fast pacing and enthusiastic swearing when a rejection comes in is a good thing.
Hmm, maybe I should make a DVD: The Rejection Workout.
HELLO CHOCOLATE, MY OLD FRIEND
A new study suggests that Including a small amount of chocolate each day could help prevent diabetes and insulin resistance. This is in addition to previous findings that eating up to 100 g of chocolate every day is linked to lowered heart disease, and that eating a moderate amount of chocolate each week may be associated with a lower risk of stroke in men.
If you're annoyed by the references to small or moderate amounts, you can fall back on another study that showed high levels of chocolate consumption might be associated with a one-third reduction in the risk of developing heart disease. Yes, that one's my favorite, too.
It's true that they're all referring to dark chocolate, with 70% or more cocoa content. This doesn't taste as good as regular chocolate but if that's the only kind you eat, you first get used to the taste and then you enjoy it.
By the way, you can also buy raw cocoa powder to integrate into smoothies. Not very sweet, but good for you. For sweet flavor, I recommend Xlitol. It sounds like it should be the name of the evil ruler of planet in a cheap sci-fi movie, but it's actually good stuff.
According to Wikipedia: "Unlike other natural or synthetic sweeteners, xylitol is actively beneficial for dental health by reducing caries (cavities) to a third in regular use and helpful to remineralization...A study in rats found that xylitol had reduced or eliminated side effects compared to other artificial sweeteners, and lower caloric value and cariogenicity than sucrose."
THE IDEAL WORKOUT FOR WRITERS
There we have it, the ideal workout for writers: run to your grocery store to get some dark chocolate and eat it when you get back. Then start writing.