Monday, October 18, 2010

Online Persona Workshop Week Three: Connecting the Dots

So by now you should have a couple of lists:

  • Lists of blogs and online haunts you love
  • A list of reasons you want to be online
  • A good strong list of all your unique layers, roles, and facets


This week we’re going to examine your writing self and look for natural connections or links to those other lists. There might not be any, and that’s fine. But there might be some dots that connect naturally and lend themselves to shaping and refining your online persona or niche.

The exercises this week focus around getting a sense of who you are as an author. We’re looking for that hidden core that links your stories together, and in turn, links them to you. (And some of you might recognize them from back when we posted about whether or not branding was for you. Which makes sense because an online persona is pretty much an extension of your brand.)

~List a dozen words that describe your work. Don’t be shy or falsely modest—think about what qualities your writing and stories have.

~List five stories you’d love to be able to write someday. Write a short paragraph or blurb that captures the essence of that story—the story juice that ignites your passion and imagination.

~List the last five books you’ve written. Again, write a sentence or two defining that core idea that compelled you to write it.

~Look at the themes of your books, both written and unwritten, are there a few you go back to time and again?

Do you see a pattern emerging? Are there connections to be made? If so, you are beginning to see the nuggets of your writerly persona.

So put this list next to the list we made last week. Are there any connections or pairings that make sense? Hopefully there will be a few.

And then we can step back and see if there is a larger authorial mission statement that can be created that includes both your ‘self’ and your writer-self.

As we said when we talked about branding:

Even though you write mysteries, historicals, and realistic fiction, if each one deals with mothers then you are exploring the landscape of mother/child relationships. Or maybe it’s more specific than that, mother/daughter relationships.

Or you write stories to help readers recognize the absurdities in life. Or you like to explore the limitations (or lack of limitations!) of emotional connections, or to help kids on the road to empowerment.

That’s what you’re looking for here, that core something that is uniquely you, that your comfortable talking about and that connects in some small way to your work. That is the nugget that you can begin building your online presence around.

You can let your core mission statement from the above exercise be the centerpiece of your interactions, then build on that. Instead of only writing books that deal with those topics, your tweets, your blogs, your school visits, your author talks all at least touch on some aspect of that core mission statement.

So for me, if I write about empowering kids and like to use fantasy as a stand in for personal power, and I am a research geek, it makes sense that I write historical fantasy for kids. However that doesn’t lend itself naturally to a blogging presence. I could conceivably blog about historical oddities, but I like to save the punch of those for the books. And kids don’t really read blogs, so blogging about their empowerment doesn’t make much sense. And the truth is, I’m more comfortable talking about that kind of stuff in the context of stories rather than lectures, which is what I’m afraid blog entries on that would feel like.

So now I have to sift through the lists again, looking for different connections. The truth is, my author blog is an odd amalgam of talking about the writing process, craft, books I read, observations on life, and talking about my books. It’s probably not the best example of a strong online persona. My presence here on SVP is a much better illustration of a cohesive online presence.

Which segues into this: It is probably best and most authentic if your online presence kind of evolves, much like we do as people. However, there is so much pressure to create this presence, and many introverts aren’t particularly driven to do that on their own (although some are) that sometimes we kind of have to jumpstart ourselves.

That, and this is what you all voted on. ☺

Also, to help spur comments on this, we’re going to have a drawing, and all you have to do is leave a comment to enter. You’ll win a copy of The Hero Within, one of my favorite books for delving into internal arcs for my characters.

But don't worry. You don't have to share your very personal exercises.  However, if you DID find a defining nugget for your work and your self, or if you think you have an angle that might work to blog from, or you just want to say what you'd like to see covered in future workshops, any of those will qualify you for the drawing.


Caroline Starr Rose said...

I try to honor and extend dignity to childhood through my writing. Too broad?? :)

R.L. LaFevers said...

I think that makes a TERRIFIC mission statement, Caroline! And mission statements should be broad so they can encompass all the different aspects that connect to your writing. Excellent!

Unknown said...

Okay, I confess I"m mostly posting to be in the drawing. I look back over the stuff I've written, and I would say in all of them there is a sense of seeking a place to outsider looking for home and acceptance. I write adult fiction (as apposed to kids or YA, not adult like bowchicawowow ADULT) but I do believe that those of you writing books that kids love are seriously saving the world. I shudder to think of a future of video-game playing reality-show watching people. Without stories to ignite young imaginations...what future do we have?

BTW, are you going to do a post on how do actually dip a toe into blogging. I got onto the info site at and was immediately intimidated. I know it's "so easy" to set up but...why doesn't it look so easy to me? Haha!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is hard! (But I really want that prize!) At heart, when I look at what I write (and what I read) I'm drawn to the interplay between people -- what makes a relationship work (or not work!). I also am drawn to how people relate to the natural world around them. So I guess I see my blog posts as snapshots of personal moments. (I'm going with the 'naturally evolve' idea!)

Anonymous said...

Even though I've had a upper middle grade sports novel, lower middle grade contemporary fantasy, and YA mystery published, all of my main characters tend to hide facts or their feelings from parents. And these adults all show their caring in active ways during the book.

While I'm perfectly happy to babble away about books and writing on my blog, I tend to keep my private life under wraps.

Coincidence? Maybe not.

Anonymous said...

I write adult fiction, but I suppose my core ideas evolve around relationships, empowerment and redemption. However, I keep feeling like my characters are always cooking, traveling or restoring/admiring old houses. How strange to think my blog might be more about the quirks of characters and how what we love as authors pops up in their heads and actions. Hmmm. This was great fun. Thank you.
And on a side note, as a teacher I just adore reading Theodosia to my classes. My husband and I both want a cat just like Isis.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic workshop, Robin!

Okay, here’s what I came up with for this week’s exercises:

I send the characters in my stories on perilous journeys where they achieve or survive the impossible.

Does this sentence qualify as a core mission statement?

It sounds like one unifying theme, but each of my manuscripts are very, very different. LOL! My picture books and middle grade are for the most part adventurous, while two young adult novels are quite dark with strong southern voices and religious undertones.

Hhmmm. I'll keep working on this!

Julie Anne Lindsey said...

OK, I write in all genres and I'm having a very tough time finding the thread between them. However, as a lover of human behavior - I will be one of those old ladies on the bench outside the food court staring at the people- this activity will likely consume me until I find the thread. Thank you for the most unique challenge I've had this week! Also, if I find the commonality, I'll be back to share :)

R.L. LaFevers said...

Ha. So now I know. pRiZeS is what gets you all to comment on this stuff! There will be prizes from now on...

Melissa, searching for a place to belong is such a great, universal theme, and works well for adult or kids books. It also makes a great place to create a persona around because EVERYONE has moments where they feel like they don't belong, and moments to affirm or repudiate that feeling are all around us and great fodder for connecting to people. Congratulations on such a great mission statement!

And yes, we will get to the part where we actually dip our toe into blogging. :-)

Oo, Liz! Another great mission statement to build a persona around. Two, actually. Interpersonal dynamics are everywhere, from chance encounters in the grocery store to heart to hearts with our family. And the natural world angle can help you make it that much more uniquely yours.

Kristin, I'm laughing at the range of your books! I feel like that sometimes, with books spread allover the subject matter and age map. VERY intriguing thematic core to your stories! Now the trick will be to think how to play with that and turn it into a mission statement for your online persona--if you want to. And I'll talk more about why you might want to, next week.

R.L. LaFevers said...

Anon, so glad you enjoyed the exercise! Empowerment and redemption are biggies for me, too. Cannot get enough of those themes! And I think your cooking/old house restoration is a GREAT persona to work from. It has the added bonus of attracting people with those hobbies (of which there are many!) and connecting them to your books. (And thank you for the kind words about the Theodosia books!) Encouraging people to achieve the impossible, and affirming that they can survive not reaching it, are both powerful, powerful themes. And again, they lend themselves really well to a blog/online persona with bits of inspiration, stories of those who do just that, all sorts of neat places you can go with that.

Kimberly Lynn, ABSOLUTELY that qualifies as a great mission statement! And thanks for the nice feedback!

Julie Anne, I'm so glad you're enjoying the challenge! I'm sure there is some commonality in there somewhere. One thing I ended up doing on my personal blog was changing the blog description to Writer and Student of Human Nature, because understanding people and interactions is such a key component of writing, and a lot of the stuff that fascinates me--inner arcs of characters, for example, ties in very strongly to our journeys as human beings...

Thanks everyone, for speaking up! :-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Robin!♥

R.L. LaFevers said...

Kimberly, somehow my response to you got all garbled and mashed up with the previous response. It was supposed to read:

Kimberly Lynn, ABSOLUTELY that qualifies as a great mission statement! And thanks for the nice feedback!

Encouraging people to achieve the impossible, and affirming that they can survive not reaching it, are both powerful, powerful themes. And again, they lend themselves really well to a blog/online persona with bits of inspiration, stories of those who do just that, all sorts of neat places you can go with that.

Mike Jung said...

This is a great exercise, Robin. Hard, but valuable. Let me take a swing at it...

It'd be easy enough to say my work (what little of if there is so far) is about finding the absurdity and humor in life, and that IS part of it. But I think there's a bigger, more important thread in both my manuscripts: how to overcome feelings of alienation and exclusion without inflicting those same feelings on others. (or something like that...)

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Robin, you said: "The truth is, my author blog is an odd amalgam of talking about the writing process, craft, books I read, observations on life, and talking about my books."

Gack! This describes my personal blog PERFECTLY. I'm all over the place and when my life gets crazy or I'm on a crazy deadline, blogging goes out the window. I think I'm a much better eavesdropper in the online world than a participant, although I do like to comment on conversations other writers have started.

As far as my mission statement, that is one I'll have to think about some more. I write about family and love and faith. I write about mothers and daughter and daddy's and daughters. I love history and research and am realizing the past few years that I have a real knack at writing about other cultures and bringing them alive - or KEEPING them alive - bringing a little known place or time to reader's attention as well as finding those universal truths and emotions and problems about kids across any time period and in any geography or culture.

See my problem at mission statements? :-)

(And if you ever need a giveaway, I'd be happy to donate a copy of my book.)

R.L. LaFevers said...

Hey Mike! Thanks for playing. :-) And WOW, so glad you did. I think you did a great job of identifying your deep, core mission statement. I also think another unifying theme for you is voice; you have one of those hugely distinctive voices that also becomes a unifying element, but I'm going to talk more about that in a future installment.

Kimberly, so glad there is another fellow amalgam-er out there! And yes, blogging goes out the window when deadlines or life press in. I think you make an excellent point about being an excellent eavesdropper in the online world! Very much an introvert (and writer) trait.

I remember when we talked about these exercises before you mentioned discovering a common threat of mother/daughter relationships, and now its expanded to fathers, too.

Hm. In trying to nail down a mission statement, can you take one more step back and ask what is it that draws you to those precise cultures or little known places that you bring alive so well? A hint might be lurking in the answer to that question.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Oh my. I'm in the boat with others whose writing is all over the place. I know what I'd LIKE to center on, but the works I'm shopping -- a women's historical, a near-future thriller, an MG fantasy, and a handful of short stories that are themed by packagers -- aren't about that at all.

My current brand is kind of a mashup, but getting that laser focus -- or at least the laser pointing in the same general direction for a sustained period of time -- seems almost unattainable at this stage...

Margo Berendsen said...

I just did all the steps you recommended here and started looking for connections - and I FOUND THEM! This is so amazing! (I also did the first part of the workshop). I will definitely be continuing on with this workshop.

It has helped me identify that both in my work, time with friends and time I spend writing... one of my common things is looking deeper at people, places, things, events to see beyond initial impressions/prejudices. Learning to see things in a new way. It's fascinating to see how this plays out in so many different ways in my life and writing.

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