Posted in Social Media

How Not To Writte… On Facebook

Facebook

In light of recent data storage/usage accusations, it may well be that droves of us are departing Facebook for the warmer and safer climes of alternative social media. But for those of us choosing to remain, let’s remind ourselves of some dos and don’ts for the social media goliath.

In bygone years we had the social angst of ‘keeping up with the Jones’ – the natural human urge to possess the same 1986 metallic silver Ford Escort/top-of-the-range Flymo lawn mower/Pampas grass as Colin from number 26. And now, in the social media age, we have Facebook to make these feelings of inadequacy and envy even easier to create in our fellow man/woman/flymo.

Facebook was one of the earliest social networks to really take off (unless you count MySpace, and, let’s face it, NO-ONE wants to be reminded of the wall of shame that was your MySpace timeline. It’s a social network where you can post the snaps from your latest holiday in the Med, rant about the limited IQ of the electorate, or share the terrible ‘knitters will have you in stitches’ memes posted by your auntie.

And whether you’re posting pics, sharing videos or publishing long, meandering status updates, the key thing is to present you and your family in the BEST possible light at all times. Look at us, you will be saying to the world, aren’t we having a fabulous time at Disneyland Paris!

Do:

  • Share you holiday photos, kids’ birthday pics, albums of big days out and add comments about how interesting/great/mazin’ it all was. Keep them brief, and people will enjoy the voyeuristic thrill of poking their nose into what you and your family have been up to this weekend.
  • Post short, interesting status updates that you think your friends will actually be interested in. It might be a post about your latest charity run, a comment on a sad piece of topical news, or a link to something you hope will raise a chuckle (to me, to you, to me, to you) – in short, think about whether the thing you’re posting is actually INTERESTING to anyone other than you.
  • Use Facebook to connect with people you haven’t seen for a long time, or can’t see regularly. Don’t try to use it a social platform to connect with celebrities or receive ‘news’.
  • Be mindful of what you’re posting, saying and who you’re tagging. Once it’s been published, no matter how hard you press the delete button, some ‘friend’ will have done a screen grab.

Don’t:

  • Share all 237 of your holiday photos! Your family and friends may be interested in seeing the Greek beach you’ve been visiting, but they don’t need to see several hundred almost identical images of you and ‘the gurls’ holding overpriced cocktails, with the comment ‘Girls on tour”.
  • Use hashtags on Facebook, because, put simply, they don’t work and will make you look like a pretentious knob.
  • Do the ‘Why do bad things happen to good people….’ status update. Any codified, attention-seeking status update where people have to read between the lines to realise how terrible your day has been is likely to have the exact opposite effect to the one intended. People will NOT rush to your aid, they will merely think you’re a self-obsessed moron.
  • Reshare anything that begins ‘Most people on Facebook won’t share this post about orphaned donkeys/the plight of the panda/falling education standards…’. You have just been duped into posting this JUST to prove that you’re not ‘most people’. But, ironically, you’ve just proved that you ARE like most people.
  • Don’t post, share or link to anything racist/sexist/hugely offensive. You’d think this would be a given in a tolerant 21st century society, but post-Brexit there’s a lot of nasty, small-minded bilge out there that people are spreading around the internet. Don’t be one of them.
  • Share anything until you’re as au fait with privacy settings as you are with Aidan Turner’s scything technique. Remember six degrees of Kevin Bacon: friends of friends of your friends may in fact turn out to be a deplorable dickweed who’s cropped your face and put it onto the body of an ass, or sloth or Donald Trump.

 

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Posted in Political

How Not To Writte… A Political Placard

placard

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past year, you’ll have noticed that the world’s going through a spot of political upheaval at the moment (Ed: that’s putting it mildly – I understand rocks are now the go-to housing option: I fancy a little one by the sea, if I can just sort the indoor plumbing).

A UK general election is on the cards, Trump is in the Whitehouse, Brexit is looming on the horizon and the alt-right is on the rise – and that’s resulted in a lot of fine, upstanding and usually moderate people making a stand against the rising tide of populism in the world…

But if you’re gonna make a stand against the political status quo (and not just sing, Down Down!), you’re going to have to dust off your donkey jacket and go on a political march. And if you’re going to demonstrate, then you bloody well need a placard to wave around and get your political message seen by the masses.

So, if you’re sitting down with your blank piece of card, jumbo-size felt-tip marker in hand, how do you craft a placard that’s going to not only get you noticed in the crowd, but will also be so cutting and original in the power of its slogan that the alt-right opposition will disintegrate in a mushy pile of broken promises?

Do:

  • Write witty, funny or scathing slogans that will give people a laugh, and will also lodge in people’s noggins. For UK marches, using the classic ‘Down with this sort of thing’ slogan from Father Ted is always a winner – it’ll be photographed and posted to Instagram and Twitter before you can press ‘like’.
  • Keep it short, pithy and to the point – one hard-hitting sentence of five or six words will be easier to read and will catch a picture editor’s attention far more effectively than your latest haiku on the ridiculousness of Trump’s Weetabix combover styling.
  • Laminate, or otherwise cover, your placard with waterproof material! If you’re demonstrating in Britain, it WILL rain, your placard WILL get wet and your words will run –  and no one wants a soggy pole (Ed: easy tiger).
  • Check your spelling! ‘We want it here and now!’, is very different to ‘We want it where and know!’. Chuck your slogan into Word or Google Docs and do a spellcheck – there’s no excuse for bad spelling in this digital age, so let the little zeroes and ones do the hard work for you.
  • Use a hashtag at the bottom rather than a website, but again keep it brief. This is where size really does matter… and not in the way you’d expect. The shorter your hashtag, the easier it is for people to remember or to hastily type into their social media app of choice, while traversing the soggy city streets.
  • Consider accompanying your placard slogan with flags – bright, colourful, waving-about type flags with your message daubed across the middle. Who doesn’t love a flag, eh!? They draw attention, they look cool blowing in the wind and you can pretend you’re a Soviet revolutionary on a CCCP poster.
  • Consider a pun or play on a film or song title. ‘Let’s talk about…’ is a crowd pleaser, along with the classic ‘I protest at being a sign!’, but flex your pun muscles (Ed: are they connected to the funny bone?) and see what excruciating play on words you can come up with for your placard of choice.

Don’t:

  • Swear or use cuss words. I know, boring, but remember there may be children on your rally with you. So if you do swear, then for f**ks sake use an asterisk!
  • Write a very long, boring message – no one will be able to read it. As we said earlier, keep your writing short, sharp and to the point. If you can’t read it easily in the two seconds it takes for a helmeted riot police officer (or ex United Airlines security officer) to bundle you to the ground, then it’s too long, too wordy and won’t get you on the front page of The Guardian.
  • Use illegible or overly messy writing on your placard. We’re not expecting hand-crafted calligraphy on your sign, but people do have to be able to read it – an unreadable slogan on a placard is a pointless as inviting Nigel Farage to Notting Hill Carnival.
  • Just write ‘Hello Mum! I’m on the telly!!’ on your placard. Yes, you may find it amusing, but there will be at least 10% of the other marchers on your rally who’ll have had the self-same idea – don’t be that knob!
Posted in Entertainment and the Arts, writing tips

How Not To Write… A Novel

Novel writing

They say everyone has a book inside them (and we don’t mean in the ’embarrassing visit to A&E’ sense). We all have a story to tell, a journey to share or an idea that sounds like it could be worked into a passable novel.

But if you’ve just come up with the best idea ever for a chick lit flicker – featuring the forbidden love between a chocolate company owner and his down-at-heel cleaning lady – how do you get this blockbusting idea out of your head and into 100,000 words of tear-enducing literary prose?

Do:

  • Commit to writing, a LOT, and then some, and then some more, again… and wash, and repeat.
  • Learn the basics of editing skills. You don’t need swish software but you DO need patience and – in our opinion – rewards for getting your edits done. Chocolate works well (Ed: there’s a theme emerging here… ). Editing is not a necessary evil, it is just part of the whole process; you HAVE to do it – so make it as comfortable as possible.
  • Print your chapter or section out if you can when doing your editing. Plonk yourself down in a nice comfy chair, drink of choice in hand, sit back and relax. With whatever pen/pencil/quill you prefer, slowly go through the text, correcting the typos, grammar and things that make no sense. Does it scan, can you read it out loud, have you used ‘but’ far too many times?… But… when you get to the end of the section reward yourself with whatever you need in order to feel good about the editing process: biscuit(s), favourite TV programmes, Swedish massage from Lars…
  • Plan out the structure of the story, however roughly. With a few key ideas for story milestones you’ll give yourself a skeleton for the whole novel – you can add the flesh to these rough bones at a later point, giving birth to your very own literary zombie.
  • Make your characters feel like real people. Don’t just describe the colour of their dress/jacket. Give your reader a bold-brush-stroke idea of what this person is like and make them feel some engagement, empathy or emotion towards them. Human stories need rounded human characters – and when we say rounded we don’t mean Mr Blobby.
  • Start on the action – back story can come later. Engage with your reader and give us snippets of the back story and the ‘whys’ later on. In short, get our attention early or we’ll be tempted to turn on the telly and watch Googlebox/shout at Question Time.
  • Have a reason for everything that happens. Don’t introduce ‘colour’ to something if it doesn’t serve a purpose. It’s great that Auntie Flo’s beautiful russet red Manolo’s walked through the door, but if they don’t stamp on something, get thrown off at a disco, or describe that she’s kooky, it serves no purpose (take note, Dan Brown).
  • Write! Yes we know, prosaic, but you have to put in the time. And, yes, some of it will be bilge, but some of it will be brilliant too – write, write and write some more and soon the diamonds will start sparkling among the more work-a-day coal.
  • Get used to being ‘stuck’. It doesn’t matter – keep writing! Write anything. Write poetry, diaries, short stories, or a letter to your mum, but write something. Use writing prompts if need be, but if you’ve committed your time to write, then write, anything.

How not write a novel

Don’t:

  • Miss huge bits of plot because you think your reader will know what’s going on. Nice as it would be, your reader isn’t psychic, so you need to give enough plot hints to make it clear what’s happening. Conversely don’t tell us everything – show not tell. No-one wants a novel to read like an Ikea instruction manual.
  • Be boring with your writing. Cardinal sins can include being too descriptive, going overboard with the adjectives (It was a dark and stormy night… ) or going into minute detail that adds nothing to the story, the character development or the excitement of the narrative – so choose wisely what to describe. Less is generally more.
  • Show all your wares up front (Ed: unless you’re drafting something for the ’50 Shades of Grey’ market). Like that unforgettable night at Foxy’s Exotic Dancing Emporium, the tease, the strip, is most of the fun… so take time to let us get at your goodies.
  • Attempt to hit your 3,000 words a day count whilst simultaneously having Twitter/Instagram/the news/CBeebies on a nearby screen. Get rid of all distractions. There is a time for inspiration (Ed: Late at night, after a few vinos, watching Michael Fassbender/Angelina Jolie), and there’s the occasions where you SAY you’re seeking inspiration but ACTUALLY you’re distracting yourself with YouTube videos of pandas on slides. Lock yourself away and (as we KEEP on saying) get writing, writing WRITING!!!Some of our favourite and realistic novel writing advice.
Posted in Social Media

How Not To Writte… On Twitter

twitter

What did we do with our phones before we had Twitter? (Ed: probably talk to people through them?)

Twitter is a social media network (or ‘micro-blogging site’, if you will) where you post 140 character-long ‘tweets’ about whatever the hell pops into your head at any given moment. It could be your thoughts on a recent political event, your uniquely insightful comments on Kanye’s latest track, or it could be a drunken rant about why none of your friends ever want to go out on a Friday night anymore.

The point is that, on Twitter, literally anything goes. Write it, tweet it and your great work of literary genius is out there in the world, waiting for the Twitterati to comment on. Admittedly, these comments are usually along the lines of ‘You’re an idiot!’ or ‘I think you’ve missed out an apostrophe’, but at least it’s feedback, eh.

In many ways, Twitter is the ultimate social media platform. It’s become a global phenomenon in just a few years, and it’s hard now to imagine how bad journalism/celebrity updates/online arguments existed before we had the Twittersphere. 

Do:

  • Use hashtags wisely. The golden rule is no more than 3, use them to drive people to your Twitter feed, but check your spelling.  #Ilikeyouraunt sends a very different message to followers than the regrettable time your fingers slipped and you typed a ‘c’ rather than an ‘a’.
  • Engage with your followers. Learn about them, tweet links to them and be inclusive.  Check your spelling and check their username, but once you’ve done that, you’re golden.
  • Think before you tweet. Will this tweet help me/someone else to have a laugh or is it just a non-amusing rant at the world and everyone in it. We all need those times to vent, but sometimes a public forum where your rant can never permanently be deleted (eek!), might not be the best option.
  • Learn that 3am is never the best time to tweet. Period. Nope don’t even start an argument here.
  • Try and have a personal, profile picture. It makes you seem like a real human being and not a soulless robotron (Ed: no we’re not sure what that is either). Your selfie game might not always be on point, but a nice friendly face lets people know who they’re following.
  • Write a bio. You’re limited in what you can say, but a name always helps, as does an idea of who you are and why you’re on Twitter.  If you need more space to explain about yourself, set up a blog or website and include the links in your bio.

Don’t:  

  • EVER drunk tweet! It’s the number one rule of tweeting, to be adhered to at all costs. Adele got her account removed from her for some questionable tweetage when drunk. We don’t need any blurry shots of you miming something questionable with a saveloy at midnight in the local chip shop. You will regret this. Your mum will regret it and the saveloy will most definitely regret it. Stay smart, stay safe, stay saveloy free and most importantly stay sober when tweeting.
  • Use twitter just to complain loudly. No one likes a moaning Minnie and everyone can spot a ‘freebie’ chancer a mile off. Do engage with companies, do tell them what you think but despite your frustrated anger simmering in a cauldron of contempt, try to remain professional. There are people at the end of Twitter accounts, despite the image of soulless bureaucracy of ….(insert worst imaginable company here… normally something to do with trains).
  • Spam tweet/over tweet/keep selling something. It’s dull, it’s boring and WE DON’T CARE.  Oh yeah, check your spelling and your grammar and your hashtag game.
  • Ever and we mean ever, use ‘clickbait’ phrases like ‘Oh my god, and what she did next you’ll never believe… ‘ or ‘You’ve been using [random object] wrong this WHOLE time…’. It’s Twitter suicide and will drive your followers away quicker than a conversation about Brexit.