Okay, what the heck is going on here?

“Things have been awfully quiet around here lately. What’s the deal?”

Feeling confused?It ain’t all sunshine and roses running a website, is it? Sometimes Life gets in the way (at least twice a week here), and sometimes you run out of money (yup!). And running a site that hosts writing contests comes with its own little headaches.

Not that I’m complaining.

We’ve had tons of fun since our inaugural competition about one year ago. We’ve had a slew of great contest entries, and some of the best judges anyone could ask for. Our most recent contest (3 Sentences) showed our most exciting reader and contestant response, ever. (Thank you all!)

We’ve had some outstanding guest posts, with more to come. And we’ve spent some time talking about writing in general, which is always good.

What’s the downside?

First of all, there aren’t nearly as many helpful posts here as I would like to offer for you. My contributions have been hit-or-miss, partly because I tend to worry too much about making things “perfect”. (I’m working on that. Really, I am–I’m getting professional help! Not that kind, silly. The kind you get by getting advice from smart people!)

Furthermore, I haven’t been able to host a new contest every month, as I’d originally planned. Nor have I been able to give away as much prize money as I wanted to. When I launched this website 15 months ago, I had a budget of over $500. At the time, it seemed like a whole lotta money, honey. Then came the time for domain and site hosting and email service renewal. Those crucial expenses just gobbled up the cash!

You’ve probably noticed that there isn’t any advertising here. Also missing are affiliate programs, membership fees, site-hosted products–you know, all that stuff that puts money back into the budget.

Well, that’s by choice, at least for now.

I do have at least three programs I endorse and can recommend to any of you without reservation. We’ll talk more about each of those in the future. And there will be products available for you to buy in the coming months, but only when I’m absolutely sure I’m offering something that’s worth every penny (and more) and will help you be successful. Only then.

If I’m making a dollar, I want you to make TWO dollars.

Because if I can help you be successful–with freelancing, with your books or whatever–then we’ll both be happy, won’t we? It won’t do me a bit of good to take your money and leave you “only poorer.”

You may have noticed some minor changes to SoWrite’s magazine-style home page. I’ve made some small tweaks, but they’re important. (Thank you to those readers, and you know who you are, who helped with this!) We (the website, the contests, me, and contributing writers) are going to focus more on you. We’re going to focus more on what you’re reading and writing, and we’re going to streamline the contests.

Big changes are in the works.

I haven’t spent this past year sitting around dropping Cheetos into the couch cushions and watching football. (Well, maybe a little football!) Every time we’ve run a contest, I’ve learned something valuable from you. Every time one of you has written a guest post here, you’ve taught me something important.

I’ve also spent a great deal of time working with people who are smarter and more experienced than I am. You know, learning stuff. I’ve forged friendships with some top-level writing and marketing bloggers–people who I believe can help you succeed, too. I’ve had long conversations with established authors, editors, cover designers, and publishers. Each of these has had some key insights to offer.

I’m going to work much harder to bring these insights to you, so you can benefit, too.

One of the most amazing sharing and learning tools we’ve been using lately isn’t part of this website at all. A few weeks back, I re-opened a dormant writers group on Facebook and aligned it with SoWrite. Since then, membership there has nearly doubled and we’ve had incredible conversations about books and writing–some of them ranging from 50 to almost 100 comments! Interested? Click the link below to check it out:

Yes, tell me more about our Writers Group on Facebook!

But wait, there’s more.

In the coming weeks, I’ll offer a lot more book reviews and interviews with authors.  Why? First, because I love to read; but more importantly, getting the word out on books and writers is good for all of us. As Ani Alexander pointed out in her recent post, writing is the easy part. Networking and marketing are the tough, but critical, parts. I want to help you get exposure for your efforts.

In the same vein, I’m working on a plan to host free classified ads here. You’ll be able to market your books, your writing and editing services, cover design and formatting help, publishing opportunities–and more. This will be a way for all of us to do some serious networking. Interested? Send me a message, right away.

Well, what about those contests?

You know, holding contests can be a pain in the butt. But I think competition is really important for writers of all levels. Really important. Ever notice how many authors identify themselves as “award-winning”? Has a certain ring to it, doesn’t it? Yeah, winning recognition matters.

Our original contests have offered small cash prizes. Those are nice, but cash is like chocolates–it never sticks around very long. I want to offer more prizes, more consistently. I want SoWrite’s winners to have something permanent that they can display on their books and on their websites. Those changes are coming very soon. And if there’s cash in the budget for prize purses, that will just be icing on the cake.

Our contest formats will be more stable, too.

I’m looking at keeping the style and method of each contest consistent. Our lively End of Summer contest seemed to work very well, both for the contestants and for readers who wanted to offer feedback. With your approval, I think we’ll keep going in a similar fashion.

The focus of these contests will shift from creative writing exercises (which are all fun, don’t get me wrong) to being a way for you to connect with each other–and with potential readers. And, hey, if it turns out that I’m wrong about this way being “better,” then I’ll be happy to change course again. I’m not nearly as stubborn as I look sometimes!

So, as the late Henry Fonda’s character asked in one of my all-time favorite films, On Golden Pond

What’s the bottom line here?

Bottom line is — changes are coming. Good changes, I hope:

  • More content
  • New kinds of content
  • More often
  • More guest posts
  • More contests
  • More predictable
  • Also more often
  • More valuable prizes
  • More interaction
  • More opportunities for you to succeed and network
  • and more fun, too!

»Haunting photograph courtesy of Francesca Frakokot


questionDoes that sound good to you? Or do you have some better ideas? Use the Comments section on this page to share your opinions. And, hey, don’t forget to come on over and join the conversations in our awesome Facebook group!

 

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Comments

  1. Will you allow donations? My paypal account always has a bit I can spare for this site. Let me know. We all love these fun contests. :)

  2. Sir Jim, I believe the contests are a good thing, as long as they aren’t too weird, the best and first example of that might be the spam contest which was just a bit strange.

    The types that involve ‘best opening line’ ‘sentences’, paragraphs’ and ‘first chapters’ contests (oh yeah, I especially loved that one…LOL) are highly interesting, amazing writer challenges, the interaction and participation seems to be excellent. Prizes are always nice to win, and can be an issue for some perhaps,,,,,, but in our ex-Helium challenge group, we didn’t have prizes generally if I recall correctly, it seems to me the participation in the contest, the challenge of the effort necessary was the prize. Just sayin’ You’re doing the right stuff. “:)

    • I have to agree with you, Raymond.

      “Weird” doesn’t always work out so well, does it? :-) I’m with you on the idea of doing more ‘sentences’ and other excerpts competitions. That’s where I’m leaning now, so that’s what we’ll see for the next round, at least. Thanks for your encouragement!

  3. Hi Jim, I am constantly impressed by the level of professionalism you display with So Write. There is so much improvement and interaction, especially at the FB group, that is it virtually impossible for us to stay away from the discussions. Kudos to you on organizing a great community of writers that is passionate about writing and discusses topics openly without the whining and complaining. Hats off to you.

    • Thank you very much, Mandy!

      You were our first-ever site sponsor, when the whole thing got rolling–and that made all the difference in getting us started. I appreciate your help and support, probably more than I’ve managed to express to you in gratitude.

  4. (Smiles) I know you are grateful, Jim. And it doesn’t need mention either. I meant the support considering that’s what Mandy’s Pages is all about. ‘Uniting Writers. Encouraging Dreams.’ I wanted to do a little something to encourage what you started.

  5. Sounds very promising. I’ll be looking forward to the changes.

  6. Hi Jim,
    That sounds exciting AND overwhelming. You have a lot to do. I love your site and Im not even a writer, but I’ve decided to follow your FB page and goodness knows where that will lead me. Your contests are terrific – I agree with Raymond, prizes aren’t really necessary, just joining the fray and being heard is quite some reward already.
    Julia

    • Thanks very much, Julia!
      I appreciate your helpful feedback and always enjoy your cheerful enthusiasm. I also have a feeling you are more of a writer than you might realize. Welcome!

  7. Tamara Narayan says:

    Wow. I might have to break down and join Facebook. What a great load of information!

    • Oh, Tammy, I wish you would!
      You have so much to contribute, and we have so many members who would love to meet you.
      Maybe we could even help you get that novel published! :-)

  8. Katharine says:

    Hi. Just found you. I have missed a LOT!
    One contest idea: “500 First Pages” wherein we submit the first-page-worth (maybe 200 words?) of an imaginary new novel and see if it reads like a great “page-turner” or not.

    • Very nice to meet you, Katherine.

      That sounds like a great idea, thank you. It reminds me of the Query/Pitch process and could work very well. I haven’t seen 500 entries yet in one of our contests, but it’s a nice number, nonetheless. :-)

      • Katharine says:

        Of course, you know it plays on the title of Lukeman’s recent book: First Five Pages. I suppose you could award five winners, and call it “Five First Pages”? Or not. Anyway, cannot wait to engage more, here. :)

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