Yes, You Should Blog and Tweet Before You’re Published

funny pictures of cats with captions

Are you an unpublished writer without a blog? Not tweeting? Well, you should! And here’s why.

Today’s post was inspired by the guest post by Heather Kopp last week at agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog, 7 Reasons to Quit Balking & Start Blogging. She makes some very good points and I’d like to add some more to them from my own experience.

I’d meant to do this post months ago when I ran across a blog post from a writer who posted that tweeting and blogging, she discovered, was not beneficial. The problem was her reasons for doing it and her methodology. See, she’d just published her first book and wanted to get the word out and heard that blogging and tweeting helped. So she set up a blog and a twitter account and went at it, and got no results. The problem was not only her timing, but the way she went about it. We all know those tweeters, who only send out auto-tweets promoting their book and you’ve never heard of them and they don’t engage you on twitter. I think at her stage, her audience was readers, and only readers who’ve found her book through other means would seek her out and follow her. But would a reader only be interested in Buy My Book tweets? No. Anyway, let’s move from that example, as I think enough has been blogged about the perils of this type of approach by others more articulate than me.

Let’s just use the above example as Reason #8 (picking up from Gardner’s post)…

8. You need to build your audience BEFORE you’re published. True, at this stage you’re not targeting readers because they have nothing to buy and read, but there are plenty of examples of folks who did this who benefited when her book came out. I think Jody Hedlund is one, am I remembering right? She’d built up a tribe of supporters who then wanted to help promote her when she published.

9. You are missing out on a whole passel of contacts that can help you. I started blogging and tweeting in September and felt really, really self-conscious, since I hadn’t published anything. It felt very strange and I really thought I wouldn’t last past two months, because who would want to visit my blog?? And for what reason?? I forged ahead anyway, and boy, I can’t tell you how much I don’t regret it. I’ve made SCORES of friends who have helped me learn so much more about my craft, who have given me encouragement, you name it. I’ve also found my Beta readers this way. I can’t honestly imagine where I’d be right now if I hadn’t started in September, but I can tell you, I’d be a whole lot further behind on my learning curve.

One of them, Jami Gold, I connected with back around Thanksgiving when she needed some quick Betas. I stepped up and we struck up an email correspondence, helping each other with pitches and queries. I then Beta’d her full and she recently Beta’d mine and really truly helped me see just what I needed to do to make my piece stronger. She’s been so helpful and supportive she even let me call her to hash out some writerly stuff and we’re going to be roommates for RWA.

I also wouldn’t have met Stephanie Lawton (via Twitter) and learned about the Mobile Writer’s Guild, which I’m now Vice President of and have met other wonderful writers in my local area. I also can’t always attend my local RWA chapter meetings because of my day-job work schedule, but tweeting helps me keep up with my fellow members.

And where would I be without my Six Sentence Sunday buddies? I’ve made wonderful friends through it, and discovered some new fave authors whose books I’ve bought.

None of this, none of the knowledge I’ve gained, none of the friends I’ve made, would have happened if I hadn’t started. Plus, I’d be a month away from going to my first national writers conference (RWA) and not know a soul. I can just picture myself (cuz I’ve been there) wandering around, watching others greet people they know. But now I’m a month away from not only learning a bunch of stuff, but a month away from meeting all the people I only know by name and their profile pic!

10. It CAN help in your actual writing output. I know it can be a time sucker, constantly checking Twitter, but once you get over that need to stay on top of EVERYTHING (because you finally realize you can’t), it’s wonderful for not only making new friends and learning about writing, but it can also help you with your output. Just hop onto the #1k1hr thread and you’ll see. You’ll meet other writers who are wanting to sit down for an hour and just write. You agree on a start time and you don’t come up for air until the end of the hour, when you report your output. This has helped me tremendously in meeting my daily goals and to stop me from obsessively checking all my online stuff.

11. Potential agents can find you. I personally haven’t had agents find me this way, but I have heard of it happening. I have had an agent who requested a full who commented in her email that she loved my Monday Hunk Who Reads. They ended up passing, but still, that was cool :) By having a blog, you are showing your brand, what you are like as a writer and person, and it can help them decide.

12. You’ll be stronger when you do publish. This is rehashing #8 somewhat, but I think it’s important enough to circle back to after showing all the other benefits. Now, when you do publish a year, two years, three years later, you’ll not be one of THOSE on Twitter who is only me, me, me and no one’s ever heard of you. No, instead you’ll have writer friends who support you and want to see you succeed. THEY’LL promote you. I know, because I help promote those that I’ve met since September whose work I’ve read and liked. Writers read, and they have family and friends who ask for recommendations all the time.

What do you think? Are you a writer worried about jumping in before you’ve published? Are you already blogging and tweeting like me? Do you have any other reasons why it’s a good idea? Please share!

My Fast Draft Experience

Humorous Pictures

Whoa! Hello World! I feel like I’m waking from a two-week stupor. Monday, May 14 I started Candace Havens’ Fast Drafting class where we committed to a certain number of pages for a 2-week period, the goal being to finish your first rough draft as fast as possible. If you need convincing on the soundness of this method,  hear this confession from a former scoffer and why she now embraces fastdrafting.

I found out about it a couple of days before the start date and thought “No Way”. I waffled, I felt nervous about signing up, I had the same feeling I had before I agreed to do NaNoWriMo the first time: that the word count goals would be impossible to do. Trepidation, in other words. All day that Friday, the signup link kept taunting me, and finally I scolded myself. I realized that I should sign up precisely because it scared the heck out of me. I’d found out by doing NaNoWriMo that writing 50,000 words in 30 days was totally doable. What if it was totally doable to do it in half the time and I was just too chicken to find out? I’d also realized that I had begun to find excuses not to start my new novel idea STEAM ME UP, RAWLEY a steampunk romance set in 1890 Mobile, Alabama. So I signed up.

And I did it!

Last night at 9:22 I typed THE END and had written 56,267 words in 14 days!

It feels rather weird, and frankly surreal at this point, especially as I wasn’t allowed to read any previous days’ writing. It just happened so fast. And more so than the other times I’ve finished a first draft, I feel like I have this shiny new baby that popped out of me all of a sudden and I’m wide-eyed with amazement and want to show others–Look! That came out of me in 14 days!….

How I did it

I’m not the only one who did this either, there were many in our class hitting their goals of 15 or 20 pages a day (mine was 15 a day, but there were days I did more and yesterday I did 31!). I thought I’d share my experience in case any of you would find it helpful.

  1. I already had a rough plan of how the story would unfold. This was the first time I’d tried to write a synopsis and work out plot points ahead of time. I’d done this work the previous month, so it was all ready and waiting for me when I started this. I used Scrivener and already had scene cards made for a lot of scenes. When I ran out of steam in one scene, I just clicked to the next and started writing it and didn’t worry about transitions or anything. That can be fixed in revision
  2. As Candace advised, tell your Internal Editor to take a hike. I’d struggled with this already in NaNo and had learned how to do this, but it was hard in the beginning to get back in that groove coming off of a year-plus of just revising. I had to tell myself as I typed: “Yep, just used a cliché.” “Yep, that’s a bit of telling” “Yep, not the best way to describe that” “Yep, I just named an emotion instead of describing it viscerally” and kept typing. I looked on all these as placeholders that I’ll tackle and rework in revisions. That I was just getting the basics down and the pretty will come later. No one will see this draft, I also had to keep telling myself. I gave myself permission to write crappy.
  3. If I didn’t know something and couldn’t find the answer in two minutes of Google-Fu, I just typed in brackets things  like [look up how they did this] or [describe this better] or even used _____ for place names or names of things I didn’t know yet, and kept typing. I also used the Document Notes in Scrivener for each scene and typed out things I’d need to look up in revision for that scene. I also kept forgetting about her pet monkey and found myself typing “Forgot about Loki in this scene again! Fix”
  4. #1k1hr — Seriously this hashtag on Twitter I owe a serious debt to. I made many new friends that way too. I think almost every hour I wrote I used this tag. It really helped me focus and cut down a ton on my compulsion to check out what’s happening on the web. I knew that when that hour was up, I had to say my word count, and I really wanted it to be over 1000 so it made me push. One time I wrote 1858 words in one hour, but typically I averaged around 1200-1500. So what I found out was that I could knock out my page goal in three hours.
  5. I woke up 1/2 hour earlier to get in more writing time before work. I already had 2 hours and 15 minutes set aside for this before, now I had 2 hours and 45 minutes. Depending on how fast things were flowing, I could get between 8 to 14 pages done before I even went to work! Usually it was around 10 pages, which was so nice to be able to know that when I came home, all I needed was one hour to wrap up my daily goal.
  6. I think Candace’s idea to focus on pages instead of words is a solid one, psychologically. I remember agonizing some days during NaNo to squeeze out the requisite 1667 daily word goal because that seemed large somehow and so mentally I’d made it large and would think, okay just got another 50 words down. Now, since it’s by page, it just seems more attainable and it becomes so. Now you’re thinking, okay just one more page and ding another 250 words has been written.
  7. I worked in chunks of time, which built up my page count over the course of the day. Whether it was 15, 30, 45 or 60 minutes, I’d set my wordcount tracker in Scrivener and type. For 1 hour, I had it set to 1000, which totally seemed attainable and usually was. I had no idea how many pages I’d written until I went to “Compile” at the end of my session and counted. That’s how I knew where I stood going into work, i.e. that I only had 5 pages to write when I got home, etc.

What I learned

  1. I learned to trust myself more. I also oddly found out that I’m a morning person (had always thought the opposite) and that I seemed more creative and inspired in the morning, go figure! (My mom probably just fainted from shock).
  2. I learned that I can’t plot my romantic story line too well ahead of time. I knew before going in that I didn’t know how it would play out. I had a solid action plot, but I didn’t know my turning points for my H/h. I just couldn’t picture it. What I had seemed too forced. So I trusted myself that it would unfold as I got to know the two characters better, and you know what? It did. They surprised me!

There’s more I’ll learn as the process continues. We get a two-day break and then we start Revision Hell, which will be like Fast Drafting, only applied to revisions. One of the rules of fast draft was to not reread what we’d already written, so I’m dying to know what I actually wrote! Kind of scared too! So I’ll write another post later to let you know how that process goes. I also want to do another when this is over about my conversion from full Pantser to a Plotser (half-way between a Plotter and a Pantser)

Anyway, there’s plot holes, there’s minimal set dressing, there’s cliches, but hey, it’s written and now I have something to mold into shape during revision, which is more than I had two weeks ago!

Have you tried Candy’s Fast Draft class? What things helped you?

Weekend Grab Bag – From Writing Tips to a Steampunk Mister Potato Head

Writing:

Books:

Browncoats:

In Geekdom:

Can You Hear Me Now? Has the hashtag outlived its usefulness?

funny pictures of cats with captions

Lately there have been posts cropping up from veteran bloggers about blogger fatigue. This week, it continued in a way that brought to light some specific problems and solutions. On Tuesday of this week, Kait Nolan sent out a cry for mercy in her post Social Media Ennui in which she talks about how much the world of blogging and Twitter has changed for her since she started. It’s now harder for her and other veterans to find interesting posts and generally have a good chat on Twitter. Wednesday, Roni Loren followed up with The Life Cycle of a Blogger – Ten Stages in which she plots out in a humorous way the various stages bloggers pass through (I think I’m still at Stage 1) and helps to put things in perspective for old hats like her and complete n00bs, like me.

Today, Jami Gold brought her take to the discussion with The Blogging Cycle: How Do You Stay Sane? and detailed how she was going to try to keep us n00bs in mind when tweeting, which I was thankful for. I had a long comment typed out on my phone to her post and the dang thing rebooted. Argh! I didn’t have a chance to recreate it before I got home, though. But, I got to thinking in the car about this week’s discussion and decided to write this post instead.

Kait commented on Roni and Jami’s posts about what was really at the heart of her post, and that is the misuse and overcrowding of hashtags she follows.

Since this whole world of blogging and Twitter is new to me, I didn’t know any different. Reading Kait’s post made me a tad envious of the good old days, when the writing community sounded pretty tight and supportive. I felt like the late comer to the cool party that’s now not so cool.

It got me to thinking, though, that hashtags are like real life parties. Some parties are intimate cocktail or dinner parties where great discussions take place and new friends are made. Where people can be heard. Others are the kind where the band is blaring in your ear and it’s so crowded you can’t move.

Both kinds of parties can be fun if you know in advance which it is. The intimate parties are perfect when you want to discuss the latest geo-political ramifications or deconstruct Star Wars from a feminist standpoint. But if you go there thinking it’s going to be a balls-to-the-wall-wooo!-another-shot-guys! kind of party, you’d be mighty disappointed.

funny pictures - Henry couldn't remember much about his birthday party, but from the taste in his mouth, he was sure he'd had a good time.

Likewise the big ones can be annoying as all get out if you’re not in the right mood, or you can join the fray and end up taping colored napkins to everyone’s butts and/or boobies.

Perhaps what Kait is bemoaning is that she and others like her have been enjoying a nice intimate cocktail party that has now devolved into THE hottest night club where everyone’s shouting to be heard above the pulsing beat. I know I’ve seen some great Twitter etiquette posted before that you should behave like you’re at a cocktail party (i.e. would you go up to someone at a party and just start self-promoting?) But maybe the problem is, it’s now no longer a cocktail party. We can post etiquette advice, but I think the nature of the party has changed. What might be the answer is not to look at social networking or blogging as being overcrowded but that the places you’ve enjoyed in the past have now become too crowded: certain hashtags.

Maybe instead of trying to weed through the crowd and trying to find the others who aren’t bumping and grinding, a new way to use Twitter needs to be found?

Or maybe creating more finite hashtags, and ditching the overcrowded ones, so that those who do want to hang in a more quiet setting can do so? I also have started using lists more, so that I curate who shows up in that stream. So instead of just anyone showing up with a lamp shade on their head and their latest book in hand, only the ones I want to see show up.

What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on how we can let the crazy partiers get their groove on but have a quiet room off to the side? What new hashtags can we use? Maybe #querylettertips #vetwritingtips #newbiewritingtips #writerwatercooler?