Social media and writing, part 2

Dear authors,

I am not just interested in your latest book. Please interact with me and others on Twitter without always telling me that you have a latest release. Sometimes, yes, that’s fine. But don’t litter my feed with constant self-promotion.

Cheers,

Evelyn

Having been launched into the world of Twitter, and since my last post about creating an online platform for writers, this has been my number one pet peeve. In fact, it’s more a pet peeve because these people always seem to have tons of followers, while I tirelessly plug away at creating my ‘brand’ – ie personality representation online – and have not so many followers. (If you’re feeling so inclined… @EvelynRoseFict).

This seems backwards to me. I thought the whole point of having an online presence was to create interest not just in your work, but to engage with others in the industry, other people and generally interact. I don’t know anyone who enjoys blatant marketing like that. Do you?

The other reason this has annoyed me is because I’m verging on Twitter addiction. (See Obsessions). But this isn’t quite so bad as an obsession because it’s sociable. That’s what I keep telling myself and that’s the story I’m sticking to thankyoupleaseverymuch.

I am genuinely interested in other writers and what they have to say – even from a purely selfish point of view where I can see if my work really does have a market niche or is already being done by others. The research aspect of online communities is vital; but in doing my research I’d like to speak to more people who are interested in more than just self-promotion. Of course, I speak with exceptions here – there are some great, interactive and engaged writers and forums out there – but come on. How am I going to buy your book when all I know about it is how amazing you think it is?

And now, I realise I have turned full circle (technically 180 degrees but let’s skim over that, numbers aren’t my thing – I’m a writer, daahling). I’ve gone from not understanding the point of social media to realising why it is so important in this technology age: screen out the nutters and bad conversationalists (if you can’t hold an online conversation how have you written a good book?) and welcome in the engaged, intelligent, talented people who are there. Really, they are, I promise. You just have to dredge through the rubbish to find them…

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The writer, the writing and the audience

Stumbling into my first forays into online writing, it’s been an interesting month. Most striking has been the impact of social interaction online as dependent on whether people engage with your work or not. It’s all very well writing a blog, but if nobody reads it, what is it for?

It strikes me as strange how authors need to increasingly become ‘public’ figures, having blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. It used to be that the publishing house did all the legwork – for better or worse, until the dawn of e-publishing and the growth of the internet, this did the trick. It kept a wall between writer, writing and audience which now has to be deconstructed if people are ever to engage with your work.

But that strikes me as slightly odd. An actor is known for their different roles and, while tabloids do take interest in their personal lives, they would never (mostly never) read into the personal life of an actor within a role they played. Exceptions include, for example, openly gay actors who take on gay roles and freely comment in interviews with the press that they took on the role at least in part because they could identify with it on a ‘deeper level’.

But the reason I took so long to set up a blog – despite having had short stories published regularly since the age of 14 (a slightly-depressing-almost-12-years-ago) – was that people seem to increasingly prescribe what they know about the author to the fiction they produce. Despite my huge agreement with Roland Barthes, who was right long before the dawn of the web, it feels like I am one of a few remaining in this school of thought.

I write as characters. I am not a seventy year old man waiting to die. I am not a six year old girl who has finally learned to tie her shoelaces (mainly because I still struggle with this). I am not a transgender vampire who aspires to Broadway (storyline tbc…). But I write under pseudonyms, because if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that people will look for the ‘me’ parts in a story. They expect me to throw in clues about my life. It’s like Orson Scott Card becoming the latest Superman author – the massive backlash is because he is notoriously anti-gay. But is he going to make Superman homophobic? No, because his art – and the control DC Comics have over it – is separate from him.

I write stories. They are fiction. Make-believe. While I prefer realist fiction, some of it is sci-fi, some fantasy, some historical, some futuristic. That doesn’t mean I have a time machine (unless you count Wikipedia) or that I am a science fiction geek (still haven’t watched Episodes 4,5, and 6).

So it seems so odd to me that I have to generate interest in my fiction by putting myself, as a brand, as a person, out there. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to remain incredibly secretive – indeed if you read any other post on this blog you’ll see that’s me laying my soul bare – but creating the interest around me as a person in order to create interest in the stories I write baffles me.

I can’t help but feel this post isn’t quite finished. But I need to percolate the remaining thoughts into something more coherent. I lost my essay writing skills shortly after leaving uni (and seems the Masters isn’t doing much to help).

Writing resolutions…

It’s February. I’m mainlining Skittles and strawberry laces, chugged down with double-bagged tea to really make the caffeine shakes fun. I’m glad I don’t smoke and am not allowed to drink because of my treatment, because I’m fairly sure those resolutions would have been broken already too.

Everyone makes January resolutions with hugely overestimated goals, then wonder (just as I am when I am busy picking all the purple Skittles out to ‘save for last’) what happened to them.

A year is a long time. A resolution looks too far ahead. So, Dear Reader, I propose weekly resolutions. Mine, specifically, will revolve around writing.

As of Monday, I shall:

1) Write a blog at least every other day, and not just a link, a full blown blog.

2) Write at least 500 words on the next story in the Unlabelled Collection.

3) Send those competition entries I keep dallying over as I over-edit and desperately (pointlessly) anticipate the judges’ mood for the day in the future when they read it.

4) Identify two new competitions and plan them.

5) Work on my Twitter skills without getting the RefreshpagenowincaseImisssomethingtotallyimportant crazy face. It’s not pretty.

Clearly you won’t be able to tell whether I manage any of those except the first one. But the first one is fairly important, so I’m going to use that as my benchmark. If I do that one, the others shall follow. What are your writing resolutions?

And to help make sure I stick, I think I’ll have the orange Skittles first. The vitamin C will keep me healthy and my brain alert…