There’s a very thin line between using the internet and social media for information, tips and inspiration for writing, and falling into the throes of procrastination. Sometimes logging in to Facebook or Twitter is a good way to take a break from writing, but knowing when to switch it off and concentrate on writing can be difficult and disrupt your writing routine.
When it comes to marketing yourself as a writer, social media is a pretty useful tool, when used correctly. The best way to market yourself is still to have a solidly built website with your own domain, hosting and an awesome theme if you can afford to do so (free options are available too), but social media platforms can help you build a following and a profile. If you can have a site and a social media presence, that’s even better. It can take time and effort, but it’s definitely worth it in the long run.
Getting people to read your work – the general public, agents and publishers – is the biggest hurdle for most writers. The beauty of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter is that you can collate everything that you’re interested in into one place. Before FB and Twitter came along, you would have had to make a long list of websites or add them all to your ‘Favourites’ tab. Time consuming and frustrating.
These days, the timeline of your social media accounts can be filled with news, opportunities, writing prompts and inspirational quotes. There are enough accounts across the social network to get everything you need, and you can connect with them easily. Here are a few tips on how to use social media effectively as a writer:
Writing is a tough process and a boulevard of broken dreams. All writers know this. But we love what we do. So the last thing that writers using social media want to hear are tales of woe and negativity. This stretches to being overly critical of the work of other writers – particularly more successful writers – and complaining about rejection. Not a fan of the Twilight saga? Join the club. But is Facebook or Twitter the best place to talk about it? No.
If you’re a professional writer, you should be as positive as you can, and keep it pleasant. If you start to make connections, these people are going to be able to look through your timeline or Tweets and see who you are as a person as well as a writer. 140 character tirades about 50 Shades of Grey are hardly going to endear yourself to the writing world.
Agents, publishers, magazines and organizations right across the writing spectrum – and across the world – use social media to see what is fresh and happening in the writing world. Just like you do. This is where you can use your social media accounts to make connections and market yourself correctly to the people you want to be noticed by. For example, if you’ve looked through the Writers Yearbook and made a list of agencies that are perfect for your novel, check to see if they have an active Twitter account and start to make a connection with them by interacting with something they’ve tweeted or Retweet one of their Tweets.
It’s a good place to start, and likely to get you on their radar. Just don’t go in for the sell from the start. They would have seen this before, and it’s not an organic process. You’re more likely to get ignored or blocked that way. The more connections you have in the writing world, the better it will be for your standing and for your confidence.
Whether you’re making connections with fellow writers, famous/successful writers, agents or publishers, you shouldn’t be afraid to make a friendly approach to them. The worst that can happen is that they don’t follow you back or respond to your comments.
Make Yourself Useful
That long list of Likes and Follows you’ve grown over time can be a used as a great tool to make more connections. When you read something that was beneficial to you and you feel could be a big help to somebody else, you should Retweet it or post the link to your FB page. Fellow writers and people in the industry will soon take note that you have good taste and are useful to them as they try to progress in the world of writing.
Your Friends and Followers are there to inspire you and give you helpful hints and tips, and you can do the same for them. Stroking somebody’s ego by telling them they’re amazing no matter what they do isn’t going to help them progress as a writer, and you could be missing out on some pretty useful editing practice. Offer to read and give feedback on writers work if you have the time. It will be really useful for them and hopefully they can return the favour for you. Creative writing students at universities across the UK often use Facebook to form groups with forums built especially for giving feedback for work. As long you the criticism is constructive and not just a series of Likes and ‘Well done’ comments, you aim to gain a lot from your connections.
Don’t Be a Bore
One of the single most important rules of using social media is not to bore your audience. Whether you’re a writer, nuclear physicist or brain surgeon, nobody wants to read about what you’re having for dinner, why you can’t be bothered or that you’re feeling sleepy. Think of your Friends or Followers as your readership. Would you want to read James Joyce, Ernest Hemmingway or Hunter S. Thompson and be bored? Of course not. You may not be on the level of a Joyce, Hemmingway or Thompson just yet, but aim high. Writers would rather be intrigued, tickled or angered by your presence online than bored. Use those 140 characters and Wall statuses wisely!