This week, as always, has been a learning experience. I habitually do research on any topic that catches my fancy and I love to learn new technical tools and techniques. Writing, navigating the process of getting a manuscript ready to publish, and thinking beyond publication to promotion have given me many opportunities to feed the Elephant’s Child. At times, I’m overwhelmed by all the information, but as I search, read, and apply, I’m finding that the same information comes up in multiple contexts, and bits and pieces I didn’t understand the first or second time begin to make sense by the third time I see them.
My main focus this week has been on online editing tools and on taming the amount of time I spend working on social media. By “working”, I mean social media tasks to develop a platform for connecting with readers and eventually promoting my first book. In a way, it’s like developing a persona. I don’t express my entire personality when I wear my writer’s hat on social media, but I do express some aspects of myself that haven’t seen the light of day in recent years. From the inside, I feel like I’m in touch once again with some of my longest-running interests. So many subjects of interest from my teens and early 20s had to be put aside due to other commitments. Now those interests aren’t just relevant. They are central.
In deciding to make writing a major part of my life, I unknowingly re-embraced interests and passions that I’d ignored for far too long. Fortunately, unlike people whom you drift away from, a topic of interest won’t have their own lives and no time for you when you finally rediscover them. For every writer, those rekindled interests will probably differ, but simply by nature of feeding our own imaginations, our earliest interests in life will reignite because they are the interests that first fired our imaginations as children, teens, and young adults.
What do these topics of interest have to do with social media tasks? They relate to building a public persona as a writer. For me as a science fiction writer, these interests are how I connect with people who may want to read my books someday. I don’t find people who are interested in science fiction by searching through twitter. They find me when I tweet about science fiction topics.
Over the last couple months, I spent a little time almost every day trying to figure out how to approach twitter and facebook, and I didn’t feel like I made much progress. It was easy to find other writers on twitter, and my follower/following lists quickly grew. I learn about the art and business of writing books in the 21st century from them, but I doubt many of them will ever read one of my books. I took a look at who follows writers that I like, and found that:
- Many of my favorite writers haven’t embraced twitter
- Of the ones who have, many of their twitter feeds are also full of fellow writers
Maybe my assumption – that joining or building a following of fellow writers doesn’t actually help connect me with readers – is wrong. But, I don’t think so. Engaged human followers follow me because of what I tweet. If I tweet about writing, I attract people interested in writing, not reading. People who use applications to drive their tweets are a different story – not engaged followers, and for the most part, I’m not trying to show up on their radars.
So, I’ve set up some Google alerts and now have a morning routine of reading the best of the search results on some of my favorite topics of interest and sharing my tidbits on social media while I consume my first couple cups of coffee.
So far, in this week-long experiment in tweeting and Facebook-posting about science fiction, I’ve connected with more science fiction readers than I had in the previous month.
Maybe this is really obvious stuff that I should be ashamed to have taken so long to figure out!
But what about Facebook? I’m much less far along in figuring out how to use the Facebook platform for writerly things. My research into social media for writers suggests that Facebook will probably be a more effective part of my platform than Twitter, but I’m a long way from seeing the potential realized at the moment.
I set up an author page in late February and have watched it languish ever since. Most of my posts have been links to articles on this blog, and few of them have gotten any response. But, slowly over time, the “reach” numbers per week have magically appeared and have grown. Very slowly. During my experiment on twitter, I also posted some of the same links on my author page with a little more personal commentary since the medium isn’t restricted to 140 characters. The numbers suggest that my reach grew a little as a result.
I think I’m onto something. Even if I’m not, I’m enjoying the time I spend being a writer on social media much more than before. And that’s because I’m reconnecting and exploring those interests I reluctantly left behind a few years ago.
On a more quantitative note, I’ve tried out several free browser-based editing tools during the last couple weeks. I’ve settled on Hemmingway for now. If and when I reach the point where I need to purchase an editing tool, I’ll do some further research. Chapter 5 is now in the hands of my beta readers and I’m looking forward to seeing their thoughts on Chapter 4. Ch. 5 is the first chapter I’ve used Hemmingway on, so I am curious to see what the beta readers think. I wrote a little about my results here. I plan to write a more thorough article about how I’m using Hemmingway and what I’ve learned about editing in the very near future.
I also wrote a Pumpkin Soup recipe for the Play With Your Food blog this week! Working out a new recipe or reprising an old favorite so I can write about it is almost as much fun as blogging about writing! And the edible results are instant gratification.
And with that, I’ll return to my novel and my bridge-painting project until we meet again.