11 April 2011

Let's be Social

Greetings, Kittens!
Today I wanted to talk about social media. I don’t know how many of you spend the majority of your free time speaking with other writers, but they’re my core group of friends and I’ve noticed that two major anxieties permeate all of our conversations; the synopsis/blurb obligation and social media. It’s not that we’re antisocial—well we kinda are antisocial, but that’s not where the anxiety comes from—it’s that after thousands of words on the page, we suddenly don’t know what to say.

It’s difficult to know what a reader of even fellow writers want to hear about. Does anyone care about the process? Does it matter that I don’t plot and outline, but instead keep notes of excerpts and try to figure out how the different scenes come together? Is it important that I put the all of deadlines for the year on post-it notes on my wall where I can constantly see them? Do folks really want to know that I sometimes argue—out loud—with a character because I don’t understand the direction something is taking? Okay, maybe that last one is interesting to those who don’t do it; but in general, there’s a balance between sharing and over-sharing and many of us have no idea exactly where it is, so we under-share.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t writers out there doing it right. I’ve read several that know exactly how to document the process, engage the reader, give a forum for feedback and make you go back for more. At the opposite end of the spectrum are those who you can barely find online, let alone find them directly engaging with readers and friends. That left people like me in the middle blogging weekly on my own site, here once a month, updating facebook as the mood struck me and joining groups like goodreads in passing. The problem is that the middle isn’t quite good enough.

I still get questions about this whole thing we call writing and how and why I do it. Obviously, I’m not sharing enough or sharing often enough, but like everyone, exactly how to share more effectively eluded me for long time. So I asked. I joined forums, posted in groups, tallied the questions and asked what readers wanted to know about new authors, favorites authors, beloved characters, writing as a whole, genre writing in specific, and what it meant to connect to another human being through the stories they chose to tell. The answer that came back? Everything. Really?

I tried to cast my thoughts back a few years to the days of being an aspiring writer. Was there any detail too small from the authors I read and new authors I’d discovered? Probably not. In fact, writing is so solitary that there’s still a sense of camaraderie sparked by reading another writer’s process. As a reader, was there anything too innocuous or miniscule about a character or a world I loved that I wouldn’t want to read about it? Nope. I’m that person that watches all the extras and vignettes and can’t get enough behind the scenes of my favorite shows and movies and that flows right into books. So yeah, I get it, and I can’t be alone among my friends. I know some of them are the same kind of happy “extras geek” that I am. So what’s the problem?

Ironically enough, I think we just don’t feel that interesting. We assume that the stories we have to tell will resonate with others, hopefully many others, but we don’t necessarily feel that we, as individuals, are of great interests to everyone out there. Many of us are in that early-in-our-career phases where we’re getting feedback and fanmail and that’s all wonderful, but we don’t see ourselves the same way we see other writers. We imagine that everyone we adore has clamoring fans like ourselves flooding their inboxes demanding to know more about, well, everything. In contrast, we get the questions often, but don’t assume that for each person that asks, there are many more out there wondering.

Most of us have heard the advice “write what you know”. Fortunately, many of us have also heard the actual good advice to “write what you want to read”. Adding to that, I’d say “talk about what you want to know about”. Cover the things that you’d want to know as the reader, as a writer and just as a person; it becomes a much less intimidating concept that way. Now as for a synopsis/blurb you have due...yeah, I can’t help there!

So, writers, how good are you with social media and interacting with readers?

And readers, if the authors you love or have just discovered aren't vocal enough, well, what do you want to know?

~X

P.S. To put my money where my mouth is....

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