Friday, October 16, 2015

How a New Writer Can Rock Twitter (Without Seeming Like a Creeper)

Thanks to @MJKellySmith, I was dragged to Twitter kicking & screaming in 2010. Within a few weeks, I went from skeptic to fan. Instead of the timewaster I had envisioned, I discovered that Twitter provided me with direct access to publishing industry pros all over the world.

Here are eight practically painless, creeper-free suggestions for those new to the wonderful world of writing who want to connect with Tweeple who have already colonized that planet.

1. Crash the #amwriting party.

[Here's a primer and suggestions for how to make the most of the #amwriting hashtag without being the SM equivalent of a Summer's Eve product.]

Type "#amwriting" in the search box at the top of your Twitter toolbar. That will take you to the hashtag (the brainchild of the wonderfully altruistic @JohannaHarness). Click on "LIVE" to see the most current writing-related tweets as they happen. Scroll through -- ignoring the Promoted tweets, and the tweets of shameless self-promotion -- and see what others who are currently writing have to say.

Other writing-related hashtags include #amediting, #querytip, #writingtips, and #writingprompts.

Oh -- and if you want to tap into one of the most supportive groups of writers in the known multiverse, ya gotta check out #NaNoWriMo.

Regardless of what writerly hashtag you choose, go there and lurk at first. Don't be in a hurry to talk. Just listen. Then...

2. Follow those who say things you find interesting.

(ProTip: Immediately unfollow those bags containing Summer's Eve products who send you auto-DMs. Following someone does not mean you want to friend them on Facebook or buy their book or subscribe to their blog. Sheesh.)

3. Favorites are your friend.
Recent favorites: query fails, coffee, & Corgis!

When someone tweets something you find interesting / funny / useful / pithy / relevant, give him or her a gold star. Favorites in Twitter are the equivalent to Likes on FB. They let people know that their voices have been heard.

A few non-creeper caveats on Favoriting:

Caveat I: Unless you know someone and have formed an online relationship, don't favorite more than one or two of their tweets a day. Favoriting everything a person posts is the hallmark of a sycophant. Don't be that person.

Caveat II: The rules are different for Twitter pitch parties, such as #PitMad or #AdPit: Favoriting is only for agents and editors who are interested in the project. (For pitch party etiquette - which is constantly evolving - see @BrendaDrake's #PitMad article.)

4. Retweet to repeat.

If someone says something you wish you had said, or if you read something you think your followers will find interesting, retweet it by clicking the box made of two arrows. Include a comment if you wish to add your two cents' worth to the original.

Though things you favorite won't show up in your followers' timelines, your retweets will. Be selective.

5. Be willing to help.

One of the best ways to strike up a conversation is to make yourself useful. If someone asks a question that you know the answer to, hit "Reply" (the arrow that looks like "Turn Left Here!") and answer it. Likewise, Reply to commiserate, to empathize, to cheerlead, to offer support, or to proffer virtual chocolate or cupcakes.

(ProTip: Remember - if you send a tweet that begins with another person's Twitter name, only that person and people who follow both of you will see it. If you want everyone who follows you to see what you have to say, your tweet cannot begin with a user name.)

6. Let Lists Filter the Noise.

Every list is a separate party.
If you only hang out with writers, Twitter can be a very cloistered place. Just as you (probably) frequent more than one restaurant and (again, probably) hang out with more than one friend, don't limit yourself to only Tweeting with publishing people.

Frankly, though those in the publishing trenches can help you with your craft and provide much-needed support through the inevitable rejections that accompany the writer's life, those who will get most excited about your book when it finally releases are the ones who aren't obsessed with word count and query letters and character arcs and story beats. In short: Real Live Actual Readers.

Lists can help you keep tabs on different groups of people. Think of each list as a separate cocktail party. I keep a list of agents, one of editors, a few for writers, one for horse tweeps, one for people who are especially cool...

You get the idea.

Curate your own list or follow others'. Either way, jumping onto the timeline of a list can help you focus on a particular topic without getting distracted by the constant stream of random Twitter chatter.

7. Notice your Notifications.

Pay attention to the people who are paying attention to you. Click on your Notifications to see who has mentioned you, or retweeted or favorited something you've posted. 

Of course, you don't have to respond to them all -- just as you don't need to follow everyone who follows you -- but keeping an eye on your Notifications can be a good way to find out who is listening to what you have to say, and building a rapport with them.

8. Talk About Things That Interest You.

If you find something interesting, say so. If you see something interesting, post it. If something cracks you up, share it. If something infuriates you, fling it out there. Let your voice shine through on your Twitter feed as in your other writing.

Don't whine. Don't mope. Don't endlessly self-promote.

Don't post anything you wouldn't want a prospective agent or editor to read because -- I promise -- if they're considering you as a client, they will do their research.

I've met editors with whom I've made publishing deals on Twitter. Thanks to Twitter, I've made solid, lifelong writing friends (@crzywritergrl & @gooddirt: this means you). I've met amazing artists (@xkxdx and @SP_McConnell, fer instance) and musicians (@muz4now). I've learned a ton from the writers, editors, and publishers who selflessly share what they know.

So get out there! As with any party, you'll run into people you like and people you don't. Follow those you do; don't follow those you don't. And if you want to chat about writing or movies or geek stuff or horses or dogs or the ever-delectable Christian Kane, I'm @Museinks. Come and say "hey!"

(Oh, and if you found this post useful and/or interesting, I'd love it if you became a blog follower. All followers get my undying gratitude, figurative gold stars, and all the virtual cinnamon Red Hots they can eat!)