Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Writing, on Twitter (note the comma)

'Cause, yeah, commas do useful sh*t. So do asterisks, or as one of the people I've worked with calls them: 'Those weird star things over the 8 key?'

I could've said 'writing on Twitter'. I do that too. But I wanted to write about writing, on Twitter, as in people who write and Tweet about it.

After following and being followed for a few years now, I've begun to realise what interests me in a Twitter feed, and in a Twitter biography, and look for folks to follow who share interests, or at least interesting stuff. Do I only follow authors, or only get followed by authors? Of course not. There are a lot of book folks, but there are psychologists, politicians, network security experts, security and law-enforcement types, porn actors, pilots ... Twitter's a great place to meet people.

Is everyone going to have the ability to provide useful advice for writers in 140 characters? (Insert JRR Martin joke about killing all 140 characters here .. sigh). Nope. Is everyone going to be a great blogger? Probably also ... yeah, nope.

Since publishing my sci-fi novel, Through the Hostage, (see what I did there, in terms of shameless plugging?) in February, I've become one of those writers who Tweets. Oddly enough, publishing a book has expanded my Twitter following massively. The flux of book-related tweets has probably pissed off my non-writing friends massively, too. Happily anyone still willing to admit they know me socially after five minutes is also virtually immune to my more annoying habits.

I confess I rather expected that I'd sell a few more books, and gain a few less Twitter followers. Probably everyone does.

Not that I'm complaining. I've found Twitter to be an awesome resource as an indie author. You can find cover artists, cover designers (no, not always one and the same), editors (for them as can afford them), reviewers, and any number of writers, tweeting about what they do.

Some of them (let's start with @NatRusso, or @FionaQuinnBooks) tweet incredibly useful blog posts and #writetips on a diverse array of topics.

Some people just do be on Twitter to tell you that they've written a book. Valid. If it turns out to be a good one, I may even retweet it. We're all going to do some shameless plugging of our creative genius at some point ... Others tell you some useful stuff, retweet publicity tweets (cultivate these folks too), and and some people focus on current news (yep, useful as well. If you're a sci-fi writer and you're not following @BadAstronomer, you may just be dead to me).

Also, there are the hashtags, the speakeasies of Twitter, where you can see what people you've never heard of are saying on topics that interest you. #writetip, #horriblewritetip, #amediting and #amwriting are all fantastic spots to belly up to the bar and listen in to the conversations. Not to mention #scifi, #fantasy and #IARTG. (You'll adapt the genre hashtags depending on what you write, yes? Good.)

You can learn a lot from Tweeps (or, as I occasionally can't resist calling us, Twits).

And here's the key bit. You may not think that most of what you're reading is at all to do with writing, editing, or, crucially, how to tell if you slipped a disc in your PoV. I put it to you that actually, the bits of Twitter you think are completely irrelevant to creating the next De Re Publica may be the most useful things of all. I didn't learn how to describe what drowning feels like by going to a writers' convention. Unfortunately, I learnt that one by damn nearly doing it. Likewise, the guy you follow because he sometimes comes up with awesome one-liners? One day your protagonist is going to run into someone really like that guy. Life and people are what you can find on Twitter, and what you can contribute back to Twitter. And, hey, guess what - if you're in any kind of fiction genre ... sooner or later it's about people. Even if those people happen to live at ten atmospheres in the utter darkness of a sea of liquid methane.

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