A Little Less Conversation, A Little More (Social Media) Action

Unlike my daughters who are never located more than a couple of centimetres away from their mobile phones, I can remember life before social media. The good old days, the days when writers parcelled up their precious copy of a typewritten manuscript in brown paper and sent it off into the world via the post office, and then sat back and waited for somebody else to do all the hard work of publishing and publicising it.

Today, a writer doesn’t just have to be able to create a good story, they have to have the necessary skills to market it too. With this in mind I signed up for a one-day course on Social Media for Writers run by Anita Chapman of Neetsmarketing. I’d discovered Anita through the Romantic Novelists Association and had already followed her useful beginners on-line guide for getting started on Twitter.

The course took place at the Bloomsbury Holiday Inn in London just a few minutes walk from Russell Square tube station. There were ten delegates in total, a mix of the published and unpublished, social media novices and those with a little more experience.

For me, navigating my way around social media is like learning a new language, but if I’m serious about my writing I have to face my fears. I always wondered how people had the time not just to  tweet, but to respond and re-tweet with such regularity, and now I know. Not only that, but as with every form of communication Twitter has its own etiquette –  knowing when to join a conversation and when to butt out, along with who, how and when not to, thank, is vital for on-line credibility.

As well as Twitter, the workshop covered Facebook, Instagram and blogging. I have an issue with Facebook. My ‘friends’ are genuine friends, some I’ve known for years, others I’ve picked up on my travels. I’m protective of my privacy and unsure whether I want my writing platform intruding into this personal space. Apparently its common dilemma for authors, and something I’ll have to think seriously about. In the meantime, I learned how to create a separate Author Page – vital for when that magical publication day arrives.

Anita stressed the importance social media has in establishing and promoting an author brand. The class size was manageable enough for her to answer individual queries and gripes.  Although there were worksheets and hand-outs, I never felt under pressure to complete tasks; it was very much a question of working at your own pace to gain confidence to apply the new skills. I’ve blogged for several years, but writing about life as an ex-pat came easy, albeit somewhat low-key; publicising my as yet unpublished work requires a very different mind-set.

Apart from the obvious educational benefits, Anita’s course provided an enjoyable opportunity to network with fellow authors, make new friends, and eat cake. 

And finally, the two vital lessons I learned. First, it is perfectly ok to Tweet pictures of my cat; cats don’t just bring comfort, they can bring connections. And secondly, in today’s literary market it’s no longer the importance of being earnest that counts, but the importance of using that hashtag.

When Life Gets In The Way

Right now, life is definitely getting in the way of my art – there’s just too much nitty gritty stuff going on to focus on penning the next best seller. It’s just as well book one has been set aside as something to come back to later, and book two, my WIP, is currently out with a friend-of-a-friend for critique. The natural impasse has been filled not with fresh ideas for the new cast of characters currently taking shape in my head (I’m a pantser not a plotter so the characters always come first) but by a daughter with a broken foot and a frantic life-laundry style clearance of the family home ready to receive an apartment’s worth of furniture and household belongings back from overseas.

 I’ve moved house more times than I care to remember over the last decade; to be brutal; eight house moves in as many years. So I should be a pro. When I’m in charge, it’s relatively simple. I pack, I label a box, it’s methodical and logical. With an international work sponsored re-location, such as our official return from the Netherlands which finally took place last week, an agency is put in charge.
I know from past experience that international packers are extra vigilant and over enthusiastic, but not necessarily logical.  Nothing escapes their grasp – we arrived in the Netherlands complete with the copy of the local council bin collection rota I’d stuck inside a kitchen cupboard for the tenants who were moving into our old house. And although I am very grateful for the care taken over my belongings, Tupperware is pretty sturdy.  I’ve wrapped pass-the-parcel presents for parties of twenty excited pre-schoolers in less layers.
Why wouldn’t you pack the shelves from the kitchen dresser in with the bed? Lost a flower pot? Look in the linen basket, where else? Unpacking when you haven’t packed is like Christmas Day but nowhere near as exciting. Oh look, a cheese-grater, just what I always wanted. Actually, I already have one, which of  course leads to the dilemma of which cheese-grater to keep and which to let go. Maintaining the equivalent of two households over the last eight years has resulted in a great deal of duplication.

Ignoring the lack of cupboard space, I’ve only got a four ring hob. Even with my faltering mathematical skills I know that the maximum number of pans I can use at any one time is four. So I don’t really need fourteen. Likewise I only have three beds. Six duvets and twelve covers does seem somewhat excessive. I’m actually writing this post as I wait for the local charity shop to open.

I know I don’t have to sort it all out now but I’m becoming impatient. When those new characters start shouting out their stories I don’t want their voices swamped under a blanket of unwanted bedding. I’ll need to get back to work, and a ‘pan-demic’ of cooking utensils won’t aid the creative process at all.