Tag: The Writing Life (page 1 of 5)

The Top 6 Things Authors Do Wrong on Twitter

Twitter is a great tool for engaging with people, but only if you use it for more than marketing.Recently, I’ve started trying to be more active on Twitter. I find it hard to stay with it, because it seems like everything that pops up on my twitter feed is advertisements for someone else’s book or book service. I have to scroll through 20 or so posts to get to something that’s not a retweet of a retweet about a book that someone is marketing. It’s frustrating. But I have to try to use it more often.

So, I started investigating why my feed is always full of advertisements. Low and behold, I am the culprit. Turns out, I completely missed the point of Twitter. It wasn’t that the platform is boring, it was all the people I have followed. Twitter etiquette says that if you’re not a celebrity you have to follow back anyone that follows you, right? I thought so.

Turns out I was wrong. Turns out I was wrong about a lot of things, so I thought I would share them with you. Without further ado, here are the top 6 things you’re doing wrong on Twitter.

  1. You grab a handle and assume that’s all you need. My friend. If you’re on Twitter and you’re not tweeting, you don’t exist. Furthermore, if you haven’t taken the time to fill out your profile – completely – then even when you do tweet, it’s not getting the attention it deserves. Fill out the profile. And yes, you have to upload a picture. If you don’t want to use your face (Why? You’re beautiful.), then make it an interesting picture of part of your face, or something that’s very customized to YOU.
  2. You grab a handle that’s completely esoteric. Don’t select a cute name that you think your readers will figure out. They won’t. Use your real name. Or your pen name if that’s the way you roll. And if one of those isn’t available, then use something that your readers will know is associated with you.
  3. You follow no one. Unless you’re a celebrity, if you’re not following anyone on Twitter, then chances are, no one is following you. Well, your Mom maybe, but she follows everything you do. The first thing you should do when you create (or revive) your Twitter account is follow a few people. Not just anyone. Follow people who are influential in your field. People you know will have interesting information to share. People that have interests that are relevant to your own. Don’t go crazy, but find some like-minded tweeps to populate your news feed.
  4. You follow everyone. This is the trap I fell into. I followed everyone who followed me. What I ended up with was a feed full of advertisements and information that help no interest for me at all.  As a result, I never wanted to spend time on Twitter because it was boring. I mute the ads on television, why would I willingly wade through them on Twitter? Instead of following everyone, follow only those people that interest you. If they’re following you, great. If you’re not, that’s okay, too. Sometimes you don’t follow the people that follow you.
  5. YOU CONSTANTLY USE YOUR TWITTER FEED FOR ONLY MARKETING POSTS. Yes, I’m yelling! The biggest mistake you can make is to post only marketing tweet about your books (or other people’s). Maybe you’ll eventually amass thousands or even tens of thousands of followers, but they’re going to be followers just like you. They will also only post advertisements, and guess what? You won’t read those posts, either. Don’t get me wrong. It’s okay to  post the occasional marketing bit about your book, or even to share someone else’s marketing post. But if it’s all you’re doing, then you miss the point of Twitter.
  6. You pass on the chance to engage. Twitter is about engagement, 140 characters at a time. Sure, that’s short, but when forced to be succinct, writers and authors should be able to come up with some world changes sentences. Give it a shot, it’s fun. Most of all, just connect and engage with the people you follow and the ones who follow you. Have short conversations. Take part in 6 word stories. Ask a question. Respond to one. Just get involved, because that my friends, is the point of twitter.

My Guidelines for Refilling the Writer’s Well

The view of Lake Michigan from Petosky, Michigan during the fall. The Petoskey Lighthouse is one of many along Lake Michigan.You may have noticed that there was no blog post last week, and that I’m running a little late this week. Believe me when I say this is no excuse. I’ve been on vacation. I took a trip to Traverse City, Michigan to partake of wine tastings, rock hunting, and hanging out with some very dear friends at the Mitchell Creek Inn. And I wrote very little while I was there.

The plan was not to write at all – a sometimes tough task for a writer. I didn’t quite hit that goal because I had a couple of deadlines during the days that I took away from the real world, but I came pretty close. It was difficult the first couple of days. I went through withdrawals from feeling my fingers on the keyboard, the pen on the paper, and the constant stream of words flowing through my brain in my writer’s voice.

So, why not just take a few minutes and write each day?

I could tell you it’s because I was on vacation and I wanted to be lazy, but the truth is, it was because I really needed to refill my writer’s well. Making daily withdrawals from the well takes a toll when there’s nothing going back in.  All too often, that’s how it happens with writers.  We stay shut-in, rarely interacting with people or our environments, but building worlds and scenes, people and information products. Eventually, all that’s left in the bottom of the creative well is sludge, so occasionally it needs to be refilled, and I have some guidelines when I’m in refill mode:

  • Take at least three days, but 5-7 is better, and get completely away from your normal environment. Don’t go visit family, and only go visit friends if you plan to do something more than just “visiting.” Whenever possible go somewhere completely new.
  • Try something new every day, even if you do end up in a familiar location. It doesn’t matter if it’s tasting a food you would usually turn your nose up at or getting on a zip line for the first time. Hike, climb, bike, walk, eat, swim, explore, but most of all experience something new. The new is what refills the well. It gives you new experiences to draw from.
  • Don’t write any more than is absolutely necessary during these days. If you have a daily writing or morning pages habit, continue with that, but resist the urge to do more than the daily minimum.  And if you need to record details in reporter’s’ notebook, keep them brief. Hold as much as you can in. Save it until you get home. Let your writer’s brain mull it over, turn it inside and out, and play with all of the new experience that you’ve had.
  • Plan a day of downtime when you get home. Vacationing makes you tired. You’re constantly in motion, absorbing new experiences and when you get back to your familiar environment your body and your brain just want to relax. Don’t fight it. Rest well.One new experience - Beer tasting with friends at the Jolly Pumpkin in Traverse City, MI.
  • Then write. Write about your experiences, about everything you saw and did. Write the characters you saw or created. Write the scenes that rolled through your brain. Write the stories you heard or imagined. Just write.

As writers, we are constantly taxing our creativity. Without adding experiences, you will eventually run out of material to draw from. For me, taking a break from writing a couple of times a year is essential. When I do, I find that just about the time that I’m struggling to come up with things to write, I take a break, come back and I’m ready to roll again.

These are my guidelines. They work for me, but they may not work for you. What does? Share your well-filling strategies with us below.

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