Randomness, On Twitter and In Writing

In the last 24 hours I’ve used Twitter to mock Anne McCaffrey’s legacy*, imagine the murder of a porpoise, and send pictures of my sex toys to a young woman who I’ve never met face to face.  Somewhere in there I also gave straight-faced advice on the proper and improper uses of Twitter.

I try not to let these sorts of glaring hypocrisies bother me.

They give people something to talk about, if nothing else.  Call them conversation-starters.  They lack the sort of tangible, career-related impact that, say, linking to my blog or a piece I’ve written brings, but frankly a feed full of nothing but those is about as interesting as earwax.

Actually, earwax is kinda interesting some time.  Mine always gets thick and black when I’m sick with a ‘flu or throat bug or whatever.  Why would it even do that?


The point is that this isn’t actually about Twitter.  It’s about writing in general, and the value of the absurd insertion.  People like it when you surprise them.  Not in the sense of dramatic plot twist surprise, just in the sense of someone saying something completely unexpected.

Don’t be afraid to do this.  It doesn’t have to be in dialogue.  Your narrative voice can spend a sentence noticing something completely absurd and only barely related to the subject and hand, and remarking on it.  Our brains do that all the time:  “Huh, look at that big guy on the subway car.  I bet he could really mess me up.  Jeez he looks angry.  I wonder what’s for dinner?”

Let a little of that shine through sometimes.  I think it adds spice.

Just don’t tweet any naughty pictures of yourself to strange women.

Especially not with a face like that. Jesus, Anthony, what were you THINKING?

*Before you get indignant, it was only the playful suggestion that they could build her a tomb out of her own books without having to use a single title more than once.  The woman did write.

Twitter: “Social Media,” not “Pyramid Marketing Scheme for Your eBook”

Soapbox time.  Just a teeny-tiny bit.  Bear with me.

I am, of course, on the Twitter.  There’s even a helpful little widget in the upper right corner of this blog that shows my latest post, or at least the first few words of it — you can click on the link there if you want to read more of my random,  less-than-140-character thoughts.

So it’s safe to say that I do the networking thing a bit.  I follow other writers on Twitter, if they post something I like I re-tweet it (just to keep that ol’ karma good), and yes — I tweet links to my blog posts, most of the time.

I won’t claim to be a social media expert, but that mix of your own personal thoughts, helpful links for other people, and a bit of tactful self-promotion is basically the goal.  Twitter is a social media tool, and the important word there is tool; we all know everyone’s going to be doing a bit of work on their own behalf with the tool.

I'll let you all pick your own tool (and associated verb) for this metaphor.

But here is what Twitter is not:  it is not a pyramid marketing scheme wherein you buy ten shares and then get ten of your friends to buy ten shares or else a terrible curse befalls you and you get hit by a truck.  Or at least it shouldn’t be.

(It occurs to me that the chain-letter, pyramid-marketing scam with hints of dire misfortune to those who break the chain might be a little too dated for my audience.  If you never got one of those letters in the ol’ snail-mail please just take my word for it that they existed, and were obnoxious.)

If you are going to use Twitter to promote your own writing — and by all means do so — do it on the merits of the product.  Shout to the heavens that your book is the best thing ever put down on paper, or, as is often the case,  not actually put down on paper but still downloadable for a modest fee.

Because the fact of the matter is that asking someone to buy a book “and retweet to all your friends so that the author hits Kindle’s top 100 list!” isn’t promoting the work.  It’s asking for charity.  And your work either deserves better than that or is so crappy that you shouldn’t be pushing it on us at all, so have a little faith in yourself and assume the former.

Talking about sales goals and stat rankings isn’t talking about your book.  It’s talking about your business and personal finances, which has always been and still remains a tasteless subject for public discourse.

There are lots of good ways to promote yourself without begging.  I’ve seen some very imaginative tweets from people who read this blog, and it always warms my heart.  So consider this your challenge for the day:  how are you going to sell your book, in 140 characters or less, without begging people to push the work on all their friends in the name of your financial gain?

Dignity is the hot new internet meme.

Success, and the Guilt It Brings

Okay, I feel a little guilty here.

I missed a post on Friday.  A big part of that was out of my control and involved some work-related insanity, and the brutal triage just didn’t include the blog.

But I should have said something.  Posted some fuzzy pony pictures, as I’ve done in the past when our internet has gone out or, like Friday, life just gets out of hand.

But here's a pony, at least.

Mea cuplas out of the way, I’m going to brag a little:  the blog’s doing well!  Lots of people are reading it.  So thank you all for that.

The catch there is that missing a post feels like it’s letting down more people.  Is there ever a point at which you’re so successful that you don’t even feel bad for failing to deliver on something?  Where you’ve got so many adoring fans that treating them well ceases to be a concern?

Because as soon as I hit that point you can forget about fuzzy pony pictures, for serious.

So once again:  my apologies!  It’s the first post I’ve missed since switching to a five-days-a-week schedule back in September and I’ll try to make it the last for a while as well.  And if you have thoughts on success, guilt, or fuzzy ponies, take a moment to let us know in the comments!

After all, the more active commentors I have the guiltier I’ll feel for slacking off.

The Reminder You Sometimes Need: Writing Is Actually Fun

Okay, guys.  I’m not gonna lie.  I’m actually kind of enjoying this.

I know, I know.  The whole NaNoWriMo thing.  It’s gimmicky and kind of pop-culturey and I can’t ever quite get myself 100% on board with it.  I’ve been, if not a skeptic, at least a kind of hiply ironic douchebag about the whole thing for years.

But I did it before it was cool. So, y'know.

And yet, it’s been a good excuse to do the part of writing that I really like — the part where you’re actually making things up and just putting them down on paper, rather than selling words to people or working on your contacts and profile or whatever.  To say nothing of editing and re-editing web content for better SEO!

It’s good to be reminded that that’s the dream:  writing your own stuff, long-term, sustainably.  And that it’s fun, and that it’s doable, and that when the parts of “being a writer” that aren’t “writing” feel awful and tedious and like nothing you ever wanted to do there’s a point to it all so cowboy up and get through.


Barnes & Nobles as NaNoWriMo Sponsor — Slighty Creepy

This is sort of shaping up into a NaNoWriMo week, isn’t it?  I apologize to those readers that aren’t big fans.  My own feelings on the program, as you all know, are a little mixed too.

But I’m doing it and that’s good fun, yadda yadda yadda.  Not the point today.  Today I’m a little squicked out by something from NaNoWriMo’s front page:  a “sponsored by” section that, today (and maybe other days too?  I haven’t been looking, but will start now) features Barnes & Nobles’s “PubIt!” offshoot.

Nothing against PubIt! in particular; it seems roughly comparable with most other major booksellers’ self-publishing outfits in terms of pricing (standardized), royalties (passable), and rights (lousy).  I wouldn’t make a case for or against it as far as going the self-pub route goes.

But something about a self-publishing enterprise hanging out on the front page of an amateur novel-writing contest just seems a little…predatory.

Maybe I’m being a little too skeptical.  Maybe I should have a little more faith in my fellow word-count-pounders, who are certainly capable of educating themselves about the self-publishing industry and its various advantages and perils.  It just seems a little too easy for someone who’s producing their first manuscript to see the (very slick) PubIt! webpage and think Oh, man, I could be getting like six bucks for EVERY SINGLE COPY PEOPLE BUY?

I suppose my problem is with the ease of it all:  three or four clicks and an upload, and your book is now Barnes & Nobles’s book.  A lot more could have happened to make it a better book, and to make it a profitable product for yourself rather than a drop in their rather large bucket.  And I’m not sure that people who’ve just this November gotten to the very first impulse of “hey, it would be fun to write a novel” know that.

It makes me want to run around shouting “no, no, no; read some self-published authors’ blogs first!  Know what you’re getting into!”  Which I’m sure lots of people will do.  I shouldn’t worry.

But I can’t help feeling a little iffy about that particular sponsorship.  Anyone else see it, or am I just crazy?

Why Professional Writers Shouldn’t Cheat on NaNoWriMo

I wound up doing NaNoWriMo this year, after some careful thinking about it.

So did a few other friends, and the challenge-aspect of the 50,00-word goal seems to have spilled over into other metrics as well; one woman I know is doing “NaBeAFuAdMo,” or “National Be A Fucking Adult Month,” with a list of real-life tasks laid out one per day for each day in November.

Up to a point I like these sort of adaptations.  The spirit of the game is self-improvement and striving to achieve more than you would without the artificial carrot-and-stick motivation, so anything in that general vein seems like fair game.

But I worry that there’s a temptation for fellow-writers especially to water things down a little bit:

Word count is the official metric of NaNoWriMo, and word count is what a lot of us do for a living.  In many cases that’s quite literal.  I’m paid by the word more often than I am by any other scale, so every word has a real and concrete value (albeit a very, very small one, as far as a single word goes).

So after a day of that it’s easy for your hard-working writer who’s also decided to do NaNoWriMo to say “well, okay, it’s 9:00 PM and I’m just now starting on today’s part of the manuscript, but technically I’m already up 3,500 words from my work, right?”

And I do know people who are doing things that way, keeping track of all words written in the month rather than just the word count of a single comprehensive work.


But I feel like people who really want the novelist-training exercise might be missing out a little by doing it that way.

Very few people are lucky enough to write in a professional vacuum, i.e., sans day job.  Being able to make it through the workday and then still pound out a few thousand words on the next novel is a huge, huge part of the authorial skill.  And I think it’s a skill that NaNoWriMo is trying pretty deliberately to teach.

So on the one hand I’m all for people taking the idea of NaNoWriMo and adjusting the metric to meet their own motivational needs.  It’s basically a self-motivating exercise in the first place, with a little help from our old buddy peer pressure via the internet.

But on the other hand I hope writers are thinking about the benefits of doing the full 50,000 word manuscript on top of all the other written-word projects.

They’d better be there, otherwise I’m losing a lot of sleep this month for nothing.


How We All Hope Our Writing Careers Go

An image and a link for the day, on the theory that a picture is worth a thousand words and therefore I’ve more than exceeded my responsibility to you as soon as I post one.  Also John Allison’s work is just wonderful, and everyone should browse through at least some of it.  Like today’s kick-off to a new mini-series called Murder She Writes:

This is how all writing careers should start.  This, or something like this with more drinking, perhaps.  Bear any similarities to your own starts?  Leave a comment and let us know!

Actual writing, thoughts, etc. tomorrow.  Unless you would rather just see more comics, in which case you should also leave a comment, and let me know.

Once again, today’s comic comes from John Allison of Scary Go Round.  His work is excellent and you should take a look at it.  I have no affiliation with him except being a fan!


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