Being Creative vs. Being Online

Only Connect.
-E.M. Forster, Howard’s End

Every writer is told, repeatedly, that they need to be on social media chatting, promoting, being visible, putting themselves out there.

The trouble is that you can overdo the being visible part. You get used to being on social media all the time. It becomes a habit.

Derek Beres wrote an article on writers need to balance between being online and sneaking off to a hiding place to write. Not just writers, anyone who does anything that required creativity needs to step back from the keyboard/phone from time to time.

What seems to be lost in being “connected” is really irreplaceable time gained to focus on projects. Without that time, he says, you’re in danger of rewiring your neural patterns for distraction.

Actually, I’d say that applies to everyone. Especially at this time of year, when people are rushing around trying to get all their holiday shopping done, writing all their Christmas cards, attending all the holiday parties, doing All The Things.

Once in a while, stop. Unplug. Breathe.

The Battle of the Covers!

All right, so perhaps ‘battle’ isn’t the mot juste.  But it made for a dramatic title.

Love Inspired published a Cover vs. Cover post on Facebook, comparing His Forgotten Fiancée with A Mother for his Family, by Susanne Dietze. I must say, her cover is lovely. I do enjoy a good Regency novel.

But does her cover have a kitten on it? It does not. Tsk, I say.

Zorro the Inquisitive

Srsly? No kitteh?

Do you prefer Regency elegance or cute kittens on a cover? Please go check out the covers on Facebook and share your opinion!23116635_10155781262529666_2918901991707960731_o

Twitter: One Newbie’s Quickstart Guide

These days, I’m filtering what I read on Twitter more than ever. It’s important to control the flood of information, and Twitter can drown you in information if you’re not careful.

There are two main ways to use Twitter, as far as I can see.

One is to keep up to date with the latest news, and by the term “news” I also refer to rumor, gossip, complete fabrications on a topic. Twitter can spread information faster than any other medium (for now, at least) but not all of it is even remotely valid.

The other is to keep up with people you are interested in. You can follow celebrities or people in a field that you want to learn more about. If you find one person who intrigues you, Twitter suggests other people that you might want to follow who are similar. Or you can see who this person is interacting with and follow them as well.

Either way, you’re going to want to find a way to sieve this information or you’ll drown in a  deluge of data. Here’s how I would suggest you handle Twitter.

  1. When you sign in to Twitter, look at the hashtags listed. Hashtags are subjects on Twitter. They have a hash symbol (#) in front of them. When you sign in to Twitter, it presents hashtags that might interest you. Click on them to see what other people are tweeting. That gives you an idea of what’s trending at the moment on Twitter.screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-10-34-29-am
  2. Search for people you are interested in and follow them. Or follow people you’ve found from hashtags that you like.
  3. Create lists of people or hashtags you like.
  4. Get the heck out of Twitter and get thee to TweetDeck or HootSuite or some other application that will handle lists for you.

Lists are important. Making lists lets you sort through and hopefully make sense of the flood of tweets that are blasting through the twittersphere every second.

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Each of these columns is a list that I created in Tweetdeck.

For example, I have a list of people who are in my local RWA chapter. I check quickly check through that list to see their latest tweets. I have another list for editors that I follow, agents that I follow, different genres of authors that I like to read. Lists let me manage the flood of information and focus on a particular area that interests me at the moment.

This is what works for me. Might not work for you, take all advice with a grain of salt, yada yada.

How NOT to use Twitter

img_1605I don’t consider myself an expert on Twitter. But I’ve begun to notice things that irritate me and might annoy other people as well.

If you follow me, I will follow you back — unless it’s obvious from your tweets that all you want to do is force your book/product/agenda on me. Twitter is a cocktail party, not a marketplace. It’s an opportunity to get for you to get noticed — you, not your book or product or agenda.

You can get to know a person by following them on Twitter. How often they post a tweet, what kinds of subjects interest them enough to tweet or retweet, how often they push their own particular product or agenda, all these things reveal the person behind the tweets. I might want to buy your product or agenda once I get to know you. But not before.

So, given the above, here are some ways not to use Twitter:

  • Do not send me a Direct Message saying how great it is that I’m following you. Twitter is a cocktail party, and we’re just at the stage where I’m asking you your name and whether you think the appetizers really needed that much wasabi. We don’t need to go have a private conversation. Let’s get to know each other on Twitter first.
  • Do not send me a Direct Message saying “Hi! How are you doing?” It’s like asking for my phone number the moment we meet. Chat me up a bit first, ‘k? And by that I mean post tweets.
  • Do not send me a Direct Message telling me that I can buy your book. Hearing a sales pitch at a party is right up there with having a telemarketer interrupt you at dinner.
  • Do not send me a Direct Message saying I can download your book for free. I don’t know you yet. I’m not going to bestir myself to download a book simply because it’s free. There are a lot of free books out there, and my interest in reading all of them is nil.
  • Do not offer to sell me Twitter followers.
  • Do not offer to send me pictures of nekkid wimmin. Honest, I know what they look like. And if I forget, I have a mirror.

If you want me to chat with you privately or to download your book or promote your agenda by retweeting you, give me a reason to care. Post tweets on a subject of mutual interest. I’m following you on Twitter because I’m interested in what you have to say. On Twitter.

Experts say the best way to promote your current book is to write another one. Similarly, the best way to tempt Twitter followers into reading your book is to post tweets that make people interested in hearing more from you.

Pinteresting Your Reader

In case you haven’t checked it out, Pinterest is a site where you can collect or share images. I’m not sure I quite ‘get’ Pinterest. Am I using it the way as a writer should if she wants to make her stories known?

I started out on the site like a kid in a candy store. “Oooh, that’s a pretty picture. I’ll pin that. And that. And that.” I collected a whole lot of pretty pictures and some pretty good quotes. Is that what you use Pinterest for?

I can see the use of Pinterest as a way to stimulate your imagination. Put down a net and snag the images that intrigue your subconscious. Encourage the right side of your brain to participate in the creative process. However you want to phrase it.

At the same time, it can be one of the greatest time sinks ever invented in the history of space-time continuum.

I don’t want to think of the time that I spent search for just the right face to match  my idea of a character. If you follow people, pictures that they’ve pinned will start showing up when you first open Pinterest. For example, if you want to see pictures that I’ve pinned, you could follow me. Um… not that you have too, y’know. But you could. (Note to self: work on that self-assertiveness stuff.)

You can follow just one board (one collection) that someone has put together. Then you’d only see photos in your feed that they had pinned to that one board. Or you could follow the user and see all the photos that they’ve pinned lately. Some users have widely divergent interests. I have a board that’s devoted to nothing but jewels. (I can’t help myself. Jewelry is shiny. My inner magpie says “want.”)

chh_pinterest

The image above is from a collection of faces and places for the story that I sold to Harlequin. That’s another use of Pinterest, it can help you communicate with the art department. Whether you’re publishing traditionally or independently, you’re a writer. You’re good at wording. Artists communicate in visuals. If you can’t draw (like me), Pinterest can bridge the gap.

I’m curious if Pinterest is helpful for readers. Do you like seeing how the author pictures her characters or their setting? Or do you prefer to imagine them for yourself?

How do you use Pinterest? Or do you use it at all? Is there some other Shiny New Site that you using instead?