Writing Show: Social Media Do’s and Don’ts

This should have gone up sooner. Anyway, it was a packed attendance at last month’s Writing Show.

This should have gone up sooner. Anyway, it was  a packed attendance at last month’s Writing Show. Questions came up almost immediately, especially regarding Twitter, which was highly recommended by the panelists. Below is my review, published in the James River Writers newsletter, Get Your Word On. I’ll add that the discussion was mostly geared around Twitter, Facebook, and blogging, but that there are many other social networking opportunities. Consider MeetUp, Goodreads and LinkedIn. What do you think?

Social media do’s and don’ts for the smart writer

Suppose you have a finished manuscript, a connected agent and a savvy editor. Then all that’s left is to enjoy the launch party and take a long deserved vacation, right? Sorry, but this is no time to relax. It’s time to market your masterpiece, a challenging task that an Internet presence makes easier, said the panelists at the August Writing Show.

Kelly Justice of Fountain Books led the discussion before an audience brimming with questions. What is Twitter? Should I have a separate FaceBook account for my book? How can I make money on my blog? Editor Ron Hogan, “Book Lady” Rebecca Schinsky, and writer Joe Wallace provided the answers with humor, personal stories and cautionary tales.

Twitter is the little birdie telling people about the great novel that was just released. Simple and versatile, Twitter is a fun platform way to network 140 characters at a time. Wallace credits it for his success. Schinsky called Twitter the great equalizer for the way it puts you in immediate contact with other writers at all levels of fame.

Blogs and online journals  — two other popular ways to build an audience — are tools Schinsky knows well. Her blog’s success attracts not only paying advertisers, it also allows her to promote authors, booksellers and others in the industry. Reciprocity is key to all forms of social media: The more you give of yourself, the more you get in return.

Facebook falls between blogging and tweeting. It allows for quick communication and network building like Twitter, while being a central place for people to learn more about you in the manner of a blog.

Writing Show: Scene and Subtext

I attended June’s Writing Show. It centered on writing compelling plays.

Author and actor Irene Ziegler and JRW Administrative Director Anne Westrick.
Author and actor Irene Ziegler and JRW Administrative Director Anne Westrick.

I attended June’s Writing Show. It centered on writing compelling plays. I do not write plays, but I enjoy the shows and meeting new writers and catching up with friends. As it turned out, much of what the panelists discussed could be applied to any form of writing and the panelists were enjoyable to listen to. They were author and actor Irene Ziegler, and playwrights Douglas Jones, Marta Rainer and Bo Wilson.

A memorable moment for me was when Jones, appropos the topic of stage direction, recounted a David Mamet monologue involving two characters. With exacting detail, the speaker described how he wanted his deli sandwich prepared – spread the mustard with a spoon, slice the meat this thick, stack the ingredients in this order. The only stage direction was that the speaker held a gun.

Writing Show: From Random Thought to Random House

We know getting your novel published is an arduous journey with the chance of success just shy of nil. But it can happen (perhaps enough to tease).

We know getting your novel published is an arduous journey with the chance of success just shy of nil. But it can happen (perhaps enough to tease). April’s Writing Show, “From Random Thought to Random House,” tells of one who overcame the odds. For Michele Young-Stone, lightning has struck her twice — once as a bolt through her body as a young girl, then as a streak of luck that got her novel to print.

Writing Show Panel

The local author shared her inspiring  story with the audience. Joining her was her agent, Michelle Brower and her editor, Sarah Knight. They chatted with moderator Virginia Pye about Young-Stone’s debut novel, The Handbook for Lightning Strike Survivors.

Perseverance does pay. Brower initially turned down the manuscript. Instead of dismissing the rejection, Young-Stone made significant revisions to her work and got another agent to represent her. But this arrangement didn’t work out and Young-Stone resubmitted her work to Brower who agreed to represent her. Then Knight entered the picture, telling the audience that by this point the novel was so well polished there was little for her to do other than convince the publishers to make the right decision.

Brower said that at any given time she has 500 email queries. Discouraging indeed. But what can help get you noticed is a great title, as was Young-Stone’s case, a compelling premise and an engaging voice.

Writing Show: What’s Hot and What’s Not

January’s JRW Writing Show discussed trends in publishing with local bookstore owners, Kelly Justice of Fountain Bookstore, Kelly Kyle of Narnia Children’s Books, Ward Tefft of Chop Suey, and Patrick Godfrey of Velocity Comics.

January’s JRW Writing Show discussed trends in publishing with local bookstore owners, Kelly Justice of Fountain Bookstore, Kelly Kyle of Narnia Children’s Books, Ward Tefft of Chop Suey, and Patrick Godfrey of Velocity Comics.

What struck me is what Kyle pointed out: 1) All the major publishers in this country are subsidiaries of foreign companies; 2) and as subsidiaries, editors and publishers have far less control of what they will put in the marketplace as decisions are made higher up in the parent company by executives.

Consider that a book will be selected far more for the commercial tie-ins with the sister companies’ products.  They will market the toys, movie and television rights, and other deals, where more of the money will likely be made. Thus the book itself can be priced far below what booksellers would want to sell them for, indeed booksellers may even take a loss. But the parent company will be able to afford that because they view the book as just a hook into the other products that will sell far more.

That is not sustainable for booksellers and ultimately will hurt the industry, at least short-term, as shelves are still by far where most purchase decisions are made and where authors have signings.

What do you think of publishers being a piece of a larger corporation? Long-term, will the selling, reading and author meet-and-greets be electronic and hardcovers a thing of novelty?

JRW Writing Show: A Little Help from my Friends

Tonight’s James River Writers Writing Show focused on writing groups.

Tonight’s James River Writers Writing Show focused on writing groups. Fittingly, all the members of our writing group showed up (a first!).

The Show’s panelists included authors Carolyn Parkhurst (The Dogs of Babel), Leslie Pietrzyk (A Year and a Day) and Susann Cokal (Breath and Bones). Poet and novelist Virginia Pye moderated the discussion.

Panelists discuss their thoughts on writing groups.
Panelists discuss their thoughts on writing groups. Left-to-right: Moderator Virginia Pye, novelists Leslie Pietrzyk, Carolyn Parkhurst and Susann Cokal.

From my notes I wrote that Pietrzyk begins her novels with a question that she can’t answer and a paradox — two things that are each true but cannot be true together. The first part resonated with me. That is, what is the central question in my novel? It isn’t the approach I took — my novel had begun with the characters, but still I think it’s worth examining. So that’s some homework for me.

I also took to heart Cokal’s suggestion that when your work is critiqued, do not immediately make revisions to incorporate them. Keep writing forward, rather than stopping to go back and revise. I am doing that now (revisions) and I don’t like it, though I feel that I must. I want to finish a complete draft. It seems forever out of reach.

When the topic of research came up, I liked Cokal’s remark that reserch is her chance to experience the world of her novel. They all agreed that a few vivid and true details can be all that is necessary to convince the reader that you have been to a place you never visited, but the moment the reader catches you in something implausible, then you may lose them.

I was happy to spot Steve from Fountain Books. I had the opportunity to thank him for his recommendation. Then we discussed The Magicians, which we both liked. He seemed to agree with my point about being a magician is akin to being an alcoholic in Grossman’s novel.

I’m following up this post with NaNoWriMo (hopefully tomorrow if not tonight).