I have been telling stories all my life.
My mum told me that before I could read, I would look at picture books and make up my own stories from the illustrations.
Growing up with strict Italian parents in the 1980s, I wrote stories to fill the void of missing out on the social events that filled a teenager’s world. My stories eased the heartache of being left alone in my room. A wallflower. And so, I made up my own adventures.
In my twenties when I was living in a flat earning a pitiful wage, I wrote stories because it was something that didn’t cost anything. I escaped through fictional events creating exciting escapades.
When I became a mum, I wrote stories to alleviate the lonely moments at home with a newborn.
After moving to Brisbane nearly four years ago, I made a promise that I would pursue my dream to write and send my stories out into the world. I am currently on this journey.
If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that I am in the midst of writing my first novel. That I also write short stories and I am planning a children’s book series. My writing craft is developing as I read books on writing and attend courses. This year I completed the Australian Writers' Centre Build Your Author Platform online course. This course was exceptional and a must for the emerging writer. It set me on the path in building an online presence and giving me opportunities to connect with writers at all stages of their career and industry professionals.
I was inspired.
Three months ago, I started my writer’s website and created my writer social media accounts. I am connecting with other writers, publishers, literary agents, librarians and lover of books via Twitter (@valeriegmiller), Instagram (@2bwriting), Facebook (@valeriegmiller-writer) and Pinterest (Valerie Miller – Writer). I am already making wonderful and warm connections and building a community. My favourite platform is Twitter. This 160 character gem gives you the opportunity to write in a concise way. Little snippets of words to inform, engage and share. I use Instagram for quotes and to share a visual journal of my writing life. These posts are offerings of books, pets and food.
Social media is not a media. The key is to listen, engage, and build relationships.” David Alston, author
How do I maintain my social media accounts? I schedule in time. Thirty minutes in the morning before work. Thirty minutes in the afternoon when I get home and any snippets of time stolen. I also use Buffer to schedule posts.
I subscribe to quite a few writing and author websites and receive loads of great material in my inbox. Each Friday night I sift through my emails, extracting articles that catch my eye. I save these to my reading list on my Mac. On Saturday morning after working on my novel, I read these. Any that are interesting I schedule to my social media to share. I only share one post per day and two on the weekends. This keeps it manageable. I do have one, very important rule. I must read the entire article, it must interest me and be relevant and helpful to post. Being genuine on Social Media is very important to me.
To date, I don’t have a lot of followers; though I have surpassed 100. I do have followers who I connect with regularly. I am building a strong rapport with some wonderful people here in Australia and oversees. Virtual friendships with other writers are also starting to grow. For me, it is all about quality connection rather than quantity. I enjoy supporting other writers, sharing their book deals, their book launches, their awards, their successes and their advice.
But it’s not just all things writing.
We share our family news and work life. There are photos of brunch meals, books read, books reviewed, writers' gardens and pets. There are loads and loads of adorable pets.
Connecting with experienced and savvy authors has exposed me to competitions, open submissions of manuscripts, festivals and conferences. The writing community is generous, supportive and warm.
What astounds me is the generosity of established and successful authors on Twitter and Instagram.
I am still waiting for my Facebook page to take off. I know the time will come when the Facebook page gains some decent momentum and traction. Maybe when I am published and people have a reason to connect. But it's there. Waiting patiently.
If you are going to develop an online presence there are a few etiquette rules.
1. Give … give … give and give some more. It is important that you genuinely support other writers.
2. Follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of your posts to support, cheer and retweet, share other writers' comments and books. The remaining 20% is about you.
3. Don’t spam your book. Eric Smith in his article ’10 tips for authors on social media from a literary agent’, says that writers need to be aware of not making it all about them. No one likes that person who talks all the time at a party. This is no different on social media, especially Twitter. Be present for other writers.
4. Always be polite. Never swear. Only post what you would be happy for your grandmother, priest or boss to see. Never put anyone’s book down. As my Italian mother would say, 'Se non hai niente di carino da dire, non dirlo'. If you don’t’ have anything nice to say, don't say it. Keep it to yourself. This includes being aware of your tone when you post. Facial expression and body language don't exist when posting. Without these very significant visual cues, comments can be interpreted the wrong way. I find a smiley 😄 emoji helps.
5. Include a relevant image. Social media is visual. Make your post stand out by including a visual that supports your written posts. Gifs are great and there are some funny ones out there. Be careful of copyright though and try to acknowledge the creator. Even if it is via the 'at' or hashtag symbol.
6. Double-check typos before pressing send. This is one I am very conscious of. As a shocking typist, I am the Queen Regent of typos. You never know when an author or publisher might want to retweet your post.
Writing is a lonely pursuit. I personally don’t mind the solitude, but I do miss the banter about all things writing and books. Social Media provides a platform for writers to get together and discuss their ideas and to provide information and advice to each other.
Personally, I find that social media has a lot of benefits with only one nemesis; you can spend hours on it; going down rabbit holes and being totally enthralled with no words on your draft being written. I use the Horo App on my Mac to count down my social media time and Freedom to block out social media when it is time to write. There are plenty of software programs that can help you be more focused while you are glued to your seat.
Having an online presence is essential for 21st-century writers. I have already gained some wonderful cyber sisters and brothers. For me, this is a big tick for social media.
Image Courtesy of Alessandro Biascioli @ Dreamstime.com