My twisted thoughts

I’ve recently discovered I’m a contradiction. I’d do good in a Coen Brothers movie because I can go from laughing my head off at the dark and twisted to awwww’ing over something cute and cuddly.

The contradiction really shows in my Twitter and Facebook posts.

platformSee, there’s this thing we writers are supposed to do to advance our careers and gain new readers. We’re supposed to build a platform. A platform is the method(s) a writer uses to get their name in front of agents, publishers, and most importantly, readers. Social media has made building a platform much easier than years past. But still, it takes time, patience, and effort to not only get your name out there but to grow and nurture these relationships you’re building. One step at a time. A platform is ever-evolving. The more you grow as a writer, the more your platform grows.

A brand, on the other hand, is just what it implies. Unless there’s been a big mistake by a delivery driver, you’re not going to find a Coke in a Pepsi cooler. Thus, you’re probably not going to find a Stephen King novel in the romance section. A lot of writers do cross murder-mystery-partygenres and many use pen names so loyal readers of one genre don’t rebel when they pick up a Sci-Fi/Fantasy when they were expecting a mystery.

So, where am I in all this? I’m still building my platform—as I said earlier, it’s an on-going thing. And the brand as a mystery writer is falling into place as I’m establishing relationships with other writers and readers. And here’s where the contradiction is coming in.

I post a lot on Twitter about crime, for a few different reasons. 1) The psychology behind it interests me, 2) as a research tool or plot idea generator for other crime writers, 3) some of it is straight out of a Coen Brothers movie and I just adore them.

confused_jackBut I also post a lot about dogs. I’m a dog lover. And I post a lot about the trials and tribulations of parenting and they’re often funny. My own kids didn’t have one or two kids, they had litters. And as the Granny Nanny to eight of them, I have an over abundance of toddler-related material ready at the whim.

So how can I follow up a too-funny tweet of a picture of Casey with a goofy hat on with a tweet about a horrific murder with all kinds of twists and turns. Beats me. I’m just as confused as you are.

Maybe my brand should be a dog loving, toddler fan, mystery writer?

How to lose 500 Twitter followers in one easy step

1) Clean out your “following” folder.

That’s it. That simple.

I’ve been pretty active on Twitter lately (except for the last few days because I was rebelling at the need to) and when I went to follow a new follower, the Twitter guards wouldn’t let me. The reason it said was because my “percentage” of following vs. followers had reached a maximum. So if I wanted to follow anyone new, I had to “unfollow” someone. Twitter

I’d never unfollowed anyone so I went all the way back to the humble beginnings when I was happy to have followers and offered a follow back in gratitude.  But while perusing my following folder, I discovered there was actually a lot of dead weight. A lot of accounts I didn’t even know I was following. They were cogs in my wheel of progress, not allowing me to follow those I really wanted to follow. Their posts on my timeline were irrelevant to my interests. Their posts often prevented me from finding the real posts I wanted to see because I’d get frustrated having to wade through all the crap to find the real stuff that interested me. So I’d give up. My retweeting became sporadic because I couldn’t find anything worth retweeting.

So I did a mass cleanse. Spring cleaning if you want to call it. I unfollowed nearly 1000 accounts and it felt good. I could breathe again. Until, almost instantly, my number of followers started falling. I mean, not just following, but nose-diving. What the heck?

Twitter-Unfollow-ToolsDid every single one of the accounts I had unfollowed get a red flag notification that I had “unfollowed” them? I suddenly felt guilty. And a little like the deer caught in the headlights. How did they know? Come back! Come back all my little followers! No wait…

I unfollowed you first. I’d rather have meaningful cyber relationships (that’s kinda funny if you think about it) with a few thousand rather than just another notch on the bedpost to brag about the numbers.

 

 

You call that work?

Remember when you worked a job where you were given a week, two weeks, maybe more each year for vacation? Some jobs even gave you a certain number of sick days, or personal time as some call it. Remember when you punched a time clock? Or signed your name at the end of the week to a time sheet?

You went to work. You worked. You clocked out and left work at the end of the day. Life was simple. writer's clock

And then you became a writer.

There is no time clock to punch. No scheduled vacation, sick days, or personal time. There is no time “off”. Why? Because if you’re really a writer, a true creative soul, there is no down time. You can’t shut off your inner self.

I worked at the local television station for a couple of years when my kids were small. I worked in the studio production department for the six and eleven o’clock news. It was a fun job but it ruined my ability to ever simply “watch” a television show. Or even see a movie for that matter. My mind is not only following the story, but I’m critiquing the lighting, the camera work, the background music, etc…

When I am able to stop thinking about the actual production of the show, I’m thinking ahead of the plot—the writer in me won’t let the show just unfold—I’m three scenes ahead.

Dickie
Jeremy Davies as Dickie Bennett, “Justifed”

One of my favorite television shows is “Justified”. The acting, writing, direction, story lines, everything about the show is take-your-breath-away perfection. The second and third season featured the Bennett family—and I, ever the sucker for a great character, fell head over heels for Dickie Bennett (expertly played by Jeremy Davies). The character was so well written and acted, Dickie Bennett became somewhat of an underdog one might actually find a ping of sympathy for. And the whole time I’m crying for Dickie Bennett, I’m wondering why? Why—because although I’m fully engrossed in the show, there’s a part of my brain going “Wow! What a character! I wish I could write a character like that!” So I’m back to working.

It’s the same with a book. Fellow writers—do you ever wish you could just pick up a book and read for the pure joy of it? Or are you working when you read? I study the style, the dialogue, the pace…and sometimes, it drives me nuts! Because there I go, working again.

writers-quotes-story-writing-34823017-400-263I took Sam for a walk today around the block. Great being outside in the fresh air, away from the laptop, away from the pen and paper, away from the cell phone. Just me and Sam—and a thousand characters running around inside my head. Scenes played out, dialogue was spoken, opening lines were toyed with…a simple walk turned into a working break.

And then there’s social media. As writers, a lot of our books’ success or lack of can be traced to social media and how the book is “marketed” on such. So each time I sign on to Facebook, am I working?  Each tweet I send, am I working? Yes. I’m building and nurturing a relationship with readers. Sorry—playing Candy Crush probably doesn’t count.

So I’m going to wrap this up so I can go watch the Superbowl. I like the commercials. Advertising at its best. I’m always fascinated by the production that goes into some of the spots, the quick and to-the-point message delivered in thirty seconds, the words used to…oh darn. There I go again. Working.

 

Time to stop the bitchin’

I’m probably going to stomp on some toes with this but it’s been a’brewing. I’m starting to see a trend and it’s getting under my skin. I have several writer friends who are enjoying the fruit of their labor with the release of their books. Cool. I’ll be right there with them next week with the official release of The Rising. Yeah!

But the last few weeks I’ve found myself “with them” in more ways than one. Bitching. Moaning. Griping. And over all complaining about the amount of work that goes into not just writing the book, but marketing the book. I spent an entire “work” day (meaning total of 8 hours) finalizing a blog tour. Yeah, yeah, yeah…my eyes were crossed when I finished. So what? Stop pissing and moaning about it. Nobody made me market this book. I’m marketing it because, well, I want people to actually read it. They can’t read it if the only place it’s available is on my laptop or in a file drawer.

Ivy2
We have to pitch a few fits before we…

So then we have to back up and question just why we write in the first place. Yeah, yeah, yeah…we’ve all got a story to tell. We like creating characters who live in imaginary worlds. We visualize scenes and whole chapters, complete with soundtrack. But ask yourself who are you writing for? If it’s your family and a few friends, why worry yourself sick about the editing and the cover design and the back cover blurb? Just write it and be done with it. If you’re writing for an audience larger than will fit in your living room, you have to stress about all these other things. But – here’s the kicker – no one is making you do it!

We writers are an odd bunch. I personally think we tend to be a bit passive-aggressive, or bi-polar, or down right unrealistic at times. Yes – please – buy my book! Damn – this marketing! You like it? You really like it? Crap – a bad review. How could they not like it? I’ll just go to bed now and pull the covers over my head, And cry. Crap – forgot about Twitter. Need to reply to those DMs. I just want to write! What the heck is Instagram? Do I have to post pictures? Interact. Just be yourself. Well, myself tends to be a bit of an introvert so how am I supposed to do that oh great Marketing God?

I have friends that say treat writing and marketing like a “real” job. Some even say work only 8 hours a day, like most “normal” people. Well, you know what…it’s not a real job and we’re not normal people. A true writer is never really off the clock because we’re constantly thinking about the dialogue, visualizing the next scene, playing what if. We can’t shut off our brain like some people shut down their computers before punching out for the day. We don’t have a time clock that tells us we’re “done for the day.”

Ivy1
…realize it’s really not that bad

But – no one is making us do it. We do it because somewhere in the far corners of our brains, we like it. We like the creating. We like the ego boost of a five star review. We like the pat-on-the-back.  So stop acting like you don’t. Stop acting like it’s a freakin’ chore to dig up more Twitter followers so maybe they’ll buy your book. If you didn’t want people to buy your book, why’d you publish it in the first place? The oh so poor tortured writer is so cliche’. Get over yourself. And I’ll get over myself too. And maybe, just maybe, we can together stop pretending we’re so over-burdened with the business of writing, we’ve lost the joy of writing itself.

So, I’m going to write a little on my WIP this afternoon, maybe market The Rising some, thank my new Twitter followers (all of them for that matter), and maybe play a level or two of Candy Crush. Just a normal Sunday afternoon. And I wouldn’t trade it for a time clock for anything.