Everyone touts Twitter as great for building a target audience. Starting a platform, they call it. But to get on Twitter solely for the purpose of selling books I haven’t even published yet? I’m bored already. I need more instant gratification for motivation to decipher the crazed universe of Twitter.
There are obvious benefits: making friends with fellow writers and readers, getting favorites from authors whose work I’ve admired, the endless number of articles tweeted daily on writing and publishing.
But the act of hacking out those 140 character bites has more than social and educational benefits. It’s actually helped my writing. Here’s how.
1) Tighten, tighten, tighten
140 characters is the ultimate in tight writing. Not just every word but every letter, punctuation mark, and space counts. Concise prose in a novel makes for an un-put-down-able book. So it becomes a game. In how short of a phrase can I communicate what I need to say? And, more importantly, have others taken an interest in what I have to say?
2) Receive Immediate Feedback
The system of favoriting and retweeting is ingeniously valuable. It’s instant critiquing, not just from other writers but from readers, too. If I post a tweet to a hashtag that I know is jumping and don’t get any favorites, I know something’s up with what I wrote. Did it make sense? Was it relatable? Was it interesting enough to catch other people’s attention? Negotiating between what I want to write and what others want to read means the difference between writing and selling books.
3) Show, Don’t Tell
I can easily write a tweet about something I’m doing. Though tweeting, “I wrote 2,000 words today”, at the #amwriting hashtag, unless the person is a close friend, it’s unlikely to get favorites or retweets because it’s a straight “tell”. I’m not showing the reader anything relatable. If I want to engage interaction, I need to show how I achieved that goal. For instance, “There’s nothing like a 2nd pot of coffee to send me flying through my word count”. Others can relate to the coffee and the difficulty in getting through the word count, plus it adds in humor and voice.
4) Create Tension
My “I wrote 2,000 words today” tweet lacks conflict. The best tweets have tension and hopefully a goal and some motivation. “There’s nothing like a 2nd pot of coffee to send me flying through my word count”, contains a goal, my word count; a motivating factor, coffee; and implies a struggle to achieve the goal, “There’s nothing like…”. Learning to create tension in 140 characters channels straight into my novel writing. If I can have tension not just in every scene of my novel, but every sentence, think of how fast the pages will turn.
5) Define Theme
Pitching on Twitter is the new wave. Get on it. Agents can shop for writers, instead of writers shopping for them. My agent found me via #PitMad. Tightening my pitch to 140 characters, presenting it with “show don’t tell”, with tension and a goal, helped me solidify the driving conflict in the plot of my novel. Then, the instant feedback—whether I get favorites from agents or editor—lets me know if my primary conflict was clear and if my premise intrigues people in the publishing industry.
Putting your ideas on Twitter, whether it’s pitching or daily tweeting, is nerve wracking. Getting feedback can be a total crap shoot. Sometimes it has nothing to do with your actual content, and learning to engage interaction with a tweet doesn’t necessarily teach good novel writing.
But tweeting has taught me a lot, and the rush of getting favorites and retweets is fun. Even getting zero favorites and retweets can act like mini-rejections, practice for the bigger ones in the publishing world. And hopefully, I’ll manage to build a platform in the process. I take comfort in knowing I’m not the only one testing the waters in the cyber universe. The personal conflict, “Will someone like what I wrote?” is something everyone can relate to.
Or maybe not. What do you relate to on Twitter? Do you have any pointers for those of us who struggle with what to tweet?
Robin Lovett, also known as S.A. Lovett, writes contemporary romance, and her debut novel, Racing To You, will be released July of 2016. She is represented by Rachel Brooks of the L. Perkins Agency and has a forthcoming series releasing with SMP Swerve in the summer of 2017.
She writes romance to avoid the more unsavory things in life, like day jobs and housework. To feed her coffee and chocolate addictions, she loves overdosing on mochas. When not writing with her cat, you can find her somewhere in the outdoors with a laptop in her bag. Feel free to chat with her on Twitter.