Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Just Write!

A year and a half ago I decided to write a novel.  I knew I was going to have to come up with a writing schedule and stick to it.  The only time I could write (without distractions) was after I put my kids to bed.  No problem, right?  I could follow my dream without making any sacrifices!  Right?  Right!?  Not exactly.  You see, I LOVED my prime time TV shows.  I had certain programs I watched every night of the week.  Turning the TV on after putting the kids to bed was my way to relax after a stressful day of cleaning, feeding, yelling, breaking up fights, entertaining, etc., etc.  I looked forward to this time every night.  However, deep down I knew my book wasn't going to get written unless I sacrificed my precious TV time.  Sure, I could make excuses and say things like, "Hey!  Television is inspiration!" Yeah, that's it.  "I HAVE to watch it . . . in order to get the creative juices flowing!"  Really though, what good is a bunch of creative ideas if you don't have the time to write them down?

The same thing is true with social media.  We can stay online for hours at a time--blogging, tweeting, facebooking--with the excuse that we're building our "platform" (platform shmlatform--I just like "talking" with my tweeps!), but what good is a platform if you don't have a book to set on top of it?  Keeping up with social media can very easily cut into writing time.  Sure, getting to know other writers is fun, but is it more important than your book?

More often than I care to admit, I've turned on my computer with the plan to do some writing, but then I say, "Well, I'll just check my blog real quick." Then it's, "Oh, I have to read over these comments." And, "I have to respond to these comments." By this time I'm saying, "Since I'm already on here, I might as well check Twitter."  Before I know it, it's an hour (or more) later.  I have a feeling I'm not the only one who has done this before ;-)  I'm not saying social media is evil, but I do think the key is moderation and not to lose site of why you're there in the first place. 

I had a really tough time writing this blog post, because I didn't want it to come off as preachy or know-it-all'ish.  Many agents and writers have blogged about the topic of unpublished authors and platform building.  Some say it's important, some say it's not.  Rather than take a side, I just wanted to share some of my personal thoughts on the issue.

* The quality vs. quantity rule.  I don't think the number of followers you have is as important as the type of followers you have.  I always say I'd rather have a dozen "close" cyber friends, as opposed to thousands of blog/twitter followers.  If and when the time comes for me to market my book, I know my blogging buddies and favorite tweeps will have my back (as I will theirs).

* Remember Kenny Roger's song "The Gambler"?  One of my favorite lines is, "You never count your money when you're sitting at the table.  They'll be time enough for countin' when the dealing's done."  I kind of feel this way about people who become obsessed with platform building before they even have an agent.  Call me superstitious, but to me it almost seems like bad luck to try and get a huge following so early in the game.  It's kind of like writing your wedding guest list before you even have a boyfriend.

* It doesn't take years and years to build a platform/gain followers, and since books are not published overnight (well, unless you're going the e-book route), you'll have plenty of time to market your book after you sign a deal.  I know of people who just started their blogs/twitter accounts two months ago, and they already have 100+ followers (and growing!). 

To sum it all up, my theory is- don't worry about having twitter followers in the triple digits or more blog followers than so-and-so.  JUST WRITE!  They'll be time enough for buildin' a platform when the contract is signed. ;-)


  1. Spot on, Angela! I agree with everything you just said.

    When I started blogging, platform was the furthest from my mind because I didn't even have a finished ms. I did it so I can force myself to stick with the notion that I'm a writer. It's like if I let people know I have this oh-do-secret love of toiling away in my basement writing stories even if they're junk, then maybe I'll be more inclined to do this for real. It was my motivation, my if-you-quit-now-people-will-know-you're-a-quitter push to myself.

    I'm not on Twitter as much either. I use Twitter to connect with you guys every now and then. I don't stress about followers or unfollows either--I'm happy at 5 as I am at, say, 200. The bottom line is I don't harass or beg people to follow me. It's completely on their own will and terms. Same goes for blogging.

    Balance is always key, and it's not easy to grasp. But as long as you put things in priority and keep that perspective, I think your Zen will come to you. Thanks for this wonderful post!

  2. It's actually funny that we're talking about this today when I'm celebrating over a milestone. Hope you don't look at this and say, "ye gad! What a hypocrite!" lol!

    Do what works for you, Angela. And more importantly, do what makes you happy. Prior to this whole social media thingy, I was writing, reading, learning the craft for 4+ years before coming out my dusty basement. It was a solitary endeavor, and I'm finding out it doesn't have to be. Thank goodness for friends like you. ;)

  3. Hey there girl. I'm w/Cherie *waves*. I, too, was writing and learning writing for years before I came into blogging and twittering (and you know I don't twitter very often ... I have my morning time, and then I'm off for the day).

    You find what gives you your Zen. Because the writing is the most important thing. We all agree with you on that.

    And you KNOW that we've got your back when your book hits the shelves and you need some publicity love. :)

  4. You are absolutely right! I know how easily I can get distracted which is why I am glad that i have never joined - and don't plan to join - Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace. I technically have the 'Marian Vere' account on both Facebook and Twitter, just so that no one else can take it, but I don't use it. Maybe when I am a best selling author and need these media tools to network with my hundreds of thousand adoring fans... HA! Hey, a chick can dream right?

    Great post! Like you said, there is no need for a platform if there is no book, but it is SO easy to get that backwards!

  5. I'm still looking for an agent for my first novel and the internet can be a huge distraction, but having a blog has made a difference in one important way. Before the blog, I'd say I was a writer and then go through the song and dance of explaining what that meant when you are unpublished. Having some poetry published helped, but people still had a hard time visualizing me as a writer.

    Now, when I say I'm a writer and they ask what I write, I say I'm a published poet and a blogger who is looking for representation for my first novel. I hand them a card with my blog address on it and the vacant look I used to get disappears.

    For now, having a blog also keeps me writing. As I've been slogging through the query process, some issues with elderly family members have interruptted my life. Though it's almost impossible to handle a big project right now, with the emotional toll I'm dealing with, the need to get that blog written three times a week forces me to keep the creative juices flowing.

    Thanks for making me feel better about letting go of the platform-building in this season. I didn't have time for it anyway

  6. I have the same issue! I totally agree with everything you said. You didn't come off as a know it all just someone who is sharing their experience. I am feeling all the same things today, I'm putting everything else aside and just writing!

  7. Like you, I'm as dependent on my TV shows as Charlie Sheen is hookers. (ooh...inappropriate analogy, B!) But you're right, it's really hard to stare at a blinking cursor when there's a perfectly good, brand new episode of TRUE BLOOD just waiting on my DVR's LIST begging to be watched. I consider this my own Sophie's Choice. WIP or HBO Original Series?? How's a girl to choose?!

    Great post, friend!

  8. I find the entire "platform" thing overwhelming. I'm on Facebook because I love reconnecting with people from all parts of my life. I'm on Twitter because it's fun. I've been blogging since the beginning of time (well, for almost 10 years, which in Internet time, *is* the beginning of time). But, as you know, my blog isn't focused on any one thing. I write about running. I write about what I'm baking. I write about my family A LOT. And I write about writing and life with an agent and anything else that crosses my mind. Which apparently was fine when I was blogging for me. But now, now I'm supposed to have meaning to my blog. And I find it soooo frustrating! I LIKE blogging about my kids!

    It's something I wrestle with and, yes, I love prime time TV and I love wasting time on the Web. I have to tell you, it was such a weird feeling when my agent told me to find bloggers and the like to formulate my marketing plan. I was surfing the Web these mornings... but I was supposed to be! Mind blowing. :-)

    Just my random thoughts on the topic. :-)

  9. Great post. Social media has its advantages, but it's a huge distraction.

  10. Actually, building a platform does take years. Most estimates are about 3 years if you're working on it everyday. 100 followers isn't anything when you're trying to sell a book. I think the estimates there are something like 1% of your followers will purchase from you, but I'm not sure about that.

    Having said all of that, I now want to say that I'm not disagreeing with what you're getting at. I didn't start my blog until I had a completed manuscript. You shouldn't wait until you have an agent, though, before you start trying to build an audience. Your blog is a way to build an audience even before you have a completed manuscript; however, the audience doesn't coalesce unless there's a manuscript there.

  11. @Cheri- I would never think you're a hypocrite, you silly girl! You blog because you enjoy it and it makes you feel good!! I think that's awesome. What's strange to me are the people that do it JUST to get their name out there. I actually once read a comment from someone (on another blog) who said they stopped blogging because no one was leaving comments. If you're blogging just to get comments, then you shouldn't be doing it. When I started blogging (on my old blog, not this one), I literally had only a handful of followers (thank you Jenny Brown for being one of them, lol)--for months! A comment at all was a rare occurance, lol. Yet, I still blogged every week, because I enjoyed it!

    @Anita- finding the balance isn't so hard, it's keeping it once you find it! ;o) Some days I do good, and others . . . lol. The thing is, it has nothing to do with platform building for me, I just like socializing with my awesome new writing friends! And why do writers have to be so darn nice? I mean, you would never find a bunch of models joking and having fun with one another on Twitter!

    @Marian- Yes, Twitter is EVIL!! LOL! At first, I wasn't that into it, I kept thinking, "Why am I here?" lol. Eventually though, I started meeting some really awesome people. Because of this fact, I can't really say I regret joining, but . . . yeah, it's a HUGE distraction. You are very smart to hold off joinging ;o)

    @janesadek- Like I said above to Cherie, if you're blogging for YOU, that's all that matters. I consider blogging to be almost like a writing exercise. Like you, it keeps the creative juices flowing and it keeps my mind 'active.' These blog posts don't come easy for me. I usually write them 2-3 days before I post, so that I can edit/revise them several times before they go live. Thank you for stopping by and for your comment :o)

    @Jen- You go girl! Write away! lol! Sometimes you just have to get tough with yourself. The best thing about the writing community is that we're understanding- we've all felt overwhelmed at times, and so if someone goes 'missing' from the social networks for a day or two, we get it. ;o)

    @Bethany- lol- Sophie's Choice . . . I also have to deal with my husband who starts to feel neglected if he has to watch TV alone for too many nights in a row, so I try to take a couple of nights off a week (men are such babies! ;o). Oh, and THANK GOD for DVR!! Hmm . . . now that I think about it, I'm not sure if these books would've been written without it. ;o) Some day I'll have to include my DVR in my acknowledgements ;o)

    @Jenny- NO! Don't change your blog! I mean, where else can I read a blog about not being able to find a flask so you can drink while playing with your kids at the park? Or, about taking one for the team by eating the old gummy bears? I LOVE these posts! :o) I don't get what they mean about "meaning" either. Your blog is supposed to give readers an idea of who you are, and yours TOTALLY does that. What more could a reader want?

    @Melissa- EXACTLY! A very good way to sum it all up. Even the best of us can easily get distracted by all the bells and whistles out there. If you want to write a book though, you gotta put on the blinders ;o)

  12. @Andrew- Good points. What I was getting at, is that some people put too much focus on building an audience/platform, and not enough on their writing. If people are able to find their zen spot (like it sounds like you have), then that's awesome, but I think for a lot of writers finding that middle ground is difficult.

  13. Oh, I only wish I had found that spot. I'm 2 months late starting my sequel, because I started blogging. I mean, not only do you have to take time out of your other writing to write posts (but, at least, it's writing), but you have to read and follow other blogs if you want to have more than 2 people reading your own blog. So, yeah, I'm nowhere near balanced or even figuring out how to get there. I do know, though, that, now that I have a book, I need an audience for it, so I have to make time to do all of this, too.

  14. Angela, you're so nice. I was joking, hun. I do enjoy blogging, more than I thought I would at first. And look, I got to meet you through blogging. For me, that's an awesome reward! I mean it ;)