Friday, January 23, 2015

Make a Difference in the Writing Community

Most authors at one time or another have dreamed of taking the writing world by storm with a breakout bestselling novel. I’m sure most of us still harbor hope this will happen. Regardless of sales or monetary success, we can still make a difference in the writing community. Whether you’re published or still writing your first novel, you can make a huge impact. Here’s how:
  1. Make connections. I recently read an excellent blog post by Susan Toy that discusses online connections and engagement. When it comes to Twitter and blog followers, some people mistake quantity for quality. Would you rather have 100 followers who regularly visit and comment on your blog, or 1000 followers you never hear from again? A huge number of Twitter followers or Facebook Page likes might look good on paper, but what does it really mean if you aren’t making connections with people? Visit blogs and leave thoughtful comments that add value to the conversation. Join a non-promotional writer’s group on Facebook. There are many ways to make real connections online that will have a positive impact on your life and on the lives of others.
  2. Be a friend. Some of your new connections might become friends. I treasure my online friendships. There are people I chat with on Facebook or email back and forth with every single day. These people have been there for me through thick and thin. I dearly love the family I was born into, but my online family of writers has kept me sane. In some cases, my online friendships have evolved into phone calls, mailing Christmas cards internationally, and even face-to-face meetings. Forging friendships with other authors is essential. Just remember: To make a friend, you have to BE a friend. Being a friend means helping each other out in a mutually beneficial way. It doesn’t mean swapping reviews or telling your friend what they want to hear when they ask you to critique their book. It means giving honest but compassionate advice, lending an ear when your friend is having a bad day, or celebrating your friend’s success.
  3. Spread joy. Share a Facebook post, retweet a Tweet, reblog a post. Share an indie’s new release. You don’t have to start your own promotional blog, but there are many things you can do to help your fellow writers. Just liking or commenting on their blog post means the world to them, especially if they’re new and still struggling to gain a following.
  4. Be positive. We all go through tough times. No one is happy all the time. The majority of your tweets, comments, and posts should focus on the positive. We all rant and complain from time to time, but if you MUST do so, please don’t make ALL your posts negative and ranting. And, for the love of all that is holy, don’t rant about a specific author or reviewer and say, “I’m not going to name names in this post, but if you send me a private message, I’ll tell you who I’m talking about.” Not only is this unprofessional, but it isn’t very nice either.
  5. Share your knowledge and experience. Everyone is an expert at something. Writing, gardening, cooking, photography – there are probably lots of things you’re good at and/or enjoy. Share! If you have a blog, that’s the perfect place to share your knowledge. If you don’t have a blog, you can share your knowledge and experience by commenting on other blogs. Like-minded people will want to follow you or connect with you on other platforms. You might even make some new friends.
  6. Remember it’s not a competition. I’ve seen jealousy destroy relationships and reputations. Don’t let your envy lead you to do stupid, spiteful things. Other authors are not your competitors. Maybe they’re more successful than you. Maybe you feel your book is better and should be selling better than so-and-so’s book because it’s total crap. Well, guess what? That attitude will bring you nothing but heartache. Just because your book hasn’t hit the bestseller list doesn’t mean it won’t. Just because another author has a movie deal doesn’t mean you won’t get one too. Keep writing. Keep connecting with other authors. Celebrate their successes and soon they’ll be celebrating yours!
  7. Be professional. Set a high standard for yourself and for the work you create. If you can’t afford to hire an editor, enlist the help of beta readers. Self-edit until you’re certain you’re publishing the cleanest work possible. Conduct yourself with professionalism and pride, and surround yourself with others who share your values. No matter how much you know (or think you know) there’s always more to learn. Invest in yourself and your writing by making time to read, write, and learn about craft.
  8. Be careful. When you’re in the public eye, you have to be careful what you do or say. You might think you’re small potatoes, but when it comes to online activity, anyone can be famous (or infamous) very quickly. All it takes is one angry rant on Facebook, a tasteless Tweet, or an inflammatory blog post, and before you know it, everyone is talking about you – and not in a good way. I’ve seen authors fighting it out with reviewers on Kindle forums or in the comment section of a hotly debated review. I’ve seen authors naming and shaming other authors on Facebook. I’ve seen authors rant about a review on their own blog or on Facebook. If you’re angry, rant to your spouse or to a friend, but don’t take your complaints online. Never respond to a review because doing so will land you on a ‘badly behaving author’ list and invite trolls to one-star your book. If you use a little caution online, you can avoid the sort of drama and turmoil that make some authors wish they’d never published their books.
  9. Have fun. While you’re waiting for the huge publishing contract or for your self-published book to hit the bestseller list, you might as well have fun. Make friends, connect with other authors, and socialize. It’s true that too much time online can take a cut out of your writing time, but if you don’t make some time to have fun, writing can feel like a chore. So, share that Grumpy Cat picture or the cute puppy video. Join a silly conversation on Facebook. Enjoy being a writer. It’s a hell of a journey.
For me, the best part about writing has been the people I’ve met. Through this blog and through Authors to Watch, I’ve made lasting friendships that have changed my life for the better. I hope I’ve contributed to the writing community in some small way and that I’ve helped writers as much as they’ve helped me. You don’t need to be online all the time to make a difference. You don’t need a bestselling novel or even a blog to make an impact. Just a few words of encouragement or some shared experience can be life-changing for someone else. And all you have to do is be yourself and share a small piece of your uniqueness with others.

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