Back in February, I wrote my first post in the Twitter 101 for Writers series. That post covered the Twitter Writing Community hashtags writers can use to find resources for every stage of the writing journey, from getting words on the page to finding a literary agent. At that point, I had the idea that Twitter 101 could be a series, but wasn’t sure what to cover next. Then I met Abby Matthews, who was new to Twitter but trying to get up to speed fast so she could publicize her new podcast Mom Writes, featured on this blog last week. Abby asked me questions about Twitter and as I answered them, I came up with material for several more posts. This first one will be about Building Your Twitter Writing Community.
“To me Twitter is a lot of it is SNIPPETS of stuff. That’s where it loses me. I always feel like I’m eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation and it makes me totally uncomfortable. Plus, the vast majority of people I follow on Twitter are total strangers. So I’m like, WHY? Why would I want to listen anyway? I’m great at Facebook, but I think because Facebook was initially geared towards people you actually know in real life, I always felt more comfortable there.
How you turn the Twitter Writing Community from a bunch of strangers writing snippets to a group of friends who will help you along your writing journey is a complicated question. Some of my friends on Twitter I’ve met in real life and that certainly helps. Others, I’ve met through in-person or online writing conferences and we had that connection, but they would probably be gone from my life without Twitter. Then there are people who I really met through Twitter. And there’s the Winged Pen which is a whole other thing. I think the best way to show how I created my Twitter Writing Community is to give examples of how Twitter helped me build relationships of different types.
Karin Lefranc is a writing partner I met through SCBWI critique groups when I was moving to the U.S. from the U.K. She lives in the next town over from me. I already had an online critique group, but I planned to attend the New England SCBWI conference for the first time and didn’t want to walk in without knowing a soul, so I joined her local critique group. We went to the conference and learned about the Twitter writing community, and both joined. Karin and I meet for lunch and email all the time but on Twitter, we do things like “like” and retweet each other’s tweets, forward each other links to posts on writing topics that will help with our writing, and cheer for each other when there are things to celebrate, like the launch of her picture book: I WANT TO EAT YOUR BOOKS.
Karin is busy and not on Twitter a ton. We would still be pals without a much different relationship without Twitter, but for getting the word about her book out there, it definitely helped that we were Twitter friends because you can only Tweet about your own book so much. It helps to have friends to boost you.
Marty Mayberry, on the other hand, I met via Twitter. We were both following Pitch Wars four years ago. I was querying my first book without success and really needed help trying to figure out what was wrong. We met chatting about sci fi on the Pitch Wars hashtag and exchanged queries and first chapters so we’d be ready to sub to the contest. Then we exchanged entire manuscripts because we liked each other’s work and critiques. Then we exchanged subsequent manuscripts, so really, this is a Twitter friend who turned into a critique partner.
Marty has since gotten an agent and become a pitch wars mentor. She’s writing more adult and romance and less sci fi so we don’t exchange manuscripts now, but she’s killer with synopses, so I asked her to help me with one recently. I support her on Twitter by letting Pitch Wars hopefuls know that she’s awesome, and boosting Tweets on other contests she mentors (Nightmare on Query Street is coming up soon!)
I’ve never met Marty in person and because our writing has drifted apart, we would probably not have kept up our relationship without occasionally seeing each other and waving or high-fiving with likes and retweets or conversations on Twitter. For us, it’s like the water cooler for people who work in different departments, a place to bump into each other occasionally and see how each other is doing so the relationship doesn’t die.
Then there are the people who I met at WriteonCon. Marty dragged me to WriteonCon, an online writing conference that is a whole lot of things, but that year it was mostly forums where you could post your query and/or first page and/or first five pages and let people critique them and go and critique theirs. It was both crazy and a whole lot of fun! You could tell the people who were “your people” b/c they overlapped in genre or category and b/c their words and critiques spoke to you. After WriteOnCon, Julie Artz, suggested we form a Facebook group, The Fellowship of the Winged Pen. Members of that group later started this blog.
Even though we all email each other manuscripts for critique and have a private Facebook group to chat behind the scenes, we all chat on Twitter too. We celebrate getting agents and book deals, we boost Tweets to get them noticed, we send out links to posts that are relevant to our writing, and we just chat about topics that are trending. Some of the folks are agented and mentors for Pitch Wars, so they need to be “out there” growing a following, and it’s easier to do that if you are not just pushing your own content, but by sharing stuff you think is interesting and have friends who boost your reach.
Then, there are people like Jennie Nash, the founder of Author Accelerator, a Book Coaching company, whose posts I’ve retweeted because I think they are well written and relevant to other writers on the journey to publication. I read Jennie’s newsletter, and one day she asked for people interested in helping to get the word out about a new podcast she was involved in, Mom Writes (bringing me full circle to how I met Abby!) I never expected my relationship with Jennie Nash to extend beyond Twitter, but it’s cool that it has.
The key thing is that if you are just Tweeting out into the universe, it will feel like a black hole where no one is listening. But if you tweet things you think are interesting or that will help your Twitter Writing Community (even when it is still small and “community” might feel like an exaggeration!), it helps all of you and helps you grow your community.
This takes time. Time reading posts and figuring out who knows what they are talking about. But taking this approach of building my Twitter Writing Community helped me meet the people who wanted to create this blog, which I could never have done on my own. And it gave me the base of 3000 Twitter followers (of Winged Pen, not me), so I could offer Jennie and Abby help getting the word out about their podcast and add some more cool folks to my Twitter Writing Community. So serendipitous? Or a natural outcome of finding your community on Twitter and being willing to help (and get a good story for your blog!)?
To sum up, here are my tips for Building Your Twitter Writing Community. Look for people who:
- Write in the same category and/or genre who you might want to exchange manuscripts with,
- Share advice that can help you get to the next level in your writing journey, and
- You’ve met in person and might not otherwise be able to stay in touch with.
Keeping in touch with these people on Twitter and off will all add up to a writing community to help you get where you want to go, boost you when you get rejections, and celebrate when you get wins.
DO YOU HAVE OTHER SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO BUILD A TWITTER WRITING COMMUNITY? OR QUESTIONS ON HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF TWITTER AS A WRITER? If so, leave them in the comments below!
REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She on Twitter at @RebeccaJ_Allen and contributes to TheWingedPen.com.