Twitter Dos for Writers

Like all tools, we need to use Twitter (and other social media tools) for good and not evil. As writers, we are our product. We steer the company and we have control over what we put out into the ether. Once the information is out in the wild, we lose control, but the initial message and how we communicate it is all on us. Communicate it well.

Twitter is a fabulous way to build a circle of professionals to whom you can pose questions. It is also a concise and interactive way to build relationships with your readers. If you want a list of Twitter Dont’s, read the post from two weeks ago.

How do you walk the line between building a following and pushing your product too hard? Grab a cup of your beverage of choice, sit back, and let me offer you some advice to get you started.


Have a good profile and keep your picture consistent across platforms. Your profile should not be too long or short and it should convey just enough information for people to find you. Don’t give your enitre CV or list every book you have ever written. Be concise and show your personality. My Twitter profile describes what I do, who I am, and is amusing (I think). If you use more than one social media platform, keep your picture consistent across platforms. This will help people instantly recognize that they have found the right you. After all, as an author, you are your own brand.

Use a management tool. There are many different ones to choose from, but I prefer Hootsuite. The free version does just about everything you need to control and stay on top of your different social media accounts. It allows you to schedule posts ahead of time which is especially helpful for promo tweets. Hootsuite makes it easy to keep up when people @ you or DM you and then allows you to respond quickly.

Be a human being. You are not a robot and your Twitter account should reflect the fact that you are a living breathing person who has good and bad days. Be yourself. Be funny. Interact with people. Tell jokes. Share successes and failures. Be real. People want to interact and follow people who have something to say or will share something which will enhance their day in some way. In order to be that person for someone else, you have to be real.

Schedule promo tweets to happen at different times on different days. If you share the same promo tweet every day at the same time, you are not reaching any new people and you are annoying the ones you are reaching. Use a variety of promo tweets and schedule them to happen at different times throughout the week. Be very judicious in how often you send promo tweets. Except on launch days or other special times, once a day is plenty. See the above suggestion for being a human being.

Follow people doing the same thing as you. Use the search and suggestion features to follow other writers. Follow authors you admire and tell them how much you love them. Find people with similar hobbies or researchers specializing in the topic of your next book. Better yet, find your local library or friendly librarian on Twitter and follow them. They will be tickled all shades of pink to answer your questions. Believe me. Librarians live to answer the questions of others. After you find people to follow, be a human being and talk to them.

Use the list function in Twitter. You can add people to different lists and then have those lists appear as columns in Hootsuite. The people you know IRL and the people you interact with often should be in their own list. This will enable you to read their tweets separate from the influx of tweets from others and continue to develop your relationship with them.

Be nice. I said this in my Twitter discussion of Don’ts, but I will say it again. Just be nice. Have opinions but have compassion for others and be nice. A good rule to follow is if you have constructive criticism, offer solutions to the challenge before you instead of just harsh words. We’re all in the same sea here. Just keep swimmin.’

What would you add to this list? What do you think is an essential skill or guideline to follow on Twitter?

Twitter Don’ts for Writers

My Twitter stream and online circles used to be dominated by technology folks and librarians. Over the past two or three years, I have been in the process of widening the range of people I follow on Twitter to include authors of various stripes and publishing folk. I have noticed some distressing, and often annoying trends, in some of the new people I have encountered.

This is a generalization and sweeping statement. I know. Please forgive me.

I present to you, as a public service announcement and as a plea for my own sanity, a list of Twitter Don’ts for Writers.* I will be doing to Dos in two weeks on the next Writer’s Chat.


Send auto direct messages. When I see that I have a DM from Twitter, I used to get all excited. One of my friends had a secret to share or a special message just for me. No longer. I can now almost always guarantee it is an auto spam DM from an author I just followed telling me to buy their awesome book, like them on facebook, or to send me a link to their super awesome webpage. No thanks. If I wanted to look at your super awesome website or buy your awesome books, I already did that before/when I followed you. At best, the auto DM causes annoyance. At worst, you get unfollowed.

RT everything. I too am guilty of sending more RTs than actual tweets some days, but I don’t make it a habit. There must be some writer’s groups who make this a practice (and I bet they have a name for it like “cross-promotion”) because I have noticed some groups of indie writers clog my feed on certain days. You know what my response is? Unfollow. I do not click on your links and I definitely will not be buying your books. If you do want to RT something, add a comment and make that tweet your own. And this brings me to the next item.

Tweet only book promos, yours or anyone else’s. If you take a close look at your Twitter stream and 50% or more of your tweets are book promos for your books or the books of other authors, ur doin’ it wrong. I am not saying you shouldn’t promote your books, but you should do so very sparingly. Not even everyday. As a reader, I am more likely to buy a book because I a) had a great interaction with the writer online or b) someone I respect/trust reviewed it and loved it. A great interaction is not a book promo, it is talking about something else not related to your books. Constant and overuse of RTing is not reviewing, it is spamming.

Don’t Be a Dick. Follow Wheaton’s Law and be nice. Writers can be passionate about writing because that’s what we do, get passionate about things. However, we need to control ourselves when it comes to being a dick about other people’s publishing choices when they differ from our own. Just be nice. Be happy when someone finds a publishing path which works for them and be a cheerleader not a dick.

#Over #use #hashtags #fortheloveofpete. Every time you overuse hashtags in your tweets, puppies and kittens die. Do you want to be a puppy and kitten killer?

Twitter and other social media tools are great ways of interacting with readers and connecting with other writers. Use these connections wisely and don’t make mistakes that will get you unfollowed.

What are some things people do on Twitter that make you unfollow them?

*This advice is good for Facebook as well, but I frequent that space much less often and thus am less likely to see these things there.

Making an Outline

Back when I wrote longer non-fiction, including a book on training, education, and unconferences  (shameless self promotion), I made extensive outlines including notes, quotes, and anything else I needed for the section or chapter I was working on. Transferring this process to writing fiction took some trial and error, but after taking a workshop with Rhonda Helms on plotting and GMC, I figured out a process which works for me. If Rhonda ever offers another workshop, I highly recommend it.

Having an outline keeps me focused on what my goal is for each scene and chapter. Knowing what each chapter needs to contain to move me to the next scene and chapter also keeps me from getting too long winded or wandering too far afield. An outline makes me a more efficient writer.

I start by writing one or two sentences about the following items:

  • Beginning/inciting incident
  • Turning Point 1
  • Midpoint
  • Turning Point 2
  • Black Moment
  • Resolution

If my project is about 70,000-75,000 words (my norm), then I figure out where each of the above elements fits into a chapter by chapter blank outline. For instance, the beginning is in Chapter 1, Turning Point 1 would be around Chapter 6, the Midpoint would be somewhere around Chapter 11 or 12, and so on.

The other chapters, those between the focal points of the plot, are filled in with one or two sentences describing the events which will lead my characters to the next plot point or develop them as they go along. In addition to small summaries, if I know whose Point of View I want a particular chapter in, I make note of it.

I write out the first draft of this outline by hand on a legal pad. I used to do all my GMC and plotting on my computer, but I remember details better when I write them by hand. I then transfer the written outline into a new document which then becomes my WIP. As I write each chapter, I erase the notes for that chapter and move on to the next one.

As the manuscript progresses, I will often add details, move things around, or delete entire chapters if a certain element does not take as long as I anticipated or I add elements as needed. As long as I stay within my plot points, I have wiggle room in how I get there.

I will admit that the Resolution for the last manuscript simply said, “They somehow do X and all is well” because for about half the book, I had no idea how the characters were going to solve the main external problem. I knew they would in general but the details were fuzzy.

Some writers plot with sticky notes. I adore sticky notes, but I do not have the wall space for that and I do not always write in the same room. My outline needs to be mobile. Some writers do not plot at all. They just plop their butts in a chair and start writing. You should do what works best for your style.

What does your process look like? Is it organized? Messy? Are there ways to refine your process to make it better or faster?


Beyond Goal, Motivation, and Conflict

I started plotting my fourth book last week. I know not everyone is a plotter, but I need a plan when I start that first blank page. Part of my planning process involves getting to know my main characters.

In the beginning, I did a standard electronic version of a GMC (goal, motivation, and conflict) chart. The Mid-Michigan RWA chapter has an extensive example of a GMC here (link is a PDF).

I needed something more specific than just the whys of things. I wanted to know what the whys meant in practical terms. It was fine for me to know my character was motivated by a driving need to protect others, but how does this manifest in their decisions and reactions. I added questions to my GMC chart to help flesh those things out. Before I make my plot outline, these are the questions I answer for each of my main characters:

  • What is his/her best memory?
  • What is his/her worst memory?
  • What is their secret dream?
  • What is their biggest fear?
  • What is, in their mind, the worst thing that could ever happen to them?
  • What is their external goal?
  • What is their internal goal?
  • What is their external motivation?
  • What is their internal motivation?

In addition to these questions, I make note of things as I learn them. This list sometimes includes things like what kind of family they came from, how they react to certain things or people, pet peeves they have, tics, and speech patterns.

Over time, I have moved to taking notes on legal pads instead of Google Docs and I have modified what I fill out for each character. I write these answers out by hand because the physical act of writing, as opposed to typing, helps me remember details. I copied reams of notes in college when I studied for exams.

If you want a book on this topic Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon is an excellent resource.

How do you get to know your characters?

Introducing the Writer’s Chat and Devotionals

When I first started taking workshops and reading online about the craft of writing, I was struck by how little I knew. Hooray, more learning! Like any good librarian (my career prior to children), I started researching, devouring, and testing out different methods. Librarians also loathe to keep information to themselves.

Much of the advice about the craft of writing online is “Do what is right for you” and “Follow the rules” which is closely followed by “There are no rules.” The advice usually ends with a list of books to read on craft. I longed for something grittier and practical. I want a discussion about some of the stuff I am learning. And by discussion, I mean I need to write some of this out so I can understand it better. I am a writer. It is what I do. I write to understand.

Starting tomorrow, I am going to post every other week (that is my goal, hold me to it!) on a writing topic covering something I have learned about the craft or the industry or something I have found that works for me.

On alternating weeks, I am going to continue a series I started on my family blog of devotionals for writers. They are small devotionals whirch pose questions both to you personally and to your characters. They are an alternative to understanding different aspects of your characters’ personalities outside of a standard GMC (Goal, Motivation, and Conflict) chart.

I hope you will come on this journey with me and share some things along the way.