GIFs of happy dances and high fives will be trending on twitter this week as school goes back for the year. I will be joining other writers with children in breathing a collective sigh of relief and hoping that my writing flow will quickly return to normal. But a new school year brings with it intensive reading, writing and arithmetic. My children are learning their Three Rs in an increasingly technological world. They won’t know what it’s like to not be answered at the swipe of a finger (and thanks to Siri – these days they don’t even have to lift their finger). But what about me? I learnt the Three Rs the ‘old fashioned’ way – notebooks, pens and chalkboards. Phones were still attached to walls by wires and there was nothing ‘smart’ about them. I joined social media a mere six months ago, but it’s already had a major impact on my Three Rs. Are any of these familiar to you?
Clickbait sucks. Faced with a daily onslaught of catchy headlines that scream ‘read me!’ there’s nothing more annoying than wasting precious reading time on useless websites. And I’ve clicked through enough of those in the past six months to be grateful for possessing quick comprehension skills. I.e. figuring out when a post is there just so adverts can be plastered all over it.
Having said that, I have read some of the most beautiful, inspiring blogs from writers at different stages of their journeys – sharing their successes, failures and dreams with anyone in the world who is interested. It has surprised me how connected I feel to these writers, even though I don’t know them beyond the virtual world. Reading their blogs has encouraged me to think that, hey, I can do this too!
One of the blogs I particularly enjoy following is Louise Allen’s Writers in the Attic series, where she features lots of different writers on the topic of what writing means to them. Check it out if you’re looking for writing inspiration. Also, Louise is definitely doing something right – her first book is due to be published by Allen & Unwin later this year.
If you’re after a humorous writing blog (which also addresses serious topics), have a look at Robin Elizabeth’s blog Write or Wrong – Uninspiration for the Uninspired. It’s very entertaining!
As well as reading numerous blogs, I have also altered my book-reading habits. I used to leave the local library with armfuls of books, but these days I am more conscious of buying Australian books and supporting my local bookstore. Via social media I learnt about the Books Create Australia campaign. I’m doing my best to promote and support Australian authors (and libraries still come in useful for overseas imports…)
Sure, interacting on social media eats into my reading time, but it also makes it easier to choose books. I keep in mind book recommendations and no longer waste time on unsatisfying reads. This probably explains the ratings I give on my Goodreads shelf.
This article comes courtesty to you of The Australian Writing Centre (AWC). Moments after experiencing the lightbulb ‘I have to become a writer‘ moment, I stumbled across the AWC site and couldn’t hand over my credit card details fast enough when I learnt of a creative writing course about to commence near my home in Perth. Over several weeks, the fabulous Natasha Lester changed my world. (If you haven’t heard of Natasha, then you’ve been living under a rock and missing out on her amazing books and writing workshops). I still cringe when I think of the ‘chicken funeral scene‘ that I wrote for her. I recall Natasha laughing as I read it out in class, but that could be for reasons other than it being genuinely funny. I’ve thought about resurrecting it one day for a future blog post… Just to prove how far I’ve come. But I digress.
AWC and their So You Want To Be a Writer podcast was responsible for introducing me to social media. There I was, writing a novel that was sure to become a best seller (I tell myself that when the doubts start creeping in), and Val and Al finally got their message through. Writers need to be linked into social media. Some may consider it a self-promotion tool, but for me it’s a way of connecting with others who share a passion for reading and writing. Daily communication with my writing tribe makes the writing process a little less isolating and provides an endless source of helpful information. (Thank you Sarah Fiddelaers for your time-saving FB and Pocket hacks!)
I would definitely say that social media has improved my writing. A lot. Twitter is perfect for honing editing skills. Having to express a thought using only 140 letters, characters or spaces in a tweet is perfect training for the culling of extraneous words. And if you’re still reading this post (thank you), you can rest assured I’ve already cut an eye-watering amount of words out of it.
According to Jayson DeMers’ post: 6 social media practices that boost SEO, writing good quality web content is one of the most important things when building your brand and increasing your reach across social media. I look at writing quality web content as being worthwhile practice for my novel writing, rather than hindering it.
I was hopeless at maths in school; english – not a problem. It was straight As all the way. But even Maths IV was stretching it at times as far as numbers and I were concerned. Social media has told me that I have a snowball’s chance in hell of earning a living by writing. As I read those tweets my mind goes la, la, la, la, sounds like maths. But it’s too late anyway. I’ve already caught the writing bug and factoring in the numbers doesn’t come into it (until hubby finds out about my creative accounting system for purchasing books and writing courses).
Annabel Smith, a published and respected Perth author, wrote a blog post last year titled How Much Do Writers Earn? She presents this topic candidly and shares a graph representing her own earnings to reinforce the point. She states ‘I’m not in this game for the money’. I couldn’t agree more, but it’s disappointing that such talent is so poorly compensated.
Arithmetic and social media come together when ranking an ‘author brand’ in the googlesphere. This is explained quite well in the 6 social media practices that boost SEO link that I mentoned earlier. These are numbers I can understand. Basically, the more numbers of followers you have, the better your rankings and the likelihood of your ‘brand’ getting out there. Provided you are interactive and consistent, that you haven’t bought a bunch of proxy twitter or Instagram followers, and that you post quality content (writer Kristen Lamb comes to mind here. She’s a master at the game and provides thought provoking content – 55,200 blog followers couldn’t be wrong). Remember, Google is able to detect the quality of your followers, as well as your numbers. Slowly building organic, quality connections is the way to go.
To earn an A+ in arithmetic on social media, you need to encourage sharing (and of course share other people’s content). Obviously, the more people who share your content to twitter or facebook, or link to or reblog your post, or repost your amazing photos on Instagram, the more new followers you’re likely to gain. It is a self-perpetuating cycle. The more followers you gain, the more shares you’re likely to get and so on. I prefer this type of snowball to the snowball’s chance in hell of earning income as a writer!
So let’s see if my math has improved since high school. Feel free to use those little sharing bottoms at the bottom of this post, or you can simply press my ‘like’ button and comment. How about you? Has social media changed your Three R’s? Do you cringe about embarrassing writing you’ve presented to a well-known author? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
(Photos shared courtesy of free stocks.org)