Saturday, December 4, 2010

We're Out of Excuses by Justin W. Hedges

Bio:  Justin W. Hedges is a husband, father, grandfather, blogger, and screenwriter from Queen Creek, Arizona with every excuse in the book for not being successful:  no time to write, doesn’t live in LA, knew absolutely no one in the film community when he got started, wasn’t a 20-something up-and-comer, etc.  Despite these circumstances, Justin has two options under his belt, a large network of film community contacts, and even more on the horizon in 2011.
“If you don’t want to do something, one excuse is as good as another.” – Yiddish Proverb
I am the king of Excuses, Procrastination, and Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda.  Let’s call them the Three Kingdoms of Failure.
That pretty much sums up the first thirty-six years of my life or so.  I’d done just fine up until that point (good job, good wife, good kids, etc.) in a general sense, but accomplished very little in regards to the one career dream that had stuck with me for all that time:  to write.  Hopefully, I can help you break out of the same funk that I was in and realize that WE’RE OUT OF EXCUSES.
I can nip two of the Three Kingdoms in the bud in this one paragraph.  Procrastination?  Don’t.  It’s as simple as that.  Don’t.  Today’s working writers have one thing in common:  they make time to write everyday.  Make the time.  Shoulda-Coulda-Woulda?  Don’t.  Focusing on what you should, could, or would have done in the past serves no purpose.  Time machines don’t exist.  Deciding now, today, what you’re going to do now and in the future to achieve your writing dreams, THAT is going to accomplish something.
Excuses?  We all have them, in abundance.  Here are just a few of mine.
I’m about to turn thirty-nine years old, and “Hollywood is a young person’s game,” or so they say.  DEBUNKED:  I’ve optioned two screenplays in the past year, with excellent prospects for continued success in 2011.  Sam Rami tapped a seventy-year-old unproduced screenwriter to write his uber-successful Spider Man franchise.
Husband, father, grandfather, day job, when am I supposed to find time to write?  DEBUNKED:  I accomplish all the above AND I write every day, whether it’s getting up at 3 a.m. (as I do most days) or even if it’s just fifteen minutes in my car before work.  It’s something.  If your dream is a true passion, you’ll find the time.
I don’t know where to start.  DEBUNKED:  You start with Page One and move forward from there.  Not sure how to do that?  There are literally hundreds of books on writing everything from freelance magazine articles to novels to TV, film, and stage plays.  THEN start at Page One.
Finally, I didn’t know anyone in the filmmaking business, Hollywood, or live in LA.  DEBUNKED:  say it with me… ‘Social Media.’  The optioning of my two screenplays were opportunities created using technology and social media, without stepping one foot in LA.
I use Twitter and Facebook to network online, and what I’ve found is that the filmmaking community online is fun, friendly, and most importantly HELPFUL.
Joining the online social network at the Independent Feature Project – Phoenix led me to Inktip, a site that facilitates connections between screenwriters and producers anywhere in the world.  This led me to a Tom Malloy of Trickcandle Productions, who optioned my first screenplay, The Brickhouse.
Two key notes on this first success.  One, I have yet to meet Tom Malloy face-to-face.  Social media, not living in LA, led me to this connection.  All documents we exchanged, from the various versions of the script we went through right down to the option agreement, was via email and online fax.
The Takeaway from this:  technology and social media leveled the playing field.  I could have lived in Australia or Timbuktu, and it wouldn’t have mattered, not with the way it happened and how we made it work.
I don’t want it to sound too easy, though.  Like any success, you’re going to have to work at it.  My second option is the TRUE lesson in social media for writing success.  This is how it happened (condensed version):
I joined the Business of Show Institute’s Mentoring Program.  This is an awesome and powerful program for inexperienced screenwriters to learn the business side of screenwriting, by the way.  I asked Marvin Acuna, BOSI’s top dog, who I should be networking with on Twitter as far as other program members.  He suggested three names, including Karen Quah.
Following Karen and her blog, Modern Day Storyteller, led me to-
Julie Keck and Jessica King, the awesome screenwriting duo behind Tilt, a small budget thriller they were writing for Phil Holbrook to direct (and THAT connection was also made through social media BTW).  I donated to their Tilt crowd-funding campaign and earned myself a fake bio in Tilt the Town, an awesome little fake Brainerd, MN Google map with fake bios and locations from the movie AND from those backers who donated at the writer level, including myself and-
Tilt the Town ‘mayor’ Paul Barrett, a film producer from the east coast.  Let’s connect the dots here:  Marvin Acuna in LA to Karen Quah in I-Don’t-Know-Where to Julie and Jessica in Chicago, IL to Phil Holbrook in Brainerd, MN to me in Queen Creek, AZ and finally Paul Barrett in North Carolina.  All connected via social media.
Paul Barrett and I took the fun aspect of Tilt the Town and ran with it, igniting a ‘war’ between us over GARDEN GNOMES of all things and whether they should be ‘allowed’ in town.  This little fake war of words led to a friendship and Paul requesting to read some of my work.  He loved the script I sent, Brutal Planet, and decided he wanted to option it and market it to his contacts in the film community who produce these kinds of high-budget movies.
The Takeaway:  uh, duh, Social Media not only levels the playing field, it shrinks the entire damn planet down to the size of your computer screen.  The connections that led to my second option LITERALLY span the continental US from coast to coast, and I didn’t have to leave the house to do it.
I’ve had other social media successes, too, like building relationships with Joke and Biagio, the producing team behind VH1’s Scream Queens and the coming Dying To Do Letterman documentary, and filmmaker Angelo Bell, writer/director/producer of Resurrection of Serious Rogers.  These relationships have led to mutually expressed desires to work together and active pursuits of projects to accomplish that.
Bottom line, we’re out of excuses.  Too old, no time, don’t know how, don’t live in the right place, they’re ALL gone.  No more excuses, people.  It’s the 21st century and the sky is the limit.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Twitter Cheat Sheet for Writers by Robert Lee Brewer

If you're new to Twitter, it can be difficult to grasp all the lingo and etiquette.  Robert Lee Brewer, a gifted poet, father, husband and editor at Writer's Digest, wrote a post offering Twitter advice to share with the Writer's Digest Community and generously allowed us to link it here.

Twitter Cheat Sheet for Writers

Robert has mastered the Twitter world, often leading chats ranging from how to get published to the intricacies of writing poetry.

Check out his blog, My Name is Not Bob, and show your support for his tips.

Thanks, Robert!

Friday, October 15, 2010

No Room for Selfishness in Networking

Today, I wrote a post for my blog entitled Succeed by Giving.  

The message: You'll get much farther in life by giving than taking.... offline as well as online.

Read the full post here.  

Now go forth and GIVE! 


Sunday, September 5, 2010

How Social Media Saved My Life (and other wild claims) by Jonathan Peace

NOTE: this article assumes a small understanding of how these things work to save me (and word space) having to explain them. If you don't understand the social media forms mentioned, take time to find out. They could save YOUR life!

When that bastard with the cigar and the magic dust hadn't come to sprinkle it over my latest creative exercise there were only two things to do. However, I'd already drunk all the Stella Artois in the house so I did the other instead. I turned on the Internet, and what captured my attention weren't cute videos of kittens licking mirrors, hot lesbians licking other hot lesbians or even moronic skateboard surfers crushing their nuts on stepped railings.

What saved my life was a blue bird.

I call him Maurice, but you all know him better as simply Twitter and let me tell you that without his pre-Avatar blueness shining through every day for the last year I would have either: A) Gone stir crazy B) Become a Drunk C) Become a stir crazy Drunk or worse still D) Given up on my dream of being a screenwriter.

Every day I could jump on to Hootsuite (not a novelty sofa but a sort of command and control centre for Twitter streams) and throw the shit with fellow writers. Some were rookies like me, some had a little experience and some were fucking famous.

Lesson #1: Everyone was a rookie at some point. This was apparent almost immediately by the sharing of stories. The similarity to my own circumstance was dazzling: a decision made to go for it, the ridicule of others who don't understand the burning need to write stories. The highs of finishing a draft, the lows of rejection. The mistakes made and the lessons learnt. All of these stories were swopped by new and old alike with no ego, no arrogance. Just a willingness to 'pass it on'.

Lesson #2: Writers seem to be a very generous, open bunch of crazy people. I found the perfect community in #scriptchat. Said bunch of generous, open crazy people all pushing each other to achieve a common goal: a produced script or two. No ego, no competition, no “better not tell them that in case they rip me off” paranoia. I've read peoples scripts, they've read mine and never once have I worried that they might stab me in the back.

And why? Because that's not what Twitter is about. At least not with the folks I met. And I've met a load. My current Follower count is nearing 800, while I follow nearly 200 screenwriters, film producers, studios and various writers guilds. Each one has given me some great advice, and I hope I've given something back too whether it be advice, a friendly 'ear' or just plain entertainment. It's a social site after all. Not just about the work.

But it is this spirit of openness and support that has opened many a door for me. I got my first paid writing assignment thanks to the network of friends all under Maurice's giant wing span. I had help in writing my query letters which got me requests to read my scripts every time I sent one out. I learnt the importance of being WGA registered and now “Deadline” has that little number (#1455873 in case you wondered).

But it has taken time and that is an important lesson to realise as soon as possible. Even before your first Tweet is launched from the nest. You can't – you mustn't – expect to start generating a great network overnight. You have to engage. Be more than just a random voice. The best advice I can give: be yourself. Don't Tweet what you hope people want. Don't self censor. People pick up quickly if you're being fake. If you curse, so fucking what? You're not shooting anyone or selling crack. Welcome to the real world folks. People occasionally swear. It doesn't make them a bad person, it also doesn't mean their work might be tainted. If you're a producer looking for scripts and are put off by vibrant language then obviously my work is not for you. Great! Saved some postage there.

My Twitter birthday was 16 August 2009. I am now 1 in Twitter years, and doing pretty well. I've made some good friends. I found my soulmate through Twitter, a woman who shares my dreams, both creative and personal. I got a paid writing gig. I got Tom Cruise following me (Ok, he also follows another 23'000+ people but it's Tom fucking Cruise!). I have been asked to write two online articles. Only yesterday I got an email from a major film studio asking if my scripts were suitable for low budget independent film. Things are starting to happen for my screenwriting career thanks in no small part to that little blue bird.

I call him Maurice, but I think he might be God.


HOW SOCIAL MEDIA SAVED MY LIFE (and other wild claims)

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Social Media Fear Monster

Fear is a funny thing. It usually crops up when it’s least welcome, and stays just long enough to keep you from doing something important, before dissipating like the morning fog, only to return when you’re driving at night. Fear is a fickle mistress that most of us serve more than once in our lives, often needlessly. I can openly admit that my foray into Social Media has been accompanied with a significant amount of fear, and I’ve been working hard to overcome this fear. The fear that my tweets aren’t interesting (I try to maintain a 50-50 level – if half of them are interesting, I win.) The fear that someone will misinterpret an @mention, and I’ll be blacklisted from ever working in the industry because I’m afraid of turtles and they were a turtle in their past life (there’s a HUGE amount we don’t know about the people we’re tweeting at). The fear that I’ll make a big fat spelling error (done) and misuse my punctuation SO badly that no one will ever read another script from me. The fear monster that lives inside me is ravenous and irrational with a +56 self doubt shroud. I’ve tried several techniques to combat the fear monster, but they all have varied side effects, and occasional residual scarring.

First I tried succumbing to the fear and keeping quiet. The idea was that my absence would simultaneously make me mysterious, whilst also causing waves of desperation from all those who were surely basking in my droppings of daily wisdom. However, it seems no one’s existence was shaken when they didn’t hear whether I chose the apple fritter or the blueberry muffin, or how many times I saw Inception that weekend. My absence did not bolster my mystique, it just made people forget about me.

I decided to use external substances to combat my fear of tweeting. Unfortunately, one too many mojitos plus copious tweets only results in two advil, a severe case of tweeter’s remorse, and a flurry of Direct Message apologies to anyone who may have been online at 3:07 AM that night. Again. Very. SORRY!

Next I decided to try and find a digital “look”. Just like writers in LA all wear Chuck Taylors and casual blazers, (right? Yup, I see you in the corner slipping your shoes off!) and Flavor Flav never leaves home without his clock, I needed something to distinguish me. Why couldn’t I apply the same principle to Twitter? I could be the girl with the Simpson’s character as her avatar. Just like all my friends. Wait, what?! Ok then, I could be the writer who only tweets in poetry. But nothing rhymes with “Pint of Stella” except “bread with Nutella”, and we all know the rules about food tweeting, so I’m screwed there. It seemed every “digital look” had already been taken, or would be way too labour intensive to keep up.

This brings me to now. I have no theory. No battle plan. I just go into every day and tweet and facebook and blog. I tweet at people who I KNOW will never tweet back. I talk about things that are sometimes completely uninteresting. I run silly logline contests to save me from customer service suicide. Sometimes there is backlash. Often I ruffle feathers (more often than not, my own) but still, I forge ahead. I have made some great contacts, some wonderful friends, and some very interesting assumptions all due to Social Media. I may not have a battle plan, but I definitely get +5 stamina every time I look back and see where I’ve come.

-- You’ll have to excuse the gamer references, I’m uber geek this week --

What I want now is to hear your best and worst Twitter stories. How have you conquered The Fear Monster? Or maybe you don’t have one, and you tweet with pride and courage every time? Has Social Media gotten you into trouble? Has it advanced your career? What is the most ridiculous/awesome/embarrassing/scary thing that’s ever happened to you because of Twitter, Facebook, Blogging, or any other form of Social Media?

Hey, @JaneEspenson came to #Scriptchat, so we all know anything is possible!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

From Tweeter to Radio Guest to Coaching Writers... You Name It, Social Media Can Make It Happen

Today I was a guest on my first blogtalkradio show… a first of hopefully many.  How did I get this opportunity?  Twitter. 

I met Deb Ecklerling on Twitter a few months back, and we immediately clicked.   The synergy of her website, Write On Online, and ours is perfect, so we thought we’d lend each other a hand. 

First, I wrote a post for her site: Write On Along: Advice from the Experts – From Writer to Tweeter

Then yesterday, she asked me to be her guest on her blogtalkradio show she hosts with Marla Martenson, called Dream It, Then Do It.   We talked Twitter, writer insecurities, and yes, I even managed to bring up tequila.  Marla and Deb (shown right) and so fun, the time flew by!

Check out my appearance HERE.   Disclaimer: I sound 12.  Just sayin’.

But here’s some other VERY exciting news for all us writers who are floundering trying to figure out how the hell to make money at this (and I include MYSELF in that mix):

Deb is launching a new service as a coach for writers!  Her new site is Write On Track LA, but you don’t need to live in LA to get her help. 

Basically, she’ll have a one-on-one call with you to find out what your writing goals are, then offer advice on how to reach them, as well as follow-up calls to keep you on track.  

As some of you know, I’m a BIG fan of getting a professional’s help, be it for script consulting or career consulting.  Let’s face it, we can’t often see the forest through the trees.   So, if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to feel alone in your career path, give Deb a jingle.

And don’t forget, you’re never alone on Twitter.  We follow you everywhere – mwhahaha.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Year Down the Rabbit Hole.

I've been using Twitter for over a year now. Do you know where it's gotten me? EVERYWHERE! Do you know where else it's gotten me? NOWHERE. Let me explain.

The benefits:

Twitter has created a whole new realm for me. I have a writing community to fall back on now - Scriptchat whut?! - They encourage me, challenge me, keep me accountable, and make sure I'm alive when I work so many double shifts in a week that my web presence goes from 120 to 2 in t-minus ten seconds. I have access to insights from people working in the dream spots, like Jane Espenson, John August, Diablo Cody. Sometimes one of them will even throw you a digital bone and drop in on a Scriptchat evening, or maybe someday join all us crazy Canucks (and non-Canuck friends) when we have a GLUSH party for an awards show.

Twitter has won me one of my closest writing friendships thus far, and given me an easy way to contact people I respect, locally, without being invasive. It's also won me two free reads, and a whole lot of blog traffic. Twitter has opened the door to a whole new way to network. It's a pre-introduction, if you will, to the people I am not near and dear enough to, to meet in person. I may only be a name and an avatar for the moment, but when I walk into that writer bar in Toronto, or into screenwriter karaoke in LA, buy a pitcher and say "Hi, I'm Rachel Langer" I KNOW that a few people will know at least a part of who I am.

The downside:

Twitter makes it REALLY easy to hide. I can hide behind my keyboard. I hide behind my avatar picture when my straightener breaks or I am having eyelinerFAIL. I hide behind my cheeky remarks or retweet other people's gems when I am having an off day. I can network from the comfort of my hoodie and striped pajama pants.

Derek and I recently went to a gala for a short film competition that we didn't quite get into. The films were great, and the evening was awesome. My networking skills on the other hand? RUSTY. I almost wished I could communicate with everyone in the room via my iPhone. I know that's a little overboard, but I really had to work to remember the codes of conduct that sometimes I forget exist in "the biz". Fortunately I had some great people looking out for me, and we muddled through.

The point:

...of what I am trying to say is just this. Twitter (and social media in general) is an invaluable tool. As a newbie or an experienced writer, you have access to so much that just isn't available without wifi. It can open doors, windows, and occasionally knock down a full on brick wall. It is yet another stairway to the infamous doorway "in" to the business. What it isn't? A substitute for real life. It cannot teach you how to interact in person, and don't be fooled, there will ALWAYS be that kind of interaction as a writer. Twitter cannot make your life happen, it can only facilitate your skill set in a different way. Allow social media to be another gateway to connecting with writers, friends, and finding your voice. One entrance to the Stargate, if you will. Just don't forget your map back to YOUR reality. The tangible life where you eat sleep and drink. The tangible and the digital you are only parts of a whole. The two pair just like a cab sauv and porterhouse steak. DELICIOUS. I wonder what will come next to be the cheesecake?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

We're Everywhere (Almost)

I came across this excellent post listing all sorts of Social Media sites and their various uses. A common misconception about SM is that all of the facilitation platforms are the same and can achieve the same functions. This is a definite myth. There are many sites that can be used for various functions, and can often even compliment each other. Jeanne and I use Twitter religiously, and it facilitates traffic to this blog, we've also started a network on NING, which you should all join! Many bloggers use flickr to show off their photos. Experimenting with the different formats of Social Media can be time consuming, but its like unlocking trophies on your PS3, it feels SO good.

In addition to this blog, you can currently find us on:


..and eventually many more!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Be Your Own Brand - But Tell Us About It!

Once I was once just a voice in the crowd. Now I am my own brand.

This is the power of Twitter and social media. It used to be that branding oneself was done in a boardroom full of high powered executives with all the money, all the resources and all the Armani this side of the Atlantic. Your brand was chosen for you based on what would sell, and how easily you could slither into those leather pants in that high powered Cola-sponsorship ad.

Well my friends, the times they are a-changing.

It is no longer just pop stars and fast cars that have the accessibility to brand themselves. Thanks to social media, we all have that choice. It may take a lot of leg work and a little pizazz, but each of us now has access to a platform which allows us to choose how we present ourselves to the world. As a writer, I now have the opportunity to show you who I am, allow you some insight into my world, or tell you a story. Not only can I brand myself any way that I choose, I can create a new brand if I don't like any of the existing products!

Perhaps I'm waxing philosophical here, so I'll try to bring it in. What I'm getting at is that we are interested in hearing your Social Media love stories. How has Social Media changed your life? How has Twitter provided direct success? Motivation? Community? We want to to hear your firecracker of a story, your fail-whale of a tale. Tell us how you fell in love with Twitter, or what Social Media has done for you lately. Tell us what your dreams are for the future.

If you would like to write a guest post for this blog on how Social Media has changed your life, please email us at we can provide you with a topic to write about, or if you have an amazing tale that is dancing on the tip of your tongue, let us know. We can't wait to hear from you!

Social Media and the Creatives by David Spies

If you’re one of the millions navigating the social media highway, there’s no definitive route. Social media is ever-expanding. Think the “Big Bang Theory” with a bazillion “1’s” and “0’s”.

Now think about the content you have to offer your potential audience... It can get a little overwhelming. That’s why it is best to have a social media plan to help you navigate the many different media outlets that are available. Have you claimed your handle (company name/personal name) on various social networks? Here’s a great tool (NameChk) that lets you see if your name is available.

It’s definitely a good idea to secure your name/company brand name on the various social networks that are currently available. This will ensure that you have a wide-ranging platform to get your message out there.

Social media and the ever-expanding list of social media platforms lend itself to creative entrepreneurs searching for the audience they deserve. Writers, screenwriters, filmmakers and authors around the world are embracing social media for the outlet that it provides. Social media sites allow millions of people from all backgrounds the access to present and share their work with the world. People can connect with individuals, sign up in groups with a similar interest of study, and join discussions to share ideas. The possibilities are limitless.

If you’re an individual that likes to take charge and have basic knowledge of websites/html, a blog is another great way of sharing your ideas and talent with the world. In addition to providing updated posts to your own blog, many bloggers welcome feedback and comments on their posts as well. When it comes to sharing ideas of inspiration and knowledge, it’s a two-way street. If you find that someone has taken the time to not only read your material, but has also provided feedback or a comment, it’s a social media common courtesy to reciprocate with some form of communication.

Whether you’re ramping up a social media platform for a new book, a screenplay, or you just finished a short movie, you’ll have to apply your brand image into your communications. Once you start communicating material to your audience, you’ll want to ensure that your messages are clear and concise.

Think of social media as your neighbor. You may see them every day, or even better, they may see you. My point is you don’t necessarily have to have a strategy plan to execute every single piece of information. Just be yourself. Being able to recognize the long-term value in relationships is the key to securing a good name for yourself in the social network you create.

Social media provides people the opportunity to connect with individuals they never would have if it were not for the Internet. You may find yourself conversing with many different people from all backgrounds and skill sets. You may even receive praise or a note of encouragement from a celebrity. Believe me, this does happen. One thing that you want to always practice is professionalism. Treat others how you would like to be treated, with respect.

It’s been almost a year since I started my twitter account. In this last year, I’ve made numerous contacts in the writing community, the film industry and various other industries across the globe. It has been a wonderful, learning and growing experience.

In the last two years, I’ve written two feature-length screenplays and one sitcom pilot. This year I decided to enter a couple of screenwriting contests. I’ve entered my recently completed feature-length comedy (Film Festival) into Scriptapalooza and after a careful and calculated rewrite; I’ve also entered my horror screenplay (Sasquatch the Movie) in the BlueCat Screenplay competition. In addition to being a practicing screenwriter, I’ve built and maintain a screenwriting blog at:

I enjoy sharing my knowledge and the articles I write with other writers and the many creative’s that visit my blog. I’ll continue to dedicate the time I have to write and share my inspiration and thoughts with the world.  

What social media means to me: connecting with people, forging friendships, helping others.
      David L. Spies (@davidspies

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Twittastic! The Evolution of a Love Language.

Since I became a Twitter junkie a little over a year ago, I've had to learn yet another new language. Technically, I'm mono-lingual in the traditional sense. Yes, I can ask where the bathroom is in both French and Spanish, but conversationally I only speak English without embarrassing myself. In the online world, however, where I can exist with my avatars as a reflection my residual self-image (thank you Morpheus), I speak several languages, and Twitter is one of them.

With the rise in popularity of social media, almost everybody knows the common words and phrases. "Status Update" "follower" "tweet" but once you truly immerse yourself in the culture of the social media forum of your choice, you begin to notice common trends, abbreviations, words, and even punctuation that can nuance 140 characters with all manner of meanings and subtext. One of my favourite trends is that of hashtagging for emphasis. If you've checked out either mine or Jeanne's feeds, you will notice we both make use of this device frequently. The original purpose of a hashtag was to create an instant link that can be used to follow a topic. For example, if I were to tweet this:

"I'm so excited to watch #TeamCanada play in the #Olympics today"

You would be able to click on both "TeamCanada" and "Olympics" and bring up all tweets that have those words tagged with a #. A few of us have chosen to take this idea a little bit further, using a hashtag to emphasize even the most obscure word combinations, in order to prove a point. For example:

"I've been working on this scene for six hours. #NewbieWriterFAIL."

Technically this defeats the purpose of tagging a common thread and adding your thoughts to the collective. It does, however, create a cheeky way to add a subtext to an otherwise boring tweet, and if you use Twitter like I do, to ask your community for assistance without having to phrase a direct question. If I were to tweet this, I could guarantee I'd get at least two or three replies and possibly a direct message from my writing community asking what I was struggling with and if they could help.

My point is, don't be afraid to immerse yourself in a culture even if you don't understand it right off the bat. If you can handle yourself with an open mind, it will always be worth your while. If there are any questions regarding Twitter Lingo in the future, I'm sure Jeanne and myself would be happy to translate wherever possible.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Upon hearing the word “Twitter,” I recoiled.  What is a tweet?   Who has time to tweet?  Why would a serious writer ever participate in such nonsense?  I had to find out.

Last July, I started my Twitter account, and my life as a writer has forever changed.   My name is Jeanne, and I’m a tweetaholic. 

What is Twitter? Simply put, it’s a worldwide network.   We writers are often quarantined, hunkering down in cluttered home offices, strumming away on our keyboards, not seeing another human, or shower, for days.  Twitter brings a support system right to your computer screen.  Luckily, they can’t see your dirty hair.

There I was with a grungy mane and a shiny new Twitter account.  I timidly poked around.  One of my first finds was a writing chat, called WriteChat.  Here, I met a gaggle of writers who held my newbie hand.  Their support was astounding.   No longer was I alone at my isolated desk in the country.

A tweet is similar to a text message.  People connect by the voice expressed in 140 characters.  Certainly, some judge by the profile picture, but most writers associate with the voice.  The character limitation has challenges, but it’s a lesson for writers in editing.  Be effective in fewer words.  I can hear editors applauding.

Chats are only part of the value.  People tweet links to informative articles and blogs.  Editors, publishers, and agents post their tips throughout the day.   Rachelle Gardner was the first literary agent I met on Twitter and has a blog offering endless advice for writers.   True, some agents aren’t as gracious, but even that has value.   Seeing an agent’s personality, allows us to find a better fit for our own.  It’s easier to query an agent you’ve seen as a person, not just a gatekeeper.  This kind of access is priceless, yet on Twitter, it’s free.

Not sold yet?

On Twitter, I’ve met writers who have gotten contracts with agents, invitations to participate in anthologies, found editors-for-hire, and even a Dutch writer, posting her blog in English to share with her Twitter community.   We read each other’s work and provide feedback with encouragement.  Let’s be honest: often our own families can’t supply that. 

Generosity is abundant.  I’ve witnessed writers recommend others to their agents for representation.  Even smaller gestures make a difference though.  One of my followers encouraged me to stop procrastinating and start a blog.   With his advice, and one short day, my blog went live.  He tweeted my link as a high-five of support.   When one of us succeeds, we all have hope.

Tweets aren’t solely professional.  Followers become friends.  One day, I posted my sorrow regarding a friend who died.  The outpouring of love and support took my breath away.  Later, when I blogged about my friend’s death, Best Selling author, J.T. Ellison, stumbled upon it.  As a thank you, she mailed the first three novels in her series.  We became fast friends. 

Another highlight has been the creation of ScriptChat, a chat for screenwriters.  Jamie Livingston, Zac Sanford, Kim Garland, Mina Zaher and I are the founders.  The chat’s success has been astounding.  One of our regular participants, Clive Davies-Frayne, is adapting his screenplay, SMOKE, as a novel, sharing his journey.  As a result, many novelists are now trying their hand at screenwriting.

Script Magazine’s West Coast Editor, Joshua Stecker, found Scriptchat and offered to give free subscriptions as prizes.  Joshua also joined my writing partner, Douglas Blackmon, and me for lunch to discuss our adaptation.  You can’t imagine our surprise when he asked if we’d consider guest blogging on the magazine’s site.  The opportunities for connections via Twitter are endless, as are the success stories.

However, not all people succeed on Twitter.  Some use it as a procrastination tool.  Others get too social and forget they came to network.  Yet, with a few simple guidelines, you can develop a community of talented, helpful writers to nurture you and your craft.

Do’s and Don’ts:

1. Show your personality, not just your projects.  People want to work with someone they like.
2. Tweet helpful advice, articles and websites.
3. Interact with people, including the professionals.  Pretend you’re at a cocktail party with conversations going on around you.  Join in. 
4. Pimp your fellow writer, meaning tell your followers about them.  Read their blog. Comment.  Tweet it out. 
5. Have a website or blog linked to your profile to show your voice beyond 140 characters.
6. Be creative in your bio.  Don’t simply put “writer.”  Show your layers.
7. Join Twitter writer chats.  Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s site has a complete list: 
8. Attend agent chats and follow topics where agents, editors, and publishers offer advice.
9. If you have a question or a new blog post, tweet it at different times of day to catch more people online.
10. View Twitter as a part-time job. Dedicate one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening to start your following.  You get out what you put in.

In case you still aren’t convinced of Twitter’s value, Writer’s Digest publisher, Jane Friedman, met me on Twitter, invited me to a Writer’s Digest party, and asked me to write an article on Twitter's value.  If that doesn’t prove Twitter’s worth, I don’t know what will.

The writer’s quarantine of solitude is lifted.  Twitter is your water cooler. 

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