Tuesday, August 13, 2013

An Introverts' Guide to Social Media

My kind of writing space: devoid of people!

I didn't realize I was an introvert growing up. Sure, I knew I felt energized by time alone, while my siblings craved social interaction. I was much happier living in my own off-campus apartment in college than the year I spent in a quad dorm room. But it wasn't until I had kids that I realized how introverted I am truly am. Suddenly someone wanted my attention 24/7, wanted to touch me and talk to me and generally make me do something besides think my beautiful thoughts. That is a challenge for me. Getting up, leaving the house, interacting with people takes a lot of energy for me - energy I'd rather devote to my creative side.

That's why my writing time is so sacred. After spending all morning reacting to what's going on around me, I need the kids' nap time to turn inside and shut down to all that external stimuli. It's my head space.

Now, with my book deal announced (wheeee!), my quiet head space and social interactions are colliding. My number of twitter followers, Facebook likes and blog subscribers have all gone up over the last week. Real, live people know I write now and are asking me questions - questions I thought I was comfortable answering. It's all left me feeling kind of...exposed. Like my soul is laid bare.

Not that I want to change anything. It's a growth opportunity. I remember the angst I felt the first time I posted to a pitch contest. The first blog post I published. The first time I tweeted a line from a work in progress. Every single step is terrifying. And every step is an opportunity for growth.

More and more, some kind of social media presence is expected from artists (writers, film makers, even bakers) and for many of us, it's hard to embrace a public image. I've been on twitter since 2008 and set up my blog and author Facebook page in 2011. It's been a slow, sometimes awkward journey but some days I swear I'm getting the hang of this thing.

So how does a confirmed introvert go about creating an online presence? I have a few tips. Some may work for you, others may not, but I hope these help someone, somewhere.

1.) Understand this is a persona. You are not your twitter profile or the number of hits on your blog or your Instagram followers. Who you are at home, with your real life friends and family is different from who you are online and that's okay. I am WAY more awkward in person. Here, I can collect my thoughts and delete things when I misspeak. I can be bolder and sillier than I am when I have to make eye contact and figure out what to do with my hands. Because I talk with my hands even when I'm on the phone. Seriously. I can be self-depricating and send hugs to everyone having a bad day because it's the internet and no one is actually seeing me blush or invading my personal space. My internet persona is me, wrapped in the anonymity and distance of the internet. It's me, but not me.

2.) It's okay to be inconsistent. Some days I'm on twitter from sun up to sun down, replying to everything and inserting myself into every conversation of interest. Others, I peek in, feel freaked out, and duck back out. This is okay. If you feel up to oversharing about that awkward attempt at a first kiss one day and can't imagine sharing a fictional kiss the next, it's okay. You don't have to share everything all the time. Or even anything ever. People will tell you to tweet X times a day, blog X times a week, always post on the same day or readers lose interest. I've tried it both ways. It's never made any difference in my stats (with the exception of when I went on maternity leave and didn't blog for like a month). Do you what you feel up to and nothing more.

3.) Be true to yourself. Confession: I hate the acronym LOL. It bugs me. I can't imagine saying it, so I don't use when posting online. Hahaha might look stupid, but it's more me. I'm okay with that. Don't feel like you need to do everything like everyone else does. You don't have to embrace ALL THE THINGS (an internet phrase I love). If gushing love and praise and this <33333333333 isn't your thing, you don't have to do it. If you want to tweet pictures of your dinner or can't stand the thought of posting a selfie (my husband is about to disown me for using that word in real life), it's okay. It's okay to have likes and dislikes online, just like in the real world.

4.) Friendly & polite wins the day. Let everyone else be true to themselves too. If you are a kind and caring person, it will come through. If you're constantly negative and criticizing others, that will come through too. Treat others as you would like to be treated. The anonymity of the internet is NOT an excuse to be a dipwad (although seriously, how gross is chewing tobacco?). Like it or not, you're building a reputation with everything you post online. When you are supportive and interested in other people, they will be interested in you. It's that easy - and it's that hard.

5.) Know your limits. Don't pursue a social media presence as the expense of your art. We all have limited time and energy. If you find yourself incapable of writing or painting or whatever you do creatively because you've put everything into this crazy virtual vacuum called the internet, pull back. When you're an artist, art comes first. Protecting yourself comes second (maybe it should come first, but come on. Who among us isn't at least a little bit self-descructive?) and building a platform comes last. Do not damage yourself or your creative output to gain a few more followers. It's not worth it.

There you go. A few tips, off the top of my head, to help online introverts trying to find some sanity between becoming a hermit and being a Kardashian. Anyone else have some tips to share? I'd love to hear them!

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Story of A Story

Last December, I left my laptop at home and traveled 2,500 to be with family. I'd shelved my beloved empath story in the fall and recently completed a dreadful draft of SIGNAL HILL. Disillusioned is a mild word for it. I think broken-hearted is a better description. I'd reached a point with writing where I'd lost any love for it. I knew I needed a break.

Of course that week is when inspiration decided to strike. I'd sent a couple scenes cut from SIGNAL HILL to two CPs one night and I couldn't forget them. The characters wormed their way into my head and my heart and I needed to tell their story.

It came in snippets at first. Bits on dialogue I typed out on my phone while hiding in the bathroom at my in-laws, scenes I sketched in my head while camped out beside the fire.

By the time we arrived home on January 1, I was ready to write.

And write I did. I finished the first draft of THE EXTRAORDINARY ART OF FALLING, my first ever contemporary romance, in a single month. I wrote as much as possible while my kids napped and hacked out scenes on my phone while I nursed the baby (thank you Evernote). I don't think I read a single book or watched a movie or TV show during that time. But the words flowed and it was beautiful.

In mid February, I sent my draft to my first CP, Leigh Ann, and she loved it. I sent it to my second CP, Cait, in early March and she loved it.

I polished a little, then submitted to Brenda Drake's Pitch Madness. I didn't make it through, but had so much support from Brenda that I went ahead and tried the twitter pitch party, tossing out my simplified, 140-character pitch. I got a few hits and with the feedback I received, I polished again.

Come May, I entered the Writer's Voice contest and, by luck of the draw, made it to the coaching round. Krista Van Dolzer of Mother. Write. (Repeat). picked me for her team and I dove into polishing my query and first page with her guidance. I received two requests and sent them off into the wild blue yonder.

Then on May 28, I decided to try the twitter pitch party again, posting this pitch:

YA - Bria knows exactly who she is – the militant vegan, purple-haired Queen of the Art Room - until she kisses the HS quarterback.

To my great delight and surprise, it caught the interest of Meredith Rich, the editor for Bloombury Spark, a new digital first imprint launching this winter. I love my eBooks, so I'm really excited about what Bloomsbury Spark is doing. I sent off my materials with high hopes and low expectations.

Then on July 15, I got an email. I'd just finished a grocery run to Costco with both kids and loaded everything into the car. It had been a rough week for my writing and after wrangling two kids in a warehouse store alone, I was ready to curl up in a corner and cry. I decided to check my email on my phone before pulling out into traffic. I expected another kind rejection, so I didn't even bother to read Meredith's subject line. I think I was about halfway through the sentence when I realized this is what it said:

I am thrilled to be able to tell you that we would like to publish The Extraordinary Art of Falling with Bloomsbury Spark!

Pub. Lish. Publish. PUBLISH.

I was stuck in a parking lot with two crazy kids and two weeks of groceries and I had to drive. My hands shook and I cried and I did my best to not freak out the kids. I don't think they get happy tears yet. I called my husband and rambled at him. I texted my writing bestie with the news and after sufficiently freaking out, she called to calm me down. Somehow my 3yo ended up completely naked and the baby was chewing on something totally inappropriate, but I HAD AN OFFER!

And after following up with all the agents who had partials or fulls, I accepted.

THE EXTRAORDINARY ART OF FALLING will be published this winter as part of the official launch of Bloomsbury Spark! 

I'm going to be a published author! My little manuscript is going to be a real, live eBook that people can  buy and read and take to the beach or read by the fire or stay up too late to finish. My beloved characters, Ben and Bria, are going to come to life in other people's heads.

I am so thrilled to be a part of Spark! I love what they are doing and Meredith is fantastic. I know my book is in great hands and I CAN NOT WAIT to share it with all of you.

There are so many people who've helped me get here that it would take a whole other post to fit them in, so thank you. Yes, you. Everyone who cheered me through drafting, who like a line I quoted, who read my manuscript, synopsis, query or pitch. For everyone who believed in me and my writing. Thank you. Thank you.