You know the stereotype of the writer – a solitary creative hunched over their desk, writing well into the lonely hours of the night, friend only to endless cups of coffee and the incessant voices in their head. They spend their non-writing time fretting over their writing, and their actual writing time is consumed by the taunt of the empty page (or the blinking cursor). Writers themselves are just as guilty of propagating this image as Hollywood is – although with the likes of Secret Window, Limitless and Stranger Than Fiction, writers don’t come off well at all.
Perhaps this was all true at one time – indeed, up until a few years ago, I’d imagine this was the norm for writers, slaving over their quills/typewriters/word processors before sending their darlings to publishers. Unless people were members of writers’ groups, or they just happened to know other writers in their circle of friends, it’s unlikely that writers would have had much contact with like-minded souls. Of course, along came the Internet, and sharing work prior to submission became easier with the proliferation of online writing groups, forums, blogs dedicated to writing and – ultimately – Twitter.
A lot of people call Twitter a waste of time, saying that time spent social networking is time that could be spent writing or editing. Yes, that is indeed true, and Twitter can easily become a time drain – if you let it. However, I’m firmly in the camp who believes in the value of Twitter in enabling writers to reach out and connect with one another, while also allowing them to reach potential readers. There are plenty of hashtags that will grant you access to this online writing world – #amwriting being one of the most popular, along with #FridayFlash and #TuesdaySerial for those who want to post their fiction online. This is before you even factor in the various hashtag chats that take place on a regular basis.
It’s easy enough to get started. Make sure you use a photo (or something recognisable as being related to you) instead of Twitter’s default avatar, and highlight the fact that you’re a writer in your bio. Find a few writers to follow, and join in the conversation with @ replies. If you want to write a flash fiction (a self-contained story of 1000 words or less) and post it on your blog, make sure you tag your tweet with #FridayFlash and your story will suddenly appear for all those following the hashtag. Check out a few yourself, and be sure to comment. You’ll be amazed how quickly you can get to know these writers.
In fact, it was through Twitter that I met my writer friends. It all started with the lovely Emma Newman, and I got to know the Emergent Publishing crew through her. They asked me if I wanted to be part of their Chinese Whisperings project last year – being a girl, I was put down for the Yin Book, and I was paired with Rob Diaz, my opposite number in the Yang Book. Rob has gone on to become a firm friend, and one of my most trusted beta readers. I keep joking that we’re psychic twins – we both submitted stories to the Nothing But Flowers anthology, and without having discussed them first, we realised we’d both used flower motifs and even similar titles! Without Twitter, it’s unlikely I’d have ever come across him, and my work would be worse off for it.
This is the beauty of the Internet – its ability to let you connect with other writers all over the world. If you find a person that you trust, that writer can help your writing along in leaps and bounds – and you can do the same for them. You’re no longer the lonely writer struggling in silence – all you need to do is reach out, and someone will take your hand.