The writers’ community on Twitter

The writers’ community on Twitter

Generally, writing is a solo activity.

Oh, certainly, traditionally, there are other people involved, but it’s more of a serial thing than a group thing. The author writes, then submits material to an editor, who makes comments, gives it back, the author revises solo, gives it back, and so on.

The same kind of thing can happen with “beta readers”. Those aren’t editors…they are more like a test audience for a TV show or movie. They give feedback…ideally, they let the author know what things they liked and didn’t like, what was confusing, and what was clear, but not how to fix it. That’s how it should work, but it’s not always that pure.

Some people do write as a team. My Significant Other would write an annual holiday song parody for work…my SO had good ideas and would know what topics to cover, and I would often refine the lines and add some humor.

It was also one of my favorite things about writing for a local (community access) show in San Francisco. It was actually a lot of fun to sit in a “writers’ room” (in someone’s house), and bounce ideas off each other and work collaboratively.

However, it’s always been complicated for writers of fiction to get that sort of feedback.

With Twitter, there’s a way to do it…and it can be a lot of fun! It’s not all work. 😉

I’ve been much more active on Twitter in the past year or so. That really hasn’t taken away writing time from other things…it tends to be catch as catch can, and just very short time needed each time…not something that works well for my blogging or other writing.

I have two Twitter accounts:

The first one is my general one, and I do some regular features through it:

  • My blog posts tweet to that account automatically (at least, my two main blogs do)
  • The daily Bookish Birthdays
  • #1TweetExpert (I ask people if they could explain a concept in 1 tweet…and then do it myself the next day. When I’ve done enough of those, I may approach a Page-a-Day calendar company with them)
  • #SourceIt (I put in a quotation, and have people guess where it came from)
  • I just started #ILearnedReading (I think this could be fun, and a discovery tool. I tweet something I learned while reading, and link to the book…I don’t get a benefit from the link, that’s just for discovery’s sake)
  • #AlexaKnows
  • #TeachAlexa

The second one was there so I could text my This Day in Geeky History tweets…it ties into The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip although most of what gets tweeted I haven’t been able to add to TMCGTT yet. I also end up doing some more general things from that one, too…it’s hard to keep them that separated. No special #s for that one, really…just #OTD (On This Date), which is widely used.

Speaking of hashtags (#s), I think I should explain that a bit and how it ties into what I was saying about writers.

On Twitter, there are two main symbols that are used. They can be confusing:

  • # which is a way to basically index or highlight something. It’s mostly going to be for concepts. The purpose for it is to allow other people to find the tweet if they search for that particular hashtag
  • @ is a way to call the attention of a particular account (a person or organization) to your tweet. It addresses the tweet to that account

So, #StephenKing  might be used by people discussing that author’s work. @StephenKing would be to address it to the author…doesn’t mean Stephen King is going to respond to you, but King could tell that something had been “sent”.

There are hashtags used by writers. They may be used socially, to find out about other writers, to announce a publication or signing with an agent, or they may be used to get help with something. On the latter, which may be of more interest to my readers, I see people asking for opinions about something a main character (MC) may do, or the use or the connotations of a particular word. Some of that is addressed to readers; some more to other writers (overcoming writer’s block, for one). There is a lot of talk about how to stay motivated writing, and how to balance writing and other parts of your life.

It’s worth noting on the latter topics that I don’t see “brand name” authors joining in on those, as a rule. Sure, the aforementioned @StephenKing tweets a lot, as does J.K. Rowling (@jk_rowling), and they do interact with fans, but a lot of it seems to be political and societal issues, rather than the work-a-day world of writing.

That’s not to say that published authors aren’t part of the Twitter writing community! Many are, including tradpubbed (traditionally published) ones. I would say that the vast majority of involvement comes from people who are aspirationally writers, though…people who would like to be earning more as writers, or who simply want to be better writers without income being a specific goal. I know, I know…some of you think that everyone would like to earn more in their field or be better at it. 😉

Before I start listing some specific hashtags (and individual accounts), I want to mention one of my favorite things which happens: writing prompts. People will specifically prompt creative writing responses, maybe by posting a picture, or posing a scenario. There may be rules, such as is the case with a “Six word story” prompt…you have to keep your creative response down to six words or fewer.

I have great fun with those, and I get some good responses (retweets and likes). Unlike many people, I love rules! My Significant Other often kids me about how my family makes up complicated rules…our last name is Calvin, and yes, there may be some parallels with Calvinball from the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip although the name is a coincidence.

I used to manage a gamestore (after I managed a bookstore), and games are all about the joy of rules.

Last thing before I list: following and liking. It clearly helps people when you follow them. If you were an unpublished author trying to attract an agent (that’s another thing this community facilitates…connecting authors with editors and agents, since all three groups may use it), and you had a million Twitter follows, that’s a point of evidence that you already have a built-in audience.

I follow a lot more people than follow me, and that’s fine with me. I’d almost always rather help people than be helped myself…I feel good helping people, they feel good because I helped them, so the net amount of joy in the world grows more quickly by my following than by my being followed. Isn’t growing the joy in the world a good justification for your existence? That’s a book that I have in my “Idea Garden”: Grow the Joy, which would be about ways to do that.

At TMCGTT, at time of writing, I’m following 4,490 and have 1,855 followers. At ILMK, it’s 4,732 following, and 2,481 followers. Would I like more followers? Sure, that would be nice. Quite unlikely it would catch up, though. If you like or retweet something, I’ll check your profile, and the vast majority of times, I’ll follow you. It’s okay if you have different political opinions than mine. I just had a weird thing with that, where I mentioned a fictional work, and didn’t realize it had become a symbol to a group of like-minded people. I was suddenly getting lots of followers…unintentionally. I tweeted about that, just because people might have gotten the wrong impression. Why do I choose not to follow someone? Mentions of alcohol in their profiles would be one…I don’t like to promote alcohol use, although I wouldn’t stop people from using it. I probably should learn to ignore that one. If I know your account is going to have a lot of NSFW (Not Safe For Work) pictures, I probably won’t follow you…that just complicates things. I can follow someone who has an obscenity in their profile (that happens a lot), but if you say something that is…condemnatory of a group of people, I won’t want to follow you. For example, use of the word that rhymes with witch will be a big negative.

Okay, let’s get down to brass tacks…er, hashtags!

Capitalization doesn’t matter on hashtags on Twitter: #SourceIT is the same as #SourceIt. I’ll use Tweetreach to get some sense of the reach of the terms…that’s a fluid number, though. If you click on the Tweetreach link, you can see lots of interesting things, including most active accounts using it, and recent tweets.

Here are some with the most popular first:

There are lots more…anybody can create a hashtag just by using it. There are many for individual genres, for example.

Update: I’m going to list more but I won’t always include the detail I did above:

  • #SFFPit (a twice a year day for authors to tweet descriptions of completed but unsold science fiction/fantasy novels in hopes of interesting an agent | I ran the numbers on one of those days (30 January 2019) at about 7:00 AM Pacific: 184,920 impressions
  • #author | 751,913 impressions
  • #book | 284,185 impressions

They also tend to use more universal ones, like #MondayMotivation and #FF (Follow Friday…you suggest accounts for people to follow).

Next, I want to mention some initialisms/acronyms you might see, and that people will generally assume you will understand. Tweets aren’t constrained to be as short as they used to be, but they are still short. Readers who go back close to a decade with me will know I did that for the Amazon forums (yes, I had to resist writing fora…I’m geeky like that). 😉 I’ll be happy to add things to this if you have suggestions:

  • WIP=Work in Progress
  • MC=Main Character
  • VSS=Very Short Story (I think that’s always one tweet)
  • TBR=To Be Read

Now, I’d like to mention a few specific accounts which I follow. Note that I don’t have any financial connection with them, and if I know any of them outside of Twitter, I’ll let you know. These are just a few highlights, not meant to diminish anybody I don’t list…

  • @AgathaChocolats | great six word writing prompts which get many responses | 18.9K followers
  • @TheLaceyLondon | writing prompts and funny writing/reading related pictures | 111K followers
  • @JeffaryWrites | early stage writer (in college to become a copy editor)…posts interesting VSS (Jeffary taught me that TLA…Three Letter Acronym) and quite active in pleasantly responding | 2,769 followers

Well, hopefully, you’ve found this post helpful! Are there terms/accounts you think I should add to it? As a writer, do you find Twitter useful? Do you think having an active Twitter account is important for popularity/commercial success for a writer? Is it more distraction than it is worth? As a reader, have you discovered any writers you liked through Twitter? Has an interaction with an author with which you were already familiar (a like, mention, or reply from them) made your day? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

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All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I link to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog

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2 Responses to “The writers’ community on Twitter”

  1. Have you written but not sold a science fiction/fantasy novel? You can pitch it to agents on Twitter on 30 Jan | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] The writers community on Twitter […]

  2. 4 types of writers: professional, aspirational, recreational, advocatory | I Love My Kindle Says:

    […] The writers community on Twitter […]

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