Grow Your Following

We live in an age when technology is pretty much a part of our everyday lives. Just look at social media – it is so integrated into our lives. We don’t just use social media as a place to post pictures of our pets or our homemade bread, it’s also where we search for jobs, build business connections, and promote our business. Small businesses and creatives rely on social media as a platform to get their goods and services out there. 

That is why, as writers, it makes sense that many of us would turn to social media for help. Whether we’re self-published authors, or authors seeking a traditional publishing deal, we need social media. There is no two ways about it – the days of making it as a writer with no social media presence are over. 

I have a friend who is a literary agent, and prior to meeting him, I was under the impression that social media wasn’t that big of a deal. I assumed that if the writing was good, you could get published no problem. Boy, was I wrong. Agents and publishers alike look at your social media following. While good writing is important, what they really are interested in, is marketing. Do you have enough followers to make it worth their while? If you have a big enough following, publishers see that as a built-in audience already sorted. So, how many followers should you aim for? 10k. Most of us don’t have anywhere near that many followers. So, the next logical step would be to grow your numbers. But how do you do that? 

Here are some tips:

Focus Your Energies: The two platforms that you really want to grow a base on, are Twitter and Instagram. Twitter has a HUGE writing community, and it’s a great place to connect with other writers and get yourself out there. Likewise with Instagram, it’s nearly like a Twitter with pictures, so it’s a great place to post promotional pictures of your book, or to drum up interest in your work-in-progress by posting inspirations and sneak peeks to get people excited about your work. And both platforms work on a follow-for-follow basis, so just go on a following spree and gain people along the way.

Use Hashtags Strategically: Hashtags are great for Instagram posts to be seen by people who aren’t following you, meaning you can potentially gain more followers by posting with hashtags. But the key is to know which ones to use. In order to find the more popular ones you can take a quick look through #bookstagram or #writersofinstagram in order to see what other hashtags people are using. Additionally, your favorite writers that you follow can also be a great place to start looking. Speaking of which…

Do Your Homework: Following your favorite authors are a good idea. You can learn a lot from looking at pages of successful authors. Take note of the more popular content, which kinds of tweets or pictures gain the most attention? How do they represent themselves? In short, what is their brand? Obviously, you are your own brand, but what can you do to help yourself figure out how to build yourself up is to look and learn. 

Run Giveaways: Another great way of building up your following, this strategy also helps you do some promotion of your book as well. You can give away signed copies of your books as well as merch too – commissioned drawings, maps, book marks – all things related to your brand that can get your name out there are great ideas for giveaways. Plus, they also present an opportunity to team up with other authors for joint giveaways and promotions as well. 

Get engaged: Even if you’re not running a giveaway or going on a following spree, you can still use your posts to engage followers. Make sure your posts are something that your followers can connect with. For example, if you’re posting about a writing session in your favorite coffee shop, make it an opportunity to drum up a conversation by asking your followers where they like to write, where their word count is at, etc. Similarly, don’t be afraid to leave a comment on someone else’s post if you admire what they shared. Sometimes simple, friendly engagements with others in the community can get you a new follower or two – and every follower counts!

Don’t Buy Followers: So, you may be sitting here thinking if publishers want to see at least 10k followers on your social media then what is the harm in spending a few extra dollars and getting a mass of new followers in a few hours? Well, there is no such thing as a free lunch. While buying followers might get you numbers it doesn’t get you engagement. Fake followers won’t like your posts, buy your books, or retweet your tweets. Publishers want to see that your 10k following is an engaged one, meaning you grew them organically. While it might take a while to build yourself on social media, it’ll be worth it in the end when you can say you achieved numbers organically. 

So, with many of us probably starting somewhere below 1,000 followers on either Instagram or Twitter, it might seem a little daunting. And I’m not going to lie, it is a little daunting to think that we’ve got a long way to go building up our social media following. But, if we want to be successful writers then we need to grow with the times. And, in the words of Li Shang, “Let’s get down to business…”

Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.

Finding Your Community

Whether you are a first-time writer just starting out, or a successfully published author with several works under your belt, there is one thing that ever single writer needs: a writing community. Writing can be a very lonely pursuit. However, it’s a journey that we can’t go on alone. We need friends to lean on when we write, ones that understand the complexities of trying to realize the story in your head onto paper. But how do we find our writing community?

Well, if you haven’t already, here are some tips to getting started in your search of a writing circle where you can continue to grow as a writer:

1. Classes: Perhaps one of the best places to find other writers is in a writing class. Specialist writing schools, librarians, and community schools are all great places to start your search for some writing buddies. Plus, there is the added bonus that taking a class or seminar on writing will only help you enhance your writing skills. You can also check out your local bookshop to see if they have any writing-themed events on the horizon as well. 

2. Online writing forums: Perhaps one of the best options for those of us who are either shy or busy, going online can yield some great results. Personally, the NaNoWriMo forums are one of my favorite online forums to interact with other writers. Additionally, Facebook has plenty of writing groups, many of which are specifically dedicated to different genres or topics. All you need to do is go search for your niche. Twitter is another online plethora of everything writing, and there are plenty of wonderful supportive writers that are part of the writing community.

3. Book clubs: Plenty of writers are also avid readers, so it would make sense that if you were to walk into a book club, you’d find at last one other writer amongst the crowd, so joining a book club might be the gateway into finding and forming your own critique group. Even if you happen to be the only writer in the book club, reading and discussing analysis of different books helps to flex your mental muscles – something that can only benefit your own work. 

Either way, don’t despair. Your people are out there and you will find them!

Spooky Inspirations

Here are ideas on how to create a spooky novel!

I recommend the following books such as On Writing by Stephen King, On Writing Horror- the collection of essays by the Horror Writers Association, and Writing the Paranormal Novel- Techniques and Exercises by Steven Harper. These books go into real detail about the paranormal. Within this genre, there is more freedom to create what you want whether that be a sparkly vampire, toothy werewolf, or chain rattling ghost.

After you read these books, highlight the advice, and incorporate the advice into your writing. For a good story about a ghoul of choice to be believed, it must be believable and written well. All stories benefit from good writing. Be consistent about the traits, superpowers, or awesome abilities your monster has. We all know vampires hate garlic and sleep in coffins, but maybe a coffin-shaped bookcase could be their nesting habit during the daytime.

Read widely in your chosen genre. That will let you know what has already been written by other authors.

Buy a new set of highlighters, pens, white out, a binder, paper, and a fresh bag of coffee. Do what it takes to make you commit to the writing for the long haul.

Clean your writing/ office space. Light some sage and clean the energy to allow for the creative energies to flow unimpeded. Light a candle or incense. Play music that inspires you as you create your ghoul or axe-wielding maniac. Create a special playlist and soundtrack. Know your monster! Make it consistent and believable.

Keep a routine when you sit down to work on your story.

Reach into the deepest darkest part of your imagination. Free write a scene of confrontation between your protagonist and your monster. Or the monster is the protagonist? These days your demon or ghoul needs to be ORIGINAL. Everything in the paranormal novel has been done … or has it? That part is up to you. It must be original. If you are seeking more inspiration, read the paper. Clip and keep newspaper articles.
For example, I published a short story about pumpkins that can eat people. The vines can extend themselves and the pumpkins were toothy and bloodthirsty. Talk about a real twist on our favorite squashes!

But by allowing yourself to imagine, you may invent something that no one has done before. That is a huge advantage in the field of writing and publishing. Being original and true to your monster is extremely important. The world wants to read a story that has never been written before. They do not want thirty knockoffs of It or The Babaduk.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this. It might spark an idea or two and you would then be on your way to writing a gothic novel like Northanger Abbey or something like the Pit and the Pendulum by Poe.

Good Luck!

Villains: A Twisted Love Story

Villains. Most stories don’t make sense without them. They are needed to propel a story forward, by giving our hero someone to confront. Nothing will make your hero look even more heroic than a worthy opponent. Therefore, villains are quite important. And they need to be written well in order to give your story the grit that it deserves.

That is why motivation is a very key ingredient when creating a villain. Many times, writers will put in a lot of effort into creating their main characters or even their side characters, but they’ll come up short on the villain. Villains, while they are the bad guys, they still need to be more than just being bad – they need a motivation for being bad. 

So, what makes a good villain? Well, the easiest way to begin building your villain is to understand that villains are ordinary people who have experienced complicated pasts. And personally, what better motivation than love? Think about it – the stories that we enjoy most, the ones that resonate with us most, are the ones rooted in love. Love can be a very powerful motivator, not just for your hero, but also for your villain. While a hero’s motivation of love for a family member, a significant other, or a civilization usually yields good results, a villain’s has the opposite effects. But if you think about it, the best villains are the ones with relatable backstories that serve as motivation for their evil-doing. And who is more relatable than someone who is laying everything out on the line for someone or something that they deeply care about?

While you’re writing your story, be sure to pay special attention to your villain and give them a backstory that is relatable. Perhaps something along the lines of a twisted love. 

The Great Debate: FanFic

Fan Fiction. Where do you stand on the big debate? I am personally neutral on the matter, as I see the arguments to both sides, but I’m still curious. How do other writers feel about fan fiction?

By its very definition, fan fiction, or fanfic, is a written genre where canonical elements such as characters, settings, plot lines, or specific scenes from already published works are then used to create new fiction. Given this piggybacking nature of the genre, the whole concept of fanfic has stirred a great debate amongst authors, publishers, and readers as to whether or not fanfic is blatant plagiarism or a form of inspiration on which to build new work? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

On one side of the debate, there are those who are absolutely against it. And perhaps one of the biggest arguments against fanfic is that many see it as plagiarism. Most people who argue against allowing fanfic to be a thing, see it a direct rip-off of work that has already been published. There are plenty of authors, such as George R. R. Martin, who greatly despise fanfic. And I’m sure we can all see that argument, why write about someone else’s characters when you can just create your own? 

Another argument against fanfic is that it’s all just sexualized trash based off different ships. For anyone who may have forayed into a fandom to check out some fanfic, you know what I’m talking about. If you were to google Harry Potterfanfic right now, I guarantee you that 90% of it will be Harry getting it on with Ron, Harry and Hermione, Draco and Hermione, or Harry and Draco. Either way, a lot of fanfic does seem to go the way of the ships – whether they make sense or not (Adam Taurus and Blake Belladonna anyone?).

But there is a counter argument in favor of fanfic. Mostly, some people see it as a stepping stone to other, more authentic works of fiction. The best example of this in our modern day is 50 Shades of Grey. What started off as Twilightfanfic ended up taking on a life of its own. And regardless of how you feel about the series, there is no denying the massive success it experienced once the characters morphed into Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele.

With that in mind, there are plenty of fanfic writers who would argue that its simply an exercise in aspiring writers to practice their development of original writing. Writers all have to start somewhere, so by using fanfic as a sort of memetic exercise, one could argue that fanfic writing allows aspiring writers the chance to better understand how to construct a work of fiction, by essentially rearranging a favorite work of theirs. This time of response shows fanfic in a more approachable light as it establishes writing not as the focus of a perfect, finished product, but rather as a process. 

So, with that in mind, the great debate continues. What do you guys as both writers and readers think? Are you in favor of fanfic? Are you against it? Or are you like me and pretty neutral on the whole thing?