Blogstar, Twitterati – helping or hindering your writing?

What I wonder is: do the different forms of writing that these two particular social media require, eg the 140 characters for Twitter and the informal self directing nature of a blog, help to improve your ‘real’ writing? To wit, is your novel, or short story collection better served by honing skills in Blogs-ville and Twitter-village? Or are you simply wasting too much time in non-productive writing pursuits?

The attraction of social media.

Twittering keeps you in touch in a quick and immediate way with a whole range of people you’d never get to meet. So, you can be connected to literary agents, writers and celebrities. You can feel special being connected to all that. FB is also an attractive way of keeping tabs on your friends and other acquaintances across the world. In both cases you can publicise your writing.

Linkedin and similar places connect you to a community of like-minded people where you can share ideas, tips and successes. It is a positive and professional community that adds to your writing life.

Blogging is great because there are no rules, you can write what you want, when you want. It is democracy in action. No agents or publishers required. It’s why so many of us are here!

The downside of social media. 

Is it mostly about self promotion as Lorraine Devon Wilke said on Linkedin? It certainly seems that way.

Twitter does seem to be more about celebrities than ordinary people. They are up on the stage and we mortals remain in the audience while hoping that our tweets will get us onto the stage. But the modern mantra about getting yourself out there means being connected all over the place, so what are we to do? Fingers crossed, hope for the best…

Blogging can feel extremely isolated if no-one is reading or responding. If you don’t have an audience what are you doing? True it takes a while to get connections, to have followers and enough hits to feel validated, but are you developing as a writer while you wait?

The fact of the matter is that it is all terribly distracting – checking in to see who’s visited your latest blog, following all the tweeting an in-box full of up-dates from Linkedin.

Perhaps writers are spending too much time being distracted, but telling themselves, actually I am working now, because I have to build my on-line profile. Perhaps we should concentrate on building our skills and writing better stuff to get out there?

How does Blogging and Twittering help you up-skill your writing? First of all, we acknowledge there is a lot of crap out there – democratising the writing world is wonderful but it means there is more rubbish to wade through, so you do need to be producing well written stuff, and good content. Yes, loads of others have said this. But get out there and look around – there are some atrocious blogs, boring and poorly written. Ditto Twitter. My good, how banal can some people be?

Twittering should give you the chance to hone your vocab skills, to write something well shaped and interesting. It should be a way to perfect a great sentence. Go for the ‘less is more’ maxim. Only tweet good stuff. Be funny, be profound – don’t waste your time or others by writing about breakfast.

Blogging gives you freedom, but you still need to have form and content. That is the basics of good writing. Blogs can be as brief as a tweet, or as long as a decent essay. Most people seem to find their size and style within a few months of blogging. But you need to craft and shape your piece, it needs to follow logically, make sense, show some insight, add to the discussions on relevant topics.  A good blog should engender a response in the reader. If not, then what are you doing??

Write often, write well.  The best way to become a better writer is to write more, try out different things, different forms, different ways of expressing yourself. Bloggers and Twitterers, by and large, don’t simply restrict themselves to these forms. To my mind, Tweeting and Blogging should help you edit and revise better, know what is essential to your piece, to the point you are making. This vital skill should then transfer to your main writing. A well written sentence within a crafted paragraph is the bedrock of good writing. Get that right, add in compelling content and you’re a winner.

Here’s the analogy. Years ago when I was Rowing, a new national coach arrived on the scene and turned selection for national squads, especially the Open 8’s upside down by looking at how athletes performed in pairs, not from state senior 8 crews. His reasoning was this: it’s so much easier to see the skills or flaws of an individual rower when there’s only two in a boat. When there are 8, you can hide a flaw, because it’s harder to watch 8 rowers than 2.

Thus writing shorter pieces, a short story for example, which is usually between 3-5000 words, means every word counts. The same is true of an essay or article. This skill needs to transfer to the novel, so you don’t get slow passages of irrelevant detail that simply doesn’t add to the story.

Blog well. Tweet well. Hone your writing skills (through using social media) and then social media will really be helping you deliver what you want – a novel that is stunning, that your many followers can’t wait to read.

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