Monday, June 18, 2012

Reality Check: The Book Comes First

I've been in La La Land for over ten days. First a trip to Los Angeles which was interesting, different, fun, wild, weird, and wacky. Then the piles of laundry and cleaning and readjusting to life back in Alabama. Finally, the Darling Teen had her five wisdom teeth pulled last Friday and she's been recuperating for three days. I'm Mother Hen-ing her to bits but this is my last chance to "baby" her before she heads off to Auburn University in August (I was a child bride and had her before I turned 20--really *grin*). The schedule has been out of whack for days and I need to wrap my brain around another round of revisions.

What falls by the wayside first? Well, besides cleaning commodes that is... social media. Yes, I'm "supposed" to blog, tweet, post Facebook status updates, learn more about how to utilize Goodreads as an author, and try to figure out if Pinterest is a viable Social Media outlet to use.

But--this is a big but--I have nothing to promote if I don't have a book written and on sale. Period. The end. I often think that newbie writers--even PRO RWA writers who aren't published--spend far too much time figuring out their brand and their social media outlets and web pages rather than writing. Let's face it, it's easier to play on Twitter and fool around with web pages than revising. Heck, I'm guilty of playing hours of mindless Spider Solitaire while I was en route during my vacation rather than attempting to write. Of course, I knew revising while on a family vacation was not going to happen easily. So I surrendered to that reality and focused on what I had to focus: the family. I brainstormed, but I didn't do much else.

I don't usually take a big break from writing -- haven't for years -- but circumstances forced the break and it was useful in that it helped me clarify what to focus on when I sit down to revise this current book. This isn't a do or die revision. It's part of the process that I hope I will become much faster at accomplishing once I'm under contract. And I do expect that to become a new reality for me in the near future. I have to expect it. I have to want it. I have to need it. I am hungry for it.

I plan to make a meal out of my writing. A continuous buffet of writing.

Curiously, this all brings me around to the social media versus writing a book soapbox. I can't write and revise if my brain is all wrapped up in technical goop. It requires a different set of brain cells and drains my creativity. So here are my quick and dirty rules for managing social media and not letting it manage you.

1. The book trumps everything. First write, then tweet.
2. If you love to tweet on Twitter, then utilize the #1k1hr hash tag. Look for other writers to write with for an hour, then post your accomplishments on the hour, Tweet something personal to someone in a conversation, Retweet someone's promo tweet. Then back to #1k1hr
3. Twitter not your world? Facebook is your thing? Then post on the hour or 3 times a day or only in the times when your brain is a wet noodle and all you can do is write status updates.
4. Want to build a web page? Don't unless you're close to achieving publication. A blog on Wordpress or Blogger will suffice until you get closer. How you go about building it is up to you. I've chosen to go the do it yourself route for now with My Teen can help with the web design fast pages while I *ahem* write my books.
5. Interested in Goodreads or Pinterest, but not sure which route to go? I suggest Goodreads because that is WHERE THE READERS are located.
6. Blog regularly if you are a new writer to help hone your voice. Blog irregularly the closer you get to the call. You can't blog and write great fiction at the same time. AND THE BOOK TRUMPS THE BLOG.
7. Emailing, Yahoo Groups and more. Email twice a day. No more. Shut down all email programs when you are writing. Turn them off!! Don't see how many emails are in your in-box and be tempted to turn away from that tricky writing problem to email someone back. Yahoo Groups: do digest. Check it once a day. Don't go crazy and try to keep up with all of it. Flag important emails and messaged and cope with them when you are ready to cope with them. Online classes? I use digest only mode and print out the lessons to read later. Developing a workshop or promoting one? Great. Is your book finished? There's no point in getting your name out there if you haven't got a book to sell. The book and your name are your brand.
8. Real face time beats Facebook time. Get out into the world a bit more. Be kind to people you deal with whether it is in the grocery store checkout line (PUT DOWN THE CELL PHONE AND TALK TO THE CASHIERS/BAGGERS/PEOPLE WHO WORK THERE!!!), at the gym during a workout class, or as part of a neighborhood community or book club. I already have a wonderful group of people who know I write in all of these places. Guess what? They aren't on Twitter or blogging. They are working, working out, reading, playing, being moms and dads and friends and more. Be in the world when you are out in public. Don't hide behind the cell phone screen and post tweets all the time on Tweetdeck. Be REAL. Then real people will become interested in you and what you do and you might just sell them your first book!
9. Family time first, then Internet time, or share it with the family.
10. The BOOK TRUMPS EVERYTHING that's tied to social media, the Internet, emailing, workshops. The book is the only thing that matters. PUT THE WRITING FIRST!

Okay, I'm done tooting my horn about social media versus real time and writing time. What's on my agenda for the rest of the week? Revisions, looking after the Teen, working out, being a wife and a friend, and popping into the Internet to say hi to all my virtual friends near and far when I'm on a  mini break or during the evening when my brain cells turn to rust and creative writing is wrapped up for the day.

What is your natural rhythm? Are you generating words or tweets or status updates? How do you creatively avoid writing and how do you get your head back into the game?


Betty Bolte said...

Great post, Christine! And timely, given that I've been setting up Twitter and Google+ and my FB fan page. To manage it all, I have tabs set up on my browser window that open automatically which allows me to quickly check in and comment, and then go about my day. I've found that if I take a notebook out on the deck/screened porch and write, it works best. Then I actually type on the desktop computer, not my laptop where I manage the social media and email. It's taken me a couple months to develop this rhythm but it's working. I'm almost done the story arc of my current WIP. Thanks for the very sage advice: write the book! :-)

Christine said...

That's a great idea to keep it separate if you can. I have only got the laptop so everything is on it and I have to be strong about not getting sucked into the Social Media vortex. Love the idea of the notebook out on the veranda. Will have to do that more often.

I'm so pleased you're getting a handle on the social media platform, Betty. Good to see you on Twitter :-)

Jessica Steiner said...

This is absolutely true. I've recently struggled with and solved that same problem, by setting up a dedicated little netbook, with limited internet access in my office. When I go up there to write, I know it's time to focus.

Christine said...

Hi Jessica: I think the dedicated Netbook is a great idea. One day I'll be able to separate the computers. But self-discipline is the key for me until I can afford to upgrade the system. The trick is to find a solution and a way to control the media within your means and what is available to you. I think you've found it.

Thanks for visiting the Veranda :-)

Jessica Steiner said...

Yeah, I was lucky to have a spare computer lying around. But even just having the discipline to close Firefox, or even turn off the wireless, would probably work, and it's less expensive ;)

Pam Asberry said...

This is great advice, Christine. I am looking ahead to six weeks with no piano students, and I've got to spend those hours writing instead. Thanks for the inspiration!

Christine said...

Good for you, Pam!! I know you will get lots of great writing done!