A few years ago, I decided to start building an online environment where I’m surrounded by writers who are living the life I want: stories, blogs, conventions, live tweeting, book signing, all that magic. I also wanted book agents who could potentially benefit from my manuscripts (if I ever get to sending them out again). The best place for that, I decided, was Twitter. While I have very few followers (@CAHeisserer), I’ve mostly fulfilled my intent, adding new writers and agents when they pop up.
The depressive nature of politics and political tweets aside, it’s quite fulfilling to have a broadcast community where I feel supported by proxy. A great byproduct of having all these writerly types is I get free advice about query letter construction, story hooks, first chapters, pages, sentences, strong characterization, what to avoid, how to avoid it, and due to the fact I’m following a handful of awesome lady writers, I also get a healthy dose of the up-and-coming perspectives of traditionally marginalized voices, intersectionality, inclusivity, and shifted power dynamics in writing (and, unfortunately, a lot of mansplaining).
Here are a few things I’ve learned from my Twitter environment:
If I took every piece of advice to heart, I’d be staring at a blank page forever. While writing is a skill, it’s also an art. I randomly come across advice that makes limited sense, but not in my current work. Which is fine. That’s part of my personal filtration system. If I have an idea, and it contradicts what so-and-so agent says, I’ll seriously consider it, but I won’t discard just because they say so.
The use of the word “they” to incorporate non-binary people is a great way to write, and it contradicts everything I learned in school.
My first sentence, paragraph, page, chapter, is so important it hurts. But, every single sentence, paragraph, page, chapter after is just as important. This doesn’t invite a shutting down of process for me, but confuses me how absolutely dedicated some people are to those first words, while not spending the same time on the rest of the book. If it sounds daunting, that’s because it is.
Other writerly voices you don’t necessarily agree with are awesome to have in your lineup. Republican, comedic, non-fiction, romance, whatever. The more you get on your list, as a writer, the better. Expansive thought is the foundation for new creative outlets. I don’t know of a single genre of literature that doesn’t have some overlap, and if you aren’t using real life experiences to shape your fantasy/scifi/horror relationships, you are missing something beautiful.
Hashtags are BEAUTIFUL for connecting to a topic. A lot of agents randomly do cool 1 line tweet queries (#DVpit), where writers are allowed to pitch their books. If an agent likes the query, you send what’s needed to that person via email. It’s sexy, underrated, and amazing. A lot of agents also post random “here’s what I want” tweets, or Manuscript Wish List (#MSWL), which provide ideas for future work, or motivates me to finish what I’m working on because it fits. (This also allows me to put a bookmark in those agents for future querying).
Books come out all the time, and I don’t get notification. There’s no elf that knocks on my door with the list of new releases I might be interested in. I wish. There are so many books, and with such a broad range of focus, I have learned to filter what’s coming out. #TBR is a great way to find books people are talking about. Word of mouth from people I accept and respect as writers, agents, and readers, really improves on the filtration system.
Revisions are often more time-consuming than getting to the “final” draft alone. With the ever-important beta readers’ thoughts, agent reactions/changes, and if/when sold, the press’s reactions, I can often spend years fixing my book to get to publication-readiness (haven’t go there yet. Thanks for asking. haha). It can seem daunting. It doesn’t have to be if I don’t want it to be.
I just came across the idea that one should avoid using “he said she said” tags to dialogue if at all possible. This gave me pause. The poster said it’s an art to find ways to identify the speaker without the tags, and creates a better flow if used properly. Cool idea. Not sure if I’ll use it.
I’ll say more on this as advice continues to come in; it’s an ever-changing environment.