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Do writers need social media? Part Two

Renee Liang explores how social media could enhance writing.

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In Renee Liang's previous blog post, she discussed how blogs, Facebook and Twitter (ie social media) can be used by a writer to hook a readership and publisher.  But are they worth the time away from ‘real writing’?

In this post, she explores how social media could enhance the writing itself.

* * *

As Justine Musk and others say, exploring inner worlds in order to share them is what writers do anyway.  I’m sure I’m not alone in experiencing that sense of vague fear and dread before starting a new scene or chapter. The fear might be linked to the worry that this time, we might not be clear enough thinkers or complex enough psychologically to pull it off this time, and then our lack of depth would be exposed.  So writing is also a quest to become a better, wiser person, a person with something to say (you see how cleverly I’m circling here?)

If this quest for self-betterment is what you would do anyway, then the only question remaining is whether you would feel comfortable sharing it.  For some the answer is no – it would endanger their inner world and disturb their writing process.  That’s OK.  Having a blog doesn’t mean you have to bare all – you can choose to bare only some (although sincerity and truth are important, and readers are smart lovers.)

For others though, discussion and dissection of issues are exactly what they crave, the thing that feeds their writing and fires off further ideas.  They actively seek to connect, to graze ideas, to converse, to follow links until they hit one which might be the key to understanding their character or anchor a plot point. Reading, watching and linking to good writers, readers and thinkers is not a side activity – it is part of the process of writing.

In the theatre world which I alternately inhabit, it’s been noticed that people who attend a reading, QnA or development season of a new work are more likely to see the work when it’s produced.  (They often bring their friends, too.) You’d think that this would be counterintuitive – why would they pay to see a work which they’d previously seen for free?  But a non-scientific analysis of foyer conversations suggests that once they have been involved in a two-way exchange about the play, they feel a sense of ownership. They want to see how the work’s grown up.  Even if the writer hasn’t changed the play because of their feedback, there’s a sense of investment, of inclusion – and we all support our own investments.

Novels don’t have the same public development process as plays, but a blog does some of that work. Only the bravest writers would feel comfortable posting sections of text for comment, and I’m not suggesting you do. (Interestingly, publishing work on private or group blogs seems to be the norm for poets – again it’s about sharing and discussion, and it’s rare to get money from a publisher for a poem anyway.)  There’s also the concern, unfounded or not, that someone else may grab your idea and beat you to the publisher, or worse still plagiarise your work.  But this is only one of the ways you can get feedback.  Sharing your thoughts and ideas, testing them out on an audience without giving away too much away – it seems it could be a potential win-win.

So – in summary, it seems that maintaining an active life online has its benefits, but in moderation. It turns out that – eureka! – the internet is a tool for communication (rather than porn – though some may have thought I was advocating mind porn at times.)  Two-way communication will not only help you write better, it will draw a crowd of ‘like-minded’ to you, and win you dedicated readers/show attenders/buyers.

Anyway, I’ve just noticed life outside is beautiful right now. I should go for a walk before it starts raining.  I’ve heard exercise is a great way to prime my mind for a bout of writing, and I’m desperate to try anything, really.  When I get back, I’m going to think about more blog posts. But only after I’ve written at least five more scenes.  I promise.

Note: For local examples of blogs which create a two-way conversation and give ‘access’ to the writer, check out:

- Poet and novelist Tim Jones

- Actor/singer Jessica Fong

- Writer and artist Claire Beynon

- Expat writer Paula Morris

- Writer Sarah Laing’s amazing cartoon-strip blog 

 and for an example of a blog which started off with good intentions but needs more personalised content, you’re welcome to visit me here.

Related Link: Do writers need social media? Part 1

Written by

Renee Liang

21 Jun 2011

Renee is a writer who is exploring many ways of telling stories, including plays, short stories, poetry (which she also performs), and cross-genre collaborations with composers, musicians, sculptors and filmmakers.

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