Writing Blog

Social Media for Writers, Yes or No

First published in Writing Magazine November 2020

I am returning to writing after a break of around 15 years. During this time social media has expanded massively and I’m finding it all rather overwhelming. I’m hoping to resume writing some articles for magazines as well as venturing into the world of fiction, both short stories and eventually a novel. As a novice writer, do I need a Twitter account, Facebook profile, Instagram page, YouTube channel etc in order to be taken seriously? If I do create them what should I be using each for? Or should I not worry about these things for now and just get on with the writing? 

Susan Brookes – Morris, Wythall

It’s a good question, Susan, and one to which, I suspect, there is not a definitive answer. I would certainly get on with the writing! For without that, you won’t need social media – apart from the usual looking at kittens and posting photos of one’s breakfast. And I would, anyway, try to make writing the priority as Twitter and the like are massive eaters of time. (I speak as one who is on a screaming deadline to deliver a manuscript yet made her first job of the day the uploading of photos to Facebook of her cat on his third birthday!)

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Writing under the Influence

First published in Writing Magazine March 2009

I have noticed, through reading articles about them, that many creative people like to drink alcohol and that several famous authors openly admit to writing under the influence. I know I have a tendency to speak rubbish when I’ve had one too many so would I write that way too? Or is it worth experimenting? I’ll try anything once.

Bill Winters
Whitstable, Kent

What an excellent question and one I have had a most entertaining time trying to answer! You are right that many artists and writers over the centuries have used alcohol or various mind-altering substances (there is an exhibition on this very theme on in London right now called Voo-Doo: Hoochie Coochie and the Creative Spirit that you may be interested in – see www.riflemaker.org) and some of them have turned out great masterpieces while doing so.

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Should I get an Agent or a Publisher

First published in Writing Magazine June 2005

I have, at long last, finished my first novel and feel, after much checking and editing, that it is finally ready to be sent out. I have been looking forward to this moment for years, but now find myself at a loss. I have read lots of articles giving advice on this but it always seems to be conflicting. Do I try and get an agent or send it direct to a publisher? And if I go the agent route, how – out of all the hundreds in the Writers Handbook – do I know which ones to try first?

Clare Stephenson
Newcastle

If ever I go on Mastermind, this will be my specialist subject. I have so much to say I hardly know where to start but I think the most important thing to remember is that others’ tales of trying to sell a manuscript is rather like those on taking one’s driving test or having a baby. All very entertaining (or not!) but it won’t be the same for you.

For every novel published, there are as many different versions of how the author made it, as there are jiffy bags thumping depressingly back on the door mat. For some, the very first agent they ever sent it to, went into a swoon and was on the phone begging, shortly after first post. For others, they’d been turned down by forty-seven agents, thirteen publishers and the post-office dog before they finally hit the big time.

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Getting Started Again

First published in Writing Magazine June 2007

I have almost the opposite problem to Helen Coffey (Talk It Over, January 2007). I know I have talent, having sold poetry, articles and stories, and was fairly prolific too, but the application has gone, and we all know the inspiration to perspiration ratio for success.

I am not short of time or support, but I did have a couple of minor setbacks (genuinely minor), a move, and I have discovered another passion, music. Here I don’t have so much talent, but given a free moment I am much more likely to pick up the horn than the pen. I occasionally produce a little bon-bon, or a rant on an e-group, but essentially I seem to have dried up. Do you have any suggestions for restarting the flow?

Ted Beausire
West Oxfordshire

Goodness, Ted, do you realise how many readers of this magazine, trying to juggle children, unhelpful spouses, batty relatives, demanding friends and the dog that needs walking – and that’s before they shop, clean or actually go to work – will be gnashing their teeth at your letter? Talent, support and time – every writer’s dream ticket – and there you are playing the French Horn. What is to be done with you?

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Finding Time to Write

© Jane Wenham-Jones

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First published in Writing Magazine October 2005

A few months ago you discouraged a reader from giving up work in order to write, on the basis that she might not survive financially. I understand this, as my circumstances mean that we need the regular income from my part-time job and staying at home all day would simply not be an option. When I am there, I have a husband and three young children to look after, who all do lots of activities. I desperately want to write but by the time I’ve got the peace and quiet, it’s late and I’m too tired such an indulgence. So I do wonder, unless one stops work or lives alone, how on earth does one fit writing in?

Angie Webb
Wolverhampton

It’s a good question. There can’t be many parents reading this who don’t empathise, or indeed many people in full-time employment, who won’t know exactly how you feel. It is hard to find time for everything, especially creative pursuits where we need space, peace, time and maybe silence, in order to produce the goods.

The novelist Wendy Holden still had a full-time job while she was writing her first book and only completed her manuscript by getting up early to write for two hours every morning before work. Author Sue Welfare wrote for three hours in the middle of each night, others turn down all social invitations.

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Dealing with Snobbery

First published in Writing Magazine August 2005

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I have just sold a short story to a women’s magazine for the first time. I was absolutely thrilled when I got the letter. It’s more money than I have ever earned for my writing before and I was so looking forward to seeing my name in print in a national publication. I was excited by the thought of the illustration that might be used and was planning on buying about a dozen copies – it seemed like a dream come true. But I have been so disappointed by the reactions of others. While a couple of my friends are admiring, others seem to look down on “that sort” of story – especially, upsettingly, those who write themselves. The implication is either that it is not “proper” writing or that it is so easy anyone could do it. Will I never be taken seriously as a writer unless I have a novel published?

Elaine Archard — Torquay

Faced with these kinds of “friends”, even that would be no guarantee. Mills and Boon authors meet this sort of attitude constantly; “chick-lit” writers too. I was recently asked if I hadn’t thought about writing a “real” book by someone who cheerfully admitted they’d never read either of mine. Look at how disparaging people can be about Jeffrey Archer, Barbara Cartland or Barbara Taylor Bradford? (I wouldn’t mind having a fraction of their sales). This reaction to your success is ill-informed snobbery – no more, no less – and almost every magazine writer I know has experienced it. Analysed, it shows the most peculiar logic.

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A Damn Good Edit

© Jane Wenham-Jones

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First published in Writing Magazine June 2009

Please can you tell me what is meant by a “damn good edit”? I have been told several times that this is what my short stories need and now I have finished my first full-length manuscript, similar comments have been made. I have spent a year writing my novel and, as far as I am concerned, have done everything I can to make it as good as possible. So what am I supposed to do now to “sharpen and polish” it as has been suggested? I know this sounds like a silly question but I really don’t know where to start.

Chrissie Howard — Edinburgh

It doesn’t sound silly at all. This is a very good question and one, as I’ve heard agents and publishers agree, a few more writers should ask. Editing is as much a skill as any other aspect of writing – the most important one, I would say – and none of us are born experts. We have to learn how to edit effectively and when we do, the difference it makes is profound. Which is why every successful writer I know, goes over and over their manuscripts, cutting, tweaking and honing until they feel they’re absolutely right. And still, something may slip through – that’s why copy editors have a job.

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