Recently, The Guardian carried a piece about author Joanna Trollope’s criticism of fellow author JK Rowling. Specifically, JT thinks JKR spends far too much time being far too vocal on social media.
You can read about it here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/may/05/jk-rowling-driven-by-ego-like-kim-kardashian-joanna-trollope
The part that really piqued my interest was JT’s suggestion that aspiring authors will look at JKR’s interactions online, with her legions of fans, and assume that’s what authors need to do these days.
Firstly, of course, getting even half a legion of fans online that aren’t bots, retweeter services or purveyors of webcams is quite an achievement. Perhaps a few cohorts is more realistic.
Secondly, social media and online interaction is part of the game now, especially for anyone who is self-published, independently published, or who just wants to engage with their audience outside of their books.
Thirdly, and this is the thing that struck me most, there is no single (or proper) way for writers to behave. Surely that’s part of what being a writer is all about? You make it up! Why would it be any different off the page than on it?
There will never be another JK Rowling. Aspire as we may, that ship has sailed. All writers need to balance time spent online with actual writing, which can be problematic because social media activity can feel a bit like writing in that it’s creative and engaging. It’s also often more fun – a never-ending source of inspiration, validation and connection. It won’t get your books written though and may actually cloud your judgment by overloading you with shiny examples of how other people do it. But that too is part of the game. You have to figure out who you are as a writer and how you plan to go about your writing business.
I’ve seen many people reach overload and declare on line that they’re taking a break, as if they have a relationship with social media or the people they’re connected with online. Maybe there’s some truth in that. I have also spoken with writers who allocate specific time to Retweet, Share, Like and all the other satisfying button clicks. That can work too.
Personally, I think social media can be useful, especially when you are reaching out to discover your audience, and also to interact with other authors. The same goes for writing blogposts (I couldn’t not mention them) or your own tweets and posts. Social media plugs us into what’s going on, even if that happens to be a bunch of cat videos from time to time.
But please don’t mistake it for creative writing.
What is your relationship with social media?