Thursday, 10 February 2011

Brave New World

Last night, I attended a talk given by David Taylor of 2010Media, a company that specialises in helping people, companies and organisations improve their communications in the age of social media. It was a fascinating talk, and I learned a lot. Talking with other attendees, I wasn't the only one.

Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Youtube and all the others have completely changed the world. I already knew that. But I don't think I had realised how that change affected ME. For years, I plodded on, ignoring the inane comments on Facebook ("Had rice Krispies for dinner, lol) and the indecipherable text speak sentences on Twitter: ("R u coming 2 c me L8er 2nite?") I couldn't figure out Linked In, or My Space, and hadn't a clue about Youtube. It was for kids who'd left the age of the mobile phone behind, right?


A few months ago, I realised that if I was ever going to achieve my dream of making a living as a writer, I had to do all I could to raise my profile. Gone were the days of writing a book/script/article and shyly handing it to the publisher/director/editor before scuttling away to anonymity to write some more. Behind us are the times when the publisher's promotion team does all the PR work and leaves you to your art. A writer today has to be prepared to market their work, create interest in it, pitch it.

I worked on the basis of one simple truth: the more your name appears in public, the more people will have heard of you, and if the name is familiar, they're more likely to give you time and space to make that pitch. They're more likely to take you seriously.

So, I started trying to use social media sites more effectively. I increased the amount of traffic I generated, and I tried to make sure that traffic was interesting, entertaining and informative so that readers would enjoy it and come back for more. I tried to make sure the writing was good quality - even within the 140 characters of Twitter. No point telling everyone you're a writer and then leaving a badly written sentence where the world and his wife can trip over it. That'd be like telling everyone you were a chef and then serving up burnt shepherd's pie.

I've made many new friends and contacts through social media. Some of them are people who enjoy my posts, which is gratifying and boosts my confidence. Some of them share my passion for writing, which eases the loneliness of the work. And some of them have been in positions to help me, giving me tips to improve my chances of success, helping make the work better, advising me of markets and competitions that will do me good, introducing me to people who may be interested in working with me.

None of them are people I would have met in the street of my town. Most would never have opened a letter from me, or even an email. Yet, social media has made them accessible.

The world is shrinking. Opportunities are growing. All we have to do is keep up with the traffic.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

When you can't reach the end...

You've been working on your latest project for some time. You've researched, written, plotted and planned, found the weak points and chiselled them out, filled the holes and made it make sense. You're a few thousand words from the end.

And it grinds to a halt.

You know how it ends. You know what you want to say. You even have the wording for the very last line absolutely perfect. But you just can't seem to get there.

If you're not deleting more than you're adding in, and not convincing yourself that every word so far is utter rubbish, then you'll be taking a degree course in procrastination. There is a sudden urgency to bath the dog and clear out the attic, or go back to the beginning and check for weak words like just and very and nice. Anything, ANYTHING, but write those final words.

Something I've found helps is to have another work lined up and waiting to be started. A few tantalising notes in a loose leaf book, a couple of lines about a character, a dialogue quote. What ifs and whys and wheres scribbled, or cryptic sentences spoken into a dictaphone. Pretty soon, a new project is taking shape and demanding to be written, and I am champing at the bit to get to it.

Suddenly, procrastination doesn't seem so enticing. I want to finish this work so I can get started on my new piece, a piece that is going to be the best thing I ever wrote, my great masterpiece, the ONE. At which point, I knuckle down and write those last few pages, and write those immortal words:

The End.

If you have trouble finishing, try it. It can't hurt. And it might just work.