The other day, I looked at my Twitter notifications. Here we go again, I thought.
First, a little background: I’m very involved in Twitter’s Writing Community (or #WritingCommunity). Every day, I post microfiction: stories that are 280 characters or less, short enough to fit in one Tweet.
I’d Tweeted out my daily story, and someone commented on it, telling me I had a typo. It wasn’t actually a typo, but that’s beside the point.
I was annoyed, because generally when a member of the #WritingCommunity posts a super-short story, we aren’t looking for critiques. I looked at the profile of the person who’d posted and saw that they were new to Twitter. They didn’t know they were breaking an unwritten rule by critiquing my piece.
I decided to write a blog post for those who are new to the community, or for those who’ve been around for some time but still aren’t sure how it all works. I Tweeted this:
I’m going to write a blog post called “So, You’re New to the #WritingCommunity on Twitter…”— Carol Beth Anderson (goes by Beth) (@CBethAnderson) July 25, 2019
What advice should I include? I’ll pick some of your Tweets and embed them in the post (so keep each bit of advice short enough for one Tweet).
And wow—the writers on Twitter came through!
This post will be full of embedded Tweets from other members of the #WritingCommunity, fantastic tidbits of advice to help you get the most out of your Twitter experience.
I couldn’t include all the awesome advice, so click on the original Tweet above if you want to read even more!
Don’t need all these tips? Below are links to every section.
Menu of #WritingCommunity Tips
- Time to Get Dressed: Your Twitter profile, cover photo, and pinned Tweets
- “Hello, My Name Is…”: Introducing yourself to the #WritingCommunity
- It’s a Numbers Game…or Is It? How important is your follower count?
- The Pied Piper of Twitter: How to get—and how not to get—more followers
- Let’s Play! How writing games can help you connect with others
- It’s Open Mic, Not a Critique Circle: Why you shouldn’t give constructive criticism in hashtag games
- “Please, PLEASE Buy My Book!”: How not to be a self-promoting nuisance
- This & That: Tips on muting, untagging, acronyms, and more
Time to Get Dressed
Your Twitter profile, cover photo, and pinned Tweets
When you get dressed in the morning, you base your clothing on your plans, and others can usually tell something about you by what you’re wearing.
On your way to do yoga? You’re not gonna wear a wetsuit. Headed to work at an office? Time for a business suit or, if you’re lucky, jeans and a non-stained shirt.
Your Twitter profile is how you “get dressed” so others on Twitter know what you’re doing there. Here’s some great advice from Stephen:
Make sure you have a cover photo and description in your profile that identifies your writing interests. Complete profiles are more likely to gain interaction.— Stephen J. Wolf (@FireMageKershin) July 25, 2019
When I’m looking through my recent followers and deciding who to follow back, I usually just glance quickly at profiles. If a follower is a writer or if I have something else in common with them, I follow back. Be sure your profile tells people you’re a writer!
Then, as Stephen said, go a step beyond and include something in your cover photo that reflects who you are as an author. If you have at least one book cover, you can include it in your image. Brand-new fantasy author? Go to a free stock photo site and download a cool fantasy image. You get the idea.
What should you use as your profile picture? It’s up to you. I don’t mind people seeing my face, so I use the same profile photo for all my social media. Other people prefer to stay anonymous, so they use an image that represents their interests. I’d suggest not changing your profile picture very often; it can confuse your followers.
Cathleen has another great tip for setting up your account:
Please, please, please have a pinned tweet so that other writers can help spread the word about your writing! If you don’t have a pinned tweet of your work, it’s like missing free advertising.— Cathleen Maza (@CathleenMaza) July 26, 2019
A pinned Tweet is a Tweet that stays at the top of your Twitter page. I agree with Cathleen that, in most cases, your pinned Tweet should reflect your writing. This is a totally acceptable time to promote yourself! Here are some ideas:
- If you’ve published books, link to them.
- Link to your blog.
- Link to an online journal where your writing is published.
- If none of those fit you, you can pin an introductory Tweet or one of your favorite microfiction Tweets. (Don’t worry, we’ll get to the topic of microfiction soon!)
To make a pinned Tweet, post a regular Tweet, click at the little arrow in the top right corner, and click Pin to your profile.
Now that your profile is set up, it’s time to say hello to the #WritingCommunity!
“Hello, My Name Is…”
Introducing yourself to the #WritingCommunity
Now it’s time to introduce yourself and start connecting with other writers! Check out some great advice from Cate:
You could also include something about how to get followers at first: tell everyone you need followers ????— Cate Pearce ????️???????? (@cate_pearce) July 25, 2019
I got to 500 quickly by commenting on other people’s tweets and then following them so they saw I was engaging
It’s annoying when someone constantly begs for Twitter followers! However, I think you can get away with it in certain, very occasional, instances, if you’re nice about it. One of those times is when you’re new to the #WritingCommunity.
As Cate said, you can post once, telling the #WritingCommunity that you need followers. (Be sure to use the #WritingCommunity hashtag!) As you’re drafting your Tweet, follow Bob’s tip:
‘New’ writers should follow other writers, of course, but they should also tell us a little about themselves beyond their profile so we can greet them and let us get to know them better.— Bob Young (@arthurscortex61) July 26, 2019
Your intro Tweet might look something like this:
“Hi, I’m Beth, and I’m new to the #WritingCommunity! I write YA fantasy, and when I’m not writing, I’m hanging out with my family, making sourdough bread, and trying to stay cool in the Austin, TX area. I’d love to connect with other writers, so I hope you’ll follow and say hi!”
Now that you’ve introduced yourself, and you’re starting to get some followers, how do you continue to connect with people?
It’s a Numbers Game…or Is It?
How important is your follower count?
Let me begin this section by saying this:
You’re not defined by your follower count.
If you’re competitive and goal-oriented like me, you may need to remind yourself of this truth. Frequently.
Some people would rather not have a lot of Twitter connections. They want to build meaningful relationships with a few people instead of trying to connect with thousands. That’s a totally valid way to use Twitter.
The thing is, Twitter’s algorithms favor popular Tweets. In other words, if your Tweet gets a good number of interactions (likes, RTs, and comments), Twitter will show it to more people. To get those initial interactions, you usually need a decent follower count.
In fact, it wasn’t until I had a few thousand followers that I could count on most of my writing-related discussion topics getting a good number of responses.
If you don’t have a lot of followers, you’ll need to work harder to engage with the people you’re connected with, since Twitter’s algorithms generally won’t favor your Tweets being seen. That’s the case whether you’re actively building your follower count or purposefully keeping your numbers low.
If you want more engagement, you probably need more followers. If you’re using social media as a marketing tool (more on that later), you also need more followers.
That being said, we gotta keep it in perspective. JJ said it well:
Follows are great, but it’s just a number. Don’t forget to engage as many people as you can because that’s how you build relationships. Retweet, like, and most of all talk to your followers.— JJ Smith (@JJSmithPrime) July 26, 2019
His advice is a great intro to our next section. If you want more followers, how do you get them?
The Pied Piper of Twitter
How to get—and how not to get—more followers
First of all, let’s talk about hashtags. Rich has some great advice:
As difficult as it can be if you’re introverted, introduce yourself. Tweet something about you as a writer and that you’re looking to engage. Ask for advice & use hashtags to ensure the writing community sees your post, including, #WritingCommunity, #amwriting, & #fellowriters.— Rich Shifman (@rshifman) July 25, 2019
When you’re posting about writing, use the hashtags Rich suggested. It may help people find you, and some of those people may interact with you and/or follow you.
It’s not enough just to put together a great Tweet with appropriate hashtags, however. Check out Vicky’s tip:
Engagement is not about you tweeting a thing and sitting back, waiting for responses. Engagement is about getting involved, talking to people, checking out hashtags— Vicky Brewster – Editor & Proofreader (@VProofreader) July 25, 2019
Dawn, R.R., Tom, and Simon all have fantastic advice about how to create genuine connections with other writers:
If you want others to engage with you, engage with them. If you want others to support you, support them. You’ll get out of it what you put into it. Be genuine and others will respond the same to you.— Dawn Hosmer (@DawnHosmer7) July 25, 2019
Great topic for a post! One of my biggest pieces of advice for new members is: be generous with your attention and your words. Don’t just come on twitter to post about yourself. Show fellow writers some love, support them, celebrate their successes, follow the Golden Rule!— R.R. Vale (@RadinaValova) July 25, 2019
Likes are cool, retweets are great, but replying & having a meaning, helpful conversation is gold! Also, if all you do is promote your work, others will rarely interact with you.— Author Tom Waguespack (@tpatwaguespack) July 26, 2019
Like, encourage and champion the works you genuinely enjoy. If a person (whose work you admire) falls into bit of melancholy, lift them up. Tell them that that next great adventure is right around the corner for them.— Simon Psychosis (@SimonPsychosis) July 26, 2019
I’d had folks do this for me. And frankly, I love ’em for it.
If you’re newer to the #WritingCommunity, it’s easy to look at people with a lot of followers and wonder if they really want to hear from “a newbie.” But someone with a lot of followers often got those followers by being generous and awesome! There aren’t many snobs in the community. Sean puts it so well:
Don’t be afraid to actually use this platform to engage with others. Even writers you think are “above your level.” And share what you know. We’re all at a different place with our writing and what might be old hat to you could be the secret nugget that motivates somebody else.— Sean Phipps (@SeanMPhipps) July 26, 2019
Hopefully, you’re not just looking for followers; you’re looking for people to follow. There are some “shortcuts” to finding other writers to follow. Here are a couple of examples:
- #FF or #FollowFriday: People post lists of writers they recommend following.
- Writer lifts: People start threads encouraging those who want followers to post, so they can all follow each other.
However, Esmari offers a warning that’s worth heeding:
In fact, Twitter has other rules about following. It’s worth reading them at this link. Here’s a brief rundown:
- You can’t follow more than 400 people a day.
- Don’t follow a bunch of people, then unfollow them, to improve your follower-to-following ratio. It’s against the rules, and it’s super rude.
- Don’t follow a lot more accounts than the number of people who are following you. Once you’ve followed 5,000 people, if you don’t have enough followers, Twitter won’t let you follow anyone else.
Regarding that last bullet point: How do you keep that ratio under control? Don’t blindly follow mass numbers of people! Follow people because you want to see what they post. Let people follow you for the same reason.
You’ll sometimes come across “shortcuts” for finding followers, such as accounts or apps dedicated solely to building follower count. Just say no to these. They’re spammy and icky.
I’ve grown my follower numbers organically. In fact, I rarely look at a Follow Friday list and follow everyone on it. Normally, I follow writers who are already following me. Don’t try to get 5,000 or 10,000 followers overnight. Give it time!
Once you reach 1,000 followers, if you’re really active in the #WritingCommunity, you’ll probably find that your follower count starts growing a lot faster. And it’s okay if it takes a long time to reach 1,000!
When it comes to connecting with people (finding people to follow and finding followers), I’ve saved the best advice for last. In fact, it’s so important, it deserves its own section.
How writing games can help you connect with others
Terri (Smarty Marty) has an amazing tip. In fact, this has been the key to me finding “my tribe” within the #WritingCommunity. You ready for this?
I would advise to join the writing games. You open yourself up to connecting with other writers that way. Comment on the little stories and poems of other writers and they will respond to you with kindness.❤❤❤— Smarty Marty (@SmartyMarty1126) July 25, 2019
Writer games? What are those?
They’re hashtag-based games on Twitter, and they usually fall into one of three categories:
- Microfiction and poetry games: The game host provides a prompt word or theme, and writers are encouraged to write a one-Tweet story or poem inspired by that prompt. Examples: #vss365, #satsplat
- Snippet games: The game host provides a prompt word or theme, and writers use that prompt to share a one-Tweet snippet from something they’ve written or are currently writing (such as a book, short story, etc.) Examples: #Thurds, #Btr2sDay
- Writing-discussion chats/games: The chat/game host provides one or more questions encouraging you to talk about yourself as a writer or about what you’ve been writing. Examples: #AuthorConfession, #7amWritersClub
These games are an absolutely fantastic way to connect with other writers. As Terri (Smarty Marty) said above, don’t just participate in the games by Tweeting. Read what others are writing. Comment on, retweet, and like their posts.
Microfiction games (especially #vss365) have been the biggest factor in me connecting with other people on Twitter. As I said at the start of this post, I post microfiction every day. I do that using the #vss365 prompt word. I’ve connected with thousands of writers this way.
You might find your tribe in the snippet games (which I also participate in) or the chats (which I don’t participate in—but they look super fun). Jump in. You don’t need to be a “member” of any group. Just search for the hashtag. Start commenting on others’ posts, and then join the game with your own post!
To participate in #vss365, a daily microfiction game, search Twitter for #vss365 #prompt. A different person posts the prompt words each month. (If you can’t find today’s prompt, click “Latest” at the top of the search results.) Write your own tiny story or poem using the prompt word and the hashtag #vss365.
How do you hunt down all the other prompts, themes, and topics of discussion? @TheWritePrompt generously provides a daily list hashtag games.
Once you get involved in these games, I bet you’ll find yourself connecting with other writers, just as I did. It’s good to keep in mind this advice from Simon:
Accept that once something is posted, what happens next no one can predict.— Simon Psychosis (@SimonPsychosis) July 26, 2019
1. You could spend loads of time pouring your heart into a piece, only for it to fall on deaf ears.
2. You could post something you consider “fluff”, only for it to blow up.
You just never know.
He couldn’t be more right!
As I mentioned earlier in the post, there are some unwritten rules in the #WritingCommunity. Our next section addresses one of the biggies.
It’s Open Mic, Not a Critique Circle
Why you shouldn’t give constructive criticism in hashtag games
There are groups online where writers critique each other’s work. It’s understandable that people enter the #WritingCommunity on Twitter, expecting it to be such a place.
Here’s what happens. Someone, let’s call him Bob, finds the Twitter #WritingCommunity. Bob sees bit of microfiction or a snippet of a longer work (often posted as part of one of the hashtag games we just talked about.) It’s a decent piece, but Bob thinks it could be better. He responds to it with a Tweet like this:
“Hey, cool story! When you described the dragon’s fear, I think you could’ve down more showing and less telling. But great stuff, look forward to reading more!”
Or perhaps he points out a grammar error. Either way, Bob walks away, happy that he’s been helpful to another writer.
And then the #WritingCommunity attacks like a mother bear, protecting one of our own. “This isn’t the place for critiques!” we cry.
Bob’s advice to other writers has always been accepted in other groups; after all, he sandwiches a critique in between two really nice compliments! He’s befuddled, not quite understanding where he went wrong. Perhaps Laura can help him:
Remember that #vss tweets are not manuscripts in search of beta readers. And sometimes, writers use creative license with spelling and punctuation simply to fit their entry into a tweet. In other words, this is not the arena to showcase your editing prowess.— Laura Wilson (@lalakate1028) July 25, 2019
Exactly. This goes for all microfiction on Twitter. It even goes for snippets of someone’s work in progress (which may be a first draft, still full of grammar errors and telling-not-showing!)
The #WritingCommunity on Twitter is more like an open mic night than a critique circle. It’s a safe place to get together and share.
Some of you are reading this, saying, “Sheesh, what a bunch of pansies. If you can’t take constructive criticism, you shouldn’t be writing.”
I agree that constructive criticism is vital for writers. That’s why I have a group of alpha readers. They read my novels as I write them, providing feedback to make my writing better. It’s why I have a large group of beta readers. They give me feedback (sometimes harsh!) about my revised manuscripts. It’s why I’ve hired an editor in the past.
Many people in the #WritingCommunity are battered by critique all the time, and rightfully so. We all need to know where we can improve if we want to sell stories and books.
However, when you’re dealing with tough feedback from betas and editors and/or rejections from agents and publishers, sometimes you just want to hang with other writers, practicing your craft without worrying about critiques.
Are there exceptions? Of course. For instance, if I have a huge typo in my pinned post (“I hope you’ll by my book!”), you might want to point it out to me. If so, you can do it in a DM (Direct Message) to avoid embarrassing me. But if you just think I used a crappy metaphor in my 280-character microfiction, or if I missed a comma in the book snippet I posted, please let it be.
One more bit of wisdom on this topic, from Lindsey:
There’s no need to comment on someone’s creative piece with a rebuttal. More often than not, it is a fictional piece. If it’s not for you, than you don’t have to click like. Just resist the urge to comment something opposing it.— Lindsey’s Thoughts (@LindseyPWrites) July 25, 2019
Just as some people come to Twitter expecting it to be a critique circle, others come expecting it to be a place to sell books. Let’s talk about what’s wrong with that mindset.
“Please, PLEASE Buy My Book!”
How not to be a self-promoting nuisance
When I first decided to connect with other writers on Twitter, I was mostly interested in sharing snippets of the books I was writing. And you know what? I didn’t get much interaction.
That’s because I was coming in with marketing as my goal. Oops. Thankfully, I ended up engaging with other cool writers, especially through #vss365.
My focus shifted to connection instead of marketing.
It’s been a whole lot more fun this way. And I’ve sold a surprising number of books to people on Twitter, because that isn’t my main focus.
If most of your Tweets are focused on selling books, you’ll turn people off. It’s fine to try to sell books, but those Tweets should be the tiny minority of what you post.
But don’t take it from me; listen to Ryan, Barlow, Brian, and DK:
If you want people to buy your books, don’t spam your links, instead engage with the community and people will be interested in you.— Ryan Zavis (@RyanZavis) July 25, 2019
Be a person, not a brand.— Barlow Adams Classic (@BarlowAdams) July 25, 2019
Post more tweets about yourself and your life than about your work.— brianfinneywriter (@brianfinneywri1) July 25, 2019
Don’t spam your book. Let your writing speak for itself.— DK Marie❣️ (@dkmarie2216s) July 25, 2019
As bad as it is to constantly post about selling your books, there’s something even worse. Much worse. It’s another unwritten rule of the #WritingCommunity. Please, please, listen to Leilani:
Don’t DM links to your books.— Leilani ‘???? Mask Off ????’ Graceffa ???? (@LeilaniGraceffa) July 25, 2019
There are services that will automatically DM (Direct Message) every new follower for you. These services are a fantastic idea if you want to lose a bunch of followers. Don’t do it. Just don’t. Heed this advice from Aspen and The Awkward Bard:
Also, promote it in creative ways. Don’t simply send umpteen tweets about the same thing into someone’s feed. It will only make people mute or unfollow you. And do not comment on someone else’s work with a promo for your book. That’s just rude.— The Awkward Bard (@twictitious) July 26, 2019
Remember, it’s the #WritingCommunity, not the #WritingFleaMarket. Connection first, selling second.
This & That
Tips on muting, untagging, acronyms, and more
We’ve covered most of the big things that a newcomer to the #WritingCommunity needs to know, but you still may feel like you’re lost in an unfamiliar country. I hope these final tips help you feel more at home.
As you connect with more people, your notifications might become unmanageable, or, as people often put it, “My notifications blew up!” This is especially the case if you get tagged in some sort of game.
These games are different than hashtag games. A tagging game might go something like this:
“If your book is made into a movie, who should play the main character? Answer and tag five people!”
By the time you get tagged, there may be 48 other people tagged, and suddenly, you’re getting notifications every few seconds as other people comment. This is also the case with #FF or #FollowFriday posts as well as other writer recommendation Tweets.
Here’s some great advice from Alain:
For the tagging games, in addition to muting (after a time) – if you connect with someone and you’re having a back and forth convo with someone, you can untag everyone else (especially when the tag list is LONG) – that way you’re not spamming everyone’s notifications. ????— Alain Davis (@HopelessOptimst) July 25, 2019
Alain hits on a couple of important tips:
- Mute conversations if you want to slow down your notifications. Muting a conversation means you no longer get notifications for it. Just click the little arrow at the top right of the Tweet you were tagged in, and click “Mute this conversation.” Don’t feel guilty about doing this! We all have lives outside of Twitter, and it’s okay to want fewer notifications. It’s even okay not to participate in tagging games!
- Untag people if you don’t want everyone in the conversation to get notified of your response. Sometimes, you just want to thank someone without dozens of other people getting that notification! They’ll appreciate it if you untag them in your reply. When you click the Reply icon, it’ll say “Replying to” with a list of names. Click on those names, and you can choose who to untag. (I need to do this a whole lot more often than I do!)
Jaime hits on something else that might make you feel like a #WritingCommunity outsider:
I come across lots of newbies who don’t understand even our basic lingo, such as MC, WIP, TBR, etc. A shortlist of most used terms would be very helpful. A lot of people stay in the dark bc they are too embarrassed to ask what they mean!— Jaime Dill (@jaime_dill) July 25, 2019
Thankfully, Darryl has an awesome list of abbreviations! Click on the Tweet; he has even more examples in the rest of the thread.
Common #writingcommunity shorthand for new folks.— Darryl Ballegeer Tattooed Huckster (@darrylballegeer) March 28, 2019
WIP – work in progress
YA – young adult
NA – new adult
MG – middle grade
PB – picture book
SF/F – science fiction/fantasy
HEA – happily ever after
VSS – very short story
Comp – comparable titles
ARC – advance reader’s copy
I’m pretty good with these acronyms, only because I spend too much time on Twitter. Faye has some advice that I should probably print out and post above my writing desk:
Twitter is a great place to connect with other writers. It’s also a giant time suck, so don’t forget that WRITING is what makes you a writer.— Faye Delacour ⚜️ (@FayeDelacour) July 26, 2019
However much time you spend on Twitter, there’s one tip that’s perhaps the most important of all. Here it is, in Alain’s words:
Also, and perhaps more importantly, always always always – lead with kindness. ????— Alain Davis (@HopelessOptimst) July 25, 2019
Wrapping it up
Whew! I know that was a ton of information. I hope it was helpful! If you have more questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.
And if you haven’t found me on Twitter, please do! I love to connect with fellow writers! I’m @CBethAnderson.
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