Twitter Tools and Hashtags for Writers

Twitter is a conglomerate of things; it is a powerful networking tool, a way to experiment with writing micro-novels, and a delightful place full of wonder and distraction. Whether your goal is to network, increase your follower count, or just to make your feed better, there are plenty of online tools and hashtags that you can use.

Jazzing Up Your Posts

The thing about Twitter is that it’s so in-the-moment; it’s essential to have a sparkling profile at all times, with lots of new and exciting content, or passerbys might wonder if you still exist. There are plenty of tools online for curating content, scheduling your posts, and for making them stand out.

It’s a myth that curating content is the hard part. The internet is such a huge playground, and there are plenty of wonderful articles, apps, sites, videos and other things (some you might not even realise exist) to explore and share with your audience. Tools like Feedly and Bloglovin’ help you to keep track of all of your favourite blogs and topics, and keeping accounts with sites like YouTube and Tumblr can help you to track the other things people are doing on those topics.

Apps like Pocket and Instapaper make it really, really easy to save links—both to read later, and to Tweet, should it take your fancy. Buffer (which has a free option) is my scheduling tool of choice, and it even has some analytics built in. Other scheduling options include Hootsuite and Social Oomph.

Identifying Influencers

Online tools can be useful for identifying who and what (at least according to what computers think) are the major influencers and hashtags are in your field. Don’t rely on these alone, but they’re fun to explore, and can help you to get a comprehensive view of your niche.

Klear is an easy and free tool to identify influencers in any niche, for both Twitter and Instagram. The paid version lets you track hashtags, and monitor your own brand. EpicBeat analyses influencers, hashtags and posts on each topic, showing you who’s doing well and why. BuzzSumo is another great tool for analysing both influencers and content.

Assessing and Increasing Your Influence

It’s hard to figure out how well you’re doing with this whole social media thing, especially when it feels like you’re just making things up as you go along. Klout gives you a score between 1-100 on your social media engagement and influence. By using its browser extension, you can see the Klout scores on every profile, and gauge where you fit. Klout also has great growth-tracking tools.

Other tools that can be helpful for increasing your engagement and following include Tweriod, which is a tool that figures out when your followers are most likely to be online, and then syncs up to Buffer to ensure that your posts go out at the best time. Twitonomy gives you a comprehensive view of your profile, your followers, your engagement and your growth.

Hashtags for Writers

Hashtags are a great way to find other writers, potential readers and communities around the genre of books you write or love. Tracking and participating in these tags can help you make friends and networks and promote your writing. Make sure to look at each tag before using it so you know that your tweet fits in the tag (noting that some tags are used more for conversation, while others are used more for promotion), and not to use too many tags in one tweet.

Publishing, Agents and Industry

  • #MSWL – This is the hashtag lots of agents use to describe their ‘manuscript wishlist’. This is a great way to find agents that might want to pick up what you’re putting down.
  • #tenqueries – Every once in a while, an agent will use this tag to comment on ten queries and why they’re requesting more or rejecting each submission. This is an interesting insight into the industry.
  • #AskAgent, #AskEditor, #AskPub, #AskAuthor – These hashtags can be used for asking people in the industry questions, and for reading the answers to questions other people have asked for you.
  • #Publishing – Great for tracking what’s going on in the publishing world, and for learning who’s who.

Writing Community

  • #Writing – The general tag, full of banter, articles, quotes, etc. Not everything here is relevant, but a lot of good content finds its way here.
  • #AmWriting, #AmEditing –  Here, people share their writing adventures (and misadventures!), and encourage each other. This is a great way to find writing buddies.
  • #WriteChat – A tag designed for all kinds of writers to chat.
  • #1k1h – This hashtag is a challenge to write 1000 words in an hour! Use this to join sprints with other writers.
  • #SpilledInk – Here, people share bits of what they have written. Usually, it’s small pieces of prose that they are particularly proud of.
  • #WriterWednesday, #WW – Every Wednesday, Twitter-ers use this tag to share something writer-related.
  • #NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month is a challenge where writers all over the world attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in a month. The official month is November, and the spin offs, ‘Camp NaNoWriMo’, take place in April and July, but there is some activity in this tag all year round.

Readers and Book Lovers

  • #FridayReads – People on Twitter love sharing what they’re planning to read on the weekend! This is a fun hashtag – a great way to find friends and people who might be interested in your book.
  • #AmReading – This is where bookworms share what they are reading, with quotes, pictures or opinions.
  • #BookHaul – This tag is used when someone buys a bunch of books and they want to share their haul! This can range from 2 to as many books as you can fit into a photo or video.
  • #GreatReads, #MustRead – Here, people share books they really enjoyed or ones which have made it onto their favourites.
  • #BookTube – BookTube is the YouTube vlogging community for books and reading! It’s very active (especially for YA readers), and this tag is an easy to see who and what is trending.
  • #BookWorm#BookWormProblems

Form and Genre-Specific Hashtags

Are there any other writerly (or readerly) Twitter tools or hashtags you use? Leave them in the comments below!

5 Books To Make You A Better Writer: Setting

Setting and worldbuilding can often be something left to speculative fiction writers. But often the best books, even those that aren’t spec fic, have powerful settings. Sometimes they even act as characters, personifying themes or interacting with the story in ways that surprise the reader and deepen the narrative.

Reading is the most important thing writers can do; it is truly the closest thing to an apprenticeship we have. By deconstructing books that work, we can figure out at least some of the magic that the brilliant authors have used when concocting their stories. This is the first in a series of posts called ‘The Writer’s Apprenticeship’, which will include recommendations for books that excel at different aspects of the craft. To view all the posts in this series, click here.

1. Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Revolutionary Road

Undoubtedly a modern classic, and set in 1950s Connecticut suburbia, this is the story of an unlikeable couple and their self-destruction. Suburbia in this book is dark and unsettling, and the way it weaves into every corner of the story is remarkably well done. This is an excellent example of a novel where the setting is a minor character; it is always present, but never overpowers the story.

2. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

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Magical from the outset, this setting is incredibly written. This is the closest thing I’ve read to an incidental fairytale, and the prose is beautiful. The circus is enchanting, and I’ve always described reading this book as like drinking a warm cup of hot chocolate. Just know going in that this one isn’t plot-heavy; read it for the atmosphere and the experience, rather than the story.

3. The Secret History by Donna Tartt

thesecrethistory

This is a literary murder mystery, but rather than a whoddunnit, it’s a whydunnit. You know the pivotal point of the novel from the outset, and the reading experience involves examining each of the characters (none of which are particularly likeable, in the best way) to learn their inner motives. This is a campus novel, and this part of the setting is perfect, but it also brings much from Ancient Greece. Here, the campus is not quite a character, but it is vivid and unwavering.

4. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

anna_and_the_french_kiss

For a fun, YA beach read, this is as good as it gets. The writing itself isn’t complex, but the setting is enchanting, with the main character exploring Paris alongside the reader. This is a great example of a short and contemporary YA with a vivid setting—and readers often comment on how much they love this book’s Paris.

5. The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

jeffrey-eugenides_the-virgin-suicides

This book is experimental in a number of ways; the narration is written in an unsettling third-person plural perspective. A group of unlikeable men tell the story of the beautiful and idyllic Lisbon sisters they knew in their teen years, and what happened to them. The story is set in the seventies, and the influence is so vivid.

Honourable Mentions

  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell for its terribly bittersweet rendition of the 80s.
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor for its magical Prague, and its even more magical other world.
  • In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami, for uncovering a chilling side of Japan that I hope I’ll never see.
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, for both of its Londons.
  • The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, for its enchanting atmosphere which is every bit as important as the setting itself.
  • Candy by Luke Davies for exploring a dark and gritty underground that felt undeniably real to the reader, regardless of whether it was.

How to Use Twitter as a Networking Tool

Twitter is a fabulous, sparkly beast, full of wonderful conversations and intelligent people. It’s a great place to spend a lazy evening, from getting distracted by all sorts of hilarious celebrity ramblings to following the minute-by-minute reactions from people all over the world to the climax of the latest Game of Thrones episode.

But the Twitter beast has claws; it is also an excellent place for meeting likeminded writerly types and ‘network’. Really, ‘networking’, especially in the creative world, is just a fancy business term for ‘making friendships that can lead to great creative things’. Through networking, you can meet your next writing buddy, people who will want to share your stuff because their audience will love it, or even find that person who might know what the best next step for your career is.

Getting Started: Follows

For a long time, I didn’t even realise writers centres existed, let alone literary collectives and experimental writing festivals and zines and indie basement journals. I didn’t even know there was a writing community I could belong to. So, if all of these magnificent future-friends are out there, how do you reach them?

Find the awesome things you already know about! Follow the magazines, organisations and people who make the stuff you love, and then go through who runs them, and who they follow. If you read blogs or mags, look for the writers of the content that you love, and then go through their networks. This network-stealing trick is a great way to build a brain-map of your niche (and every time I do it, I find awesome indie journals which I’ll submit to one day).

If you’ve got no idea where to get started, this might take a little bit of digging. Hunt for arts organisations in your area, or historical societies, or whatever floats your niche, and look for their Twitters. Search for blogs, journals or magazines in your niche (trust me, they exist), or even a subreddit. You can also go through hash tags! #amwriting, #writing, and #amreading are all popular for general reading/writing, and there are plenty of other niche hashtags.

Getting Strategic: Lists

Once you’ve followed a lot of people, you need a way to cut out the noise. Whether your Twitter is brand new or 5 years old, your feed is likely to need some cleaning up. Lists are a great way to keep track of the people in your niche, and the people you want to chat to, without getting bogged down in the rest of your feed. Choose a combination of people who have different amounts of followers—some around the same as you, some a bit more, and some with lots.

Creating these lists can be as simple or as complicated as you like. I like to split mine between ‘Friends’, for the people I know; ‘Future Friends’, for the people I want to reach out to; and ‘Opportunities’, for the magazines, journals, organisations and other collectives I want to keep track of. Then, once a month or so, I go through all the new things I’ve followed and add them to my lists.

Hint: It’s much easier to build (and keep track of) lists using an app/non-Twitter site! I use Tweetbot for Mac, but Tweetdeck is a pretty great web app with similar functionality.

Getting Markety: Your Profile

Think about your Twitter profile (as well as any other online dwelling) as your own little corner of the internet. It’s the place where you get to dazzle everyone who passes by, but it also will affect whether other people reach out to you. If your posts are old and outdated, they might assume they can’t reach you through that platform, and if it’s not clear what you’re passionate about, they might not even think you have anything in common.

This is where social media is fun and creative. Write yourself a bio: sum up the things you love in 10 words or less. Draw something or get a talented friend to create you a header, and make sure your picture looks enticing. And post! Whenever you find things that excite you, share them with your followers. The more things you post, the more chances you give other people to interact with you.

If you have a niche, try to make a good percentage of your posts related to it, but it can never hurt to sprinkle other bits of your personality through your feed. Attend online events and twitter chats, comment on any current events, share cool articles and online finds, and do promote yourself, but never too much. There are lots of theories about the right ratio, but a good rule of thumb (and karma-grabbing) is to share other people’s content at least as much as you share your own. Use a tool like Buffer to schedule and plan your posts.

Getting Social: Reach Out

Now that you’ve identified the people you want to reach out to, and you’ve jazzed up your profile, it’s time to talk to other people. An easy way to do this is to share great content the people you admire create; this is a win-win: your followers get to experience their fabulous content, you get to flesh out your social media feed, AND the creator-human gets the warm fuzzy feeling that someone loves their content.

But there are other ways to do this too. Log in regularly, even if it’s only for 5 minutes at a time, and see what the people on your lists are getting up to. Is there a comment you can reply to or something you can ask to stir up a conversation? It’s like smalltalk, but much easier because it doesn’t involve actual human contact.

Try to reach out at least 5 times a day, especially to people you’d like to collaborate with or have share your content. Don’t be scared to do this—don’t you love it when you get a surprise message from someone? Most people do! And the worst thing that can happen is that your comment goes unanswered.

 

How to Get (Valuable) Feedback on Your Writing

When you’re relatively new to a craft, getting feedback can be a crucial part of improving. There comes a time when you write and you write, and you just don’t know if you’re getting anywhere, or if someone else will enjoy this thing you’re creating.

Getting feedback isn’t hard. People love sharing their opinions (even if they aren’t always wanted), and you can usually strongarm a friend or two to read at least some of your work. But getting valuable feedback—the kind of feedback that makes your manuscript more marketable, or teases out the best aspects of your writing—can be a challenge.

And there’s always the fact that truly valuable feedback can lead to bigger things, whether it’s finding friends who write, or stumbling upon connections and opportunities that will lead to bigger things. It’s always scary to put yourself out there, but so many wonderful things can happen if you do.

A Caveat

Before you ask for anyone else’s opinion, know that you have a wonderful and unique voice. It’s far too easy for people with real talent to be discouraged because their writing didn’t resonate with one person.

Think about it: is there a classic you don’t like? Maybe you thought Lord of the Flies was a drag, or you didn’t understand the hype behind Pride and Prejudice. But thousands of people have found value in those books—just because one person doesn’t recognise your talent, doesn’t mean no one will.

Reading is a collaborative process; the writer does half the work, and the reader brings it alive. For some people, the story you provide won’t be quite right for the cast in their heads, and that’s totally fine. And if someone doesn’t like your story, that can be valuable information; perhaps, they just aren’t part of your ideal target audience.

Writing Classes and Courses

Well-chosen writing classes can make a world of difference to your writing. They can truly expand your mind, give you actionable steps you can take to improve your craft, and they are a great opportunity to meet other writers. Depending on the course, some may involve getting comments on your work from the tutor, or working in small groups and giving other writers feedback (as well as receiving it).

It’s important to choose relevant courses for your writing, and if you’re specifically after feedback on your work, to find out if this will be a part of the class. Contact the organisation running the course ahead of time to confirm. General etiquette is to make sure that the tutor doesn’t spend too much time chatting to you about your work and ignoring the other participants.

There is also the option of taking a formal course or degree. This is a great way to get lots of feedback on your writing, but they can be expensive and may not be practical. Research the university and the creative writing/English staff before committing—when it comes to writing, often it’s your networks that make or break your career. If the staff is well-connected, then they may share those networks with you.

Writing Groups

Finding a writing group you click with can be a challenge, but it’s a great way to get feedback, and it’s (usually) free. It might take a few goes to find the right people, but once you do, you’ll have a small army of people who are loyal to you and your writing, and who will give you honest feedback. You’ll also get the opportunity to critique their work, which will improve your own ability to self-edit and recognise what makes good writing tick.

Contact writing organisations to find groups near you, and if there isn’t one, ask if they can advertise the fact that you want to start one. Go to events and talk to people about what they write and whether they go to a writing group or have a critique partner.

You can also join writing-based Facebook groups and online forums. The key here is to actually participate, and to engage in conversation. Post in the group, if appropriate, asking if anyone is looking for a critique partner, and if a bunch of people are interested, create a Skype or Facebook group to talk writing and give feedback on each other’s work.

Manuscript Assessments and Mentorships

This is a slightly more expensive route, but it’s a great way to get professional, industry feedback on your writing. Manuscript assessments are when you send your work to a successful writer or industry professional, and they give you a written report with information about marketability, plot, character, theme, voice, setting, and the other important elements of your manuscript. Depending on the service, you can ask specific questions. Then, you take that written report and apply the advice to the work yourself.

Mentorships, on the other hand, are a relationship with a successful person in your field of choice, in which you receive advice about your writing and your career. Often, this can involve intense workshopping of a manuscript over a certain amount of time. This can be a great way to build networks, and to receive high quality feedback on your work.

If either of these are out of your price range, consider applying for a grant or keeping an eye out for opportunities. The Australian Society of Authors runs an annual program where 13 emerging writers and illustrators receive fully subsidised mentorships, and there are plenty of other options available.