Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Bump It Up: Part 2
Bump Your Writing Up to the Next Level Through Engagement
As I shared last week, I have been reviewing and revising my business plan. Part of that has led me to look at the area of engagement. Some of this is reflective, some is exploring where I go from here.
In December of 2011, my husband and I had decided we would retire at the end of 2012. I had one year to close out any projects I had at work and figure out what I would do with my life. I distinctly remember the February morning in 2012 when I woke up and announced to my husband I was going to be a writer.
I couldn’t see myself fishing every day. Or golfing. I like both, but I knew I would need something more engaging. I prayed about it and on that February morning I realized retirement was my opportunity to pursue a dream. I would write.
As I learned more about my new career choice, I learned there was more to it than crafting a story others would read. One of the hurdles I needed to jump was that of social media.
As I said last week, I knew very little about Facebook, nothing about Twitter, and only had a Pinterest account because my daughter set one up for me. I thought blogging was a public diary of sorts and not my cup of tea.
I knew I needed to engage with other writers, editors, and readers in meaningful ways. At least that’s what the research told me. But how?
I didn’t realize the interconnectedness of social media and engagement at the time. Duh. Don’t laugh. I was a newbie. I would read what others posted on Facebook. It was nice to keep up with the lives of friends and family, but I rarely posted anything myself. Who would be interested in the “goings on” of my life?
The education piece of my initial business plan included a writing conference. I attended my first writing conference that May. Everyone was talking about social media. I picked the brain of one writer I met at lunch who talked about engagement with her readers through her blog.
I met another who explained to me why I should have a separate author page on Facebook.
Both of these women spoke of how wonderful it was to live in this age of technology.
“There was a time,” the blogger said, “when authors were untouchable. If you wanted to ask them a question, you wrote a letter to the publisher. Now we can peek into their lives and ask them questions or virtually talk with them anytime.”
I hadn’t thought about it that way. So I started this blog. I had no idea what I was doing. A publisher at the conference suggested I write about writing. Now I kind of wish I had taken a different route, but it is what it is.
I set up my author Facebook page. I started pinning to my Pinterest account pictures related to my book as well as everything else I liked.
I opened a Twitter account and found out I really like the platform. Talk about connecting with others! Twitter is quick, straightforward, and to the point.
All of this to say, AS A WRITER YOU MUST ENGAGE WITH OTHERS. REGULARLY.
Publishers and agents will likely tell you to engage to increase readership. A following. But I think there are bigger benefits.
How Being Engaged Bumps Up Your Writing
My middle daughter met her husband while she was serving as a missionary overseas. He lived in Illinois at the time. They met when he volunteered to work with her mission field for a ten-day stint. They began communicating via email. Romance limited to written communication forces each participant to use the words carefully, to make sure the statements are accurate and use structure to convey feelings. Danielle and Tim became better at written communication than they ever had in their entire lives.
I know my writing has improved through blogging on a regular basis. It would likely improve by the mere act of writing daily. But it has also improved because some of my readers leave comments or ask questions. Some message me on Facebook or email me with their reflections and feedback. It helps me find direction.
By the way, as I understand it, leaving comments on the post helps boost visibility for the blog. If you’re considering blogging, I wrote a post called Bumfuzzled Blogging last year. Click on the title to access it.
In addition, I am certain I have learned to make every word count because of Twitter. 140 characters. Honestly. In 140 characters you can share almost anything on your mind. If you can’t, you may be too wordy for your own good.
So, yes, engaging in these activities can help you become a better writer. But let’s face it you could become a better writer by keeping a journal or practicing writing in 140 characters every day without ever posting anything online. But the engaging with others bumps everything up a notch.
Other ways you can engage include joining a reading group or a writing group. Meeting with other readers on a regular basis helps you remain relevant. Meeting with other writers on a regular basis helps you stay accountable.
For example, our local library hosts an adult reading group that meets monthly. A book is chosen, copies are ordered, and members sign up to participate. The discussions are lively and interesting. I have read books I would have never touched because of the reading group. The readings stretch me. I don’t participate every month, but I keep watch on the books selected.
You can do something similar on Goodreads. You can engage in an online book discussion. It is interesting.
I am a part of online writing groups and critique groups as well. One of the benefits of engaging with other writers online is that there is always someone “out there” to chat with or to offer advice.
One of my joys is meeting face-to-face with some of my writer friends. I joined the Ohio Chapter of the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) a couple of years ago online and began going to some of the monthly meetings this year. I love these people! We are on the same page in many ways and all working to better ourselves. We laugh together, encourage one another, and offer insights along the way.
Writing is a social dance. It is give and take. A sharing of ideas and knowledge. Writing is an act of engagement. It is a natural way for us to connect with others. The challenge is to make those connections more intentional.
What do you think? Please take a moment to leave a comment or to share this post with your friends. Let’s connect.