Saturday, February 19, 2011

How Social Media Changed My Novel

what was once a solitary work became collective

I've written a few non-fiction teacher works before, but only recently did I take up the challenge of writing novel.  I'm in the editing phase now and I've noticed a few things about social media and this process.  These are a few random, scattered thoughts about how social media has changed what I had once seen as a solitary effort in writing a novel:

The Benefits
  1. Twitter has helped me learn to use language more sparingly.  Something about the brevity of the medium has pushed me away from meandering too far.  The bizarre thing is that I'm actually more astute at using better vocabulary, because Twitter is closer to poetry than prose. 
  2. I found my voice in writing blogs.  Something about the daily feedback from readers helped me figure out how to say what I want to say in a way that is distinctly me.  Fortunately for me, my blog has never been intensely popular and has grown slowly over the years, allowing me to take risks and experiment along the way.
  3. I have a built-in "audience" from my PLN (my blog and Twitter followers) who have a sense of what I will write before I put it on paper.   
  4. When I've needed advice on book covers, I've had an instant pool of comments and questions, if a few people in particular helping me to refine my ideas. 
  5. I've had help in writing my content.  For example, I posted the first three chapters and within one night I had six people offering feedback.  They all shared a similar perspective and honestly it saved my novel.  A few times I've actually tweeted a line from the book and watched the response.  The last line of the book was one such tweet. 
The Drawbacks
  1. I struggled at first with the narrative format, partially because people lose patience fast on blogs while they want to build anticipation with a story.  Even in the editing phase, I'm trying to figure this out.  
  2. Although blogs allowed me to find my voice, they have also unintentionally led me to a place where I'm either a commentator or expert.  Figuring out how to tell the story rather than comment on it has been a challenge due to social media.  
  3. Social media (and Twitter in particular) tends to be focussed on innovation.  Often, this pushes us toward the pursuit of novelty.  Writing an enduring story that is not bound to the current context proved harder than I thought.  
  4. Sometimes I had to avoid the feedback of readers (including one who warned me that kids don't like a story that sounds dark) and trust my classroom experience instead.  
  5. Twitter can be distracting.  There were times I had an idea for the novel and instead I chose Twitter.  My mentor once gave me the advice, "We must seize the moment of excited curiosity for the acquisition of wisdom."  In other words, if I put off an idea until another day, I lose the beauty of the moment and struggle to put it on paper. 

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