I’m one of those weird people who actually likes it when people show me their family photos. I’ll happily browse through them, even if the pictures are of people I’ve never met. I enjoy looking at all kinds of pictures, really, especially of books, exotic locales, and cute animals. “You’ll love Instagram,” people tell me, “especially #bookstagram!” So why did it take me so long to hop on the Instagram train?
Issue #1. I am a terrible photographer. Seriously, taking decent pictures is not in my skill set.
Issue #2. When I first set up my Instagram account, I logged on simultaneously from both my computer and my cell phone. Why or how I did this is a mystery. All I know is that afterward I was unable to log onto Instagram.
As of today, issue #2 has been resolved. Yay, now I’m ready to post badly photographed pictures and to follow all you wonderful booklovers on Instagram. If you have any Instagram advice you’d like to share, this rank newbie would sure love to hear it.
Who do you like to follow on Instagram–any recommendations?
What are good things I can post pictures of?
Is there anything else should I know about Instagram?
Brenda Drake is a rock star of the writing community. In addition to being a fabulous YA writer in her own right, Brenda is known by authors far and wide as the mastermind behind the Twitter writing contest phenomenon known as #pitchwars. This year saw the publication of Brenda’s YA novel, Thief of Lies, which has a concept book lovers everywhere will adore: characters who time-jump between the world’s most beautiful libraries. Brenda was kind enough to take a moment out of her busy schedule to answer questions about the new book.
Brenda, you’ve interviewed MANY writers and other industry professionals as part of your involvement in the amazingly successful phenomenon known as Pitch Wars. As a writer who has just released her first book, how does it feel to be on the other side?
It feels great! It’s been such a long journey, but I’ve been distracted enough by the contests and celebrating other writers’ successes that it almost flew by. The community has been so wonderful to me, and I love giving back to writers. I’m humbled by the generosity of the mentors and the participants behind Pitch Wars. It’s been a great run!
What made you fall in love with your novel?
So many things made me fall in love with it. First, there’s the libraries and the ability to jump through pages and end up in another beautiful library anywhere in the world. Then there’s the characters, especially Gia. I’ve been in Gia’s head for so long, she feels real to me.
The publishing industry is a notoriously slow-moving machine. From writing to publication, how long was the “birthing” process of your book? What have some of the highlights been?
This story has taken a long journey. Full of mistakes that took me off the path and on detours before bringing me back to the right road. I started writing this book in 2009. It’s seen me through changing agents and publishers. There were heartbreaking moments and many highlights. I think going through editing and molding the story to what it is today was definitely a one highlight. And when a reader loves your work, that’s a wonderful feeling. I try to tune out the negative now, though it’s hard. I have to say, my journey is what it was supposed to be. It’s what molded me into who I am today. And I couldn’t be more thankful.
The best writers are also huge readers. What are some books you recently read that you
I’ve been reading many of the Pitch Wars mentors’ books lately. Everyone should try them. They are so good! If you want to try them, they’re listed on my website on the sidebar. You’d be happy you did. A book other than from my Pitch Wars friends? I finished Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Loved it! It was so amazing. You all should read it.
Having an online presence is a big deal for writers. How do you balance writing and social media?
Lately? Poorly. I’m sort of all over the place nowadays, and I just hop on social media during breaks. When I don’t have so much going on, I schedule my day. In the morning, I grab coffee and do social media while I’m waking up. Then I write, hop on social media during lunch, run errands, or clean if I have to. When I’m done, I write until dinner. I’ll usually hop on again at night if there’s nothing going on or haven’t passed out.
In the early days of crafting your novel, were you shy about sharing what you’d written with others?
I was terrified about sharing my work with others. I would take critique personally and want to give up. It was horrible. Then I grew up. Now, I tell my critique partners not to sugar coat their critiques of my work. I take it with a shot of whiskey and dive in.
Do you have a critique group and, if so, how did you find them?
I have a small group of critique partners. I found them online. I met one during NaNoWriMo and the others during my contests. I don’t meet with a group here where I live. It’s all online. I have met my critique partners in person at conferences. They are my writer soulmates and I feel like I’ve known them all my life.
Many writers have dark moments while working on their novels, times when they’re not sure they’ll ever finish. If you encountered hurdles like this, how did you overcome them?
I’ve been through many dark times. I can fall into a depression that will take me time to get out of, so I’m careful. I change my setting – go to a Barnes and Noble or Starbucks to write. If that doesn’t work, I reach out to my writing friends who understand what I’m going through. After I talk it out and get in a better mood, I can jump (pun intended) over those hurdles and plow through what I have to get finished.
Brenda Drake is the author of Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers Book 1) and Touching Fate (Fated Series Book1) both available now from Entangled Teen. She grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up are of her eccentric, Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling. So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the fantastical. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic (much to her disappointment).
As writers, most of us have four jobs: our day job, family life, writing, and social media. For obvious reasons, we have to spend time at our day jobs. We also have to spend time with our families because, well, relationships make life worth living. As for writing, that’s non-negotiable. Except it is. Even when our life’s ambition is to publish novels, we don’t always make enough time to write, and sometimes (often) the culprit is our fourth job, social media.
If you’re like me, you worry that you might be spending too much time on social media. Try not to beat yourself up about this too much. Marketing experts and industry specialists universally agree (I know, that surprised me, too) that, if you’re serious about building a writing career, social media is necessary. Authors must be visible to the public, accessible, and connected to what is happening in the publishing world.
Yay, so we don’t have to worry that we’re spending too much time on social media!
How Do You Know You’re Spending Too Much Time on Social Media?
Most of us have an innate sense for when we’re spending an unhealthy amount of time online. And our manuscripts definitely know because they’re not growing as fast as we’d like them to.
According to literary agent and writer’s-best-friend, Jane Friedman, “If it’s starting to drag on your resources and time to do other things more important to you (such as writing), then it’s time to re-assess.”
Why is social media so tempting?
“When we go on these sites, our underlying drive is to satisfy that innate need to connect to others. It comforts us and fulfills us to know that we are not alone.” Well put, Melissa Joy Kong.
Speaking mostly for myself, I’ll hazard a guess that writers are particularly susceptible to social media’s siren call. Since we writers are not the world’s most extroverted creatures (hence, we immerse ourselves in imaginary worlds), the “comfort” of social media is logically a huge temptation.
Now for the Big Question . . . How to Balance Writing and Social Media?
#1 Set Goals and Prioritize
Just like setting goals for your writing, also set goals for the time you spend on social media. Joshua Graham recommends that you “Make to-do lists every day and put tasks in priority order.”
#2 Quality over Quantity
Don’t try to do it all; stick to social media platforms you enjoy and do them well. If blogging every day doesn’t negatively impact your writing time, then go for it. However, Chuck Sambuchino suggests, “It’s very possible to have a platform with the ‘less is more’ philosophy, as long as you focus on the absolute quality of your efforts.”
#3 “Batch” Your Time
There’s this term efficiency experts use called “batching” time. This means setting aside blocks of time for, in our case, writing. During that time block, all you should do is write. Then you can set aside other blocks of time for blogging and each social media platform. You’ll get far more accomplished if you’re not constantly switching between blogging, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr and, of course, all-important writing.
If resisting social media during your writing block is too difficult, consider downloading the Anti-Social app ($15), which you can program to block overly tempting websites during time periods that you set.
#4 Frontload Blog and Social Media Posts
During your “blog time block,” frontload blog posts. For example, set aside each Sunday afternoon to write all your blog posts for the week. You can also write and schedule social media posts in advance using programs like Hootsuite.
#5 Set a Daily Limit on Your Social Media Time
What is a reasonable amount of time to spend on social media? “It varies from person to person” is an answer I hate, so I won’t say that. Instead, I’ll give you Jody Hedlund’s wise answer, which is: “The time we give to our writing should be greater than the time we spend on marketing.” This makes sense, right, writers?
Here’s my favorite answer. (Way to be bold with your very specific answer, Katie Wagner.) In her video blog, Wagner says you should engage in social media for “fifteen minutes, three times a day.” During each fifteen-minute social media block spend:
Five minutes posting;
Five minutes responding to posts from others;
Five minutes reading and commenting on other people’s blogs and social media accounts.
There you have it. If you follow all these suggestions, you will never again have to worry about spending too much time on social media.
Well, except that we’re writers and we’ll always find reasons to worry. Plus, we’ll probably still spend too much time on social media. But even if you incorporate one or two of these suggestions into your daily or weekly routine, you’ll be making more time to write, which will move you ever closer to your ultimate goal of publishing novels.
If you’ve found other ways of balancing writing and social media, please share!