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Friday, January 16, 2015

Two of the Nice Things about Social Media, Especially Blogs

I’ve quoted Shakespeare often before, and I’ll quote the Bard now again. In the first scene of the fifth act of The Tempest, Miranda exclaims, “O wonder! How many goodly creatures are there here! How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world that has such people in it!” Prospero replies: “Tis new to thee.”

Social media is relatively new to me. I began writing in the late 1940s, pounding out stories on an old Remington upright. I migrated to a manual Royal in the early 1950s, acquired an electric Smith-Corona in the 1960s, and got my first dedicated word processor in the 1970s. By the 1980s, I was writing on computers: Commodore 64 (with a voice tape recorder to save files), Apple IIe (with dual 5.1 inch floppy disk drives), Mac SE with a 120K hard drive. I paid $7,000 for a Macintosh portable in 1990. It had one megabite of RAM and a small hard drive and used 3.5 inch floppy disks to store stories. But—miracle of miracles--I could connect it to a modem, connect the modem to a telephone line, and access Genie. SFWA had an online discussion board on Genie where I could post messages and read messages from other writers. HWA followed SFWA onto Genie not long after, and my novel and short story writing suffered as I learned the new technologies and spent way too much time online. I followed SFWA onto Compuserv and then AOL and, finally, to the worldwide web. I was a lurker as much as a contributor, and I felt a part of the writing community even if I were no longer writing fiction.

When Gretta developed heart problems and I was diagnosed with cancer, I stopped writing fiction entirely and became a researcher. I used hypnosis and visualization to shrink my tumors until they disappeared, and Gretta used hypnosis to generate new arteries in her heart. Gretta lost her battle with heart disease and diabetes in 2012, and I returned to fiction writing shortly thereafter.

I discovered modern social media while earning a masters in Library and Information Studies from the University of Wisconsin and working on my doctorate in Educational Psychology. So computers, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, e-books, and website creation weren’t exactly new to me by the time I returned to full-time fiction writing. But I still have Miranda’s sense of wonder at how many goodly creatures there are here online.

I now keep in touch daily with hundreds of friends on Facebook and thousands of readers through Blogger, Twitter, Tumblr, and Google +. I can download e-books instantly from Amazon or And I can literally see the faces and workspaces of other writers and read about their daily struggles to commit words to memory.

That seems like a godsend to me. I am no longer alone at my keyboard facing a blank screen.

Writers are lonely people who want desperately to connect their minds with other minds. They attempt to do that with words and images while wishing direct mind-to-mind communication were possible. Sometimes, when a writer recognizes her own thoughts in the writings of others, mind-to-mind communication does indeed seem possible.

I maintain blogs on Blogger, Tumblr, and Wordpress, and so do many other writers. Some writers post about their daily struggles, and some talk openly about the process they follow to create works of fiction. I used to think it was a waste of time and creative energy to devote hours and thousands of words daily to blogs, but I was wrong.

Blog postings, like short stories, can be collected into books. I can go back to blogs I have written, extract the most salient points, and edit them into a book on the process I follow to create fiction. Such a book can be valuable not only to me but to other writers, especially new writers just learning the craft.

Just as important, however, is the name exposure. When people go into a bookstore—either a brick-and-mortar bookstore or an online emporium—they might recognize my name and take a look inside a book with my name on it. I do that, and I suspect others do that, too. I don’t buy a book simply because of author name recognition, but I do take a look inside every book by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Patricia Cornwell, Joe R Lansdale, Billie Sue Mosiman, Mark Rainey, Lee Child, David Morrell, Brian Garfield, and everyone I befriend on Facebook. If their stories or styles interest me, I buy their books. I would hope people do that with my books.

One of the nice things about blogs is seeing a writer’s style before buying his or her books. It costs nothing but a few moments of time to scan a blog. I have bought books recently solely because I liked what I read on the author’s blog.


Coming Next: Author Interviews and Elevator Pitches

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