Bayard & Holmes
~ Piper Bayard
Lone Wolf Writers are those who shun critique groups, avoid craft classes, and cross the street when we see volunteer editors heading toward us. We are known for keeping to ourselves and avoiding too many voices in our heads and in our lives.
But while we Lone Wolf Writers can produce drafts without a pack, we still need friends and allies to nurture and grow those drafts into great books that we hold in our hands and show to all of the family and friends who keep telling us to get “real” careers.
In that, we are no different from all other writers.
One of the most social watering holes for finding friends and allies is Twitter.
We live in an unprecedented age where agents, editors, New York Times bestsellers, and publishers are all at our fingertips. All we have to do is talk to them.
What? Talk to people? But I’m a Lone Wolf Writer. I only know how to talk to imaginary friends.
No worries. I’ve got you covered.
Twitter is a cocktail party.
Groups of people collect here and there about the “room” and discuss various topics. Those topics are called “hashtags,” and they look like a # sign with a word behind it, such as #hashtag.
Joining in a conversation on Twitter is like joining in with a group at a party. We first find a group, or hashtag. We read what other people are saying for a few minutes, and then we jump in with a relevant comment.
So how do I find these groups?
- Get organized. Tweetdeck and Hootsuite are free programs you can download to keep your Tweeps in columns. This makes it possible to follow hundreds, or even thousands, of Tweeps at the same time.
- Start with the people you know. Find them on Twitter, follow them, and respond to their tweets.
- Check out their followers and say hello to them, as well.
- Make a writer hashtag column, such as #MyWANA, #amwriting, #amediting, or #amrevising. Read through the tweets, pick a few that resonate with you, and respond to those people with encouragement and feedback.
- Use your publishing name as your handle instead of a moniker. This way, people can find you and support you in turn.
- Help your friends connect with people by introducing them to each other.
That’s great for finding peers, but how do I network with the publishing superstars?
Ever see The 13th Warrior? There’s a scene near the beginning of that movie where Antonio Banderas is encamped with Vikings on a river in Eurasia. He notices another ship has arrived during the night, and a boy is standing like a statue in the bow. Omar Sharif explains that the boy is letting the other Vikings see him.
Antonio: “But he’s in plain sight.”
Omar: “They don’t know if what they see is real. Something to do with the mist. Apparently, they find dangerous things in the mist. The boy was being polite, giving them time to decide if he is real.”
We have to give superstars time to decide if we are real. Everyone wants a piece of them, and almost no one gives back. Some people suck up in the hopes of ingratiating themselves. Others create work for them by asking favors right off the bat. Still others exploit the superstar’s success by name dropping and giving the impression that relationships exist where there are none. In short, superstars have something to lose, and they know it.
Start by letting your chosen superstar “see” you.
- Promote them. Do this by tweeting their book release, retweeting their tweets, or giving them a shout out.
- Respond to their tweets with positive comments.
- Bond over something other than writing. For example, if your chosen author superstar is also a veterinarian, chat with them about pets.
- Do all of the above in moderation. Responding to every tweet constitutes sucking up and perhaps even stalking.
- Keep the chat light and impersonal. Remember—you’re at a cocktail party.
- Do NOT ask for favors. The goal is a long term genuine friendship, which leads to mutual support.
- Be The Little Drummer Boy and give what you have.
In the end, it is the act of giving that lays the foundation of a solid friendship, whether that is with our peers or with our superstars.
If ever in doubt about how to respond to people on Twitter, treat them like they are dying.
What? Who even says that?
Yes, you heard me right. The best approach to making friends on Twitter is to treat everyone as if they are dying. Think about it . . .
- We don’t judge dying people.
Their Judgement Day will come soon enough, and the Big It needs no assistance from us on that score.
- We do listen to them.
In that moment, they are more important than we are so we keep our mouths shut and our ears open.
- We do let them know they are heard.
This doesn’t mean we agree with everything they say. It means we validate that they said it. The easiest way is to say, “That sounds . . .” Difficult, painful, amazing, intense, etc.
- We don’t argue.
Letting people know we heard what they said is not the same as agreeing with them, so we are not violating our integrity when we refrain from disagreeing.
- We don’t offer unsolicited advice.
They’re dying. As far as we know today, we’re probably not dying any time soon. Therefore, we don’t literally know how they feel. It’s important to realize that and not pretend that we do by trying to fix things for them.
- We don’t whine about our problems.
It’s one thing when we share the truth of our writing—our word count, our goals, our successes, our conference experiences, etc. It’s another to whine about our hemorrhoids.
Note: Hemorrhoids are those pains in the butt that never really go away, like wretched stepmothers, drunken relatives, or abandonment issues. Dying people may be interested in us, but NO ONE wants to hear about our life’s “hemorrhoids.” Hemorrhoids make everyone uncomfortable. Save them for literary fiction.
- We do validate a dying person’s feelings.
Again, “That sounds . . . .”
- We do validate their lives.
We read their words and comment on their pictures.
- We do find sincere, positive things to say.
We cheer for their successes. We acknowledge their efforts. We share the beauty of the day, whether it’s a good meal, a new baby, or a stunning sunrise.
- We do show our gratitude.
We say thank you. Because every single time a person shares themselves with us, it is a gift we may never experience again.
In short, when we be the friend and ally we want to meet, we find the friends and allies we want.