Are You Holding Back in Your Writing Because of Social Media?

In a world where people seem to be offended by anything and everything, it can be a daunting task for a creative person to navigate the choppy waters of what will and won’t evoke controversy hour-by-hour.  No matter the topic, it seems like someone can find a way to twist it into their own meaning pretzel with plenty of negative connotations.  And when the world seems to be backfilling with these types of oftentimes innocuous offenses, many creative types may be afraid to truly express themselves.

The solution: Don’t allow hashtags and comments on social media to dictate what you want to express in your story.  If you have an idea for something a character does or says, then you start to think about how Twitter or Facebook of Reddit will react, the trolls have won even before you’ve expressed yourself.

You can’t let that happen.

You have a story to tell.  And you cannot let anonymous people online dictate what you want to say in your story.  You just can’t allow that type of false pressure to squelch your creativity.  Even before the internet there were people who hated and were offended by things they read or saw.  Just because those people have a larger more vocal platform now doesn’t mean you should allow them to get into your head and beat down your ideas.

Maybe your story has controversial elements or themes.  Maybe you explore domestic violence, child abuse, sexual assault, or other hot button topics.  Maybe you have a character who is a racist or sexist; who uses language that you wouldn’t use but they do.  As a creative person, you need to do what’s best for your project.  If it evokes anger, offense, or hashtags against you and your work, so be it. 

Hey, you can’t please everyone.

And that’s the main thing you have to remember.  More people when they dislike something are likely to comment on it than those who like or enjoy something.  And what is odd is that usually when reviews or comments are negative, people tend to want to find out the truth for themselves instead of just going off of what some person has posted online.

And example: Joker.  Here’s a recent film that was maligned in the press, by many critics, by people online, and other groups for weeks prior to its release.  The star and director were hounded with questions about the film’s violent content, the red carpet premiere did not allow the press to ask questions, and the fear of the film spawning violence led to the U.S. military issuing a warning, and some theaters adding extra security.

All pretty negative things against the movie, and yet it was the highest grossing film for an October release and is set to break other R-rated film box office records.  There’s also Oscar buzz around Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Joker. 

The filmmakers didn’t hold back.  They didn’t listen to the critics and edit the film down to a safe PG-13.  They stuck to their vision of the film and released it as is.  And the results were effective and the negative outcry probably had a positive outcome for the film overall.

Joker is the perfect example of how as creative individuals we need to do what’s best for our story.  We need to tell the story we want to tell.  Tell the story you want to tell without the fear of social media backlash churning in the back of your mind. 

Tell your story.  Not theirs.

Do you find yourself editing and toning elements of your story down due to fear of what may be said about you or your story on social media?  Leave a comment and let me know.

My Publicity Experience – Part One

Publicity and marketing. All of us know something about those topics.  We are inundated by marketing and publicity campaigns for upcoming movies and TV series on billboards, bus stops, and buildings.  Not to mention YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and traditional media like TV and radio.  This multi-million-dollar campaigns are a huge gamble for studios and production companies hoping that you and I will see these ads and be enticed to go and see or tune into watch the product being advertised.  And, for the most part, it works.

But what if you just wrote your first novel and don’t have millions to spend on publicity?

Well, that’s the position I found myself in with my novel, The Field.  I had a published novel in both eBook and paperback form but no way to market it to the young adult audience it was intended for.  This was a big problem. 

I had made the investment into getting the book out for purchase, but I had no real way to make people aware on a large scale that book existed.  Yes, I was on Twitter and had created a website for the book, but I was only reaching friends, family, and co-workers. 

I knew what I had to do.

Now, there are videos and blogs about how to market your novel for free, and I commend those who do that.  I think if you can successfully sell your book and get the word out inexpensively that’s a great plus for you in the long run.  The problem I faced was unlike marketing to adults, my target audiences was teens thirteen and up.  I don’t know anyone in that age group, so I had to outsource my marketing to people who could reach them.

Enter Smith Publicity.

I mentioned them in a previous post where they made me realize that I had initially pretty much done all the wrong things when I thought about publishing my book (not on social media, no hard copy of the book, and no Author Photo).  All of those things were fixable on my end, but I inquired about using their services to get the word out about my book.

After careful consideration, I decided on one of their plans, and in the next post I will talk about what happened the initial week of my team-up with Smith Publicity. 

Writing Tip #4: Silencing Negativity

Let’s talk about negativity. Primarily, negativity when it comes to writing.  We oftentimes have a tendency to get mired in negative self-talk, especially when it comes to our own creativity.  Are we talented enough?  Will anyone want to read this?  What about the negativity swamp of social media or bad reviews? 

And these can often creep into our thoughts even before we’ve even started writing!  What a headache!

I sometimes do this when it comes to my writing.  I put a lot of unjust pressure on myself to write a pitch-perfect and flawless first draft. When you put that type of pressure on yourself, do you know what happens?  You don’t write.  You do anything else because what’s the point of writing if it’s not perfection?

Well, guess what?  I’m not perfect.  And the first draft of anything shouldn’t be expected to be perfection, either.  The best way to overcome the negative voice inside your head is to start writing and shut it up.  Keep this in mind: no one has to see that first draft.  You can present it to other eyes when you feel it’s ready.  Why do you care if it’s 100% perfect?  You’re going to fix it later, and you can’t re-write anything until you write it in the first place.

If you have the will and the desire to write and to tell stories to others than do it.  Even if you believe you aren’t skilled or talented in creative writing, practice can only improve your skills in the long run. Look at any published author’s work and know that at some point they probably were feeling exactly what you are now. And they worked through it, accomplished their goal, and kept on writing.  You can do that, too!

At the time of the writing, there are an estimated 7.7 billion people on the planet.  Even if only 1% of those people like your writing, that’s 7.7 million people.  And if you’re selling an eBook for $2.99 and get 70% of that, you would make $16 million dollars (before A LOT of taxes are taken out, of course)!  So, don’t worry about whether or not there’s an audience for what you write.  There are billions of people who crave good stories, great characters, and exciting dialogue.  Give those people a story to tell their friends about!

As for social media, we all know the pitfalls of that swampy underbelly of the world wide web.  It exists.  But just because someone doesn’t like what you wrote, that doesn’t mean that everyone does.  It’s a big world.  Think about it this way:  that one negative comment or review in the grand scope of the world’s population is equal to 0.00000000012987% of people who don’t like your writing. Seems pretty tiny when you look at it like that, doesn’t it? 

Remember that if someone doesn’t like your book, your poem, you video, etc, you are under no obligation to engage with them, and also know that a lot of people troll other people’s creative works because they get a rise out of it.  I’ve seen downvotes on YouTube videos about puppies! How is that even possible???!!

So, take a deep breath, exhale, and let the creativity flow in and the negativity flow out.  You have the idea, now make it a reality. 

You can do this.

The Field – From Word Doc to Paperback, Part Five

With Book Baby, you can sign up for a marketing consultation with Smith Publicity, which is exactly what I did.  Having a Young Adult novel to sell is great, but you need to get people – especially young people – interested and buying the book. I had two one-hour consultation and I learned a whole heck-of-a-lot!  A few of the key takeaways were:

  • You need to have a social media presence;
  • You need to have an Author Photo;
  • You should have hard copies of your book to send out for potential reviews and interviews.

Well, guess what?  I didn’t have any of these!  Like I said in the first post of this series, I had run away from social media in 2016, so I had no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram, none of it (I didn’t have a dating profile up!).  I knew that it was time to extricate myself from the wilderness and rejoin the masses on social media.  Well, at least one platform: Twitter (@thefieldya).

I also had no really good, current pics of myself to use for my website or profiles.  Luckily, I knew a co-worker who was a photographer and I asked him if he could take some photos of me for my Author Photo.  After I offered him money, he said yes (I’m kidding, he would have done it for free…but I’m sure the cash didn’t hurt).  We took a whole bunch of photos and by a vote of my co-workers, we landed on this one as my official Author Photo:

Ian Dawson_Author Photo
Photo Credit: (c) Andrew Ramirez

The biggest hurdle was the lack of paperback books to send out.  I knew it was a good idea for a number of reasons: a lot of kids don’t have access to tablets and phones 24/7; many of my co-workers wanted paperbacks instead of the eBook; a lot of my relatives didn’t have tablets or phones to read the book on and would prefer a hard copy.  Hm. There seemed to be a demand for paperbacks, something I had not realized.

It was time to go back to Book Baby for another project. How did it go?  Come by tomorrow to find out!

The Field – From Word Doc to Paperback, Part One

The manuscript for my novel, The Field, sat in a file on my computer for years before I decided to make the move to get it published. Sure, it was ready to go, but I would occasionally open the Word doc and tweak little things every once in a while. However, I knew it was done when the ideas I had late at night for lines of dialogue or sequences to include were already in the book.  I knew then that it was time to take the next step into publishing the novel.

But I was afraid.  I’ll admit it.  I was terrified of having to deal with trolls on social media after releasing The Field to the public.  I had already left Facebook and Instagram back in 2016 during the election cycle, so I was overly cautious about jumping back into the social media fray as an author.

And so, I waited…and waited…and made excuses…and waited.

And then one day, as I was getting my haircut, the woman who cuts my hair asked me for the 100th time how my novel was coming along and why I hadn’t published it yet.  I finally told her why: I was afraid of what the response would be on social media.  She looked at me in the mirror and said, “F**k those trolls! Publish your damn book!” Since she had clippers next to my head I agreed that it was time.

And she was 100% right.  It was time to publish the book.

That weekend, I went home and started to do research on how to self-publish.  Previous to this, I had sent out query letters the traditional way years prior to no avail.  I knew that eBooks were popular – I certainly have a Kindle full of them – so I decided to publish my novel initially as an eBook.

And so the process began, and tomorrow I will tell you what steps I took to take The Field from computer file to published novel.