Out there, lurking darkly in cyberspace, is a creature more voracious than any on earth. Like most writers I know, I’ve been offering it literary titbits for years. Blogging, tweeting, Facebook-feeding, the lot.
Of late – with much help from the lovely Kristen Harrison of The Curved House – I’ve been preparing a Cybermonster Feast in the form of a revamped website. And now, returning to the real world, I find a pile of desperate ASK SHELLEY pleas about the care and maintenance of that very same beast. Like this one, from poor Verity Tual:
Dear Shelley (she writes), I’m going crazy. First I embarked on my first novel. Then I was told that I had to work on my Online Presence. So I joined forums and tweeted and blogged – meanwhile dissipating all the creative energy I’d been pouring into the novel, which actually had been going well. And now I’m stuck in a virtual nihilistic nightmare: my words, my imagination, sapped by some kind of invisible force. Help me, please!
I feel for you, Verity – as I’m sure do legions of writers who are experiencing similar torment. Here’s my advice:
- Allocate blocks of time to your novel writing. Hours, days, whatever you can afford. Stick to these allotted periods as faithfully as you can.
- Focus only on your novel during these times: no internet, no emails, nothing. Just pure concentration on the task at hand.
- As for the Online Word Monster (I’ll call it OWM, which happens to be the noise it makes) – decide which morsels would nourish it best. One juicy blog judiciously disseminated can be more effective than the exhausting scatter-gun approach.
- A successful novelist friend swears by Twitter, above all. Her advice is to join conversations instigated by leading literary lights. To me it feels like barging into a high-level cocktail party conversation, but maybe I’m not pushy enough.
- And finally, here’s guidance from website designer Kristen, a dedicated OWM nutritionist who offers brilliant workshops on websites and social media for writers: ‘Only do as much online as you’re comfortable with. Never feel forced or obliged to engage in more social media activity than you enjoy – it should never feel like a burden.’