Tag Archives: Social Media

Using Pinterest as a Writer

Back in 2015, two years after I returned to creative writing, I instigated several measures aimed at raising my profile as a writer—hopefully, to sell more books.

I created profiles on Twitter, Quora, and Reddit and Pinterest and began a writer’s blog via WordPress and created a Facebook business page.

I had doubts about how successful such social media postings would be, for there are hundreds of thousands of people doing so, including many, many writers. I subscribed to the notifications of about twenty established and newbie authors, to see what they were saying. I swiftly became aware that many were struggling to fill the space, while there was an awful lot of repetition of publishing news. If someone was prepared to express an opinion, taking a stance with a sense of humour, I opened their newsletters with a sense of anticipation.

Pinterest is an entertaining site, with wonderful images pinned on ‘boards’, but I was bemused by how it could be used to help a writer publicise their books. I came across the suggestion of adding one’s blog address to each ‘pin’, as a way of tempting users into checking you out; to make the pins more interesting, I added information about the image.

I put up a dozen boards featuring things that interest me, including art, nature, trees and wise words, including one board of my own ebooks. These pins were intended to drive readers to my blog—which has since mysteriously disappeared!

I backed away from developing these various social media profiles, for various reasons, including reticence about wanting to promote me as a person (why couldn’t my writing do the talking?), ignorance of the process and irritation at the superficial level people communicate these days.

Recently, I’ve decided to return to self-publishing, so need to find ways of publicising my series of Cornish Detective novels. One interesting aspect of uploading ebooks to Smashwords and Amazon, that hooked my attention is the use of what are called ‘keywords’ as a shorthand way of describing the plot.

Thus, my first novel in the series, Who Kills A Nudist?, would have tags of Nudism/ Murder/ Cornwall/ BDSM/ Supercars/ Smuggling/ Human Trafficking/ Firearms/ Organised Crime/ Surfing

Such tags could also be used as the titles for boards on Pinterest, as discussed by Teagan Berry in these two articles here and here.

It makes sense to take advantage of people’s interests via the boards, for if someone is interested in surfing in Cornwall, and is not averse to reading about kinky sex and murder, then they might seek out my ebook.

Do any of you have a presence on Pinterest?

Have you used your boards to promote your books?

What do you think of it as an idea?

Of all the photographs I pinned on my Pinterest boards, this one has been the most repinned—which says something about people’s need for optimistic images:

Getting Gooder at Writing?!

Since returning to creative writing in 2013, I’ve learned a lot of new skills and some of them felt like scaling a frozen waterfall using ice axes and crampons. I mean stuff like formatting a manuscript, which made my brain melt as I attempted to understand the instructions in Smashwords founder Mark Coker’s free Style Guide.

It turned out to be easier to learn by actually doing it, submitting faulty versions of a short story to Smashwords’ Autovetter which told me what I’d done wrong.

Aspects of writing that I thought I’d be capable of doing, turned out to be complicated with subtleties…mainly linked to marketing myself and my books. Learning how to write plot synopses, queries to literary agents and which tags or keywords to choose to attract readers of ebooks all had me feeling like I was a trainee psychiatrist, not an author.

Selling anything requires trickery. I don’t mean dishonesty, just something that lures a customer into taking a bite at your hook. It could be termed Clickbait in that however you describe your book, including the tags, cover blurb and cover design, needs to make a potential reader curious in some way.

In learning how to do this, I’ve become very aware of what attracts me to a product, be it a book, DVD or CD. The title of this thread is provocative, for we all know that ‘gooder’ isn’t a proper word, but using a slang word might create more interest than my being correct with ‘How I’ve Improved My Writing’…which sounds pompous. It’s important to choose a story title that intrigues as well as informs.

When I read through short stories and poetry I wrote five years ago, the main thing that I correct is wordiness. Usually, less is more, as keeping things simple lets the reader use their imagination. I’m currently re-editing the first novel I wrote, having not looked at it for eighteen months. Leaving stuff in the bottom drawer always improves my eyes’ focus.

I recall wanting to write a crime novel that had literary elements. This ambition led me into using posh words and ten words where one word would have been better.. It’s stuff like having written: “The knife had left a scar on the fatty part above his left jaw” —the fatty part above his left jaw, what are you one about, Paul? I rewrote this as “He had a knife scar on his cheek” Simpler and conveying the same message.

Overall, I think that I’ve learned how to make my writing more forceful with fewer words…punchier. One of the masters of laconic yet dynamic writing was Raymond Chandler, who apparently laboured for hours to cut back what he’d written, and who said:

Image result for raymond chandler A good story cannot be devised; it has to be distilled.

It takes time to distil a story into the written equivalent of whisky. Far easier to dash off what amounts to palatable but weak beer. As Mark Twain is deemed to have said: I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.

Writing a story shouldn’t force your readers into consulting a dictionary. Using pretentious and unusual words can certainly be used to show the nature of a character, maybe a snob who’s trying to intimidate someone. I did this in my latest Cornish Detective novel, where a murder suspect, a snooty art dealer, talks down to the detectives by referring to painting terms such an en plein air and wet-on-wet.

What I need to get betterer (!) at is how to schmooze. Ingratiating myself with literary agents, publishers and readers doesn’t come naturally to me, but it’s onwards and upwards, as these days there’s no choice but to be your own cheerleader. The biggest fallacy about publishing remains true—that a well-written and well-polished manuscript will automatically rise to the top of the slush pile. Your story may shine, but luminosity alone won’t sell it.

How has your writing improved?

Do you look back at early efforts and groan?

What aspects of writing and publishing intimidate you?

Writing for 21st-Century Readers

Much has been said about the limited attention spans of modern day audiences for every form of show business, be it music, television shows or Hollywood films. It takes an inexperienced author a while to realise that they too are entering the cutthroat world of show business, and that their act—which is their book—needs to perform in a way that grabs and keeps the attention of a fickle mob of readers, who appear to have the attention span of a goldfish with attention deficit disorder!

I recently read Bored and Brilliant by Manoush Zamarodi which argues the case for being bored as a way of increasing creativity and productivity; this means controlling excessive use of social media.

In one chapter, Zamarodi examines what she terms Reading Incomprehension, whereby dozens of readers contacted her to say that they were unable to get through all of a novel or even a magazine article. Even professional journalists admitted problems to her, with their eyes skipping around the page—as if scrolling on Facebook or Twitter—finding it hard to focus on the meaning of the text and looking for a quick payoff. With a book, this can be a long time in coming.

Before the Web, reading was primarily a linear activity. The Internet has hyperlinks, scrolling screens, photographs and sometimes an immense amount of information, that’s impossible to take in, which encourages nonlinear reading. Our brains haven’t adapted to this new way of reading, even if it’s supplanted the traditional method, meaning that our comprehension has declined, as has our patience—we move on too quickly. Various scientific studies have been done, that prove readers’ recall of a story that they read in printed form is better than those who read it on a Kindle.

This is partly due to the depth at which people read. With a book in your hand, you can pause to think, re-reading a sentence to savour its meaning; it may be a slower process than scanning a page on an electric screen, but it ultimately brings more enjoyment and satisfaction.

All the same, being faced with huge paragraphs can be intimidating. In the last year, I’ve read a few novels that were originally published in the 1950s and 1960s, where paragraphs were more than one page long; they looked like mountains to climb.

It appears there’s a trend towards making the pages of a printed book imitate the appearance of a smartphone or Kindle. Journalist Constance Grady, who writes for the Vox website, recently came across a novel that was structured like a season of a television series, with each chapter being one episode. This is a deliberate marketing ploy by an outfit called Serial Box.

By coincidence, I read a highly-praised crime novel by a debut author, which has a modern way of laying out the pages, to include pages of social postings gossiping about the investigation into a missing child.

Close to Home, by Cara Hunter, has police interviews of suspects and witnesses printed in italics, the questions and answers widely spaced, as are newspaper reports on the case, which appear in a separate box. There are very few long paragraphs, with most averaging 4-5 lines. Each page has a lot of white space…making it look easy to tackle—as well as resembling the screen of an electronic reader. The format means that the paperback version has a few more pages than is usual for a debut crime novel, at 361 pages, and I’m surprised that it still comes in at a typical-for-the-genre 85,219-word count.

Image result for Close to Home, by Cara Hunter

It certainly has a modern look in how the printed page is arranged, which presumably came from the publisher’s marketing and design departments putting their heads together.

All of these studies and developments in publishing have made me reconsider how I’ve been arranging my Cornish Detective novels. Although I’m a veteran reader, I’ve noticed, over the last few years, that I feel a bit weary when I turn a page to see that there are very long paragraphs facing me, so do I really want to inflict such obstacles on my readers? When being taught how to write, as a youngster, the advice was to discuss one topic in a paragraph and to begin a new paragraph when the topic changed. The same thing applies to when a new speaker starts saying something.

I largely stay true to these rules, but sometimes when my detectives are chewing the fat over, say, on a complicated subject, such as money laundering, the paragraphs expand to look enormous. I’ve sometimes introduced another speaker, just to chop them up!

What do you think of these new ways of laying out the pages of a novel?

Have you noticed any trends that look like they’re aimed at readers with limited attention spans?

Is your own writing affected by worrying that you’ll bore your readers with overlong paragraphs, or even lengthy sentences?