The Keyboard “Seduction”

The main reason I (re)joined Twitter in August was I knew I was in the last stages of my latest novel. While I had followed some writer friends on my old (now dead) Twitter account, I had paid little attention to writers on Twitter overall. I wanted going forward – during what I planned to be a few months’ (at least) writing rest – to see what lots of other authors were jabbering about.

Early on I found the #writingcommunity hashtag, and what an eye opener it has been in some ways. On it there may be reasonable tweets that get one thinking. Some have been worth reproducing and addressing in blog posts.

There is also unfortunately stuff that makes me cringe in embarrassment. For example, once upon a time when a writer got a rejection letter, he/she would toss it into the fireplace, denounce it to his sympathetic and supportive spouse/partner, have a drink (or two… or six), and fret alone in the early morning candlelight at their writing desk as to if were worth continuing or moving on in life and concentrating more on perhaps the farm. No more: Now, rejection gets tweeted about so potentially the whole world knows:

And the @ replies from other authors pour in sympathizing, possibly wallowing in it too, and perhaps offering self-esteem advice. One of the downers on the #writingcommunity is encountering authors’ moaning (and we even seeing in that tweet a spelling mistake – likely auto-correct – while doing so) and “therapy-seeking” efforts. Whenever I scroll into such, I find myself hoping lots of general potential readers are not seeing it – and even if numbers of them are not, other writers (like me) are of course also among potential readers.

Let’s be honest: Who wants to read a book by a mope who tweets about their “failures”? I put “failures” in quotes there because one of the things I have learned since 2013 is an author must know when to stand their ground in the face of some criticisms – something naturally not easy to master in a “people-pleasing” endeavor like fiction-writing. Given there will always be someone out there who is dissatisfied by something we have written, who thinks we have missed some mark, who holds we should change this or that, it is not worth getting defensive or depressed about criticism.

Moreover just because you are criticized or receive a rejection (or 50 of them) does not invalidate your writing; nor does it mean you must implement what is suggested. Rejection is rarely about the true quality of the writing; your manuscript may have been “passed” on simply because the agent/publisher did not like (or even did not understand) your subject or your style, or it was not (they felt) a good fit for their agency/company. Small mistakes are almost never a reason for a rejection because they may be easily corrected and every agent/publisher knows that: “I can’t spell for s-it; that’s what an editor is for.” – my now late uncle once said to me back in the era when he still wrote on a typewriter and a much-used paper dictionary sat on his desk next to it.

[Copyright page of my uncle’s last book. Photo by me, Catskills, New York, 2019.]

The “Number 1” reason a book is published is because the publisher believes the book will sell. Period. A recent (in?)famous and by critical consensus poorly written novel“It made ‘Twilight’ look like ‘War and Peace.'” – did as we know win its author a major publishing deal… and it then indeed sold in huge numbers. The publisher certainly knew beforehand the book was cr-p and was of course after the sales. That borderline p*rno book naturally spawned a bazillion indie-published copycat efforts; and I bet many of those were indeed far better written, but that is not the point. What also matters is “copying” others’ ideas almost never works – which is one reason I consider writing “fan fiction” a waste of time and creative effort.

An author must strive – I believe – to be original in the writing. Originality will in itself attract readers; and what you write will also belong entirely to you, and is not, as with “fan fiction,” piggybacking on someone else’s idea. As an indie author that doesn’t mean there will be millions of readers, but if your writing is good that might help lay the groundwork for a devoted (even if small) fan base that may eventually win you even more readers if you keep at it and look to carve out your own little original indie-authoring niche. My fundamental view: “This is me. This what I do as a writer. If you are interested Ms/Mr Reader, well, here it is. It’s your call.”

And for those indie books to win some social media attention, which is vital for a new author, I feel it is an excellent idea for an author to refrain from behaving like a nitwit online. Meaning it is fine, say, to “query” publishers and agents quietly; what astonishes me is all of the #writingcommunity tweeting I see whining about rejections, sharing “sobbing” gifs, and way too often writers making themselves look like, uh, nine year olds. Do those who behave that way seriously feel that sort of insecure, needy, and immature carrying on in public – remember, every tweet has the potential to end up on the BBC or on CNN or in front of a potential publisher – will help them, and by extension vitally their books, look all that “attractive” to potential readers?

[Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996. Kindle front cover. Photo by me, June 16, 2019.]

My opinion: As an author, keep the whinging offline and private. Don’t act small, unappealing, and overflowing with self-doubts, online any more than you would in person among those you wish to impress – such as, for instance, at a job interview. Potential readers have to want to get to know and to like YOU, because if they don’t there is almost no chance they will want to read what you write.

A real-life experience of mine from a few years ago. With my first three novels, I found out I became briefly, uh, “big” in Lebanon. I even ended up in what could be best described probably as an “Oprah-like” friends’ book club.

I had had no idea anyone in that country had even gotten a hold of any of my books; insofar as I was then (2014-15) aware, the Kindle wasn’t available there and Amazon didn’t ship paperbacks there – a reality that had made it even more flattering to me that I was read there. I have to presume I was read in the first place because I had made a decent online impression on someone(s) there. Also I wondered if I had hit on – even if accidentally – some writing originality: the novels have several French-Lebanese characters, one of whom is major…

[Excerpt from Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996, Copyright me, 2014. Paperback. Click to expand.]

…and based in part on a dear friend I once knew well… because, uh, I’m now an author and that is what an author may do:

[Excerpt from Frontiers: Atlantic Lives, 1995-1996, Copyright me, 2014. On Kindle. Click to expand.]

The discovery I was being read in Lebanon was in a sense my first social media GLOBAL lesson as a new author. I had not up until then appreciated my potential reach or even impact. You NEVER know who might find and read your fiction and where.

Or, for that matter, your Twitter.

I have learned that appealing to readers may resemble something akin to real-life “dating” and “romance.” Who really desires to be with that needy person you just met who is begging you to love them and carrying on about their failures and insecurities? As a writer, it is better, I feel, to play a bit “hard to get,” and display a healthy self-confidence – but definitely NOT arrogance – in yourself and in what you write, for in many ways it does come down to seducing potential readers. 😉

Have a great day, wherever you are. 🙂