Saturday, December 21, 2013

Social Media Wrangling for YA Writers - Part 1 - What You Posted In 8th Grade

New writers (or any position where you’re selling your personality along with your product, for that matter) today have a very different issue to confront when jumping into what they hope will become a successful career: a life-long history of social media.

I’ll admit, kids today will have it even worse than I do now. I mean, the first computer I ever touched was an old Apple Macintosh machine that still used the floppy disk drive (the literally floppy disks, not the hard disks). Social media wasn’t really around until I was in high school, so I have no idea what kids today will have to deal with (I imagine they will be embarrassed about that Jonas Brothers fansite, though).

But, I began blogging in 8th grade, and I never stopped (imagine that kids today probably start waaaaaay younger!). I used the first social media sites when they came around. I created accounts on everything. I followed the trends.

I was a curious kid (I’m still a very explorative person, imo), and so I put myself out there. I said things hoping to prod new understanding out of the world. I wrote rants on the Internet that I definitely don’t still believe today. I used to debate hot issues with friends.

the facebook cowboy

So, I can say that there was a bunch of work involved in wrangling in all of my social media accounts to attempt to harmonize the image of the person I want to be known as versus all of the snapshots of the person I was each moment in my life.

I want to be a writer. I want to write books for teens and children. I want everyone to buy my books, no matter what their opinion of the Kardashians is. I want potential publishers and agents to consider me with a clean slate, a man with the ability to sell books to everyone and anyone.

I don’t want the public—potential readers of my works—to think that I am still the person I was in high school (nobody would). I wasn’t a bad kid, but everyone matures with age. I don’t want readers to think that whatever political idea I had a billion years ago should stand in the way of them picking my book off of the shelf and escaping into the fantasy world I’ve created.

quick aside: imagine future elections

Isn’t it true that when you were in second grade that you said on twitter that English class was for losers? You must be anti-educational reform!

I can see it now—future Presidential Debates, where they are scrutinized for the stuff they posted onto facebook when they were really young. We’ve never had to deal with that, since there were no social media websites way back when, but soon… We’ll have campaign commercials featuring Myspace profiles from the candidate’s elementary school years. Yikes. I can totally see people scanning for any snippet of opinion over a person’s Internet lifespan, just to tear them down. So, get it under control now!

the professional writer

I just think there comes a point where if a writer wants to get serious about jumping into the public eye, they need to furiously focus their messaging.

For political writers, perhaps they can get away with more divisive opinions. Gossip writers can spout off more random stuff about celebs. Critics can get away with bashing others.

For me, I want to write fiction for children. That means the parents have to like me—the whole package—and trust me with their kid’s attention. That means I can’t just say anything ever without understanding that kids will Google my name and see the other stuff I’ve said. I can’t have a massive amount of cursing (luckily, I’ve never had the dirtiest mouth). I can’t say crazy stuff without alienating potential readers.

That also means I can’t critique other books, because I want to create bonds with other writers. I see unpublished writer-hopefuls bashing other books in reviews on their blog all the time—it makes me cringe. If you’re reviewing books and you hope to be published, stop! You’re only making enemies by bashing others!

understanding evolves

But, that’s only half of it. I also have formulated new opinions on how we as a society can best grow together, and I don’t believe it is through impersonal Internet conversations/debates. I don’t regret anything I’ve written (I’m a better writer/thinker for it), and I don’t regret the conversations I’ve had (I’ve learned from people, especially those I’ve disagreed with).

I still have opinions, everyone does, but I think I’d rather talk in-person about them, rather than faceless facebook debating. Everyone has opinions—what we need more of is understanding.

Besides that, I just don’t have time for philosophical / political stuff anymore. I look at a recent controversy in the news, and I have this internal conversation: “Now, I could spend three hours reading this political article, thinking it through, writing a response, and then defending myself from the feedback, or…. I could spend the next three hours researching interesting stuff for my next novel, editing on my novel, or writing new words to my novel.” The choice is always clear to me.

“Jack of All Trades, Master of None”

I realized something about that little phrase: It’s true. If I wanted to become a moneymaking, professional novelist, I needed to master writing. Everything else needed to be put on the sidelines.

I think many artists have this problem. They like doing EVERYTHING EVER. Artists are big-brained people. Artists are the types of people who are the most easily distracted. Artists often crave variety. We see other art and want to try it. Dabble.

I love writing music, painting, drawing, sculpting, acting, directing, thinking about philosophy, and about everything else that has to do with art. I could jump from artistic genre to genre and never get bored… but I’d never master one that way.

Writing was the one thing I decided I could incorporate the most parts of my being, it was the one artistic project I could never strip from myself even if I wanted to. So, I focused. I picked writing and I pointed all the beams of light toward it.

sharpening the point

…and by focused, I meant I cut almost all of my hobbies besides writing. Every spare second I get, I write. Although, many of the other things I love are easily used along side of my writing—song writing has become poetic language for my prose, drawing is sketching character and critters for my novels, acting is me standing up and reciting the dialogue…

I am a writer. That simple sentence has become my most important sentence. Everything I have built, everything I am has been focused on that singular point. If it doesn’t fit that bill, it’s out.

I believe that is what it takes.

Thanks for reading, click here for a numbered list of specific things that I did / am still doing to wrangle in my social media. It’s sort of a companion piece to this post

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