For years I had the hardest time writing. It wasn’t that I didn’t have ideas, or inspiration, or even time. As many point out, novel writing isn’t something you have to be unemployed or financed to do. A little bit, every day, adds up very quickly.

I started a blog when I finished the first draft of my novel with the assumption that if I had some method of accountability other than myself, I would produce more work. I started podcasting the drafts, asking for feedback from listeners. And it sort of helped. But not really. I was still dawdling editing my draft, still extremely undisciplined and totally erratic. I suffered from crazy bouts of I-am-never-going-to-do-this and why-do-I-even-bother and this-is-crap-so-I-should-give-up and taking-myself-too-seriously.

Enter the Twitterverse. As strange and simple as it sounds, Twitter has completely changed the world of writing for me.

Oh, I’d been “on” Twitter for a few months, just never really took the time to explore the options. But, eventually, one friend led to another, and another, and another, and before I knew it I was actually a part of a writing community. Writers, agents, publishers, magazine editors… all right there, all sharing essential information, tips, tricks, and suggestions. What’s so unprecedented in the Twitter world is that you have a wide-open window into the lives of people in your business (yes, writing is a business). Before, there was no way you’d ever know how many queries an agent is dealing with, or what publishing houses are on the lookout, or how long it takes so-and-so to edit their novel.

The result is twofold. You learn what writers do, and that you–if you are doing it right–are doing the same thing. And if you’re into a genre, like me, that isn’t well suited to local writer meetups, the feeling of knowing you’re not alone is really profound. But you also learn about what everyone else is doing, the people behind the scenes, and you can watch the progression right before your eyes.

Here’s a few tips for Tweeting in the writing world:

  • Find people you love. You’ll be surprised how many writers tweet–big names, little names, old and young. If you have favorite blogs, check those out–favorite ‘zines, too. Most Twitter writers publish their links on their blogs.
  • Make a good profile. Put the word “writer” or “editor” in there. Make sure you provide a link to your Twitter account on your website or blog, or Facebook account. (And make sure your site is professional… but you knew that already, right?)
  • Don’t expect everyone to follow you back. Some writers, agents, and editors has a metric crapload of followers–or they’re really, really selective. Don’t take it personally. Consider the worth of being able to have a window into their worlds, and @back at them now and again. But…
  • Don’t be annoying. Must stress this. Especially with established folks, the last thing they need to deal with is a Twitterer with entitlement issues. You’ll be blocked and ignored if you constantly badger people. If you want to get to know someone, get involved in their blog posts, read their short stories/novels, let them know you enjoyed them. But being a jerk never gets you anywhere.
  • Don’t take things offensively. I saw this recently with #queryfail on Twitter, where agents post the most terrible of query bits in their Tweets. A few writers were horrified by the public nature of the bad queries. But honestly, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Writers aren’t discovered: they’re made. And if you’re not willing to get into the business of publishers, agents, and editors, and feel your work is too precious, you’re in for a big surprise. I personally think #queryfail and similar “how to get an agent” tips are worth their weight in gold, and certainly something that, without social networking, I may have never known.
  • Don’t be embarrassed. I am an unabashed newbie. I’ve already made mistakes, more than I can count on one hand. Putting yourself out there, and being a resource yourself, is one of the best ways to get followers. But staying in your shell, protecting all your posts, and only tweeting once in a moon is not going to do the trick (and chances are, some folks aren’t interested in using Twitter like this and that of course is fine). Be proud of what you do, and share the goings on in your writing community.
  • Know you’re one in a million. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but something to just keep in mind. You are part of a large community, and you’re one of millions who has written a book. It’s a double-edged sword. Get ready to give AND take–there’s plenty to do in both departments.
  • Be approachable! If you’re using Twitter in a professional capacity as a writer, don’t be a dick. Don’t be rude. Don’t be too much of a complainer. Remember, you’re here to make friends, not alienate people.
  • Don’t expect a miracle. It takes work, both from your end and elsewhere, to get a book to publication. And it doesn’t happen to everyone. But if you work at it you’ll be better for the journey.