To tweet or not to tweet
I took a lot of persuading to sign up to twitter. Why would anyone be interested in what I think or do every day? It seemed the worst sort of arrogance to think that I had anything to say that could possibly be of significance. I'd never felt the need to blog (though I suppose this monthly diary is a blog of a sort) and while my daughters set a Facebook page for me I've never really understood its attraction. However, I promised my publicist that I'd try tweeting for six months. More than a year later I'm still there and I'd miss my twitter buddies if I stopped.
Writers are told by their publishers that they should engage in social media. It probably comes up at the first meeting with a new author. Some of us worry that this might be a very cheap alternative to conventional marketing, a sop to convince us that SOMETHING is being done to sell our books. However I think this is largely unfair. Digital marketing is obviously a way of engaging with a new audience. At a writers' conference last weekend one editor said that a high social media presence might even swing a publishing deal for him. But of course if everyone's doing it, the harder it is to stand out from the crowd. And blatant promotion is just tedious.
I like twitter because it often gives me a sense of eavesdropping on an interesting conversation. It's quick and easy and it's inter-active. I can advertise events and share my favourite reads while I'm taking a break from writing to drink a cup of tea. I can rant about my disgust that libraries are being closed and if other people retweet me I can reach a huge number of people and we might even make a difference. I can make virtual friends with people all over the world. Occasionally there's a discussion about our craft that's truly fascinating and that was what happened last week.
It started with Ian Rankin trying to find alternatives for 'he said'. I hate the alternatives. 'Said' is short and unobtrusive. It tells the readers who's speaking but without breaking the narrative flow. I can just about live with 'asked.' At this point Ian dropped out and a few other writers joined in. Why do you need 'asked' Stuart MacBride demanded (So OK I can live with 'demanded' too). Can't people see the question mark? Stuart tries to work without any speech tags at all. The exchange pulled in Natasha Cooper, Steve Moseby and Chris Ewan and each had great points to make. At the end I returned to work much more aware of the importance of keeping pace in dialogue. Readers seemed interested in the conversation too.
At the beginning of May the first VERA novel will be published in the US. Soon I'll be heading to Malice Domestic, a convention for writers and readers of traditional mysteries, in Bethesda Maryland. I hope to meet some people I've chatted to on twitter there.