River Jordan's latest novel

I spent the morning and a good bit of the afternoon at a Social Media Jam Session at the Nashville Public Library, organized by Nashville author River Jordan. Authors Susan Gregg Gilmore and Darnell Arnoult, mystery writer J.T. Ellison, writer and Twitter guru Matthew Paul Turner, and agent Greg Daniel spoke about how to blog, tweet, and Facebook your way to fame and fortune in one month or less.

JT Ellison's mystery novel set in Nashville

OK, not really! But each of them has learned, in very different ways, to use social media to their advantage. Matthew Paul Turner (@JesusNeedsNewPR) has more than 18,000 Twitter followers. J.T. Ellison ( @thrillerchick) has nearly 3,500. Meanwhile, I’m limping along with 18 followers and still wondering what a hash tag is, exactly.

What’s most impressive is that these professional writers, several of them self-professed Luddites, are somehow managing to moonlight as bloggers (some of them daily[!]) and regular Tweeters / Facebookers, generating the kind of compelling content that makes people want to read more (i.e. not “I am at Starbucks. Yummy #chai!”)…all the while holding down demanding day jobs as book writers. I, for one, am deeply impressed.

(See iconographer and writer Susan Cushman’s excellent blog post about the event.)

Last year at about this time, buoyed along on a jubilant wave after completing work on the book I translated/edited, I got the idea that it was time to work on my book. I loved the experience of diving deep into “Red Sky…“, viewing a war-torn world through a young Anna Yegorova’s eyes, seeing a big project through. But I wanted a story of my own. 

Turns out, an idea had been floating around in my head for a few years already, so I got started. When 2010 rolled in, I had 10,000 words on paper. At that rate, I might have a book in 5-7 years, if I could sustain my enthusiasm for that long.

Over Christmas, I read Walter Mosley’s book, “This Year You Write Your Novel.” Obvious stuff, but it persuaded me (as if I didn’t already know this, deep down) that getting my butt in the chair every day for at least a few  hours (or a few hundred words-worth of effort) was the only way it was ever going to happen. Two weeks later, I had 15,000 words. Then, a week passed in mid-January, and the word count didn’t change.

As Greg Daniel (and everyone else) rightly pointed out, gathering a following via social media does no good if you don’t get the writing done. At the end of the session, psychologist Ken Edwards took the floor and said something obvious, but perfectly brilliant: It’s not about having the time to get a thing done. It’s about having the energy. 

How many times have I sat down to get my 800 daily words done, only to succumb to feeling unmotivated, or to the many thousands of distractions that pass across my field of vision every few seconds?  I saw a quote recently (by whom, I can’t recall) that went something like, “Writing is 3% talent, 97% not getting distracted by the Internet.” So if I start IMing you on Facebook one early morning, ask me if I’ve gotten my 800 words done already. Please.

Today I got 536 words done. Not bad, but 1,000 would be better. I’m on Chapter 10, page 60 or so, and in a few pages, my main character’s going to go flying for the first time ever. Wish her (and me) lots of luck.

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