Yes, it’s another post about the wonder that is Twitter. Thinking about it lately, I’ve decided to list a few of the things you can use it for:

  1. Networking. Well, dur.
  2. Chat and conversation. When you follow a few people who regularly to chat to each other you a) get to join in and have a good old natter yourself and b) get treated to real entertainment. Some of the conversations that crop up are actually hilarious.
  3. Search. Want an opinion on something? Want news updates? Chances are you will find it on Twitter. Either search for a phrase / name / product to find out people’s opinions on it or just ask the question. Within a few minutes you’ll have a range of answers.
  4. REsearch. You can connect with so many different people, you can talk to someone in any country. For a writer this opens up huge possibilities  – check if a local idiom is right, what would x profession do in y case, etc etc etc.
  5. Professional support and knowledge base. There is always someone blogging about whatever sphere you’re working in and the Twitterverse share those links liberally. Excellent way to find blogs you didn’t know existed. Chances are that’s how you got here, so that’s my point proven.

But my personal favourite is for folks like me who are crippled by shyness – in real life that is. I don’t know about other shy people, but my biggest problem is communicating verbally in social situations. Either I freeze and can’t think of anything to say (and the moment is gone) or I trip over words as they stumble out, coming across as inept and inarticulate.

Twitter removes those barriers. In the first instance, the moment doesn’t generally go. Someone posts a status; you want to respond; you think of a response. Unlike a verbal exchange, which has to be pretty much instant, you can take your time. The original post is there if readers forget what you’re responding to so there isn’t the need for an immediate answer. You can select your words, and almost do away with that horrible feeling of “I wish I’d said that…”. You can even leave a conversation and come back in a while later. You give the excuse that you had to do something when really you were thinking of your witty and intelligent response. 😉

The other way Twitter helps people to overcome or at least manage shyness is a certain degree of anonymity. On the one hand you could be a raving axe-wielding lunatic for all your followers know, but on the other you can be more yourself than you can in real life. Without the problems of verbal diarrhoea, for instance, making you self-conscious, you relax and just say what you think. You form relationships based on shared interests, and know that people are talking to you because they genuinely want to hear what you have to say – there is very little comparable for a confidence boost.

I have twice met up with people I’ve met on Twitter (it would be more but poverty prevents trips to London or Edinburgh!) and I can honestly say I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do that and have such lovely times without the rapport and conversation I found on Twitter first. I blogged a couple of times last year about how happy I felt going into my thirties, and how much more relaxed I felt about who I am – I hold Twitter directly responsible for a great deal of that.

Sleeping Beauty

A bit of flash fiction today. Not entirely fictional…!

8pm. Great, baby asleep in good time. Should really go to bed now, but I’ll just have five minutes first. Ooh, there’s a repeat of that show I missed the other night. Right, I’ll make a cuppa and watch that; it’s only half an hour…

9.30pm. Gah, what’s that? Tea everywhere! Stupid, must have dozed off there. Only saw half of that programme too. Well, guess I may as well go to bed. A year ago I’d have just been getting going on the second round of drinks by now. But this is good. I like being a mum – most days. Yes. Really. Ok, bed.

10pm. And here we go. Baby awake. Change her, feed her. Put her back down. Still not asleep? Ok, we’ll try the old mummy dance. The last time I danced this slow with anyone I ended up with Baby. Sway, sway. Shuffle, shuffle. Sing, sing, softer and softer. Asleep. Back to bed.

11pm. Typical, been trying to get back to sleep and can’t. Might go make a hot chocolate.

11.30pm. It’s strange but true, you can actually go to sleep standing up. Maybe the hum of the microwave. Maybe the micro-waves of the microwave, scrambling my brain. Not sure how anyone would tell. Anyway, hot chocolate ready now. Will drink it in bed and definitely NOT doze and spill it on sheets.

Midnight. Well, a couple of spots on the sheet aren’t too bad in the scheme of things. And they’ll come out in the wash. There’s the baby again. Change, her feed her. Put her back down. Still not asleep? Sway, sway, shuffle, shuffle. Sing, sing, softer and softer. Asleep. Head straight for the door, watch out for the…yes, that toy there, the one with the flashing lights. Oh well, could have been worse. Didn’t wake her. Now if I’d stepped on that toy with the musical buttons that you can’t switch off…ah, yes, that would be the one. Sway, sway, shuffle, shuffle, sing, sing. Stumble in sleepy stupor. Wake up, mummy. Sing, sing, softer and softer.

1.30am. Asleep. Back to bed.

2.30am. Who in the name of all that’s holy is texting at this time of night?? Cath. Great, sounds like she’s having fun with the girls. She should be home in bed by now. I read something the other day, that if you get less than six hours of sleep every night, by the end of two weeks you’re actually operating at the level of someone who’s drunk. I prefer the old way. At least then you got a good time and a good drink before everything went fuzzy. And you were pretty sure after the hangover you’d be ok. This hangover’s lasted 5 weeks so far. Longest hangover in history. Back to sleep.

4am. Baby awake. Change her – why aren’t the tabs sticking? What’s wrong with this stupid nappy – trust me to get a dud one. Oh. Had it on backwards. Change her, feed her. Put her back down. Stayed asleep this time. Head for the door. Awake again. Sway, sway, shuffle, shuffle. Sing, sing, softer and softer. Back to bed.

5.30am. Baby awake. Change her. She can’t need feeding again, surely? No, it’s playtime.

Rise and shine, Sleeping Beauty.

Reviewing the Situation

It’s amazing how precious reviews and feedback are, I’m finding. As someone who has a fairly fragile ego (yes, I do. Don’t look so shocked. Or snigger) I’d have thought I’d either not dare show anyone any work or else put it out, and scurry into the corner with my hands over my ears so I couldn’t hear any reactions.

On the contrary, I’m almost hungry for feedback and reviews and criticism. I’ve been lucky enough to get some lovely reviews of my little ebook on Amazon already, but I want MORE! On the one hand, yes of course I want to hear people saying “Darling, it’s simply marvellous, you are absolutely going to be a number one bestseller” but I also really and truly want to hear what I’m doing wrong too. I have a shelf full of writing books and they are nearly all extremely helpful but what I’m finding is there is nothing as helpful as actually writing something and having someone who knows what they’re talking about point out what you could do differently. Let’s not say “wrong”, as obviously all opinions are subjective but someone who’s been round the block a few times or looking at your work with no bias can spot errors or give suggestions that you yourself can’t see. And I need that so much!

I went along to a workshop given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators last night (SCBWI = Scooby. So I’m told) and if you were following me on Twitter you were probably sick of me going on about it. It was the first time I’ve been to a writing workshop and the first time (at least since GCSE English) that I’ve sat down with people and discussed different texts, looking for what works and what doesn’t. We started with some published (and very good) texts, both a picture book and a full-length YA novel, then moved on to anonymous critiques of members’ work. We did three picture book texts, a picture book synopsis and mine was the only novel excerpt – my first three pages. I’d agonised over whether to put forward my synopsis or my actual text and printed off sets of each, making up my mind at the last minute to choose text as I really wanted to know if the opening answered the questions suggested by the leader (if you’re interested I’ll do a post about those at another time as they’re really helpful). The really good thing about the anonymous critiques was that since no-one knew whose the work was they were more upfront and honest, I think, than they would otherwise have been. I know I was. This meant you knew that the reactions you were getting were completely based on your work and the question of whether people liked you or not was not colouring their perceptions. It also meant you saw how people read your writing without you piping up saying “Oh by the way, this bit means XYZ.” The work I took was my main WIP, a YA story set in 1816 about a young girl called Emma, and although I’ve had some very good and kind friends read it and be honest about it, it’s a different experience getting that completely unbiased opinion and actually sneaking a look at how people react when they’re reading it. I was so pleased – I kept hearing little chuckles and I heard at least 3 people (there were only 9 of us there) say they’d want to read the whole book. In the discussion people “got” how I wanted Emma to come across and the little hints as to what was to come. I even got compared, for the humour, to a prolific published YA author which gave me the most amazing boost.

All in all I went home floating on air. It gave me the motivation I needed to really push through and get that first draft finished, and encouraged me no end. I cannot stress enough how grateful I am to the friends I keep pestering to read my work; both them and my experience last night convince me that I might just get somewhere one day.

I know most people reading this are already writing and have probably had similar experiences already, but if by any chance you’re a new writer who is serious about wanting to improve, PLEASE be brave and ask for feedback on your work. Reviews and critiques and that fresh pair of eyes are what make you grow. On the flip side, leave reviews for books you have read as those authors, I imagine, never tire of hearing what someone thought of a piece of work they have put all their energy and talent into.

I said at the beginning that I would have expected myself to not dare put work out for review. Actually, a couple of years ago I didn’t. I maybe asked my husband for an opinion but that would have been the limit. The first time I did dare ask someone else, they were so helpful it encouraged me to do more and more. Lesson to self? People want to help. Let them.

UPDATE: As Kirsty points out in the comments, Emma actually took over my blog back at the start of the year. If you fancy having a read, here it is!

Quiet, Please

In a house with a one year old finding her voice and a three year old finding, well, EVERYTHING, things get a tad noisy. Emily will shout, just because she can. Daniel will shout, to share something amazing he’s discovered. Emily will out-shout him, just because she can. Daniel will out-shout her, because he’s in charge. The television is usually going (yes, yes, I know. Don’t judge me). We have toys that sing, whistle, laugh (that one’s quite creepy actually), count, roar. There’s a dishwasher. A washing machine. VERY occasionally I hoover.

Continue reading “Quiet, Please”

Opposite of Amber

So my first failure of the A to Z Challenge – I missed N completely. Totally stumped on that one. I could think of topics – names for example – I just didn’t have anything remotely interesting to say!

Moving swiftly on, O comes very nicely to coincide with a book I was planning to review on here anyway. Continue reading “Opposite of Amber”