Sunday, 16 September 2012

My first week on Twitter - A survival story

I did it. After resisting for years, I am finally on Twitter. I now tweet. I now retweet. I @mention. I do #followfridays. I am now completely and utterly addicted. Oh dear.

Okay, so I only have 26 followers (Oh...make that 27!) so far, but it's a start! And it is have the up-to-the-minute thoughts from heads like Stephen Fry. I get it now. I totally get it.

So why did I stay away for so long? My list of excuses went something like this:
"I don't have a's just so difficult to check them on a computer."
"I don't get how it works! Who's tweets am I looking at? Why are someone else's showing up in that feed!? Help!"
"Only people with constant, interesting thoughts use Twitter."
"Only people with constant, boring, irritating thoughts use Twitter."
"Who wants to hear about what I had for breakfast anyway?!"
"I don't know anyone on Twitter! Who will follow me? I'll look like such a loser..."

You get the idea. But in the end, of course it didn't take long to figure out how it worked. I just got started, and it went from there.

1. Set up account. Uploaded picture. Pretty simple. Phew.
2. Found one person I knew, clicked 'follow' and held on for dear life. Nothing bad happened.
3. Looked at people I was a fan of and found out who they followed and/or followed them. Stole them.

And then...someone I didn't know started following me. And then someone else. So I followed them (after checking to make sure they weren't some crazy sex-ad spam bot of course). And then some of their followers followed me. Wow. REAL LIVE TWITTER FOLLOWERS. And I was hooked.

A few things I've learned so far...

@ Mentions

  • They seem to work like links, i.e. you can click on them to see that person's profile
  • They work as a sort of tweet delivery system if put right at the front of the tweet, e.g. @YourName Hi there!
  • They make a tweet visible to others if you're following the person @mentioned. I think. Still puzzling that one out.

#ff #FF #followfriday
I found this fascinating (okay, enough 'f''s!). A totally viral way of doing a 'shoutout' to others to recommend they follow someone you're following. Apparently it's expanding from just Fridays to Thursday nights and Saturday mornings. Human beings really are attracted to ritual, and this is steadily becoming a Twitter tradition.

What NOT to do
  • Have every tweet be yet another ad for your book/blog/facebook page. Please...please just stop. Are you a real person? Is anyone actually in there? Are you so, so important that all you can do is spam me?
  • Schedule tweets with a tweet service. Again, I want to feel I'm following a human being, and when you tweet every 15 min right through the night I know you're off having a great time doing something other than paying attention to your followers! Shame on you.
  • Only ever talk about yourself in real time and never share anything of your own or of others. I have my own stream of consciousness to contend with let alone adding yours thank you!

There are some really cool people on Twitter!
I had no idea there were so many other writers out there. All reading, all writing, all talking to each other. It's fantastic, and I am meeting people already I would never have stumbled across on any other network.

So if you aren't already, why not follow me? I promise not to spam you. I promise to be a human being. I will do my very best to not be completely and utterly boring.


Monday, 10 September 2012

Love, Kisses and...Condoms?

"Oh Luke," she moaned in soft, dulcet tones as he slid his deft, manly fingers along her luscious thigh, brushing oh so near her virginal womanhood. His rakish touch set her whole body on fire as she arched fluidly against him, begging for more.
"Babe, I want you so bad," he breathed, raining kisses along her sleek, swan-like neck, pressing his taut, muscular thigh between her willing knees.
"Just a sec," she muttered, scrabbling furiously around in the drawer of the bedside table. "I could have sworn I put some prophylactic supplies in there just the other day. I'm on the birth control pill, but you never can be too careful about sexually transmitted diseases, right?" 


Okay, so I'm having a bit of fun!

The other day I came across an article by relationship psychologist and author, Susan Quilliam, At first the article made me a little sniffy, as I've grown used to reading diatribes by women who feel the entire romantic fiction genre is a waste of space and insult to their womanhood (no, not that womanhood). But I made myself reread the article with a cool head, and while I may not entirely agree with her on all points, she raises some valid questions.

The Article
The main thread of her article surrounded the question of  the impact of romantic fiction on the state of sexual awareness, safe and consensual sex, and emotional health of the female population. You cannot deny the sheer prevalence of romantic fiction and the endless staggering volume of the literature consumed every day by women worldwide. So I'll give her that one. It must have an effect.

Her main beef seems to be around the potential for romantic fantasy to wrongly inform women about:

  • Healthy roles and status in relationships (due to fainting damsels and devilish rogues etc)
  • Accurate knowledge about what is consensual sex and what is not ('sexual awakening' themes in stories etc)
  • Safe sex and condom use
  • The realities of pregnancy and the effects of childbearing on a relationship
  • Orgasms and realistic sexual fulfillment

So what?
Knowing this...knowing that romance readers seem to have developed an allergy (not literally!) to condom use, and are apparently filling up therapist waiting rooms globally due to sexual and relationship woes; what do we do about it, if anything?

As writers of romantic fiction, do we bear some responsibility for ensuring that the women who read our books are given the true picture? Or are we providing what women actually want; a fantasy, an escape from reality?

I have a suspicion that even with the 50 Shades-style literature that is swamping our eReaders, most women are pretty smart, and they know the difference between fantasy and reality. I also believe that romantic fiction as a genre may be headed towards a slightly gritter real-to-life style in any case. But it's something that bears thinking about.

A Question...and A Challenge?
If you can't write a love scene and make safe, consensual; is it the fault of the subject matter or the ability of the writer? Can you make condoms sexy?

Quilliam, Susan. ""He Seized Her in His Manly Arms and Bent His Lips to Hers...". The Surprising Impact That Romantic Novels Have on Our Work." -- Quilliam 37 (3): 179. Journal of Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, 20 May 2011. Web. 02 Sept. 2012. <>.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

So you want to be a writer?

I've done it. I've taken that step into the 'world of writing' and decided I shall become...a writer. Very noble. Very ambitious. Pats on the back for me.

But having stepped into the 'world of writing', I have discovered, as many (many) have before, a certain truth. A truth that freshly-graduated artists discover their first summer looking for an 'art job'. The truth that aspiring actors discover at their first oversubscribed audition.

That thing you wanted to do...that thing you felt made you special and unique and, well, 'above' the general mundane riff-raff? Yup, you got it. Everyone else on the planet seems to want to do exactly the same thing.

You try to process this. You try to tell yourself that you didn't just scroll through twenty-five 'writers' blogs featuring entries identical to the entries on your own (special, unique, 'above') blog. You didn't just flick through screen after screen (after screen) of self-published wannabees on Amazon who have...oh dear...the exact same story premise as the gold-dust gleaming novel saved onto your laptop's hard-drive.

This is reality. Everyone out there wants to do exactly the same thing as you. Everyone out there is potentially as good if not better than you at writing. You are part of a messy, unruly rabble all chasing each other to the coveted finish-line ribbon that has the words 'full time writer' embossed on it.

But the pie is finite. Not everyone will get a piece.

You have a choice. 

a. Find the most specialised field of intergalactic bacterial research and go do that.

b. Keep going and believe you can carve out a tiny slice of that pie for yourself. If you just hang in long enough. If you write hard enough and often enough to actually begin to get good at it and have someone notice. Just...keep going.

So what'll it be?

"Eighty percent of success is showing up." - Woody Allen