Thursday, July 14, 2011

To Tweet or Not to Tweet by Jeanne Veillette Bowerman

Do you believe in happenstance? Or do things occur for a reason? Fate? Karma? I believe it's all God's awesome planning. My guest today is Jeanne Veillette Bowerman, the Co-Founder and moderator of the weekly Twitter screenwriters’ chat, Scriptchat, and a regular columnist for Script Magazine and Write On Online. Fresh back from speaking on a social network panel for Scriptscene at the Romance Writers of America Conference in NYC, Jeanne joins us this week to speak about tweeting. I met Jeanne at the cafe where I work and when I noticed her working devotedly over her laptop day after day I took the initiative and asked her if she too was a writer. Happily she is! And, since there is no sense in having a guest speak on the virtues of Twitter for the writer I now publicly confess that I've finally joined Twitter and with baby-steps or should I say practice flights, am beginning to flap my wings.

Jeanne would love to hear from you about all things media/writing connected or if you'd just like to say hello. What I'd appreciate anyone doing is becoming a Follower to this blog. Heartfelt thanks ahead of time!!

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Upon hearing the word “Twitter,” I recoiled. What is a tweet? Who has time to tweet? Why would a serious writer ever participate in such nonsense? I had to find out.

In 2009, I started my Twitter account, and my life as a writer has forever changed. My name is Jeanne, and I’m a tweetaholic. 

We writers are often quarantined, hunkering down in cluttered home offices, strumming away on our keyboards, not seeing another human, or shower, for days. Twitter brings a support system right to your computer screen. Luckily, they can’t see your dirty hair.

Courtesy of stock.xchng

There I was with a grungy mane and a shiny new Twitter account. I timidly poked around. One of my first finds was a writing chat, called WriteChat.  Here, I met a gaggle of writers who held my newbie hand. Their support was astounding. No longer was I alone at my isolated desk in the country.

A tweet is similar to a text message. People connect by the voice expressed in 140 characters. Certainly, some judge by the profile picture, but most writers associate with the voice. The character limitation has challenges, but it’s a lesson for writers in editing. Be effective in fewer words. I can hear editors applauding.

Chats are only part of the value. People tweet links to informative articles and blogs. Editors, publishers, and agents post their tips throughout the day. Rachelle Gardner was the first literary agent I met on Twitter and has a blog offering endless advice for writers. True, some agents aren’t as gracious, but even that has value. Seeing an agent’s personality, allows us to find a better fit for our own. It’s easier to query an agent you’ve seen as a person, not just a gatekeeper. This kind of access is priceless, yet on Twitter, it’s free.

Not sold yet?

On Twitter, I’ve met writers who have gotten contracts with agents, invitations to participate in anthologies, and found editors-for-hire. We read each other’s work and provide feedback with encouragement. Let’s be honest: often our own families can’t supply that. 

Generosity is abundant. I’ve witnessed writers recommend others to their agents for representation. Even smaller gestures make a difference though.  One of my followers encouraged me to stop procrastinating and start a blog. With his advice, and one short day, my blog went live. He tweeted my link as a high-five of support. When one of us succeeds, we all have hope.

Tweets aren’t solely professional. Followers become friends. One day, I posted my sorrow regarding a friend who died. The outpouring of love and support took my breath away. Later, when I blogged about my friend’s death, Best Selling thriller author, J.T. Ellison, stumbled upon it. As a thank you, she mailed the first three novels in her series. We became fast friends. 

Another highlight has been the creation of ScriptChat, a chat for screenwriters. Jamie Livingston, Zac Sanford, Kim Garland, Mina Zaher and I are the founders. The chat’s success has been astounding. One of our regular participants is adapting his screenplay into a novel and sharing his journey. As a result, many novelists are now trying their hand at screenwriting.

However, not all people succeed on Twitter. Some use it as a procrastination tool. Others get too social and forget they came to network. Yet, with a few simple guidelines, you can develop a community of talented, helpful writers to nurture you and your craft.

Do’s and Don’ts:

1. Show your personality, not just your projects.  People want to work with someone they like.
2. Tweet helpful advice, articles and websites.
3. Interact with people, including the professionals.  Pretend you’re at a cocktail party with conversations going on around you.  Join in. 
4. Pimp your fellow writer, meaning tell your followers about them.  Read their blog. Comment.  Tweet it out. 
5. Have a website or blog linked to your profile to show your voice beyond 140 characters.
6. Be creative in your bio.  Don’t simply put “writer.”  Show your layers.
7. Join Twitter writer chats.  Debbie Ridpath Ohi’s site has a complete list: 
8. Attend agent chats and follow topics where agents, editors, and publishers offer advice.
9. If you have a question or a new blog post, tweet it at different times of day to catch more people online.
10. View Twitter as a part-time job. Dedicate one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening to start your following.  You get out what you put in.

Courtesy of Stock.xchng.
In case you still aren’t convinced of Twitter’s value, Writer’s Digest publisher, Jane Friedman, met me on Twitter, invited me to a Writer’s Digest party, and asked me to write an article on Twitter's value. If that doesn’t prove Twitter’s worth, I don’t know what will.

The writer’s quarantine of solitude is lifted. Twitter is your water cooler. 

Guest Author Bio:

Jeanne Veillette Bowerman is the Co-Founder and moderator of the weekly Twitter screenwriters’ chat, Scriptchat, and a regular columnist for Script Magazine and Write On Online. A graduate of Cornell University, she’s written several spec scripts, including the adaption of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Slavery by Another Name, with its author, Douglas A. Blackmon, senior national correspondent of The Wall Street Journal. More information can be found on her blog, Ramblings of a Recovering Insecureaholic.


  1. Welcome, Jeanne to Everyone's Story. I'll start of with a couple of questions:

    I jumped right into Twitter with both feet still wearing shoes ... and Followed my agent. Any tips on getting over feeling like a stalker or is this social networking acceptable?

    And, I noticed that some on Twitter have little Mail icons whether many don't. Is this the only way to send personal tweets to people directly, or is this not done at all?

    Elaine--trying not to feel too embarrassed by these questions

  2. Thank you for asking me to guest blog. It's an honor.

    Regarding stalking, it's socially acceptable to do so. No fear. Just follow whomever you're interested in, but I'd highly recommend finding fellow writers through writing chats instead of following the famous celebrities.

    As for the mail icon, I'm not sure if you're using or another application, like Tweetdeck. On Tweetdeck, the mail icon is to send a "direct message," which is private and can only be sent to a person who is following you.

  3. FYI, for a detailed discussion on how to use social media as a writer, watch these two podcasts I appeared on along with other writers:
    Social Media and the Writer Roundtable Part I:
    Social Media and the Writer Roundtable Part 2:

  4. Twitter is my water cooler--I'm translating that to twitter is my teachers lounge. I get that, never had a water cooler job. Lots of good information that I've not read before, thank you.

    I do have a question. I messed up when first doing twitter and am following way to many people. My twitter account feels like my spam inbox. Is there a fast way to delete the people I don't want to follow?

  5. Jeanne, thank you for sharing your expertise. I'm still learning twittereese. So far, I haven't been good about regular tweets, but your post has convinced me to set a schedule. Thanks.

    If you're looking for questions, how does one increase followers?

  6. I tweet, sometimes. The thing I like about Facebook is I can click on a "friend" and see all their most recent wall posts. Is there a way to do that with Twitter? I can't be watching all day to see if an interesting post comes along :D

    And what's the story with #? Someone said you use it to trend or such? (see, Elaine, you shouldn't be embarrassed. I'm just as much in the dark!)

  7. Diana, I wish I knew how to do mass unfollows. But what I do to manage the ones I follow is use Tweetdeck. I put my favorites into groups that view as columns, and the rest in "all friends"... which I only glance at from time to time. If I find a simpler way to organize the masses, I'll let you know.

    Caroline, the best way to get more followers is to participate in writer chats. Follow ones you're interested in, and most will follow back.

    Tammy, just like FB, you can click on the person's twitter name and their Twitter page comes up, allowing you to read their posts. The # sign is called a "hashtag", and it makes things searchable. For example, our screenwriting chat is called #scriptchat. When you put that into the search box on any of the Twitter applications (web, Tweetdeck, Seesmic) any tweet containing that tag will show up. It's how all writer chats are done.

    Hope that helps!

  8. Excellent article. I've been a twitter member for years, but really didn't know how to use it.

  9. Thank you Jeanne. I have tweetdeck but haven't utilized it much. I'll give that a try.

  10. Great post, Jeanne. I just started with Twitter in May and haven't been one to follow hundreds to get followers and I'm not on Facebook (yet), so my numbers are rising slowly. Is this a bad way to do it?

    Also, I've seen tweets that have the orginal message, then // and an answer. How do you do that? If you "reply," that all it is. If you "retweet," that's all it is.

  11. What an excellent article. I appreciate all of Jeanne's great advice. Although I twitter, I don't feel that I've really caught on how to use it well and she has some great tips.

  12. Thanks for the Tweet tips, Jeanne! I'm encouraged to join some writers' groups. Though I am not a screenwriter, might I still benefit from Scriptchat?


  13. Sandra,you can set up Tweetdeck to give you a choice to either RT the original tweet (the way the Twitter website RTs) or to edit the tweet before you tweet it out. :)

  14. Sara, screenwriting craft and the business is what we talk about, though some topics apply to novelists, for example, outlining. But there are tons of writer chats on Twitter, one for almost every genre.

    Twitter 101 can be found on Mashable's site. It's a fantastic tutorial on all the basics to get you going

  15. This is a very interesting article chuck full of valuable information. Thank you for sharing with us. :D

  16. Thanks, Jeanne. I haven't done that yet. Guess I'd better do so.

  17. Thank you so much, Jeanne, for being my guest this week. You've managed to make Tweeting for newbies *easy* as well as fun! I never thought I'd enjoy it as much as I have. Thanks for your encouragement and all the time you've taken from your very busy schedule.

    Blessings on your writing and film. Enjoy your summer. Hope you have some down-time for yourself!

    ♥ Elaine


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