Oh Those Social Agents

You on Facebook yet? Do you Tweet? How about LinkedIn? MySpace? There are many good reasons for authors to have a presence on social networking sites. Some literary agents also Tweet and spend time on Facebook, and there’s been a lot of kvetching around the ‘net about that issue. I’m sidestepping that landmine. I think it’s more important for writers to remember that befriending an agent on a social networking site is very different from being on-line friends with the folks you go out with on Friday nights. As a writer, it benefits you to make a multitude of friends and keep them up-to-date on your latest writing projects. Social networking sites are a great way to do that. But it behooves us to remember who’s watching those sites before we post photos of last weekend’s debacle.

Agents feel the same way. They are careful who they choose to friend on Facebook and other sites. Twitter is a little different because agents can choose who to follow while anyone can follow them. But don’t be surprised if an agent ignores your request to friend them on MySpace or Facebook. And, in general, agents don’t want to be queried on these sites. Follow the submission guidelines on the agent’s website instead.

Chuck Sambuchino covers this nicely in a post at the Guide to Literary Agents Blog.

I’m on most of the social networking sites. I tend to keep my Facebook page for friends, family and a few others, but I’m happy to be followed on Twitter. I most often Tweet about procrastination, walking my dog, and procrastinating by walking my dog. I don’t Tweet about weekend debacles. Feel free to follow me if you wish.

Body Double

“If we had to say what writing is, we would define it essentially as an act of courage.” – Cynthia Ozick

Even on good days I need little tricks to keep writing. Bribery. Coercion. Threats. And right now I have to pull out all the stops. One trick is what Linda Anderson, an organizational expert, refers to as the body double principle. No. Not like in the movies. No one’s doing a nude scene here.

In writing, a body double is simply another person physically present, usually another writer working away beside me. I’ve been using several friends for this purpose for some time now. I don’t know if they realize they’re being used, but they don’t seem to mind. We meet at a coffeehouse and work on our individual projects at the same time.

But since my mother died, I haven’t wanted to write. I just want to sleep. Yet the fact that my friend would be at the coffeehouse tugged at me. So I joined her. She is disciplined. I am not. I stir and spin. There she sat working away, so I sat next to her. After a few minutes, I got up to get coffee. Then I had to go to the bathroom. Then refill my coffee. I sat again. I sifted through my bag. I pulled out one project, returned it, then drug out another. All the while my friend continued to work. My mind watched her. Sitting near her calmed me and eventually I began to work. Hours passed and I was amazed when I looked at my watch. I only had fifteen minutes before I needed to leave.

According to Anderson, “. . . the body double serves as a physical and emotional anchor for the distracted individual who feels more centered by the presence of another person in their space.”

I don’t know exactly why it works, but it does and I’m going to keep using it.

Mac Envy

I learned to word process in 1987 on Word Perfect 4.1 for DOS. PC logic lives deep in my bones. But today, for the first time in twenty years, I felt jealous of a person with a Macintosh laptop. She had a program I wanted and couldn’t have, a program just for Macs, a program for which I have yet to find a parallel.

The program, Scrivener, does a lot of what yWriter, the novel writing program I use, does plus a few bits more. And, it has an elegant interface that looks like an actual corkboard. The index cards look like index cards and things move around all WSYWIG and lovely. I was smitten.

Luckily it was just a crush. It passed. I’m not going to go buy a MAC – yet. I still love my IBM thinkpad. But for a few moments today, the earth stood still.

When All Else Fails . . .

. . . get more software.

While my attempts to use various types of software to write my book have not been completely productive, according to the recent New York Times article by Rachel Donadio, “Get With the Program,” other much more successful writers have had great luck with computer programs. Most of the authors included in the article, however, didn’t mention software specifically designed for writing. They credited Excel, Microsoft Project, voice recognition software, Mindjet MindManager, Microsoft OneNote, and even the Logitech io2 pen for their assisting in their success. Only one writer quoted in the article used actual “writing software,” Dramatica Pro.

The Times article failed to include, yWriter, the free (yes that’s right – free) writing software I mentioned in a previous post. I wish I’d kept working with yWriter when I first test-drove it more than a year ago. yWriter has the features I most want, is easy to use, and like I said, it’s free! Simon Haynes, creator of yWriter, and author of a series of humorous sci fi novels featuring Hal Spacejock, has an update in the works which has tempted me to try it again. Simon correctly guessed that I had moved the entire document too quickly to Word Perfect and yWriter2, the version I was using, didn’t have an easy way to switch back and forth. In yWriter3, available in beta, Simon has added that and other features. I’ll let you know how it goes.