When I was in high school I didn’t tell anyone I wrote. Maybe adults at whatever luncheon I got dragged to that week to impress them but not anyone I thought I’d have to see again within the next year. I never really told my peers. Why didn’t I? I was so afraid I wouldn’t be good enough and I’d get made fun of.
I’m sure people saw me physically writing. I remember a bunch of art kids staring at me like I’d grown a third head while writing poetry on a bus to Art Symposium. My friend slapped me on the arm and said “Helen, quit writing and draw something! You’re freaking them out!”
I glanced at a girl wearing two colors of eyeshadow, blue and pink; then to a boy with lime green spikes in his hair, and all their friends who looked just like them. They were in fact staring. “So what?” It took a lot of self-control to go back to writing and not snap at each and every one of them.
Suddenly, in my 20th year of life I wouldn’t stop blasting my Facebook friends with ads for my first publication. “It took me five years to get here.” I told them in a post.
“Omigosh, Helen! We hung out every day back in high school! I had no idea you wrote!” one friend said. I think she felt guilty for not knowing. And I felt guilty for not telling her. It felt too risky! I was blessed with a string of awesome English teachers (Mrs. McCafferty, Ms. Holroyd, and Mrs. Harshberger in that order!) but I remember darting through the hall with my War and Chess manuscript freshly edited by Ms. Holroyd. It was a glossy purple folder and I wouldn’t tell anyone what was inside. “It’s from a teacher.” I said ominously so the other kids would leave it be.
When I published my first book everyone showed up, showed out, and bought a copy. I was grateful for all the support. Now people ask me all the time “When is the next one coming out?!” [and God knows I wish I had an answer!] So while I’m waiting to find a publishing house I’ve been posting updates on the series I never realized would become a series, via a social media, and a ton of poetry on Wattpad. A few short stories here and there too. It’s awesome to see that I have a fan base that is so involved and so supportive of my work! There’s even people I’ve never met in person cheering me on. And of course, plenty of people I do know too. What I’m driving at is that if you don’t put yourself out there no one is going to support your work. How can they if they don’t know you’re working?
My advice? Put yourself out there! My handwriting is terrible so I’m able to post #Aesthetic pictures of my works in progress on Instagram. So somewhere out there there are people invested in the snippits I give them. A ton of people I’ve never met are invested in me “dragging a pregnant woman through the woods while she chants swear words under her breath and a bunch of people follow her around asking her ‘what do we do now?’” and my ‘sassy half-mermaid child who’s favorite weapon is that look”.
I mainly use Instagram these days. It helps me get my messages out to three other social media sites to reach a broader audience. Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. Instagram has turned me into a bit of a photographer. It’s all visually oriented so there’s quite a bit of pressure to make things pretty. Filters can do wonders. Trust me. Sometimes you just have to make ordinary things seem extraordinary. Like, while on vacation I took a walk in a field and wrote next to the creek until sundown. I made a collage of all the pictures I took and simply said “Had a great writing sesh out in the bushes. Wild roses, hawthorn, and blackberries. I only came out with one scratch!” Don’t forget your hashtags. It’s how people with similar interests find you. I recommend starting with Facebook if you’re just learning.
Aside from being active on social media it helps to write for different platforms. Find someone with a blog that needs guest writers! (There’s a ton of blogs. I promise there’s one that suits your interests.) For instance, I am a young adult fantasy author. But I also have written devotionals for several Christian newsletters, blogs, and other assorted projects. It doesn’t have to be in your genre. You just need to know what you’re talking about. It works best if you try for a more competitive market, like Wyoming Writers of WyoPoets.
Earlier I mentioned Wattpad. So far it’s my favorite story sharing platform. I’ve tried Figment, Quizilla, its predecessor Quotev, Teenink was wonderful and gave me a springboard for my career but I aged out, Goodreads, Get Underlined, Deviant Art, and probably a few more I’ve forgotten. Wattpad is my favorite because it’s got such an active community there’s actually people there to interact with your work. It’s also got a really diverse selection of reading material. But as with any site, if you want the site to work for you you have to interact with it.
Self-publishing has opened a lot of doors for a lot of people and it’s gotten a lot more sophisticated than when I jumped into the book bizz at 14 years of age. I encourage you to do your own research and draw your own conclusions. As I am not a self-published author and I do not know that sect of the industry well at all. Also, I don’t want to color anyone’s thinking with my opinions and speculation. However, self-publishing is fantastic way to deliver your final product into the hands of your readers. Read more about the different types of publishing in this previous blog post. It all depends on you. Is the end game getting as much as you can, as fast as you can to your readers?
Sometimes, the best thing, if you’re really shy is handing your work over to strangers. There’s 1 million different social media sites and social apps. A lot of them mirror Snapchat with their “stories” feature. Take for instance Bottled. There’s a ton of apps just like this one. But this app could potentially throw your work to a few people around the globe who may or may not appreciate your short stories and poetry.
What matters is that you try. That you tell people you’re creating. That you give yourself the chance to build a fan base. That you put yourself out there. Honestly, you just might be surprised to see who comes along to support your dreams.