Updated: Sep 22, 2020
Over the last month or three I’ve seen a recurring theme: how to Twitter as a writer. I’ll be the first to admit that before I grudgingly jumped on the Twitter bandwagon, the platform appeared confusing, intimidating, and riddled with online angst. And then there was that annoying character limit too. What could I possibly hope to convey in 280 letters?
As it turns out, a heck of a lot.
The writing community on Twitter is huge and so, so welcoming, which was the most unexpected (and delightfully pleasant) surprise when I joined. The writers there are passionate about their work and want to see each other succeed. They love supporting each other. And it's because of this community and camaraderie that it's become one of my favourite platforms as an author.
If you’re thinking about dipping a toe into the Twitter-verse, but are not sure how or where to begin, here’s a short guide. You might be familiar with some of these sections already. If so, skip ahead to the parts that interest you.
Everything you post should have a hashtag, especially if you’re new to the platform and are looking to build a following. Tweeting without a hashtag is like putting a letter in the mail without a delivery address—it goes out and gets filed with the deadmail at the post office. A hashtag gives you an “address”. In the case of Twitter, it’s a community to deliver your tweet to.
Here are the most used for writers:
For an extensive list of writer/author hashtags, check out this guide.
Tip: If you’re using long hashtags, capitalise the first letter of each word to make it easier to read (as I’ve done in the #WritingCommunity hashtag above). This is especially helpful to people who sensory issues and makes it easier for text-to-speech programs to differentiate the words in the hashtag.
Still not sure about hashtags? Read an in-depth guide here.
Writer advice hashtags to follow
Agents and publishers occasionally give tips and insider insight into their profession with these.
Connecting with agents and mentors
Follow Friday (#FF)
Every Friday, writers take to Twitter to boost the online presence of the writers they enjoy interacting with on the platform.
A similar concept to Follow Friday, only it is designed to quickly build one another’s Twitter followers (and therefore your audience).
There are too many variants to name, but they operate much like the old email chains of the 90s. One writer tags a bunch of other writers, who then tag more writers and so on. The themes are often amusing or downright silly, such as the last movie you saw or two truths and a lie. Here’s an example of one with a theme of "what are you doing right now?":
Need inspiration for a tweet? There are heaps of clubs and communities you can engage with to get to know fellow writers better. To name a few:
Started by Rebecca Langham to connect with fellow Australian writers (plus a few Kiwis). There’s a huge variety to the prompts, you might be Tweeting your favourite first line one day to the sharing the last song you listened to the next or the name of your favourite childhood author (FYI mine was Paul Jennings).
A spin-off of #AusWrites where early bird participants tweet their writing goal for the morning as to hold themselves accountable.
This Q&A twitter chat event runs for 2 hours every Wednesday at 9pm Eastern. The organisers will ask 10 questions over an hour on a topic related to the craft of writing, such as crafting memorable characters, crafting suspense and so on. You can subscribe to get an email reminder for the next event here.
Much in the same vein as #TheMerryWriter. Jump in and out as you like.
This topic is so large that I’ve dedicated a whole blog on it. However, in short, Twitter pitching can be a great way to connect with agents and publishers and jump your work out of the slush pile.
How do they work?
Writers pitch their novels in 280 characters or less on Twitter during the competition window (usually 8am to 8pm EST). Agents and publishers "like" the pitches that sound interesting to them that invites the writer to submit their work to said agent/publisher. These events are held throughout the year, you can see a full list here.
Note: Always do your due diligence before submitting to an agent or publisher who shows an interest in your Twitter pitch—as you would with any agent or publisher you query through normal channels.
Other Twitter tips
Share other people’s posts. Read an interesting article online? Share it. Someone else might find it as interesting as you did. And it gains the author a new reader.
Interact and respond to other tweets. Replying and responding to other writer's posts is just as important as tweeting your own content. Twitter is a conversation, not a megaphone to the masses.
Don’t self promote all the time. A little is okay, a lot starts to get spammy and you might get muted or unfollowed.
Say you're a writer/author in your profile. Especially if you want to connect with other writers. It's a quick and easy way for writers to identify as you as one of their "tribe". Including your genres can also help you network with writers who share the same interests as you. To use an example from my profile:
Note: If you don't want unsolicited messages from other Twitter users, particularly those who use it like a long-distance Tinder (few and far between, but they are there), it's worth including "No DMs" (direct messages) in your profile. It's a signpost to say that if they message you, you won't respond (AKA don't waste your time).
Lastly, using Twitter as a writer doesn't have to be a chore. While learning the platform can be daunting, it can offer a lot of rewards. You never know, it might become your favourite platform too.