The thoughts and work of Sam Witt

Five Ways to Cram All the Holes With Words

14|52 - Finding the words... by Vimages, on FlickrWhen building your author’s platform, you extend your digital fingers into every conceivable pie. You need a Facebook fan page to rack up those janky thumbs-up signs. A Twitter account to cast your 140-character-baited hooks into the storm-wracked sea of potential readers. A Google+ profile for those times when you’re feeling verbose and want to stick some kitten pictures in your posts about what a stone cold bitch it is to be a struggling writer. And, of course, you’ve got your home base blog which will serve as the pitcher plant from which readers can never, ever escape the grasp of your sweet-as-honey, sticky-as-glue content.

All of this is good stuff. The more you get your name out there, the more you let people see what you can do, the more likely you are to convert some of those Internet looky-loos into actual fans. And, if you’re lucky, some of those fans will convert into people who want to give you money for that thing that you do.

The problem, of course, is that filling all these digital nooks and crannies with artifacts of your literary prowess requires a metric fuckton of words.

Words you probably think you don’t have time to write. If you write ten maxed-out Tweets a day, you’re grinding out roughly 200 words. Add those up over a week and you’ve got a decent-sized chapter. Throw in a weekly blog post, a few kitten posts over at G+, and whatever else you’ve got going on, and you might be fresh out of time to, you know, actually write your goddamned stories.

On the other hand, sitting in the dark churning out heartbreaking novels of staggering awesomeness is not going to pay the bills if you don’t have some kind of platform with which to pimp your literary wares. To sell words, you must write many more words for free.

The good news is that you can generate tons of sweet content without busting your hump. These five tips will help you pound out the enormous word platform that you need in less than an hour a day. Pinky-promise.

  • First, get yourself a handy notebook. Digital or paper, whatever twists your nips. As long as it’s available to you at all times and something you are comfortable filling with the unfiltered spume of your writerbrain, you’re golden. All your ideas go into this notebook. All of them. This is the sterno that will fuel your fire through the rest of this exercise. Any idea you don’t write down is a wasted opportunity, so stop being such a slacker about keeping a journal. Damn.

    What I use: Evernote. It’s on my iPad, my iPhone, my desktop, and my laptop. Evernote is the Grayswandir of note-taking apps – it’s everywhere you need it to be, all the time.
  • Second, get a reader app of some sort. Something you can use to peruse the day’s news, check out feeds from interesting websites, or otherwise fill your head with infotainment nuggets. 

    Just as importantly, you can use your reader app to help you fill up your Twitter feed. See a news item or post that you like? Bust out a tweet on that shit. Throw in an @ to the original author for extra cool points and to expose yourself and your readers to said author. BAM! Your twitter feed just filled itself while you’re taking your morning poop.

    What I Use: Feedly. Used to be Google Reader, but then Google became possessed by the spirit of stupid and decided to kill RSS and here we are. Feedly works well enough and has a handy little link button that will pull the source link for you for easy pasting into your Twitter client. Which should be HootSuite. Because it’s awesome.

  • Tres, be engaged like Picard. Those blogs you ogle in my second tip up there? If you see an article that you find interesting, then you should scamper over to Google+ and write a post filled with your thoughts and feelings on the subject. Staple a kitten pic to that fucker, then let the original site know (via their comments or linkbacks or whatever internet sorcery you’re familiar with) that you’re continuing the conversation with them. BAM! There’s your Google+ feed and it’s all social and stuff.

    What I Use: I am real, real bad about this. Looking to fix it going forward, because right now my Google+ profile looks like it belongs to a ghost hermit. So. Do as I say, dig?
  • Fourth, all those ideas you throw away while you’re working on your novels or short stories or whatever? Put some of that e-waste up on your Facebook fan page. Talk to your fans about why you chose to dump something, or what you learned by walking down that narrative blind alley. Engage others in your process, because people like that, yo. This is brain composting at its finest, and that is copyright and TM me, so back off my new business venture, all right?

    What I Use: Um. See above. I suck at Facebook right now. Consider this theoretical. Useful, but theoretical.
  • Lastly, talk to people in your field or who are fans of what you do. Even if they aren’t responding right away, you should tweet @ leaders in your field, post on fandom forums for your type of thing, and generally be available on the Internet. You’re trying to get your name out there and be read, so spend some time putting your name in the places where readers gather.The feedback you’ll get from these forums/blogs/seedy bars will give you lots and lots of ideas that you can then turn into blog posts, tweets, Tumblr porn, or whatever else you use to nail together the rickety beams of your nascent writer’s platform.

    What I Use: Goodreads. Twitter searches for #horror and other topics of interest. I follow fans of the kinds of things I write, then engage with them when I see them discussing topics I like. Works pretty well, give it a shot.
  • Six, a special bonus shot of info. Get the tools that make your job easy. Use a twitter client that is available on your phone/tablet. Make sure you’re reader app is in the same place, so you can always be ready to bust out a tweet. 

See? You can generate a lot more content than you think, in a lot less time, as long as you’re not afraid to take a few notes and engage with people. I mean, look at those tips – they turn your wanton Internet carousing into a way to build your platform. Tip jar’s over there, m’friends.

Have any content-generation tips to share? Dump ’em into the comments so we can all have a friendly discussion about who has the best ideas.

About Sam

I am the author of the popular Pitchfork County series of horror novels. I also write a newsletter with great reading suggestions and free fiction.