Twitter is a big, fat timesuck. An evil black hole of procrastination. Nothing decent could possibly come from it.
How many of you feel that way? Go ahead, raise your hands.
I admit, I shared that thought… until Twitter totally changed my perspective as a writer.
In 2009, while we crafted our outline for Slavery by Another Name, I kept wondering what our strategy would be for selling it, or at least getting exposure for our work. I lurked on social media sites to see what filmmakers were doing. I was intimidated. No doubt about that.
Maybe sending out an initial tweet was just another step to having balls of steel. I couldn’t let a little bird intimidate me.
I set up a Twitter account, and before long, I was meeting writers without even changing out of my pajamas. Sure, there’s a timesuck element, and a learning curve, but I was talking to people in the industry – writers, agents, and producers, oh my! I quickly earned the title “Twitter Pimp Angel” from writers I supported and “pimped” by tweeting links to their blogs, novels, or film projects.
When our 31-page outline was complete, the race for submission to the Sundance Screenwriters Labwas on. I had no idea if we had a shot, but at the very least, it gave us a deadline to strive for. My writing partner, Doug, and I both work best under pressure. Go figure.
Pressure was one thing, but I needed to find support. Twitter was my answer. While I wrote 12-hour days, I tweeted my progress using the hashtag #slaverybyanothername. In Twitter, using the # symbol allows a tweet to be searchable. People were following my progress with gusto. Perhaps when they saw the hashtag, they thought I was declaring that writing itself was “slavery by another name." But it worked. I had more support than a push up bra.
Screenwriter support isn’t the only Twitter prize I found. I earned freelance writing gigs with both Script Magazine and Writer’s Digest Magazine, as well as speaking engagements at conferences. Two literary agents found my blog, read about my novel in progress and requested submissions. Putting your voice out there is how to get noticed. You have to be your own marketing team, and you have to be creative. Writing a spec script isn't the only way into the industry.
There’s also a vast amount of education that happens on Twitter, from articles to classes on craft. I found screenwriting classes, which elevated my screenwriting, as well as supplied me with an even broader network. With taking classes and opening my mind to learning, I increased my understanding and access to the industry tenfold.
But success comes by being prepared for the opportunity when it knocks. I have no doubt the connections and education I gained from Twitter prepared me for my greatest Twitter success yet – my first official TV writing gig. Yes, those are trumpets you hear blaring, but I'm stuffing a rag in the horn. In this crazy industry, anything can happen. Until then, I'm writing my fingers to the bone and hoping for the best.
I’ll share more details when I'm able, but for now, all I can say is a fellow writer I met on Twitter bestowed upon me a dream opportunity to prove myself. He asked me to join his writing team on a new TV series with incredible talent attached. The writing team stretches from London to L.A., with me sandwiched in the middle in New York.
There’s no amount of handshaking at a pitchfest that could have brought this deal to my country door. It took a blue bird and the ability to promote myself. This pimp is on her way to being a produced writer. Hot damn. Maybe now I can get an agent to do my pimping.
One thing that’s a given: You have to put yourself out there on Twitter, just like in real life:
• Don’t be shy. Say hello.
• Don’t stalk. Diablo Cody and Ashton Kutcher are not going to become your friends.
• Don’t pitch your work in a tweet, that's just tacky.
• Connect with people in a genuine way, not in desperation. The stench of desperation permeates even the Internet.
• Be selfless and give! If you just use it as a marketing tool, you’ll be seen as a pariah.
• Be real. Don’t be afraid to show who you are, not just what you write.
I don’t want to mislead you into thinking you’ll join Twitter and jobs will fall in your lap. It’s work. A lot of work. Most importantly, you need to keep writing while you’re tweeting. Build your arsenal of projects and challenge yourself every chance you get. For me, that was the lesson. Write every day and take on projects that give you exposure, even if you have to write some articles for free.
As one of my favorite writers says, “Twitter is a writer’s water cooler.” Sometimes I just slip a little tequila in it for fun.
Speaking of tequila, next week, I’ll tell you all about Scriptchat, a Twitter screenwriting chat I co-founded with Zac Sanford, Jamie Livingston, Kim Garland and Mina Zaher. It’s the most amazing community of writers you’ll ever find. All on Twitter. All free. There’s only one rule at Scriptchat – Bring your tequila and leave your ego behind. That’s my kind of rule.
Now get your tweet on and say hi when you get there. I’m @jeannevb, and I’m a Tweetaholic.