I joined Twitter more than 3 years ago, rather begrudgingly, when I realized that many of the people whose brains I wished I could pick—authors, editors, and agents—were basically offering up their thoughts for the picking, in 140-character tidbits. I can tell you that I probably learned about 80% of what I now know about publishing through Twitter or through blogs and sites I found because of it.
And this was me, starting from scratch. It was me having nothing more than an idea and a draft of a book. The how to write a query letter, the how to find an agent, the what it means to go on submission and how to get a book deal…all that knowledge in some way came from Twitter. I learned about writing conferences because of Twitter. I turned online connections into real-world friendships with other writers because of it.
It came from the aspiring authors. The ones who, just like me, were starting out with not much more than their words and a dream they refused to give up on.
Now that it’s been more than 3 years, I more or less know how to spot them.
They’re the ones who Tweet at 3 in the morning that they’ve got four chapters of revisions left of their third draft…and then stay up to finish it.
They’re the ones who Tweet they just had a major breakthrough with a character, and even though this means they’ll have to rewrite the first half of the book, it doesn’t matter because it’ll make the story stronger.
They have moments when they question their sanity, whether all the writing, and re-writing, and soul-searching, is worth it.
(They always come back, a day, a week, a month later, to the page, despite there never being a guarantee that it will pay off.)
They often Tweet links to interesting articles, either about writing or publishing or whatever else they’re passionate about, because they know learning doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and they keep their minds open and thirsty for whatever knowledge they can find.
Eventually, they finish their work-in-progress, and they take a moment to celebrate, to announce it to their friends on Twitter, who likewise cheer them on because they know what a big step this is.
Then they get back to it. To the work. They start querying agents, or they start looking into their options to self-publish. The paths are varied now but the dedication is a constant. They wait, and they get rejected, and they keep going.
Here’s the part that never fails: One day I’ll be getting my morning cup of tea ready, and I’ll log onto Twitter, and I’ll see that one of these writers has a Big Announcement. They’ve signed with an agent, and there’s usually a blog post they’ve written about all the details, and I eat these up because these stories never get old, the excitement of seeing someone who’s worked so hard for something finally take such a huge step toward accomplishing it fills me up entirely. It’s what inspired me to keep going when I wasn’t there yet. It’s what fuels me on days when this journey still has its difficulties.
For a while after the Big Announcement, there’s some silence on the publishing updates. Maybe this writer has gone on submission, and though internally they’re a complete wreck, they remain cool and composed on Twitter. I totally get that.
It might come months later, it might come even a year or two later, but this writer gets there. One day I log on and they’re announcing their book deal. And months later, the cover reveal. And then one Tuesday it’s their launch date and the Twitter stream is full of congrats and happy pub day wishes and on days like this I remember those 3 a.m. Tweets, the tiny moments of celebration because Chapter 11 was almost ready for another revision, and I’ll think, They worked so hard for this, it was only a matter of time.
I’ve witnessed it time and again, and it never fails. I can’t even count the number of books that are already published, whose authors I once saw on Twitter, just working from scratch to make it happen. I saw it happen plenty of times before my book sold, and I’ll admit there were days when I wondered when my turn would come, but I refused to let my insecurities diminish my support and happiness for a fellow writer and friend. I see it happen still (for example, to Annie Neugebauer and Ben L. J. Brooks, who recently signed with an agent, or Amy Sue Nathan, whose debut novel, The Glass Wives, launched last week) and it reminds me of the power of a good story and perseverance.
This is what I’ve really learned from Twitter: what the writer’s life looks like, what determination looks like. How to spot the life cycle of success.