Make Me Care by Sue Thomason

Writer, I have just picked up your novel, and I’m reading the opening pages. I’ve opened the door of the mind-transporter; here comes my first glimpse of a whole new world. It looks good, and something fascinating is going on over there… And then this big hairy bloodspattered guy walks casually over, sword in one hand, blaster in the other, and he smells of garlic and belches into my face, and I slam the transporter door closed and put it hastily back on the shelf because I don’t want to spend the next few hours sitting next to him. The problem here, Writer, is that I have not warmed to your protagonist.

Big problem.

Last time I critted an opening-chapter protagonist I didn’t warm to, Writer’s reply was “I’ll make him nicer.”

And I thought, that isn’t quite what I need. I’m happy to spend time with people who aren’t nice. Paul Atreides isn’t nice; neither is Sparrowhawk. Breq Mianaai isn’t nice. Granny Weatherwax isn’t nice. So what exactly is the problem here?

Then I found a quote from John Yorke’s book INTO THE WOODS: “The protagonist is… the person the audience care most about. ‘Care’ is often translated as ‘like’, which is why so many writers are given the note ‘Can you make them nice?’” And I thought YES, that’s it! Protagonist, you don’t have to be nice, but you do have to care about stuff, and you have to make me care about that stuff too. You have to show me your agenda, part of it at least. If I don’t understand what you’re doing straight away, I have to have a reason to want to hang around and find out more. We have to build a good relationship, fast; in the opening pages. You have to win my trust, to convince me that whatever you’re telling the rest of the cast, you’re being honest with me, you’re opening up to me. The garlic’s because of the ongoing vampire problem. You’re spattered with blood because you’ve just come from the field hospital. The sword is your recently-dead sister’s, the blaster is a sterile-field generator, you’re hairy because you’ve just worked a triple shift trying to save as many people as possible, with no time off for grooming. You’re sorry about the belch; coming off-shift you were so thirsty that you drank a litre of Choke. And you’ve always hated being so big. You bang your head on doorframes, your feet stick off the end of your sleep-mat, and people are scared of you because you’re big. You so hate that.

Now – too late – now I’m starting to understand. If I had known all that, or even some of that, before I met you, I wouldn’t have slammed the door on you. You’re bitter; yes, I’m really not surprised. You’re twisted; yes, who wouldn’t be, after what you’ve gone through? You’ve done some dreadful things, killing your sister for example; some people might call that monstrous, but I can see why you thought it was right, why you felt you had to do that. I understand. I empathise. I want to support you now; I’m cheering for you. You’re telling me your story, and I care about how it comes out. I hope you solve your problems. I want you to survive, and learn, and change. I want to spend an evening with you, sometime soon. I’ll buy dinner. Tell me more…

Sue Thomason

Sue Thomason

I currently live in rural North Yorkshire, near the sea, with an ex-GP and up to 5 cats. Varied involvement with written SF has included a handful of published short stories, reviewing for both VECTOR and FOUNDATION, co-editing an anthology of locally-based SF/F stories, and being Chair of Milford.  I write fiction mostly for my own entertainment and to find out what happens (often this surprises me). My other interests include outdoor pursuits, gardening, classical/early/folk music, and collecting interesting or unusual paper clips.

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I don’t know what colour the wallpaper is – by Marion Pitman

wallpaperI don’t know what colour the wallpaper is, or what flowers are growing in the garden. I only work out with an enormous effort what season it is, what the weather is doing, what day of the week it is. I’m not talking about my everyday life – well, not every day. If there is some telling detail – the smell of stale beer, chewing gum under the table, the sound of seagulls in hobnailed boots dancing on the roof – that will, for me, suffice for atmosphere. World building is not my thing. It took me three years to finish reading the Lord of the Rings – whole chapters of nothing but weather. Apparently that was something Tolkien and Lewis had in common – a passion for weather.

If you ask me which comes first for me, character or plot, I’d have to say neither – what comes first is story, people in a situation, in a relationship or network of relationships. Story is not plot. Plot has to be worked out once you know the story. You can tell the same story with different plots. And you can do the relationships with different characters.

If I’m trying to write something in a particular setting, or with particular characters, my mind is a blank until I can find a story that suits that setting or those characters. A Story – ancient, immortal, winding through human minds since there were such things. And it doesn’t boil down to boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets eaten by something from the outer darkness.

I go to story telling sessions, occasionally tell a story. You hear all sorts of stories – anecdotes, extended jokes, shaggy dog stories, folk tales, ghost stories, re-tellings of epics or ancient myths. You’ve usually got about ten minutes, max. So in terms of story length it’s a short-short. You’ve got to grab the audience and get them to listen, and follow what’s happening – they can’t turn back to check a detail. You have to set the scene very quickly – There was a king, and he had three sons; there was a woodcutter who was very poor, and couldn’t feed his children; three giraffes walk into a bar; I was staying in a small hotel on Dartmoor – there is no time to describe the wallpaper, unless it has a vital bearing on the story. You may repeat a phrase, to keep people following on; it will be a memorable phrase, and central to the story. But the story is the main thing.

Music Bone cover 01cAnd, rather unfortunately, that’s the way I tend to write. I often have to go back and put in descriptive detail afterwards. I often don’t even know in any detail what the characters look like. What my characters do, in spades, is talk. Sometimes there’s nothing but conversation for pages – which can get on people’s nerves, after all.

(I read somewhere that E. M. Forster once said, “The novel tells a story – oh dear, yes, I suppose it does.” He would have preferred to be freed from the necessity.)

A traditional story is timeless, the location is wherever the story is told, the characters are archetypes. The listener can project characteristics on to them; they themselves have only the minimum necessary for the story to work out. The writer of fiction takes Story and gives it a local habitation and a name. Some people do this brilliantly; every word they write pins the thing in time and space (which, if it’s contemporary, is fine if you write fast and have a publisher; if you’re trying to sell the thing five years later you have to keep changing the details – but I digress). The characters become individuals the reader would know if they met them – people with a back story, with idiosyncrasies – and of course wallpaper.

I can see the appeal of this. But is there not also an appeal in pure story – story that can happen anywhere, to anyone, at any time? Unless it is yellow, do we need to know the colour of the wallpaper?

Marion & bookMarion Pitman sells second-hand books on the internet and pretends it brings in a living. Her first short-story collection, Music in the Bone, came out from Alchemy Press in 2016, and her short fiction and poetry have appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines. She mostly writes ghost stories, but also dabbles in science fiction, fantasy and westerns. She has no cats, and would like to live in Piccadilly, in a flat like Lord Peter Wimsey’s.

http://www.marionpitman.co.uk http://andallshallbewelldotcom.wordpress.com

Marion’s story collection, Music in the Bone, is now available from Alchemy Press.

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Milford Writers of Colour Bursary Awards

We are delighted to announce that the two bursary places for the 2017 Milford have been awarded to… <drum roll> Suyi Davies Okungbowa from Lagos, Nigeria, and Dolly Garland from London, UK. We’re looking forward to seeing them both in September.

Making a decision was tough and, in the end, part of the committee’s decision was based on who we thought would benefit most from attending Milford and who could bring most to the Milford table. Both writers have been published (one of the general Milford requirements) and details can be found on their own web pages.

Here are a couple of extracts from their applications.

Suyi Davies OkungbowaSuyi’s: “Lagos, where I currently live, is more accepting. There are safer spaces here. That is why it’s easier for me to realise something else: there are still walls. Bigger, angrier ones of the world, standing tall and looking down at me, reminding me that I’m African. Reminding me that that I cannot stray too far from what is allowed of my identity, or else. The walls frown whenever I try to tell stories about aliens or witches or robot police. How dare you do that? Do you not know your boundaries?

So I want to press the eject button and fly. Sail clear over them all and continue sailing. I want to fully and finally become. Benin and Lagos and Nigeria will no longer contain me: only the world and the galaxies beyond will be sufficient. I want to write speculative narratives that speak of African and human experiences, and cast them out to the farthest reaches of the universe where they will poke deep and often. I want to do this well, and to do that, I must first become a better writer.”

 

Dolly GarlandDolly: “I now clearly identify as a SFF writer, though more fantasy than science fiction. My fantasy worlds revolve around Indian mythology, but my stories are often muddled in cultures, as I am. Identity is a funny thing. I never labelled myself. I simply adapted to whatever country I happened to be in. But for a lot of non-Indians, I was Indian, Indian-American, Indian-British, or British. For a lot of Indians, I was a Westerner, an ABCD (a derogatory term – American Born Confused Desi – an Indian/Pakistani who simply looks the part but has no knowledge of their ancestral culture), or a NRI (Non-Resident Indian). Recently, as a part of the research for a paper I’m presenting on Writing and Identity at Imperial College in 2017, I asked various people how they see me in terms of cultural/ethnic identity. Without exception, the people who know me the best – despite their diverse geographical, racial, educational and financial backgrounds – gave similar answers, the essence of which was that I blur cultural boundaries. Those who do not know me well gave me more definitive, limiting labels.

My fiction is not about pursuing any agenda, but this experience of being labelled as well as cultural reflections, invariably affect my viewpoint and my writing. It is perhaps a good thing, because this has enabled me to eventually grow into creating my unique fantasy world that is non-European (having first started off writing a “normal” western world), and bring to the genre a little bit more diversity.”

One of the 2017 Milford bursaries was donated by the 8Squared Eastercon and the second was given by a writer donor who wishes to remain anonymous. We offer our thanks.

The Milford Committee hopes to be able to provide future bursaries. If anyone would like to help fund them (donating a little or a lot) please feel free to contact us via the Milford website: http://www.milfordSF.co.uk.

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Write What Someone Knows by Ben Jeapes

“Bad books on writing tell you to “WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW”, a solemn and totally false adage that is the reason there exist so many mediocre novels about English professors contemplating adultery.” – Joe Haldeman

And yet Joe Haldeman’s novel The Forever War was heavily influenced by his experiences as a Vietnam vet. I’m nowhere near brave enough to disagree with Joe Haldeman but fortunately I don’t think I have to. We agree from different directions.

Five Lies Creative Writing Teachers Tell makes the same point. It’s good but often misused advice, and it’s the misuse that gets dealt with on that link: the advice being hammered in to the point where you’re not even allowed to use your imagination. As the writer points out, J.K. Rowling isn’t really a wizard, but “The good tutor will get to know you, and encourage work which is attentive to your experiences”.

I would take that further: “your or at least someone’s experiences”.

Because, yes, writing has to start with what is known. My most basic level of knowledge is knowing what it is to be alive. I’m a human being with a place in the world – sensory input going 24/7, human relationships, knowing what I like and what I don’t. A character on a page has to give the impression of a similar level of existence. If you can’t believe they existed before you opened the book, or that they will go on existing after you close it, then the author isn’t writing what they know.

But with that given, then it’s time to start making stuff up. Hal Clement’s Mission of Gravity is told from the point of view of the native of a planet with a surface gravity 700 times stronger than our own, which is laughably petty compared to the world of Robert L. Forward’s Dragon’s Egg, where it’s 67 billion times stronger. Neither author can claim first-hand knowledge of such environments, but they too can start with the basic knowledge of being alive and take it from there.

My type of science fiction tends to be closer to home, with mostly human characters. I’ve never time travelled – but I have been in some fairly insalubrious third world slums, so if I want to imagine a European city of previous centuries, that’s what I picture. I’ve never worn a spacesuit, but I have scuba dived: I know the sounds and sensations and slightly claustrophobic feeling of being enclosed by your personal life support system, keeping you alive bare centimetres from an environment that could kill you, simultaneously giving you immense freedom and severely curtailing your possibilities. I’ve never been in a spaceship, but I’ve travelled by aeroplane, so I know that illusion of normality coupled with the ever-present knowledge at the back of your head that you’re in the belly of a fantastically complicated machine hurtling through the sky several miles above the ground and that isn’t normal at all.

Other things I have done: driven a car; sailed a boat; grown up in an army family; fired several types of gun; stood on the floor of an active volcano; walked up Snowdon, across Salisbury Plain and through an Indonesian rain forest (not all on the same day); flown an aeroplane under supervision; taken off, flown and landed a glider solo; been in unrequited love. I’ve never divorced, had a serious illness or died, but friends have and (sorry guys) you can bet I was paying close attention. And each of those experiences, or scenarios developed and extrapolated from them, has appeared in my published writing.

The Teen the Witch and the Thief coverThe Comeback of the King coverTed, the titular teen of The Teen, the Witch & the Thief, has a stepfather Barry with whom he doesn’t get on. An unexpected pleasure of writing The Comeback of the King was being able to give new depth to Barry that was entirely consistent with what we learned of him in the first book, but which showed a lot more sympathy. The reason: between writing the first and second books, I became a stepfather of a teenager myself. I tip my hat to all Barrys everywhere.

Alumni of the Milford writers’ workshop have access to the Milford Skills List. Everyone who attends gets a chance to write down a few areas of expertise that they are willing to share with other members. And fantastically useful it is too. I was recently able to quiz a retired GP on the best kind of fracture to have, from a dramatic point of view, and how to perform a field amputation. I doubt she has any direct experience of the latter, but again, based on what she does know she was able to extrapolate.

So there you have it – write what you know, or failing that, find out what someone else knows, and write that. And then do something new with it.

 

bjeapes01Ben Jeapes took up writing in the mistaken belief that it would be easier than a real job (it isn’t). Hence, as well as being the author of 7 novels and co-author of many more, he has also been a journal editor, book publisher, and technical writer. His first Milford was at Margate in 1991, which shows (a) how far Milford has come in the past 26 years and (b) qualifies him as a Great Old One, in Milford terms at least. www.benjeapes.com

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Why Fiction Matters By Nancy Jane Moore

I’ve had several conversations with fiction writers lately on what we should be doing about climate change, the U.S. election, and other important concerns of the day. My immediate response was that now, more than ever, we should write stories.

They dismissed that advice. I got the feeling they thought of fiction as a luxury or even an irrelevance at the current time, even though they’re very fine fiction writers. But I wasn’t advising them to indulge themselves or escape into their work.

I really believe that fiction – telling stories – is one of the most important things we do as human beings. I believe that because reading fiction is one of the things that made me who I am today.

Stories matter. One of the most comforting items in my Facebook feed on the Wednesday after the U.S. election – and I saw it in more than one place – was a few lines from Lord of the Rings:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

That’s fantasy, the supposedly “escapist” literature.

Now I wasn’t telling my fellow writers to write to the exclusion of everything else that needs doing. Other things also matter. Conventional political activity matters, despite our habit in the U.S. of disparaging it. We need good people to run for office and work on campaigns, because it’s hard to get anything done when the people in power are stacked against you.

Activism matters. We need the people who mass in the streets because Black Lives Matter and those who block pipelines. We also need those who are creating new structures – those building the worker co-ops and social justice entrepreneur programs.

Most of all we need a vision, so that we can see where we’re going. And that brings me back to fiction, because stories can give us vision.

In Staying with the Trouble, a manifesto on how to survive the difficult times ahead that includes fiction, Donna Haraway says:
“To study the kind of situated, mortal, germinal wisdom we need, I turn to Ursula K. Le Guin and Octavia Butler. It matters what stories we tell to tell other stories with; it matters what concepts we think to think other concepts with. It matters wherehow Ouroboros swallows its tale, again.”

Haraway goes on to talk about the “carrier bag theory of fiction”:
“[Le Guin’s] theories, her stories, are capacious bags for collecting, carrying, and telling the stuff of living.”

One of the things that always delights me in Le Guin’s fiction is her penchant for messy semi-utopias. Not everything works as it ought to; not everyone is happy; there are no saviors that make everything perfect.

We need to think about those kind of utopias these days. Climate change is going to alter our planet, and we cannot count on those with power – both in governments and in the business world – to take the necessary steps to change it. Haraway’s “The Camille Stories: Children of Compost” sets up some ways people might change. Yes, it’s imaginary, but I can see it inspiring someone to try something similar.

Haraway started these stories as part of a group writing project at a symposium. One of the things I’d like to do is bring people together to work on stories in a similar fashion, perhaps at some science fiction conventions, perhaps where I live. Writing is usually a solitary practice, but coming together to imagine ways to stay with the trouble could get a lot of creative juices flowing, not just in writers but in organizers and activists.

I’m going to keep doing my own writing as well, because I have things to say that need to be heard. It’s very important to me that the progress human beings have made toward becoming civilized continues even as we struggle with bad leaders and a warming planet. We have learned so much over our short history on Earth and I don’t want us to have to start over from scratch. I’ve never been a fan of reinventing the wheel.

I can just tell you my ideas, as I’m doing here. Nonfiction is important and I read a lot of it. But I’m found that reading stories changes me in a way that learning ideas does not. There’s something about setting ideas in a world that allows a reader to make them their own.

By the way, not all stories have to change or enlighten us. Sometimes we just need to visit someone else’s world for awhile. I imagine every reader out there has a favorite kind of comfort reading. Mysteries fill the bill for me. Others like their quest novels or romances. Those of us who write shouldn’t neglect those tales, either.

Life is hard enough. We need to have some fun while we’re saving the world.

[An earlier version of this essay appeared on the Book View Café blog]

 

nan300 Nancy Jane Moore is the author of The Weave, a science fiction novel published by Aqueduct Press. Her other books include a collection, Conscientious Inconsistencies, published by PS Publishing, and the novella Changeling, also from Aqueduct. She is a member of the international authors’ co-op Book View Café and has new short fiction out in several recent anthologies. In addition to writing, she trains in martial arts and holds a fourth degree black belt in Aikido. A native Texan, she spent many years in Washington, DC, not working for the U.S. government, and now makes her home in Oakland, California, with her sweetheart and his cats.

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Confession of a Museum Bunny by Deborah Walker

walker-museum-ramIdeas for my stories come to me in museums, in galleries, in libraries. Find me upstairs (and it’s always quieter upstairs) in the British Museum trawling the past looking for future inspiration.

Old books, paintings, objects are part of our material heritage. Survivors of the ravages of times, sometimes cherished throughout the ages, sometimes forgotten, dug from the ground, broken and then reconstruction. Objects tell stories. Museums select and interpret these stories, grouping objects together to give a window into the past.

Museum objects are rich in concrete detail for stories. And not just for fantasy stories, set in the real or imagined past. A detail from the past can act as a springboard for a story about the future. Looking at the helmet of a 10th century Norwegian chief leads me to consider what armour a space Viking might wear (Space Vikings! Now I want to write a space Viking story). Looking at a beaten gold headdress from ancient Ur makes me wonder how the woman felt wearing such a beautiful and precious item. How did her society shape her? How will my future society shape my characters? An object in a museum will catch my attention. Why was this sword engraved with the image of a bear? And that will send me down a pathway of research.

walker-museum-a_philosopher_lecturing_with_a_mechanical_planetary_-_1766Left – A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery, by Joseph Wright, 1766 (Deby Museum and Art Gallery)

Some museums collect the finest pieces of the past, the most costly, the most cherished. Objects may be monumental, priceless and awe-inspiring. But these are not the only stories to be told. Sadly many objects from the past of the working person have been lost. Yet, you can still glimpse the lives of working folk painted as rural scenes on objects. And social museums seek to recapture a glimpse of the ordinary, the everyday.

Objects, books and paintings are material records of the stories told in the past, the stories of religion and mythology. You can read the changing nature of stories through objects. Creation stories, eschatologies, the stories of the gods as their worshippers migrate and change, stories of lovers seeking to retrieve their beloved from the underworld. Some stories are repeated through the ages. What element has gripped so many imaginations?

Musuems don’t always look backwards. In the British Museum’s African Galleries there’s a sculpture called Tree of Life (2004) constructed out of decommissioned rifles. Science museums examine the science of the past, the future and even trends for the future.

The presence of an object in a museum in a story in itself. The Parthenon Marbles, the Benin Bronzes (and others) on display in London are subject to repeated calls to be returned to their countries of origin. These objects tell stories of colonialism, empire, and war.

Though I love the massive, wealthy London museums and galleries, I’ve a fondness for the more obscure museum. After all, I used to work for one, as curator of the Royal Veterinary Museum. In London you can visit Alexander Fleming’s laboratory, or visit the Royal College of Surgeons Museum to explore the ideology that underpinned medicine for thousands of years. University are centres of research and specialism. Their collections are often open to the public by appointment. It’s worth trying a visit to a museum outside your area of interest. Volunteering to help out during my daughter’s school trip took me to the Imperial War Museum, I saw a wealth of cool spy gadgets that will no doubt work their way into some of my stories.

walker-museum-ram-in-a-thicketLeft – Ram in a Thicket (2600-2400 BC) from Ur, in southern Iraq, British Museum

I live in London, and this article has been about London’s cultural wealth. But you can find wonderful museums everywhere. Holidays at home or abroad are opportunities to glimpse other cultures. A family wedding in Cyprus found me in a small museum examining of hundreds of votive offerings, clay figurines of a men on horseback. A collection that I couldn’t have seen anywhere else. I’m Derbyshire born and bred. Derby’s Museum has a wonderful collection of Joseph Wright of Derby’s atmospheric paintings exploring the development of modern science during the Enlightenment. A bus ride from my home town takes me to the D.H. Lawrence Museum, and to the National Trust’s Museum of Childhood. And sometimes history can’t be constrained to a building. I like the prehistoric stones ring at Arbour Low in Derbyshire that sometime in the past has been pushed over. The standing stones are fallen, nobody remembers why. There’s history everywhere.

And there’s the internet. Museums have embraced the internet seeking to widen access to their collections. It’s not, in my opinion as good as seeing the real thing. (Who can forget standing under the real-size model of the Blue Whale at the Natural History Museum?) But museum websites are a valuable resource.

And if you do take a trip to a museum, don’t forget to take a tour. Curators love to talk their collections. They have a passion for them. And curators are people who want to communicate stories. I should know; I used to be one.

WALKER-bio shotDeborah Walker grew up in the most English town in the country, but she soon high-tailed it down to London, where she now lives with her partner, Chris, and her two teenage children. Her stories have appeared in Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Nature’s Futures, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and The Year’s Best SF 18 and have been translated into over a dozen languages.

Two of Deborah’s stories inspired by the London’s cultural heritage are “The Bio-Documentarian of the British Library” published in Cosmos, and “Green Future” published in Nature’s Futures.

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From the Shallows to the Depths by Matt Colborn

Writers need social media, right? Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat…. Conventional wisdom says that an active presence on these platforms is essential. Writers who don’t tweet like budgerigars, the argument goes, will wither and die, and flop to the bottom of their cages, their works forever unread.

Swallowing this, last October, I decided to try and boost my Twitter numbers from a measly 63. To achieve this, I tweeted daily and followed lots of people. Soon, I’d gained about 250 followers, only some of whom were robots. This was not spectacular, but better than 63.

Some of the people whom I followed were also writers, and I’d occasionally receive an automated message advertising a book or story website. This, then, seemed to be the Twitter model, where marketing works via mutual endorsement. If you scratched someone’s back, then maybe, just maybe, they’d scratch yours.

Unfortunately, this didn’t work, because I never bothered clicking the links, for the following reason. My time is precious, and in any given year, there are far more books produced than I’ll ever have the chance to read. This means that I will tend to read only the best works of a particular genre. I find new books via friend’s recommendations, or by reviews, or by reading new works from an author who is already familiar, and whose work I have enjoyed in the past.

dead-tweeter By contrast, a Twitter link by an unknown author isn’t enough to get me to read on, and I have little doubt that the same applies in my direction. A follower does not automatically become an avid reader, even if you beg them.

This Twitter skepticism was crystallized by Cal Newport’s book Deep Work. ‘Deep Work’ is any sort of task that requires a high level of skill, sustained attention and focus. Fiction writing, which requires hours of concentration, peace and quiet, is a primary example. Newport contrasts deep work with the attention scattering ‘shallow’ work practises that have become commonplace since the advent of the Internet.

Newport is especially critical of arguments that authors should be spending lots of time on social media, because (as I suspected) works that become successful and widely read tend to be the best in a genre and do not issue from the person with the most Twitter followers. He cites a number of authors who barely use social media at all, including J.K. Rowling and Neal Stephenson.

Newport also believes that social platforms are overrated as a marketing tool, and he makes what seem to me fairly convincing arguments that the potential gains in readership that you can expect to get from Twitter will be less than you think.

My conclusions, as an author, are that (1) it’s more valuable for me to concentrate on producing as good a copy as I can manage and (2) that I’m better off trying to sell pieces to magazines and online venues and getting a name that way, as opposed to obsessing about the number of my Twitter followers.

I still tweet, occasionally, and I’m still on Facebook, occasionally. Newport doesn’t suggest the abandonment of these tools, necessarily. Instead he suggests their each of us intelligently evaluate their use in our professional lives, instead of being bamboozled by a new app’s hype.

I’ve personally been pleasantly surprised by how much my productivity has improved ever since I made a conscious policy to reduce my use of social media. Fiction writing, as Stephen King suggested, is the kind of activity that requires an inwards turn, which seems increasingly difficult to find, in these distracted days. Let’s opt for the deeps, and not the shallows.

 

matt-colborn-mugshotMatt Colborn is a freelance writer and academic with a doctorate in cognitive science. He has written for the Guardian as well as SFX and Interzone magazines. He writes across the spectrum of speculative fiction. He published a collection of short fiction, ‘City in the Dusk and Other Stories,’ in 2013 and is currently completing a novel. His website is at http://mattcolbornwriter.blogspot.co.uk

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