These days half of writing is Tweeting. Or have I got that wrong? Anyway, authors everywhere are being urged towards the be-dazzled empty stage that is SOSHUL MEJEEA and told to perform. Turn tricks! Do a twirl! Dance, Baby! No one puts you in a corner! The sad truth though is that most writers belong in the corner. Preferably with a bag over our heads. It’s safe in the corner! You have a good view of all exits! If you have the introspective discipline necessary to pore over hundreds of thousands of words rooting out each misuse of a comma, it’s unlikely you are all that social. Unless readers truly think it’s fascinating when we go on Twitter or Facebook and say how many words we did that morning or that we just had some tea?
Didn’t think so.
So here’s this week’s list, to remind us all that however fun and shiny it may be, if this were truly Dirty Dancing and Twitter the stage we got up on at the end, after we did our routine there’d be a deafening silence and they’d bring back on the tone-deaf sister, and NO social barriers would be broken down AT ALL. Engage in these online activities at your peril, for that way lies madness, ostracisation, and possible legal action.
1. Responding to bad reviews
At some point, you really have to get over being upset by bad reviews. Don’t read them, if you find them so hard. Accept the fact that having a book out means you’re in the lucky position of having total strangers read your words, shorn of all knowledge about how nice you are and how you always let hedgehogs safely cross the road (much like Annika Rice). Otherwise you end up doing frankly terrifying things like finding out someone’s home address and hassling your publisher to see if this person really did buy your book (bet they loved that), then posting their details on the internet. See here for unparalleled lunacy.
Even million-selling authors have written of how they read every word of reviews and get really upset.
I’d have thought selling so much was a clear sign that many people think you’re amazing and those who are giving bad reviews are probably jealous, or maybe don’t like reading, or loved the book but deducted four stars because it looked bigger in the picture (it happens). Either way, they’re perfectly entitled to say what they like. Getting upset may be unavoidable, but responding is something you should never, ever, ever do. Some say you should try everything once, but they’re the kind of people you see at A&E on a Saturday night because they thought it would be interesting to ‘try’ snorting a mixture of Jeyes Fluid and sherbet dib-dabs.
2. Looking up other people’s rankings and reviews
It’s like Facebook-stalking the new girlfriend of your ex. Either you’ll be like, ‘she’s hideous, how could he leave me for THAT?’ or you’ll be like, ‘she’s gorgeous. I’m a troll.’ Eyes to the front, people. Don’t be like those runners who fall over because they’re busy trying to see how the Kenyan in lane 4 is getting on. Stay in your lane! I might write that on a post-it as a cool and gnomic motivational tool. Needless to say, I do this one all the bloody time.
3. Keep track of who unfollowed you on Twitter
Seriously, why do people do this? Isn’t it just courting sorrow? Isn’t it a bit like making a list of all your exes, then going round to their houses to find out exactly why they finished with you? (A good idea for a rom-com and/or multi-selling song by Adele, but less advisable for real people who do not wish to find out what it’s like to be the subject of a restraining order). My followers go up and go down and whilst I notice this more than I wish, I never check to see who it was and I don’t know how. I have quite enough neuroses to be getting on with, thanks. People unfollow for all kinds of reasons – maybe it was that Twitter ‘bug’ we’re always hearing about (yeah sure) or maybe they think you’re boring or dislike your politics or maybe your wild success has meant the rest of us can no longer bear to read about your life (I sometimes unfollow people because of this reason. Pathetic, but some days I just don’t want to see that you’ve won a prize/sold loads/got a Japanese rights deal/been on telly).
4. Looking at the shortlists for awards when they come out. Despite what that madly optimistic 1% of your brain is telling you, you won’t be on it. Especially if you never actually entered.
5. Scouring the internet for mentions of yourself. There will either be nothing (think twice about setting up an alert for a title with generic words in, like, say ‘The’ or ‘Fall’), or you’ll turn up some nasty review from a man in Hull that will make you cry and then go and find out where he lives and post it on the internet, and then you’ll be right back to Crazy-Making Behaviour 1.
In short, heed the wise words of Irish writer Colm Toibin, speaking at an event last year. ‘Why are you even here? Why are you out? No one gives a fuck about your book. Go home and write.’