Monday, September 7, 2009

Unplugging: Balancing Promotion And Writing

I’d like to welcome Romance Author, Alison Kent, Over Coffee. As you’ve noticed, she has a hot new book available this month, One Good Man.

Today, online promotion is a way of life for authors. Publishers expect more and more from authors in selling and promoting their books. For authors that means Social Networking and blogs. How much is too much? How do you find a workable balance between necessary promotion and time to write your stories? Each author has to decide what works best with their deadlines.

I’ve heard many of my writer friends discussing the need of limiting their online time. Alison talks about what works for her.

This time last year, my husband and I were getting ready for a long overdue getaway. I hesitate to call it a vacation because I was the one in need of a break and he was being the good sport that he is and indulging me. I’d been on constant deadline for years (approximately nine) and had but one book left under contract. I couldn’t even think about diving in. I was spent. The getaway had to happen.

Backing up to August of last year, I’d been in my dentist’s waiting room where I saw an article in Texas Monthly about the 25 best swimming holes in Texas. There was one, a spring-fed pool where swimmers - and scuba divers - shared the water with turtles and fish. It was in far West Texas. In the desert. In a state park. In a town of 500. I was SO there. I booked us a room for 4 days. It was an 8-hour drive.

I ate it up. Every minute. I unplugged. I read. I walked. One day I swam, but it was freakin’ COLD, so I left most of the swimming to the husband. We brought our laptop, and the park offered free WiFi, but it would only connect from the picnic table behind the park’s office. The husband would stop there to check the Web on his Blackberry (he is NOT a fan of unplugging), but I didn’t check mail or blogs or anything for almost a week. I did have emails from my agent and editor forwarded to my phone, but since nothing was going on, no negotiations or revisions, it was a precaution in case something came up.

Nothing did, and I loved that week so much I wanted to marry it. I would’ve stayed another. I would go back today. The kitchenette and bathroom in the park’s motel was a modular unit circa 1960. It was clean, but funky, like living in an travel trailer. I didn’t care. I used the time to visualize the book I would have to come home to write. I set it in the same area. I used the places we visited, turning the town of Fort Davis, Texas into my story’s Weldon. I breathed the air my characters would breathe. It was bliss.

I don’t know about other writers, but I’ve found that being constantly connected to the world outside my head plays havoc with the world inside where I get paid to play. When I worked outside the home, my need for adult communication was met during the 8 to 5, and my time at home was family and writing. It worked well. Sure, I emailed and blogged at home, but I got a whole lot of that done on my lunch hour (or while working because it was that kind of casual office), so again. My time at home was family and writing. My real world and my fictional world. I kept the social networking to office hours.

Now that I’m writing full-time and can check email and blogs on my phone and computer (unplugging is more a matter of discipline than technology when everything in the house is wireless), it’s harder to compartmentalize my lives. Stalled on a paragraph? Check email. Frustrated with getting a conversation to ring true? Read blogs. The never-ending stream of information is not a good thing. For me, anyway, and I can’t imagine there’s not some detrimental effect on anyone who creates and needs focus.

That week away with the husband really brought home my need for creating in an environment where I talk to – and listen to – no one but my characters. I’ve pulled back a lot from social networking because of the silence of that week. It was an invaluable lesson in how *my* brain works. Since I have a business online, I have to check my client email once a day, but I try to spend at least two days a week offline completely. I don’t always succeed because I have friends who are my writing cubicle mates. They keep me sane, and I need sane to function. I can Twitter from my phone, sharing what’s on my mind without having to interact. I’ve stopped thinking I MUST blog every day, and am now doing so only when the mood strikes. There’s still a part of me that thinks I need to be out there more, but my books are feeling so much better, richer, deeper now that I’m giving my story people my full and undivided attention.

What do you think? Do you ever find your focus splintered and feel the need to spend some quiet time, if not in the desert of West Texas, then at least away from the nonstop bombardment of information?


A published author of forty works including single title and category romance novels, novellas, a Smart Pop essay on the television show Charmed, and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Erotic Romance, Alison Kent blogs for free as many words as she's paid to write. She is also a partner in the author community Access Romance, the Website design firm DreamForge Media, and is the muscle behind Romancing The Blog.