How To Create A Tweet That Won’t Die


The Tweet That Won't Die

The Tweet That Won’t Die

Sometimes [okay, often] random things happen.

Like, a streetlight blinks out right as you pass under it. Or a portal opens in the overcast sky so a single, slanted ray of sunlight sneaks through in glorious perfection. These are things we cringe or smile over.

A random occurrence on Twitter had me both cringing & smiling this week. Also, head-scratching.

See that Tweet up ^there^? I posted it on Monday 3/10/14 at 10:38 pm EST. It received a few RTs that night, which ballooned the next day. And the next. It got up into the hundreds—I’m thinking around 300 or so RTs. And that was a complete aberration for me. My highest number of RTs before that was around 75 for a coffee-related Tweet shared in the morning. [Because coffee!] My How I Got My Agent link also received a massive amount of play. [Because writers!]

Everything quieted down with the Undying Tweet. I [mostly] forgot about the aberration and moved on. As one does. But it sparked some lingering questions in my mind:
– What made that one so popular?
– How can I repeat that?
– Is there a formula here, or at least attributes I can glean, to help craft RT-able Tweets in the future?

I’d already been reading quite a few articles on social media marketing. Stuff like the best days & times of the day to Tweet/blog/FB/Tumbl, the types of information that get the most interaction, etc. There’s an abundance of data and research findings. Here’s one such example: Best Time to Tweet

Before the Undying Tweet was born, I’d been intentionally playing with timing and content, tossing out test subjects—funny, serious, links, images—at different times of the day. I wasn’t super-scientific about it, but just intentionally varied the types of content and posting times. During this process, I stayed decidedly me, Lucas, but chose to tailor my content a bit for the test subject Tweets.

My non-scientific findings:
– Folks seem to like short, funny things in the morning.
– Image Tweets in the morning do especially well, but are golden anytime.
– Helpful links get good play in the daytime.
– In the evenings…beats me! I revert back to sharing whatever randomness pops in my mind or I stumble across. #QUASI-SCIENCE!

Back to the Undying Tweet.

I found that image on Tumblr. I switched venues and added my own insight. The author of that book, Jack Douglas, obviously titled it like a boss back in 1972. That made the image intriguing. Maybe my commentary had nothing to do with the success of the Tweet, but I’m going to pretend like maybe it did.

And, apparently, magickal streams of energy aligned and {{poof}} it grew wings, flapped around for a while, and eventually nested. Then, 3 weeks later, for some unknowable reason, someone, somewhere resurrected it. It bounced over to some guy with 50k followers who ended up RTing. Then others with 5-digits of followers. And it hit 500 Favs, so Favstar RTed it. The chain reaction just kept spiraling outward and it went quasi-viral.

The Undying Tweet hit 1ooo RTs yesterday afternoon, then nested again. I woke up to an influx of 100 more RTs this morning as folks on the other side of world picked it up and continued the signal boost. Again.

You better believe I’ve deciphered the hell out of the wording, the structure, the timing…

Based on some Twitter comments and questions, I get the feeling many of you have been doing the same. Because we all know that an occasional viral Tweet, when it could really help promote a book, for instance, would not be a bad thing at all.

In my ridiculously limited wisdom, here’s How To Create A Tweet That Won’t Die:
– Be intentional about varying your content & timing.
– Share stuff that interests you. Chances are, it will interest others.
– Keep the topics broad at times: food, books, movies, kitties (blergggh) for the most RTability.
– Add your own flare. What good is a signal boost if your brand isn’t lightly stamped on it?
– Use images.
– Believe in luck, magick, serendipity.
– Don’t stress over it, but like any other goal, continually experiment & hone that skill.

This has become an experiment at this point. The Undying tweet is currently at 1128 1133 1136 RTs and 811 813 816 Favs.

If you’d like to add to the magick, RT or Fav the infamous Undying Tweet by clicking here.

And I’m curious…
What patterns have you noticed?
What are the characteristics of your most Retweeted or Faved Tweet?
Do you believe Tweeting is a craft worthy of honing?

I’d love for you to share in the comments so we can keep deciphering the magick [as much as magick wants to reveal of itself anyway] together.

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Epistle of Doff – Hands On Research #LucasArmKnitExperience


Athan - Knitting - Illustration

So an odd/fun/random/spur-of-the-moment thing happened.

It started with my NaNoWriMo project. The love interest is a trainhopping, attachment-free, badass. So, I decided he needs a hobby—something completely unexpected for that persona. And it needs to be something he can do to pass the time while catching out [i.e. riding the rails; hopping trains.] Something “soft”, traditionally “non-masculine”. I rolled through a few possibilities before settling on knitting.

KNITTING? WTF?

Knitting is reportedly therapeutic. It’s a practical skill; need a blanket while on the road? Gank some yarn and make one. But I ended up with a slight problem there since the process can take a while…

Yesterday, while searching for images to represent this aspect of my character, Athan, I initially had a HARD time finding images of guys knitting. I was getting quite frustrated. Then Twitter folk helped my search. And one link led to another to another until I ended up creating an entire Pinterest board: Men + Yarn
 http://www.pinterest.com/LucasMight/men-%2B-yarn/

In the process, I discovered Arm Knitting. That’s a thing??? Yes. A cool thing. Knitting using your arms instead of needles. And, using heavyweight yarn, the process goes quickly. Aha! A quick, no-tools-needed way for Athan to pass the time trapped in a rattling freight car. And since the world has an ingrained magic system where the purpose of an object [and thus it’s color, texture, density] can be warped, Athan has access to a limitless supply of “yarn”. He simply needs to transform tiny sections of the metal forming the train car.

As icing on the cake, this idea of weaving two separate skeins together is a perfect symbol of the central conflict my MC is facing. It’s also gloriously symbolic of the romance subplot. Perfection, I say.

Athan is highly gifted at warping & knitting. During long train rides, there is the obvious opportunity for him to teach that skill to my MC, Doff. Oh.the.moments. The symbolism. The ways Athan can playfully take advantage of Doff while his hands are bound in yarn cuffs.

But before I can write that into their story, I need to know how to Arm Knit, what it feels like. So, with the help of a YouTube vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqvC1xlm86U&feature=youtu.be, I learned. Today. For the hell of it, kinda accidentally, I ended up live-Tweeting my learning process & the emotions that went along with it. If you’re so inclined to check it out, I used the hashtag #LucasArmKnitExperience.

Quickly, folks tapped into my virgin arm knitting experience & turned it into a beautiful, fun conversation.

After the highs & lows, the successes & failures, photos became a necessity. So, obviously, an impromptu photo shoot  showing the end results of my first arm knitting attempt was required.

The whole live-action-learn-a-new-thing experiment was fun. Not only did I learn a new skill I can teach my characters, I also experienced the feeling arc of curiosity/frustration/peacefulness/accomplishment/celebration. Doff will feel that same progression. On top of all that, other folks decided to catch out with me. And, perhaps, I can recreate that excitement & willingness with Doff & Athan’s story.

I just need to write it first. NaNo, here I come.

Reference images for these two train kids & the rest of the cast of Epistle of Doff:
 http://www.pinterest.com/LucasMight/epistle-of-doff-characters/

YA – Weird is ALWAYS good


I barely had FREEBORN written before opportunities to throw it into a few contests arose. There is a *possibility* that the manuscript may not have been completed when I entered it into at least one of them… I’m not confessing anything here. I’m simply stating a basic rule of probability. So, before I have submitted a single query, these are the contests FREEBORN has entered:

  1. Strange Chemistry – Prize at stake: A 2 book publishing contract – Current status: Mss sent. Results unknown
  2. #WVTP – Prize won: Request from uber-agent John M Cusick – Current status: Mss sent. Results unknown
  3. YALitChat Pitch Slam 2 – Prize at stake – Requests from 1-4 of the participating agents – Current Status:  Comments in process. Agent ranking of their top pitches begins next week.
  4. We Do Write 3-2-1 Pitch Contest – Prize at stake – Full request from Natalie Lakosil of The Bradford Literary Agency – Current status: Pitch submitted. Entry period closes 6/8.
  5. Super Intern Contest – Prize at stake: Pitch critique and feedback. Possible mss request – Current status: Pitch submitted. Awaiting the ‘random selection’ of the the 30 pitches which will move forward. http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com/

I believe that’s all of them.

What’s interesting about the contest process is that it offers a laser-like focus on honing the pitch and getting feedback on it BEFORE querying begins. The process is highly recommended.

As for the YALitChat pitch Slam 2, there are two more agents who have yet to make their initial sweep. [UPDATE: I HAVE ADDED THE COMMENTS FROM THE REMAINING AGENTS.] The comments on the entries vary from “full of trope”, “you might want to work on a different project instead because this premise is played out”, “amazing pitch”, to “please send me a synopsis & the first 50 pages”. Here are the pitches I entered and the feedback so far:

 Reply by John Lucas Hargis

FREEBORN – YA / SF – John Lucas Hargis

The squirming in Katia’s gut means two things: she is infected with the dreaded parasite, and her boring life as a sixteen-year-old clone is over. She knows she should obey the Surgeon Generals and submit to their treatment, but claustrophobia has a way of pushing Katia to do crazy things—like accepting Adam’s invitation to a safe house full of infected rebels. As Katia’s stomach swells, she experiences feelings she has never known, discovers the truth about the parasite inside her, and joins the rebels in their insane plan to shift the power. The Surgeon Generals are proficient at ending the little uprisings that threaten their illusion of peace. Only, they have never been faced with the plan Katia and Adam are involved in—one that seeks to infect every man, woman, and child on the planet with the Freeborn parasite the leaders are seeking to destroy. Katia’s fear of tight places is nothing compared to her fear of what will happen to every clone in the world, herself included, if she and the other rebels should fail—or even more so if they succeed.

 Reply by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg

This sounds like stone cold scifi. Love it! Great work on the pitch.
 
 Reply by Tamar Rydzinski
Definitely an interesting pitch.

 Reply by Elana Roth

Very interesting. Some reservations about Alien comparisons or worms being good things but…it would get me to read on.

 Reply by Michelle Witte

The first sentence is a bit weak. What dreaded parasite? Is it the Freeborn parasite mentioned later? What does this parasite do—or at least what do the Surgeon Generals say it does to people?

Also, why would her claustrophobia keep her from seeking treatment? Right now it feels like an unnecessary trait tacked on, so make us see how it applies to the story.

If you can incorporate those things, your pitch will be solid.

*************************************************************************************

Reply by John Lucas Hargis

Capritare: Discovery – YA Fantasy/LitFic Mashup – John Lucas Hargis

Capritare flexes his furry legs, clacks his new hooves against the stone floor, and hopes that in cycle two, he’ll get a big rack of antlers, or maybe even wings. Perhaps he shouldn’t worry about such a trivial thing since the three Ogen have made their expectations crystal clear. These seven cycles present his final opportunity to reach completion. Capritare vows to fight with passion, explore every nook of the colony, deal with the random appendages attached to his adolescent body, and—somehow—even find love. Although he failed miserably in his previous nine-hundred-ninety-nine lifetimes, he always knew he’d get another chance—and then another. If he screws up this time, there is only one thing waiting for him on the other side of failure—absolutely nothing.

 
Your stuff is just so weird! I love it.
 Reply by Tamar Rydzinski
 
This is kooky in a good way

 Reply by Elana Roth

Definitely kooky. I need a tad more grounding in the first 2-3 sentences that tell me more explicitly what’s going on, but otherwise, good tone and voice. 

 Reply by Michelle Witte
 
You’ve definitely got talent as a writer, but like Elana, I need a bit more info to be fully grounded. I can envision Capritare, but not his world, the other people/creatures there, or his place within it. Give us a firm sense of what he must do and how, and you’ll be golden.

*************************************************************************************

I would [of course] prefer instant requests, but these comments are greatly appreciated and encouraging. They also lead into the second part of this post, which is expression of my goal for writing in the first place and what I believe my Brand is: YA Weird.

I can’t fathom wasting my time on the rehashing of a story that has been told before. Apparently, some authors seek that as their goal: to tap into the next big trend, or ride on the wave of a current one. Eff that. I want to write my own stories and create my own tsunami. I have additional encouragement on that front as well. It comes from a Twitter feed from earlier this week. #AADA or “Ask A Drunk Agent” hosted by my platonic-agent-crush: John Cusick.

Questions were flying as aspiring authors attempted to take advantage of a slightly “tipsy” agent willing to be candid with his answers. Many random things were discussed along with publishing–including this out-of-context tidbit: ‘I hear if you put your scabies in a box of rice, they will dry out.’ – If you get the reference, welcome to the fanclub!

Back to my ‘Brand’ of YA Weird. Here are the relevant Tweets from the hugely entertaining and insightful #AADA session.

John Lucas HargisJohn Lucas Hargis@gypsyroots

@johnmcusick Prognosticate for us in your stupor? The mss you would love to see 6 months from now would include…? #AADA

John M CusickJohn M Cusick@johnmcusick

@gypsyroots A totally original contemporary romance. #AADA

John Lucas HargisJohn Lucas Hargis@gypsyroots

@johnmcusick UGH. Never mind. #AADA

SnowmenWriteSnowmenWrite@SnowmenWrite

@gypsyroots @johnmcusick Luckily there is always a fair amount of weird out there too. I think you are still in good shape. 🙂 #AADA 

John M CusickJohn M Cusick@johnmcusick

@SnowmenWrite @gypsyroots Let me be clear: weird is ALWAYS good. #AADA

 Jamie CorriganJamie Corrigan@saphirablue84

@johnmcusick Amen to that! #AADA @SnowmenWrite @gypsyroots

 John Lucas HargisJohn Lucas Hargis@gypsyroots

@johnmcusick @SnowmenWrite YA Weird is my genre. The issue is pulling back from a LitFic vibe w/o going too simplistic w/ the writing. #AADA

I will always* [*While a definitive statement is being made here, I retain the rights to amend it at any time if I so choose] bounce around within the walls of Fantasy and Sci-Fi. The reason: those walls are nebulous and permeable. They span wide and allow for universe-sized tanks of breathing room. Anything can happen in that space. And that is the perfect breeding ground for the storytelling of John Lucas Hargis–author of YA Weird novels. 

[Let me throw in a shout-out to @fizzygrrl http://fizzygrrl.com/ & @christinaferko http://christinasbooks.blogspot.com/. They are amazing up-and-coming authors who were involved in the #AADA conversation, but weren’t part of the specific conversation used in this post. Much Twitter & website love to all the @s in this post!]

Full Manuscript Request: FREEBORN


Image

Understatement: I’m excited about this.
Disclaimer: I am stretching this post out to include a Twitter-teach along the way.

Yesterday, I spent 6 hours monitoring a Twitter feed. Brendra Drake, along with a a couple other hosts, organized the Writer’s Voice Twitter Party. The full rules for the contest can be found here: http://brenleedrake.blogspot.com/

[I’m going to pop in the bracket explanations for those of you who are still working on your Twitter savvy. I know you’re out there. Don’t be embarrassed. I’ll help you. 😉 ]

The contest involved tweeting a pitch for a novel using the imposed 140 character limit.
[A Tweet is simply a post–similar to a Facebook update. If you don’t know what that is…oh my…]

The hashtag #WVTP was crucial to the contest to feed the tweets into the correct stream where agents would be lurking.
[A hashtag is simply a label. Hashtags serve as funnels to carry updates from anyone using them into a common folder. By searching for a hashtag, you can see the Tweets of others with similar interests.]

So, out of techie world, and back to the experience itself.

The timeframe for the contest was 12-6pm. Literary Agents trolled the stream during that window. Aspiring authors submitted their pitches in hope of having one of the agents ask to see the manuscript. Basically, it served as a way to get the idea of a book in front of many agents at once instead of sending tedious, individual query letters.

At noon, the #WVTP stream exploded as authors began submitting their pitches. It was insane. Trying to read each pitch was difficult because so many were flooding in. The screen kept scrolling as the new entries stacked on top of the previous ones. The hashtag was used so much in such a short amount of time that it began ‘trending’. [In other words, it became popular since so many Twitterers were using it.]

That’s when the steady influx of SPAM messages added to the melee: “enhance your penis size”, “can this be real”, “I can’t believe they let me post this”, “come see what everyone else is seeing”, “make 10k a week from home”. The nude avatars and constant posting of the SPAM started as a novelty, became an annoyance, and then pretty much made the pitch-reading impossible.

Enter: http://www.tweetdeck.com/beta. [Oh no, more brackets…TweetDeck is a secondary program that can be downloaded free. It serves as a dashboard for your personal Twitter feed and is outstanding for organizing tweets from users all over the world into easy-to-read columns. It’s like a digital filing system for all your Tweet interests.] TweetDeck contains a filtering function. With a few keystrokes, the file extensions for all the SPAMmers’ links could be weeded out of the feed. Voila! Back to only pitches and agent/host comments.

Then the fun began.

I pitched both FREEBORN and CAPRITARE when agents were present on the feed. No bites. So I started rewriting the tweet-pitches to focus on different aspects of each story. You know: put more hooks in the water, try different bait. My reworked pitches for FREEBORN took on many forms by zeroing in on different elements: Katia, Adam, their relationship, the Surgeon Generals, the clones, The Candystripers, the mission to overthrow the government, gender issues, the virus, spontaneous pregnancies, etc.

Still, no bites.

Then, fifteen minutes before the contest was to end, Agent John M Cusik http://johnmcusick.wordpress.com/ pointed out he was looking for Young Adult novels. Now, the vast majority of the pitches were for YA. Only, we couldn’t spare the characters to include those two little letters. I reworked the pitch [again] and sent this one blazing into the feed:

YA The Surgeon Generals are liars. The lives squirming inside Katia and the other clones aren’t parasites. They’re bastard Freeborns. #WVTP

I waited. Then a Direct Message [not a mass Tweet, but a message sent directly from one user to another] popped up in its column on my TweetDeck. Here’s what it said:

Yo yo, send me that. #WVTP

Sweet! So, John and I chatted a few direct messages back and forth. Apparently, he didn’t know it was YA until that Tweet. Also, he noted that sometimes persistence is the key. It damn sure was!

I have already received my instructions on how to bypass the slush pile and send the full manuscript for FREEBORN directly to an agent who asked for it. This is a great opportunity. I have not even queried FREEBORN yet, so the Twitter Party was it’s first foray into the larger world of publishing professionals.

Understatement: I’m excited about this.