For the majority of the writers out there, a platform, usually accomplished through an online presence (a website, blog, equivalent soap box), is necessary to let readers know that their work exists and should be purchased at the soonest possible convenience. Of course, there are writers who can thrive without websites, twitter accounts and the like, but their names usually end in things like King, Rowling, Meyer and Gaiman (and that’s not to say that these authors don’t put a lot of time and hard work into their platforms, signings, appearances, etc, because they do).
But for the rest of who don’t share such last names, prestige, or wildly successful Mormon vampire franchises, the online presence is almost a necessity. And one of the biggest questions that arises when talking about an author’s platform, is how much time should a writer dedicate to their platform and how much time should be spent actually writing their manuscript?
Well, there really is no easy answer to this dilemma because there is no rule that says either of these things are necessary. Some people may just want to blog and socialize, working on their books in a very casual and gradual manner, and some people just want to write books and be left alone. That’s absolutely fine for an author to do that, but I think this post is more for the writers out there who are trying to find some semblance of balance between the two worlds.
If I had to come up with an ideal ratio, I would say I personally shoot for an 80/20 split in favor of my time being put into manuscript writing. Do I always hold to that? No. Absolutely not. Realistically, I think most days I probably fall into a 60/40 split with my platform occupying a bigger chunk of the day as a mild procrastination tool on the creative front. On the really bad days, I drift into an unenviable 90/10 split in favor of blogtwitterfacebooking and those nights often come to a notably unproductive end with me making pancakes, watching ‘Empire Strikes Back’ and cursing my characters for not being as cool as Han Solo.
If you really want to get a feel for where you are in the ongoing manuscript vs platform battle, there is an easy test. Close your eyes and ask yourself this question. When you have a full day free for writing, is your biggest problem for the day trying to form your characters, outline your plot and punch out your 1,000 words or is it trying to break out of the cycle of constant twitter checks, website maintenance and email drafts? If it is the latter, it might be time to try to limit your time spent on social media and forge some new routines. Try to dedicate certain times of the day to answering emails instead of checking every five minutes. Treat checking a chunk of your tweets, posts, etc at the end of the day as a reward for a productive day on the narrative front. Or if you have a word count goal for the day, check your messages early in the day, then work straight through until you hit your goal. Then you can dip back into the twitterverse guilt free.
Another easy way to get your writing back on track? Subscribe to a writing magazine like Writer’s Digest or Poets & Writers. I know you would think that periodicals like this might provide another excuse to distract yourself with interviews, contests and writing prompts, but for me it has the opposite effect. After I read a couple of articles on inspiring author successes and upcoming writing conferences, I always find myself back at the computer in a matter of minutes with a renewed sense of inspiration and clarity for my writing. These magazines also feature a lot of helpful articles on budgeting your time as a writer too.
I know it may be cliche to suggest that the beginning of a new year is the perfect time to forge new routines and find new motivation for your work, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Why not take a shot at improving your word count output or page revisions in a day? Use some mid-year goals for motivation. Is this your first novel? Then why not shoot to be drafting a query letter for agents by July? Are you working on a series? Why not try to have the series outlined and in progress by May? Either way, it’s up to you to take the initiative and make 2015 a memorable year in your writing career, so get going!