In both our Novelist's Boot Camp workshops and in the book Novelist's Boot Camp, we stress that email, blogging, Facebook updates, and so on can be serious diversions from doing the hard work of inventing, developing, drafting, revising and editing your novel. No matter how small your goals are -- and we also stress making those goals readily and easily achievable -- writing a book-length work of fiction is still hard work.
It may be pleasant hard work, but it is nonetheless hard work. So previously we've stressed eliminating the distractions of blogging, Tweeting, and so on in the name of progress.
Now, I'm not saying I was mistaken; I am simply saying I have reconsidered my position in the light of new information.
If you have a book-length project, you're number one writing priority must be that project, otherwise you will have that book as a project forever. At the same time, the more you challenge yourself to write in different forms, the better your writing becomes. In the same way that I once taught poetry to creative writing students as a vehicle to write better scenes for their novels, blogging pushes you to write tighter, and a Tweet or Facebook update forces you to get to the point in a hard-limited number of characters.
Practicing what I'm preaching, you can find Tweets on the writing life, the motorcycling life, the corporate communications life, and life in general at twitter.com\toddwrites, along with a Novelist's Boot Camp page on MySpace and Facebook. If you're interested in what the Novelist's Boot Camp author and presenter does for a day job, you can find a profile on LinkedIn. You're welcome to follow or "friend," as the case may be.
But the novel still comes first. I enjoy social media and have found that Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter are fun, they drive me to write more, and they help counteract the sense of isolation that comes from spending hours at a keyboard. Every now and then I have the privilege of helping someone make a connection, find a resource, or just exchanging pleasantries with friends. Some are writers, some bikers, some professional communicators, and some just friends. I like that and I think you will too.
The social networks are addictive, of course. To help myself keep focus, I've taken to putting my work in my PC's startup folder so that I begin the day not by sorting through email but by making progress on my writing goals. I don't even open my browser until those goals are achieved--well, most days I don't (here's another rule--you get to be human)!
So write your novel--invent it, develop it, draft it, revise, edit, and proofread it--but also enjoy the wealth of opportunities present on the web and elsewhere to write.
Writing as a reward for writing--writers will understand.