BALLS OF STEEL: Tweet to Success

Twitter is a big, fat timesuck. An evil black hole of procrastination. Nothing decent could possibly come from it.

How many of you feel that way? Go ahead, raise your hands.

I admit, I shared that thought… until Twitter totally changed my perspective as a writer.

In 2009, while we crafted our outline for Slavery by Another Name, I kept wondering what our strategy would be for selling it, or at least getting exposure for our work. I lurked on social media sites to see what filmmakers were doing. I was intimidated. No doubt about that.

Maybe sending out an initial tweet was just another step to having balls of steel. I couldn’t let a little bird intimidate me.

I set up a Twitter account, and before long, I was meeting writers without even changing out of my pajamas. Sure, there’s a timesuck element, and a learning curve, but I was talking to people in the industry – writers, agents, and producers, oh my! I quickly earned the title “Twitter Pimp Angel” from writers I supported and “pimped” by tweeting links to their blogs, novels, or film projects.

When our 31-page outline was complete, the race for submission to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab was on. I had no idea if we had a shot, but at the very least, it gave us a deadline to strive for. My writing partner, Doug, and I both work best under pressure. Go figure.

Pressure was one thing, but I needed to find support. Twitter was my answer. While I wrote 12-hour days, I tweeted my progress using the hashtag #slaverybyanothername. In Twitter, using the # symbol allows a tweet to be searchable. People were following my progress with gusto. Perhaps when they saw the hashtag, they thought I was declaring that writing itself was “slavery by another name.” But it worked. I had more support than a push up bra.

Screenwriter support isn’t the only Twitter prize I found. I earned freelance writing gigs with both Script Magazine and Writer’s Digest Magazine, as well as speaking engagements at conferences. Two literary agents found my blog, read about my novel in progress and requested submissions. Putting your voice out there is how to get noticed. You have to be your own marketing team, and you have to be creative. Writing a spec script isn’t the only way into the industry.

There’s also a vast amount of education that happens on Twitter, from articles to classes on craft. I found screenwriting classes, which elevated my screenwriting, as well as supplied me with an even broader network. With taking classes and opening my mind to learning, I increased my understanding and access to the industry tenfold.

But success comes by being prepared for the opportunity when it knocks.  I have no doubt the connections and education I gained from Twitter prepared me for my greatest Twitter success yet – my first official TV writing gig. Yes, those are trumpets you hear blaring, but I’m stuffing a rag in the horn. In this crazy industry, anything can happen. Until then, I’m writing my fingers to the bone and hoping for the best.

I’ll share more details when I’m able, but for now, all I can say is a fellow writer I met on Twitter bestowed upon me a dream opportunity to prove myself.  He asked me to join his writing team on a new TV series with incredible talent attached. The writing team stretches from London to L.A., with me sandwiched in the middle in New York.

There’s no amount of handshaking at a pitchfest that could have brought this deal to my country door. It took a blue bird and the ability to promote myself. This pimp is on her way to being a produced writer. Hot damn. Maybe now I can get an agent to do my pimping.

One thing that’s a given: You have to put yourself out there on Twitter, just like in real life:

• Don’t be shy. Say hello.

• Don’t stalk. Diablo Cody and Ashton Kutcher are not going to become your friends.

• Don’t pitch your work in a tweet, that’s just tacky.

• Connect with people in a genuine way, not in desperation. The stench of desperation permeates even the Internet.

• Be selfless and give! If you just use it as a marketing tool, you’ll be seen as a pariah.

• Be real. Don’t be afraid to show who you are, not just what you write.

I don’t want to mislead you into thinking you’ll join Twitter and jobs will fall in your lap. It’s work. A lot of work. Most importantly, you need to keep writing while you’re tweeting. Build your arsenal of projects and challenge yourself every chance you get. For me, that was the lesson. Write every day and take on projects that give you exposure, even if you have to write some articles for free.

As one of my favorite writers says, “Twitter is a writer’s water cooler.” Sometimes I just slip a little tequila in it for fun.

Speaking of tequila, next week, I’ll tell you all about Scriptchat, a Twitter screenwriting chat I co-founded with Zac Sanford, Jamie Livingston, Kim Garland and Mina Zaher. It’s the most amazing community of writers you’ll ever find. All on Twitter. All free. There’s only one rule at Scriptchat – Bring your tequila and leave your ego behind. That’s my kind of rule.

Now get your tweet on and say hi when you get there. I’m @jeannevb, and I’m a Tweetaholic.

For more Twitter tips and other writers’ stories, check out my website, SMwriters.com and Confessions of a Tweetaholic.


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19 thoughts on “BALLS OF STEEL: Tweet to Success

  1. Redabsinthium

    Dear Jeanne,
    I’ve been lurking on Scriptmag for months and I’ve read all your blogs: I find them extremely useful and I really admire your “Balls of steel”. I’m happy to sit in a dark room for hours and write, but when it comes to twitter I’m hopeless. I have an account @eleonoramignoli, I’ve followed script chat, but then I have no idea what to do. What I don’t understand is why somebody should care about a nobody’s project, and how I could even “tap the shoulder” of a writer I don’t know and say “hi”. How did you manage to meet writers/agents online? This is not complaining, I’m genuinely lost.

    1. Jeanne Veillette BowermanJeanne Veillette Bowerman Post author

      Eleonora, First off, breathe. The mystery isn’t really a mystery. Once you follow someone, or when someone follows you, say hi. You can find people using wefollow.com – type in “screenwriter” and you’ll find the most popular ones, many of whom are every day people, just like us. When you tweet anything about your project or about screenwriting, use the #scriptchat hashtag or #screenwriting. That way, people with that interest will see your tweets and interact. The #scriptchat hashtag has MANY agents, manager, and pro writers following it. It’s a great way to engage. Try spending an hour a day on Twitter for a month and see how it goes. We already follow each other, so that’s a great first step. :)

      1. Redabsinthium

        Thank you very much! I’ve started breathing again =)
        Your advice is clear and optimistic, I’ll treasure it. I’ll start with we follow.com and I’ll try to pop out and say hi at the next #scriptchat meeting.
        Thank you again. Your kindness has truly helped me. Happy tweets. =)

  2. Stephanie

    Selfish for me to pitch my screenplay on my social networks? I’m not asking any person who does not want to read them to read them. You need to start getting into the mind of the creative man and woman again. Your business doesn’t allow us new screenwriters to build relationships LOL! That is why you won’t hear me, you talk at me, and most of the movies suck now days. Agents won’t accept unsolicited screenplays and it is mostly who you know and not what you know, so I’m screaming from my YouTube – “hey Hollywood, I have an Oscar Winning Screenplay.” People like you think I’m tacky. Say it to me when I win my Oscar. We can debate then:) Trust me, I will sell my screenplay. It is called social media-not tacky, or unprofessional. I notice famous people can use social media all they want though LOL. Funny isn’t it? Double standards.

  3. Jeanne Veillette Bowerman

    Stephanie, I completely disagree. I will never pitch someone I do not know in a 140-character tweet. It’s pushy, obnoxious, and yes, tacky. This business is about building relationships. One needs to build that relationship first before selfishly asking for something from them. It’s akin to seeing a producer at a restaurant, walking up to his/her table and pitching them.

  4. Pingback: What a Week! | Princess Scribe's Blog

  5. Stephanie Hilpert

    I found it very arrogant to say “Don’t pitch your work in a tweet, that’s just tacky.” That comment tells me it is from a person who thinks they are to good to read writing pitched in a tweet and that is tacky. It was very Hollywood, sorry.

  6. Jeanne Veillette BowermanJeanne Veillette Bowerman Post author

    Thanks, Captain. Feel free to contact me on the PSA message boards :)

    @baked, Diablo Cody did tweet me once when I was having a playful exchange with another screenwriter about tossing fireballs at a beauty pageant we were watching. You never know who is listening. I love Twitter.

  7. Winnie Crean

    Jeanne, Thank you for you most encouraging article. I have been writing, one thing and another, short stories, scripts, poetry for a couple of years now, but never attempted to send anything in. My main interest is Screen Writing. I had a major problem for months; how to write action? The answer hit me like the fall of a brick: so simple. You don’t Action is written under the term “Action” and nothing resembling dialogue mixes with it. It proved to me the value of a first-rate teacher. Now my problem is getting to the end of a script once I’ve started it. I wonder has anyone got the same problem as I have. Namely, I constantly realise that a little change here or there reads better, so I never get to the end. WINNIE

  8. baked

    Kelly Oxford (@kellyoxford) got her start by stalking Diablo Cody. She’s a self professed tweet stalker, she stalked Diablo, they became friends, Diablo retweeted her tweets etc, and now Kelly has 100,000+ followers and a TV show in the works. So… sometimes it pays to stalk.

  9. R J Haig

    Aaaaaaaughhh, as they say in the comics. I am a 76 year old retired firefighter who has entered Literature Land. After a long learning curve, I published my book “Fire Horses” which is about the heart and spirit of firefighters. Now I find out there is another learning curve to write a screen play to get my story on the silver screen. Will time run out? One doesn’t know until he tries. Move over screen writers. Here comes the Fire Department.
    R J Haig
    http://www.rjhaig.com

  10. Captain

    Jeanne,
    I am fascinated by your “Slavery by another Name” Project and also congrats on your assignment. Theres something else that you may be intrigued by, that I am involved with. It is The Robert Smalls Story. When I moved to Beaufort S.C. in 1992 my office was right across the street from the church Robert Smalls built. I took an interest in his story as I have sailed the same passages. Robert Smalls also performed acts of kindness that are so profound that I cry every time I attempt to share the history. After a year of intense study, In 2009 I wrote a screenplay about the life of Robert Smalls. It is good but it does not have the chops that this kind of story deserves. It amazes me that we are both in PS-31 and have worked on scripts about slavery. I was raised in the ihtegrated south and know what Slavery by another name really is as I saw it as a kid. My mother was also born the same year that Robert Smalls died, 1915 and that gives an incredible perspective. I am ordering your book this week and will be available if you need help with anything, research etc. CAPTAIN

  11. Jeanne Veillette BowermanJeanne Veillette Bowerman

    Thanks, Penny. You were one of the first writers I met on Twitter. It’s been an honor :)

    Roberta, you rocked that Scriptchat house as a guest! You’re a perfect example of how writers can learn from the generosity of those who have worked in the trenches for all these years. It wasn’t until I heard of you on Twitter that I ever considered writing a short. I can’t thank you enough for your support of screenwriters… and love of tequila :)

  12. Roberta Munroe

    @JeanneVB I love your style. I can also testify that while being a guest on @ScriptChat was like being immersed in Twitter: The Accelerated Class, you and @kim_garland made it an amazing experience.
    I’m sure being featured on a Twitter ScriptChat brought me just a little more exposure and several more clients.
    Plus I had fun. Sure, I had to drink a bunch of tequila, but…
    Love,
    Roberta

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