Social Networking vs. Writing

So. Wow. Did you see how many people commented on Friday’s post? And did you see how longwinded eloquent everyone was? If I didn’t know better, I’d think you all LOVE giving your opinions about social networking!

So the upshot is: some of us love it, some of us hate it, many of us are ambivalent or trying to decide. Amongst those of you who read my blog, the most popular social networks are blogging, Twitter and Facebook. And whether we love social networking or hate it, we all recognize the potential hazards, i.e. the TIME aspect. The question we each have to answer is: How can we use social networking to the extent that it’s positive and helpful, but no more? I can’t answer it for you. We all need to grapple with it ourselves.

But I’m going to go out on a limb here and say one thing. It’s hard for me sometimes, on this blog, to strike a balance between teaching that building a platform is important and encouraging writers to place their writing first. There’s no question, building an audience is important.


If you are writing fiction. And you are unpublished. You really MUST be putting your writing first. Spend most of your discretionary time learning to write. You do this by continuing to write, and by reading high quality fiction, and by using crit partners, and reading books on craft. But mostly from writing, writing, writing.

Dabble in social networking for fun and leisure, and to get a head start on what you’ll need in the future. But you should keep in mind a 90/10 ratio. Spend t 90% of your free time on your writing, and no more than 10% on platform building.

Things change when you’re published. And things are different if you’re a NON-fiction writer.

But again, if you’re an unpublished novelist, improving your writing is top priority. If you don’t do that, all the rest will be irrelevant anyway.

So get off this blog and get back to work!

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Rob Roush on July 18, 2009 at 8:34 PM


    Thank you so much for the exhortation and validation. Over the last several months, I have felt almost guilty because I have neglected keeping up with blogs–yours, mine, and others–as well as all the discussions out there. After speaking with you at last years ACFW conference, I went back to work, in a big way, on my manuscript. I'm now nearing the completion of this rewrite, and am excited with the result.

    Thanks again for the teaching, wise words, and correction that your blog provides.

  2. Nakabunot Kay on July 15, 2009 at 11:58 PM

    >I guess being active online in diffrent social networking sites is something good because we can promote our blogs there which can result to more traffic for our site, right? I am an application essay help tutor and most of the time, I do my blogs on guidelines and tips. I make sure that I know how to balance my time between my writing activities and my profiles online. Balance is always the key:)

  3. Shauna Okongo on July 14, 2009 at 11:27 PM

    >Question: How does that change when you are a non-fiction writer? What about that changes? Thank you!

  4. mkcbunny on July 14, 2009 at 9:53 PM

    >This was really helpful to hear, especially right now. I have been doing the final edits on my first novel and feeling waves of panic about the business end of things.

    Part of that is being behind on networking in any form. I abandoned a great online group a year ago because I was spending too much time there and had to finish the book. Meanwhile, I've been slowly learning about publishing over the past three years via blogs like this one.

    It's encouraging to hear someone say that it's OK *not* to be ultra-connected.

  5. Amy on July 14, 2009 at 3:40 PM

    >Ditto Lynnda's comment:

    Do you have tips for non-fiction writers?


  6. josephmcole on July 14, 2009 at 11:10 AM

    >Thanks for this helpful reminder to put our writing first. Thank you for being involved in social networking as I learn so much from your blog.

  7. Susan Panzica - EternityCafe on July 14, 2009 at 10:35 AM

    >Thanks so much for your insights.

    You said "things are different if you're a NONfiction writer". How different? Since platform is so important in nonfiction writing, I struggle to find the balance of platform building and writing. And writing the book vs. writing articles which help build the platform. Would you address this in a future blogpost?


  8. Jennifer Hudson Taylor on July 14, 2009 at 8:50 AM


    What if you have a debut novel coming out? You mentioned that it changes the dynamics a bit. Instead of 90/10 rule, would it be more like 20/80 or 30/70, or 40/60? I'm curious because I'm in that position now. With a full-time job, being a mom, wife, critiquing, and marketing myself as a writer, I'm trying hard to protect my writing time. But as I'm starting to promote more, it's almost another job.

    BTW – Thanks for your great insight.

  9. Heather Lane on July 14, 2009 at 8:21 AM

    >Thanks for taking your time to blog, Rachelle. I was thinking that writing blogs might suck in some writers who might otherwise be querying, and they might change tracks altogether, leaving more room for the rest of us. Have you noticed any change since blogging has become such a trend?

  10. Kim Kasch on July 14, 2009 at 12:19 AM

    >Funny topic for today because my blog is one-year old today!

  11. Cami Checketts on July 13, 2009 at 11:30 PM

    >Thanks for this post. It's so easy to get caught up in trying to market, but if you don't have a fabulous product to sell all the marketing in the world isn't going to sell it.

  12. Amber Argyle-Smith on July 13, 2009 at 9:21 PM

    >Heaven knows I needed to hear that.

    Rachelle, you blog is my absolute fav. (and I follow lots of agent blogs).

    U wanna be my agent? We'd be perfect for each other, if only you took fantasy. *sigh*


  13. Mariana on July 13, 2009 at 6:07 PM

    >Rachelle, you are so right on this one (too!). Thanks! Back to work now, lol.

  14. Rose McCauley on July 13, 2009 at 5:23 PM

    >Thanks for the advice, Rachelle. Glad to know I am on the right track. I do have a website and a blog, altho I only blog about once a week, but right now I will continue to concentrate on writing, learning craft, writing, critting, writing, reading and writing…

  15. Paul West on July 13, 2009 at 4:56 PM

    >Good advice. While sending out query letters for my first finished novel, I'm working on my second.

  16. Caroline on July 13, 2009 at 2:44 PM

    >I was pondering such things earlier this morning. Thanks for the nudge in the right direction.

  17. Julie Surface Johnson on July 13, 2009 at 12:22 PM

    >Thanks. I needed that.

  18. Rebecca Knight on July 13, 2009 at 11:57 AM

    >Yes, Ma'am! *closes twitter and opens up Word*

    Seriously, though–thank you for helping us get perspective on this :).

  19. WindyA on July 13, 2009 at 11:18 AM

    >Thank you for putting it into perspective (again)! So much out there has focused on the "building platform" that the "focus on your writing" sometimes gets lost in the mix!

  20. Dara on July 13, 2009 at 11:09 AM

    >LOL, you're right. I probably spend way too much time networking than I do writing.

    I think that needs to change! And instead of making excuses and procrastinating, I need to glue myself to my computer and WRITE.

  21. RickNiekLikeBikes on July 13, 2009 at 10:33 AM

    >I wrote the same thing on Coffey's blog, but the best writers loved writing well before their first pay check and they loved writing well before they knew anyone was reading.

    Just found you!

  22. Bryan on July 13, 2009 at 9:52 AM

    >Livia- I totally agree. I think I spend more time on google analytics than I do on social networking sites.

    Rachelle- As for fiction writing goes, does honing your skills in story-writing count when you are writing stories for your blog? (By "count" I mean if you are doing it on top of a book project) or should I be trying to publish everything I write with a magazine or journal?

  23. JStantonChandler on July 13, 2009 at 9:43 AM

    >Perfect. This is the second post I've read today about a writer concentrating on their writing first. I admit I have fallen trap to spending most of my time reading and researching instead of writing. Now that I've actually finished my manuscripts, I feel I have the freedom to research the market and beging sending out querys. However, there's still those other stories that need to be written! Thanks for the timely advice ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. Teri D. Smith on July 13, 2009 at 9:35 AM

    >Okay. Got it. I'm back to work!

  25. Stina Lindenblatt on July 13, 2009 at 9:31 AM

    >Yay, I'm so happy to hear you say that. I'd much prefer to work on my writing now than work on my blog (which I update only once a week for good reason). The real reason I have my blog (photography tips for teenage girls), is because it gives me an excuse to do photography (not that I really need an excuse).

  26. Livia on July 13, 2009 at 9:15 AM

    >Haha, yeah, I rationalize my blogging by saying it's a writing blog, and I'm simply building my toolbox, right? Um.. right? It's a good thought, but man, google analytics is a dangerous and addictive thing…

  27. Matilda McCloud on July 13, 2009 at 9:15 AM

    >I was thinking over the weekend that I've been spending more time blabbing on blogs than doing actual writing. I vowed to stop looking at blogs for a bit. But this morning I said to myself that I would just peek at your blog. I'm glad I did. You reinforced the message I needed to hear! Thanks.

  28. Lynnda - Passionate for the Glory of God on July 13, 2009 at 9:07 AM

    >Good Monday morning, Rachelle!

    "And things are different if you're a NON-fiction writer."

    Do you have any tips for us on the right balance?

    I hope you're enjoying the ICRS cconference.


  29. Solvang Sherrie on July 13, 2009 at 9:05 AM

    >I'm glad you pointed out the difference on platform building for fiction. 90/10 is a good rule. Thanks.

  30. Tara on July 13, 2009 at 8:47 AM

    >I like what Sharon said. And the 90/10 rule is essential. :] I'm off to write.

  31. Sharon A. Lavy on July 13, 2009 at 8:01 AM

    >I hope you never decide this blog is a waste of your time, Rachelle.

  32. Katie Ganshert on July 13, 2009 at 7:35 AM

    >Here's a way to kill two birds with one stone….

    When I blog, I usually blog about what I'm learning in the craft of writing, usually from whatever craft book I'm reading at the time. Not only does it help me solidify in my head what I'm reading on paper, but I'm networking at the same time. It's helpful to me, and to others. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Great tips Rachelle. So true – writing MUST come first!

  33. Marybeth Poppins on July 13, 2009 at 6:48 AM

    >This changes my plans for the entire day ๐Ÿ˜‰ Great post!

  34. Krista Phillips on July 13, 2009 at 6:09 AM

    >Such great advice. I'm not sure I do very well with the 90/10 rule. Well, now that I think about it, i probably do better than I chastise myself for, more like an 80/20.

    It's so nice to hear the emphasis for novelists on "story" and writing. I'm in the midst of a new book, a little over 20k into it, and my goal is to finish by September. Very lofty for me and my very small amount of free time… so I'm going to be very picky with writing time in the next two months. Instead of visiting a ton of blogs, I'll limit myself to just a couple. I'll still twitter (which updates facebook) but will only go onto facebook occasionally. We'll see how this works out… but I'm gonna try!

  35. Jill on July 13, 2009 at 5:07 AM

    >As always you have such a clear, concise way of getting to the heart of the matter. Thanks for the insights!

  36. Lori A. May on July 13, 2009 at 3:52 AM

    >Yet another great post, Rachelle!

    Balance is key, no matter what level a writer is at, and itโ€™s always good to remember writing comes first.

    By the way, I enjoyed this post and Fridayโ€™s so much, I linked to them on my own blog post about how writers can strategically use twitter. Itโ€™s here:

    Now, back to the wip!

    Lori A. May

  37. ginny martyn on July 13, 2009 at 2:35 AM

    >OMGness- HA!

    My facebook time time is completely wack-A-doodle. Thanks for pointing that out!

  38. H. L. Dyer on July 13, 2009 at 2:28 AM

    >Here's an unexpected side-effect of social networking: I'm very active online (Querytracker blog, my own blog, twitter, facebook, blogger, livejournal, critique circle, rallystorm, etc.) and each one involves a separate profile.

    Which means when you're finally fortunate enough to find a fabulous agent who believes in you and your work (like I did recently), you have to track down all the relevant profiles and update them.

    Not that I'm complaining, of course. I am absolutely blessed to be able to replace each "seeking representation" with a "represented by." But for the sites I don't visit daily, I'm afraid it's easy to miss something. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  39. Terresa on July 13, 2009 at 1:34 AM

    >Beautiful suggestions!

    I'm an as-yet unpublished fiction writer. I use my blog as a daily (well, almost daily) writing exercise. It's been working well so far, except sometimes I'm spending more time blogging and have no time left to further develop my WIP.

    Thank goodness it's summer time and hopefully that means more time to write!