What is this platform of which you speak?

Platform. Seems you can’t delve deeper than three paragraphs into the internet these days without someone telling you how important it is for writers to have a platform. I’ve been thinking about this lately and it has me more than slightly worried. Because I don’t have one. I’m not even sure what it means. Sounds like something from which one could get pushed.

But the experts are insistent. Writers need a platform. Agents and editors will want to hear about your platform. The time to build your platform is NOW, before you’re published. Building a platform takes time. If you wait until your book comes out, it will be too late.

There are a lot of writers who have pretty clearly defined platforms. Some form a group blog with other writers who have something in common — usually they’re all published in the same genre, or by the same publisher. But I’ve never been much of a joiner and can’t really see myself doing that. Not to mention, you know, I’m not published. Sort of a prerequisite. Yet everyone says a platform should be established before the product.

Some writers are experts in a particular area or have an interesting day job or unusual background. But I’m really just sort of . . . average. I’m neither old nor young. I live in suburbia. [yawn] I have two kids and a dog and a cat, but so do a lot of other people. The day job is drier than dust and involves mostly confidential financial stuff. No one wants to hear about that. I’m an excellent cook, but others are better. I don’t have an advanced degree in metallurgy and haven’t travelled to the ends of the earth. Or even Europe. There just isn’t any fascinating subject about which I’m knowledgeable.

I’ve written a few blog posts lately that have apparently been of interest to writers. But that feels awkward as a platform, since I don’t have all that much to offer other writers in the way of experience or advice. I’m delighted if other writers want to read my blog but, in general, they’re not who I’m talking to when I write blog posts. Except lately. But, you know, not always.

Can you tell I’ve been agonizing about this? Well, I have been. To the point where I’m not sure what the hell to write over here anymore. Sure, I do an occasional post about writing, but I’m just as likely to write about the cat. And anything in between. There is no consistency, no common topic, no single thread that binds it all together. Who is my audience? What do I have to say? What is my platform? I feel like I’ve failed before I’ve even started building. But I need to build it NOW.

And then today all this angsty indecision came to the boiling point of ridiculous when I realized I’d pretty much convinced myself that, lacking a platform, I shouldn’t be blogging at all.

Um, wait a minute.

The fact is, I’ve been writing blog posts here and elsewhere for more than three years. I think I’ve gotten to where I don’t completely suck at it. Three or five people keep coming back to read them, anyway, so I must be doing something right.

I’m a writer. My job is to connect with readers. My audience is anyone who wanders over here and decides to come back, for whatever reason. What I have to offer are my words and my voice and my outlook on life. And that’s it.

That’s my platform. Well, my definition of it, at least. It’s not fancy or impressive or even particularly original. And I’m fine with that. Right now, after years of building a thing I didn’t even know existed, it feels pretty solid to me.

It’s going to have to be enough. Because probably the next post is going to be about the cat.

Unless anyone has a request . . .

[Don’t you just love the virtual snow? Enjoy it while it lasts.]

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15 Comments

Filed under blogging, marketing, social media

15 responses to “What is this platform of which you speak?

  1. I would’ve thought your platform was Mac, Windows, or Linux. Huh. Shows what I know.

    Surely it is not a bad thing to be a person who is ideally positioned to write about things that most of her readers can related to? There are an awful lot of readers who live in suburbs with cats, dogs, children, dry jobs, and pesky imaginary internet friends.

    Well, there are a lot of readers who have the first four. Maybe don’t write too many novels about imaginary internet friends who are pesky.

    On the comments page, at least, I can only see the snow falling when it goes in front of text. Otherwise, it’s white snow falling against a white background. Kinda like Minnesota, eh?

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  2. I hope it’s not a bad thing, Merry, because it’s all I’ve got.

    Writing about imaginary internet friends? Probably not — fiction, unlike real life, has to make sense. [grin]

    Yes, my blog is just like Minnesota in winter. Only with text for a backdrop instead of stark bare trees.

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  3. Merry said:

    There are an awful lot of readers who live in suburbs with cats, dogs, children, dry jobs, and pesky imaginary internet friends.

    Yes, that’s true. But your characters who live in suburbs with cats, dogs, children, dry jobs, and pesky imaginary internet friends have conflict (or at least they should, but since I haven’t ready any of your fiction, yet, I don’t know for sure, but I assume.)

    However, I have read your blog, and I do keep coming back. Is it because of your fascinating platform? You know I didn’t even know a writer was supposed to have a platform until you brought it up, so no.

    I have known for a while that a writer is supposed to have an internet presence, but that you’ve got. Platform? WTF? The closest I have to a “platform” is the step stool I use to reach the really high shelves.

    You know, I wouldn’t worry too much about what *they* say. After all, the internet is the Devil’s playground, and personally I’d rather worry about the words I use to build the characters people come to love and want to read more about than agonizing over a platform.

    Thank’s for the new post, BTW. I’ve been waiting and waiting over here for you to blog about something, and really, since you don’t have an “agenda” I’m fine with whatever your subject matter is.

    After all, it’s really about the writing.

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  4. Damn. I forgot to close the bold. Sorry. It could have been worse, I coULD HAVE LEFT MY CAPS LOCK ON.

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  5. Interestingly enough, I can fix that.

    Honestly, SD, you have a fascinating platform. I haven’t read your fiction either (YET!), but I can tell from your blog posts that it must be unique and compelling. While here I am, just sort of, well, meh.

    I’m tall enough that I don’t usually need a step stool. Now I just need to convince myself that I’m tall enough as a writer that I don’t need to worry about a platform either.

    Next time I see a link with the word “platform” in it, I’ll just ignore it. [ahem] Well, I’ll try.

    I guess there’s advice and then there’s soul sucking confidence destroying advice. Hard to tell which is which, sometimes.

    “After all, it’s really about the writing.” –Thanks for the reminder.

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  6. Anasazi Stories by Jeff Posey

    I’ve been confused about “platform” too. Mainly since Bob Mayer and I got into a tussle about it in one of his WariorWriter weekend classes (I backed off; hey, he’s a Green Beret and I’m a Remnant Hippie — no match). Bob said this: “The major emotional crisis of your life is your platform.”

    Most of the filthy lucre I’ve managed to glean in my life has come from writing marketing copy for corporations, and that experience makes me disagree with Bob. A platform, to me, is more like a soapbox upon which you stand and people can see you. The content of what comes out of your mouth while you’re up on that soapbox is not your platform, it’s your message. They work together. Merely having a platform isn’t enough. You’ve got to have an interesting, somewhat consistent message, or people will just walk by without paying you any mind.

    What Bob talks about, in my lingo, is more “angle of message” than “platform.” And that angle, again by my figuring, doesn’t have to be based on your life’s biggest emotional crisis. I think, in fact, it should (almost “must”) be based on what you daydream about. What you want to know or figure out or experience. As fiction writers, we craft guided daydreams for our readers, so what we write should be based on our own daydreams. Seems to me, anyway.

    So if your daydreams jump from your cat to letters from an ancestor during the war or the tendency of a daughter to wander around in wild places, then that’s the appropriate angle for the messages that appear on your platform.

    For some reason, I thought of the writer Thomas Hardy as I read your self-critical complaints that you haven’t been to the ends of the earth, aren’t old or young enough, have a dry job, etc. Read Hardy’s “The Mayor of Castorbridge” or “Two on a Tower” or anything else. He takes common, average characters in common, average places and turns it into drama.

    I’ve not read your fiction either, but you are perhaps the best writer I read who blogs, in terms of command of the language, clarity of thought, and purity of emotional message. I can just imagine, given the experience of your life and a few characters in tough situations, that you’d create something damned interesting. That’s platform enough, even in the Bob sense of the word.

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  7. Okay, so I guess my “platform” is carriage driving, horses, food and random bitching. NOW I get it.

    But you know I’m just following the advice of “Write what you know…”

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  8. Wow. And I thought I was confused before I wrote this post. My platform is “the major emotional crisis” of my life? WTF? Not if I have anything to say about it, it isn’t. Are you sure that’s what he said? Bob is a very smart guy, but that doesn’t even make sense.

    The only way that works for me is in the very general concept that we are the sum of all our experiences and our writing is informed by them. Though not just emotional crises, but also joys and triumphs. And even all the little mundane everyday things. They all make up who I am and what makes me unique. How is that a marketing tool? How do you even define that to an agent or editor?

    Besides, I don’t consider that to be my “platform” so much as it is my outlook. Which is– Hell. I guess I already sort of said my voice and my outlook ARE my platform.

    Now I’m completely confused. This is not a nice thing to do to me on a Monday.

    As for daydreams or whatever, I’ve always considered the writing on this blog to be something completely different from what I’m writing in novel form. It’s a place to play and have fun or to think deep thoughts. A place for me to flex my linguistic muscles. So to speak. More a continuation of the op-ed newspaper columns I wrote long ago and far away. A place to entertain, though I’m not doing a very good job of that lately.

    I guess it’s been a while since I wrote anything “funny” — you should go check out this post, it’s one of my favourites:

    Role Reversals and Other Shifts in the Universe

    I really need to lighten up over here.

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  9. McB

    Linguistic muscles – I like that. I figured a blog was a writer’s way to connect with readers between books. A chance for people to discover your voice. I don’t care about platforms. I want a good book. You can write about cumquats, I don’t care as long as I’m entertained.

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  10. Thank you, McB. The voice of reason.

    I will now endeavour to make this my platform: I write good books. And entertaining blog posts.

    I wonder . . . what would happen if I gave the cat a kumquat?

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  11. I use my blog to force me to write. I make myself post twice a week, usually Mondays and Thursdays, which, BTW, were days picked at random. It seemed like a good idea at the time, since I’m not disciplined enought to sit down every freakin’ day like it’s an office job. ‘Cuz I’m lazy, did I mention that? But the point is that even when nothing exciting or even interesting has happened, I make myself sit down and write something every Monday and Thursday.

    Some days it works, some days not so much. But then again, I’m not trying to get the blog published, only my fiction.

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  12. Anasazi Stories by Jeff Posey

    Glad to have confused. Confusion is good. From confusion comes … well, something.

    I’m sure Bob said that quote I gave. I wrote it down right as he said it. But that doesn’t mean it explains what he thinks about platforms in the way we’ve been talking here.

    I like your comment of being “the sum of all our experiences.” Call that the Unification Platform Theory. I adhere to that. No reason to fragment us up into major emotional experiences and minor incidents and such. I’ll continue to believe that “platform” is mainly a marketing term that means a place where your stuff is potentially visible to others. You have this blog. And you Twitter. Together, those are your platform. So when an agent/editor asks if you have one, just say, “Yes.”

    And Slave Driver: A blog is a good writing tool in and of itself, I agree. I use mine to write side-story flash scenes that help me better understand my major works in progress. It’s kind of my scratch sheet, though I try to make them more polished than mere doodles.

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  13. Posey, you’re the last one to worry about a platform. You’ve got a great one. Historical fiction for someone with your background is priceless.
    (Being a hippie)

    Platform is damn hard to do when you’re (like Katie –may I call you Katie? Yes? Good.–said) just a normal joe writing fiction. I have been trying to get my mind around this for a while, and I only have one platform, which is my IT stuff. But I don’t write IT thrillers. (Although I do have one partially written 🙂 And it’s hard to come up with new stuff about writing all the time. I mean, we’re the unwashed masses. We’re the ones trying to break in. Our pain is shared by so many, how do we keep coming up with new stuff all time? It is difficult–and tiring.

    Keep it up.

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  14. “… a place where your stuff is potentially visible to others.” Oh. My.

    Actually, that might be the best definition I’ve heard so far. And I like that advice to, if asked about it, just say, “Yes.”

    [Jason, I prefer just “K” — like Kay, only not. 😉 Or BCB works too.]

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  15. McB

    Mmm, definitely more of a Katherine, or K for short.

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