By JPC Allen
Last summer as I prepared for my first ACFW conference, I couldn’t have been more depressed about my chances of finding an agent. I had registered for the conference with high hopes because I was a semi-finalist in the YA category of the 2016 Genesis contest. Then I did my research and discovered the 21st century definition for “platform.”
Everything I read said even unpublished authors need a social media platform. Technically inept, I did not blog. I had been on Facebook for just a year and that was only because I couldn’t communicate with the members of my ACFW chapter without it.
As an introvert, I was shy about sharing my thoughts with anyone and everyone, or worse, filling up cyberspace with drivel. It also seemed self-serving to start a website and professional Facebook page with the tagline, “Like my pages so I can get a book deal!”
As I wrestled with the problem, I got a hint of a solution from the blog of the Steve Laube Agency. Several bloggers mentioned that Christian writers should use their social media as a service to readers. I liked that idea but had no clue what kind of service I could provide.
While driving through my hometown in July, I hit bottom and told God how discouraged I felt about getting published. Could I go to the conference without a platform? Then God suggested – and I’m sure it was from Him – “Why not offer writing tips?”
As a former children’s librarian, I love working with kids. Since I write for teens, offering tips for beginning writers made a lot of sense. Introducing kids to the wonders of writing wasn’t that different from introducing them to the joy of reading.
My wonderful neighbor helped me design a website, but I didn’t have time to add much content before I left for the conference. No, I didn’t find an agent. They all said I needed to focus on building my platform.
When I got home, and with great anxiety, I began writing about how new writers can observe life to find inspiration. I wrote every post long-hand so that when I typed, I was working on a second draft. I blogged for three months, practicing with different kinds of posts before I dared advertising my sites to friends and fellow writers.
I thought I would find blogging tedious because I was writing essays and saw myself as a fiction writer. To my utter shock, I started to improve. By December, I could honestly say I liked blogging. I enjoyed sharing theories about writing I had kept in my head for years. Putting them down in digital black and white made me think even more deeply about my art. And it made me fall in love with writing all over again.
The whole platform building process has made me see that God made me a writer. Even if I never publish, I am still a writer and will still offer advice to help others, especially kids, discover the joy of writing.
JPC Allen wrote her first story in second grade when she penned a homage to Scooby Doo. She hopes her YA novel The Truth and Other Strangers will be the first in series set in contemporary West Virginia. Find her writing tips and inspiration for beginning writers at JPCAllenWrites.com and facebook.com/JPCAllenWrites.