Definition: noun net·work·ing: Connecting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts; the cultivation of productive relationships for employment or business.
Hmmm, you say. Doesn’t apply to writers. Writing is about me, my laptop and my awesome manuscript. Well you’re right. To a point. But nowadays we are expected to self-promote, self-market and be our own editors. We are asked to speak, maintain websites and have a presence on social media. And if that’s not bad enough, a great many of us are introverts. Introverts prefer to listen and observe. We are reflective and focused and speak through our art. Networking goes against our very nature and can feel disingenuous.
But consider the potential benefits of a little networking:
- Are you looking for feedback on your manuscript before querying?
- Would you like to find critique partners whose opinion you trust?
- Would you like support and encouragement from like-minded individuals?
- Are you actively seeking an agent or an editor?
- Do you want to make writing your career?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should seriously consider networking. Okay, so maybe I’ve piqued your interest. The next step is How? Here are a four practical ways that have helped me personally:
- Meetup. Meetup.com is the world’s largest network of local groups, making it easy to organize or find an existing group in your area. I found my local writer’s group and my regular critique partners through Meetup. Yes, I was biting my nails and psyching myself out before that first meeting, but it was smooth sailing after that. Remember, give the same courtesy and consideration in critiquing other’s work that you would like given to yours.
- Join a Professional Writer’s Organization. There are many organizations who connect you with other writers and organize local events, such as the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). These organizations have strong on-line communities, as well as terrific regional and national conferences that are well attended by other writers, agents and editors (some of whom give preferential consideration to organization members).
- Go to a Writer’s Conference. I suggest starting with a local or regional conference. Get there early and introduce yourself to the folks sitting around you. Ask them what genre they write and what they are working on. Ask them for a business card. Maybe even follow them on Twitter. (Follow Caroline@carolinehnoonan)
- Social Media. There is a huge on-line community of writers, especially on Twitter. Many literary agents run contests on Twitter, and I know individuals who have found their critique partners there. Social Media is a great place to share ideas, connect with others and give someone a nod of encouragement when they need it. Next time, it might be you needing the nod!
I hope you find these ideas as helpful and practical as I did. Just remember, writers are basically all nice people, and nearly everyone is in the same boat as you!