Why Networking with Writers is Necessary?
It’s often said that writing is a lonely endeavor. That may be true during the actual writing, but it takes a community to complete the rest of the publishing process. Networking with writers is how you connect with the online community. No longer can an author pen a good story and expect others to run with it. It falls on our shoulders to bring the writing up to a publishable standard, insure the plot is consistent, clear, and concise. It then becomes our responsibility to find an outlet for publishing, and finally, it is our responsibility to market the book.
Networking with Writers to get quality feedback.
Writing a story is hard work, but it pales in comparison to the task of finishing the process. Is the story really that good? Your mother and close friends will always say it’s good, but these aren’t reliable measures for the quality of a book. They are biased, and they won’t say anything they feel might hurt your feelings. We need feedback from those who understand the craft.
The importance of networking with writers struck me a few years back. Up until then, I had only written non-fiction. For me, non-fiction is easier to write. I was simply taking information I believe will benefit someone, and putting it into a style of writing others can understand. While non-fiction can be on a subject that stirs emotions, it is still only a transfer of knowledge. It isn’t necessary to create a scene with words so the reader can see, hear, feel, smell, and experience the story. There’s no need to create a three dimensional character that’s believable and real.
Having never written any type of fiction before, I knew I needed help and advice. Then I realized that I did not know a single Christian writer. I had been actively writing for 10-12 years, and had never thought about networking with writers – people who are like minded and on the same path. When I held my first completed manuscript in my hand, I didn’t know what to do with it, or how to evaluate its quality.
Books were helpful, and I read many of them on the craft of fiction writing; however, books can’t give feedback or encouragement. I looked outside the circle of me-myself-and-I, and began searching for other like-minded people. When connecting with others, I discovered the treasure of these relationships.
Three main values you’ll gain by networking with writers.
1. Accountability and encouragement
Generally speaking, when someone joins a writers group or organization, it’s a commitment to take writing seriously. It’s hard to be around other writers and not get excited about writing. Knowing someone is likely to ask about our current work in progress is a motivating factor. That’s accountability. It’s also encouraging.
One thing different about Christian writing circles is the natural encouragement built into our relationships because of our faith. The Bible says to rejoice with those who rejoice. For the most part, this comes natural in Christian faith. It’s only when we become self-absorbed or too self-focused that we lose the ability to rejoice with others. Networking with writers and being a part of a group keeps a healthy focus in check.
The embers of a fire quickly turn cold when they are away from the burning group. Christian encouragement is very much like this. Alone, we struggle, but among friends we draw from each other’s heat and light. This is something often lacking in non-Christian groups. Fellow believers are eager to rejoice, and this keeps everyone aglow.
2. Learning the craft
My…ahem…gripping story wasn’t quite as gripping as I thought. I learned that there was something called point-of-view. Then I learned that a story had to have an arc. Then the sagging middle problem came into view. I discovered fiction stories needed a hook. Actually, they need a constant stream of hooks. And why was someone telling me that my characters were made of cardboard, and that I needed to build three dimensional characters? Show and don’t tell? What does that mean?
The bottom line is, I had much to learn. Even if my plot idea was great, it would fall flat if I didn’t connect to the reader. These are the things I began to learn about writing fiction. It wasn’t just a different genre than I was used to; it’s a whole new world. Alone I would have been limited in my development, but by networking with writers, I have drawn from the experiences of many.
This is where we have to be careful to be givers and not takers only. Often, people join a group to get help, and once they have gleaned all they can, they are off to find someone else who can help advance their writing career. The old adage, “It’s more blessed to give than receive,” applies very much to writing. Nurturing others in the craft of writing is important. As we learn, we should teach. Teaching isn’t always standing before a class and lecturing. Teaching through fellowship is perhaps the greatest method of teaching. It’s me showing you what I am learning, and you showing me what you are learning.
Network with writers so you can learn, and so you can help others to learn.
Depending on which survey we read, the average author sells between 70 and 100 books. That means some sell none, and others sell many. Gone are the days when you wrote a book, got it into print, and sat back to watch it sell. Between the U.S. and the U.K., more than 500,000 books were published last year. This includes traditional and self-published authors. How does someone pick out your book from the half-million books published each year? Even on your release date, your book will be competing with nearly 1400 other books published on any given day.
The truth is, a book sitting on the virtual book shelves of Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other book sites will wait like a shell in the ocean. Unless you are a famous author or celebrity, no one is looking for your book. And few will happen upon it by chance. This is why most literary agent sites ask, “What is your marketing plan?” Even if a major publishing house picks up your book, it will still flop unless you have a marketing plan. And that plan MUST include networking with writers, readers, bloggers, and other groups that can help expose your book to the world.
I’ll save the marketing plan for another discussion, but the thing to note here is the necessity of connecting and networking with other authors. Successful books emerge from connected authors. The best written book remains buried in the sea of publication unless you take it to the reader.
No author should publish alone. Every writer should have a marketing team behind them. This is part of the connection we must be establishing as we travel on our writing journey. Every person is a connection, and we should both utilize our connections in our marketing, and make ourselves available to those who ask us to be part of their marketing team.
We stand through unity in the church; therefore, we should understand the need for unity in our writing careers and the careers of others.
Begin building your connections, use your influence to lift up others, and then allow them to give to you. A healthy relationship is people giving to each other. I can’t give to those who keep their needs hidden, so don’t be afraid to ask.
Spend time networking, connecting, and building relationships. Writing truly is a community and we all have something to give and we need each other. I hope you discover the joy of growing with others, encouraging each other, and connecting – both in writing and in your personal lives.