10 Ideas for Networking

By Mark Nichol

Whether you’re a staff employee at your workplace, or you’re a home-based freelancer, you’ll benefit from a proactive effort to make yourself a part of a professional or interest-based community. Try one or more of these networking options:

1. Join an online writers’ community or social-networking site. (They abound on the Web; I chose this one as an example because of the clever play on the name of the professional-networking site Linked In.)

2. Become a member of a writers’ union like the Writers Guild of America West or its East Coast counterpart.

3. Sign up with a genre-specific writers’ association, such as the Mystery Writers of America.

4. Form or join a writing group.

5. Look up a site for writers of fan fiction, such as FanFiction.net.

6. Take a writing or literature class or workshop, and keep in touch with the students (and the instructor).

7. Attend writers’ conferences or enroll in an MFA program.

8. Attend (or organize) author events, poetry readings, open mics, and other literary gatherings.

9. Cultivate relationships with editors and with other writers. A rejection letter can be a beginning as well as an ending, and freelance writers (and editors) can pass leads on or hand surplus projects off to each other.

10. Develop your networking skills outside the writing realm by joining a civic or professional organization, volunteering with a nonprofit organization, or getting involved with a club or a hobby group.

Networking Tips
When attending events or other assemblages, exchange business cards or email addresses with fellow participants, but don’t treat the gatherings like speed-dating nights. Focus on meeting and engaging with no more than several people. It’s all about quality, not quantity, and especially when it comes to recurring events, you’ll always have another opportunity to meet someone you missed before.

Writers are stereotyped as being wallflowers. That’s not always true, of course, but stereotypes come from somewhere. If you’re shy, try these strategies:

  • Ask a more outgoing partner or friend to go with you and let them lead you into introductions.
  • Find the most uncomfortable-looking person at the event, note that they’re probably feeling more nervous than you are, and go up to them and smile and say, “Me, too.”
  • Reassure yourself that you don’t have to say a thing about yourself; let the other person do all the talking (unless they turn the tables on you or become tiresome).
  • Come up with a stock question: “What’s your favorite novel?” “What are you reading?” “How’s your book coming?”
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7 Responses to “10 Ideas for Networking”

  • Ken

    There’s a Writer’s Centre right outside of DC that I attended a free workshop for military members and vets. It was cool to actually meet other writers since I don’t know any from any of my other “circles”.

    Good stuff. Thanks much.

    Ken

  • Chuck Hustmyre

    These are good tips. My only gripe is No. 2. (become a member of the WGA). It’s not quite that easy. First you have to sell a feature movie script to a studio or other producer that is a signatory to the Guild’s minimum basic agreement. The WGAw works on a point system for membership qualification, and the initial entry fee is $2,500.

    I wrote a recent LIONSGATE feature film and still can’t qualify for membership.

    MWA, ITW, and the Author’s Guild are much easier to join.

  • Mark Nichol

    Chuck:

    Thanks for the tip about my WGA tip!

  • Shyxter

    Thanks for the tips, Mark! As a new writer, I have joined some writing communities and participated in social media activities for writers as well. I only joined a few so that I can have more focus and give quality involvement with each of them. I make it a point to interact with my writing and social media communities everyday, to show interest and support to my fellow writers. I always believe that they can also help me with my writing endeavors as I progress with my career.

    But moderation is also important in all my interactions. It is easy to get carried away as you chat and get involved with online activities that’s why I allocate a specific time for them everyday, no more no less. This way, I am able to give more time to my main purpose which is writing 🙂

  • Mark Nichol

    The National Writers Union has less stringent requirements and lower rates for membership than the Writers Guild of America, which also is for film scriptwriters. The NWU is for freelance writers in general.

  • MT Nickerson

    Thanks for the tips. I would like to echo Shyxter above and reinforce the importance of being an involved member of a community. Quality wins out, I think, over the long term.

  • Tula

    Fanfiction.net has an affiliated site called FictionPress.com that is for original works (as opposed to fan fiction or fan-related works). There are also a lot of writer-centric communities on LiveJournal. A lot of those are devoted to fanfiction, but if you have an area of interest, it can be a great way to interact with other writers with those interests.

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