The Value of Networking in the Writing World

By Rachel Beck

For some writers, the greatest joy of the gig may be that you get to sit behind a
computer all day—perhaps this speaks to those of us who are highly introverted, for
whom even the idea of networking can bring on the shakes. You might hyperventilate at
the idea of a pitch, of telling anyone that you have an amazing story to share. But some
of you might crave the break-in solitude, and love getting out to network with other
authors or industry professionals. And in the long run, the more you network, the better
you will feel about yourself and your work.

Networking is hard to do because it can feel like bragging. It can also feel cheesy, self-
absorbed and inauthentic. Maybe there is some of that, but just bear in mind this little
mantra: You’re making friends. You’re creating real, meaningful relationships. Sure,
you’re also self-promoting a bit because you’ve constantly got your book in the back of
your mind, but if you focus on the experience of networking—and getting the most out of
the interactions—you will find it not only a valuable part of the writing process but a
necessary one.

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Writers get their ideas and inspiration from a variety of sources. Often, the best stories
come from snippets heard on the news or fun facts read somewhere and then
exaggerated into full-blown, dramatic and compelling tales. Many authors use their own
life experiences as themes, premises or scenes for novels. Often a writer’s book will be
at least partially autobiographical.

Have you ever thought about the fact that you have enough fodder from just a few
standout life experiences to make up several books? Now think about this: Imagine if
you were to network with other writers for the purpose of getting inspiration. Think about how many more ideas you now have floating around. A throwaway comment that
another writer makes—about the craft of writing, about the exotic European vacation
she just got back from, about the stale potato salad you’re both forcing down at a
writers’ convention—might just spark your next bestseller. You never know.

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Finding inspiration for your own writing—and, by the same token, giving fellow writers
inspiration for their writing—is only one of the many purposes that networking serves.
Whether you are devoting your life to writing or it’s just a hobby or weekend activity, you are surely passionate about it, or else you wouldn’t choose to write. Take any other
passion or hobby out there, and you’ll find a group for it. To come together and do it, to
talk about a lifetime spent pursuing this hobby, to share stories about the rewards and
challenges of feeling the call to donate substantial time to this passion. Any activity
worth doing is worth sharing!

The same certainly rings true for writers. Can you imagine your life if you were to give
up writing? If the answer is no, then you possess a deep-seated need to write. Such an
intense passion needs to be shared with others—maybe you’ll meet someone who’s
just getting their footing as a writer, who wonders if the submission process and numerous rejections and the actual sitting down and writing is worth it. Maybe you’ll be
the voice that saves a new writer from giving up!

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Or maybe you’re in that camp yourself and could use a kick in the pants. You never
know what could inspire you to write that amazing scene that’s been rolling around in
your brain for months and just needs a gentle tug. All writers need an energy burst, a
morale boost, from time to time. The life of a writer is generally a lonely one. It’s largely
a life of solitude. Human beings were created as sociable creatures who thrive on
enriching interactions and encounters with other people.

With this in mind, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and network. And
remember, networking is not One Big Scary Thing. There are many different ways to
network. From groups where you actually write and possibly share your work, to writers’ conventions, classes and seminars, to pitching your work, networking for those who love the written word comes in many forms. Find what works for you: an event you will actually enjoy and take something away from.

Even if you have to get over a bout of nerves to try networking, that’s a good thing! It will
mean you have accomplished something new and challenging, and you’ve put yourself
out there as a writer with stories to share. Because if you aren’t going to tell the world
what you can add to it with your writing, who’s going to?

Rachel Beck is an agent with Holloway Literary. Follow her on Twitter @Rachel_C_Beck.