Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

Outside a Writer’s Comfort Zone

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Raise your hand if you’re a writer. *hands raise*

Now, raise your hand if you don’t like crowds, or being in new places with new people, or are uncomfortable outside your home territory, or will take any opportunity to not drive to the nearest metropolitan area so you don’t have to fight city traffic, even if your favorite author is having a signing there.

*hands raise and wave*

Thought so. Writers have a tendency to be less outgoing, more focused on a smaller portion of the world at large where they are comfortable, like the hometown they grew up in or the neighborhood where they know the people living on their block. We’re introverts. Writing is a mostly solitary pursuit. I say mostly because we all know that at some point we need the help of a critique partner or a writing group.

With the advent of the Internet (Yes, there was a time when the Internet did not exist, and people had to call on a telephone that had an actual cord, or write letters by hand and mail them, or meet face to face if they wanted to communicate with each other.), it’s easier to connect with other people from the comfort of your own home.

It’s a good thing, because finding a writing group might be a challenge where you live. Finding a writing group online is much easier, and you don’t ever have to meet in person. You might not be able to if members are scattered around the world.

If your goal is to be published, and hope readers outside your immediate and extended family want to read your work (even better, to pay to read your work), there’s a lot of value in meeting people face to face. It’s called networking, and we all know the more people who know you and your writing exist, the higher the probability that someone you don’t know will want to read your work.

*din of mumbles about having to meet people rises*

Hey, if you want to go anywhere in this business, you’ve got to get your name out there. And to do that, you’re going to have to get out of your comfort zone.

*gasps fill the air*

Yes, I’m serious. That means finding places where readers gather, like libraries and bookstores (hey, no thinking about how many books you can buy. You’re trying to convince other people to buy your book). It also means leveraging the work other writers and organizations have done to connect with people who want to read stuff in your genre, whether it’s kids’ books, poetry, or even non-fiction.

My first book isn’t due out until 2019, and I haven’t even talked to my editor yet, but I know now is the time to work on connecting with readers who might want to read my book. You know, before I’m working against deadlines.

This week I went to my first local Sisters in Crime meeting. Sisters in Crime (SinC) is a national organization of mystery writers, with local chapters around the country. I’ve known about the Twin Cities chapter for years, but I’ve never been to a meeting before this week because of that whole driving in the big city thing. Turns out the area where they meet is a nice little residential area close to Minnehaha Park (yes, that Minnehaha, the one Longfellow wrote about in the Song of Hiawatha).

The first thing that surprised me was the number of members. I’d guess there were at least thirty people there. Many of the members, like Julie Kramer and Ellen Hart, are award-winning mystery writers. Maybe some of that will rub off on me!

I don’t have a cover, or a release date, or even a for-sure title, but I know by taking advantage of these events and going to meetings, that is, getting out of my comfort zone, I’ll be laying the groundwork for marketing when I need it. The Twin Cities SinC has connections, and their name shows up on lists of library guests and other events. They have something going on every week for the next month and a half, including a huge reader/writer event coming up at the state fairgrounds, a number of guest panels at libraries, and a new event planned at a local Barnes & Noble that includes some big-name writers (no Patterson or King, but Chuck Logan and PJ Tracy, among others).

It’s not just groups like SinC, either. Any venue that supports and promote authors, like libaries and bookstores, is a link in the networking (and marketing) chain. In order to take advantage of their resources, I need to get out of my comfort zone.

Scary, yes. And even more scary to an introvert is being on a panel at a writing conference where people are watching you, and listening to you, and you have to pretend you know what this writing thing is all about. And here’s the crazy scary part: I’m presenting a session at a writers’ conference that I proposed by choice.Β 

What?!

Yes, I know that means I’ll have to speak in front of an audience. And yes, it kind of freaks me out that I sent in a proposal at all, but it’s the best writers’ conference in the upper Midwest, as far as I’m concerned.

What the hell were you thinking?

Networking.

You can’t network if you don’t get out there and meet people. Sure, you can do a lot of networking through the blog-o-sphere, Facebook groups, and other online writing groups, but what about all the people who don’t have eyes on the Internet. All. Day. Long. They exist. I’ve seen them.

It’s uncomfortable, I get it. But it’ll be beneficial to your career as a writer in the long run. Start by going to author events and signings. Maybe check around for a writers’ panel at a local venue. Get used to being out of your comfort zone. Then you can start actuallyΒ talking to people. Yes, it’s okay. Ask a fellow attendee what they liked about the author’s book. Ask them what they like to read. People like to talk about stuff like that.

Then talk to the author who is speaking, signing, or on a panel. Ask how they went about getting the event set up. Talk to the people who organized the event. Tell them who you are, what you write, and ask about setting up an event of your own.

You’ll be surprised how easy it is once you get going. It’s that first step that’s the hardest.

Rainy weekend in my neck of the woods, so I’m going to write. Really. I mean it this time.

Have a great weekend!

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Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for a decade, I have been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. My debut novel, "Murder in Plane Sight", has been released by Camel Press (an imprint of Coffeetown Press/Epicenter Press). In real life, I am a technical writer and empty-nester with a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, three chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

26 thoughts on “Outside a Writer’s Comfort Zone

  1. i did wave both hands and legs. Again, congratulations. as an almost writer, i know how hard it is to get an actual agent to look at your work, much less a contract. believe me when i tell you that the actual contract already pushed you leaps ahead of many. And you already have a blog that you can reach out to readers. In a while, you can post a blurb to the book. some writers give away advanced copies in exchange for reviews – something i’m beginning to realize is very important. Anyway, there’s still time. make good use of it – and again, congratulations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jina! I’ve been watching and reading about the next step for years, I mean, once I got to that threshold between unpublished and soon-to-be published. I know it’ll be a lot of work, and a lot of time outside my comfort zone (really, who wants to sacrifice a lazy Saturday to spend time in a noisy mall/bookstore/reader event?), but I think it’ll be good in the long run. So, deep breath, close eyes, and jump in. The great part about the writing community is the support authors give each other. Good luck with your own journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have the same worries as you. I’m not published yet but I’ve been attending writing festivals & mixing with like minded people. The thought of giving my own class or talks is horrendous. But I’m up for the challenge.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yay, Lorraine! Writing festivals and conferences are rich sources of like-minded people. And I had second thoughts about even submitting a proposal for a class, but it’s another opportunity to connect with other writers. Keep forging ahead!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You are so right Julie, to meet people in real life is and will always be very important. In any business or venture.
    Writing being solitary, it is harder as you haven’t got a ready platform to connect with people around you.
    You have to find that which I know most of you have done.
    You will do well in the presentation, you have the confidence right in there.
    Miriam

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Miriam! I’m trying to plan ahead, but that just means looking at a list of places I’ll have to go and events I should attend to get my work out there. It’s daunting to say the least, especially when I treasure my stay-at-home weekends. And scary. But I think if an author wants to do well, getting out there and networking might make the difference between people looking for your book on shelves and a book that never sees the inside of a B&N.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Yeah, Julie!! πŸ˜€πŸ˜ƒ Well done for going to the conference and meeting so many new people and I’m cheering as I read you’re now presenting at another one!!πŸ˜€ That is fantastic and I feel inspired reading about your networking!! You’ll do great!

    It is so true that we much rather stay unknown, writing away but once out there it must be such a buzz. At one event recently I met lots of great people and talked about their books and learned so much. I’d go again…not sure about giving a presentation though. Do let us know how you get on and details about your paper! I’m a bit nosey…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Annika! I’ll post more about my presentation as it gets closer to the conference, which is in April. Writing conferences are such a rush! It’s like creative energy gathers with the crowd of writers, and we all get a charge from it. It’s so much fun talking to other writers and hearing about their experiences. It is tough breaking out of that comfort zone, but I know after I get to spend time with other writers, it’s like my writing energy swells so I can’t do anything except write.

      Enjoy your weekend! And keep going to writing events. You might just meet a new critique partner there, or meet the right person to help you continue toward your goal πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow! Julie, I can sense the buzz again in your comment here and this is really inspiring me to check out more local events…I have become friends with a local children’s author but she concentrates mainly in her genre; a lovely lady and great to meet up and chat!πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Right on Julie, We must push ourselves out of our individual comfort zones and plug, plug, plug away at networking. Great post. I loved it. Frances

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Frances! I think getting over the fear of beaing out of our comfort zone is an important part of this journey toward publication. It’s like sending that first short story out to a magazine or that first query to an agent; you’re crossing a bridge that carries you to the next stage of the journey. Glad you enjoyed this!

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  6. Good luck with your panel! You’re going to rock it. Speaking in front of crowds is so terrifying, but in my case, I realized once I was up there that I was just speaking about something I LOVE to a bunch of people who love the same thing. And suddenly it was awesome. Like you. πŸ™‚ I’m super excited for coming days of cover reveals and blog tours and other super great news on your end!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Emily! I suspect I’ll have a similar experience, and great tip about realizing you’re speaking about something to people who love the same thing–brilliant! Because it’s true; I never really thought about it that way.

      Have a great rest of your weekend!

      Like

  7. I have two writer friends who spoke at a panel together, and I was AMAZED that they did that. I remember thinking, “No way I could ever do that.” And now I’ve spoken solo to a group of 200 and been on tv, so I guess a panel would be doable. But seriously, great for you! How did you do it? You just request it, basically? Okay, send a proposal. Roger that. Amazing. What are you going to speak on? And how long do you have to speak on it? That’s a terrific way to get out in front of people. Go you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Betsy! I’ll post more about my workshop after the first of the year, when it’s closer to the conference. The director of the conference sent out emails to a number of former conference attendees and invites them to submit a proposal for the next conference. I figured, she sent me an email, might as well toss something in. And yes, it’s a way to get out in front of people. I’m actually looking forward to it πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good for you! I hope you’re still looking forward to it as it gets closer, rather than shaking in your boots. You could speak about how writers are introverts and how crazy it is for one to speak at a panel. I’m sure you’d get tons of knowing laughs.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. And p.s. Don’t forget that I expect you to make the drive to the cities next summer to meet up with me. Oooh, shudder. Meeting in person! Face to face. (It is scary. Please still like me in person!)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, I have’t forgotten πŸ˜€ I’m looking forward to that, too! Keep me posted on date and place. We’ll figure something out πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hooray! My oldest blog friend lives in the town next to the one I grew up in and where my parents still live. When I went home for a visit, I “threatened” to meet up with her. She was so frightened–a classic introvert. I like to tease her about stopping by sometime. She always shudders. I try not to take it personally, but I would LOVE to meet her some day. I’m bound and determined. πŸ™‚ She did a book signing in her town, so I sent my mom in my stead. She thought that was funny and enjoyed meeting my mom, anyway! Will love meeting you next summer. Maybe you’ll still have some canned tomatoes left to unload. Who am I kidding? Of COURSE you still will! πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

      • LOL! I’d love to meet my blog friends–including you, of course πŸ™‚ –and I hope I’ll get the chance at some point. It’s funny; my husband just gave me the grand total of 60 quarts last night. That’s one a week for more than a year. I said that should last a while. He said something about using a quart a week would be easy.

        Oh, gawd, no. I am SO not canning next year. Besides, who eats chili every week in the summer? I might have to sneak a jar or two out when he’s not looking πŸ˜€

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      • Yeah, that would be a lot of chili. Can you use it for spaghetti sauce or homemade pizza? As someone who’s not keen on cooking, I’m just thinking for you. Not that I would do those things.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Such a timely post for me as I spent the weekend working on an author presentation I’ll be giving to a women’s group later this week. They sought me out several months ago and I couldn’t say no. No wit’s time to deliver, and for an introvert, it’s not an easy thing. I give presentations now and again during my day job, but for some reason this one is different.

    I’m a member of Mystery Writers of America but the nearest chapter is an entire state away., I want to look into Sisters In Crime, and hope there’s one someone where nearby. Good for you on stepping into that arena pre-release. You’re on the right (or is it write?) path! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    • Good for you on a presentation! I think doing presentations for work is different because your audience is made up of colleagues, and it just doesn’t have the same “fear factor” because it’s your job. I think an author presentation is a lot more personal, and really, a writer doesn’t HAVE to do it (it’s not like you’re going to get fired if you don’t), but it’s one of those things that we know we need to do at some point to keep moving forward. I’d love to hear your presentation!

      I’m so glad we have a local SinC chapter. It looks like the Midwest chapter of MWA is in Chicagoland, a bit too far for regular attendance. I’m not a member of MWA quite yet, but it’s on my list. Yes, check out SinC–it looks like there’s 2 chapters in PA. According to our president, our chapter is pretty active. Hope yours is, too πŸ˜€

      Have a great week!

      Like

  10. Thank you, Julie, I needed to read this today. One of the scariest things for me about releasing my book this week, is thoughts of what I need to do that is totally outside my comfort zone. I have a meeting with the library next week to talk about setting up an author event with my book and I have a launch party planned for the end of the month. I have stomach pain just thinking about these things. I must check to see if there is a group of area writers who meet and maybe my visit to the library will reveal. I just want to stay home!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hear ya. It’s so much easier to stay home with the excuse that you need to write. But we all know we need to venture out if we’re going to spread our books beyond family and friends. Small steps. Good luck with your launch party!

      Like

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