An Introvert’s Guide to Writing #1

If you are a sociable writer with an outgoing personality and 800 Facebook  friends, hey, that’s cool. A lot of writers, though, aren’t and don’t. Some of us are more internally focused. Can you make it in the world of publishing if you’re the quiet type? I hope so, because I’m one of those. With these impeccable credentials, I hereby set out to guide other introverts in the wild world of publishing.

About Introversion

First, a word about introversion. It is not a disease, or a social handicap. Being an introvert does not mean you hate people, are irritable, or were too-soon potty-trained. You have a right to prefer your own company at times and draw inspiration (or energy) from yourself rather than the maddening crowd. One reason we sometimes feel shame over introversion is  because being around other people for too long can cause us stress and anxiety. This makes us wonder if we really like people, since we aren’t delighted to network a room for an hour and a half. Give me twenty minutes of networking and I’m, like, so done. If I meet a particularly appealing conversationalist, I can become recharged during that ten minutes and then can sail out into the room again. But 25 three-minute conversations – gaah!

No, I am not shy. Shyness is a bit of a handicap, but fortunately, you can train yourself to get over it. Many introverts love to give speeches, be on stage, and manage people. If you are shy, practice putting yourself forward. You learn you can do it, if not always enjoy it.

Introverts are a minority. As such, we are subject to the snobbery of extroverts, the pity of social networkers, and the suspicions of glad-handers. This is not going to change. The important point here is for us not to believe the images others have of us. The world needs people with a strong inner-direction. Often introverts have very vivid inner lives and imaginations. This is why so many writers are introverts.

OK. That’ll be $125 for this session.

Promotion, Introvert Style

But wait! I promised some guidance. Here follows the first installment of advice for introverts to navigate the world of publishing. Let’s start with a biggie: promotion.

There is good news here and bad. Let’s start with the bad so we can end on an upnote. Bad: You are not going to shine at networking. This doesn’t mean you have to be clueless about talking to others at industry events (Hey, they’re writers, mostly! You have a lot in common.) Just lower your expectations for how dazzling you’re going to be. You will make nice to people, ask them about themselves, learn industry pointers, enjoy the gossip, and reveal a bit about yourself. Will people remember you? You may be surprised. If you weren’t bloviating about your latest book and finding a way to mention your awards during a discussion of the liver pate, some folks will find you especially appealing. I know I would. So let go of your envy of the guy holding forth over there about his book tour. You can’t be him. And he doesn’t get to be you. You are good enough. You are meeting people. Concentrate on remembering their names. Write them down once you’re back in the hallway. I write people’s names on my convention programs. That way I can go back and look at all the neat people I met in, say, Corpus Christie.

Bad: You will dread conventions. This is why we’re going to limit the number we’ll go to. Suppose you have a book coming out. Don’t you need to show the flag at as many conventions as you can afford? No. Your time, if you are seriously dreading the trip, may be much better spent working on the next novel. The jury is out on whether you garner readers from going to what, in the science fiction/fantasy arena, are called cons. You will meet editors who can buy your stories, it is true. So attend some events of this sort. But if you are going to flee to your hotel room anyway, or sit mute in the bar wondering how to start up a conversation with many well-lit, shouting people, better to pass on it. Believe it or not, the extroverts at these events are gathering energy and inspiration, and will come home raring to go on their project. This is not us. I’m not giving permission to become a hermit, however. Just pick your writing events. And on the positive side, you’ll have more pages than they will, and you just saved the air fare!

What if your publisher expects you to attend this stuff? First off, this is great if they are paying attention to where you are and aren’t. Certainly if your editor mentions a convention and hopes you’ll be there, that is candidate for your short list.

As introverts we must play to our strengths. Those strengths have to do with depth and dedication. This is where the good news I promised comes in.

Good News for Introverts

The good news for us is the world of the internet. It’s a great stomping ground for introverts.  Much of the interaction is not in real time, and is not truly one-on-one. You can:

  1. deal with it only when you’re in the mood

  2. pick your own topics

  3. consider your comments and revise them before hitting “send”

  4. professionally promote in your bathrobe

As an introverted writer, you cannot escape the obligation to promote and engage people on the internet. Remember, it’s the alternative to those energy-sapping networking events! With practice, you can learn to use internet outlets and eventually enjoy the experience.

Blogging is going to be your forte. Yes, you. Here is where your depth puts you in a good position. You can study the issues, keep abreast, weigh in on controversies, and develop a unique viewpoint. If you still balk, here are some ideas for blog topics:

  1. Review books. You’re reading all the time, anyway, right? Take notes. Recommend books. (I’ve chosen not to trash books or give negative reviews unless the person is so far above me that they wouldn’t notice. Hey, I don’t relish argument. I’m an introvert.)

  2. Interview authors. New or mid-list authors are eager to do reviews for small blog sites. Ask them if they’d be willing to answer your questions. (It’s especially nice if you can say you read their book. But it’s not necessary.)

  3. When you Do go to a con, give detailed summaries of the best panels. People feel like they got a bit ‘o the con without even going!

  4. Find 3-4 writer’s blogs and read a blog a day. Steal ideas about what to write about. If you are repeating anything you read there, give credit!

  5. Diary your writing experience. What are loving about your current project? What are you struggling with? (Warning: do not on any account tell what the plot is or much about the concept. Keep it general. This principal has to do with not “giving away your fire.”) This will likely draw advice in the comment section. Don’t worry if such comments aren’t helpful. You’re only doing it for blog content: because others may find your experience interesting.

All right, fellow introverts, that’s enough for today. Check back here for the continuing saga of the introverted writer in: An Introvert’s Guide to Writing, #2!

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