James Scott Bell has done it again with THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS. I want to run out and buy five more copies of this book and give them to my closest writing pals. I want to shout from the rooftops that every writer MUST read this book. As The Sandy Contest and Crested Butte Writers Conference Goddess, I want to INSIST that every person thinking of entering my contest or attending the conference must first read this book. Jim’s left me aching to write—and do it right. He’s that inspirational and it speaks to me that much.
My very favorite tidbit is his advice/thoughts on networking. We should put this on our registration form in a box that makes every conference attendee check that they’ve read it before he/she is allowed to register.
Networking according to the law of reciprocity. “You need to look at networking as reciprocal. The value of the contact is proportional to the value you bring to it.” Later—“Bring something to the group. Earn the right to talk about yourself and, when the opportunity comes up naturally, you’ll be ready.”
These are absolutely brilliant thoughts that took me a decade to learn.
Theresa’s definition of an experienced writer: one who has written a couple of books, who has taken writing classes, joined writing groups, volunteered in writing groups, gone to a couple of conferences a year, entered writing contests and started consistently finaling in them. One who has paid his/her dues by investing a lot of time and money into his/her writing passion.
When we attend conferences, experienced writers often feel a lot of pressure to perform and to make the most of the short opportunity with an agent or editor. Sitting at a luncheon table (or around the bar—or anywhere) with an A/E, instead of listening and enjoying the moment, we frantically search our minds on how to be witty, how to stand out and make a good impression. We anxiously dissect each comment hunting for an opening to pitch our precious work. This compulsion to perform and make the most of the opportunity lends one to give off the malodorous scent of desperation. One I’m certain agent and editors can wiff at fifty feet and makes them long to bolt—anywhere—even off the closets cliff, if there was one handy.
Don’t do it. I repeat. Don’t do it. Be reciprocal. Be someone of value.
Being nice—without being a suck up --will make a far bigger impression and open more doors. As Jim says, bring something to the table. Earn the right to talk. Be subtle. If you become good enough at this, you will have them asking you to talk about yourself and your work—and not just the polite question of what you write, but they’ll be genuinely interested because you’ve already put them at ease and they already like you because you’ve given first. Be a giver, not a taker.
The law of reciprocity is like Karma. Put good things out there and eventually it’ll come back to you.
Stay tuned for my next favorite JSB brilliance from THE ART OF WAR FOR WRITERS—or better yet, go buy the book and read them all for yourselves!