When You’re Stuck in the Writing Process, Do This.

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Have you ever felt like you needed help with your writing process, but didn't know where to turn?  Perhaps you’re new to this writing thing, or you've been too scared to tell anyone what you’re working on.

When You're Stuck in the Writing Process, Do This.

Or, if you’re like me, you’ve spent so much time in the writing process, so much time writing, editing, pitching, and educating yourself on the process that you truly believe you’ve done all you can possibly do on your own.

What should you do now?

Network.

Networking is Not a Dirty Word

No one likes the word “network” because it seems inauthentic, difficult, and something that extroverts do.

But it works.

This weekend I spoke to one of my close friends who is working on a non-fiction book.  She’s never written professionally and is completely new to this field.  Yet in the few short months since our last visit she became well-versed in how the industry works and had set up meetings with some prominent writers and people in the publishing industry.

All because she unabashedly tapped into her network.

I was impressed—and a little jealous.  But there’s no reason I (and you) can’t do what she did.

3 Ways to Network, Even If You're a Shy Writer

Not sure how to get started networking? Not sure you're even capable of networking as a shy writer? Here are three ways any writer can network, shy or not:

1. Use Alumni Databases

This was my biggest takeaway from my visit with my friend.  She secured some high-profile meetings simply by conducting searches on our college’s alumni database.  I knew it existed, but it never occurred to me to actually use it!

Alumni databases are great because people want to see their fellow alums succeed.  Worst case scenario they ignore your email.  Best case, they give you some valuable advice.

So chat with a professional writer.  Catch up with someone who works in marketing at a publishing house.  Talk to someone face to face.

The Write Practice and other blogs can be incredibly helpful in learning about the process, but there’s nothing like a real-life conversation with a fellow alum.

2. Go to Writers Conferences and Workshops

I know I’ve said this before, but I can’t emphasize this enough. Writers conferences and workshops are great places to find people to talk it out with.

The first time I went to one, I met so many people who were working on their first novels. It was great to talk to fellow writers who understood what I was trying to do (and could help).

First, think about the issue you’re having. Are you having trouble getting started?  Pitching agents for the first time?  Wondering what direction to go with your piece?

Then, find the right venue.

A conference is better for gaining a broad understanding of the writing process, not to mention the publishing process.

Conferences are also probably the best bet for pitching agents.  That said, not all conferences are the same so make sure yours will have panels on pitching agents or agents in attendance, if that's what you're looking for.

I think writing workshops make the most sense if you’re struggling with your manuscript because you can get in-depth feedback on your work from other writers.

3. Talk to Friends

Tell your friends what you're doing.  Tell your family members that you're stuck.

Even if they aren't writers, they still know people who you don't—and they may be able to connect you to them.  But they won't be able to help you if you don't tell them what's going on.

It's scary to share with the world that you're writing a book, but I really believe it's one of the best things you can do for your project.

What do you do when you're stuck? Have you ever tried to network as a writer? Let us know in the comments!

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Monica is a lawyer trying to knock out her first novel. She lives in D.C. but is still a New Yorker. You can follow her on her blog or on Twitter (@monicamclark).

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16 Comments

  1. Reagan Colbert

    Hi Monica,
    I’ve always struggled with this subject. I have always wanted to network, but it seems nearly impossible. There are rarely any writing conferences in my area, and when there are, they’re expensive. I live on a really tight budget, and everything is way out of my price range. In searching for some kind of online network, I found the Write Practice. I can’t even begin to describe how valuable this site is to me! I’ve also told all of my family about my writing project, like you said, and they’ve been a tremendous help!
    I’m pretty new to all of this, so if there’s any advice you (or anyone else in the WP community) could give me, I’d really appreciate it!
    “Whatsoever ye do, do heartily, as to the Lord and not unto men”

    Reply
    • Claudia Peel

      Reagan, you don’t have to attend conferences in order to link up with other writers. Most cities of any reasonable size have numerous writing-related groups that meet on a regular basis. I would imagine your local library would be able to assist you in locating writing groups. I’m guessing there is a national writers’ union in the U.S. and if you can find the website, that might be a source of information for you. There are professional writers’ associations that you may not qualify for at this moment in time but there are also many, many other ways to hook up with fellow writers. I’m not sure but I think there are a number of writing-related groups on Facebook. I don’t know if that’s of any value to you but it might provide a sense of community in addition to the community you’ve found here. – Claudia

      Reply
      • Reagan Colbert

        Thanks, Claudia! It’s hard to know just where to begin. I’ll definitely start looking those up!

        Reply
    • Jean

      Reagan, I know exactly how you feel. I live in as far as in
      Philippines, as far as in Cebu City and as far as in Bantayan Island (LOL). It
      is impossible to have writing conference here and to meet people who do
      writings too. So, what I did is, I do self study from the internet and Write
      Practice is the best site for me. At least, even if I didn’t finish any stuff
      yet, by being a member of this community I can still feel that I am a “writer” because
      I am here which encourage myself to grow and to become a real writer someday. I
      can also find great writers here that surely help me to develop, like Tom Farr
      on his “The Whisper Practice”, it really helps. Our difference is, my family
      and friends didn’t know yet what I am doing every time I am facing on my laptop
      (maybe they just thought that I am just facebooking 🙂 ). Maybe, someday I will tell them when I finish the first draft of my novel.
      God put us here without knowing why but He will guide us all the way.

      Reply
      • Reagan Colbert

        Amen, Jean! If He gives us the dream, He’ll make a way. It’s being patient that is the hardest part!
        The Write Practice is the best online network for writers! I’m glad we can all connect with each other despite the amazing distance between us. The internet is amazing!
        I pray you’ll be able to finish your project and tell your family. I wish you all the best with your writing!

        Reply
      • LilianGardner

        My situation is similar to yours. I don’t write for family or friends, but to post with joy on The Write Practice.
        I can’t discuss my writing or share it with anyone because, in my little town no one speaks English except when forced to, on a sholastic level. They’d never read a ms or short story in English. My family know I write and love writing but they wouldn’t lose time reading my stories.
        There are no writer’s conferences or gatherings in my area.
        No problem; I write because I enjoy it.

        Reply
    • Tom Farr

      I’m in the same boat with writing conferences. I just don’t have the money to do those kinds of things even though they’re always recommended.

      The Write Practice is a great community of people to connect with. If you get a chance to check out Becoming Writer, it’s a really valuable experience (although it does cost). I got to test drive it for six weeks when I entered their last contest and it was one of the best things I’ve ever done for my writing.

      Reply
      • Reagan Colbert

        Thanks for the advice…I’ve read about Becoming Writer, and it sounds like a great program. Something to save up for:)

        Reply
  2. Tom Farr

    My biggest struggle is finding an audience for my writing. I’ve got a few people who’ve read some of my stories and have enjoyed them, which I’m grateful for, but without a large following, a fiction writer won’t really get far.

    Case in point, there’s nothing more discouraging than writing something and only a few people read it, except writing something and not a single person reading it. I’ve had a blog for a few months where I write about writing, and I’ve gained a decent following there, but as far as my fiction writing is concerned, I can’t seem to make any traction.

    I’ve even tried Medium.com because someone was telling me it’s a great place for a writer to find their audience, but that hasn’t been my experience since I started on their several months ago.

    All that to say what I could use help with is some advice from fellow fiction writers on how to find and build an audience for your writing.

    Reply
  3. K.Ella Cross

    Finding knowledgeable people to critique my writing.

    Reply
  4. Gita Madhu

    When I’m stuck I write. On any topic. Sometimes terrific stuff emerges out of nonsense.

    Or don’t write. Read. Go for a walk.

    Attending writer workshops or other such meetups is a good idea but both the plus and minus of such networking may not be the best to get you out of the rut. Writers are notoriously touchy and sometimes criticism can lethally dampen the muse. On the other hand, praise can make one complacent. The best critic should lie within.

    If one has not the ability to judge one’s own writing, then it may be better not to indulge in that field. A good writer must have a good inner ear to hear the sound of the words, sentences, the flow…A good writer should be able to see what the writing projects.

    It is better to keep niggling at what is stuck. I’ve been struggling with an incomplete story and, after ages, I got a flash of insight-why not combine some 3 incomplete stories of mine into one?

    The first, main story, has vampires, translators and a touch of alien life forms. The second has vampires and other mythical demons and alien life forms. The last one has alien life forms and seeks to deal with reincarnation.

    Of course the challenge of incorporating 2 and 3 into one remain.

    The only way to tackle this mess is to re-read-a million times if need be.

    Caution: restraint is required in editing one’s own work as much as is mercilessness. Often, we are too close to our own work to judge its plus points and may delete or amend something that was just fine.

    Some can cope with versions but it can be an unholy mess.

    If it’s first time writing, though external prompts have their value (I use a site where I’m paid peanuts to do reviews), it is better for the wannabe writer to begin to cultivate her own imagination.

    Imagination is the single most important muscle in the body of the writer.

    Reply
  5. Jackie

    Monica, how smart is this! I love the advice to use your alumni database to network and support our writing. I’m excited to check mine out. What a powerful resource that is under our noses 🙂

    Reply
  6. Teresa Tysinger

    When I’m stuck I allow myself a short grace period to just relax…a walk, a 5-minute dance party 🙂 or maybe some time in front of the TV. I try not to sweat it. I love the idea of using a break to network…I’m doing that a lot right now as a first-time novelist. Appreciate your input! http://teresatysinger.com

    Reply
  7. Claire

    Excuse my ignorance but what is an alumni database and how is it utilized? This is a new one for me. Is it to seek people who like to write and can be utilized to critique? Any insight on this would be appreciated.

    Reply
  8. Glynis Jolly

    I contact people I know online. It’s my only way of networking for information and advice about writing. Being stuck hasn’t come up in my first ever novel — yet. But I’ve already lined up seasoned authors, editors, and even a writing buddy.

    Reply
  9. LilianGardner

    I’m never stuck on what to write because my fantasy-filled mind creates stories in a jiffy.
    My problem is of actually sitting at my PC to type the story. I don’t have family or friends who are interested in my writing, but it isn’t a problem. I write when I know I have over half-an-hour before attending to another ‘job’. This is distracting. The weekly comittment of posting on The Write Practice Workshop is my anchor of salvation. It saves me from drifting too far.

    Reply

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