Shy Is As Shy Does

Please welcome fellow shy writer, Annette McCleave. A 2008 Golden Heart winner for Best Paranormal Romance, her debut novel, DRAWN INTO DARKNESS, released last month to rave reviews.

When Becky mentioned she was planning to start a blog dedicated to the needs of the Shy Writer, I hit the reply hit button and responded almost right away, volunteering to participate. Because if there’s one thing I understand, it’s being shy. I am a severe shy person. I constantly have to force myself to interact with other people. Not because I don’t enjoy being with people—no, as those who get to know me can attest, if I feel comfortable with you, I’ll talk your ear off. You’ll never get me to go home.

But meeting new people is difficult for me—I never know what to say, and when I finally get up the gumption to speak, I fear the words will spill out in a most ungraceful way. Unfortunately, the more nervous I am, the more likely it is that my worst imaginings will come true and I’ll stumble over my words or say something completely inane.

When I first decided to write, I thought being an author was perfect for my personality. I could stay at home, write my stories, and send out manuscripts by mail. I could ruminate over all my correspondence, think my thoughts through, and be deliberate. I could erase the stupid stuff before I hit SEND or put the letter in the mail.

But the more I got involved in the writing community, and the more I realized that the internet was taking down the barriers between people—making contact easier—the more I realized that even shy authors had to tread outside the walls of their homes and interact. It was easy to see the benefits—meeting other like-minded writers, making professional contacts that could result in a book contract, and eventually, if all went well, exchanging a few words with readers.

Oh, yes, I could see the benefits very easily.

But the worries about saying the wrong thing, speaking too fast, or blurting out nonsense were still there. They didn’t go away, despite believing my dream to be an author was worth pursuing at all costs.

So, here’s what I did:

1. Started slowly. I dipped my toes in. I got involved in my local writers’ group and volunteered. Just a simple job at first, something that allowed me to quietly get to know all the names and faces. I made some friends. Then I went to a few conferences. I hugged the walls and mostly listened, but I learned a lot and made more friends.

2. Put up a website. Creating a website was a relatively easy way for me to start getting my face out there. It didn’t feel too daring—especially when I looked at the traffic I drew.

3. Entered contests. This may not seem like an obvious way to interact, but it got my work in front of agents and editors. It also gave me a low-stress reason to correspond with fellow finalists by email (to congratulate them) and it introduced me to two fabulous groups of writers, the 2005 Golden Heart finalists (Wild Cards) and 2008 Golden Heart finalists (Pixie Chicks). I made even more friends.

4. Pitched. Whenever I had the opportunity, I pitched to an agent or editor in person. Why? Because this was a controlled situation I was able to prepare for, so I didn’t have to worry so much about saying something stupid. I met new industry people and grew my confidence.

5. Tested my comfort zone. Almost every social situation is hard for me. But I make myself get involved. Perhaps not as much as other people who are not shy, but more than my natural inclination would suggest. I push myself, just a little. I blog, I join groups, I go to cocktail parties, and I send out emails to perfect strangers (with good reason, of course). It’s not easy and I find every day a challenge. But the benefits I mentioned above have made it all worthwhile. Did I mention I’ve made some fantastic friends?

Every day is a step forward. I’ve already learned (from this blog!) that I can do some simple things to ease my journey—such as smile more. When I’m nervous, my face freezes up, and that makes it more difficult for friendly people to approach me. If I smile and let the real me sneak out from behind the fear, I’ll appear more welcoming, and they might even break the ice for me. Wow. I so need to try that. :-)

I wish you all the best with your own shy challenges. The good news is, even the severely shy can become published authors. I proved that when my 2008 Golden Heart winning manuscript was published in September as DRAWN INTO DARKNESS—another good reason to enter contests!

Thanks for stopping by today. Share one of your own ‘I stepped outside my comfort zone’ moments here on the blog ... and you could win a copy of my debut book. One commenter will be drawn at random.

Good luck!


Here's what critics have to say about Annette's new book, DRAWN INTO DARKNESS:

“Swords flash, spells are cast, and twist and turns come head-spinningly quickly…Readers will hope for sequels…”– Publisher’s Weekly

“4 1/2 stars …a fabulously entertaining tale of demons, angels and beings in between.”– RT Book Club

“A phenomenal debut! A refreshingly unique and vividly realized world with dark dangers and richly drawn characters.”– Sylvia Day, National bestselling author

Next week: Learn how to pitch with confidence, with 2009 Golden Heart winner Jeannie Lin--Wednesday, Oct. 7 (just in time for the Emerald City Conference, in Bellevue, WA)


  1. Annette, I'm so excited you could be with us this weekend. Thanks so much for the great post.

  2. Happy to be here, Becky! Terrific concept for a blog--and I love the name. :-)

  3. This was great, Annette. Thank you for the tips! Congratulations on your debut! :)

  4. Hi, Annette! I can feel for you, as I am the same way. I was always more comfortable being invisible than being the center of attention. What made me step outside my comfort box was having kids!! I was forced to join groups so my kids could interact with others (luckily, they are out-going social butterflies!). And, as a result, I became a part of a great group of friends. Congratulations on your new book!

    Diana in Olathe, KS

  5. Hi Diana - Thanks!

    I concur on the positive impact kids can have on those shy inclinations. I have one daughter, and she helps pull me out of my shell all the time. It's funny, but I have no trouble stepping up to the plate for her--only my own stuff is a challenge. :-)

  6. Annette, as a fellow shy writer, I empathize with you and understand your struggles. Your tips for taking small steps are great.

    I wrote for two years in isolation. I didn't know another writer. Then I finaled in a contest that drew me out of my cave. Others found me! And I discovered there were benefits to breaking free of hermit mode. I began blogging, set up a Web site, joined some Yahoo! groups and found out what I'd been missing. I'm still shy at heart, but I've learned the benefits of reaching beyond my comfort zone. I now have more writer pals than I ever imagined and found out they're a warm, welcoming, wonderful group of people--some of the nicest I've ever met.

  7. Keli - and look at you now, Blog Queen! I would never have guessed you were shy. I add 'hear, hear' to your comment about writers being a hugely supportive group. The writers I've met along the way have made it much easier to reach out.

  8. Hi Annette, congratulations on your book release!!!

    I like your idea of starting slowly. Reminds me of "Baby Steps" from that Richard Dreyfus movie What About Bob?

    I don't really consider myself to be very shy--although I do have my moments--but I'm not very courageous. It took all the moxy I had to enter my first contest, send out that first query, pitch at a conference.

    Do you find it gets easier, or do you just get used to sucking it up and doing it anyway?

  9. I am late, but I was finishing a book (YAY!) and I consider that a good excuse. :-)

    Great post, Annette. I am just like you--shy when you don't know me, talk-your-ear-off when you do. LOL Congrats on your debut release!

  10. Hi Laurie! Thanks!

    I find things get easier the more times you do them. Entering contests and sending your work out is always nerve-wracking, but your confidence will grow bit by bit as you do it. Don't stop! :-)

    Hi Avery!

    Congrats on finishing your latest book! What a great feeling that is. And you'll be celebrating another release soon, too. Can't wait. :-)

  11. What you are talking about is me personified. The first time I attended a local meeting with a great bunch of authors...I had to take a pill to calm me. So I truly understand.
    Every day I fight it, just like you. And somehow a little progress has been made for me.

  12. Great post. I'm not what I would consider shy in general--in fact, I'm pretty outgoing--but I'm very shy about my writing. So this was helpful!

  13. Mary - Nice to know I'm not alone. :-)

    Kate - I think "shy" is just a blanket term to describe the feelings we all experience from time to time. Some of us experience it more that others, though. :-) I compensate for my shyness all the time, and many people who meet me have no idea that I'm shy.

  14. Thanks, Annette, for a fabulous posting.

    And thanks, everyone, for stopping by. Bookofsecrets--you won the free book. I'll also try to reach you via email.


  15. Hi Annette!
    wow, your book is already in store!
    one of my "I stepped outside my comfort zone" moments? each time I have to conduct a presentation... I hate those moments but after the presentation when there are questions I'm as confident as I don't know who and I'm each time anew suprised how I handled that...that is surely an another person *grin*
    wish you all the best!