Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Introvert Doing What Doesn't Come Naturally

by Wendy Delaney

Thanks, Rebecca, for letting me hang out here with you at Once Written, Twice Shy. Like a lot of writers, I’m a natural introvert. Now that I’m as grown up as I’m going to get, I like to think that I’m not as shy as I used to be -- that maybe with age comes a little more wisdom and a bit more confidence. Or maybe I’m just getting better at pasting a smile on my face and faking that confidence when I walk into a room full of strangers, or when I step up to a podium to present a workshop at a writers conference.

As an unpublished author with dreams of booksignings and public appearances in her future, I know that putting myself “out there” is something I need to get better at if I want to experience success as a published author.

How exactly does one improve at something that doesn’t come naturally? As with most anything, I think the answer lies in practicing, in repetition, in the achievement of small successes that we can build upon. Was the fifth workshop I presented to a group of writers easier (and a better experience for me and them!) than the first? Heck, yes! Not only was I more mentally prepared than the first time, I had a realistic expectation of success as a speaker. Why? Because I’d previously experienced it.

Lately, I’ve been experimenting with blogging. I can’t say that I’ve experienced much in the way of success with it, nor does trying to come up with something interesting to say to the blogosphere come naturally, so I decided to go another direction with it and make it more interesting and relevant for me, personally. That decision is now launching missiles through the boundaries of my comfort zone. And as I write this and remind myself of what the heck I’m about to do, the optimist in me wants to believe (okay, reality check time -- HAS to believe) that’s because it’s the right decision.

Here’s the deal: Starting October 29, which happens to be right after my birthday, my blog at Plotmamas will kickstart a year-long quest for more success -- my commitment to achieving more personal success, more professional success. I’m calling this my year of living dangerously. Really, what seems more dangerous for an introvert than putting herself “out there” each month in a public forum? Do I wrestle with the notion of “going public” with my goals? Of making myself personally accountable to the blogosphere? You bet I do! Are the butterflies in my stomach getting ready for takeoff, just like when I stepped to a podium and spoke into a microphone for the first time? Yep. But if I’m able to position myself for a more successful future and share what I learn along the way with anyone who cares to stop by, isn’t that worth an internal flutter or two?

As Cynthia MacGregor advised here a few weeks ago,
To make your blog interesting, you have to open up. You cannot be shy and retiring.”  I’m taking your advice to heart, Cynthia.  Even if my blog is just more interesting to me over the course of the next twelve months, that’s a step in the right direction -- maybe just a baby step, but that’s okay, because whether we’re introverts, extroverts or something in-between, every step on this writing journey counts.   


About Wendy: Wendy Delaney writes cozy mysteries but true to her romance roots, no matter how rocky the relationship between her mother and daughter sleuths, she’s determined to give them their happily ever afters. Ideally, at the end of a twelve-book series! A long-time member of RWA and Sisters in Crime, she enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience in workshops throughout the Pacific Northwest and online at Plotmamas.com. Wendy makes her home in the Seattle area with her husband and has two grown sons. You can reach her at wendy(at)wendydelaney(dot)com, or her website.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Closet Introvert Speaks Out

by Lilly Gayle

I can talk up a blue streak. I flirt, I joke, and I love to make people laugh. I trade barbs and reply to sexual innuendos with similarly suggestive remarks. When asked for my opinion, I’m not afraid to voice it. And I will defend a friend or relative against a bully or negative remark without fear. I’m brash, and bold and not afraid to stand before a crowd. I’ll even get on stage and sing karaoke with little fear. Those who know me think I’m talkative and “ballsy” without a shy bone in my body.


Those who know me well know better.


I love a good party and hanging out with friends. But I don’t mind being alone either. In fact, there are times when I prefer solitude. I love my alone time for reading or writing. I also enjoying sitting alone on the beach or my front porch to meditate or watch the world go by. And while I love shopping with friends, it turns into a social thing and I get nothing accomplished. So, I prefer shopping alone. But I hate feeling alone in a crowd—even when my husband is with me.


My husband can be a bit antisocial. I love going to social gatherings if I know most of the people invited. He can take it or leave it. But I hate going to a social event where the host or hostess is the only person I know. If these people were just strangers I’d likely never see again, it wouldn’t matter. But in a social setting, I see everyone as a potential friend. Then I worry about what kind of impression I’ll make. And the more I worry, the more introverted I become.


Not so with my husband. He could strike up a conversation with a stop sign and get a response. Even if the stop sign didn’t talk back, he wouldn’t care as long as he enjoyed himself. He’s the only person I’ve ever met who’ll go to a concert or the races alone. He doesn’t need to be with anyone to have a good time. As for me, there are just some places and situations where I hate being alone—or feeling alone. It erodes my confidence to the point where I become almost painfully shy.


I don’t mind eating alone at home or in a park. I just can’t eat alone in public. I’d rather eat alone in my car. My husband doesn’t care about that either and would eat alone at a five star restaurant if he had to. It wouldn’t bother him a bit. I couldn’t do it. For me, it would be like fifth grade all over again, when I was the new girl in school and no one wanted to eat with me. God, I hate that feeling.


I often feel the same way at a book signing. Strangers speak but avoid eye contact and barely glance at my books. Or, they rush by with heads turned as if they’re afraid I’ll engage them in a lengthy conversation about my book and then they’ll feel obligated to buy it. And I never know what to say. Talking too much about my books feels like bragging. But how much is too much? So, I just sit there with a nervous smile on my face, afraid to engage anyone in conversation. These people are potential fans. I don’t want to scare them off. I could lose my “job.”


At my day job, I have all the confidence in the world. I’m even arrogant at times about my skills and knowledge on the job. I’ve been at it a long time and feel assured of my abilities. I get feedback from patients, co-workers, and my employers, letting me know I do a good job.


As an author, there are no employee evaluations. No monthly or weekly pay check as a reward for a job well done. There’s no supervisor or coworkers. Writing is a solitary profession. Even after an author publishes a book, it doesn’t mean it’s a good book or that it will be well-received. Unlike other jobs where a task is assigned and either accomplished correctly or not, writing is subjective. Once completed, who’s to say it was completed well?


So, writers rely on reviews and that ever elusive next contract for validation. Agents and editors aren’t going to hold your hand unless you’re a multi-selling author, in which case, they probably wouldn’t need to. And reviews are often cruel. Friends and family might sympathize but other writers will understand.


Joining a writers group either on line or in person provides an invaluable network of support. No matter the genre, most writers face the same challenges and suffer similar fears. And spending time with like-minded, goal-oriented people who understand those fears is the best way to survive the lonely world of writing. And it’s the best way to keep a closet introvert out of the closet.

Blurb for Wholesale Husband, is available now from The Wild Rose Press.


She needs his name. He needs her money. But can a rich New York socialite and a poor Irish immigrant find true love in the gilded age?

Betrayed by her fiancĂ© and heart sick over her father’s death, Clarissa Burdick is further devastated when she learns she can’t inherit her father’s company—the company she loves—until she’s twenty-five or married. And Clarissa is neither. So she sets out to find a husband strong enough to protect her from her uncle’s thugs, too uneducated to run the company himself, and poor enough to marry a woman in name only. But Irish immigrant Devin Flannery is smarter than he seems and more educated than Clarissa expects. Her Wholesale Husband soon proves a greater risk to her heart than her company.


About Lilly: I write historical and paranormal romance for The Wild Rose Press.

I've been married to the same wonderful man since 1980. We have two beautiful daughters, one terrific son-in-law, a dog, and a crazy beast of a cat who's constantly bringing us "presents" through the doggie door.

When not writing, I work as a mammographer at a local hospital. I am also a member of Romance Writers of America and Heart of Carolina Romance Writers.

You can learn more about my books on my website, http://lillygayle.com/.



Wednesday, October 5, 2011

If You're Shy and Retiring, You Soon May Be Retired


by Cynthia MacGregor

The time was when writers, especially poets, but novelists and others as well, were pictured as living and working in garrets (what the heck is a garret, anyhow?), in self-imposed seclusion. If not in a garret, they sequested themselves in little rooms, or in lofts, tucked away from the hustle and bustle, and the intrusion of people.

It was the perfect life for an introvert. Your words would enchant the public…without you yourself ever having to meet the people.

But in those days, all writers had to do was write.

Today, we writers must relentlessly self-promote if we want our books to sell. If you’re writing primarily for e-publishers, you can get away with much of your self-promotion being online. You don’t have to go out and meet the public face-to-face very often; most of your promo is done via computer. But you still have to put yourself out there.

Simply advertising the book won’t do. Just posting notices that such-and-such a book is available, with tantalizing teasers about the plot (or topic, for nonfiction) and info on where to buy the book won’t really cut it. You need to do that, yes, but you need to do more. You need to promote your book(s)—and yourself—as a marketable commodity. You need to try to ingratiate yourself with your public. You need to capture their attention.

One way to do this is through a blog…or should I say, “two ways”? Yes, you can have a blog of your own, and/or you can guest on other writers’ blogs (as I am doing here). And if you have a blog of your own, you will soon find that you are laying your soul bare, or at least reporting on your daily life, from quotidian and mundane matters to the exalted highs of having another book accepted (or published), the nail-biting as you await an expected royalty statement, or the great satisfaction of getting a good review or having a reader tell you how much she or he loved your book.

To make your blog interesting, you have to open up. You cannot be shy and retiring.

What’s more, if your book is in print (as opposed to being an e-book), you will not only need to do promos online, but you will help your sales if you can schedule book-signings, speeches, and other publicity events.

Wave bye-bye to that garret. Seclusion is not an option for a writer these days.

So how do you, a person who is by nature shy or at least introverted, cope with putting yourself in the spotlight?

There’s no single trick that will turn you into an insta-extrovert. But try any or all of these tips to see which ones help you:

• When speaking to a group, pick one sympathetic-looking person in the audience and direct most of your remarks to her or him. Pretend you are speaking one-on-one with that person.

• Remember that all the attendees in a group are readers, just like you, and that they are there to hear what you have to say because they want to be there with you. They care.

• When pouring your life out into an entry in your own blog, pretend you are talking to a friend, but not your best friend. Your best friend really cares about all the ins and outs of your daily life. Your other friends care about your life, but not the tiny details. Write as if you are talking to one of those friends.

• When offered a choice between writing an article as a guest blogger or answering a questionnaire, choose the article. Not only will it feel less intrusive to an introvert, if that’s what you are, but it will be of greater interest to your readers than the typical “What is your favorite color?”/”What is your favorite food” type of questions.

• Be creative. (As a writer, that should come naturally to you.) Have fun you’re your promos! When promoting a nonfiction book on a readers’ loop, don’t just write, “Author So-and-So offers 50 tips for blah-blah-blah in her new book….” Rather, ask a provocative question or make a challenging statement to get the readers’ attention. “How would you feel if your child ran away from home?” “Do you really believe the two-party system serves us best?” “We CAN communicate with our dear departed!” “You CAN teach an old dog…or gerbil…new tricks.” (Use the same technique with press releases!)

• Remember, the more you promote, the better your chances of selling more copies of your book. And, shy or not, introvert or not, you do want to get that book out there, don’t you?

~ ~ ~

Cynthia MacGregor, who has always been an extrovert, has 54 conventionally published books and over 50 e-books to her credit. They run the gamut from self-help to fiction, general nonfiction to cookbooks, and include a number of books for kids as well. You can visit her website at http://www.cynthiamacgregor.com/ to learn more about Cynthia and her books.

Three books she would particularly like to bring to the attention of you, as writers, are The Writer’s Guide to Paying e-Markets, You Can’t Learn to Write Just by Reading, and The Writer’s Answer Book, all of which are available from XoXo Publishing.


Monday, October 3, 2011

SUSAN WINGATE: Spending time writing. Spending time alone.



In Fantasy: Writing alone = Heaven

In Reality: Writing alone = Heaven

In Fantasy: Being alone = Heaven
In Reality: Being alone = Loneliness

For years I've told people how much I love being alone. And, if you want to know the truth of it, most of the time that's the way I feel if we consider other people--those others "out there," outside my home, those friends, family members not included in my immediate world--those people would never invade my life at all, if I truly desired to remain alone.

The fact is this, when I'm completely alone, without my husband, sister or mother around, without the people I love, my life is empty and sad. I tend to feel this way when it comes to close friends too. Those people, your buddies, you can call at eight in the evening and drink a glass of wine with while you chat.

Still, as we age, we learn the true meaning of loneliness. I never had children as a young woman. Never wanted children of my own. My husband, Bob, has three--a son and two daughters. From these children we now have four grandchildren, soon to be five. A sense of warmth and blessing comes from these kids. Even though they aren't mine. Which makes me wonder how deeply the parent-child feeling goes with your own biological children. Deeper than the earth's core, I think.

Most of my days I spend by myself, working out of the house. Not totally alone, of course. I have my critters about who keep me company--my dogs and cats, my birds and the wild animals that traverse our five acres of country-deep property. But something wonderful happens each day that makes me understand what humanity means. Each day, after leaving nearly ten hours before, my husband comes back home. Sometimes he returns happy, content, silly. Sometimes he returns overworked, laden, sad. Yet, however he returns, my life brightens. The blinders fall off my eyes. I can see the day. Work feels somewhere behind me.

As a writer, we must spend time alone to work, to visualize, to create. But, as human beings? We need people to interact with. And, when we feel the thrumming aversion to social interaction, we humans must put on a character (where without that character we might shrivel) and we must step outside our comfort zone.

Because, honestly, if we don't, how will we write? My best moments, I feel, are moments I've spent watching someone else or with have been with someone else. Sometimes, funny things happen when other people enter the scene. When I think back on times when funny things have happened and I was alone, these moments feel frustrating. I want to call someone, tell someone what just happened. That speaks volumes.

See, people need people. It's a simple truth. We have the same bodies. We are made of the same spirit, if you will, and are completely connected by God, for me, by some other higher being for others. But, we're linked by something much larger than ourselves.

Try and think of it this way, if a friend or family member calls you, it means a few things--one, they thought about you; two, they want to hear your voice; and, three, they love you. But, it also means, when you remove yourself from their lives, they miss you.

For more information about Susan Wingate, Susan's website is: http://www.susanwingate.com/


Susan's workshop schedule is: http://susanwingate.wordpress.com/writing-services/upcoming-writing-workshops/


Susan's blog is: https://susanwingate.wordpress.com/muscle-up-the-gut-of-your-novel-writing-instruction/


Susan's Facebook page is: http://www.facebook.com/susanwingate.author


Susan's Twitter page is: http://twitter.com/#!/susanwingate