The Writers’ Toolkit 2011

Stuart Maconie

Image by Lancashire County Council via Flickr

‘Write often, to a deadline and with an audience in mind. Have something of the marketer about you.’

This was the advice of writer and broadcaster, Stuart Maconie (pictured), in his keynote address at The Writers’ Toolkit 2011, held in Birmingham last week. He went on to tell us that the mastery of words is power and we should be proud to say ‘I am a writer’.

It was a full day of panel discussions and chances to chat to other writers. I found the session on ‘Networking as a Writer’ the most interesting and I came away with several scribbled notes about how to do this (both on-line and in real life):

  •  Be generous – help those who can’t possibly help you. It will be remembered and what goes around comes around. Share things that might benefit others – don’t see them as your rivals.
  • If it feels like networking then you’re doing it wrong or trying too hard. It should feel like a conversation, not a sales pitch.
  • Don’t vent your feelings online no matter how badly you feel you’ve been treated – cyberspace is a big place and you never know who might be reading.
  • Become part of the real and virtual community. Join or start reading/writing groups and classes. Do book reviews on your blog & approach other writers to ask if they’d like you to review their book.
  • Don’t limit yourself to writing events – attend other types of conferences and look at different types of blogs.
  • Leave intelligent comments on the blogs of others to make people curious enough to have a look at you. 
  • Listen to what others have to say – don’t just sell yourself all the time.
  • Be genuine and approachable 

The event was organised by Writing West Midlands.

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  1. #1 by susanjanejones on November 28, 2011 - 5:40 pm

    Sally, that post is so powerful it almost brought tears to my eyes, though I’ve just peeled an onion for the stew.

    Such strong words, and I fully empathise with all of those. We shouldn’t always think, ‘what’s in it for me’ though we often do. Also, it’s true, you never know who’s reading our words.

  2. #2 by Patsy Collins on November 28, 2011 - 5:57 pm

    I am a writer!!! (sounds like I might be a bit of a networker too)

  3. #3 by Alice on November 28, 2011 - 6:19 pm

    Thanks Sally, these tips make a lot of sense.
    I must say that I find writers such a friendly and helpful bunch of people, which is really quite amazing when you think about how overly subscribed and competitive this game is 🙂

  4. #4 by Julia on November 28, 2011 - 8:00 pm

    Nice piece, Sally. I’m a big fan of Stuart M – and not a fan of networking! When I first set up my stall as a freelance editor/copywriter I went to business breakfasts, speed networking – all manner of events. But I always came away feeling useless, boring and overlooked. I never seemed able to connect and couldn’t be bothered with the jargon, not being one for blue-sky thinking, going forward or – a particular bugbear – ‘looking to’ do such-and-such. But perhaps it was my attitude that was wrong; maybe I was trying too hard to sell and not having conversations. Now, older and wiser, I don’t set out to network, as such, and have found that it is amazing who you come across once you step outside and lift up your head.

    • #5 by Sally Jenkins on November 28, 2011 - 8:36 pm

      Susan – glad you liked the post, but I didn’t intend to make anyone cry!
      Patsy – you definitely know how to network!
      Alice – I agree, writers are wonderfully friendly, probably because we all know how hard it is to be a writer
      Julia – thanks for affirming that the best networking happens when you’re not really trying to sell yourself. We just need to take notice of and chat to the people around us.

  5. #6 by Bev Morley on December 1, 2011 - 9:58 am

    Hi Sally,

    Sounds like a very useful event, and the sort of thing I am looking to make use of next year!

    With regards the writing group info, that is also something I am looking to get involved with next year, although the nearest one to me only operates on a Monday morning – something which clashes with other commitments I have. Food for thought though, I may well see if I can drum up enough interest to warrant starting an evening group…

    • #7 by Sally Jenkins on December 1, 2011 - 1:10 pm

      Bev – you’ve nothing to lose by trying to start your own group. Good Luck with it!

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