12 August 2014

Plot Tips for Introverts: How to Survive a Writers Conference

I muse out loud why the heck I ever agreed to leave my tiny paradise for a crowded plane ride smack into hundreds of anxious, eager, confident, quaking writers. Quaking myself in anticipation of my presentation, I question the emotional cost of forcing oneself to be something we're not inherently pre-disposed to be.

Quietly listening to me moan, the serenely beautiful and thoughtful literary agent Danielle Smith from Red Fox Literary Agency recommends Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

I'd never thought of myself as an introvert until I started reading this captivating book and saw me staring back at myself.

"Quiet and cerebral people who know how to tune into their inner world and the treasures to be found there."

Love that. Check.

"Highly sensitive."

Huh, huh. Check.

And the list goes on. Pair all that with being shy in a family and at a time that believed that being shy was selfish, I'm not surprised I willed myself to be extroverted. That painful journey out of silence I've talked about, thanks to Cain, I finally understand.

If you, too, are shy and not comfortable with putting yourself out there, being confident about your abilities and proclaiming proudly your worthiness as a writer, writer's conferences tend to be grueling, excruciating even. One writer passes out in the pitch-an-agent/editor line. Another runs to the bathroom to hurl. Others turn away before their turn materializes. You sit next to an agent while the writer on her other side wows her with a pithy pitch and outrageous concept as you wither and wait until enough time has elapsed to leave the table.

To survive, you're going to have to conjure up a strategy how to don the personality of an extrovert for the weekend, because you do have to sell yourself in this business. Don't fool yourself that you're there to enjoy the company of other like-minded writers. That's true, as is the list of workshops that will serve you well. Your primary reason for leaving the safely of your writer's cave to attend a writer's conference is find an agent who loves your story and wants more.

Be brave. Take the risk. Open your mouth and blurt out something. Then open your mouth again and again until something coherent and compelling comes out. Perhaps in that moment -- right agent, right time -- magic happens… Worth the risk? A resounding Yes!

I now speak to crowds of 500. And… I actually quite enjoy the experience. The anticipation still makes me quake and I still try to schedule an entire week off after I return home from conferences. I suggest you try to make time, too, to gather yourself hung-over from anxiety, fear and the exhilaration of stepping into the arena in belief of yourself and your story.

Take the leap this weekend, August 15, 16, 17th and join me at the Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference in L. A. For my followers, register with the promotional code WDSPEAKER. Today I write!
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.
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