I was reminded this week why it’s important to build up your own network of trusted friends and colleagues.
Even though I’m pretty confident about knowing certain things, and am more than willing to admit when I don’t know something, I need and always appreciate good feedback.
I’ve been very fortunate to be able to connect with a good number of talented writers over the past few years. The more we communicate (pretty much via email & Twitter), the more we respect and value each others’ opinions. So I’m extremely appreciative when they’re open to reading my stuff if I ask, or offering to read it, as well as asking if I’d do the same for them.
Everybody who’s read my script has liked it, but has also given thoughtful suggestions on how it could be improved.
This system has worked out pretty well for me, and hopefully it’s been reciprocal for them.
Which is why I don’t think I’ll be very active on public forums anymore. Not that I was overly active to begin with, but it’s hard for me to value the opinion of somebody I don’t know and has never seen anything I’ve written compared to somebody who knows me and my writing style.
Case in point: I once posted questions about what should and shouldn’t go into my query letter. I got about a dozen responses, each with different answers and opinions. Of those, maybe two, possibly three, actually answered the question with well-thought, insightful and unexpectedly supportive comments. A majority weren’t very helpful, and one was just too cryptically-worded that I had no idea what they were talking about.
Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot of helpful information out there, and connections are made all the time. But reading responses to various posts, sometimes it feels like some folks don’t exactly have a firm grasp of what they’re talking about, or give advice not related to the original question. Pointing you in the wrong direction will not help you in the long run.
Most of my connections have come through the other person’s online presence. I read their blog, newsletter or website, it gives me a bigger window into what kind of writer and person they are. I introduce myself, maybe there’s some email correspondence, and before you know it, both of our networks have increased by one.
It’s harder to accomplish that based on a 1-2 sentence not-as-helpful-as-you-had-hoped answer to your question.
It takes time to build up your network, but in the end you’ll be really glad you did.