It gets to that important point of the evening. You’ve met some amazing people and listened to some awesome stories – maybe you’ve even had an idea or two for you next story. You’re having a great time and nothing could possibly go wrong…
And then someone asks that awful question…
‘So, what do you do then?’
You think about it for a moment. Every ounce of your body wants you to say you’re a writer, but for some reason you hesitate. You stumble a little, blabber about trying to get into writing and – all the while – you can see the interest draining from your conversation partner’s eyes. Then, in the next moment, any interest they had is gone. They turn away and start up a conversation with someone else.
And another potential reader is gone.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. We all get a bit embarrassed when we’re asked to explain our writing – some of us even deny it altogether out of fear of being ridiculed or not taken seriously. But it doesn’t need to be that way.
So, here are some useful, guilt-free phrases that you – A WRITER – need to start using in your everyday conversations with people.
1. ‘I am a writer.’
Say it to yourself now. I am a writer.
Not sort-of-a-writer or kind-of-a-writer – I am a writer.
Not ‘I’ve done a bit of writing’ or ‘I’m working on a novel but that’s not my main job’ – I am a writer.
Get used to saying it. You will find that people become a lot more interested in you if you start being confident in your own writing ability. No one is interested in the writer who doesn’t think he can do it. So start being the writer who can.
Tell people you are a writer – embrace the fact you are a writer – and start introducing yourself as such. If you are putting pen to paper or typing a novel or have written a short story, you are a writer. No one will take that away from you. Sure, you might not be being paid but who cares.
I play rugby but I don’t get paid for it. I’m still a rugby player.
I act on stage but I’m not a professional. I still say I am an actor.
Neither do I get paid to read books, but I still am an avid reader.
You are a writer. Embrace it. Tell People.
2. ‘Not yet, but you will.’
Invariably the next question that your conversation partner will ask after you emphatically declare your status as a writer will be, ‘Really? Anything I’ve read?’
It may not be straight away and it may be disguised as another question, but it will be asked at some point – and this is what writers fear the most. You’re worried that people will think you’re just another wannabe if you haven’t done anything of note so you shy away from the question and mumble something about a work in progress…
But remember this. Stephen King started somewhere. J K Rowling started somewhere. Dan Brown, Stephenie Meyer, Charles Dickens, James Patterson, Tom Clancy, H. P. Lovecraft – they all had to start somewhere. And that somewhere was in the horrible pit of being an unknown.
So, when someone asks you if you’ve written anything they might of heard of, simply reply, ‘Not yet, but you will.’ Maybe even hand them a business card with your website address on, or direct them to something you’ve released. Make that other person feel like they are standing in the presence of someone who, although they are unknown at the moment, is going to go far.
3. ‘I have various projects in various stages of development.’
I learnt this little trick when I was studying Film Making with the Raindance Film Festival in London. The course leader (a man called Elliot Grove – check him out if you’re looking at breaking into the film world) said that whenever someone asks you what work you have lined up, you should always reply with, ‘I have various projects in various stages of development’.
And this works for three reasons: First, it means that any concept you have ever thought of, regardless of whether you’ve actually written it on paper, can be counted as a project – all you have to do is say it is in the planning (or concept) stage. Second, it makes you look busier than you actually are. And third – most importantly – it means you can switch the topic of conversation if your main project doesn’t grab the other person’s interest.
You are a writer. And as a writer you will have ideas on a fairly regular basis. Maybe some of those ideas are naff and you don’t intend on using them but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that you are showing to yourself and the person you are talking to that you take your writing seriously.
And if you take your writing seriously, they will too.
4. ‘What sort of thing do you read?’
Conversations are not one-way things. It takes two to talk. The trick is to make a conversation be about your partner, but still be relevant to what you want to talk about.
The best way to do this is to ask, ‘what sort of thing do you read?’ or a similar question. By asking this, you are showing an interest in the potential reader stood in front of you and they – in turn – will start to feel important and more willing to continue down this avenue of conversation.
And don’t just stop there. Ask what they want from a book. Get them to talk about their favourite story. Get them talking about a story they are passionate about and keep an eye out for that door that allows you to link their experience back to your own work. Lead them to feel as passionate about you and your work without ever having read a word of it.
What if they don’t like reading?
Ok, that’s a bit of a problem – you’re unlikely to gain any new readership from them specifically, but that doesn’t mean that’s the end of the conversation. Find out why they don’t like reading. Does it take too much time? Are their lives to busy? Maybe they’re not particularly confident readers…
Either way, find out. Whatever answer they give there will always be something you can do to get them potentially reading your work.
Don’t have time? – direct them to one of your short stories.
They can only read for an hour or two a week? – direct them to a serialised novel you’re releasing.
They can’t read? – suggest audiobooks.
Even if they don’t go off and read anything of yours, this interest in getting them to read will make an impression on them. That impression may make the difference between them forgetting you or taking about you to their friends…
5. ‘I think you’d enjoy…’
Now you’ve had the conversation, move in for the kill. You’ve learnt a bit about your target so you now have a little bit of an understanding of what sort of thing they’ll enjoy. So make the suggestion.
‘I think you’d enjoy my latest short story…’
‘I reckon you’ll like the novel I’m releasing soon…’
‘Do you know what? If you like that, you’ll find Such-And-Such irresistible…’
Use what you’ve learnt to bring them round to your work. Give them a business card, write down the name for them to look up on Amazon. Better yet – ask them for their email address so you can add them to your mailing list and then forward a link to them. Use a bit of hard salesmanship to get them to believe that they will love whatever it is you’ve suggested to them.
Bonus Tip: ‘Talking to you has inspired me…’
Not always an appropriate one – particularly if the other party isn’t interested – but if you want to seal the deal, this is a great phrase to use. ‘Do you know what? You’ve inspired me to…’
It doesn’t matter really what you say after that point. Maybe they inspired you to write a new story. Or perhaps you’ve had an epiphany about one of your characters. It doesn’t really matter what the inspiration is.
The point is that you are making the other person feel like they have contributed to your writing. Without meaning to, they have invested energy into making your writing better. People like to check out their investments and keep track of them – maybe they might even help sell you a little if they think they’ve had a hand in helping you create something.
Being a writer is about making connections with people. You make connections so people read your work. You build those bonds so that they will tell their friends about you or write reviews online for your book.
Learn how to make those connections count. They may well mean the difference between complete failure or a roaring success.