The N-word. Networking. It's something writers seem to hate, but I love it. Schmoozing in the bar. Attending readings and release parties. (I'm bad at this--tough to get away with the fam. S'one of my new years resolutions, though.) Chatting up agents. Facebook friends. Blog posts. Meet-ups. Notes and gifts (!) from fans. Seriously, it's tre fun and if you don't think so, you haven't been doing it right.
And it's of some value, professionally. Once upon a time I hung about on crapometer.com, a Miss Snark spawn. I read this cool story by a guy called Stuart. I asked to review it for Electric Spec and we ended up buying it. We chatted a bit. Then Stuart asked me to read this project he was writing, THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST. I liked it. (Understatement). We ended up being friends. Like, weirdly good friends. In October at Bouchercon he kept telling everyone he introduced me to that the book wouldn't exist if it wasn't for me. (Overstatement.) But still. Weirdly good friends.
I joined a group called Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers 5 years ago. I have many Famous Authors as friends--including Hugo winners and the Wildly Successful--and I've met more famous authors than I can count because of my connections there, nurtured through being an officer and volunteering. I wouldn't trade my RMFW peeps for the world. This has led to help on my fight scenes (Markus, you rock) to agent referrals (Dave, you da man) to laughter (Mario, lol, sigh...) to realizing I'm not the only SF weirdo writer in my neighborhood (Stephen!) and plain old encouragement (Jeanne and Carol and too many others to name).
Online, I've met incredible people and entertained offers of help and encouragement from all quarters of the globe. I've met Miss Snark. I've partied with a couple of cool fantasy agents and met many more. I've met all the editors of the top F/SF magazines and some of the lower tier ones, which only has to do with money, not quality.
It was at an RMFW open mic nite where I met my writing partner, which led to a contract for two books and my editor asking for more. (go Ainsley go)
I also put myself and my work out there in my critique group (Lesley! Dave! Adrianne! Rebecca!). That led to Electric Spec, more great friends and connections, and even, gulp, a small measure of fame, if having strangers who know my name approaching me at cons (even a crime fiction con, for cryin in a bucket!) equals a small measure of fame.
Best of all, critique has led to a drastic improvement in my writing.
It's not always easy. I've had to get my guts up. I've had to sit on panels with trembling hands. I've had to bullshit my way through stuff, when I tend to blunder verbally. I've had to just swallow my fear and walk up to people and say hi and feel like a fool for doing so. I know I've said my fair share of stupid stuff. Most recently, I had to wait around all day for a late panel, nursing a cold, worrying over my kids and husband, and mourning my father-in-law, who'd died the night before.
I've had to hear tough crits of my work. I've had to go back to the drawing board more times than I can count. It's not all roses and peaches in Networkingland.
I know by now you're waiting for a punchline. Like I've got an agent. Or a Big Sale. Or something.
There is no punchline. There is no "culmination of a career" or "grand result from my efforts." There is My Life, which includes so many incredible people and connections and experiences.
I'm blessed and grateful. That's all. Not much of a punchline.
But it's enough for me.