Online writing communities can be vast oceans difficult to navigate if you’re new to the scene. The wrong community can cause aspiring writers to give up, while the right community can help nurture a writer’s creativity, or boost them toward publication.
The first question you want to ask yourself is, “What are my long term goals?”
If you love writing fan fiction, or you’re writing for fun, you likely aren’t going to thrive, or find a friendly audience, in a writing community of authors seeking traditional publication for original novels. So knowing what you want and need from your writing community is the first step to finding a community that serves your needs and offers the best possible supportive environment to connect with other individuals who write in the same, or similar, genre, and whose goals are closer to your own.
If you’re simply looking for folks to discuss general writing with, a general writing forum is a good way to go. Before jumping into the fray, be sure to look around, read posts, and get a general feel for the group. This alone should tell you if you’re going to fit in or not.
Does the group offer critique? I often warn against open critique simply because it often attracts a lot of trolls and you really don’t know who you’re dealing with and if they’re actually qualified to critique your work. I do recommend private or smaller (non-open) critique groups with people at the same level, or higher, than you. A lot of smaller groups may require you to submit a writing sample to make sure your work is up to par with other members of the group before accepting you. Don’t be offended by this. The purpose of critique is to help you polish your work for possible publication. Avoid critique groups where people cut down the author and never have anything good to say. A proper critique group critiques the WORK, not the person who wrote it, and will discuss a manuscript’s STRENGTHS as well as weaknesses. Criticism should be supportive and the driving factor behind it should be to help you become a better writer, not hurt you or vent sour grapes or professional jealousy.
This leads me to my next point. Professional jealousy. It happens and it happens a lot in online writing groups. The anonymity the internet provides does mean petty people will say mean and nasty things about you and/or your work. Not everyone is going to be supportive. Most groups have at least one of these types of people. So before you join ANY writers group, accept the fact that you could run into one of these types of people.
As a writer, especially if you’re writing for publication, you should already have a thick skin. That way when the critics (even critical colleagues) beat you up, tell you that you can’t write for shit, and give you the proverbial smack-down, you can get right back up, dust yourself off, and continue on. A big part of this is not giving a crap what other people think. On that same token being able to take *constructive* criticism is a must. The trick is having the wisdom to know what’s useful vs. everything else. This isn’t always easy. This is why you should carefully vet critique groups (especially online ones).
Finally, expect that in all online communities there are going to be cliques, usually because these folks have known each other for a long time. Expect that there’s always going to be that one know-it-all. Expect that there’s always going to be that one person who thinks they’re an *artist* and that those who write anything but *literature* (usually by their own narrow definition) are beneath them. There will always be lurkers who only post once in a blue moon (this is where I am these days).
But above all – there are always going to be those folks who are supportive and willing to help you out in any way they possibly can.
I’ll leave you with this bit of advice that applies to writing just as it does to anything in life. If you want to be successful at what you do, surround yourself with supportive people who are willing to help you and lift you up and do the same thing for them! Really, in my humble opinion, that’s the ideal type of writing community for any writer to thrive in.
About The FM Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour
Today’s post was inspired by the topic Writing Communities / Community. This month’s topic in the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour, an ongoing tour where you, the reader, travel around the world from author’s blog to author’s blog. We have all sorts of writers at all stages in their writing career, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.
If you want to get to know nearly twenty other writers and read their thoughts on writing communities or community in general, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. I blog with this tour the 25th of every month.