Writing community can be narrowly or broadly defined, depending on how you shape it and what you consider to be your writing community. It can be a scary thought when you’re just starting out, before you’ve launched your first site, page or blog, before you’ve first reached out to other people. I’ll admit it, it’s still a bit scary (but I’m silly like that).
Your writing community generally consists of people that are mutually interested in each other and/or each other’s writing. It’s wonderful when it’s mutual, and even more so when there is interaction. The trademark of a great writing community involves interaction and connection with other authors, writers, and readers.
When building your writing community, don’t mistake connection for selling, there’s a very big difference, so don’t go shoving your work in everyone’s face repeatedly asking them to share, or buy while of course doing little other sharing or interacting of your own (yes, there are sadly too many people that do this). Be sure to visit and support your fellow writers as much as you would hope they wish to do for you. Do what feels right to you, but just keep that in mind. Here is a recent post I wrote for Writer’s Digest on how to connect on Twitter without selling out your community, where sales pitches are sometimes mistaken for connection.
I was unsure where to begin myself, I’d done some research, read a few books, but actually actively seeking out people I’d never met seemed just as scary as walking into a room full of people I didn’t know…okay, maybe not as, scary, but I’m sure you understand. Regardless though, I was willing, I just wasn’t sure how to begin…
Lucky me, last fall I found the October Platform Challenge (if you’re familiar with my blog, you’ve heard of it)….where do I even start on what I gained? Not only did I learn some important and amazing things, but it’s how I formed the base of my writing community. (If you’re curious, here are a collection of the blogs from the participants of the challenge.)
When October ended, however, a few people from the challenge banded together and formed a group for those that had participated in the challenge and wanted to stay in touch, keep up with each other’s work, keep the inspiration and support going that had marked the October Challenge for so many of us.
Truly, I gained so much the day I started that challenge, and had no idea what I was getting into. The second of January, a solid chunk of our platform plathcal people spent the day sharing thanks, love and support for each other. It was, and still is, so very touching. I believe verklempt was the word of the day, proffered by Kim (one of the many friends I’ve gained as well), and felt by most if not all involved in the impromptu love and support fest.
It’s incredibly wonderful, and useful, to have such a loving and helpful writing community to turn back to, no matter how else each of our communities grows from here. If you aren’t sure what exactly you’re gaining, here are 5 benefits of a writing community, one you actively interact and participate with, not sell to:
- Opinions/Thoughts/Options– don’t know which title sounds better for your story? Ask your group. Think a sentence sounds off? Ask your group. Need a ruling on a name? I think you might get it by now, ask your group! They’re a wonderful source of people that have their own opinions, are possibly your future readers, know how the writing game works, and if you’ve surrounded yourself with the right people, more than willing to help. Even if you don’t use an idea offered, it can get your brain churning and you may come up with the perfect thing, just needed to stimulate your mind the right way.
- Resources– If you’re looking for some particular or specific information on a topic, tap your writing community for information. It’s possible someone else has gathered some really helpful resources, or you could all do a share dump day per requests for certain materials. Of course, don’t be lazy, do your own research too, know what you want some help with, don’t make everyone trying to be nice sorry because you just don’t want to do the legwork. But your community is a wonderful resource.
- Beta readers– okay, now it’s likely that as many writing projects as you have, everyone else in your group has at least that, not to mention everyone’s lives beyond the written or read word. However, it’s possible that a couple of your cohorts might be willing to read over a fresh short story you’re thinking of sending off, or read through your book to help make it stronger before you publish. Be as willing to help as you are willing to ask it of others, at least that’s a rule I try to follow. No one appreciates someone that only takes and never gives. A great writing community is full of givers, and beta readers can be vital in helping to tease out your best, expecting more of you than you realized was there to give.
- Support– Moral support can be a vital thing for an author. Writers are notoriously hard on themselves, at least the “real” ones are according to this: It’s hard to disagree, I’ve seen this be true first hand. The important part of that fear though, is pushing through it and writing anyway, submitting anyway, and this is where support from your writing community can be infinitely helpful in becoming the best writer you can be. Knowing how many others are going through the same difficulties, and seeing that those that keep going are the ones that achieve their goals, and encourage you to do the same, is one of the best things a writing community can do for you.
- Collaborators– Sometimes you find someone that has a similar style or a sense of humor that just clicks with you, or a handful of you have a shared idea. With a good writing community, you’re bound to find at least one of these, and though there is nothing wrong in sticking with a solo gig, being open to the possibility of collaboration could lead you down an amazing road you hadn’t expected. There’s no pressure, but don’t say you’re going to commit if you don’t plan to either. The point is that you have community bursting with ideas, ideas that may be fun to collaborate on.
These are only five, I don’t doubt there being more, but no matter what, the point remains the same: writing communities are a valuable part of the writing experience, and with the right people, it’s enriched by them. I will probably become a broken record on this point, but never underestimate what a writing community can do for you. I know it’s daunting to start, but it’s well worth the plunge.
Tell me about your experience with your writing community. What’s something you love (or find difficult, life isn’t all sunshine) about your writing community?