Amazing Writing Community Benefits and Why You Need Yours

 

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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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: real writer real artist vs counterfeitIt’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.
  1. 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?

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Some Resources and Things to Remember about NaNoWriMo

For those that may not know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo. During this month, should you participate in NaNoWriMo, you are challenged as an author to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. You can practically hear the pencils etching, pens scribbling, and fingers typing furiously across the world since the challenge began four days ago. You can find the official NaNoWriMo site here.
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No matter what way you dice it 50,000 words is one daunting goal to hit in thirty days. The average necessary word count per day is 1,667, and your average 5-page college paper is roughly 1500 words or less, if that puts it into any perspective for you. Since I graduated this past May, I still vividly remember late night paper writing sessions where I cranked out each every one of a 1500+ word paper in a night…so it’s that experience multiplied by thirty, and unfortunately, the only way you will be able to have a day off or enjoy the Holiday is to plan ahead and have a few days where you double your word count, if not more…As I said, daunting, but absolutely possible.

My first try at NaNoWriMo is, ironically, the only time I’ve won so far, and I honestly wasn’t particularly thrilled with my last 30-40,000 words, to the point where I still have trouble saying that I “won” anything that year other than entry into the awesome existence of NaNoWriMo, which I can live with. Anyway, that was in 2010 or 2011. I vainly tried again in 2013, and truly I say vainly because it was appalling timing. November is a hot month for school papers and my attention was sorely split and well, I had money riding on getting a degree so NaNo lost that one.

So finally, this year, I am giving NaNoWriMo a more planned and prepared go. My profile can be found here and I’m welcome to having more writing buddies! At four days in I’ve already managed to stumble into a veritable writing bog that I’ve been slowly wading through so I must redouble my efforts to push ahead.

Even though we’re a few day in, it’s never too late to start and definitely never too late to find some new resources. An excellent source I found is a compilation of indexes from Writer’s Digest, which I utilized to help get some of the more important aspects of my novel-to-be down, and so far they’ve been infinitely useful; those can be found here. If you haven’t ever utilized worksheets like this, you should do yourself a favor and give them a shot. At the very least they can help get your brain moving in the right direction. A complete copy of how to write your novel in 30 days can be found here.

I learned a lot from the last two times I’ve tried NaNoWriMo and I’m sure I’ll learn even more this time. Going forward though, here are a few things that I think are important to know and to remember about NaNoWriMo:

  1. Plan ahead– from the obvious suggestion to strategize and outline character sketches and plot points, to letting your family and friends know what you are attempting so they don’t get worried when you disappear for the better part of a month, planning goes a long way in your bag of tools for completing this challenge and your novel. Especially since November includes a holiday for those in the US, planning ahead can be your rescue.
  2. You’re probably going to fall behind, at least for a little bit– That first rush of words to page is exhilarating!! And you should absolutely celebrate every goal you set for yourself and meet. It gives you encouragement and a feeling of accomplishment. However, don’t let it distress and depress you when you find yourself six, eight, twelve hours later and only four miserable words further in count. At some point, this is probably going to happen. Even when you have a fantastic idea you’re excited about, chances are a time will come when you’re not making as much progress. It can be really disheartening, but you have to remember that if you keep at it (after giving yourself a break), you’ll make it through and start racking up the words again.
  3. This is part one on the path to a complete and ready to publish novel- You are going to be over the moon once you hit that 50,000 word mark, even more so when you reach whatever is the magic number you end your tale on, and you should!! You will need to before you return to your lair and begin the next harrowing process which is a first read through, edit and revision, so you can do it all again till it’s THE story you want to put out there. Don’t rush it.
  4. It’s never too late to start– Yes, technically if you just hear about NaNoWriMo on the 29th of November and decide you want to do it *right now*, you probably aren’t going to hit 50,000 words in one 24-hour period (if by some strange cosmic event you manage it….I’d like to chat…). But really, it doesn’t, or shouldn’t, matter if you’re coming in a bit late to the game. The point really is that you want to be here and are willing to try, and that’s AMAZING! The best part is that, while you can always wait till next year and regroup with writing buddies and soldier forth the next time NaNoWriMo comes along, you can, and that’s awesome! But you can also take what you learn from the experience and use it *any* month, including one that gives you an extra day 😛
  5. Have fun and give yourself some credit- This is particularly important for so many reasons. If your inner voice can be anything as cruel as mine (and I’m sure there are some contenders), you need to remember that, while this is a challenge, you should be trying to enjoy yourself. Be proud of what you are able to do, and don’t be too hard on yourself for anything you don’t manage. You can always keep trying, and that makes all the difference.

NaNoWriMo is one hell of a challenge, but with a good attitude, an idea you’re passionate about, and especially with a good, supportive writing community, you can make it happen! Now get to work!

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October Platform Challenge from Writer’s Digest- Not just for October

The beginning of October brought more than the usual autumn chill and spooky roberttwitterimage-226x300vibe with it this year. The first of October marked the start of a challenge, one I have eagerly taken up. This is the 2015 October Platform Challenge from Writer’s Digest Editor Robert Lee Brewer and it involves a new challenge for every day of October.

This challenge was designed to grow my platform, essentially, the people that might care what I have to say or are curious about and enjoy my writing enough to stay updated with my shenanigans; i.e. you lovely people!  A link can be found here as well as being included at the end of this post.

The challenges have ranged from tasks I’ve already completed or have been doing on my own previously (such as blog posts), to ones I was dreading and hoped would never really cross my path as any sort of necessary mountain to climb. Many of the challenges have been related to social media creation or interaction for the obvious reason of being one of the quickest and easiest ways to begin making new connections with people. I now have a Facebook Page which can be found here, as well as a Twitter where you can find me @amalgamology or click here.

One challenge in particular that comes to mind involved defining some short and long-term goals, which have always been vague notions knocking around my brain pan, but seeing those goals down in front of me made them more solid and necessary to achieve, perhaps even made them more attainable. Other challenges so far have included, creating a website (Voila!), writing a bio, writing various blog posts and blog related tasks, conducting an interview, and even looking into possible live events in our area. As part of the challenge there have also been live chats on Twitter with #platchal where we discuss questions we may have, meet other writers, and encourage each other, as well as share interesting and important tips and information.

The timing of this challenge was incredibly fortuitous as I’ve been creeping towards growing my platform the last few months. The October Platform Challenge has given me the added push to take the leap and I’m happy with the progress I’ve made so far and eagerly await growth with each passing day, of myself as well as my platform.

One of the best things about this month and the challenges each day has been the level of accomplishment I’ve felt. I’ve been waking up absurdly early, in part with anticipation of getting the next day started. As I’ve mentioned, most of the challenges have been easy enough to accomplish in that first hour of the morning if not less, so you’re essentially starting the day off with a check in the Win column, and you know the best thing about that feeling? The desire to do even more! At least that’s often how I feel (until I’ve done that the entire day and need the next to rest, but let’s not go there).

I’ve learned so much this month from my experience and have much to utilize as I continue forward with the remainder of the challenge and beyond. I have gotten more done in the past month, just writing wise, than I have the last year, and I take heart from that. Even more so, because I’m excited about the future. I have big plans, both with my novels and stories, as well as in the community and connecting with my fellow authors and lovers of all things creative. I’ve also met some really wonderful people full of new ideas and perspectives.

There are three big things I will take away with me from this challenge: that planning is the best foundation but flexibility is important too, always look for the possible learning opportunity, and finally, give myself some credit and believe in myself because obviously if I try, I can accomplish even the scary things. I’m looking forward to completing this challenge and to finding and creating a writing community that will challenge, support, and inspire me the way my fellow participants have this month.  I’m looking forward to what the next couple of months will bring.

If you’d like to connect to any of the other blogs of the October Platform Challenge participants, a list of them can be found here.

Happy writing!

gone-writing

Links:
http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/there-are-no-rules/2015-october-platform-challenge