For all the romantic notions of writers sitting alone, hacking away in anonymity on their manuscript (with or without a bottle of bourbon and smoldering ashtray full of cigarettes), the truth is that very few successful writers go it alone. Even the most solitary writers usually rely on the input of friends and fellow writers. As much as my fellow creative writing classmates and I would groan about having to take yet another workshop class and read through a pile of each other’s fiction, those weekly sessions were motivating. We had our own writing community, which kept us writing and gave us feedback.
The most successful graduates of that program had one thing in common: They joined or created writing groups once they got out. Today, most people are pretty familiar with the need to network in their respective jobs. Networking for writing is much the same—and just as important.
So how can a writing community help you as a self-published author?
- For starters, it can keep you motivated. Even if you’re not sharing your work, you can use a group to share your goals and progress.
- You can learn from others. There’s a lot writers can learn from one another about the business of writing, from how to price your book to how to deal with copyright. Chances are, in a group of writers, someone’s had the experience.
- You’ll be able to test your ideas. Is it a good idea to change the POV halfway through the second chapter? The only way you’ll find out is by trying—and by getting a second opinion.
- There will be access to other’s expertise. Writers tend to be a diverse group of people, with varied experiences in the real world. Someone’s knowledge of horticulture or bricklaying for instance, might help you with a crucial plot point.
- You’ll cultivate an audience. When your work is done and released into the world, you’ll have a knowledgeable and enthusiastic audience that can help you get those first sales and reviews—important stuff in the world of online bookselling.
With forums, online writing communities, Google Hangouts, Twitter, and chat rooms—not to mention the whole physical world of bookstores, libraries, and cafés—there are thousands of ways to connect with other writers. And whether those communities are virtual or in real life, you’ll get the support you need while writing. And even better, you’ll have people to celebrate with when you’ve made your final revisions.
Where should you start?
Goodreads has groups devoted to writing, plus a whole section where you can post your writing and get comments.
Scribophile is a platform for sharing your work online, and has both free and paid membership options.
Meetup.com lists real-world writing groups, like the popular “Shut up and write.”
Twitter can also be a great place to build your unofficial writer’s network. A search on #writersblock is bound to bring up individuals who’d love to work out some ideas.