One of the hardest aspects of being an indie author is often the sense of isolation, the feeling of going it alone. While many self-publishing and digital publishing sites are now meeting the indie writer’s need for guidance when it comes time to actually publish a manuscript, the time spent writing and revising one’s work can still be very lonely.
Online writing communities have been around for a long time, but more and more self-published writers are discovering these forums and virtual workshops to fulfill a need for feedback and support for their craft.
Mary Baader Kaley, published poet and short story writer whose work has appeared in Everyday Fiction, Dew on the Kudzu, and The Linnets Wings, is one of the administrators of the internet writing forum Write Stuff Extreme. She falls back on the group’s mission statement when asked about how an online writing group serves its members.
“Members of the forum actively assist fellow members to become better writers and develop individual talents,” quotes Baader Kaley.
“We are a boutique group; we try to stay between 50 and 100 members so that we can feel like we know one another,” she continues.
WSE actually screens its potential writers, and new members are brought in by invitation only after establishing some kind of writing connection with another member. This helps to ensure that the new member is a good fit for the forum’s core beliefs about writing.
One of the most helpful tools an online writing community can provide is a sense of responsibility to the group. Member-authors feel accountable to each other and to their writing. When a writer doesn’t post an excerpt for some time, other members will check in with that author to see what kinds of stumbling blocks are impeding the writer’s work and to offer encouragement.
While some online writing groups may be specific to a genre or to traditional versus self-publishing, as a whole these virtual forums serve to bolster the art, not to play favorites to one type of writing or publishing. A focused forum, however, will offer the benefit of a host of writers who know very specific information about a particular genre or provide dynamic feedback on aspects of publishing that interest all of its members.
“The best critiques I’ve received have been from WSE members, which for me is crucial since I can’t often attend face-to-face writers’ groups and conferences like a lot of others can,” Baader Kaley notes.
Further, authors can develop their skills exponentially by knowing how to critique each others submissions.
“There is so much to talk about in terms of critiques: what makes them helpful or hurtful, how to go about providing feedback, how to approach a critique of your work as the author once you get it back. I truly believe that if writers can advance their skills at critiquing, then they advance their skills as writers.”
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