For an aspiring writer, there’s nothing more inspirational than finding a community of writers who want to grow with you. It’s also an experience that can send you cowering under your blanket or hurling your laptop across the room. However, if you use discretion and common sense, a writer’s forum can help you polish your manuscript and take it up another notch on your way to publication. I wish I had known what I know today, but perhaps the following pointers can help you avoid some pitfalls and help you benefit from your site.
When you join a forum, like the one I joined, thenextbigwriter, don’t be intimidated by so-called established writers, those who have been there forever and feel a certain sense of ownership. Just because they have been on the site for three or four years doesn’t mean they’re great writers. Of course, the publishing world is cruel and some of the established writers are diamonds who have simply not been discovered, but be that as it may, you have as much right to belong as anyone, especially if you’ve paid your dues. Feel free to read their works and offer suggestions.
Seek out works you admire, especially those in the genre you’re writing. Read those authors and cultivate reciprocal relationships with them. This means you have to put in a good faith effort when you critique works. It’s most insulting and annoying for someone to write a drive-by review and expect something worthy in return.
Be humble. As I’ve said before, the publishing world is a cruel one, so when your fellow writers give you painful feedback, cry a little. Put off responding right away until you’ve had a chance to be objective. Your writing friends are only trying to help you be the best that you can be, and though reading is subjective, that’s the way it works in publishing. Don’t accept criticism from only those who adore your work. Chances are they may be afraid to be truthful, especially if you develop a reputation for throwing a fit each time someone doesn’t fall in love with what you write.
Stay away from personal issues. Writers are naturally expressive and put everything out there. However, it can be annoying if you post every other day to complain about your miserable life. Pretty soon, it gets old and people don’t want to know. If you form friendships and those friends want to know, by all means share with them, but avoid making a general nuisance of yourself. The exception is when you post updates about your interaction with publishing professionals. Even then, careful not to abuse the system by posting about every twinge of discouragement you feel. It gets old and discourages others.
If you can, avoid forum threads that quickly become full-blown fights. For one thing, you’ll be emotionally disturbed, waste time and be unable to write for a few days. Just focus on the goal at hand: to develop your craft.
Try to be kind to everyone, even the ones nobody likes. We’re all in this together. Besides, one day, they might buy your book or write books you’ll love.
There are more useful tips, but the above are a start in the right direction. Remember that no writers’ site is going to be good enough. When you’ve got the best out of yours, seek editorial help from a reputable editor.
Most of all, enjoy yourself; you’ll probably make lifelong friends!