Online writers forums
Online writing communities set up and run by aspiring writers or small publishers on the look-out for new material or like-minded fellowship, are a fantastic way to develop friendships and networks of support. As a member of an on-line community, we can read what is on offer from other writers and comment on it as well as uploading our own work and receiving feedback and, hopefully, some recognition. On-line communities help us get to grips with on-line processes, connect with other new writers and readers, receive and offer polite and constructive feedback and learn to deal with rejection in a calm, collected way. What we gain from this process will vary hugely, depending on the time we spend, our motives, and how seriously we take the processes for exchanging information and our future career hopes.
While I was a member of a large on-line community, I learned how to read quickly, write tactful critiques, how to edit and polish prose, as well as gathering tips from more experienced writers, developing more self-confidence, networking, and discovering the enormous value in different points of view and different friendships.
Before uploading our work on-line, we must ask ourselves what we hope to gain from our experiences. The benefits of participating in virtual communities are real, but often more obvious in retrospect: it may not be obvious that we are learning to “spell American” or the arts of diplomacy, as well as how to stand up for ourselves. It may not become apparent that we have learned much about reading and writing fluently under pressure, until several years later when we are doing an edit at top speed and we notice that our reading is much closer, our editing is more confident and incisive and our reasons why we might disagree with an editor are clear and well argued.
We may not be aware until much later that reading and commenting on ten books a day for several months has taught us a great deal. But if these advantages are real, so are the disadvantages, so before signing up for an online community, it helps to be clear and realistic about our motives.