Writing Communities

Once upon a time, I ran a martial arts studio with 120 students. I spent 10 to 12 hours every day surrounded by high energy people, teaching classes, solving problems and talking with a cast of just over 500 characters who passed through my doors each week.

Now, I type at a computer for a living.

I love my job. The money, flexibility and variety are simply better than working in martial arts. But it can get lonely.

Which is where writing communities come in. Besides curing “lonely writer syndrome,” they provide a sounding board for your ideas. They serve as alpha and beta readers for your manuscripts. They provide accountability via verbal gobslaps if you don’t meet your goals.

Writing communities are, as the lady says, “A Good Thing.” Though there is infinite variety in these, as in all other things, I see three basic categories of writing community.

Writer Groups

These are small cadres of writers who get together to share and critique work. Rarely part of a larger organization, they meet regularly to help each other out.

Pros include a tight group of people you know well, and a regular structure of meetings. The biggest con is that you end up with the same five or six opinions every time.

You can find writers groups on local meetups, checking at bookstores and through Facebook and other social media sites.

Writing Forums

If you have the thick skin necessary to deal with the inevitable troll, you can join a writing forum. At any time day or night, some random fellow member can provide research advice, encouragement and critiques.

Pros include a wide array of opinions and experience, along with constant access to help and guidance. On the con side, the medium doesn’t lend itself to forming tight relationships.

Some of my favorite writing forums include Children’s Book Isider, WritingForums.org, and the forums over at WritersMarket.com. Freelance Writers’ Den merits a special mention because it comes with a great suite of articles and tutorials that are really helping me out. There’s a link to them to the right.

Professional Associations

You’d be amazed how many writers’ associations there are. National freelance associations, regional associations, genre associations, regional genre associations…each with their own newsletter, fee structure and annual events.

For the most part, these associations don’t give you the day-to-day help or a forum or writer group. They instead keep you in the loop for news, opportunities and chances to network. Most associations offer at least one convention or workshop each year — and they’re well worth going to. Membership gets you discounts for these conventions in addition to the standard benefits.

One last thing about associations: The Pacific Northwest Travel Writers Conference runs on April 29 & 30 this year in Port Townsend, WA. I’m speaking, so show up.

Thanks for listening.

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