Thursday, December 05, 2019

Building community in a lonely profession

I saw this tweet a couple days ago and it got me thinking:
as you know the writing, editing, publishing, and marketing process can be lonely without community and guidance. So far, I haven't made any strong writing friendships in my area or online where I can share and critique work. How did you guys build community?
When the online world came into being, I was dismissive that any kind of real friendship or community could arise with people one's never seen in real life.

Boy was I wrong.

I've been privileged to be part of two writing communities in the last fifteen years, both of them created by blog posts and readers.

So how do you build community if you're not the person posting to the blog?
I think the first thing to do to find community is show up.
The people who are here everyday, even if they aren't commenting, they're the invisible readership.

The people who asks questions drive the content.
(And the people who send me photos of their pets for the upcoming hiatus!)

The people who contribute comments build the community.
So come here, read the posts, and comment.

And the people who give the blog shout outs on other platforms (Twitter, Facebook, the Ne'er Do Well Saloon and Revision Palace newsletter) are the outreach.
So, come here, read the posts, link to one on Twitter. 

You can find friends here.
It takes some time.
But this is a welcoming collection of fabulous writers and story tellers.
And a nemesis!
But don't let the inside jokes push you away.
You'll cotton on to those pretty quickly, and a question in the comment column (Who is this Steve Forti and how did he earn nemesis status?) will get some pretty good, if somewhat truthful answers.

Enter the flash fiction contests!
It's hard to put a foot wrong in 100 words.

And readers, what other ways have you found to build your community?


Kitty said...

It's hard to put a foot wrong in 100 words.

HA HA HA !!! That sounds like a challenge. Have you thrown down the gauntlet?

Colin Smith said...

My first day on Carkoon was the middle of summer. I’m not sure what the shade temperature was, but I’ve baked potatoes in cooler. I made for the nearest tavern. The reptilian creature behind the bar belched something that I thought was his lunch, but turned out to be a question.

“Water, please,” I said.

The place erupted in laughter. Patrons mocked my words, my accent, my demeanor.

“And directions to the library.” Somewhere silent. How could I put a foot wrong in a library?

I didn’t understand Carkoonian hospitality.

Who knew they planted land mines on the first floor?

Colin Smith said...

Okay, now I've got that out of my system... if you're new to the blog comments, don't forget to check out the Blog Glossary (also linked on the top right of the blog). That'll help you with some of the in-jokes.

Also, don't forget to check out the Treasure Chest packed full of goodies such as a curated selection of useful blog articles, useful tips on querying and other aspects of writing and publishing, as well as the Writing Contest spreadsheet which lists all the writing contests, who won, the winning entry/entries, etc.

And comment! Come out from the shadows! Get to know us, and let us get to know you. We don't bite. Often. :D

Brenda said...

I suggest joining the professional organization that reps your genre. I’ve found a strong community through my Sisters in Crime critique group.

Writer’s Digest posts a top 100 list of sites for writers. They don’t promote websites with either legal issues or unmoderated trolls, so you are pretty safe with their recommends

And, of course, is the best kept secret on the internet.


nightsmusic said...

Just happy to be here. I lurked for a long time before sticking my toe in the reef waters. I've only gotten bit a couple times ;) Then again, that's what a does.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

I would have been lost without this community. And I got exiled to Carkoon early on. I guess our Queen felt Colin was getting lonely. Come right on in. The water is fine. Just ignore that whole "Beware of Sharks" sign on the shore. Yeah, there are sharks, well a shark, but it's one of those 'fish are friends not food' varieties.

Well, ok, this particular shark does chomp on writers. But that's an honor. Mostly. And Forti chomps right back. Anyhow, join us. Please, lurking writers. We are hungry, er happy, to welcome you.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Writing is so solitary that (for me) reaching out almost daily to a community such as the 'reif' gets my synapses connecting. It's exercise. my PT, my bend and stretch.
I belong.
You belong.
We belong.

Janet Reid said...

Carkoon is where writers get sent when they suggest ideas for the blog that involve more work for the blog writer.

I can't remember Colin's offense but I think it involved me doing interpretive dance.

or maybe not.

Bunny said...

I joined Twitter 3 years ago, specifically to build a writing network. First I followed writer friends, then followed writer friends of theirs, and liked any Tweet that resounded with me. I posted questions/comments about my own writing. Gradually, I built a worldwide network of people who became online critique partners or beta readers and their input took my WIP to a new level. We also got to know each other's personal lives. We supported each other through trials and tribulations. I consider them friends.

Lennon Faris said...

Ah yes what a great place to hang out and learn about writing.

My other suggestion is to be brave. If you want to know something, ask it. If you want to say hello, do it. I have DEFINITELY put my foot in my mouth in less than 100 words, and I'm still alive (and here).

I could be wrong, but I am pretty sure Colin lives on Carkoon?

Theresa said...

I read Janet's blog every day for that sense of community. I co-administer a nonfiction reading group on FB, which is a great community that has taken a couple of years to build. I also lucked into a small group of writers on FB who set monthly goals for their work, then post daily about their progress. We also serve as each others' beta readers and book promoters. All of these remind me that I am of the world.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Colin is now the Mayor of Carkoon.

Colin Smith said...

Janet: I don't think it was suggesting you perform an interpretive dance. Besides, if that was the offense, I think DoY would be the one dismissing me to Carkoon since she would be the only witness to the performance. ;) It's possible I dared to suggest you had "free time"... :D

Lennon: My last stint on Carkoon was, admittedly, meant to be a permanent exile. However, QOTKU relented after a number of months. Perhaps for my wife's birthday... or maybe my FirstBorn bribed her with baked goodies. :D

Lisa Bodenheim said...

It takes a while (or is it awhile?) to find a community you want to become a part of. Like Brenda, I searched Writer's Digest top 100 blogs. I started here as a lurker then commented and entered many flash fictions. Now my other work life interferes. But I come here everyday to catch up with Janet and the Reiders (why am I reminded of B-B-B-B-Bennie and the Jets)?

I've found my crit partners through a facebook writer group and through Janice Hardy's 2x/yearly "Are you looking for a Crit Group/Partner?" Don't forget about conferences or workshops in your area or online where you might find like-minded writers.

Katja said...

I am still not clear where/what Carkoon is - a region in Siberia or a planet of its own. Today I read "on Carkoon", not "in Carkoon"?

I don't think I ever got a contract for joining this lovely community, meaning I actually didn't sign up to the rules, meaning I can't look them up, but I'd like to know where I'm going if I'm naughty.

Janet, I find you should post a picture of our place of exile during your blog hiatus. It would only be fair. ;)
(It doesn't mean more work for you, right?!)

Okay, now more seriously, I have made friends with people here from the blog. Taken the friendships further into the more private sphere of exchanging emails for well over a year, and it has really added something to my life. Meeting up in person is a little difficult, but I'm so glad to have her as my real-life-even-if-only-online friend. *waves*.

I got in here with a really stupid question: I asked what "OP" means, since everyone seemed to comment to OP. Or Opie, as Colin then explained. He also wrote "Welcome" to me, I remember that pretty well! :)

Colin Smith said...

Katja: The "real" Carkoon is actually from Star Wars Episode VI. It's a pit on Tatooine wherein resides a sarlaac. Jabba the Hut tries to feed Han Solo and his friends to this sarlaac. For some reason, Janet co-opted Carkoon as the name of her exile planet where she sends unruly commenters. ;)

Anne Belov, the Panda Queen, drew an artist's rendition of Carkoon which you can find in the Treasure Chest (see the link in a previous comment).

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I'm going to date myself, but I so have the "Cheers" theme song in my head - "Where everybody knows your name...." That's what it feels like here, even if you tend to lurk more than comment (guilty!)

I've been blogging for about 10 years now, and I have "met" some wonderful people through that. Putting that first blog post up and out there into the world was not easy, but I'm glad I took the chance and did it.

Colin Smith said...

Sorry... I know... another comment... but since we're talking about community, let's not forget the List of Blog Readers and Their Blogs. This is a list of the "home pages" of regular commenters. That "home page" might be a blog, a Facebook page, an Instagram, a Twitter account, or a combination of some or all of the above. If you have a spare moment, check it out. It's a good way to get to know your fellow Reiders. :)

If you want to be added, removed, or updated, send me an email. My address is in my Blogger profile.

Kate Higgins said...

You’ll meet a lot of writerish people who regularly show up here. You will hone your craft without much angst. You eventually know about all about DoY. And QOTKU ( definitely visit the glossary) You’ll learn about the after effects oF Kale grown in the desert shadows of Carkoon. You might even try to out forti Forti... good luck.
Welcome to the reif reef! Sharks are not that scary...much

BJ Muntain said...

I've found a lot of community only. I started with Critters, one of the critiquing forums at I was later invited to another, private community by someone else at Critters.

When that community shut down, a group of us started our own critique group, which is still going today, and has been populated by people I've met online, at conferences, and elsewhere.

There are also groups on Facebook, if you look for them. I found Space Opera: Writers and others, and met a lot of great people.

On Twitter, a friend of mine belongs to a hashtag community she enjoys - #writingcommunity. I've met many writers on Twitter, including Gary Corby and Bill Cameron, whose books I now enjoy.

There are writers everywhere, if you look for them.

BJ Muntain said...

Eergh. Autocorrect got me in the first line. 'Only' should be 'online'.

KariV said...

I highly recommend the writing community on Twitter. When I first set foot in the pub world I found the QueryShark blog and Janet's blog. I read everything and learned a lot, but didn't engage. I was too shy to put myself or my writing out there and ended up stepping away from writing because of it. In 2018 I decided to give it another go and do it "right" (if there is such a thing). I joined Twitter and started interacting with other writers - asking questions and cheering them on. I started commenting on Janet's blog and got some wonderful beta readers as a direct result. I also got into a Twitter mentor program and a publisher offered me a contract as a direct result.

Take it from someone who's been there - it's not easy or worth it going alone. This community has been so helpful and is be lost without them. It takes time, but remember the adage: to make friends you have to be friendly - ask questions, offer encouragement or advice, be positive and you'll see your personal writing community start to bloom.

NLiu said...

Hear hear!

This was the first writing blog I stumbled across as a n00b and it is still the best. I followed Janet's advice and got Twitter and have "met" so many cool people there. But the people I feel closest to are still from this blog. We have had conversations about climbing up garderobes and taekwondo throws and flash fiction and What Life Is About it's been so much fun. Oh, and writing. Also that.

Off topic: After reading so many early reader books with my mini bookworm, I feel like the next Thwart the Forti should involve using a limited number of letters, while rhyming. (The first early reader is my kid's favourite: the author only uses about ten different words on repeat, and she has managed to rhyme and be funny enough I don't mind rereading said book multiple times a day. She deserves several literary awards and a medal for services to parentkind.)

Kari Lynn Dell said...

I tell people that Facebook is professional me, Twitter is me hanging out with friends and other writers. The trick is finding your community. I recommend following authors whose work you love in your genre. The big names get flooded with comments so you're likely not going to get to chat with them, but among those commentors you will find other writers who are more accessible. I strongly recommend lurking in the background and limiting yourself to liking stuff at first, until you get a feel for the climate and are up to date on what's already being said. It's a great way to rub off some of the newbie shine.

Also try following the #amwriting hashtag, which is further broken down by genre. Another great way to identify writers.

And if I may, I humbly invite you to follow me at @kidell, not because I am necessarily a font of writerly wit and wisdom, but because I do have a wonderful community that spans nearly every genre, and you're almost certain to find someone in that bunch who you'll love to hang out with.

Last but not least, if you're already on twitter, be sure you know how to use lists so you can go there and see only posts from your writer community if you want. It will save a ton of time and general aggravation.

Sonia Rosa Ciocca said...

Thank you for sharing this encluraging post Janet. I will continue to be active in online writing communities!

Claire Bobrow said...

This was the first writing blog I ever followed and it's still the best.
Something feels amiss if I don't check in with the Reef every morning. You guys inspire me, crack me up, and enlighten me in myriad ways.

I've also built community through SCBWI, writing classes, kidlit conferences/workshops, and meet-ups at indy bookstores in my area. Twitter and Instagram have been great, too.

I've been lucky enough to meet at least one Reider in person and can't wait to meet more. Karen McCoy - I'm looking at you. We live so close there's no excuse :-)

Barbara Etlin said...

I try to not misbehave too often because I'm allergic to kale, the sole food of Carkoon!

Because I write for kids, I joined Verla Kay's children's writers forum, which eventually combined with SCBWI's. I made a lot of friends there, found my main critique group there, and was a moderator for a while. I am a member of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators).

I made blog friends on LiveJournal, then switched to Blogger. I don't have many commenters, but I discovered that some of my friends read it and don't comment.

I joined the writing community of Twitter and have found lots of interesting people and new things to read there.

And I have sometimes checked out the writings and bought books by the people here, and Janet's clients. :-)

Kate Larkindale said...

I found my community of writers in a variety of places. Through blogging and taking part in blog contests, through participating in groups on Writing.Com, through Twitter, here at the Reef and by becoming a contributor to a group blog. There are so many ways to meet other writers online, and some of them have become my closest and most trusted friends. Even though I live on the opposite side of the world to most of them.

The Sleepy One said...

There's also an unofficial Facebook group of reiders and anyone who follows this blog is welcome to join. I've found critique partners there. It's a mellow, low-drama group with good writing-related discussions.

One suggestion for building a writing community: go to local bookstore events. You'll find like-minded folk. Also look for library book clubs. Another option is to look for writing-related groups that use MeetUp to connect. Consider starting with Shut Up and Write, which is exactly what it sounds like--an hour to write quietly with likeminded folk. And if there isn't a local Shut Up and Write for you, it's not hard to start your own official group.

If there's not much local for you, some of the national writing groups have online boards, like SCBWI Blue Boards and Sisters in Crime's guppie list.

Fearless Reider said...

I first learned the power of online community in the 90s when our son was born at 24 weeks, back when we still connected to the internet with tin cans and string and MS-DOS prompts. I would have been sunk without the collective wisdom of preemie parents from around the globe, and there was really only one place to go to connect: Preemie-L. What's daunting now is the sheer number of communities proliferating like profligate fungi across ever-newer platforms. I'm grateful for blogs like Janet's (well, there really are no blogs like Janet's) and the community here, who I can trust to point me toward the groups and resources that work. With all your help, maybe the next "baby" I birth will be fully incubated and ready for the world.

Craig F said...

I started out by letting a few friends that are readers read my stuff. Those that found problems and were strong enough to tell me about them got to read more.

Then I joined the critique group of our local writer's alliance. I met a couple of better critique people there. The important thing with critique partners is that it has to be a two way street. Sometimes you lose friends over critiques.

I had not contemplated twitter often and have not joined. I dislike the amount of trolls and inanity there. It has turned into a monster, a very large monster.

Gotta take every advantage.

I am now considering digging into it and tossing off some inanity of my own. I have been collecting rejections for a couple of months and feel the lack of tweeting might be the cause of it.

I know my first pages are kind of odd, but they build into a gestalt fairly quickly. I also think my query is close to first rate, so if an agent has three books that intrigue them and can only deal with two, mine gets heaved because googling my name doesn't show a twitter handle.

Panda in Chief said...

I too, have been lurking more than participating lately, but I still read every post and usually most of the comments.

If it wasn't for the online panda fan groups many of whom I've met in person, and even traveled to China with them,(The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pandas LIVES!)I would have scoffed at the idea that you could become friends with people you meet online, in real life.

I've met several people from here IRL, as well as SCBWI kid lit friends from afar. I think we all crave connection, and what better people to connect with than people with whom you share a deep interest? Really, it's the only thing that gives me any hope these days.

Thank you all for being here.
Panda on!

KDJames said...

There's a difference, albeit perhaps a small one, between trying to find a community of like-minded friends and looking for people with whom to share and critique your work. Sure, they can and often do overlap. But the intent of approach is different. So maybe think about what you want and which focus is more important to you. Both are perfectly acceptable.

I know blogs are supposedly "dead" -- I mean, clearly, just look at this one (/sarcasm) -- but I've found the majority of my online friends (writers and readers) in the comment section of various blogs. Also, some through membership in RWA and conferences. Some through FB groups. Some via Twitter.

I think the key is to be friendly. Yes, it's hard to do that when you feel new and awkward and you're no doubt an introverted writer. But just be curious and show you care about others. Ask questions about people and their interests, about what they're writing. Writers LOVE to talk about their writing. Mostly. Celebrate and commiserate, as appropriate. Be willing to share small details of your own life and struggles in the writing journey. Ask for help or advice. Be vulnerable and authentic. Make sure your contact info is public and easy to find.

GEEZ, this is starting to sound like a TEDtalk.

It can be scary to take the first step, but you'll be surprised to discover how many people out there are just like you and are looking for community as well. Once you've found yours, be the person who welcomes the next loner into the group.

Trish said...

I want to join SFWA but you need to be published before you can join. I do belong to SCBWI and I get a lot out of that. I may join RWA next spring. My YA SF has romantic elements so I figured why not?

Karen McCoy said...

Claire Bobrow I've thought this more than once, and always think of you when I drive by SF. Let's make it happen. DM me! (Or maybe I'll DM you?) :)

Also, I'd like to plug that the Reef Reiders also have a Facebook page that I've really enjoyed being a part of.

AJ Blythe said...

Join a local or online writing group. Go to conferences. Comment on blogs. All of these are how I've found my peeps. The hardest thing is taking that first step. But give it a go because we are all writers and we love talking to other writers. So long as you are polite you'll have a community in no time.

Laura Stegman said...

Great thread. I lurk more than I post but not a day goes by that I don't check this blog. And I'm surprised there are as many kid lit writers among us as ID'd as such today. Thanks to Janet.

Alina Sergachov said...

It's hard to put a foot wrong in 100 words... but that's how I ended up on Carkoon.

I rarely comment. Mostly lurk. But I've been reading this blog for years. It inspires me.

Alyssa R said...

Colin, thanks for linking to the glossary! I read the blog on my phone, meaning there's no 'top right', and I have been very confused about what some of these things mean!