You love to journal, blog, or have an idea for a book that has bubbled to the surface. You’ve made some progress, but you find yourself starting and stopping, starting and backtracking, or you have lots of starts, but few finished pieces. Like me, you may have long gaps between one piece of writing and the next.
“Isn’t there an easier way to do this?” you ask yourself.
The answer just might be that you need to spend time with other writers, similar to the way glassblowing artisans might join a guild to educate younger members and build the glassblowing community. The equivalent of that experience in the writing world might be an online community. There are many different types of writing communities, so your challenge is finding one that is the right fit for you.
Before you choose your online writing community, you need to ask yourself four key questions:
What’s the purpose of the group?
Some groups meet primarily for the purpose of socialization. Writing, by and large, is a solitary act, so many writers welcome meeting other writers; writing gives them something in common right from the start. Other groups are focused on providing writer education. Their website may have links to a blog, a podcast, videos, and articles about the mechanics of writing, writing a book proposal, finding an agent, setting up an author website, and more.
Other writing groups support the emotional side of writing. They are typically found on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where members talk about their successes or struggles, and other members chime in with congratulations or suggest solutions to problems.
Still other (usually large) groups provide opportunities for subgroups of 2-10 people to meet, share their writing, and invite critiques.
Finally, other groups combine multiple activities into one large writing community. Some of these groups are free and others charge a membership fee.
To read more about the types of writing communities that are available, please visit my previous post, Five ways a writing community can benefit you.
How big is the group?
I recently joined a writing community called hope*writers that does a membership drive three times a year. The group numbers about 4,500 members who each pay a monthly membership fee. One benefit to having a large group like this is that there is bound to be diversity. You’ll find men and women of all ages and experience levels. You’ll find many different perspectives, as well as many different types of writers: journalists, bloggers, novelists, freelancers, Christian writers, poets, flash fiction writers, short story writers, and so on.
Another advantage to being part of a large writing community that charges a membership fee is that at least part of these monies will likely fund writer opportunities that might not otherwise be available. For example, at hope*writers, which currently charges $47 a month, one of the big draws is a weekly event called Tuesday Teachings. Every Tuesday, an author or other writing professional is interviewed for an hour. These sessions are recorded in a Member Library that features hundreds of videos. Other opportunities provided by this large online writing community include:
- A quiz is provided to identify at which of six stages in his or her writing journey each writer might be. For each stage, relevant content (articles and videos) from the Member Library is suggested. The intent here is not to pigeonhole people, but to personalize their learning experience. Writers are still free to select content from other stages, as they see fit.
- There is a private Facebook group where writers can “meet,” share their successes and challenges, and form smaller subgroups for the purpose of creating friendship circles, accountability circles, or goal-oriented circles that might include a group of bloggers, wannabe authors, poets, or the like.
- Every Tuesday and Saturday, writers can join an online Writing Room experience to write in tandem with other writers on their own projects. You’ll mute your phone and see other writers at their desks, but you’ll all work in silence. You do have the option to message others via a chat window, however. The Writing Room is open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 Eastern Time. You can drop in and out as your time allows.
- Spontaneous Community Coffees are announced on Facebook when 10 writers can meet via Zoom to chat and get acquainted with other members in the community.
- A Watch Party is held Thursday evenings for community members who missed that week’s Tuesday Teaching. This is an interactive event, where writers can chat via a live message stream.
- During Friday Shares, writers can exchange success stories, provide links to their websites, and describe their current projects. This is another way for members of this large writing community to get to know each other.
Admittedly, large writing communities can feel impersonal. It’s easy to get lost in the crowd, which then affects the extent to which meaningful exchanges can take place. In a perfect world, a large writing community should provide a way to subdivide into smaller groups. Instead of joining a large community, you might consider joining several small groups (especially if they are free) that meet for different reasons so that you can take advantage of the collective focus of all the groups you join. The limiting factor may be the time you have to spread yourself across multiple groups.
How diverse is the group?
You’ll often find more diversity in larger writing communities, but not necessarily. Diversity can include a range in ages, experience, gender, faith, politics, interests, and other factors. Only you can decide the extent to which diversity is important to you. You might decide, for example, that you need to interact mainly with writers writing about their ministry, science fiction writers, or bloggers who are moms. There are many writing communities on Facebook with both limited and broad diversity. Just search for “writing groups,” and you’ll see what I mean. You’ll also find writing communities on Twitter and Instagram.
What opportunities are provided?
In the same way that larger public schools can often provide more extracurricular activities than smaller ones, a large online writing community can likely provide more opportunities for its members. These might include learning, meeting, sharing, support, or feedback events.
A large writing community that does not charge a membership but provides many opportunities for its members is DIYMFA.com, founded by Gabriela Pereira. She has built a writing program designed to mirror a Master of Fine Arts program, but without the costs associated with an MFA (and also without the actual degree). Her program provides opportunities to:
- Write with focus—see Resources
- Read with purpose—see Reading Resources
- Build your community—see Community Resources
- Discover classes & tools (for which there may be a charge)
DIYMFA.com includes the following additional resources:
- Writer Igniter is an internal app that generates a random prompt that can be used for a practice writing exercise.
- Articles focus on writing, reading, and building your community.
- DIY MFA Radio is a podcast featuring weekly guest interviews in which the craft of writing, the business side of writing, or both, is discussed.
- Media and Press links include full TV interviews, articles in which Pereira was interviewed, and recordings of podcast and radio interviews in which she has been featured.
- When you sign up for Pereira’s email list, you’ll be notified of any new offerings, such as a free Weekend Writing Sprint that helped me to complete this post.
Another writing community that provides a combination of free and paid opportunities for story writers can be found at Sarah Selecky’s website, https://www.sarahselecky.com/.
Her free offerings include her blog, as well as the items shown below when you sign up for her email list at Free Resources:
- A video class on how to protect your writing time
- Deep Revision: A Guide to Revising Your Short Story
- The Incomparable Short Story: A Writing Guide for Story Submissions
- Little Bird Salons: Selecky’s interviews with writers including Cherie Dimaline, Michelle Winters, Esi Edugyan, Lisa Moore, Neil Smith, Rebecca Lee, and Alix Ohlin
Selecky’s Writing School opportunities include courses that, although they are priced higher than other options in this post, might also be exactly what you seek:
- The Story Course is a self-paced online writing program whose focus is on short fiction, but whose techniques are applicable to any genre. The course includes 21 writing exercises (including audio prompts); 7 larger writing assignments (including audio prompts); 16 videos; 7 podcasts; a writing diagnosis and personalized reading recommendations; video and audio transcripts for how to use the program; an audiobook of the entire program, and a fiction anthology of curated short stories. Visit The Story Course for more information.
- The Story Intensive offers flexible online learning in modules that require 5-6 hours a week; audio lessons of 10 minutes apiece; focused writing assignments, course materials and resources to guide you through the course and shape your writing, and lifetime access to the lessons. Lessons focus on Freewriting, Beginnings, Characterization, Dialogue, Plot and Drift, Point of View, and Influence. Students get access to exclusive interviews with bestselling authors. The course includes feedback and critiques of your work through your instructor and fellow students. There is also private writing community which includes accountability buddies.
Please note that there is also a Prep Course for The Story Intensive that is included in the total price. The Prep Course consists of 10 weeks when you’ll receive weekly readings and craft essays, a monthly master class, and daily writing prompts. Your writing community consists of an online discussion forum with your classmates.
Visit The Story Intensive for more information about both The Story Intensive and The Story Intensive Prep Course.
- The Story Workshop provides continued learning, after you complete The Story Course or The Story Intensive, and takes your writing to the next level. Although the class is online, it is a real-time writing workshop with deadlines, instruction, community, support, and feedback. It’s perfect for short story writers but is open to writers of all genres. There are six writers in each class, and you’ll spend one week apiece, reading and critiquing each writer’s story. After your critique, you’ll receive guidance and instruction for your revision. Visit The Story Workshop for more information.
All of the above online writing communities are valid ways to join other writers, but it’s important for you to identify what your needs are first. Then, do your homework and research what writing group(s) will benefit you best.
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