World Write Web: #YPGDigital’s Panel on Online Writer Communities
As the audience filed out of the last taping of David Letterman’s run on the Late Show on Wednesday, May 20th, 2015, a group about twenty publishing professionals and aspiring authors gathered just down the block at the Penguin Random House midtown offices for “Your Guide to Online Writer Communities,” hosted by YPG Writers and #YPGDigital, and featuring a diverse and knowledgeable panel of writing community founders and managers.
Brielle Benton, founder of New York City Writers Network, was there to represent her platform, which she described as “a networking base, and a place for support and engagement.” Joining her was Brook McIntyre, who founded Inked Voices, a site on which writers can connect, match up with critique partners, and workshop in small groups. Next up was Livia Nelson, who created Yeah Write!, a Tumblr dedicated to all things writing, from prompts to craft advice.
Rounding out the panel were Lucy Silag, Community Manager for Book Country—a writing community run by Penguin—and Sally Slater, an author who has found great success on Wattpad. Sally shared her experience in that community, including the strategies she has found helpful in the development of her writing and her career.
Online writing-focused communities have rapidly risen in popularity over the past several years, and can offer everything from resources on craft to writing partners to publishing opportunities. These sites have become major hubs for the sort of social discussion and reciprocal support that only a community pool as large as the Internet can provide.
However, with such a variety of options, confusion and hesitation are common amongst writers, who might want to join these communities but don’t know where to start. The panelists helped to clear up many questions about how these platforms work, and demonstrated the value of such websites to developing writers. Here are some of the highlights:
1. The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Communities
Slater had a definitive answer on the subject of what to do to get the most out of an online community: “You have to engage.”
This apparently hit upon a common thought, and the rest of the panelists agreed.
“Wattpad is not just a place for writing—it’s social media,” Slater continued. The writers who get the most out of the platform are the ones who read and comment on other writers’ work. This sentiment was echoed by the rest of the panelists, who stressed the need for participation and engaging in a dialogue with both writers and commenters alike, becoming part of the community and not just promoting one’s own work.
The process is a give-and-take, Slater said. In order to receive feedback or help with requests such as reviews, people must first provide something of value to others. A essential step for successful participation was the need for new visitors to learn the culture and attitudes of a given site before posting. In doing so, the visitor would be able to demonstrate that they wanted to be a part of the community, not simply use it for their own benefit.
2. Why Writers Should Join These Communities
“I didn’t know enough writers,” Benton said.
That’s the beauty of building or joining a community online, panelists agreed. Writing can be an isolating activity, and these platforms allow people to share their work, to get involved in a discussion with likeminded individuals.
Benton went on to explain that before she founded her writers’ network, she “found it difficult to find people with similar interests,” people who could provide support and objective feedback. Each of the panelists spoke of the difficulty of finding people to review a manuscript or even chapters, and how these communities are full of members with discerning eyes and a willingness to trade feedback.
3. Why Community Is Important
Unlike the previous discussions, this topic provided a range of answers, and each panelist had her own take on the matter:
“Writing is lonely otherwise,” said Nelson. “Exchanging stories and commiserating is very helpful psychologically.”
McIntyre spoke of the challenge of fitting writing into the context of her life, and spoke of how “writing is a dream,” but for many writers it’s a side job—“it’s easy to deprioritize unless you hold yourself accountable.”
Benton added how valuable it is “to get feedback from comparable, honest writers, who can provide targeted advice.”
The last two panelists had a more business-oriented take on the subject; Slater emphasized how “networking matters—getting blurbs, finding opportunities, meeting new people who can help.” Silag explained how these sites can provide a path to traditional publishing, because authors who find success online are prime targets for publishers.
This event was not meant to be comprehensive or exhaustive, and these panelists’ respective websites are merely a drop in the ocean of communities open to writers. What the event did do, however, was provide a fantastic starting point, a gentle push in the right direction. In an increasingly digital world, a little guidance is all it takes. It is very inspiring to see so many writers taking to the web in order to share their work and become part of a social sphere that provides them with the resources, which, for many years, were limited to the few. And not only do these sites serve as broadcasting platforms for self-publishers, but they also provide a medium through which traditional publishers can interact directly, creating a closer relationship with aspiring authors. In short, the rise of these online communities is #awesome.
For more information on our panelists’ writing communities, visit their websites:
- New York City Writers Network: The Network is a guild of writers, all based in NYC. Our mission is to unite the writers of NYC by offering them direct access to people as equally passionate about the craft. We are a society, a community, and a family.
- Inked Voices: Inked Voices offers writing groups a platform to privately exchange manuscripts, discussion and critique in a way that is smart, efficient and collaborative. If you don’t have a group already, we’ll connect you with potential critique partners or groups, or we can help you start a new group.
- Yeah Write: Yeah Write is a creative writing community that helps motivate, inspire, connect, and educate writers.
- Book Country: A Penguin community, Book Country gives writers the strongest resources to write their best books. At Book Country, writers can find and connect to writers just like them, workshop their manuscripts, learn about the craft of writing and the business of publishing, and build their first audience as they prepare to publish their books.
- Wattpad: Wattpad is a place to discover and share stories: a social platform that connects people through words. It is a community that spans borders, interests, languages. With Wattpad, anyone can read or write on any device: phone, tablet, or computer.
This article was contributed by YPG member Luke Robbins. For more information, visit our Contributing Writers page.