Yet, with all the resources available on the Internet for writers, I think it's beneficial for most writers who aspire to be published to see what online writing communities can offer. Just like everything else in the publishing industry, the right community for you may be subjective. But their benefits are many:
- Support and insight from other writers, published and unpublished. Whether you have questions about some elements of effective writing or about genre or about specific scenes or about problems you're having with a manuscript, you'll find lots of other people in similar situations and lots of people who can provide answers. I have to say...I have moments of fangirl giddiness when, such as on the Compuserve Books & Writers forum, I get responses from BIG authors. Still, I also get lots of valuable responses from unpublished writers and writers all along the publishing continuum. And it's fascinating to see what other writers do, how they work, what their experiences are.
- Lots of information about the process of getting into publishing, including the query process. For instance, the Absolute Write forums have one devoted to threads about different literary agencies and publishers and another (password-protected) devoted to critiquing query letters.
- Potential for feedback on your manuscripts. Keep in mind--it's not very nice to go into any situation with a, well, selfish attitude. So I wouldn't recommend anyone jump into an online writing community and immediately start asking for beta readers or editing help. These are not drop-in freebie services; they are communities where, ideally, members are there to support and assist each other. In fact, both of the communities I recommend below have standard participation/reciprocation requirements for anyone seeking feedback.
- A sense of community. You aren't alone. You don't have to flounder through some of the complexities of learning to write, polishing your manuscript until it shines, delving into the publishing industry, or promoting your writing all on your own. You'll find that there are plenty of writers willing to share their experience and wisdom with you.
Given all that, I would highly recommend two online writing communities--each for different reasons. Both are listed on my Resources for Writers tab:
Compuserve Books and Writers forum (B&W)- I first learned of this forum when I started reading Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. When I started fiction writing, I was very impressed by the warmth, supportiveness, and collective wisdom of the Forum. I also love their Writer's Exercises section, which offers a different exercise or set of exercises each month, usually led by an expert member of the Forum. For instance, one month, there was a set of character development exercises--a new exercise each day designed to help you get a deeper, stronger sense of one of your characters. I found it tremendously valuable. In my view, this is a very intimate, professional, informative, and supportive environment.
Absolute Write Water Cooler forums (AW)- I first encountered Absolute Write sometime after the B&W forum. It's very different but equally beneficial. Absolute Write has a completely different structure than B&W; it's broken down into sections like Genres (in terms of what genre you're writing), Publishing, Freelance, etc., etc. It also draws what seems like a wider, more diverse audience. B&W has members worldwide, but AW seems to draw a wider array of personalities, sometimes snarky or sardonic ones that I don't find on B&W. I find some of AW's forums, like the "Bewares, Recommendations, and Background Check" are to be a gold mine! But then, when I want responses to my actual writing, I rely on B&W forumites.
(NOTE: I'm having unusual difficulties embedding links to these two communities. You can easily find them using an online search engine, though.)
There are plenty of other fine online writing communities as well. These happened to be two I gravitated toward. And an entirely different community might be a better fit for you.
Feel free to mention others in the comments section!