• Sofia Sawyer

Why the Online Writing Community Matters

Five years ago, I launched my website and created my writing-focused Facebook and Twitter accounts. Although I was excited to start on that journey, they more or less sat dormant during that time. Life gets busy, and sometimes it’s hard to juggle all the non-writing aspects of being a writer. Or, if you’re someone like me who also manages social media for work, you can get pretty burnt out on it.


Talk about social overload.


It wasn’t until this past fall that I made a commitment to my writing brand. I’ve been writing for what feels like forever, but this last year I took a hard look at what I was doing. I love writing. I love creating stories. And I wanted to improve my craft so I could one day publish (traditional, self-pub, or hybrid). I spent a lot of time in 2018 working on how I wrote, my process, and taking courses on writing. But, as many writers know, it can be a lonely hobby/profession. For the most part, it’s just you and your manuscript. And those quiet moments can quickly be filled with things like self-doubt, burn out, and/or generally wondering if it’s all worth it.


I knew that to be a successful author, I had to put myself out there and connect with others. It wasn’t until the fall of last year that I upped the ante, and I quickly saw how much I was missing out on. When I joined the Romance Writers of America (RWA) community in October, I realized there were opportunities to pull myself out of the silo. I soon joined the Contemporary RWA group, which is all online-based, and discovered an active and supportive writing community!


Of course, I always knew it was there. Twitter had made sure of it. But sometimes Twitter felt like screaming into a void. When I joined the Contemporary RWA Facebook group, it opened my eyes to online platforms and communities that worked better for me. Twitter still has its purpose, but I found other ways to connect with writers in a more meaningful way.


Writing Community Platforms


There are a ton out there, so it’s about finding ones that make the most sense for you. Depending on your genre or communication style, you may see one platform works better for you than another. Or, if you don’t have a ton of time/patience to put into managing the endless online communities, consider focusing solely on one or two. Here are some of the ones I’m on and why they do or do not work for me.


Twitter


I joined Twitter in 2014. I was light on activity those first few years and only became more active in the last year or so. For me, Twitter is not my top source for connecting with people. As I said, it feels like you’re talking to yourself sometimes. The best way I use it is to respond to other writers’ posts (aka reaching out and engaging), research (I used this to look up successful pitches for KissPitch), contests, and staying up-to-date on community news.


Facebook


Facebook is another platform I started in 2014 but didn’t really focus on until late 2018. I have an author page, which only gained a little bit of traction recently due to small ad campaigns. However, the real benefit of Facebook is the online groups. This is where I communicate with the Contemporary RWA group. I also joined similar groups like Fiction Writers Global, All the Kissing, and Scribblers (I love their boxes).


I found Facebook to be more beneficial because it’s more organized (at least it seem like that for the way my brain works). You can search threads, and it’s easier to follow than something like Twitter. Facebook has been extremely helpful when I had questions or when I needed to learn something new. There’s a lot of quality information and people who are willing to offer up advice.


Instagram


I started Instagram last fall, and I wish I had sooner. Instagram is generally a top platform for engagement, and I’ve seen that personally. I was able to organically grow my following so fast on Instagram thanks to things like Author Follow Loops. I also discovered new books and events and connected with people on a more personal level. Sure, this platform is a great way to promote your work to readers, but it’s also an excellent opportunity to find your “writing tribe.”


Other honorable mentions: Tumblr, Camp NaNoWriMo, the RWA forums, Wattpad, and online workshops.


Why it’s Important


These last few months have been eye-opening for me. I’ve started to build a solid author brand while simultaneously improving my craft and building relationships. Here are notable things that resonated most with me since getting more involved in the writing community.


Recommendations/Advice


As I mentioned, I’ve connected with others on a deeper level. For example, I saw a post from Rachael Bloome’s website and sent her a message with some questions. She immediately responded, giving me insight into tools like Book Funnel, her process, and recommendations for editors. She’s super sweet and encouraging!


Heather Grace Stewart is another wonderful author who gave me solid advertising advice recently. She posts author tip videos on Instagram, so I asked for more details about her advertising strategy. A day or two later, she posted a video specifically addressing my questions. Not only was it helpful, but she was super candid and honest in her response. It wasn’t fluff or vague. She shared real examples of what she’s done, which was valuable.


Learning and Development


Aside from all the social media accounts that share things like writing tips (which are VERY helpful), I also learn about new online courses, helpful blog posts, author resources, conferences, and more.


For example, I saw a ton of people posting about Jessica Brody’s Save the Cat! Writes a Novel book. I’ve done Jessica’s courses on Udemy in the past, so I already knew she had solid writing insights. But after seeing so many people posting about it, I decided to get a copy. I’m glad that I did! My brain damn near exploded as I went through her beat sheets and genres. I plan on using this method during my plotting process going forward.


Agent and Publisher Visibility


In January, I read about Twitter pitch contests. I never heard of them before, so I did some digging and learned that it was a way to pitch your book via Twitter. During this pitch contest, agents and/or publishers will read the pitches and like tweets for manuscripts they want to know more about.


In February, I tried my first pitch contest called KissPitch, a contest specifically for romance writers. I looked at tweets from the previous year to get a better understanding of which pitch styles did best and worked to craft mine similarly. I wasn’t expecting much since it was my first time, but I was pleasantly surprised that a handful of agents were interested in my manuscript! Had I not participated, I may not have had those opportunities.


Also, it forced me to really think about my pitch. I know I struggle when talking about my stories in a quick, concise way, so this contest made me work on that.


Encouragement


It’s really easy to get in your head as a writer. For me, the self-doubt is probably one of the harder challenges to overcome. I’m a very critical person and always expect more of myself. When it’s just you, it’s easy to pick yourself apart. And it’s easy to spiral when you’re comparing your work to already finished books.

The writing community has shown me there are so many supportive people out there who want to connect and celebrate you. Karrie Barnum is one author who sticks out to me. She’s the type of person who wants to elevate other authors by reading and/or promoting their work, or by simply commenting on a post with a few kind words. She’s very genuine.


For the most part, it seems like the majority of the writing community is like that. It’s a very “we’re it together” kind of vibe. Of course, there are always a few not-so-great people (it’s the internet, so it’s expected), but, in general, I believe the writing community might be the most positive, kind, and supportive virtual people I’ve met. And I’ve “met” a lot, thanks to all the social media I do for work!


Writers, do yourself a favor and get involved. In these few short months, I’ve gained so much from engaging in the writing community. I’ve learned. I’ve grown. I’ve boosted my confidence. And I’ve discovered a lot of awesome books and authors in the process.


Figure out what you want to get out of it and how you like to communicate and go from there. You’ll find the right platform for you based on that. All you need to do is get involved and keep at it!

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