Saturday, 7 May 2011

How to Make the Most of Online Writing Forums

by Nick Daws

I'm a great believer in writing forums. That's why I started my own.

Well, sort of. I run the forum myWritersCircle in partnership with my publishers, The WCCL Network (who actually own it). I'm also a regular visitor to several other writing forums, including those at Absolute Write and WriteLink.

In my experience, people are sometimes put off forums - also known as message boards - by the belief that they are too technical, unfriendly, or even elitist. And to be fair, some forums are not places for the faint-hearted, with certain individuals waiting to leap down the throat of any newcomer who strays outside the forum's myriad rules.

MyWritersCircle isn't like that, I hope (and believe). We have built up a reputation as the web's friendliest writing forum, reflected in the fact that we now have a total world-wide membership of over 34,000. We have guidelines, of course, to help everything run smoothly, but we aim to keep rules to a minimum and apply them with sensitivity. I must also pay tribute to my team of volunteer moderators, who do a great job of keeping things upbeat and constructive when - as occasionally happens on any forum - negativity threatens to erupt.

There are many good reasons for joining a writing forum. Here are just a few of the potential benefits you can expect to enjoy...

  • get feedback on your writing
  • ask (and answer) questions about writing
  • request help with your research
  • find collaborators or interviewees
  • discover new writers' markets
  • recruit beta readers for your book or novel
  • publicize yourself and your books (within whatever limits are prescribed by the forum)
  • in many cases (including MWC) enter writing challenges and contests, some with prizes
  • or just shoot the breeze with your fellow authors

For all these reasons, forums can be of great value to writers - and most (including MWC) are free to join. In my experience, however, many people don't use them to their full potential. So here are my top ten tips for writers who are new to writing forums, to help you get the most from them...

1. Spend a little while getting to know the forum before you start posting. Read a range of posts to gauge the level and see if you would feel comfortable there or not.

2. Read, especially, any etiquette guidelines that are provided - those for myWritersCircle can be viewed here. This will help you avoid inadvertently getting off on the wrong foot.

3. Most forums have a board for new members to introduce themselves, and this should be where you make your first post. On myWritersCircle we call it the Welcome Board. Introduce yourself here, and tell other members a bit about your writing interests and experiences.

4. Getting feedback on your writing can be one of the main benefits of joining a forum. Before you post any of your own work, however, it's a good idea to read and comment on a few contributions from other members. Not only is this a simple courtesy, it will help you think about how best to present your own work when the time comes.

5. Don't be too thin-skinned. Some forum members can be quite forthright in their criticisms (although personal abuse should not be expected or tolerated). Remember that, while praise is always nice, it is only through criticism of our work that we learn to improve.

6. Be careful about advertising. Forum members (and owners) can get very touchy about this. New members who join solely to pimp their wares are likely to get short shrift from other members. On myWritersCircle we allow members to advertise writing-related products and services in their signature text (a small message that appears below any message they post) and once only on the forum itself. Posts promoting non-writing-related items are likely to be viewed as spam and summarily deleted.

7. Be nice to the moderators. On most forums (including myWritersCircle) moderators are regular members who have volunteered in a public-spirited way to help keep things running smoothly. They have certain extra powers, e.g. the ability to delete or edit any post. If you need help or advice, the mods will be happy to provide it. Equally, if any members are causing disruption on the forum, they will take action to warn or, if necessary, ban them.

8. Remember that forums rely on give and take. If you want feedback on your writing, you will be more likely to get it if you also take the time to read and comment on other people's (see also item 4, above).

9. Forums aren't just for getting feedback, though. If you have a writing-related question, they can be great places for getting them answered by other members. Questions can cover anything from the use of grammar and punctuation to the effects of different poisons!

10. And finally, if you're looking for writing-related jobs and opportunities, most forums also have a section for this. On myWritersCircle we have a Writers Wanted board. Writers Wanted can also be used if you are looking for a collaborator or someone to interview for an article.

I hope you find the above tips helpful. And if you're now ready to give an online writing forum a try, I'd be delighted to welcome you to myWritersCircle any time soon!

Byline: Nick Daws is a professional freelance writer, editor and writing teacher. Apart from running the myWritersCircle forum, he is the author of over 100 non-fiction books, as well as numerous published articles, short stories, distance learning courses, and so on. His new electronic guide to writing for the Amazon Kindle, titled Kindle Kash, will be published later this month. Check out his blog at www.mywritingblog.com and his homepage at www.nickdaws.co.uk for more information!

4 comments:

  1. Thank you very much for posting my article - I'll hope to see lots of Words With Jam readers joining myWritersCircle soon!

    Just wanted to mention that if you visit http://www.nickdaws.co.uk/kkash.htm, you can sign up to be notified when my new course, Kindle Kash, is released. There will also be exclusive special offers for anyone ordering via my web page.

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  2. Great article, thank you. It's your fault that I've just registered at myWritersCircle!

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  3. Great article ! I just read it and really got great idea of making online writing forums impressive. Thank you for writing. Cheers !
    forum widget

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