It’s hard to even remember a time before social media. When I was starting my writing journey in 2004, Facebook was something for Ivy League students to network and find dates. MySpace was the place musicians hung out. For the most part, writers created virtual havens in online communities and blogged on Live Journal.
My first virtual community was a poetry side called Wild Poetry Forum, where I started as a member and in time, became a moderator. It was more than a place to post poetry and receive critique – it became a refuge, a water cooler, a tight community bound by a love of language and respect for the work of writing. There are people I encountered there who I consider dear and close friends, some of whom I’ve been fortunate enough to meet in real life, others only on the digital page.
When I began to write more and more prose and less poetry, I discovered Forward Motion for Writers and forged my first online critique group there. My first novel (now safely trunked) was written over the course of a full year, between 2004 and 2005 and I subjected that poor writing group to every chapter of a long and muddled high fantasy story. It was there, in that group, where I learned the basics of novel-craft. I was an active participant at FM for many years and I am still in contact with many of those wonderful folks.
As I moved from aspiring writer to writer querying agents, I discovered Absolute Write and found the forums an invaluable resource in navigating the publishing world.
And when a few years later, already firmly embarked on my journey into self-publishing, I discovered Google Plus. It had an interesting and diverse group of techies, artists, and writers and through the plus, I found an amazing community. (A special shout out to John Ward and the community he founded there: The Writers’ Discussion Group.)
All the folks of The Scriptors are writers I met through Google Plus. More than a social network, this has been the place where my creative family lives. Writing can be (and needs to be, at least in part) such a solitary life. But that is both a blessing and a curse. Even with supportive friends and family, it’s hard to explain that you’ve spent the last ten hours staring at and rearranging a handful of sentences. Or that you had to delete thousands of words that just weren’t right, didn’t work, and ground the story to a halt. Or why a gracious review brings you to tears. And so does a vicious one.
A first draft can take months or years to get right. Well meaning friends want to know if you’re finished with that book yet and when will it finally be published. Your writing family will cheer you on every day you meet your wordcount goal, and commiserate when you do not. They will beta read and give you the hard, true feedback you need. They will boost signals and buoy spirits when your sales line on Amazon falls flat. Your writing family will push you to be your best and celebrate each baby step along that journey.
Say what you will about the distractions of the digital age and the impersonal world of the internet. I am grateful for the friendships and connections I have been able to make with such a wonderful group of talented, gracious, and generous creative folk. Truly, I get by with a little help from my friends.