How Do I Find a Writing Community?
How to find writing groups, critique partners, cheerleaders, and people to trade information with
A reader asks:
I’m a new writer, and I’ve finished a first draft, but I don’t have any writer friends. What’s the best way to find people who’ll read my work and give me feedback and just generally cheerlead for me? How did you find your writing group?
What a great question. Community has been incredibly important to my journey as a writer — you can read about the many reasons why in an article I wrote here — and one of my strongest recommendations to new writers is that they find writer communities for themselves.
I’ll talk about how it happened for me, and I’ll add some links at the end.
I held off having an online presence as a writer until I was done with the first draft of my first book, and started looking for places to join online a bit over a year before it was first published. In retrospect, it would have benefited me to get involved in writer communities much earlier. Not only would being in critique communities have leveled my writing up enough that my drafting would have gone a lot faster, but I would have been an active part of those communities for a much longer time, with many more writer friends and connections to help me with all of the things I talk about in the link above.
Anyway, I joined about a half-dozen writing and critique communities right off the bat (which I found via Google), including Absolute Write, Scribophile, Critters, and more. Absolute Write was the only one of those that stuck. I found a community of people there I felt really in sync with, and and most of my first betas came from AW. This is also where my writing group comes from — we found we couldn’t stop talking on AW; we’d always be excited to critique each others’ work and we clicked socially as well. We moved from private messages on the forum to a group Google Doc, then to Twitter, and finally to Slack, where we still are today, the better part of a decade later.
They also haven’t been my only community, however. A few years later, I finally got active on Twitter — and this varies wildly by genre, but in SFF, Twitter has a robust writer community that is full of excellent, thoughtful conversations. I made friends there, too, and got further involved in the community.
Which is how I found out about the Codex Writers’ Group, a group for neopro writers of any genre (though it leans SFF). Codex is a private group with entrance restrictions that make it more focused, and it was perfect for my career level when I found it. I also made some more incredible friends there. And some of those friends invited me to still other private writers’ groups — mostly Slack communities, these days. Some of them died out, but some of them are still going strong. If you’re involved in community, and if people consider you a helpful and respectful person, it can keep breeding more community.
To give you an idea of where my important writer connections have come from, here is where I originally met most of them:
My writing group: Met mostly on Absolute Write
My betas: Originally met on Absolute Write, Livejournal fandom, and Codex
Agency referrals, when I hit that stage: Mostly writers I had gotten to know on Twitter
As for publishing warnings, industry gossip, market recommendations, and similar information, for me that cross-pollinates from Absolute Write, Codex, Twitter, various SFF blogs and commentators, private Slacks, and email. It’s gotten more and more weighted toward the latter channels the further my career has advanced.
I know I got really lucky to find such incredible people so soon after I started socializing online. But the good news is, there are tons and tons of writers out there looking for exactly what you are! Perhaps the hardest part in making the leap to finding those writing community connections, at least for me, was that I’m an introvert with social anxiety… but I’ve found the best solution to that is to interact in the forms and ways that are better for me and to let the rest go (e.g. Facebook, which collides badly with my brain). The most important thing is to find your groove and find your people, and then develop those relationships. Then don’t pressure yourself too hard about the rest.
And if you’re really not sure how to start interacting, start by helping! Offer to critique other people. Signal boost others’ thoughtful articles and blog posts. Talk about other authors’ books. Find people asking for feedback, and give what you can. I don’t recommend trying to keep track of it as a quid pro quo with those particular people — that’s sort of a crummy move — but helping others will naturally start building up your network and reputation in the greater community.
As you build up these connections, you can also ask where to find the type of community you’re looking for. Ask your growing group of connections where else they like to hang out and talk writing. Or ask if anyone else would be interested in joining a writing group with you, or starting an accountability or cheerleading partnership. Chances are, you’ll find takers!
One final note: my recommendation is to concentrate in particular in building relationships with people at your own career level. It’s nice to know bigger name writers, but chances are, the people who will end up being the most helpful community possible for you will be the people who are starting about where you are. As you all move up, you’ll be able to learn together and keep pulling each other up.
All right, here’s a non-exhaustive list of various writing communities that are not invite-only (though some of them do have entrance requirements):
Absolute Write — very broad multi-genre community forum with publishing talk, critique, and more
Scribophile — critique community
Critters — SFFH critique exchange run through an email list
Dream Foundry — multidisciplinary, multimedia community for people in speculative fiction (relatively new, but given the people involved I expect them to grow quickly)
Codex — multi-genre but the membership leans SFF; a “neopro” forum where you need to meet certain entrance requirements
Professional organizations such as SFWA, RWA, Novelists Inc, Sisters in Crime, Broad Universe, International Thriller Writers, etc (there are many of these groups for all different genres; some of them are demographically limited or have entrance requirements, most do cost something and are meant for non-beginners) — as many of these are professional advocacy groups, I have found the ones I’ve joined a bit less useful for the community aspect (I’ve felt similarly about most specifically self-publishing business communities I’ve tried, too), but I think others’ mileage varies
Facebook groups — I hear there are particularly active Facebook groups for self-publishing and YA
Kboards — used to be one of the main places to go for self-publishing; nowadays I hear the self-publishing communities have largely moved to Facebook (also, quick warning, at the time I was on Kboards I found the signal to noise ratio very low and a high percentage of posts I felt were misinformation or toxic, but I don’t know how it is now)
Reddit — I haven’t personally joined writing or genre subreddits, but I know writers who’ve found value there
Dreamwidth/Livejournal — a bit more quiet now than it used to be, but still has some robust communities, especially fandom-slanted ones
Fanfiction / fandom communities — there’s a LOT of overlap between fandom and writers, at least in the SFF scene; if you’re active here you can probably find partners for your original work as well
Volunteering — particularly in SFF in which conventions are important to the fandom scene, you may be able to get involved in the greater community that way, and there are also organizations like Dream Foundry that are working on behalf of writers and looking for volunteers
Conventions — speaking of conventions, going as an attendee can be a great way to meet people! SFF has tons of cons; the thriller genre has ThrillerFest in NYC; other genres likely have similar in-person opportunities
Twitter — especially active in SFF, very much not active in thriller, may vary in other genres
Classes and workshops — one of the most major benefits of workshops (such as Clarion, Odyssey, etc), according to my friends who have done them, is the lasting relationships; this also has the advantage of being a more structured approach if you’re finding it hard to make connections online
In-person writers’ groups and events — you can look to see if there’s something local to you
There are more and more communities popping up all the time, too, so see what your favorite search engine can tell you about what might be new in your genre or for writers in general!
Not everywhere you try to meet other writers will work, so don’t get discouraged if you don’t find yourself fitting in everywhere you try. Keep talking to people, and keep zeroing in on where you find folks who mesh with you. It takes time to build up solid writing communities, but in my experience it’s been well worth it.