Writing is and has always been a solitary endeavor. Still, any accomplished or novice writer will tell you that a writing community is just as important as their keyboard or notebook. If that feels like a bit of a contradiction, you’re right.
We write alone, but what we write is for a broader audience. And unless you’re either a) a literary genius or b) extremely lucky, you won’t be able to transition from solitary creation to popular adoption without an intermediary step. That step is your writing community.
Why Writing Groups Matter
Because we are social animals. Plain and simple. Even the most introverted among us need some interaction. And for writers, this becomes doubly important.
We don’t just need to socialize because it’s good for our psyche; we also need the advice, encouragement, and criticism of other writers. Authors, who may seem like some of the least social creators, need a community as much or more than anyone.
Thankfully, we have more options and opportunities to connect than ever before. Online writing communities are incredibly well suited to authors who need connections but don’t want to (or can’t) participate in writing groups in-person.
1. NaNoWriMo Forums
NaNoWriMo (the official name for National Novel Writing Month) has long been an annual challenge for me. Basically, authors commit to writing 50,000 words (about the length of a short novel) in the month of November. For anyone that writes regularly, this is both ambitious and exciting.
But what about the other eleven months? Over the years, the staff at NaNoWriMo have spun out the idea, with numerous ‘Camps’ during the year to help keep the inspiration flowing. Their writing forums are some of the best on the web for authors. From simply chatting in the Coffee House to finding genre-specific advice, NaNo’s forums are rich with authors like you.
Who It’s For: Authors at all levels, but specifically great for authors in the first/second draft stage.
The Chronicles is another writing forum, this time focusing specifically on science fiction and fantasy genres. If that’s you, then you’ll probably find something to love on the Chronicles!
In contrast to the NaNo forums, the Chronicles is not as active a community. You’ll notice threads have new posts and comments, but not a lot of them. So, if you’re looking for a bustling place, the Chronicle may not be for you. But if you want something highly specialized, focusing on sci-fi and fantasy, you’ll find good advice, good conversation, and lots of classic author spotlights.
Who It’s For: Science Fiction and Fantasy authors who want to connect and find inspiration.
3. Critique Circle
Don’t let the drab layout and colors of the Critique Circle fool you. The CC is a very active community, featuring both a user forum and a peer-to-peer critique section. They also offer some really nice free resources—from listing useful websites to guides on using metaphor, magic systems, and character development.
I’ve never used the critique functions from Critique Circle (I’ll talk about one I have used later), but the idea is one of the most useful I’ve found to date for writers. If you’ve ever participated in a writer’s workshop (and if not, you should!) you’ll be familiar with the form. Basically, you post some work you’ve done, usually within a word count limit. Other authors read it and chime in with thoughts, criticisms, and encouragement.
Who It’s For: Serious authors looking for valuable critiques and resources.
Underlined, it must be noted immediately, is part of Penguin Random House. I hesitated to even add them for that reason alone. But after spending some time checking out the site, I would be remiss not to mention Underlined.
That out of the way, I really like Underlined. It’s more of an aggregated set of user-generated blogs than a forum, so it differs from the other communities I’ve mentioned. The upside of this is that there are a lot of active members and with the backing of PRH, the site is well designed and easy to navigate.
I suggest thinking about Underlined like a mini-Medium; rich with content to read and discuss with a focus on reading, creating, and creative lifestyles.
Who It’s For: Readers and writers who want to learn and connect over long-form content.
Another amazing writing hub, Writing.com is part forum, part resource center, and part industry news site. They really do it all when it comes to fostering an online community for authors.
The forums are very active and they host a number of really great prompts (which is one of my favorite ways to overcome writer’s block). With so much content, Writing.com offers fiction and nonfiction writers lots of resources and opportunities to connect. The Shameless Plug Page is also really cool, giving authors a space to share their work with like-minded and interested readers.
Who It’s For: Anyone looking for feedback, writing tips, and connections with other authors.
Reddit is a massive forum community, hosting groups that focus on literally everything and anything. Their main writing forum, r/writing, is a writing forum for beginners and veterans. If you’re looking for a space with a lot (1 million-plus) members, Reddit’s writing thread is for you.
It’s also a bit more open to ‘off-topic’ content like industry news, book promotions, and general writing-related content.
Still, if you’re into creative writing and want to stay in the loop or just chat with other’s who are likewise interested, Reddit is a wonderful place to pass some time.
Who It’s For: Authors who want to connect with other authors on a variety of levels.
I saved the best for last! I really like Scribophile. The site has two primary offerings; writing critiques and general author forums. While Scribophile does many of the same things Critique Circle does, I’ve found the users to be more responsive and the site just easier to navigate.
You can offer and ask for critiques, giving authors feedback and having your own work looked over. Again, we have that writing workshop feeling, but with a bit more emphasis on being a cheerful and positive community. I’ve personally used Scribophile to give and receive critiques and I’ve never been disappointed.
Who It’s For: Serious and novice authors looking to improve and connect.
Building Your Writing Skills
There’s a lot that goes into writing. And there are a lot of writing groups to support every aspect of the process. I didn’t even touch on social media (unless you count Reddit), but Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all have active writer groups you could join. I personally like to shy away from crossing over my writing and social media for fear of distraction. Keep the social media for the marketing step, I say.
So there are my favorite creative writing communities. Where do you like to hang out online? Let me know in the comments below!
Paul is the Senior Copywriter at Lulu, writing weekly blog posts and helping guide content for the company’s marketing. When he’s not deeply entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person, but considers himself cat tolerant.