There are dozens of online writing communities, but you want the perfect fit. Maybe you’ve tried several with no luck, or maybe you’re confident that you can create the perfect community. Maybe you simply want to give it a shot. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided it’s time to create a writing group all your own, and you’ve chosen to create it online. I’ve tried this myself a few times with varying levels of success.
The advice I’ve gathered here is by no means the be all and end all of creating an online writing community, simply advice to get the ball rolling in the right direction. Making a few key decisions right away will help you narrow your search for further guidance.
Choosing a Structure
There are a few ways to structure your online writing group. Email subscription groups tend to work well for more critique focused groups like the Critters Writers Workshop. Forum based communities such as Proboards. In my experience these websites are far easier to use than any free email subscription service, especially if you’re trying to create a large community covering many topics and genres. Besides, with an email group you still need a website to advertise your community, whereas your forum can be its own website.
Don’t forget that whatever platform you use, any work intended for publication must be posted privately. If more than 10% of a manuscript is published for free online, most publishers won’t look at it.
Creating Participation Rules
Creating a writing group means creating a variety of rules. Will you allow people to post erotica for critique? Will you focus on a specific genre? Will there be a required number of critiques per week or month in order for members to stay active? How many critiques should a writer give before they post a story? Will writers be allowed to advertise their websites and publications, and if so where?
Think hard on these questions, and revisit your rule list a couple times. Get someone else to look at it, to make sure it’s fair. Demanding a high amount of participation from every member probably isn’t your best move, but a small requirement–even just one critique per month–weeds out people who aren’t serious about writing. Erotica might be best placed on a separate forum from other critiques–and you might make a separate forum for writers to advertise their work in, too.
You can change these later if you choose to, but having some basic requirements will help you find the right people to join your online writing community.
Ideally you’ll be able to find a few people interested in helping with group moderation and website maintenance. No matter what, you’ll need people to build the community. Nobody will go to a forum where nobody already is. Five or six writers who know a handful more can make the difference between a community that dies in a few months and a community that lives on.
Start by asking writers you know if they’d be interested in joining your community. Ideally they’ll love it so much they talk about it endlessly with other people. Either way, ask them to send word of the community you’re building on to writers they know who might be interested. People are far more open to suggestions from somebody know, and word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool.
As your community grows, pay careful attention to who develops as a leader. Stay on the lookout for potential new moderators, because the bigger a community gets, the more time consuming running it becomes.
Creating a successful writing community is a challenge, whether you’re doing it locally or online. If the community thrives it can take over your entire life. The community you build will be worth the time poured into it only if its maintenance doesn’t interfere with your writing time. To be honest, the best advice I can give you is to try already existing writing groups before you start your own.