Often people think of writers as eccentric hermits, typing away at their desks on their great masterpieces in quiet solitude. And that’s pretty accurate, some days (minus the great masterpieces bit and plus a collection of half-empty coffee mugs, chocolate, and other brain food).
But writing isn’t a solitary profession. Writers need other people at every stage of the process. They need cheerleaders who will encourage them (no matter how awful that first draft might be). They need other authors to critique their work and help them brainstorm and improve their writing. They need editors to bring out the best in their work and they need readers to buy (and fangirl!) over their books.
The question is, how do you find these invaluable people to help you in your journey?
Writers conferences are a great way to connect with other authors, editors, and publishers, but they can be expensive and are usually an annual event at most. Local writing groups can be helpful, but unless you live in a well-populated area, it may be difficult to find groups that include authors writing in your genre (especially if you’re a speculative fiction writer living in the Midwest, like me).
One solution I’ve found is to use social media hashtags to connect with other authors through writing challenges, prompts, and online book events.
Probably the most popular hashtag for authors is the #amwriting hashtag, used by authors all over the world to post on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook about their writing journey. #amediting is another useful hashtag for that stage in the process and #amreading tells your readers what’s on your bookshelf.
You can also use writing hashtags to find other authors in your chosen genre (#romancewriter #scifichat #YA #flashfic) or of a similar mindset (#acfw #RWA). Using these hashtags has the added benefit of giving new readers a way to find you as well.
But I’ve found the most helpful hashtags to connect to other writers are the writing challenge hashtags.
Some are set up on a monthly format, like #authorlifemonth or #WIPjoy where there’s a pre-determined question for each day that authors can answer about their writing projects. A quick search of the hashtag reveals everyone’s answers across the cyberverse and gives an opportunity to ask questions about other authors’ work and see what they’re working on. Others are weekly challenges, like #1linewednesday (post a line from your WIP, aka Work-In-Progress) or #2bitTues. The most well-known monthly challenge is #NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November, when a collection of crazies try to write 50K words in 30 days!
Other useful hashtags are #FF (Friday follow), which authors use to suggest to their followers other people they might like to follow; #writingtips, which is pretty much what it sounds like; and #askagent #askeditor and #askauthor, which gives you an opportunity to pick the brains of some of the most prominent names in the industry!
Social media can be a bit intimidating if you’re just starting out. Figuring out the technology is hard enough without sorting through the maze of hashtags, lists, and posts. But participating in online writing communities can be incredibly rewarding as well.
Don’t just write off online communities because there’s a learning curve or you don’t understand how they work. Challenge yourself. The friends you make and the feedback you receive will leave you, and your writing, much richer for the experience.