How to Build A Writing Community
Around Your Platform
There are two important aspects to writing that are becoming more and more evident across the board: platform and community. In this resource, I want to address the importance of community and share some insights I’ve gleaned while building one!
FOREWORD: Do Writers Really Need Community?
The short answer, in my experience, is a resounding YES. Even for introverted writers! The benefits of the writing community are twofold: one is an increased ability to network through cross-promotion, mutual giveaways, hashtag games, social media marketing support, etc. The other is relationship, friendship, understanding, and emotional and mental support through every stage of the writing process.
The Networking Aspect:
I touched on this a bit in "How to Build Your Author Platform". There is huge mutual benefit to writers sticking together and supporting one another. I mentioned some of the don’ts with approaching fellow authors on social media; in this segment I want to focus much more on the positive side. Here are just a couple things writers can “do together” that I have found personally helpful with increasing visibility and cultivating a community spirit:
These fun, interactive community games are an awesome way to get to know other writers and their projects! You’ll find them run by traditional and indie authors as well as by NaNoWriMo, and usually Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube each have their own sets of monthly tags (sometimes they cross over to other platforms as well). You can find handles for a few of my favorite hashtag sponsors and the monthly games I try to consistently join under the resources tab on my website.
Whether it’s book tours, team-up giveaways, or just seeing your favorite authors posting about each other’s work, there is something deeply encouraging about writers getting the word out there for each other. Personal recommendations and word-of-mouth are a big deal for authors, because nothing beats hearing that someone loved a story and they think you should read it, too!
Despite the odds that come with the traditional publishing arena, writing isn’t a competition— there is plenty of room for everyone to tell their stories. Being willing to share and celebrate the successes of others goes a long way toward building network connectivity and even opening doors of opportunity where you may be asked to review books, join someone’s street team, beta read, etc.
Giveaways are also a huge part of networking for authors!
As a host, they allow you to connect with readers on a deeper level, spread notoriety through merchandise, and if done right, reach a broader audience via tagging and following for entries.
As a participant, it’s a chance to show authors your deep interest in their book and to bring your social media connections into their sphere to become potential fans as well. This is a mutually-beneficial event, which is what social networking really has to be in order to thrive: two-sided and impactful to both (and all) parties!
The Communal Aspect:
Social media is becoming a bigger and bigger part of author life, whether indie or traditionally published. But when you step back from the marketing, promotion, giveaways, etc., you still have books to write, these stories to tell—and sell—and we all know the unique challenges that come with the actual writing process itself, nevermind the networking side of it! Writing can often feel like a very solitary venture, but there are times when drafting completely in solitude is to our detriment. We need people we trust with whom we can share the hard part of the drafting/editing journey, or else the echo chamber becomes unbearably loud. In my personal experience, having now joined three separate writing groups, here are just a few of the benefits to having a community to lean on and plug into:
When you run into a snag figuring out a story, there is some special relief in having a writer—or in my case, a group of six!—to whom you can reach out with a cry for HELP! We are always so close to our own story, always in the thick of it, and sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees. Whether it’s listening while we rant our way to clarity or actually offering the “ah-hah!” solution we’ve been looking for, the support of other writers become indispensable during tough times of figuring out plot holes and roadblocks, or on days where we feel stuck, hopeless, and burned out.
Along the same lines, there is no feeling quite like helping a fellow writer out of a tight spot. This mutual giving and investment in one another’s heart-work forges an intimacy of friendship like none I have ever experienced before.
As you develop relationship and community with the writers around you, you’ll start to get a feeling for whose insight helps the most and who you can trust your story with (which is really who you entrust your heart and soul to). When the time comes for your story to be critiqued and beta-read, the foundation you’ve built among these friends may open doors to a trusted beta or critique partner who will help you polish your draft. This is a wonderful middle-ground between being your own and only critic/editor, and the nail-biting unease of sending your story off to professional editor who has the critical skills for the job but no connection to the story or the heart you had to tell it in the first place.
By the same token, becoming someone’s trusted beta-reader/critique partner allows you to give them the help they need to make their story everything they want it to be. Every writer wants the absolute best for their book “baby” and to be able to help them achieve that end goal is a great privilege and responsibility that helps us grow in our critical thinking, compassion, and balance in praise and constructive criticism.
A Listening Ear
One of the absolute greatest parts of a healthy writing community, no matter how large or small, is full-sharing. To have our voices heard in our highs and lows, to be both celebrated and mourned, to receive constructive criticism and praise where it’s due is so valuable to every writer. Non-writers can offer all these things—and for a long time in my life, that was all I had— but to share triumphs and struggles with other writers who truly understand the process is beyond words. It’s everything.
Ideas comes and go, and there’s no predicting where the stories you write will take you; but the relationships you build on respect, sharing, commiseration, encouragement, love, listening, and equal parts giving and receiving can last through all the ups and downs of writing, editing, publication, and beyond.
Truly, they can last a lifetime.
A Few Tips for Building Community
Whether you’re introverted or extroverted, there comes a point where community is essential to the writing process. You can’t sell books to an empty room, and throwing a published book onto Amazon and hoping people buy it will usually not have good results (trust me—I’ve tried that!). For your benefit and for the benefit of others, you will need connection and community. Here are a few tips for building them:
1. The biggest thing about building friendships in the writing community is that it has to happen organically. People can often sense when they’re being used—like if someone is trying to build a connection just to say “So-and-so, this big-name author, is my friend”— so trying to force a friendship with an author simply out of admiration for them usually backfires. Keep your interactions with everyone genuine and authentic.
2. Try to connect with at least some writers with whom you share something in common, whether it’s positive (same favorite genre, same favorite book, same publishing goals) or a struggle (both suffer from social anxiety, both uncertain about publication future, both in the hardest parts of editing). Community often starts when you can look at someone and say, “I get you.” This has been my experience many times on both Instagram and Twitter, my primary platforms: relationships started with people in situations or with interests that made me shout, “Me, too!” Look around you at the people in your sphere who you have something in common with, and start to get to know them from there.
3. Hone your encouragement. Speak positively of both your work and others’. We all have things we dislike about our writing and probably things we’d change even about our favorite books! But if we lead off with that negativity, we downsell our own story that we put so much effort into, and we push others away by focusing out their flaws rather than their strengths. In building community, it’s always best to be supportive and encouraging—to lead with your best foot forward.
4. Remember that the people you want to build connections with are only human, too! I can’t count the number of authors I shyly reached out to, apologizing for my social awkwardness, only to learn that they felt awkward about how to connect to others, too! We are all out there trying to build connection, community, support, and friendship. We are all going to stumble through it a little bit (or in my case, a lot). That’s okay! You are in good company, and you don’t have to be perfect to belong.
5. Make use of the tools at your disposal: hashtag games, giveaways, Q&As, when you see someone asking for help or advice and you can speak up—just do it! If you’re familiar with NaNoWriMo, try out their Camps in April and August; the cabins cultivate a community spirit, which is where I met my six closest writing friends with whom I have full sharing of all things writing now. If you find an author doing a live write-in on YouTube or Instagram, consider hopping online. Every good relationship starts with “hello.” Seize the first chance to say HI! and see what comes from it!
6. Mind your platform! Once you’ve built good parameters and boundaries with your accessibility, brand, consistency, etc., take a look at who’s coming around. Who’s liking your stuff, who’s commenting? Then engage, comment back, build friendships among those who are invested. Beautiful friendships often grow when we take the time to look around at the people who are always there because that’s where they want to be. Because they have a vested interest. Because they care. If you’ve been helped at any point by this two-part series, consider recommending my newsletter to a friend! There will be lots of juicy content like this in the future, and I can’t wait to share it with all of you! Love and blessings always!