Forum Trap

One way or another I’m determined for this blog to serve a useful purpose. If I’m gifted enough (I already know I’m determined enough) to actually find my way to being published, then my blog will hopefully be educational and serve as an inspiration for the aspiring writers who may find their way here. Much like the blogs I have embraced. And if I never reach that pinnacle, it can still serve as a roadmap for how to get there, just drawn by someone who couldn’t drive.

Today I want to discuss the topic of writer’s forums. What purpose do they serve? First and foremost, they offer a medium to have your writing critiqued. Whether you’ve written your first short story, or finalized the first draft of your 10th novel, everybody needs to use a sounding board to see where they stand at some point. For me, I sought out the forums so I could have someone other than a family member or friends give me opinions about my writing. A lot of writers don’t have enough people around them to offer the kind of no-nonsense, unemotional assessment of their work, so they turn to the on-line forums. But these forums offer much more than just critiquing. They are a great source of information about all kinds of topics in the publishing world, and a social community full of like-minded individuals.

There’s a multitude of forums on the internet, some good, some bad, and some exceptional. The thing is they are different for each person who visits and you really need to shop around until you find one that you feel comfortable in. The social dynamic you find in these forums are all the same. You’ll have the members who contribute frequently and always seem to be on-line. These are usually designated as moderators and ensure that all members follow the forums guidelines (no flaming). Then there are the veterans who have been a part of the forum a long time and really are its backbone. They are the ones that offer the most useful critiques (along with the moderators) and can seriously help shape your writing if you listen to their comments. Finally there are the newbies. Visitors in that group come and go often. Writers with thin skin who don’t respond well to honest opinions don’t stick around very long.

The manner in which the forums operate is also similar, but each forum has its own guidelines and rules for critiquing. One universal aspect is that in order to have your writing critiqued, you must offer criticism of other writers work first. Some sites have rules in-place like - for every five critiques you write, you’re allowed to submit one piece of your own work for review. Other sites are less strict. Regardless of the rules, the more useful input you give, the more you get. Reading a chapter and leaving a comment that simply says “I liked this” doesn’t cut it. And for me, there’s the rub. I’ll explain in a minute.

All of these writing forums are sub-divided by genre, and by far the most active boards are the ones in the Sci-fi/Fantasy category. Second most active is the Romance forums. The Mystery/Thriller groups (the genre I write in) see very little activity. Don’t ask me why, that’s just been my experience on these forums. There is a lot of crossover though, so while I was a member of these forums I received a lot of valuable input from Sci-Fi / Fantasy writers. The problem was that in the give & take world of these forums, I was reading and critiquing a lot of material that I was only moderately interested in. Pretty soon I realized I was devoting so much time to these forums, and reading stories I wouldn’t normally read, that it was distracting me from learning my craft. As a result I was posting material for review that was sub-standard and I knew I could do better. I decided to back away from the forums all-together and just concentrate on improving my own work.

For those of you who are looking for a forum to fill your needs, here are a few suggestions:

Writers Digest
http://forum.writersdigest.com/category-view.asp?catlock=1

Absolute Write
http://absolutewrite.com/forums/index.php

Writers Beat
http://www.writersbeat.com/

Writing Forums
http://www.writingforums.org/index.php

The Writer Magazine
http://cs.writermag.com/forums/default.aspx?ForumGroupID=4

Be forewarned though, these can become addicting. In most of these forums I go by the tag of IMPOSTER, so if you see a post by me make sure you say hi. Someday soon I’ll return to them and pick up where I left off, but not quite yet.

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