My Top 10 Tips for Making the Most of Online Writing Forums

As many of you will know, I was co-founder of the forum myWritersCircle, and responsible for its day-to-day management for nearly ten years. I’m also a regular visitor to several other writing forums.

I believe forums can be a great resource for writers, but in my experience many people don’t use them to their full potential, while others are put off by the mistaken belief that they are somehow too complicated, or even elitist.

So here are my top ten tips for writers who have yet to sample the delights of online writers’ forums, to help you get the most from them…

1. Spend a little while getting to know the forum before you start posting. Read a range of posts to gauge the level and see if you would feel comfortable there or not.

2. Read, especially, any etiquette guidelines that are provided – those for myWritersCircle can be viewed here. This will help you avoid inadvertently getting off on the wrong foot.

3. Most forums have a board for new members to introduce themselves, and this should be where you make your first post. On myWritersCircle it is called the Welcome Board. Introduce yourself here, and tell other members a bit about your writing interests and experiences.

4. Getting feedback on your writing can be one of the main benefits of joining a forum. Before you post any of your own work, however, it’s a good idea to read and comment on a few contributions from other members. Not only is this a simple courtesy, it will help you think about how best to present your own work when the time comes.

5. Don’t be too thin-skinned. Some forum members can be quite forthright in their criticisms (although personal abuse should not be expected or tolerated). Remember that, while praise is always nice, it is only through criticism of our work that we learn to improve.

6. Be careful about advertising. Forum members (and owners) can get very touchy about this. New members who see this as a great opportunity to advertise their wares are likely to get short shrift from other members. On myWritersCircle members are allowed to advertise writing-related products and services in their signature text (a small message that appears below any message they post) and once only on the forum itself. Posts promoting non-writing-related items are likely to be viewed as spam and deleted.

7. Be nice to the moderators. On most forums (including myWritersCircle) moderators are regular members who have volunteered in a public-spirited way to help keep things running smoothly. They have certain extra powers, e.g. the ability to delete or edit any post. If you need help or advice, the mods will be happy to provide it. Equally, if any members are causing disruption on the forum, they will take action to warn or, if necessary, ban them.

8. Remember that forums rely on give and take. If you want feedback on your writing, you will be more likely to get it if you also take the time to read and comment on other people’s (see also item 4, above).

9. Forums aren’t just for getting feedback, though. If you have a writing-related question, they can be great places for getting them answered by other members. Questions can cover anything from the use of grammar and punctuation to the effects of different poisons!

10. And finally, if you’re looking for writing-related jobs and opportunities, forums can be great places to look. On myWritersCircle there is a Writers Wanted board specifically for this purpose. Writers Wanted can also be used if you are looking for a collaborator or someone to interview for an article.

I hope you find the above tips helpful. And if you’re now ready to give an online writers’ forum a try, I’ll hope to see you on myWritersCircle sometime soon!

If you have any comments or questions on this post, as ever, please feel free to post them below.

Note: This is an updated version of an evergreen post that first appeared on my old blog at myWritingBlog.com in February 2010.

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