It’s no secret: I love writing forums.
I have perused countless sites, created numerous accounts to said sites, and spent hours poring over resources.
Writing forums, like Absolute Write or even the NaNoWriMo site, can be fantastic resources, but if you want to get a lot of value out of them, it’s going to take a little work. I’m sharing a few tips on how to really utilize these forums!
How to Get the Most Out of Writing Forums
1.) Reply to Threads
After jumping in to a new site, the easiest thing to do is to scroll endlessly through various conversations, absorbing things, but never commenting. It seems like you’re getting a lot out of the experience, which you truly may be, but if you want to really get a lot out of a site, then you need to reply to existing threads.
Having to type up a coherent response to an idea, whether it be really solid advice or a debate about whether to use ‘there’ or ‘their’ (these kinds of things actually happen, shockingly), will force you to articulate your ideas. Even if your response is to a seemingly non-relevant topic, the very act of responding will force you to rethink your ideas about the topic, and overall, help you become a better writer. And that’s why we’re all in this, right?
Additionally, replying to threads can get a conversation going, which can lead to amazing connection down the road. Even if they don’t, you’ll be participating in a dialogue that could potentially spark a new revelation for you. Really, you never know what you’ll end up using in your writing, so discussion is only going to be helpful to your creativity in general.
Plus, talking to people can be fun.
2.) Ask Questions
This is probably one of the most beneficial aspects to a writing forum. Sometimes you’re stuck with how to increase your writing productivity or how to focus better while writing. Or, other times, you need some ideas for your next scene. Whatever the case is, getting feedback and answers from other people will provide a lot of clarity for you. Sometimes, you’ll get a response that you never would have thought of before, which could lead to some awesome conversations, again, deepening connections with other people. It could also help you with your writing, whether it be a particular scene, or the rest of your novel.You never know what kinds of responses you’ll get, so don’t be afraid to ask any question, even if it’s a noob question. Sometimes the easiest questions lead to the best of revelations.
3.) Answer Other People’s Questions
This option is my personal favorite. If you don’t have any pressing questions you want to present to a forum, then go off and answer some other peoples’. The benefits of this are enormous.
The major benefit is that you’ll be establishing yourself as an authority. If you contribute to enough questions with valuable advice, people will truly see you as someone who knows what they’re doing. You have the opportunity to build connections that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to make. If you have a website, leave it in your signature, and people will start trickling over there, to check out more about this expert they’ve seen around the forums.
Additionally, if you’re consistently providing a lot of value, people will be more inclined to help you. If someone does something nice for you, the instant reaction is to want to do something for them in return. It’s the whole mentality behind swapping compliments. If someone goes out of their way to tell you they like your shirt, you will immediately want to respond with “Oh, thank you, I love your pants!”. Humans are pretty nice like that. You never know what kind of bind you might find yourself in later on, and having people enthusiastically respond because you’ve helped them will garner a lot of benefits for you. It’s a win-win for both parties involved.
Finally, answering other people’s questions just makes you feel good. You can’t ignore that factor. Be a good person, and that good karma will find you later.
4.) Don’t be Afraid of Private Messaging
So, you’ve been responding to threads and interacting with people. You’re getting a lot out of your conversations. So many people are afraid of taking the next logical step, which is to take things to a more personalized conversation via direct messaging. Almost all forums have the option of messaging someone privately, so take the leap, and send a message to someone. This will allow you to carry your conversations to a deeper level, ensuring both of you are getting more value than if you were posting all of your thoughts publicly. Plus, you can get to know the person better, which can lead to future connections. Many writers have found their beta readers or writing groups from online forums, but they way to solidify relationships like these are to truly connect with people. And you can’t really have that without deepening the connection.
5.) Make Sure to Actually Interact
It can be far too easy to browse the forums for hours, without typing a single word. We’re used to scrolling mindlessly through our feeds, but you’re simply not going to get as much out of them if you’re not participating. It can be hard to break that habit, so I encourage you to set a particular goal whenever you log onto a forum. It can be anything from “I’m going to start a new thread!” or “I’m going to leave at least 5 replies before I log off”. Having small goals like this will ensure hours don’t fly by without you interacting at all. After all, you want to make sure you’re maximizing your time, and you can’t do that if you’re not trying to interact with others.
Writing forums are all about creating connections. In the end, you never know what you might get out of a connection with another person. Simply put, if you want to get a lot of value out of these online sites, you need to be interacting, whether it be through answering questions, participating in a discussion, or asking your own questions. It may take time, but you’ll be surprised by how much you learn from a writing community- but that’s only going to come if you give too.
Do you participate in any writing forums? How do you ensure you’re getting the most out of them? Are you considering joining any? Let me know!