Writing can be a lonely pursuit. Many of us don’t personally know any other writers in our real lives. I’ve never been one to advocate replacing your real life with a virtual one, but it can be helpful to talk to someone who understands a lot of the ups and downs of writing, publishing, promoting, etc. I’ve learned a lot from writers’ forums.
A lot of writers belong to Facebook groups, and many people connect with fellow writers that way, but so far I’ve found forums to be more productive. However, there have been some big changes lately, so I’d like to give you my recent views.
I’m a member of three different writers’ forums, and they all have different strengths and weaknesses. One thing they all have in common, though–as of this posting, registering and participating in any of the them is free.
My user name on all the forums listed below is CathleenT.
Kboards, or at least the section of it called the Writer’s Cafe, is a forum I joined fairly recently as of this posting. I’ve been a member less than a year, but in that time I learned a great deal. Kboards wasn’t a place to get feedback on actual writing, but it was a terrific source to get up-to-date info on marketing. And many of the people giving the advice were successful self-publishers making enviable incomes.
However, kboards now comes with a HUGE disadvantage, one so great that I seldom post there anymore, and when I do, it’s from a stripped-down account. I display no avatar or books in my signature, and I generally only make short contributions. That’s because kboards was sold to a corporation who changed their terms of service. I don’t see how they can claim your book covers since those are copyright-protected material, but your avatar, your writing advice, any opinion that you give on any subject–all that now belongs to the parent corporation, Vertical Scope, and they can use it as they see fit, not only on the forum, but anywhere else they like (https://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,267677.0.html). This is a recent development, and there’s been a huge exodus from the site. And for those who remain, it’s hard to know who to listen to if most people are posting from anonymous accounts, which is the only thing that’s safe to do anymore.
Absolute Write: http://absolutewrite.com/forums/forum.php
This was the first forum I joined, back in 2014. It’s a big place with a lot of subforums, so individual experiences can vary a lot, depending where you spend your time. AW has been most useful to me in the area of writing craft. It has a subforum called Share Your Work, and I’ve made a lot of excellent beta-reading friends there. Essentially, you post snippets of your work (1000-2000 words) and you’ll get some detailed, line-by-line critiques, as well as some that are more general impressions. After I joined I went on a short story writing spree that lasted for a couple of years because I flat-out needed feedback to learn how to improve. I could draft, but I had no idea how to edit. I had taken a Famous Name expensive editing course (I don’t recommend this), and I ended up only a little wiser than when I started, certainly not enough to justify the expense.
But when I began trading critiques with other writers on AW, my editing skills improved dramatically. I needed to learn to spot other people’s mistakes to realize that I was doing the same thing, and it didn’t work in my stories, either. I still need feedback to produce work of a professional standard, but my drafts are much cleaner than when I started learning about this process.
For me, editing wasn’t something that compressed well to a course, or at least one that was really just installments of an expensive ebook. It’s been more of a learn by doing skill.
Disadvantages: There’s a lot of bad feeling still circling the web about AW, much of it from kboarders and former kboarders who felt that AW was dismissive of their choice to self-publish. I wasn’t around then, but the time stamp I’ve been given was around 2010. If that’s the only reason you wouldn’t join AW, self-publishing is certainly treated as a viable alternative today. There’s a small self-publishing subforum that I post in from time-to-time.
However, the marketing information there is pretty rudimentary. It’s a good place to get starting advice, but there’s a lot more detailed info in other places.
AW also has a very liberal political slant, and I usually stay out of the political subforum. Even if your politics are liberal, that’s where most of the flame wars happen.
One final caution: if you have a problem with one of the moderators, the place to deal with it is in private, not publicly on the forum. Even in that case, though, my impression is that if you’re having trouble on a thread or subforum, it’s better to simply walk away for a while. Give yourself a break for a week or so. Chances are that you’ll feel the issue has mostly gone away by then.
Writer’s Sanctum: https://writersanctum.com/index.php
As of this posting, this forum has only started recently, since the demise of the old kboards in September of 2018. It’s populated with a lot of former kboarders, so much of the marketing knowledge may still be available, although this forum is still very much in its early days. Still the terms of service make it clear that your intellectual property is completely yours, and the only use they will make of your words is when someone on site may wish to quote you (a common forum activity).
It’s still too new to give a real assessment of strengths and weaknesses, but this is where I’d send self-publishers who need to ask questions from more experienced authors. Only time will tell if this forum has the staying power of AW or kboards.