The Surprising Tool For Becoming a Better Author

writing craft

Post written by guest writer S. A. Crow. This post is the first of a two-part series focusing on writing communities.

It’s October 2020 and I’m sitting at my computer in North Texas. We've all been in quarantine for months. I’ve signed up to take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the third time. Not only is it a terrible year for the world at large, but I’ve also decided to rewrite the script that got away. When I was in my 20s, about twenty years ago now, I wrote an urban fantasy mystery that I lost when the only copy I had disappeared during a move. My comfort zone for writing is romantic suspense, so figuring out how to plot a mystery and build an immersive world is freaking me out. I’ve been searching the NaNoWriMo community sections, but I’m not finding the help I need. So I move over to the free source of knowledge that is YouTube. I found other authors there who are also preparing for NaNoWriMo and learned that they call it Preptober.

One of the YouTube authors had a Facebook group for writers. I happily joined and found a lovely group of fellow authors. Among the group's members are traditional and indie authors, as well as aspiring authors from around the world. In a group like this, you can ask tons of questions about the craft, the publishing process, and how to take part in writing sprints. Being part of a group of writers preparing to take on fifty thousand words in the thirty-day challenge that is NaNoWriMo was empowering and so rewarding. It didn't matter to anyone what my ethnicity, sexuality, experience level, or project topic was. That year, I won NaNoWriMo. The right community helped me with issues I had and encouraged me to share my success.

A group of writers can inspire you so much. You might wonder how to go about finding a writing community that’s right for you. There are, of course, multiple paths to find a group. The following are some questions to consider:

  • What do you need from a writing group?
  • What would you like to feel about the group at large?
  • How big of a group do you want to be a part of?
  • Do you want to join a group that meets physically? Digitally?
  • Do you wish to learn from traditionally published authors? Indie authors? Or both?
  • Do you want a group that is genre-focused?
  • Do you crave to be safe and comfortable being yourself among peers?
  • Do you want to be engaged with events and contests?

After you consider what you want from a writing community, it’s time to search for your home. Unlike a physical home, you can live in multiple writing communities. But where do you start? For finding virtual writing communities, keywords are your friend. Start a search for “writing communities” and add other keywords from your answers to the questions above. Visit YouTube, TikTok, Twitch, and IGTV to find authors and watch their content. Some of them will advertise their own communities.

Another idea is to take part in writing sprints on YouTube. Search “live writing sprints” and you will find quite a few available. The authors who host these sprints are often members of a community and will share information about the community in their videos. Try them out and look for a good fit. Ask group moderators and members questions. Don’t just pick one group; try out as many as you're comfortable with.

Locating potential homes is all well and good, but how can you know if a home will help you grow into a better writer? Will being part of it help take you to the next level? A great writing community will offer support and knowledge. A community should want to see you succeed and help where they can. Not everyone will have the answers to all of your questions, but if they don’t have the answers, they should try to help you find them.

Besides considering what a community can contribute to your own growth as a writer, you should also think about what you can contribute. It’s important to do your part for the community too. Don't forget that everyone has a life outside the group, so be patient and understanding when communicating and waiting for answers to your questions and requests. Talk to the moderators or host and inform them of any problems you may be having. They want to make their group a welcoming and safe space. Be there for newcomers and act as part of the welcome committee. Maybe see if you can become a moderator or a volunteer for events. Teaching other group members what you’ve learned helps build confidence in your work.

Diverse writing groups are essential to the success of all writers. Why would it be important to include a space for diverse writers? These authors are often the most marginalized by the publishing world for no other reason than society's prejudice. Making a space for LGBTQ+ authors, authors of color, and female authors in your communities increases everyone’s knowledge base and writing. These authors help everyone understand a broader world of stories that many people may never encounter without being in community with these diverse authors. We all want to write better stories and characters. Being more inclusive is the key to achieving that goal.

Everyone should feel accepted and encouraged to be themselves. A good writing community should give you an opportunity to grow as a writer and professional. Find your writing communities today. You'll be glad you did.

In the next post, I'll discuss how a writing community can help authors improve their writing, marketing, networking, and inspiration.

Note from Katie and Andrew: We run a writing community! Join us!

S. A. Crow is an LGBTQ+ author, writing coach, poet, and Indie author living in Arlington, TX with her lovely partner and two odd dogs. If she isn't writing, she's reading a good book. Age is just a level of experience, play to the end. Book 2 of The Fire Series is due out Spring of 2022. You can find and follow her on Instagram at @crowshirley.


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