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Online Support Networks for Writers

posted: 11.15.13 by Nedra Reynolds

Leaves are flying off the trees, and darkness descends in the late afternoon, so it must be November.  A good month for NaNoWriMo!  Or maybe AcWriMo!  Which inspirational online support network is right for you?

Write-with-an-online-community movements have been growing apace and reaching out to a wider variety of writers.  NaNoWriMo is entering its 14th year and had 341,375 participants during 2012:  In its relatively brief history as a movement, it has expanded into both a youth-writers’ version and a “camp” in July.  With a presence on at least five popular social media sites, NaNoWriMo offers “online support, tracking tools, and a hard deadline.” There are several features on the site, including an online store (it’s a non-profit, after all), where corporate sponsors and donors are identified and thanked.  But by far, the most important feature for most participants will be the Forums.  I counted 59 different chat rooms for writers to join, ranging from genres (fanfiction, adventure, chick lit) to craft (plot doctoring) to age groups (teen writers or 50+ or “newbies”).

With its slogan of “The world needs your novel,” has been very busy already this month.  When I visited the site on November 1 at noon, 62,793 users were online.  Just 15 minutes later, the number had jumped to 106,535.  On November 3 in the afternoon, there were 185,742 users online. For those who are trying to produce an ambitious number of words (50,000 in one month) and figuring out plot, character, and pacing as they go (many of them probably first-time novelists), the ability to get advice or encouragement–without leaving the chair–is priceless.

In my experience as a part-time writer, writing requires a huge amount of production for a tiny amount of yield. I have shared with my students that for a 180-page dissertation, I wrote at least 280 more pages that never made it into the final version.  In fact, when I am writing almost anything that others will read, I write ABOUT IT first, and I keep adding to two files as I go:  one for readers, of course, but also one for me, the file that keeps me moving towards the goal of a finished piece for readers.  The “Writing About What I’m Writing” file is always much longer than the actual piece.  This is where NaNoWriMo can come in:  if you need to write about your writing in order to keep writing, the Forums seem like a perfect way to write about writing your novel before you get back to writing the novel.  These dozens of Forums–little Burkean parlors–are ideal for writers who may not have established a process or pattern, or who don’t have a writing group at the local library.  I also appreciate the amount of time that moderators of these forums put in, so that everyone feels welcome and encouraged.

This year, one of these forums on NaNoWriMo–interestingly, housed under “Rebels”–is aimed at those writers who are not working on novels, but instead, non-fiction projects like academic articles.  A new offshoot, AcWriMo shows that these writing marathons are not just for novels anymore.  Hosted by PhD2Published, AcWriMo has 6 basic rules and ambassadors to help.

Information about AcWriMo has made the rounds on Facebook and other social media sites where academic writers might be lurking, and it uses Twitter as the support network.  There’s a Google Docs sign-up sheet (called the Accountability Sheet), which has over 750 participants, and I was struck to see how many people who had signed up identified the pomodoro method to measure their commitment or keep track of their writing sessions.

I’m interested in the popularity of these movements and the ways in which they marshal social media and the web to offer encouragement, support, and tips for writers, whatever they’re working on and whatever their goals are.  What do you think, Bits readers, about why these movements are growing in popularity?  Are you participating in NaNoWriMo or AcWriMo?

[Photo Courtesy of National Novel Writing Month]


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