I’m Not Your Search Engine

The online writing community is friendly, supportive, and helpful. As with any community, there can be exceptions to the rule, but I’ve found this to be true far more often than not. Other writers love to share experiences and knowledge, to commiserate, celebrate, and bond with others like them (or not like them!). However, being so willing to share what I know does not make me your secretary, your search engine, or your virtual assistant.

If you are genuinely having trouble finding information or understanding something you’ve read about, by all means, ask your questions to the online community. Someone will be able to help you. But if you are tweeting out a question simply because you don’t want to ask a search engine, that’s abusing the kindness of others. People notice.

An example I’ll give–though I will not supply screenshots or names because that is not the point of this post–involves the rules to a pitch contest. There is a website where anyone who wants to participate can find the rules to the contest, as is true with many such contests. I distinctly remember the first time I participated, there was some buzz about it on Twitter prior to the contest itself where many hopefuls were discussing it using the hashtag. Enter into the conversation a person who we’ll call Newbie.

Now, Newbie’s first question was when the actual pitch party would take place. Innocent enough. He could have meant what hours, which day, which time zone, etc. So many people obliged to answer his question and be as specific as possible. Newbie was very thankful and polite. He next asked what the rules were. He was given the web address for the site with any and all information he might need. It was his response that made us all step back. It went something like this, “That’s a lot of information to comb through, can you just give the highlights?”

No. For several reasons, but still no.

I started to list all the reasons that attitude was rude, but honestly, it started to irritate me just thinking about it. The biggest offenses are that it’s lazy and it implies that Newbie’s time is more valuable than the rest of us. We aren’t sitting around on our butts eating bonbons. We read through the complete rules page, so could Newbie. He was not unable. He just didn’t feel like it. It’s not a good sign in an industry known for deadlines and self-discipline.

This is just one example that sticks out in my memory, but there are so many more. Remember that while the writing community is a community, it is also a collection of people who are, in a sense, your colleagues. If you showed up to work and told your coworker that a task seemed too daunting and then asked them to do most of it for you, that wouldn’t go over well. At least not in any position I’ve held.

Be kind, be courteous, be engaged, but also be professional. I’m not saying you can’t wear pajamas, but when it comes to writing or promoting your writing, show initiative. If Google, Siri, or Alexa can answer your question, look there first. If you need clarification, the community is there and happy to help. We’re your coworkers, not your search engine.

I certainly don’t mean for this to discourage anyone from asking questions or having fun with the online writing community. That would be tragic. It’s a great place to connect. It’s a great place to get advice. It’s the virtual water cooler in an office filled with really cool people. Joke, laugh, connect. Just don’t abuse the kindness of those around you. It’s not a good look.

#WriteClub Battles Have Commenced!

This is just a quick reminder that as of yesterday (4/16) #writeclub battles have commenced over on dlhammons.com! Monday through Friday for the next three weeks, two 500 word writing samples will be posted. You (yes, you!) vote for your favorite. It’s a great way to give feedback to writers and to be a part of the fun.

Rules:

  1. The writing samples are anonymous and each presented under a pen name. You may hype the contest, but if you try to get votes for a specific writer or their pen name, they will be immediately disqualified. The contest is about the writing, not about how many followers a person already has.
  2. You can vote once per battle.
  3. You cannot vote anonymously. The writers are anonymous, but as a way to enforce the “only one vote per person per battle” rule the votes can’t be.**
  4. Voting stays open on a battle for several days. If you have missed the first battle or know that you will miss another, no need to miss out. You can still vote for it when you get the chance.

**Each time you vote you will be entered to win a Barnes and Noble gift card, so you want them to know who you are.

How to Find (and Join) the Writing Community

I have said it before, but I’ll reiterate it now. I’m still new in the writing world. In the last year, I have learned so much about crafting a story, but it wasn’t all through traditional writing resources. Some of what I learned came through trial and error. My errors were kindly and constructively pointed out by the wonderful people I have as critique partners, and am fortunate enough to call friends.

But how do you find these elusive critique partners? You get involved in the writing community as a whole. Maybe for you that means using the MeetUp app to look for writer groups that meet face to face in your area. Honestly, that was not only a bit inconvenient for me but also intimidating. I’m a closet introvert. I seem really outgoing, but the truth is that people often make me self-conscious and after meeting up with a group–even people I know and like–I sometimes need a recovery period. So for me, the online writing community held a lot more appeal.

So where is this elusive online writing community? Where everyone else is hanging out in these crazy modern times: social media. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Basically, if you can think of a platform that has a tendency to eat away your productivity, writers are probably on it. There are tons of hashtags and groups to join.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, but I don’t want to just jump in out of nowhere. That’s scary. I have nothing in common with these people.” Everybody starts somewhere. Yes, it can be scary, but the community is welcoming. You do have something in common with these people. You’re a writer. They’re writers. Boom. Connection.

If you’re still not convinced, why not look into some writing contests and competitions? Most of them have their own groups or hashtags that participants use to get to know each other and bond over the emotional rollercoaster you’re on together. Some of them don’t even require a full manuscript. For instance, the submission window for #WriteClub is open until April 1st. The only requirements are a 500-word submission and a pen name. That’s right, you can (and must) be entirely anonymous on the competition front. But that doesn’t mean you can’t join the hashtag (#WriteClubDFW) as yourself and bond with the other participants.

Don’t believe me? Check out the competition info.

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It’s that easy.

Or hard. I admit that I spent more time figuring out how to fit a whole scene into 500 words that I should have. It was a good exercise for me even if I don’t make the competition.

So find a competition, a hashtag, a group, something on whatever platform you are most comfortable. Connect with other writers. Make friends. Swap chapters, queries, synopses, anything. Critique. Get critiqued. Interact.

Don’t be afraid. We’re writers. We don’t bite. We just write about it.