Now here is an interesting subject for me. As the owner of Forward Motion for Writers, my view of Online Writing Communities is a bit different from that of people who are just members. My personal 'wants' may be the same, but trying to organize and encourage others to help their fellow writers is not always easy.
What do I think makes a good online writing community? One in which the people help instead of lecture and one in which the people write and not just talk about writing. A writing community should also focus on writing and not the latest scandal or flamewar. FM fits that bill pretty nicely, but it's hard work to keep the site moving and on focus, especially when there are some who try to work against what I feel is the better choices for the site. We actively encourage people to write in order to write better. It not enough to just to study how to write a good line -- though that's important too -- but you also need to write to learn how to make a story flow.
It's also hard to encourage people to add posts to the site to help others because, honestly, scandal and flamewars are far more fun then discussing some point of writing interest. Helping other writers in any long term way is a major project. It takes commitment and more than a blithe statement about someone's ego in a flamewar.
It also takes an understanding that people work in different ways. You can say 'this works for me' but you cannot say 'this works.' There are amazingly few absolute rules.
But those are all the odd things about sites and they don't address the real core. At this core has to be a group of people who are willing to share what they have learned and discuss writing. We live in an age where the lonely writer, locked in a dark room with a single light and pounding out their magnum opus in poverty and solitude is anachronistic. Writers are no longer solitary creatures without social skills; they interact with others in ways that can sometimes be counter-productive because it is so easy to drop into the Internet and start chatting when you should be writing. To counter that, FM has chat rooms where people write, chat for a bit, and write more. It works for a surprisingly large number of people who like to share their writing-time with other writers.
At the same time all sorts of social media can save them from problems later. Learning about bad practices, things not to do for both traditional and indie writing can save a considerable time. There is a lot to learn out there, and what took some people years and years before the Internet, is now just a few clicks away. The downside is that there is so much bad information that you need a way to sort through it.
That's where the larger sites come in handy. If you can get a group of solid people you can trust in one place, then you have a good chance of finding out what is trustworthy. At the very least, you'll find good questions and answers.
We don't have to stand alone. That's the best part of community. Support comes in many ways, from help in finding answers to sharing the joy of finishing a first draft --and all the way to publication. That's one of the best part of online communities. You get to share story-related stuff with people who understand and who don't go glassy-eyed and fidget while you talk.
Well, at least not where you see.
If you want to get to read about nearly twenty other writers, check out the Merry-Go-Round Blog Tour. Be sure to read tomorrow's post by Sharon Kemmerer