Randy: If more than one community exists, should an author participate in several of them or focus on just one?
Ali: That’s a good question! I think timing and an author’s own personal journey answers this question.
For instance, when you’re just starting out, just starting to stick that nametag to your shirt that says “Hi, my name is … and I am a WRITER,” you’re joining the large, world-wide community of writers. For a while, it’s good to just check things out. Learn the lingo, pick up the basic skills.
As you associate in the global community, you’ll start to find writers you gravitate toward, and these will become your extended family, or dojo. Probably some of them will want to work with you in a more intimate crit group-type setting.
So it’s a process, but one I think all writers should engage in—it’ll be good for their writing and for their souls.
Randy: What does an author need to do to get the most out of their participation in the writing community?
Ali: There’s an African proverb that states, “The fool speaks, the wise man listens.” I think this thought applies to your question—that in order to get the most our of their participation in a writing community, a writer must be willing to learn from others.
That means putting aside their own need to talk, talk, talk about their stories, and to listen to what others have to say. If all we’re doing is talking about ourselves, our projects, our roadblocks, our accomplishments, then we’re only going to know what we know. The only way to learn what others know (which is the best way to improve your own writing) is to listen. Ask questions. Seek the wisdom of others who are further down the road than you.
At my dojo, we have a belt system—a ranking of skill and expertise on our journey to publication. An important element to any belt rank is the willingness to mentor someone less-experienced than you. The give-and-take of growth and advancement is necessary for general success and exists at all levels of writing.
Randy: What’s the first step in getting involved?
Ali: In general terms, I think the first step to getting involved in the writing community is simply to seek out writers, hang out where they hang out. Everyone can find groups of authors meeting online—a simple google search will turn up Query Tracker, YA Lit Chat or any number of other excellent writing forums. Or, you could start in the real world, at a small writers conference or a meeting of your local writers league chapter.
Specifically, I invite anyone to visit my blog, become a writing ninja, join in on our thrice-weekly #ninjachats, or join us on Twitter using #ninjachat or #ninowrimo.
Whatever approach you take to finding and building your own writing community, the key is to DO IT. You won’t regret it. J
Randy: Do unpublished authors benefit from being part of a community more than published writers? Less than published writers? The same?
Ali: Oh, I think it’s the same, no matter where you are on the path. I think published authors tend to have more well-established connections than unpublished authors, so I think there might be greater need for the unpublished. But we all benefit from our association with each other—we all have a need to connect, to be needed, to be appreciated, and to be taught and guided, no matter where we are in our journey.
Randy: How does participation in a writing community differ for published and unpublished authors?
Ali: I think a published author is looking for ways to connect and expand their reach, ideas for better marketing, and the opportunity to serve and help less-experienced writers.
An unpublished author is looking to stay motivated, to be a part of something, to be guided and to be encouraged.
Randy: What is your number one tip for all of us authors in training in regards to participation in the writing community?
Ali: My biggest advice would be to not let fear restrain you from participating. All of us started at the beginning and there’s no shame in it. Just open your heart and mind and allow yourself to learn from others.